Friday, December 10, 2010

Connecting Schenley to the Jail Trail

I gather that this is old news to many runners of the local trails, but for whatever reason it took me quite a long time to figure out that the Eliza Furnace Trail basically passes Panther Hollow Lake right around where it hits Boundary Street.  Not sure why I never noticed this before (from either side of the tracks) but I didn't.  It actually wasn't until I was exploring Google Maps a few weeks ago that I realized the two trails run about 50 feet away from each other down there by the pond.   So to any other directionally-challenged minds like mine, this makes for a great link between Schenley and the South Side.  For reference, the run from the Riverfront Park to the pond is just about 2.5 miles.

Here's a nice 8-mile lollipop starting at the end of 18th Street in the South Side.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Youghiogheny Scenic & Wild River: Kendall Trail

This one's not in Pittsburgh, or even Pennsylvania, but if you happen to find yourself at nearby Deep Creek Lake for a weekend, this is a nice, easy, scenic trail worth checking out.

This is an out-and-back.  Starting from the town of Friendsville, simply follow the river upstream along Morris Avenue and you'll see the trail head where the road ends, more or less under the I-68 overpass.  It runs five miles sticking pretty much to the river bank, then just sort of peters out into ever thicker brush at National Falls.

A map of this trail is unnecessary, and I don't have one anyway, but this map of the adjacent Yough should give you a pretty good overview.  National Falls is at the southern end of that cluster of rapids.

This is a beautiful river valley, and its general inaccessibility (except by foot or kayak) means you're pretty well out there in the wilderness after the first mile.  At the end of the second mile you'll reach a fork; to keep running, stay to the right, along the river. If you're feeling like a break, check it out to the left, where you'll find the foundations of the ghost town of Kendall.  In fact, these first two miles are the remnants of a railbed that once ran to Kendall, where the railroad apparently decided that the canyon became too tricky to keep going.

Here the path turns to an unmaintained fireroad-type surface for another mile or so, then gets into some singletrack.  There is a rocky section about halfway along that can be a bit tricky with the fallen leaves and a lot of loose rocks, but other than that, nothing serious.

Since you're going upstream, the trail is uphill.  You barely notice it, though, until you realize how much easier it is coming back down.  One of those.

Along the way are many points to access the river, but be warned that there is a dam upstream, from where they release large amounts of water which can take this from a rather shallow, mild river to one of the fastest around.  If you happen to be there on a release day, you'll likely see many kayakers and rafters on their ways down.

You'll know when you've reached the end because you really won't be able to push any farther through the vegetation.  Also, there will be a large boulder (and a few smaller ones) on the edge of the bank that you can climb out on to get some great views of the valley above and below you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In my sights

Unfortunately I have no excuse to head north for work anytime soon, but if one should arise I have two trails in mind to try:

Minister Creek Trail (~7 mile loop near Tionesta)

Morrison Hiking Trail (~11 mile loop near Warren)

Both are in the Allegheny National Forest, and both sound quite nice. 

Spent the weekend in Shenandoah National Park, which has got to have the highest scenery to proximity-to-Pittsburgh ratio of anywhere.  An easy 4-5 hour drive for beautiful mountains and great trails.  If anyone knows something comparable that's closer, I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Raccoon Creek State Park: Raccoon Loop Trail(s)

I'd never heard of Raccoon Creek, but a friend had been talking this park up for sometime (all relayed hearsay, as she's never been there herself), and when I looked into it I saw that it's one of the DCNR's 20 "must-see" parks, so I thought I'd check it out. 

Maybe I missed something, but I'd rate it pretty average on the whole.  That pic above is from the park web site, and that's pretty much what you can expect to see on the trails.  Nothing wrong with that.  I like a good lowland eastern woods trail; I guess I just expected a bit more.  In any event, your map:

Raccoon Creek State Park

The Forest, Heritage and Appaloosa Trails all link up to create the Raccoon Loop, a 19.5-mile perimeter trail around the park.  A bit off-center of that loop cuts through Route 18, splitting it into two sections of probably 11 miles to the west and maybe eight or so to the east.  I set out from the main park office right along Route 18 and did the western half of the loop, then tacked on the Valley Trail at the end for some additional mileage. 

