I always love it when I can get out and do something outdoors with family. On this trip I take my niece Asya out for her first ever backpacking trip. Pinchot State Forest is perfect for these kinds of trips because there are so many ways to use the Pinchot Trail System along with various other trails, forest roads and other access roads to create a trip with plenty of options.
- We did a modified version of the south loop cutting out the Sunday Trail, Birch Still Trail and Keller Swamp Trail Sections. We replaced them with Thirsty Hill Trail, and a short road hike along Sand Spring Rd. This gave us greater flexibility in available camp sites as well as plentiful bailout points. The southern half of the PTS can be extremely swampy especially along Choke Creek where the PTS joins the Choke Creek Nature Trail. Waterproof boots and/or socks recommended, be prepared to detour off the designated trail to avoid beaver flooding.
Asya wanted to do her first backpacking trip and took it upon herself to gear up! With some borrowed gear and some great budget gear she bought, we headed out to Pinchot State Forest. I planned a route along the Pinchot Trail Systems South Loop that would give us the best options for camping starting at an earlier point if needed, and plenty of bailout or reroute options if she wasn't up for a longer trip.
We put in nearly 10 miles on the first day, hiking a good portion of it along Butler Run and Choke Creek. We checked out the falls about 2 miles in, which gave us a good spot to she how Asya's setup was working for her. We moved on to where the Choke Creek Nature Trail joins the PTS and broke for a nice long lunch before pushing on to one of the new sections of trail. We made camp in an established site near the un-named swamp that borders the Pinchot State Forest and State Gamelands #91.
After a colder than expected night, we had a small morning fire while we ate breakfast. Asya decided she wasn't going to take the easy route back to the car, she was determined to complete this trip on trail, not a road bailout. We comleted the roughly 1 mile hike up to Thornhurst Rd and did a 1/2 mile road hike to join up with the eastern side of the PTS to head back to the car.
All in all we covered nearly 15 miles in two days, not bad for her first outing. Hopefully I can get her out for some more trips, or she just heads out on her own!
As always, the Pinchot Trail System was a lot of fun. It's a great trail to have so close to home. It appears as though trail maintenance has been taken over by the Keystone Trails Association, and the work the have already done make the south loop, at least, a lot more enjoyable.