backpacking
29 days ago

I purchased the guide for this trail at least 8 years ago, if not longer. Never got to go before a left the country for a few years. Finally, went last weekend. Really enjoyed the trail. It's much longer than the 9 miles on the old guide, but the topo map on this site seems accurate. The hiking app on my phone came up with just shy of 14 miles.

We arrived at the trailhead by the cemetery just before noon (after missing the turn on Shay Ridge Road because Waze didn't load enough maps prior to losing cell signal, so we had an unplanned visit to New Matamoras). There were already 6 or 7 cars parked there, but there was still space for at least one more after we parked.

We took the counterclockwise direction toward the cave and natural bridge. The vast majority of the trail was in good condition with few muddy spots. The trail had been improved since my guide was made with switchbacks replacing what had previously been straight up the hill ascents or descents. This added about 1 1/2 to 2 miles to the trail on either side of the campsites in the middle. It seems like we saw a couple of campsites within the first couple of miles. There were several near the midpoint. There were also several on the second half of our trip, so while we hiked about 7 miles before stopping, it appears that there are options for that distance +/- 2 miles regardless of which direction you travel.

We had decided that we didn't want to mess with pumping or purifying water, so we had driven down and around to TWP 427, which is shown on the AllTrails map, and dropped off a 2 1/2 gallon jug of water there. When we hiked back around to that point, we passed one small campsite and stayed at another that was near where we left the jug. TWP 427 was passable with a Highlander to the point where the creek and the trail cross the road. We may have been able to cross the creek, but I was just caching water and didn't need to risk getting stuck. While were we camping there, a group of two Gators came down the road after dark. We also heard at least one go up the road in the morning.

While we encountered 4 groups on Saturday, we didn't see any when we hiked out on Sunday. There are a lot of sites with past or current oil wells. While it isn't shown on the AllTrails map, there is a section of trail that we encountered on the second day, that starts at the summit above TWP 427 and follows an dirt road. It was sort of boring.

It was a good hike. Would do it again.