Hike #29 - French Creek State Park (Mill Creek Trail); or, "It's Tough Being Clever When You're Swarmed by Bugs!"
Date: October 10, 2011
Total Distance: 6.06 miles
Time to Completion: 2:53 (hr:min)
Elevation Gain: 554 feet
Terrain: Dirt and gravel
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Parking: Shed Road parking lot
On October 10, 2011, Hiking with Impunity returned to French Creek State Park for a fourth time. With its 7,730 acres of land, and over 35 miles of hikeable trails, it's easy to see why people (including us) return to this state park again and again, always finding a different route to take. We decided upon a loop configuration, using the Mill Creek trail as the backbone for a hike through the eastern portion of French Creek State Park (to download a PDF copy of the French Creek Trail map, go to our new file resource center by clicking here).
Exiting the parking lot on Shed Road, we crossed the road and made our way onto the Mill Creek trail, indicated by a white blaze with a red stripe. At the bulletin board, we made a left, taking the gravel trail into the heart of French Creek. There was quite a bit of traffic on the trails on this day, partially owing to the fact that it was a holiday (Columbus Day), while also seeing people taking advantage of decent weather after several weeks of bad rains and storms. Hikers of all ages were on the trails: children and adults, some with their dogs. It was a great day to be on the trail, and all the hikers we ran into on this day were not only extremely pleasant, but very courteous as well. One small family in particular impressed us with their thoughtfulness toward the end of our hike.
While the sun was shining, and there were no storm clouds overhead, the humidity was up and flying pests were out in full force. That coupled with incessant gun-fire at a local shooting range made parts of this hike less enjoyable than they could have been; but, as always, it was wonderful being out on the trails, and these minor nuisances were soon forgotten!
We took the Mill Creek Trail past the first intersection until we reached the second divergence in the trail. It was here that the Mill Creek Trail could be followed straight or by making a right. The loop we had decided upon called for a right turn onto the Mill Creek trail taking us toward the Buzzard Trail. Hiking along these trails, we crossed several small creeks, including Baptism Creek. This portion of the park feels distinctly different from our previous hikes at French Creek. Whereas our hike on the Boone trail made us feel as if we were transported to an Amazonian rain forest, this hike had several areas of expansive views of enormously tall trees, making one's place feeling very small in the universe.
Much of the Mill Creek Trail, as well as the Buzzard trail loop, is single-track. There are also several reasonably strenuous ascents over the course of this hike, giving you a solid workout in addition to the admirable sights you will find along the way. After looping around the Buzzard Trail, you will find yourself on the Green blazed Lenape trail, which has some of the best views of this hike. Three areas in particular stand-out: there is a fantastic view of an open meadow that pierces the forest (see photo gallery); the man-made steps; and, the ruins (see photo on left) found along the Lenape trail.
Eventually, the Lenape trail took us back to the gravel-laden Mill Creek trail. After making a left, and heading back down to the bulletin board which indicated the start of our hike, we were surprised to find that the family we had seen earlier in our hike (a father with his two sons) had kindly left their walking sticks, standing against the board - a nice find for other hikers who may come along, wanting to take the Mill Creek Trail. It sounds silly, but this simple act of kindness and generosity was yet another reminder of how great the hiking community can be!
We will most certainly be returning to French Creek! There are still many more trails for us to hike along, more things to discover, and more hikers to meet. If you found one of our calling cards while on this loop, post a comment below. Let us know about your hike through French Creek and what you may recommend for others.
And, don't forget to check out our photo gallery from this hike. You may visit it by clicking this link: French Creek Photo Gallery.
Trail Guide: Take Mill Creek Trail (white blaze with red stripe) from Shed Road, following past the bulletin board area. At the second intersection, make a right. Stay on the Mill Creek trail until you hit the Buzzard Trail (Yellow blaze with red stripe) loop (you will cross several intersections before seeing the sign pointing to the Buzzard trail). Once you hit the Buzzard Trail fork, take the left side. Stay on the Buzzard trail loop, and take a left at the next intersection. This will link you up to the Lenape trail. Stay aware during this area, as you will run into multiple intersections that are very close together. You will enter the Hopewell Furnace area, but will basically stay along the edge. Continue to follow the Green Blazed Lenape trail until it intersects with the Mill Creek Trail. Make a left back onto the Mill Creek trail, taking it back to the parking lot.
”Hiking” Mike Magro is the primary contributor and editor of Hiking with Impunity. Always on the look-out for a good hike, Mike is hoping to get through the rest of the year having minimal to no injuries while on the trail.
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