Camp life and the Allegheny National Forest

Because I am a crazy person and prefer to plan things out in advance I make an itinerary for Kristy and I. It might seem a little insane and uptight to have an itinerary for a weekend at camp but I find the more planned out and prepared I am the easier it is for me to relax. I LOVE INTINTERARYS!!! Yes I said it, I love having everything planned out and so I don’t have to think. We can stray from the plans if we want or have to and I don’t stress but I find it easier to get the most of my days when I have a plan. Below is a copy for your viewing pleasure.

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Friday Morning

The itinerary is already altered because Kristy had a work meeting Friday morning so everything is pushed back a few hours leaving me time for a morning run. I run a very boring 6 miles around Cass Park but I am super happy because this is my longest run since my ankle sprain. The first 3 miles of all my runs typically suck, however I hit my sweet spot around mile 5, I am stoked to hit my sweet spot and know the weekend will be awesome!


Say Cheese....

Say Cheese....

After a quick shower I pack up the car and wait for Kristy to arrive. When she does we hop in the FJ with an extremely large bag of grapes (my favorite car snack next to sour patch kids) and we are off. About half way into our drive it is time for a bathroom break and a stop by Cuba Cheese Shop. The sign out front says 17 kinds of goat cheese! Yes please, I love everything about that!  In the store we take a stop by the sample section to try a swiss, some cheese curds, aged cheddar, one weird brown cheese, and some other cheeses. So this weird brown cheese…Kristy wouldn’t try it until I told her it tasted like cheese candy. It was creamy and sweet. I later find out it is a goat cheese with caramel in it, exactly as I described it cheese candy aka Gjetost. Not something I would want to eat regularly but fun to try. We purchase goat cheddar, cheese curd, and 2 rock candy sticks. We are all still children at heart.


Due to some wet weather conditions we skip hiking rim rocks and eating lunch outside when we arrive in Warren, PA. Alternate lunch spot is Sheetz, a PA staple of gas station, sub shop, and fast food chain with clean restrooms. Sheetz is the worlds best gas station where the food is not only edible but also seen as part of a regular diet for many western PAers. I am happy to introduce this amazing gas station to Kristy. We order a soft pretzel to split and some fried pickles. Yeah my salt craving from my run this morning was kicking in full time.  We eat in the car and are off to find the brewery, however this brewery apparently doesn’t exist. We drive to the location the brewery previously was only to find to Adecco staffing agency. Sorry not looking for a job in Warren. Do not fear we are always capable of finding a bar. Kristy finds a place called Grumpy’s on her phone that is described as dive bar/dance club. I dig it. On the way to Grumpy’s we past Allegheny Outfitters and decide to stop by. The local outdoor store is always the best place to get recommendations for bars and happenings in the area. We stop by drool over the extremely nice Jackson kayaks and chat with the sales rep/possible owner about events in Warren. We get some good tips of local events we will have to come back for. At Grumpy’s Kristy asks what IPAs they have and orders a Southern Tier IPA, amateur. Doesn’t she know you never order ‘fancy beer’ at a dive bar unless you want a stale beer? I obviously order a Yuengling. We are accompanied in the bar by a local and his lady friend, in true small town fashion the local had quite a bit of flair and was extremely friendly. Even offered to get us a shot, I declined but volunteer Kristy to take one. Kristy also discloses a hidden talent of hers at this bar, she is awesome at claw machines and wins Pepper a new toy! Grumpys was just a quick stop then we head south to the cabin and final destination for the weekend.


Finally! The Cabin! Lucky the rain starts to ease up. I give Kristy a tour of the place. This is the room we sleep in, this is the other room, that is the outhouse (its only a little bit scary), but most importantly here are some chairs and the front yard that overlooks the Allegheny River. We unpack and relax with our feet up a bit; Kristy throws a line in the river to see if there are any fish. I examine the swelling of the ankle after my run in the morning, ponder which shoes to wear tomorrow; hiking books with ankle support or trail sneakers. It looks like hikers, I’m try to make a real effort to not get too down on myself about the injury but it is hard to plan a hike for tomorrow when I would rather be running. Around 4:30 we have our first bald eagle spotting, which is pretty far way in a tree on top of the hill. One of the reasons I love hanging out with Kristy is her excitement for everything. She is beyond excited to see the bald eagle and doesn’t feel the need to hide it at all. Dinnertime starts to roll around so we start a fire to cook diner.  We are forces to skip after dinner Jim Beam maple, because Kristy packed her flask but forgot to fill it. Ha-ha I guess this trip to relax and clear our heads was more needed then we realized. We watch the fog roll in over the river then head to bed. 


Saturday morning I wake up start the coffee and make our sandwiches for the hike. When the smell of coffee is too irresistible Kristy rolls out of bed to join me for a warm cup of coffee on the porch with some power muffins. The trailhead is only 2 miles down the road and we could easily walk to it but since Pepper is with us I prefer to drive. I don’t like walking on the road with Pepper, especially a narrow twisty road like Route 62. 


