Little needs to be said about my hike up Mount Tom. But there’s much I want to say.

I first saw this mountain when riding the Pine Creek Rail Trail in 2009. Mount Tom is at the head of the canyon, standing out as one rides the trail or drives along Route 6. The view below is from the little church in Ansonia.

I decided then and there, astride my bike, that I’d hike up that mountain one day. Part of it was just knowing it was there. Part of it was that I had a friend I’d met on a bicycle message board I was posting to, a fellow using the screen name “Tom Stormcrowe”, who like me had overcome physical limitations. Climbing Mount Tom was obvious but potent symbolism and a tribute to my friend. After my first round of treatment on my knees in 2010, I made plans to spend a few days in Pine Creek Gorge and hiking Mount Tom was a priority.

I picked up a guidebook from Pine Creek Outfitters that contained a description of the trail to the overlook atop the mountain. After reading the description and speaking with the staff at the outfitter I decided I was going to hike the longer but easier way to the top, following the old logging road. The shorter way required some scrambling and bushwacking I didn’t feel I was physically capable of. Another day, perhaps.

The morning of the hike was hot for the gorge, and the air was sticky. My having camped for two nights without a shower didn’t help my mood either. Nor did my initially parking at Darling Run and not finding the trailhead there. Frustrated, I put my car on the wide shoulder of the road and searched for the logging road gate.

Once I found it, I headed up. And up. The climb wasn’t hard, but it was long. The road had been overgrown with grass, and I was glad I’d applied Off! to my legs and boots. I was covered with the repellent, and the two spots I missed – my shoulders – were soon covered with flies. They’d probably not smelled anything like me in a long time.

The climb continued. I trudged on. After a couple of miles the trail began to flatten and the tree cover become thinner. I passed through an area that had been logged within the past couple of years. I spotted the blue blazes and knew I was close to the overlook.

And before I expected it, I was there. The overlook is getting overgrown, unfortunately, but the view of Route 6 and Ansonia is still pretty impressive.

Once at the top, I had lunch, walked around at the top of the mountain, and caught up with my phone calls. (There is no cell phone service through most of the Pine Creek Gorge, and outside the city of Wellsboro the signal is weak at best. But I had a full set of bars on the mountain top.) I placed a call to Tom Stormcrowe explaining what I’d done and where I was calling from. He seemed nearly as pleased as I was.

I put my new tripod to good use and posed for a couple of victory photos. Looking back at this hike if I regret one thing its that haircut. Right idea, wrong execution. Short hair is great when rough camping. Near-shaved head? Not a good look and prone to sunburn.

Getting down the mountain wasn’t hard, but again, it was long. I felt very stiff at the end of the five mile hike. But an hour and a meal in the air conditioned comfort of Pag-Omar Farmers’ Market refreshed me, and I ended my day with a ten mile ride on the Pine Creek Rail Trail.
Mount Tom isn’t big or high, even by Pennsylvania standards.Nor is it a difficult hike. But hiking to the top made me feel good in a way I hadn’t in a long time. When I met my friend Judy for a ride on the rail trail in September 2012 I pointed towards Mount Tom. “See that mountain?” I said. “I hiked up it.” I was smiling as much at that moment as I was when I reached the top in 2010. Just like I’m smiling now writing about it.