2010 Visitors Guide

From good idea to great trails – The Allegrippis trails at Raystown Lake

Publisher’s Note: This article appeared in the 2010 edition of the Raystown Lake Region/Huntingdon County Visitors Guide.  The Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake officially opened to the public in May, 2009, and have been wildly popular ever since, receiving national attention from National Geographic Adventure magazine, Men’s Journal magazine, Dirt Rag Magazine, Bicycle Times and many  more media outlets.  Frank Maguire is now the Mid-Atlantic Representative of the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

by Frank Maguire

Through the forest via Allegrippis by Abram Eric Landes

Through the forest via Allegrippis Trails (Photo by Abram Eric Landes, http://aelandesphotography.com)

If you have been coming to Raystown for years and have wondered what lay in the woods beyond the lakeshore, a new trail system will give you the chance to find out. The Allegrippis Trails offer a variety of experiences as they wind through old oak groves and young pine stands. From lakeside trails to breath taking vistas, the trail system rolls along the contours of the hills, never getting too steep to try.  But what is really different about these trails is that they are built to be enjoyed from the saddle of a bike.

The possibility of building trails designed for mountain bikes (but able to be enjoyed by many others) at Raystown Lake first came to light in 2002, when the Army Corps of Engineers and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) signed a national memorandum of understanding. This MOU set the groundwork for future cooperation between the Corps and IMBA, and specifically mentioned Raystown as a pilot area. With its miles and miles of shoreline slopes, Raystown was the perfect blank canvas to become home to destination mountain bike trails.

“We’re excited to create a model trail system in Central PA.” said Rich Edwards, of IMBA Trail Solutions. “This is a notoriously rocky part of the state. These trails offer plenty of variety and will definitely help expand the riding scene”. What a model trail system means is that beginner, intermediate and advanced trails are all clearly marked, laid out as stacked loops. The beginner (or green) trails are closer to the parking lot, and it’s possible to ride these and get a taste of what the whole system holds. Off of this initial loop are options to extend the ride on intermediate (blue) trails, and further on to the black or advanced trails. The visitor gets to decide how much to bite off, and if they got more then they bargained for, the parking lot is just a short ride away.

But what about the fun? All the planning in the world is wasted if the trail is boring. Allegrippis doesn’t disappoint and as one person put it at the grand opening, “I couldn’t stop giggling.”  Evan Gross, President of the Raystown Mountain Bike Association and the trail guru, put it this way. “People have been coming from around the country and from all these different riding backgrounds, and each one gets off the bike smiling”. What causes the excitement is the flow of the trail, the feeling that you are on rails. The way the trail twists and turns, leads you to think that you are on a slot car. The best part about this is that each rider finds their magic speed, so no matter your ability, the sensation is the same.

At the heart of the trails is sustainability, both environmental and social. The trails are designed to meander about the hills and ridges, never running straight up and down the slopes. This means they will survive years of use without eroding, as erosion is a factor of water over time. Bicycle wheels and human feet just speed the process up when the trails aren’t designed right. One of the first things visitors notice about the trails are the grade reversals, the fancy term for the dips and bumps that gives the trails their rollercoaster feel. These act as insurance policies, so that water keeps moving across the trail, rather than down it. The social sustainability part of the trails is the fun. A visitor can decide to try out the trails and not fear getting lost or in over their head. By making trails that can be enjoyed by the largest number of users, and making a unique experience, the trails invite people to get involved and keep coming back. This is good for the community and the region as a whole.

For IMBA, this project has been a great chance to showcase our trail knowledge and provide a much needed destination. Mountain biking is one of the most popular outdoor activities, with some 1.4 million people riding trails at some point every year in Pennsylvania. Raystown was the unique chance to build close to a large portion of the US population in a place that has special natural beauty. Already in its first season, the Allegrippis Trails have been a huge success, with visitors coming from throughout the east and as far away as Hawaii and Scotland to ride.

Evan Gross with his custom fatbike, photo by Abram Eric Landes

Evan Gross with his custom fatbike. (photo by Abram Eric Landes http://aelandesphotography.com)

Evan Gross, after attending Juniata College, decided to call Huntingdon home and be a part of the burgeoning trails community. As President of the Raystown Mountain Bike Association, he is both caretaker and trail ambassador.  “It’s amazing to see the pull these trails have on people around the country” Said Evan, when asked what has been his biggest satisfaction with the trails. “It feels like Huntingdon is becoming a real trails town”.  If you want the local skinny on how best to enjoy your visit to the Allegrippis Trails, seek out Evan, you’ll be glad you did.

