During my recent weekend in the Michaux State Forest I stayed at the Ironmaster’s Mansion Hostel. Located on Route 233 and the Appalachian Trail in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, the hostel is indeed a mansion, built in 1829 and standing above the site of the old blast furnace. Next door is the park general store, and nearby is the blast furnace stack, Appalachian Trail Museum, and park office. The park lakes and Pole Steeple are within a couple of miles. And Springer Mountain in Georgia and Katahdin in Maine are in walking distance if you are ambitious.

The hostel was run, and run down,  by American Youth Hostels for many years, and AYH was in charge when I first stayed there in 2009. The building closed in 2010 and was purchased by the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, who did extensive renovation to the property. Now with Roger and Kathy as hosts the hostel is open 11 months of the year with the exception of days the building is booked for a wedding or other event.

I’ve never stayed alone at the hostel, but I’ve never seen more than four guests at a time. I’m curious to see how a full house would look, with conversation and guests spilling from room to room. Instead I’ve been blessed to meet on a one to one basis the fascinating people who hike the world’s most famous footpath. One of them was Shane, on a “flip-flop” hike, starting in Harpers Ferry, ending in Maine, and then resuming in Harpers Ferry heading south. He is a delightful conversationalist, and an even better pianist. He was in tune the morning before the Pole Steeple hike, the piano not so much.

For more on the Ironmaster’s Mansion, visit http://ironmastersmansion.com/