I wanted to do something quick, since I had limited time, so I thought about Mount Nittany, which is where I hike when I don't know where to hike. Mount Nittany was getting old, though, so when I saw the antennas on Little Flat, I thought about Shingletown, for some reason.
I headed up Mountain Road as usual (off PA Route 45 near Boalsburg, PA for those who aren't local!) and parked at the Shingletown Gap trailhead.
The first time I hiked this area, I would up bushwhacking to the top of the wrong hill because the map I had sucked and the trails aren't really marked that well. Ten years later and the trails still aren't marked so well, but I have fully explored the area and know what's there.
This time, I decided to head up Egg Hill (I think) which is a hike I hadn't taken in six years or so. Pretty much you find it by heading right when given the opportunity from the main path. This brings you to the edge of Roaring Run, and you'll soon see a fallen tree with a bridge carved into it. I don't like using this, and prefer to head a bit further up and pick my way across near Cruiser's Run (shown above) which is lovely, by the way. This doesn't work so well when Roaring Run lives up to its name.
After heading up Cruiser's Run a couple dozen yards, there's a little cliff, and just around it, if you look up and to the right, you'll see a blazed trail heading right up it. It's hard to see on account of being painted on the wrong side of the tree, so you really do need to look back at it.
Anyway, I headed up the cliff, banging on each rock to scare any critters that might startle me. I was surprised at how steep it was, considering that the last two times I hiked the thing was in the middle of the winter and it was snowy. That was probably reckless of me without crampons.
At the top of Egg Hill is a nice little path that rarely sees use, and it's a great place to get some solitude and there are plenty of places along the knife edge to sit down and take in the scenery. A small, flat campsite is just at the top of the hill, but I'm pretty sure there's no camping allowed in Shingletown Gap. If there is, I know all the good sites
I headed down the path, which is blazed blue with a white stripe, by the way, and waded through a forest of ferns. Catching the blue trail (the Deer Path) which is what I started out on, I worked my way to the top of Tussey Ridge toward the Mid State Trail.
The MST in this area is beautiful, with a really nice vista if you head right (west/south) from the intersection with the Deer Path. I did this, took in the view toward Jack's Mountain way off in the distance, some six or seven ridges away, and then headed back. I think it was Jack's Mountain, anyway, and if it is, it's near Mount Union, PA, some 30 miles away.
I headed over to the Roman Tower, which I thought was closer, but it was a nice day and I didn't mind so much. When I got to the tower, I was unimpressed by the view of Mount Nittany, just like the last 10-15 times I've hiked it. The tower has been the steady victim of vandalism over the years, and nobody's tried to repair or improve it in a long time. Even though, the trees in front of it are growing, and there's barely a view anymore. I'd like to head up there with a chainsaw sometime...
To the East of the Roman Tower are two much nicer views of Mount Nittany. The first Mount Nittany Vista is hard to spot unless you're looking for it, and it's not marked in any way. It's my second favorite, and is actually better, probably, in some respects than other views. I call it the Little Mount Nittany Vista. Maybe the name will catch on.
The next Mount Nittany Vista is marked with a sign that says, "VIEW" and it's easy to find. I took a bunch of photos and headed toward the 1-2 Link, which is just East of there.
The sign for the 1-2 Link has been missing for some time, but there's a cairn there, and the blue blazes and trail are easy to spot. This would take me down the ridge and down to the Shingletown Trail, and back to the parking lot.
Well, I certainly didn't remember the loose pile of steep rocks that somebody had the nerve to blaze as a trail, but I made it down, only slipping twice, putting my full weight on my trekking poles. This is not something I like to do, as they are my last hope to avoid making a face plant down 20 feet into a pile of rocks.
The trail leveled out after about 20 yards, but then the fun began.
Now, I know this area well. I had a GPS, too, so I wasn't going to get lost, but what I saw infuriated me. Somebody painted blue 'blazes' on damned near every tree I could see. Literally, dozens, if not hundreds of trees had blue paint on them, the same color as the blazes for the 1-2 Link path. I figured a wild band of hooligans was at work, but after a while, the sheer magnitude of the task made me wonder if it wasn't a harbinger to a logging operation. If so, there are going to be a lot of people mad as hell. If not, I pity the next fool I find with a can of spray paint in that area.
Vandalism is irritating when it simply destroys things, but this could literally get somebody killed. While it's unlikely that somebody would get totally lost and die on that section of trail, it's certainly possible, especially in the winter, or when sunset is closing in. I have excellent "trail eyes", but I had trouble finding the path, and lost it about 30 yards from the intersection with the other blue and white trail. As a matter of fact, I ran into a nice couple from Utah hiking near there, and they weren't sure which way to go or what the deal was. I pointed them away from the crazy blazes, but I think they had the sense to do that on their own. Still, the blaze happy section of forest is an accident waiting to happen, and I think I'm going to write the forestry people to find out what's going on. If it's logging, the area should have warning signs at all trailheads and periodically, like the "POSTED - no hunting" type of signs.
So, after finding the blue/white trail, I made my way back to the Shingletown path and back to my car, pausing to take some snaphots.
The day had a climbing total of about 1200 feet, or 2x Mount Nittany, and was 4.1 miles, according to my GPS. In the future, all loop hikes like that will have to come down the Sand Spring Trail, which is probably a half hour longer, but it's well signed on the Mid State Trail and I think it bypasses all the blaze craziness.