Oil Creek State Park January 23-25, 2009

Organized by: Joe Moran

This expedition in late January to Oil Creek State Park met with biblical weather, namely 2-3 feet of snow and near-zero temperatures. The following is a detailed description of the trip as related by Joe Moran, the master story teller.


The most memorable portions of the trip were pretty much the entire ordeal.From start to finish it was some of the coldest/most difficult camping I’ve ever done

Initially, the first friday night, we drove into the Wolfkiel Run shelter parking area and just had to make a short quarter-mile walk down from the parking to the shelter area map link: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/oilcreek/oilcreek_mini.pdf

We had rented Two shelters, but decided upon everybody cramming into one, we were joined that night by a group of Boy Scouts who had taken up the rest of the 6 or 7 shelters.

We woke up that Saturday morning in good spirits ready to take on the Day, (The Boy scout group was also heading to the same Cow run campsite, except they were taking a direct route )

It was about 10:30 and we had to make a choice as to what were were going to do, we could have followed the boy scouts and done the 5 mile route, OR if we were feeling up to it then we could try out the 11 Mile route. We (being all the optimists) voted to do the 11 mile route that took us North along the river to a Suspension Bridge Crossing near Boughton run, and back South to the Cow Run shelters on the other side of the Oil Creek river

So we made our way along the absolutely stunning and snow drenched terrain. The Snow was about 3 feet deep and I was ahead breaking through it. After about thirty minutes to an hour of trudging through the snow, we came to a sort of marker sign and I incorrectly judged that we had gone about 2 Miles already…

In actuality we had probably gone a half a mile at most. From then on it was just snow and exhaustion. We finally reached the suspension bridge and had an extremely cold lunch as we were not hiking anymore and our body temperatures went down. The oranges though, I will say and everyone will attest to, those oranges were the best oranges I have ever eaten.

After we crossed the suspension bridge we still had more than half to go. Instead of following the Trail we decided to go along the train tracks that ran parallel to Oil Creek. It was still absolute brutality. At this point everyone was on their last leg of energy just giving everything they had trudging through the snow, trying to follow the footprints that Ed was making.

Walking along those train tracks seemed to take FOREVER, we might have been going 1 mile an hour tops. We took ALOT of breaks, I once heroicly gave everyone a pep talk to just keep pushing and we’ll make it to some picnic area in two miles and like “we’re not going to stop until we get there, we’re going to make it. No breaks. We can do it.” Not more then ten minutes after we set off from my pep talk, I was like “Oh shit I need a break” and we stopped and took a rest. (LOL)

Those train tracks were pure hell and we hadn’t even gotten to the hills.

Along the tracks, Rich’s shoe had a hole in it and his feet were on the verge of freezing, and he switched socks during one of our rests, that was a bit scary.

After what seemed like forever, we finally got to the Miller Farm bridge where the boy scouts had crossed earlier in the day. From then on it was basically following the Tracks that the boy scouts had made.

Problems from then on. Our Water bottles kept freezing and we all were running out of water

it then got dark and right about the time it got dark we started to climb upwards.

We must have been climbing steadly upwards on long switchbacks

Rich was dehydrating and Ed pretty much saved his life, since I was in the front with my headlamp down just basically in a ZONE following the tracks that the boy scouts made. If I didn’t have those tracks to follow it would have taken us alot longer to find our way not to mention not having to break snow.

We were already beyond tired even before it got dark and we started to make our way up the terrain. That last climb up the hill, I remember stopping and waiting a while for Thad and Michele to catch up and then we waited literally 20 minutes for Rich and Ed to catch up.

It was just insane. Without a doubt the most exhausted I had ever been in my life, my feet and hands were freezing, everyone was just BEAT DOWN. We finally made it to the campsite about 3 hours after dark and got a roaring fire going in the shelter. The next day we hiked the short 4 mile route back to the cars. This way was pretty tiring as well. we, myself at least, were able to enjoy the snow covered pines and the scenic beauty of the trail a little more knowing that we weren’t going to DIE.

it was pretty EPIC looking back on the trip one year later. Something that I’ll never forget.


For those wanting to replicate this experience it is highly recommended that you reserve the shelters in advance, either on line or by phone, because they fill very quickly. Also, tarps to cut the wind coming into the shelters would be a good idea.

Members in Attendance:

  • Joe Moran
  • Michele Gebhart
  • Cat Leece
  • Thaddeus Line
  • Ed Wilson-Ewing
  • Emily Riddle
  • Rich Schatz
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