The Black Forest Trail is a 42 mile loop trail located in the mountains of north central PA. It’s about as remote as you can get in PA – it only crosses one paved road. I had done this trail 6 or 7 years ago and apparently was in a fog the whole time because I remembered almost none of the trail from the previous trip.

Day 1 – Saturday, May 13, 2006 – 7.5 miles
Got to the trail about 11:30 after a three hour drive. Started out a little rough. First, about 20 paces into the hike, Charlie tripped, rolled, got his foot caught in the harness of his backpack, and then rolled another 20 feet down the hill. Second, about a half mile later we came to a 30 foot wide stream crossing with no hope of hopping across it on rocks. I tried it barefoot but had problems staying vertical after about three steps because the rocky bottom was so slippery. Put my shoes and socks back on, trudged across the stream, and made a mental note to NEVER leave my Tevas behind again.

Have you ever seen a dog just after he’s gotten a bath where he runs around like a maniac? That was Duncan on our first break three miles in. This dog has enough energy for three dogs. When I took the dogs’ packs off, Charlie (5 years old) and Ackey (8 years old) sauntered around the camp area, got a drink from the spring and ate some food. Not Duncan. Duncan (1 year old) started ripping around at top speed, jumping in the spring and through the stream, bounding off rocks, grabbing twigs and small limbs and dragging them along. At one point he was pouncing on a rock and then throwing it in the air.

Surprisingly, when I started putting the dogs’ packs back on Duncan came right to me to get his. He usually plays “catch me if you can” when you call him.

Got to camp about 5. Set up, ate supper, cleaned up, and crawled into the tent and not a moment too soon. I zippered the door and immediately started hearing rain drops. It rained on and off for the rest of the trip.

Day 2 – Sunday, May 14, 2006 – 11 miles
Ahh! Nothing like putting on wet, slimy shoes and socks on a cold morning. It rained overnight quite a bit so everything inside the tent was damp from the air. Overcast and drizzly most of the day.

Duncan decided he was not going to come to me to get his pack back on after morning break so he’ll be on the leash for the rest of the trip.

Took a break at noon, set up the tent and took a 2 hour nap!!!!!!! And people call this “roughing it”!

The afternoon hike was spent crossing the SAME stream 22 times. At first the stream was narrow and shallow and we could rock hop across. The further downstream we got, the more difficult this became. Around the 8th or 9th crossing, I slipped off a rock and one shoe went in. At the next crossing, the other shoe got it. After that I gave up and just walked through the water, shoes and all. I had to carry Charlie across a few times because the water was too deep for him to walk and the current was to swift for him to swim.

Day 3 – Monday, May 15, 2006 – 10.5 miles
Soggy. That pretty much sums it up. It poured all day. Woke up to 42 degrees (it was a 3 dog night!!!). Put our wet gear back on and headed out. As the day wore on, the rain didn’t let up and the temperature didn’t rise. I kept warm with three layers of tops and a pair of shorts as long as our breaks weren’t too long. But the dogs started shivering within minutes every time we stopped. Poor Charlie….even if I stopped for a few seconds to look at the map, he’d start rearranging the leaves around him into a bed. He was hunkering down.

Halfway through the day’s hike, I admitted to myself that this rain was here to stay and if we continued on the trail it was going to be a long, cold, wet night. So we took the last bail-out trail available and headed back to the car. On the way, the dogs were even shivering while they were hiking so I set up the tent and got us all inside and under the sleeping bag. After they quit shivering and I woke up from a nap, we packed up and finished the hike to the car.

Ackey sports her new back pack

Charlie’s personal water bowl in a rock

Duncan struts his stuff in Ackey’s old pack

Duncan doesn’t like going into the tent so he sleeps half-way in

Duncan can sleep anywhere, at any time, and in any position. Notice his legs draped over my feet.

Charlie’s tired and snuggles in.

Ackey stretches out and sleeps where she wants!

What? It’s morning already???

Just before Charlie tries to bury the entire bag of food

Duncan decided he wasn’t going to listen so he was put on the leash 24/7

Ackey chews on a BIG chunk of backbone she found…I hope it wasn’t a past hiker.

Charlie sunbathes in the 22 seconds of sunshine we had on the trip

All three dogs and I are under my sleeping bag!

Duncan’s a little tired when we stop at McDonald’s on the way home

Two peas in a pod…but 7 years apart

Dedraggled and ready to go home

Home sweet home the first night. Camped just to the left of the waterfall

Good ole PA rocks. Someone sharpened these extra carefully

One of the many beautiful views along the way. And one of the rare moments it wasn’t raining.

Notice the vivid green of the trees in the foreground. Everything was like that.