Weekending at Raccoon Creek State Park

This past weekend K and I headed out to Raccoon Creek State Park to try out some of our cold-weather gear before heading out on the AT. Most of our backpacking experience is in good ol' Arizona, and although it does get cold there at night, it's usually quite sunny in the day. Needless to say, the cold winters of southwestern PA are quite a change form our previous outings, and good experience to boot.

After dropping off the nominal backpacking fee ($3/person/day)at the park HQ, we dropped Sandy off at the Heritage Trailhead parking area and started our trek.

The weather was mid 30's or so, with flurries, and the snow added a marvelous look to the forest trail. The park itself is quite developed, with cabins and a lake and boating and such, but the backpacking trails keep mainly to the park's perimeter, avoiding these non-wildernessy areas (click here to access a map of the park). There were tracks in the snow, but far more from animals than people, and we entertained ourselves by trying to identify them. Some parts of the trail hadn't been travelled by anything since the snow fell a week ago. There are many creek and stream crossings, some bridged, some not.

K crossing an icy boy scout bridge over a creek

Though it had a few short, steep sections, the Heritage trail was mostly easy and we made better time than we expected. We reached the Pioneer camping area, where we had intended to stay the night by about 2:15 in the afternoon, and it was too early (and too cold) to stop moving for the day. We decided to press on to the Sioux area, some two more miles down the trail.

M takes a break in a shelter at the Pioneer camping area

Upon arriving at the camping area, K set up the tent and I prepared dinner. We learned that the alcohol stove doesn't like to pressurize all that much when it's very cold (this can be remedied somewhat by keeping the stove and fuel in a pocket for a bit before attempting to light it). We also learned that the sleeping bags are not warmer when you zip them together (we've never had the option before, and though nice, it allows all sorts of very cold drafts to sneak in and steal away warmth). The night was quite cold, but the tent held up ok, and we managed to stay fairly comfortable in our 20-degree rated bags.

Our tent in the snow

For those who still wonder why we don't want to take a cell phone on our longer trip, take a look at this:

Cell phones and camping don't mix

Somehow it escaped our pockets and found it's way to a patch of icy ground for the night. Miraculously, it still worked once it thawed out. However, this proved that in addition to being annoying and difficult to keep charged, the phone will inevitably find some way to become dead weight in the woods.

Sunday morning we ate breakfast, packed up camp, and set off to hike the last few miles of the Forest trail back to the parking area. The forest was, in my opinon, the most interesting of the three trails, offering more terrain change and some nice views from atop the hills (in the summer, not so much, but with no leaves the view was quite nice). The loop finished up at the spillway, and we walked a road back to the car.

1 comment:

Aunt Laine said...

All I can say is BRRRRRRRRRR!!!!