Sections of the Forest and Heritage Trails are fantastic.  I started out on the Heritage Trail, which is well-travelled for about the first mile, although it was by no means crowded.  After that, I saw only two day-hikers, two horseback-riders and three groups of backpackers the whole time.  A few miles into the western section of the Heritage Trail it gets into some really nice rolling hills as it crosses a few low ridges and nearly-dry creeks.  The inclines are very manageable, and the downhills are pretty open and really fun through this area.  Then things get a little thick.

I anticipated some overgrowth with an early autumn run on trails that probably don't see a ton of traffic, but there were sections where I completely lost the trail among all the thorns, burrs, bushes and downed trees.  Luckily, someone did a hell of a job marking the trees every 15 feet or so along these trails, so it never took more than a quick visual survey to get my bearings back. 

The Heritage Trail eventually dumps out onto the Appaloosa Trail, which is shared with horses.  Thanks to them, the trail is wider and generally pretty well packed down.  Nothing too exciting along this section.  This eventually leads you to Nichols Road, which you then have to follow for a brief stretch to get onto the Forest Trail.

At this point, you're as far as you'll get from the park's main attractions, so the first mile or so of the Forest Trail here is, despite being right by the road, like a labyrinth of weeds and branches.  Soon, however, it opens up into a really nice little pine grove through which you'll wind for less than a mile, unfortunately.  After that, pretty standard fare. 

After the Forest Trail crosses Route 18, I got a bit off track and somehow ended up on the Lake Trail very briefly, then on the road.  I consulted my map and figured the Valley Trail would be a nice finish to the run, and it was (notwithstanding a minor faceplant as I came too fast into a damp wooden bridge). 

All things tolled, nothing too technical, no serious steeps, no great vistas, but generally some nice woodland singletrack.  Also, the fact that the park office (with clean bathrooms) sits roughly in the middle of this trail (with a potable water station somewhere along the Appaloosa or Forest as well) means that the full loop would make for a solid marathon training run. 

If I return, I suspect it will be during spring or early-summer, before the ground cover has too much time to spread.   I also suspect I'll start with the eastern portion of the loop next time, in search of some grand view of the pond, which seems to be the park's main draw, and which certainly provided a great place to cool off after my run.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


For any shoe geeks out there, here's what I found to be a pretty interesting discussion of the evolution of New Balance's recent trail shoes and the forthcoming NB Minimus.   I particularly liked the little slideshow about halfway down showing the development of the lasts up through the various prototypes.

As for running, I'm fresh off recovering from a minor muscle pull and have been primarily on the roads and lovely broken-glass-laden sidewalks lately, but am hoping to check out Raccoon Creek State Park and the Allegheny National Forest in the next few weeks.  Any thoughts or pointers on worthwhile trails in either would be much appreciated.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Check Out the Pittsburgh Parks Blog

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has a nice blog of their own, updated far more regularly than this occasional journal here.

Check it out:  The latest entry is about the Panther Hollow, which also got some press in the P-G this week concerning the restoration work being done down there. 

I just did about 5 miles in Panther Hollow last night and may wait to head back into those woods until the work is done.  Lots of gravel, packed down paths in the valley, and some large machinery chilling by the stream took a bit away from the ambiance, but I do look forward to the finished product.

UPDATE 11/13/2010 -- The work in Schenley seems to be coming along nicely.  The panther hollows trails have a fresh coat of cruched limestone.  Bridle trail also well on its way.  With the leaves down and this nice white surface, Schenley is great right now for running at dusk and after on these dark days.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Burning River 100: Ohio's Ultra

Ledges Trail, Cuyahoga Valley N.P.

Here's a great play-by-play of one blogger/runner's journey through our neghbor's very own ultramarathon, the Burning River 100

It's enough to have me planning a daytrip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  I lived a few years in Ohio and didn't even know they had a national park.  Or hills, for that matter.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Skiing the Burgh

The running seems to be getting a little harder around here as things melt and turn to ice, but things have stayed pretty cold in the Appalachian foothills south and east, which has made for some of the best skiing I can recall in this part of the country. These guys didn't see a reason to leave town though.