In first weekend of February 2019, I have ventured back to Stone Mountain, but this time it was covered in snow that have changed mountain looks dramatically – are you a fan of wintery forest? –> Read on!
On the first weekends of February 2019, finally, there were some snow on the ground in central PA, and I decided to have yet another hike to Stone Mountain. The temperature forecast for the day of the hike was interesting – it was going to start at 13 Fahrenheit and then rise onto lower 30s. The hike distance amounted to 7 miles or so. Below, you can see the route of the hike. I am using map by Purple Lizard www.purplelizard.com .
1. Starting out on Monsell trail – I can appreciate snow cover already.
2. For first part of my hike (till Stone Valley Vista), I am joined by Sarah and Brian, who came all the way from Altoona, which is roughly 50 miles away from where the hike is.
3. This small plant would be barely noticeable without snow, but now it has became a forest queen.
4. Quickly enough Monsell trail becomes Lorence trail. This trail is mainly flat forestry path with a small elevation gain and almost no rocks around. The snow cover is pretty shallow ~ 4 inches.
5. Turkey trail awaits – just .8 km till crossing with Standing Stones Trail (SST).
6. A bit into Turkey trail, and we come upon a logging operation to the right of the trail.
7. While it is sad to see those trees being cut down, sometimes such change brings out unique views, such as the following tree.
8. 600 feet upwards in .8 km can sound rough, but due to numerous switchbacks it is relatively easy climb.
9. So many things become objects of art in snow covered forest.
10. And here we are, Stone Valley Vista – it sure does look different my previous visit here
11. I bid farewell to Sarah and Brian and head back south along Stone mountain ridge. Once I cross junction of SST and Turkey trail, I am greeted with path that nobody walked on for a long time.
12. The snow here gets significantly deeper (~ 7 inches) – after taking few dips with my hiking boots, I do realize that it is time to put gaiters on.
13. At times the ridge of Stone Mountain looks like a majestic forest, and absence of any wind makes the whole experience surreal.
14. I come upon two trees with orange markers with very different meanings. Left sign warns that there is a private property behind it, and the right marker guides SST around the private property to the left.
15. The trail is exceptionally well marked with bright orange markers, making it easy to navigate.
16. Big Valley Vista is rather simplistic, and if you were to go by Purple Lizard map, you would not know it is there, but this is because when Purple Lizard folks did their survey, there were no “Big Valley Vista” sign here. I will try to reach out to SST club to find more about history about this vista.
17. Ridge takes a slight dip, and I find myself struggling in a deep snow (~14 inches).
18. Deep snow struggle does not make SST experience less awesome.
19. Now that some view – pity, it does not have name, but it does allow one to appreciate valleys along sides of Stone Mountain. Purple Lizard map agrees that this vista is noteworthy. At that moment I wished that I’d own 500mm+ lens and ability to carry it here – that would have allowed for some crazy shots.
20. Moments later after crossing nameless awesome view, I get to a mysterious “hidden vista”. It almost looks like someone had too much time on their hands, because going by visual definition of “hidden vista” Rothrock State Forest has a lot of those to offer.
21. Got a junction where I need to turn to Pole trail – one of these days hopefully I get to discover what “Little Vista” has to offer.
22. Pole trail appears to be an old road that due to the awesome snow cover offers a delightful walking experience.
23. Sweet but short pole trail ends as it crosses Turkey Hill Road. The first thing I felt as stepped onto the road was the strong smell of snowmobile fuel – not my kind of smell – good thing it did not last too long, and snowmobile traffic was pretty rare.
24. Now it is time to walk 3.3 miles to the end of my hike. While I am not big fan of walking on clear roads, synergy of blue sky, snowy ground, and naked trees made this experience worthwhile.
25. I am almost at the end of my hike – my inner lens developed some condensate making for some crazy visual effects. For some reason I can’t gaze onto the portion of photo where the sun is for more than 5 seconds, but maybe it is just me. All in all, 7 miles in 6 hours would be slow for many, but it felt just right for me, and surely it was awesome snow adventure – if you are reading it, and if you in the area when it snows, you should totally try this hike!