Categories: 2010 Visitors Guide, Things to Do | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Huntingdon County: A History of Transportation and Industry

By Ron Morgan

Visitors to scenic and historical Huntingdon County will quickly identify with the area’s down home atmosphere, quaint country settings and an abundance of outdoor beauty and recreational opportunities. What many travelers may not realize is that the Raystown Lake Region of The Alleghenies, including Huntingdon County, boasts of an exciting transportation and industrial heritage that can be experienced by a visit to many attractions in the region.

The development of historic Huntingdon County is traced back to its transportation resources which started out as rugged Native American “paths,” or “Indian Trails.” These early transportation routes, used for both military and civilian purposes, cut into the heart of the mountains and valleys of central Pennsylvania. The “paths,” which included the north-south Warriors Path that closely paralleled Raystown Lake and Tussey Mountain, played prominent roles in the region’s history during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.

With the close of the Revolution, settlers pushed west, first crossing the Alleghenies by wagon and on foot, or utilizing some of Pennsylvania’s major rivers and smaller streams, including the Juniata River system. Locally, a number of “toll roads” were established which connected Huntingdon County with its neighboring counties.

During the early years of the 19th century, rival canal systems like the Erie Canal to the north and the C&O to the south forced the state to construct its own Pennsylvania Canal, which “Middle Division” passed through the heart of Huntingdon County, helping to boost the economy and growth of Huntingdon and Mount Union.

By the early 1850s the canal system was replaced by the trend-setting Pennsylvania Railroad. Branching off of the main line PRR at Huntingdon was the standard gauge Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad, constructed to haul coal from the tri-county corners of Broad Top Mountain. A short, two decades later the narrow gauge East Broad Top Railroad was built from Mount Union to the eastern side of the Broad Top Mountain and Coal Field to haul the “black diamonds” to the PRR.

With the advent of America’s industrial age and new transportation technologies, the steam railroad locomotive was replaced by diesel engines and the horse and buggies relinquished their place in rural Huntingdon County to the arrival of automobiles and airplanes. Today, the railroad continues to stop in Huntingdon to pick up passengers while freight from all parts of the nation roll through the region. Not far away, a busy U.S. Route 22 passes through the county making connections with major roadways like U.S. Route 522, state routes 45, 453, 26 and the celebrated Pennsylvania Turnpike which passes through the southeastern corner of the county.

At the heart of the county’s road, canal and railroad development was a growing economy which roots were planted in local industries like iron making, coal, coke and brick production, as well as agricultural and timbering interests. Although the industrial history of the county has seen many changes since the American Revolution the heritage of those early industries can be experienced at a number of historical attractions throughout Huntingdon County and at a variety of seasonal activities and events sponsored by nonprofit historical organizations.

The Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau encourages visitors to stop by several, well known and time-honored transportation and industrial heritage attractions. More information about these attractions and other activities can be obtained at the HCVB’s visitor center at the Seven Points Recreation Area, or other visitor information facilities in the area.

Some of the attractions include: East Broad Top Railroad National Historic Landmark at Rockhill Furnace, Rockhill Trolley Museum, located across from the EBT’s Orbisonia Station; Swigart Antique Auto Museum, east of Huntingdon; Isett Acres Museum, Huntingdon; a unique transportation and heritage exhibit found at the Raystown Lake Visitor Center; Allegrippis Trail system at Seven Points recreation Area; Lower Trail, near Alexandria; Greenwood Furnace State Park, in northeastern Huntingdon County; former PRR HUNT Signal Tower, in downtown Huntingdon and the nearby Huntingdon County Historical Society; Mount Union Area Historical Society, Fort Roberdeau, in Sinking Valley; Thousand Steps hiking trail near Mill Creek; and the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum and Friends of the East Broad Top Museum, both located in Robertsdale.

Numerous other historical societies in Huntingdon County also promote local history while several attractions have indirect links with the county’s history. They include Lincoln Caverns, Huntingdon; Indian Caverns, Spruce Creek; Penn’s Cave, near State College; Juniata College in Huntingdon and numerous state parks, scenic areas of the Rothrock State Forest District and a host of recreational trails scattered across the region.

About the Author

Ron Morgan is a native of Robertsdale, PA, and is a semi-retired reporter for the Huntingdon Daily News.  Ron is a founding member and current president of the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Heritage Association, which operates a museum in Robertsdale.

Categories: 2010 Visitors Guide, History, Things to Do | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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