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Fresh Life: How to Hike the Centre Region

by on August 12, 2012 8:05 AM

My love for hiking and being outdoors has allowed me to experience amazing sights.

I have stood shakily on the summit of Mt. Jefferson, in New Hampshire, in the blinding snow with a hiking partner who’s’ moustache was decorated with ice cycles and braved a trail in the Catskills with a friend who had broken the cardinal rule of hiking — drinking all of her water within the first hour. My love of outdoors has found me falling through the ice of a river in Colorado, caught in an undertow in the Yellowstone river while fly fishing and rescuing a man who had broken his ankle on Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire.

I have also paddled through a swampy and bug infested canal in Florida, got tangled in my snowshoes in the Adirondack wilderness and swore like a trucker while ascending a wicked trail in the Rocky Mountains. These adventures, while seemingly dangerous, were the moments that have molded my outlook on the natural world and the beauty of the outdoors.

Since moving to the State College area in 2006, I have continued to travel and explore but, enjoy staying close to home to find what Central Pennsylvania has to offer the outdoor enthusiast. The following are my own (not technical) accounts on four of the numerous local trails which I have enjoyed hiking. They are all relatively short and mild hikes that I would encourage those who are able, to take a few hours and explore.

  • The James Cleveland Trail: My husband and I set out for this adventure on New Years’ Day 2009. The long road to the trailhead can be reached from Centre Hall Mountain and this day, it should have been a clue to turn around before we began. The road was an unplowed and snow covered sheet of ice but, we continued.

The day was a beautiful and sunny day despite the snow covered ground. The trail began then reached a small wooden bridge, which local boy scouts had built, that crossed over a small creek. The trail progressively got steeper and icier and by the time we reached the steepest part, my husband and I were on all fours or grabbing onto but tree limbs to avoid slipping back down on the icy ground.

We reached the top and were pleasantly surprised to find a great lookout and a memorial stone marking the crash site of James Cleveland’s airmail plane. It was kind of sad to think about the loss of life on that mountain but, on the contrary, it brings people joy to hike to that spot and honor a man of good deeds.

The descent that day was much worse than the ascent. It was super icy with every step and toward the end I fell rather hard. My husband noted that my feet went above my head when I fell. Needless to say, the rest of that New Year's Day was spent in the comfort of a heating pad eating traditional pork and sauerkraut.

It was a few hour hike that I suggest only be attempted when there is no snow on the ground.

  • Indian Steps: I had heard a lot about the Indian Steps Trail which can be located from Harry’s road over Pine Grove Mountain. The actual origin of the steps is unknown but, they intrigued me. Were they actually put in place by Native Americans? Did a natural landslide just make them look like steps

Whatever the reason, I dragged my friend and husband with me to see them for ourselves. It was a warm June day last year and the Mountain Laurel, which my daughter would be named after, was in bloom. I was five months pregnant and felt wonderful. We began the approximate four-mile hike with enthusiasm but the trail got pretty steep in places and my big belly afforded me an excuse to take several small breaks until we reached the top.

My friend commented: “Well Amy, if you said this was supposed to be a mild hike, would your idea of a tough hike employ the use of Sherpa’s?”

The steps were interesting although we couldn’t decipher which set of stones the trail was so named. From the ridge, there were many beautiful views which were well worth the steep climb. This trail would be perfect on a crisp fall day.

  • Whipple Lake trail: I recently strapped my Kelty baby hiking bag to my back and my 8-month-old daughter and I enjoyed the scenery on this trail. It was a foggy morning but perfect for interesting photos of the small stream that flowed into Whipple Dam. I began the hike at the volleyball courts near the beach at Whipple Dam and continued through the woods. It was a beautiful mix of pine trees, moss, flowing water and sounds of wildlife. The trail turned and went up a small hill where the remainder of the hike wound through the dry woods above the dam.

It was a perfect small hike with a little one that took about an hour.

  • Hunter Run Trail-east and west: These trails are close to my home as they are located at the Bald Eagle State Park in Howard. The trailhead begins as an old paved road but soon ends. One can turn left to choose the west trail or continue straight to the east trail. I prefer the west trail to the east. The east trail seems to have a lot of car noise as it parallels state Route 150 for awhile.

Both trails offer a show of beautiful Pennsylvania wildflowers and forests. There are no intense inclines and both can be hiked within a few hours. Also, a small detour can be taken to a water tower, which when reached offers a nice view. I often take my dogs on these trails and have taken children, with no complaints. They are perfect trails for those camping at the park or for those just wanting to get for a few hours to be surrounded by nature.

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