Backpacking Hammersley Wild Area, Cross Fork, PA 
April 28-29, 2012 - Brother Don and I met up with cousin Bob at the DCNR
facility in Cross Fork, a sleepy old lumber town that claims to be the Biggest Little
Town in the World, now the crossroads of the Susquehanna Trail and home to
one of the biggest snake hunts in the state.  With the temps in the forties under
a threat of rain showers later we again headed out together on another trail
adventure to collect new stories and share laughs about the many good times 
of the past.  The objective this time was the Hammersley Wild Area, second
largest wild area in the state, with no roads crossing through its 30,000 acres.

After crossing Kettle Creek in town we walked along a familiar Route 144 before
hitting the trail juncture for the Susquehanna Trail heading north.  The hike heads
gradually up a narrow ravine along an old railroad grade and log flumes for about
a mile and a half to the top, gaining a healthy one thousand feet in the process.  
This is a well-used hiking path, so we didn't have to pay much attention to blazes 
along the way.  We came up quickly on six young dudes camped along the trail
who didn't see us until their two pit bulls and single Rottweiler attacked at close
range.  Holding our ground we escaped infliction by the lunging bunch as one
of the guys quickly scrambled to call off and retrieve his bloodthirsty menagerie.
The dogs snapped at us but somehow no one was bitten.



Continuing past the summit we remained on the plateau for a few miles before
dropping into the Hammersley Creek basin in the heart of the wild area.  The
packs felt good and no one was experiencing any difficulty from old war wounds.
Much of the afternoon was spent hiking well above this beautiful wide creek
on paths cut into the steep hills of the valley.  Half way up the valley we came
down to the stream to enjoy a break at the renouned swimming hole, a pool
large enough to dive head first without hitting bottom.  An entry in the trail
register showed someone had taken a dip in March.  With temps hovering
around fifty degrees none of us felt tempted for a hypothermic plunge.


Further along we had to cross the stream where it was about twenty feet wide.
Bob waded across while Don and I found some windfalls to maneuver our way
across deeper water and keep our feet dry.  On the windfalls and the tangled
debris clinging to it were large amounts of bear poop.  Neither of us had ever
seen anything like this.  Apparently the bears don't like to get their feet wet any
more than we do, because they had used this crossing many, many times,
very apparently.  There was ample bear sign all along the trail, this being Potter
County where the largest yield of bears in the state is taken in hunting season.

After about ten miles on the Susquehanna Trail we cut away from the trail on a
powerline, just after hiking past a mostly empty camp of nine tents - probably
boy scouts.  The convoluting powerline right-of-way took us up and down
three climbs for a mile-and-a-half before we hit a dirt road that connected us to
the northern terminus of the Twin Sisters Trail which we would loop back on.
Climbing steep hills reminded us that we weren't kids anymore and started all
of us thinking about stopping for the day.

The trail guide advised about the paucity of water along the rest of the way.  We
thought we were following its advice, but waited too long to fill our bottles with
water.  This necessitated continuing to hike beyond what we had planned, until
we found water.  Running low, we stopped at about 13 miles and Bob grabbed 
his Platypus bottles and bushwhacked it a half mile away from the trail to find
water enough for all for the evening.  My hero.  It saved me, as I require a lot
of water.  We found a level spot where we had stopped and set up camp -
three tents where none had probably ever been before.

Before stopping we hiked a very nicely groomed trail through mature woods 
with lots of hemlock stands.  The trail across the top of the plateau is as
level as tired legs could dream of.  Twin Sisters crossed an open area that had 
burned off in 1964 and never recovered.  This would be, essentially, our only
overlook of the entire trip.


The camp was still as we cooked our dinners and enjoyed the flavor of warm
food in the open air.  There was no wind all day, nor the following day as well.
As the temperature headed down in the evening the camp fire was warming
to the bones.  By the time we crawled into our bags we were all toasty with
full tummies, ready for sleep.  The night continued calm with no wildlife incidents.
I slept like a baby, as I always do outdoors, and never got cold in my cozy
little Eureka tent, awakening to the distant drumming of a grouse trying to
attract a mate.

The temperature was 27 degrees upon rising.  It didn't seem cold until I took
my gloves off to stuff some sacks with gear.  We got going early and continued
our traipse across the plateau.  Blazes became few and far between as we
wandered back and forth looking for trail sign.  We finally found water in one
place before cutting through thick laurel along a more freshly blazed section of the
Twin Sisters Trail.  After five miles or so we merged again with the Susquehanna
Trail that we had hiked on the day before and headed back down the grade
we had climbed to end the trip.

In the warming sun of mid morning we stopped for a relaxed repast as we 
ate most of the treats that we had remaining in our bags while overlooking a 
winding Kettle Creek in the valley below.  Don served us a cold brew from his
trunk before we made atoast to another good adventure and talked about doing 
it again.  I, for one, can't wait!