|Pine Creek from Slate Run Road|
The elevation doesn't come without reward. The trail passes an old flagstone quarry with interesting rock. Large cairns comprised of pieces of flagstone meticulously stacked mark the site of the quarry. While many people frown upon cairns, I found them rather interesting considering they were at the site of an otherwise forgotten quarry from long ago. The trail passes several rock formations in the vicinity
|Most leaves have fallen here|
|Sun takes a while to reach the valley in the drainages|
|Hiking through colorful ground cover|
|Sun almost in the bottom of the drainage|
|Looking across Slate Run|
|Downed leaves made the rocks more challenging|
|Leaving the Wild Area|
I quickly noticed that a long, dry summer left its mark on the trail. The various creeks and runs along the trail barely trickled. Numerous smaller runs were completely dry. Near the 8 mile mark, the trail crosses Little Morris Run. A series of small waterfalls trickled over rock. The falls were quite pretty, but merely a trickle of what I imagine they normally flow
|Pretty despite very low volume|
|Little Morris Run and Francis Branch Drainages|
|Clouds moving in late morning|
|Sign by first PA 44 crossing|
After 4-5 miles the trail drops off the plateau gradually, descending to County Line Branch (this creek flows along the Lycoming and Potter County line). The BFT follows the course of the County Line Branch for a little over two miles. The trail crosses the creek numerous times throughout this stretch. Because of the low water levels, this wasn't much of a problem as the creek was easily crossed on rocks. The biggest issue was the fallen leaves obscuring the shallow water. During high water levels, a bypass trail can be utilized to avoid the frequent wet crossings.
|Deeper section of County Line Branch|
|Roughest section of rock on the BFT|
|County Line Branch drainage|
|Hiking through a clearing|
|In summer I would think this is much brushier and full of ticks|
|Nearing the end of the clearing|
The trail enters an area burned at the turn of the twentieth century called The Barrens. Upon entering the Barrens, the BFT passes a series of vistas. The trail passed through colorful ground cover along the Barrens. Less than a mile later another series of viewpoints is reached at Baldwin Point. The trail finally begins a gradual drop below the plateau as it descends toward Baldwin Run.
|County Line Branch Drainage|
|View from the Barrens|
|The color is faded in this ravine|
|Old pump house from 1880s|
|Road walk along Trout Run Road|
|One of the few landforms that looks like a mountain|
in contrast to the flat plateau
Not long after the high point, the trail begins a steep descent for nearly two miles to Callahan Run. I was starting to get hungry by this time as the day rolled into the 5PM hour. Although I initially didn't plan on such a long day, the miles continued to fly by. The descent into Callahan Run is followed by another long climb. I decided to make my home for the night at Callahan Run. I reached the trail's low point along Callahan Run about 530PM. For a trail with a reputation of being challenging, I didn't expect to cover 27 miles, let alone so quickly.
|Hiking through a tunnel of spindly coniferous trees|
|Fallen leaves obscure the trail|
|More trail obscured by leaves|
|Pine Creek from Hemlock Mountain|
|Hiking through hemlocks|
|Nearly dry Naval Run|
From Naval Run, the BFT climbs steeply toward the plateau over a series of switchbacks. The vistas quickly follow as the trail gains elevation. This section of the trail had one of the densest concentration of views on the entire trail. Many of the outlooks had log benches to take a break.
|View above Naval Run|
For the most part of my hike, the foliage was mixed. Sections of trees still held green leaves, many of the changed leaves fell in the wind, and other trees were in various stages of color. The last eight or so miles, the trees seemed to hold more color. Much of this seemed relative to the slope direction. and deep ravines. The trail seemed to follow several north facing hollows and ravines which allowed the colorful leaves to hang on longer. The bright, blue sky backdrop seemed to give the color extra pop.
|Easy hiking on the plateau|
|Birch View Vista|
The last few drops off the plateau seemed more gradual as the trail tended to follow the gentler slopes of the hollows. The drops didn't lose nearly as much elevation as Naval or Callahan Runs. Less elevation loss meant shorter climbs back to the plateau. Some of the hollows were rather rocky with more leaves on the ground. At times the rocks were obscured by leaves making footing a little tricky.
|Gradual elevation change in the hollow|
|Leaves just starting to turn|
|Ground cover starting to change color|
|Looking at the forest canopy|
|Variety of trees in different stages of color change|
The last major drop of the trail comes with the descent back toward Slate Run. This felt like the roughest drop on the entire trail. The trail descends along a steep spine with loose footing. Steep slopes falls from either side of the spine. Several good view points look down toward Slate Run. The steepness finally eases when the trail drops to a hollow with a more gradual pitch to the valley.
|View across Slate Run drainage|
|Slate Run visible below|
Finally the trail crosses a road and follows just above Slate Run on an old rail grade. At one point the trail diverts from the rail grade on a short but punchy climb to another flat grade directly above the original path. After leaving the grade for good, the BFT rejoins Slate Run Road for an easy downhill finish past the trail's start on pavement. At this point you can see the parking lot on the opposite side of Pine Creek, another .2 miles away.
|Old rail grade|
|Crossing Pine Creek at the end of the hike|
I arrived at my car about 2:05PM on Friday. While the BFT had its share of steep sections, I felt the trail was much easier than anticipated. I didn't find it significantly more difficult than the Loyalsock Trail or Susquehannock Trail System. With the short October days, I thought I would struggle to finish the trail in two days. The miles passed quickly thanks to the long stretches of easy hiking on the plateau. My baseline for the past fifteen years of hiking has been the terrain of northern New England, the Adirondacks, and Colorado. In comparison, the elevation changes on the BFT are modest. That's not to say some sections weren't challenging, just that the gentle hiking of the plateau seemed to balance out the rough sections.
|Nice red ground cover and blue skies|
|View over red ground foliage|
|Color among the green|
|Morning fog above Pine Creek|
|Leaf color in the ravines and northern slopes|
For those planning to hike the Black Forest Trail below are a few useful links. For the best info and details on the trail, I highly recommend the most recent edition of the Black Forest Trail Guide which includes a map by Chuck Dillon which can be found in the various links below.
Black Forest Trail, Slate Run PA- Facebook page dedicated to the trail and good source of trail conditions and updates.
PAHikes Black Forest Trail-Website dedicated to Pennsylvania hiking and there info on Black Forest Trail and info on the trail guide for the BFT. (Trail Guide is available at other retailers)
KTA-Black Forest Trail-The Keystone Trails Association is a Pennsylvania specific hiking organization and the is their page for the BFT.
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