We start the uphill hike on the Tanbark trail and discuss if we are going to cut the hike short to make it back to the cabin in time to canoe. We decide some water time is necessary, well actually Kristy wants to get out on the canoe…she is much more of a water creature then I. The Tanbark trail has many different sections that all have a very different feeling, We start the hike with an very wet uphill sections then it transitions in to a moss covered forest with lots of down trees, then we come to a section that is very open, followed by a section that has extremely large rocks. Somewhere along the trail we get service and feel our phones vibrate with all the text messages, emails, and voicemails we missed since losing service at the cabin. At one point we stop I am forced to yell at Kristy for reading a work email. When did we start thinking we must always be available to others? Take time for yourself, be selfish, do exactly want you want, be unavailable, unplug. I know I am just as guilt too but wonder should hiking now have the same rules as yoga class…no cell phones? Ok enough about my rant. We continue hiking till we arrive at the big rocks. We stop for some yoga and rock ‘climbing’ and playing/exploring in the forest. We find a super cool looking cave and would like to explore but are a bit concerned about bears. I ask Kristy if she brought the bear spray I bought her. Of course she brought it, it is at the cabin.  Oh, Kristy. To this I respond what good is it going to do you there, she says that she has me. I sometimes feel like she puts too much faith in me.


With both of our hammocks being brand new we are excited to try them out.  We find a good spot a bit off the beaten path, not like it matters because I never see anyone else on the Tanbark trail. One of the reasons I love this trail so much. Mine is an eno onelink sleep system, Kristy’s is a grand trunk hammock. I got the sleep system knowing I won’t need to bring all of the accessories with me all the time. Today I only brought with me the atlas suspension system and the double nest hammock. I pull out my two bags, Kristy looks over and comments that she hopes there is something to hang her hammock with in her bag, oh Kristy you crack me up. Mine is extremely easy to set up and I am happy the atlas suspension system doesn’t require me to tie any knots. In about 6 minutes the hammock is up and I crack open a PBR and put my feet up. This rest with elevating my ankle is super good for me right now since it was swollen after my run yesterday. Now lets see if Pepper will like the hammock. I’ve had many concerns about the idea of hammock sleeping with Pepper. Will she like it? Will she just jump in or do I have to some how pick her up put her in and then get in myself? That could be a bit hazardous. Lucky Pepper doesn’t care about being off the ground and swaying as long as she is in my lap, Pepper jumps right in lays down with her head over the side keeping watch. What a cute dog! She literally makes me so extremely happy words cannot describe. It starts to drizzle a bit and it is rather cold so I am happy to have Pepper to warm me up even if she is damp from so much swimming. We eat our sandwiches, Peppers favorite peanut butter and jelly! I made 3 sandwiches this morning, Pepper eats 1 1/2 because she mooched part of both Kristy’s and mine off of us. We are softies. Eventually we are too cold and want to pack up so we can start moving again. On the way back we pick up the pace a bit in order to warm up. We tried to keep an eye out for some wild ramps along the trail to add to our foil packs today but didn’t spy any I think we were a bit early in the season for ramps. We did however find some fiddleheads; they were a bit young and too cool looking I didn’t want to take any to eat.  


We return to the cabin with plenty of day light, I nap outside in a reclining chair while Kristy fishes. After the nap we decide to take the canoe out. Kristy said she is a good paddler and I know I am not so I put her in the back of the canoe. Not sure if this was a smart decision. We grab Pepper after her trying to abandon ship a few times and push off. Kristy lost a lure on a snag and thought she would be able to get it out from another angle. We try to paddle around the snag; we have no sense of direction or coordination with paddling. I know from the very start that this is going to be a complete shit show. We attempt to paddle to the little island in the river. We only precede my going back and forth along the river not making any progress. Kristy yells at me and tells me I’m doing a bad job steering. This is my first indication Kristy might not be the paddler she told me she was. The person in the back of the canoe should control steering, and the person in the front is the power and sets the speed of paddle. After only traveling about 4 cabins in 30 mins I give up. Kristy is paddling so fast I don’t even know if she is putting her paddle in the river. Kristy is still determined and tries to encourage me to paddle more but I can’t stop laughing at how bad we are. I am ready to float down stream and bird watch for the 5 seconds it will take us to get back to the cabin. Before we attempt this again I think we might need a lesson on canoeing. Here is an article if you would like to learn more about 2 person canoeing, Kristy this might be for you.  We return to the cabin haul the canoe up the riverbank and make peace with the fact we suck at canoeing.

It is still a bit chilly out so we start a fire not only for cooking but also for some warmth in the afternoon. We eat dinner in a few different courses that evening. Our appetizers are prosciutto wrapped mozzarella cheese balls, which is the most fab thing cooked over a fire. After our first course we hang out I play with Pepper while Kristy tries her luck fishing again. Around 4:30 we see another bald eagle. This time the eagle is much closer. After a bit I chop up some veggies throw them in some foil with butter and toss the foil packs in the fire. When Kristy decides to give up on fishing the veggie course is finished and watch the water float down river. Eventually we also cook up some chicken sausage and have some beers by the fire before bed.  Since we have done all of the things or at least the majority on my itinerary I am content going to bed with a full day!


Sunday morning I cook up what is left of the veggies top it off with fried eggs, half an avocado and a generous serving of coffee to keep us awake for the drive home or at least keep me awake.  I always leave the cabin more relaxed and zenned out then when I arrive. Sometimes a little bit of unavailability, doing exactly what you want, selfishness and unplugging is good for the soul.