I had some time on my hands, having taken the day off from work, so rather than waste it, I figured I could update a page on my web site that was in sore need of improvement.
The Skyline Trail is an older trail co-opted by the Mid State Trail, and it runs along Tussey Ridge to the south of State College and Boalsburg, PA.
This is one of my favorite "quick" hikes. It combines the fun of ridge hiking with some of the best views of Mount Nittany you can get from the ground. I've hiked this a bunch of times, but never without my camera.
Tonight, I not only wanted to get some pictures with my relatively new Canon XTi, but I wanted to get some new GPS readings. The map on HikePA for this, well, for lack of a better word, sucked. It was the first map I made with my eTrex Vista, and I had no decent software to plot it out. I wound up using MS Streets, which was the best thing available to me at the time.
Now that I have much better mapping software (Topo USA from Delorme) I wanted to update.
I figured on a 2 hour hike, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to hit the Roman Tower or not. The Roman Tower is a rock tower about 3-10 feet tall (taller down the hill that at the top of it) that overlooks a talus run and offers a view of Mount Nittany. Well, vandalism and growing trees have taken their toll, and the view isn't all that good anymore. I actually prefer the views that are roughly halfway to the Roman Tower.
When I got up there, I was making really good time, so I couldn't resist going all the way to the Roman Tower to get GPS data.
The tower was much further than I remembered, and I was sort of racing the sun at this point. True, I had my headlamps and was prepared for dark, but I don't like hiking in the dark. Too many nocturnal animals!
After snapping off some pictures, I headed back. At this point, I was feeling so full of energy that I jogged most of the way. I'd not really jogged on trails before, on account of the risk of stumbling on loose rocks, but since I lost so much weight, it just seemed natural.
When I go to the Mount Nittany Vista (as I call it, nobody else seems to have a name for it that I can find) I couldn't resist getting some more photos. Damn, when the sun sets, that is just one of the best photos of Mount Nittany that I can get. I spent a lot more time there than I wanted to spend.
I wound up jogging about 2/3 of the way back, my CamelBak and tripod swinging around. I was surprised at how easy it was to jog on the ridgeline, and I might have to do that more in the future. I covered way more territory than I ever did over the same amount of time, and I think I did the out-and-back hike in about 2 hours, which is pretty good for a 4.5 mile hike and at least 45 minutes of photography and the rugged terrain.
A few notes on the trail. First, the vandalism around here is getting annoying. The trailhead marker that shows that the MST is a footpath only was destroyed. This is usually done by bikers who think they have a right to ride their bikes (and ruin the trail for hikers) on trails that hikers built. I think they fail to realize that the hiking community BUILT THE TRAILS. If they want their own trails, then by all means, build them! I suppose it's just easier to ruin the hiking trails, though.
Next, signs for the Mount Nittany Vista, 1-2 Link Trail and the roman tower (when approaching from the east) were missing. This makes it somewhat hard to find if you don't know what you're looking for. If I ever see somebody removing trail signs, there will be a devil to pay. This is not a joke or a game--people can get lost in the woods when signage is missing, and there is a real possibility that people could die.
All in all, a good evening hike and still one of my favorites. When combined with the Jackson Trail, it's even more spectacular.