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Backpacking to "The Narrows"

May 20-21, 2012

Round-trip Distance: 13 miles

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As has become the tradition in recent years, an epic summer hike out west is being preceded by training hikes here in the Eastern United States. Since my Dad and I will be backpacking this year, we decided on a worthwhile backpacking destination in Pennsylvania, with the qualifications that it would be relatively remote, require some miles of trail hiking including some steepness, and we'd of course be carrying heavy backpacks with all our camping gear.

The destination we decided on was "The Narrows," a secluded drainage between Scrub Ridge and Sidneys Knob. We began our hike from Cowans Gap, quickly knocking out the first four miles of easy Tuscarora Trail to the junction with the Todd Trail. The summer-like heat was all-too apparent as we hiked the steep Todd Trail to the ridge-top, and we enjoyed a much-deserved break at the Scrub Ridge overlook just to the north of where the trail topped out.

Then we descended the Standing Stone Trail to The Narrows via switchbacks through a park-like setting of blooming mountain laurel. This is one of my favorite places along the Standing Stone Trail.

We left the trail after it crossed the first rivulet, and followed an old logging road south along the bottom of the bowl, seeking out a good camping spot. Before long we decided on a nice flat spot under some hemlocks, next to the flowing creek. A giant log was lying there and plenty of large, flat rocks--a ready made bench to sit on and "dinner rocks" for cooking on. After setting up the tent, I got the stove up and running as Dad built a fire. My micro Zen stove weighs almost nothing ended up doing an amazing job. We enjoyed an evening of lentil bean - ramen stew with chunks of summer sausage and pepper jack cheese while talking by the camp fire. This was one of those rare places where there was no sign of humanity--no lights, no barking dogs, no noisy traffic--nothing but beautiful darkness and seclusion.

The weather was great so far, and if anything too hot.

We awoke the next morning to some light drizzle. After a quick breakfast we packed up camp and hit the trail, completing our loop on the west side of the mountain by way of the Todd Trail.

As we hiked south along the Standing Stone Trail, we were socked in by fog almost the entire time. About two-thirds of the way out the trail, the skies let loose and we walked for a couple miles through steady rain. Having not seen any humans for 22 hours, we were joined in our exploits by two turtles and the most orange salamanders I've ever seen.

The rain kept us moving, and we completed the second day's 7.25 miles in four hours. It was a successful dress rehearsal for our July backpacking trip - Westward, ho!