Last Friday we scored a beautiful, sunny, and uncharacteristically cool afternoon that practically required a dismissal of the to-do list in exchange for some time running in the woods. I’ve recently been roaming around new (to me) trails within a short drive of Harrisburg, and decided to locate the Stony Mountain Fire Tower.
Located in the heart of State Game Land 211, the firetower sits atop Stony Mountain, and offers multiple routes depending on your desired mileage, difficulty, and tolerance for rocky terrain. I chose to run a few miles on the Stony Valley Railroad Grade, then take the steep Water Tank Trail straight up the mountain to the tower. I partially chose this route because it is labeled “Cascades during high water” which I read as particularly scenic and technical.
As usual for this time of year, the gnats were out in full force and seemed undeterred by my liberal use of DEET. The only solution seems to be to keep moving, and run faster. The Water Tank Trail was beautiful, with plenty of cascades and pools to keep me cool and the dog well hydrated. This will definitely be a trail to return to during the spring melt. After eating my weight in spiderwebs, I employed the swinging stick technique to clear the trail. I’m surprised no enterprising hiker has invented a permanent solution to that yet.
Once we crested the ridge, the trail pushes through fields of highbush blueberry, and what looks to be great habitat for Ursus americanus, but alas we only saw a few deer bounding away. The trail then opens up to a wide grassy fire road that leads the rest of the way to the tower.
Two great, big, black buzzards were perched atop the tower and took off as we approached. I kept a wary eye on our twenty-pound dog, as he might look like a tasty snack from above. We roamed around a bit, stopped for snack and some rehydration, and set off back down the mountain the way we came. I will certainly return to this spot, hopefully trying a few more trails I have yet to discover.