Sand Spring, Eagle's Nest & Tom Lowe Trails

The Sand Springs, Eagleís Nest and Tom Lowe Trails are all located in an area near Shartlesville, PA. To reach them, go to Shartlesville and head north on Mountain Rd, then bear left on Forge Dam Rd. Eventually youíll reach a gate that blocks further passage, or, if the gate is open, youíll reach a parking area just before the gate. Either way, the Sand Springs Trail begins about 50 yards north of this parking area off the road and the Tom Lowe Trail begins about 50 yards south of it. The Eagleís Nest Trail is accessible via the Appalachian Trail, which intersects with the Sand Springs Trail a few miles into the forest west of the parking area.

My hike began on the Sand Springs Trail. In retrospect, I should have begun with the Tom Lowe Trail. Of the two, the Tom Lowe is far more difficult to follow, which Iíll write about more when I get there, and following a difficult trail into the forest is always preferable, in my opinion, to following a difficult trail out of the forest. In any case, I began along the Sand Spring Trail with an accompaniment of light rain.

The trail follows the hill gently upward through tree-lined forest corridors. There are no particularly difficult or memorable sections along the way, but the trail as a whole is a pleasant one.

As I mentioned, my hike began with a bit of rain. It stopped, but then started again later. After this second shower cleared, a deep fog began to set on the trail. I canít say I was thrilled with the fog and rain because I had my camera with me, but otherwise, itís always pleasant hiking in fog. At this point I had reached the Appalachian Trail and begun on the second leg of the Sand Springs Trail, which is far less interesting than the uphill portion. The fog made this portion of the hike much more interesting.

The end of the Sand Springs Trail was nothing more than a roundabout, so I took no pictures there. I had hoped for some sort of view, or a bench, or anything else of interest. Turning back, I returned to the Appalachian Trail and headed right, south, to where it intersected with the Eagleís Nest Trail. The fog was thicker than ever and I took another photo of it.

I had headed northwest on the Eagleís Nest Trail and that ended at a grassy trail with gravel ruts where tires had been. I took no pictures there. Another trail began here heading northeast, but I assumed that went nowhere because I had just been in that general direction on the Sand Springs Trail. I did not follow that lead and instead turned to follow the Eagleís Nest Trail to its other terminus. I found a pile of rocks there and took no pictures. Normally, there should have been a great view of several counties at the end of the trail, but the fog prevented me from seeing more than 10 yards out.

I retraced my steps along the Appalachian Trail and the Sand Springs Trail, found the intersection with the Tom Lowe Trail, and took that down the hill. I had just descended a particularly steep portion of the Tom Lowe Trail when the rain began again. This time it would not let up and the hike suddenly became more interesting.

There are several portions of the Tom Lowe trail where there are streams or thick undergrowth with no blazes to mark a clear way through. The trail is steep, but the most difficult aspect of hiking it is trying to follow it. I could not follow it all the way to its end and eventually found a different trail blazed in white that led off at an angle. I followed this trail and it led me to a road I did not immediately recognize.

Given better weather, I would have begun with the Tom Lowe Trail and tried to follow it up the hill. Had that not been successful, I would have retraced my steps and followed the Sand Springs Trail along a similar path to the one I followed above.

I was not terribly happy with certain parts of my experience on this hike and I feel that I left this post on a rather poor and harsh note when I first wrote it in 2010 because I was upset. Let me take this opportunity to make amends and say a bit about trails in general. A trail is not a highway. You donít simply ride it to your destination. A trail is, among many other wonderful things, a guided way through a forest, mountain range, desert or other natural place. One way of many. The fact that a single path in the forest is marked, whether by blazes or cairns or twigs and leaves crushed by the passing of another traveler is a gift and a blessing. Without it a way can still be made, but the way is far less comfortable and more dangerous than it needs to be. Some trails are better than others, but even the meanest deserves a good word for that bit of guidance it provides, and this is certainly not the most poorly marked or maintained trail that I have ever attempted. I thank the folks at the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club for their work on the trails I walked on this day and hope they keep up the good work.

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