Casparis Trail Ride

With summer in full swing and a free weekend coming up, what better thing to do then to go off road with friends? Well that’s just what a group of us did. And what better place then to Casparis in Pennsylvania. And along for this trip we had the following folks come out and play.

Oh, did I forget to mention that while this mud hole not only has a major dip in it, that it has two? Well it does.

  • Alex Hinson with guest Katie
  • Rudy from the JK-Forum with nephew Russ
  • Keith Holman
  • John Tompkins
  • Gary Owens

For once, we just met at the Connellsville Sheetz instead of meeting up along the way. It seemed to work best for everyone going. After a wrong turn off the highway due to road work and having to take the back way into town, I arrived just on time at 10:30. We all gassed up and grabbed our lunches for the trail and headed out.

Like normal, we went over the river and train yard and then into south Connellsville past the plant. From there the main road for Casparis begins as a ruff gravel road. After a good hill climb we finally hit a flat large enough to hold all of us to allow us to air down and disconnect.

Once we were truly trail ready, we trekked on and took the path leading to the mines. It seems to work best to head to the mines first and have lunch there then finish the day with the rest of the trails. By the time we reach the mines, most of us have been up for 6-7 hours and we are hungry.

After arriving at the mines, there was enough interest from everyone to go into the mines again. For some of us, this was a new thing and was quiet fascinating. All of us went to the top of the mound and most of us went in, 6 of us even made the mile hike down one of the shafts till we could no longer see the light from the entrances. It’s rumored that several of the shafts go for 3 to 4 miles in till you reach the cave-ins, but that’s something to be explored another time.

After this, we all made the 1.5 mile hike out to the overlook which I call “Bench Rock” considering the rock sticking off the side of the cliff looks like a big park bench. The view was amazing and the weather was perfect. Plus the thick coverage of the tree’s made the path rather cool so the hike was enjoyable even in the hot weather.

Once back to the vehicles, those of us who haven’t had a chance to eat, scarfed our lunches down so that we could get a move on and hit some trails. We headed back out to the main road, and even did a little side detour mud hole. And each of us made a nice splash in the creek crossing. Once on the main road, we headed past Folly’s Dam and into the game lands. From here the trail changes in nature. Up to this point the trail is gravel and rather maintained. The trees are trimmed back and there are only a few mud puddles. After this, the road maintenance stops and the trail becomes much more difficult, which means more fun for us.

We arrived at the triple hill climb, called so for the 3 options of how to climb the hill. Most of us opted for the straight away path which involves getting over some big tree roots acting as steps and a few rocks. A few of us did the rocky hill climb which is a little harder. From here, we headed through the mud pits and out to the first 4 way split.

Like the trail runs before, we hung a right and began Cherokee Loop (named so for the 70’s Cherokee on the side of the trail). This is a fun loop that will dump us back out at the top of the hill climb we just did. It is deceivingly challenging. There are mud pits, creek crossings, slants, hills, rocks, ditches, ruts, etc. Everything you could want in a trail.

The deep washout at the beginning of this was a little deeper than last time. A few more good heavy rains and this part may become impossible to do without dragging a mirror in the mud. We arrived at the second 4 way after this and decided to continue the loop going right instead of exploring and finding our way to the railroad bridge by going left. I also made a note to inform everyone that the trail leading straight from here goes for several miles before getting to small for anything other than an ATV to get through.

After a few more hills, twists, and muddy spots, we came to the old Cherokee. After a few quick pictures we headed on, next stop the old ranger’s house. After another long hill climb on several switch backs with very deep ruts again we reached the top and found the old foundation of the rangers’ house. The maps in 1940 say this was a ranger’s station and tower, the maps from 1990 simply say “building” and all that’s left now is the brick foundation which is almost hidden by the plants. After this we finished the hill climb and arrived back at the top of the triple hill climb from earlier. Now off to the mud pits and rock playground.

To get where we were going, you simply go straight at the 4 way from the beginning of the loop. This will take you through a series of deceivingly deep mud pits. One thing that would throw the unknowing wheeler off is that you go through the first one which is about 60 feet long and its maybe axle deep. And there is nothing to it. Then the 2nd one is the same way. So you’d think the 3rd one is the same way. Wrong. The 3rd one has a sudden drop to it that even a jeep on 33’s would dip the top of their hood into the mud from it.

So after digging my way through that and having my rear still in the water with the tale pipe making the funny bubbling noise and my nose in the air getting some fresh air again, I prepared for the 2nd dip. Oh, did I forget to mention that while this mud hole not only has a major dip in it, that it has two? Well it does. After each of us made our way through, and a few taking the bypass, we checked to make sure everyone was ok and for some of us to let the water out from our Jeeps, we continued on to the rock playground.

Now, the rock playground used to have more to it, in fact, it had several larger boulders laying about that were perfect for posing on. It also had steeper hill climbs and more stuff to run over. But they came in and dug away most of the dirt for some construction nearby. But that didn’t stop us from playing a little. We all did the hill climbs and had fun coming back down and just running about. Even the kids had fun climbing over the rocks.

By now it is getting late, and we are all tired and hungry and with all but one of us having a 3+ hour drive home, it was time to leave. So we made our way to the Sandy Flat Rd entrance. This time, there was no construction equipment anywhere’s but the gate was somewhat closed. It wasn’t locked but from the road, you could see the signs marking it as a construction area now. So we all agreed that since the gate was not locked and we were leaving to get on a public road, it would be fine to open the gate, get onto the road and then fully shut the gate behind us. I also took note of this so that on future runs, I’ll no longer go out this way and will just use the south Connellsville entrance as an exit from now on.

From here we all aired up and reconnected and said our goodbyes. It was a great day on the trails with some great folks. Everyone had a good time and we made it without breaking anything. That’s a successful trail run to me. See you next time!

Trail report written by Alex Hinson. Pictures courtesy of Alex Hinson and Keith Holman.

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