Prelude: There is a lot of sorrow and heartache in this state right now. A group of underprivileged and vulnerable children have had their innocence taken away from them in a particularly horrible fashion. Everyone here is heartsick, confused, sad and angry and, I suppose, each person is sort of dealing with it in their own way right now. I did what I almost always do when I'm confused and heartbroken - I went for a long walk in a beautiful forest. That's what this post is about. If you are looking for vitriolic rants, righteous indignation, conspiracy theories, strident proclamations or endless verbal traffic jams you might want to click on over somewhere else. You won't find it here. I endeavor to be more of a "dawning of the age of reason" kind of guy...Be good to each other, people.
Blue Mountain, the prominent ridge that forms the eastern edge of the Appalachian mountain range in Pennsylvania, has many outcrops, water gaps and vistas but none of them have quite the dramatic viewshed as does the Pinnacle in Berks County. Flat Rock vista and Doubling Gap in the Cumberland Valley are a close second. Both, the Pinnacle and Flat Rock vistas, are only accessible by putting on your walking shoes and climbing the flank of Blue Mountain virtually from the valley floor, and they are very popular with hikers. Despite having bagged the Flat Rock many more years ago than I care to admit, I have never been to the Pinnacle. Seems like everyone else I know has been there except for me. That is until yesterday.
Blue Mountain here is criss-crossed with hiking trails and there's more than one trail that leads up to the Pinnacle. I opted for the easiest approach, a 9 mile round trip with approximately 1,000' of elevation gain from the trailhead at the Hamburg Reservoir. You'll want your hiking boots for this hike because of the rocky nature of the trail in some sections and the general topography.
Hamburg ReservoirA brilliantly blue Sunday in early November sets the stage for a surprisingly scenic and rewarding hike to the top of Blue Mountain via Furnace Creek and it's ravine, but first we traverse the north side of the Hamburg Reservoir after a short climb and a bridged stream crossing from the parking lot.
Green is the ColourThe trail then closely follows Furnace Creek as it tumbles it's way down Blue Mountain through a steep sided ravine with a maze of rhododendrons and hemlocks. This area is home to plenty of eastern cougars, copperheads and timber rattlers so make lots of noise and carry a big stick.
November RoadAn abandoned but well graded and protracted forest road makes for easy walking through the thickets to the top of the mountain.
Lost in My Own BackyardThe day started off a little on the cool side with temperatures in the upper 30's, but it eventually warmed up into the 50's. It was especially chilly here in the shaded ravine of Furnace Creek but the steady climbing kept you warm enough to the point where it was soon time to shed some layers. By the time I reached the ridge top I was only wearing a thong and flip flops.
Blue Sky and Hemlocks
An intoxicating combination on a golden autumn day.
Furnace CreekWater is plentiful here, between the stream itself and 1/2 a dozen or so freestone springs gushing forth and feeding the watercourse it's all around you. In fact, the entire Furnace Creek watershed including Hamburg Reservoir is part of the water supply for the town of Hamburg. It's even designated as a Class A wild brook trout stream by the Pennsylvania Fish Commission but fishing here is not allowed because of the water supply thingy.
The Great ValleyAfter a couple of miles of fairly level ridgetop walking you come out here, my first view of the Great Valley from the Pinnacle. Looking south.
Canopy of Blue
Looking southwest here, the town of Hamburg is discreetly tucked behind the secondary ridge in the background.
It's more than just the apex of hiking in here southeastern Pennsylvania, according to my good friend, kindred spirit and all around babe magnet, Glen G it's a great spot to pick up hiking chicks. You can even check each other for ticks when you get home. All I got was a face full of pepper spray.
Autumnal DisplayThe Pinnacle trails are popular for a good reason. If you're the anti-social loner type (and we all know how they turn out) you would be better off avoiding weekends with nice weather or beating the crowds by getting an early start in the morning, which is what I did.
Goodbye blue sky.
Kind of Blue
Billie Holiday - God Bless the Child
Kind of Blue