Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — August 2008

Twelve Mile Run and Kunes Camp Trail — Splendid Solitude!

by Gary Thornbloom

Twelve Mile Run is about as isolated as you can get in the Quehanna Wild Area. You will find solitude and silence on this hike, as you follow a beautiful stream singing its mountain song as it flows through boulders and over bedrock outcroppings. Twelve Mile Run will be a challenging hike for many people, but well worth the effort.

Twelve Mile Run

Twelve Mile Run sings as it flows through boulders and bedrock outcroppings

By hiking in from the Caledonia Pike the steepest walking will be down the road that leads back to several camps. At the bottom follow the camp road to the left and cross Gifford Run. Look for orange blazes that mark the Quehanna Trail. Cross Mosquito Creek on the seventy-two foot Corporation Dam Bridge. Built by volunteers and the Bureau of Forestry it is set well above the high water level that washed away the previous bridge. Follow the trail to the right, cross Twelve Mile Run on a much smaller bridge.

There is an excellent campsite as you begin following Twelve Mile Run upstream. For the next few miles you will be hiking off trail, but the grade is gentle and I found the walking to be easy. It was helpful that I was guided by someone very familiar with the Quehanna Wild Area. After accompanying his father to these woods as a child, then
moving away to pursue a career as a fireman in Washington DC, George Lockey returned to this area and has explored these woods hiking, hunting, building trails—as well as the Mosquito Creek bridge you crossed—and geocaching.

At times we walked along remnants of logging. Other times we followed game trails, both deer and bear. As the stream moved closer to the steep side of the hollow, or as ferns and brush closed in on us we crossed the stream to the flat or more open far side.

Twelve Mile Run is prime rattlesnake habitat

Twelve Mile Run is prime timber rattlesnake habitat · Photo by Gary Thornbloom

Crossing and re-crossing the stream gave us remarkably brush-free walking, a pleasant surprise in an area that by historical accounts, as well as personal experience, has a healthy rattlesnake population. We both used hiking sticks to move through thick ferns and blueberry bushes that we eventually encountered.

Another pleasant surprise was the numerous areas that were carpeted with oak seedlings, signs of a healthy forest regenerating. Young sassafras trees were also thick throughout the hollow. A few large white pines, remnants, towered over everything.

Several hemlock glades, the first one about three miles into this hike, embrace the stream allowing nothing to grow beneath their solid canopy. These cool oases are inviting stops on hot summer hikes, although the temperature on the Allegheny Plateau was ten degrees cooler than the State College temperature reported on the radio on the recent day I did this hike.

Each season will highlight different plants and colors. By late July the rhododendrons are past the peak bloom, but they still add beauty with their fallen petals covering the ground as well as floating in still stream pools. Indian pipes, white scaly stalks rising in clusters up to ten inches above the forest floor, are common throughout the summer. A close look at the equally scaly flower nodding downward at the top of this stalk reveals the yellow glow inside the “pipe bowl”. Abundant trillium and carpets of false lily-of-the-valley would brighten these woods on a springtime hike. Sassafras thickets will light up the fall woods with bold patches of yellow, red and orange. Blueberry bushes currently loaded with plump berries will turn hillsides red and burgundy in just a couple months. An observant hiker will find dewdrop (false violet), a small five petaled white flower just inches high, on the Kunes Camp Trail.

George Lockey next to Kunes Camp Trail sign

George Lockey next to a Kunes Camp Trail signpost · Photo by Gary Thornbloom

While you will almost certainly be alone on this hike, you will never be far from past signs of human activity. Set back from and parallel to the stream you will see long rows of rocks which my guide identified as remnants of the logging days. The rocks helped to keep the water level up as splash dams at the headwaters released water to carry logs downstream. At another location George pointed out into a marshy area and told me that had been an old pasture with decaying fence in place when he was a boy.

Shortly after a powerline crosses the stream there is a barely visible flow to the left that leads up to the Chipper Road, and while this can take you back to the Quehanna Highway I would avoid it and continue upstream. After about one half mile avoid the next small fork to the right. One half mile after this fork and you should follow the stream to the right as it splits, the Quehanna Trail map will clearly show you this option, and continue on to the Kunes Camp Trail.

Continuing upstream the going is a bit brushier with ferns and blueberry bushes. Eventually we came to a clearing with the remains—fireplace—of a camp. The remains of a coal pile blackened the ground. Shortly after this we saw the blue blazes of the Kunes Camp Trail, and we took this trail to the right and back to the Quehanna Highway.

Kunes Camp Trail winds through one of the most extensive groundcovers of teaberry that I have seen. Many hikers look forward to the refreshing wintergreen taste of these berries. These along with the abundant low bush blueberries slowed us down considerably.

Built in the early 1900s by using two large boulders as walls, Kunes Camp is located along this trail. There was only one problem, rattlesnakes also liked the boulders. The snake issue was addressed by adding a concrete floor and sealing up the structure, but then the woodstove would not draw, and you can see the pipes they installed to solve that problem. George has a nice picture of one of the descendents, of the snakes that is, that was at first unnoticed and stretched out at the foot of the tripod leg he had set up to take a photograph.

Twelve Mile Run is the focal point of this hike. Crystal clear water in small cascades, flowing over moss covered rock, quiet pools, and the occasional darting motion of fleeing trout. No machine generated noise interrupts. There is the soothing sound of running water, the whisper of wind through leaves. Cool water and abundant shade make this a nice summer hike. Twelve Mile Run is an accessible refuge from our hectic lives with much to offer the attentive hiker whether it is nature, history, or solitude.

If You Go: Just west of Karthaus, at the junction of SR-879 and the Quehanna Highway (SR 1011), drive 7.3 miles north on the Quehanna Highway to the Kunes Camp Trail trailhead, left side of the highway (a stone mileage marker with a large 3 on it is on the right side of the highway). Leave a vehicle here and continue 2.5 miles to the Reactor Road, turn left and go 1 mile and bear right onto Lost Run Road for 7 miles. Turn left onto Caledonia Pike, after about one half mile look for a camp post with the numbers 487 1049. Park without blocking this road and follow that road to begin this hike. Note that the road is very narrow and eventually very steep — park at the top!

This hike is about 6.3 miles and took us five hours with plenty of stops.

This hike can be done as a 12 mile loop—Kunes Camp Trail, Twelve Mile Run, Quehanna Trail, Mohawk Trail, Quehanna Highway.

Resources

Greate Buffaloe Swamp—A Trail Guide and Regional History by Ralph Seeley gives many insights into the history of the area. The book includes a map of the Quehanna Trail and Twelve Mile Run. Available from Quehanna Area Trails Club: make a check payable for $17 to QATC and send it to QATC, 882 Rolling Stone Road, Morrisdale, PA 16858.

The DCNR Public Use Map for Moshannon State Forest gives an overview of the entire area, while the DCNR Quehanna Trail map covers the area of this hike in more detail. Both are free from DCNR and can sometimes be found at a parking area just as you enter the Quehanna Wild Area.

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Gary Thornbloom is the Chair of Sierra Club Moshannon Group, and can be reached at bearknob@verizon.net.