The North Country Trail Exploration

We waited all summer, but we finally picked a back country trip. We decided to go to the Allegheny National Forest and back pack the North Country Trail from the bottom of the Allegheny Reservoir to the New York State border.

This was going to be Sheilas first backpacking trip, first time with no toilets, no showers, just whatever we could carry in and out is what was coming.

We arrived in PA on Monday morning and decided to check out the Kinzua Bridge. It was once the tallest bridge in the country, carrying a rail line over and through the hills of Western PA. It was being rebuilt to continue use and was decimated by a tornado.


Literally bridge to no where

damage from the tornado
Glass floor to look to the bottom...

Instead of rebuilding, the bridge was turned into a tourist attraction/state park. The pictures are really impressive, but not as awesome as real life. We spent a few minutes taking in the views, the early morning sunshine, and then we moved on.

We left from Kinzua and headed to the North Country Trail at the Longhouse Trailhead in PA just past the town of Kane. We spent a few minutes eating lunch, finalizing our packs, checking the trailhead, and off we went…..


And so we went… 8.5 miles in the wrong direction. I continually felt like the sun was in the wrong location, mentioned it once, and never even bothered to check my compass which was hooked in on my right shoulder strap… in clear view the entire hike. We went south… for 4 long hours of hiking up hillsides, through thorny berry fields, over trees that were downed from a huge storm a few weeks back and have not yet been cleared from the trail.


100 yards in.. big, steamy, fresh pile of POOOP.. bear territory 🙂

We reached the trailhead on Route 6… and Sheila was looking north trying to figure out where the heck we were when I noticed a road marker for US RT 6…. Then noticed a “You are here” on the trail head and laughed out loud, pointed it to Sheila and said we walked south.

After 4 hours in the "wrong" direction

Then what I love about backpacking came into focus… it did not matter. The plan was to spend a few nights away from everyone/everything in the woods…. It did not matter if we were going north or south. We were not “through hiking”, so we had no “real” destination.

We hiked a few hundred feet off the road and saw a beautiful creek and bridge and place to spend the night. We set up camp, and decided to relax and enjoy the sunset.


Bear bag has been hung!
Watching the sunset while the fire heats up


The next morning we woke, and decided to hike on  back north.. back over all the downed trees, berry thorns, and crazy hills. We spent the next 4.5 -5  hours taking our time, taking pictures and relaxing. We had decided that we would continue past the first trail head (north in the correct direction) once we got back to the start and make it as far as we could.


On the trail again

When we got back to the car, we decided to take a ride 1/2 mile up the road to a place called “redbridge” a campsite managed by the National Forest… They have bathrooms, showers, ice, etc.

They also have “open” sites, which you cannot reserve, it is first come/first serve. We found a site on the reservoir, with amazing views, and tons of privacy.


A few cold beers after a few hard days on the trail!!

We made the decision to spend a night here and continue on in the morning. Sheila went up to pay for the site (20 bucks in an envelope) and I put my pack down and set the tent up while she was gone. As I was setting up, no less than 3 cars drove by looking to book that site.

The manager came by and told us she could not believe as backpackers we got this site because people literally sit around in their cars just waiting for it to open up.


Then we watched it rain.....

We actually ended up spending 2 nights at this site as we were warned of reported nasty thunder storms coming to the area. The intention was to be out and gone from everything for 4 days.. We ended up not spending 4 total out in the woods, but we spent 4 total away from people, so that was pretty cool.


We spent a day to “explore” checked out the campsites planned an ultra running/fast packing trip for the fall and enjoyed some down time.


On our last day we hiked the Rim Rock Overlook explored the Rim Rock region, took in some amazing views, and then packed up back at the car and headed back to Buffalo for a wedding.


The trip was a success, it only rained one night and we stayed high in dry in our tent. We packed all of our gear in and out, we had no problems (minus the wrong direction hike) We were able to spend time with just the two of us (and Picasso) Taking in nature and relaxing together. We cooked together, gathered firewood together, climbed over trees and creeks together. It was a fantastic trip

Items used:



Eric  – Coleman Max back country pack. This pack has room for everything. The tent would even fit inside if I wanted it to… which I probably will in the future.

Sheila – A great find perfect for trips like this for only 30 bucks at k-mart Outdoor Products ArrowHead 8.0

Footwear –

Eric – The entire weekend in New Balance MT 101 with Sole Spikes (and flip flops)

Sheila – The entire hike in her Columbia Tagori. A lightweight, yet firm hiker from Columbia that she loves.

Tent – We do not have a backpacking tent, we have hammocks, but decided to go with this tent instead. It is a “prospector” which we got free when we bought our house. I find that funny.. here is your home.. and this tent in case the house sucks… Its about 8 lbs, but it kept us dry. We are in the market for a backpacking tent, that will fit the 2 of us AND a dog.. so those super small ones.. not so good for  us. If anyone has any backpacking tent ideas, please let me know, I am open to all options.

Cook gear –  Outdoor Elements mess kit – As for our stove and propane.. we need to get smaller here, but we did OK on a short trip with – Coleman Mini Propane tank and the perfect flow burner

Headlamps – Energizer lamps – I have never been let down by energizer products. Bright enough for even pitch black nights out in the back country.

Sleeping bags and pads – We decided to forgo bags and bring a few fleece blankets. The nights were not going to be cold and we could snuggle together with the dog, so we left the bags at home and went with fleece. Lightweight, easy to clean, easy to pack.

The pad was a simple, Ozark Trail pad. It is waterproof, lightweight, and easy to roll and pack.

I also was sporting a Columbia fleece to keep me warm at camp fires and early morning pack downs before hitting the trails. Beat fleece out there!

We also had a bear bag for hanging the food, which we did not need as there were no encounters with bears of any kind…

I am always glad to return home from camp trips, but always sad to leave the woods. We take an annual fall trip, and it looks like we may come back and hit up the North Country Trail again… and you know.. actually walk north this time… Until we can walk into the woods again.. keep on keepin on!


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