SLB Photography
Dense fog on LHHT

Backpacking the Laurel Highlands Trail

I first stepped foot alone in the forest in 2012. I needed solitude. I needed to think and I wanted to be surrounded by beauty. I was always the go outside, get dirty kinda person, often stomping around the woods behind my childhood house. I’d be gone for hours in the summer surely giving my mom a heart attack every time I came home with stories about my adventures. Fast forward to my first experience on the LHHT. I accidentally found the trailhead in Laurel Ridge State Park that led me to Middle fork overlook. That day was rainy and foggy, I instantly fell in love with the LHHT from that day on. I’ve made a point to go back and day hike sections. I always wanted to backpack. We started at the 70 mile marker in Seward, hiked in the 5.5 miles to the Rt. 56 Decker Ave shelters and stayed at the lean-to’s. I’m glad I lightened up my camera gear taking a Fuji X-Pro2 that I rented. The hike was up-hill maybe save for a mile. About 2 miles in we got to the power-lines and it absolutely poured rain down on us. As we walked under the lines we could hear the rain hitting the lines and each individual zap from the live wire. It was eerie. The rain let up just a bit and a thick fog encased us on the trail. This is how I remember my first time, it was exciting. We hiked in another mile and watched another storm brew. This time we heard a couple of thunder cracks and the rain came down harder than ever. Another thick patch of fog came down on us and we finally hit the downhill point close to the shelter area. We were surprised to hit the shelter area when we did, thinking it was still a little ways off. At the shelter we were able to hang out clothes to dry and get a fire started with the dry firewood that was waiting for us. We also made the decision to cut our hike short instead of hiking on to the Rt. 271 shelter area. I was a little disappointed but still had to remember that we were going to still do 11 miles over 2-days.¬†We made dinner and prepared our sleeping bags for the night. We fell asleep early in the peaceful night to sounds of the frogs and crickets with a gentle breeze swirling through the trees.

Reflecting back on this first backpacking experience I feel pretty good about it. 30 lbs, including camera gear on my back, 11 miles, and an extremely hard first day hike in the pouring rain. I know my strengths and weaknesses while backpacking and can make changes accordingly for the next trip. A little overzealous with the planning lead us to cut the hike short, but for next time we both know how much we can do. The trip also helped me realize that I would enjoy a hike into the shelters with an overnight or two stay and a hike back out. Just my personal style. Should give enough time to enjoy the hike and nature itself and enjoy making photographs of the experience. I can’t wait to do it again! Maybe a mini-backpacker in the making.

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