Photo by Sean McCloskey. All rights reserved.

On Saturday May 3 at ten AM a group of eleven hikers, and one dog, from all over Pennsylvania gathered at
Laurel Lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park for a hike up to Pole Steeple. The cliffs towering 700 feet over the lake are a popular hike for many visitors to the park, but this hike was relatively early in the season and the trails weren’t crowded.

While the outdoors is for everyone, no two people are the same, and we had hikers of different levels of experience on the trail. “Hike your own hike” was the rule, but while we broke into groups of different paces we met up again frequently. Our pace was relaxed, as there was so much to see on and off the trail. The four hours for the four mile hike seemed to speed by, even if we didn’t.

As for the trails themselves, the climb to Pole Steeple was the usual mix of rocks, roots, and dirt that make up a PA hiking experience. As part of the loop we used the Appalachian Trail to get back to the road and the parking lot, and its clear the winter was hard on the AT. There was a lot of erosion and in at least one spot a fast moving stream formed across the trail. The only hikers who finished with dry socks were the hikers who didn’t wear them. For me, this continued a theme of my hikes that weekend, as my shoes got soaked on every hike.

Hero of the hike was my friend Joshua. Readers are familiar with my weekday hikes with Josh, but regardless of any preparation we could do this was a very tough hike for him. His wife, although fitter than her husband, was pushed too. Both got up the hill, and since we weren’t rushing they took their time.

As for myself, I felt stronger than ever before on the climb to the top. I wasn’t fast, but I felt more sure footed and faster than on previous climbs. I was still very cautious moving around on the rock outcropping, however.

The hike raised $320 for HIKE For Mental Health and introduced some of the group to the beauty of a stretch of the AT and the great view from atop Pole Steeple. As a first time hike leader and HFMH volunteer I’m pleased with both results.