Allegheny Forest, PA

Allegheny Forest was my first stop on the road trip. Even the drive there was breathtaking and I stopped to take some photos on my way to the forest after staying in Warren for the night. My trail for the day would be the Morrison Trail, an 11.4 mile loop that looked more like 8 miles on the map. I was on snowshoes, but it was still a fairly short trail given that I had the entire day to do. I thought it would make a nice warm-up hike.

The hike started off well enough. I was in good spirits, I found the parking area easily enough, and the trail was well marked early on. However, the markings would soon become confusing and difficult to follow. There was only one obvious trail and it didnít seem to be following the map. I ended up dead ended at a trail running perpendicular to the one Iíd been following. There were fresh ski tracks on it. The Morrison Trail is not a ski trail.

I followed it, first one way and then the other when I realized I was going nowhere good. I could have chosen to turn around a few times by then and been well justified in doing so, but I didnít. It was my first hike of the trip and I wanted it to be a good one.

Eventually I came to a new path that split from the ski trail toward the east. A pair of skiers coming up behind me thought the spur would take me back to the Morrison Trail, but that it was a long, rugged path. Sounded like a challenge to me! Now I had to continue.

I did get a bit of encouragement from the trail markings, which resumed here and looked similar to markings Iíd followed to lose my way in the first place. I had quit taking photos by now. In addition to trail markings that were weather worn and often missing there were many fallen trees across the path and more than one giant boulder with no obvious way around it. The path was easy to lose and difficult to regain. Was I following the Morrison Trail? Iím not sure. I was near enough to it judging by the map and a few landmarks I could recognize. I believe I was very near the campsite on the map when I completely lost the trail in a thicket of short, shrub-like trees with sharp, needle-like leaves and twigs. The trail simply went in and failed to continue.

I was befuddled. How does a trail just stop like that? Iíve hiked a few trails that were poorly marked and every time I managed to find some hint that got me back on track. Possibly not the right track, but some track that I could reasonably follow and believe would take me back to civilization. That would not be the case here. After much searching and deliberating I decided my only choice was to return the way Iíd come in. This would not be a pleasant task. I figured Iíd gone about 6 miles. I knew I had at least one long, tall hill to climb and at least 2 miles were along a very steep trail that slanted perpendicularly to the direction Iíd be walking, which makes for very poor footing on snow, even with snowshoes. May I reiterate how much I did not want to retrace this particular path?

Well, I made it back. I canít count the number of times I had to pause and rest, but I made it back. This was too much for a warm-up and it would negatively impact my hiking for the next few days. I should have turned back sooner. I didn't take many photos and I only have one decent photo to share from the hike itself, but I hope the few photos in this gallery convey some of the beauty of this area.


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