Lack Of Warning At Tornado-damaged Trails Frustrates Hikers
PLAINS TWP. — A state official said warning signs would be placed at Seven Tubs Natural Area after a couple of hikers got lost in a tangled mess of trees downed by a tornado last week.
Sharon McClean said she and her husband, Doug, had traveled to Luzerne County from their home in York County on Thursday night to spend a few days hiking in the area.
McClean, 51, said she found out about Wednesday’s tornado on Thursday afternoon and called the hotel where they had reservations to see if everything was OK in the area for hiking, and she was told that it was. But when the couple hit the 1.8-mile loop trail on Saturday, things got dicey.
“We encountered a fallen tree, and simply went around it. Then we encountered another. We went over it, thinking it would not continue. Well, we got ourselves hemmed in amongst many, many downed trees,” McClean said.
“We ended up using our GPS to go off the trail and go around the damage, climbing over and under trees and crossing the water back and forth multiple times. It took us over an hour to get through that section,” she said.
McClean said she searched online for information about the trail after returning to their hotel and found a story about the damaged trails published Saturday on The Citizens’ Voice website.
She was shocked that state officials were aware on Friday that the trails were virtually impassable and did not immediately post signs warning hikers of the danger or close the trail.
When a reporter checked late Monday morning, there still were no sign posted near the trailhead.
Two hikers exiting the trail said they knew about the tornado but didn’t know there was any major damage to the trail.
Bethany Dennis, 22, of Dallas, said she and her friend had not hiked very far, so they had not encountered the massive entanglement of downed trees, she said.
Ali Rupchis, 22, of Mountain Top, said Monday marked her and Dennis’ first visit to Seven Tubs — they usually hike at Ricketts Glen State Park — and they didn’t hike far because they didn’t think the trail was very clearly marked, so they turned around and came back the way they went.
“They definitely should put signs up” warning people of the blocked trail, Rupchis said after she and Dennis were told about the McCleans’ ordeal.
Terry Brady, press secretary for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said on Monday that tornado damage in Pinchot State Forest was widespread, and foresters were addressing it as quickly as possible.
Informed about McClean’s concerns and a lack of warning signs at the Seven Tubs trailhead, Brady said he would check with the forester’s office. “If there’s a danger, we certainly want to make people aware.”
Nearly an hour later, Brady said warning signs were “going up as we speak. We’re moving on it.”
Brady said staff at the district forester’s office for Pinchot State Forest was “spread pretty thin,” with a couple of vacancies and a district forester away on vacation.
But, Brady said, public safety always has been and continues to be top priority for the department.
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