Responsible Drilling Alliance

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18
Dec

Ott Fork and the Elusive Wolf Path

By Robbie Cross, RDA President

     

A mist enveloped Pine Creek valley as we headed north on Route 44 through a light rain—a touch daunting as the temperature was in the upper 30s. We were headed to one of the many small streams in the “Wilds” that perhaps one in a hundred area residents have even heard of—let alone hiked. We traveled through Waterville, soon crossing the creek, and continued on 44 toward the Black Forest. About two miles past the bridge, we parked in a very narrow space along Upper Pine Bottom Run. A sign nearby announced the beginning of the Ott Fork Trail. The rain had stopped.   

Initially the trail follows Upper Pine Bottom Run but soon, at the confluence with Ott Fork, it veered south, in a gradual climb along the “Ott.”   Within a few hundred yards we reached a small falls spilling over a cliff and tumbling five or six feet into a small pool.   There are small falls and twisting rock-strewn rapids all along this magnificent small stream.   

The trail follows a very old road that crosses the run several times on old stone bridges —-except a scant half mile in where exceptionally heavy water must have washed the bridge out. We had to ford, using mid-stream rocks placed by earlier hikers. The water was up, the rocks less than stable, but we managed a dry crossing, continuing the very civilized ascent for about two miles until reaching the intersection with Pine Hollow Trail.   

Our plan for the hike was to access the ridge to the east, follow it north for a mile or more and hopefully intersect with Wolf Path, which our map suggested would take us back down to Ott Fork. We began ascending Pine Hollow on a trail more serious about gaining altitude quickly, following a very small stream that wound through large pines and hemlocks.   After a short, strenuous workout we reached the ridge, actually more of a plateau, and found Middle Hill Trail —which unfortunately had been turned into a gas industry road.   Our sense of being in a spectacular, natural environment eroded.   

We had some difficulty orienting ourselves on the plateau as the maps did not show all the gas industry roads or drill sites and we suspected that some of the trails were obliterated by them.  However, after some discussion and a little help from GPS, we agreed on a direction we thought would lead us to Wolf Path.   We headed west, crossed a drill site and dropped off the pad into a dense laurel thicket, a density that made almost every step an effort. We continued winding our way west, through the laurel, but Wolf Path refused to appear.   

After battling the laurel for at least 20 minutes, we reached the edge of the plateau; the laurel thinned and we climbed down into a shallow but steep ravine. Wolf Path should have been descending into the valley parallel to the ravine, but although in places we could imagine traces of an old road, nothing navigable appeared. We were now descending the western edge of the plateau and continued slowly, doing our best to stay on our feet through multiple, steep sections of loose rock. Eventually we arrived back at Ott Fork, found a way to cross it to the other side and the old road we followed up.   We thought it appropriate to celebrate our “achievement” with a very late lunch, before following the road back to the car.

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