We had a blissfully warm January weekend. In our town of McMurray, the snow from last week had long since melted and the green landscape beckoned a walk in the woods. The entire family was game, including Rosie (the dachshund) and Benny (the lab). We packed ourselves into the jeep and headed for Ohiopyle.
In the summer, Ohiopyle is a mecca for granola outdoorsy folks who pile kayaks on top their cars, bath under waterfalls, and go romping along the natural water slides for recreation. When we arrived on this superb January weekend, we were suprised to find it desolate, blanketed in a foot of snow and many of the outfitters were closed for the season. There was a trail that I wanted to check out, it is called Baughman Trail and it starts in Ohiopyle and goes uphill for 3.5 miles until you get to an amazing vista. It is a challenging trail in any circumstance, but it would have killed my family as it was completely covered in deep fresh snow.
We decided to take a much easier, flatter, and previously explored trail where the snow was flattened considerably. We took Ferncliff trail and it travels along a peninsula nestled within the Youghioheny River. The trail was perfect and offered many serene moments in the wintry landscape, there is something very meditative about hiking through the snow.
Last year, I really stepped up my game in terms of hiking and outdoor exploration. I read a couple books on camping, hiking, and wilderness survival. I read an entire book on hiking in Western Pennsylvania and have explored many of the trails already. I camped for the first time since I was a kid. I got the gear to handle most situations. This year, I plan to raise my game and go further and longer. There are a couple campgrounds that you can only get to by boat (canoe/kayak), I hope to make that happen this year.
One limitation is that my phone has been my primary navigational device and when I lost cell phone service, my Google Maps would not work. I have now resolved that issue with an amazing app called GAIA GPS. It has incredible topographical maps that you can download when you are connected to the internet, save them to your phone, and you can access them when you are off the grid. What’s even better is that the iPhone has a GPS function (does not require cell service to work) and shows your position, track/path on the downloaded map. Before I was worried about traveling deep into the woods because I was afraid I may get lost, I am no longer concerned with this technology. The big concern now is traveling deep into the woods, getting injured and dragging myself back. I sprained my ankle on a hike awhile back and it was pretty brutal realizing that you have to walk back 4 miles on a hobbled ankle. Lugging around water was also a challenge (I used to carry a giant growler type device) for long hikes. I now have a camelback backpack and is a significant improvement. All said, I am very excited about the year ahead!
There is a great general store/restaurant on the main corner of Ohiopyle, we had worked up a healthy appetite from the hike and enjoyed soups and sandwiches, finished it off with ice cream.
Kids are becoming very capable on the trails, we hiked about 3 miles and there was no need for anyone to be carried, no need for a rest stop, we plowed along and enjoyed the hike in the snow. Benny races through the snow, he races ahead and peeks around the bend to do reconnaissance, runs back to check on a lagging member of our party, runs back up front, eats snow, hops through the snow, loving every second. Rosie has a determination about her and runs just behind the leader at all times, it is amazing to watch her clear obstacles, such as a fallen tree.
Today will be warm, but the freezing cold returns this weekend.