2014 Visitors Guide

Different ways to explore the outdoors: water trails, bicycle tours, geocaching, and more.

By Ed Stoddard

WATER TRAILS

Your perfect day on the water can include a quiet paddle along the shores of Raystown Lake in the no wake zones or a sojurn on the Juniata River. We have the perfect stretches of water just waiting to take you on an exceptional adventure Huntingdon County.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Paddling a quiet cove of Lake Raystown. Photo by Helena Kotala.

In the Huntingdon Area, you can access the Juniata River Water Trail via the Little Juniata River at Barree Rd. west of Alexandria, and at the Rte. 305 bridge just outside of Alexandria. The Frankstown Branch can be accessed at the Alfarata trailhead for the Lower Trail, and near the Main Street Café in Alexandria. The main branch of the Juniata River can be accessed at Warrior Ridge Dam near Petersburg, Portstown Park in Huntingdon, Smithfield Riverside Park, and at PA Fish & Boat Commission Point Access east of Huntingdon.

Officially designated a water trail by the PA Fish & Boat Commission, the Raystown Branch of the Juniata can be explored by canoe year-round. The trail is characterized by slow pools dotted with fast but shallow riffle-style rapids suitable even for novice paddlers. Anglers can float the Raystown Branch and fish for trout, bass, panfish, catfish, muskellunge, and carp.

Please note: The ability to paddle the Juniata varies throughout the year. Peak water flow occurs between February and May and possibly a few weeks in December. Between July and August, the river may be below desired levels. Of course, mid-summer paddling may well be the most enjoyable if you are able to take advantage of the days following a rainstorm.

 

ROAD TOURING BY BICYCLE

Bicycling Magazine has named The Alleghenies, the 8 county region that includes Huntingdon County, as one of the top bicycle areas in the country.

Spelunker road bike trail

Huntingdon County has many claims to fame and places to explore. Its historic rivers, scenic valleys, farmlands, and caves and caverns such as Lincoln Caves and Indian Caverns make the Spelunker Tour a hit. This tour begins at Riverside Park along the rippling Juniata River adjacent to historic downtown Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Take in the beauty this area has to offer as you ride through farmland and valleys and explore the quaint small towns and villages as you enjoy the flat to somewhat rolling terrain. You may wish to do a little spelunking yourself to enjoy the full beauty of this tour and the treasures of this region. Length: 45.3 miles; Terrain: Flat to rolling. Pavement quality is good, most roads do not have paved shoulders, posted speed is generally 35 mph to 45 mph.

Time Travelers Path road bike trail

Step back to the past and learn about the unique transportation and industrial history of Broad Top Mountain and Southern Huntingdon County. Journey back to the era of “King Coal” and the steam-powered East Broad Top Railroad which carried freight and passengers between Robertsdale/Wood and Mount Union, once known as the “Silica Brick Capital of the World.” Enjoy the scenic vistas and sweeping valleys where small country hamlets still beckon cyclists to stop and relax along the 72-mile trek of discovery. Visit a coal miners museum, ride a tourist railroad and electric trolley, or just pause to enjoy the beauty of nature. It’s all waiting for you along the “Time Travelers Path.” Length: 72.1 miles (alternate route is 17.3); Rating: Challenging

Fishermans Journey road bike trail

Riverside Park along the Juniata River is the starting point for this excellent ride through the best that Southern Huntingdon County has to offer. The cyclist travels through many quiet and scenic areas while with the opportunity to take a side trip at Raystown Lake Recreation Area and through Trough Creek State Park where activities galore await the cyclist. Fishing, swimming, camping, and boating are among many of the activities that we encourage the cyclist to take advantage of. This 64.8 mile trip through rolling to flat terrain with quality roads and scenic views makes this ride a delight. Length: 64.8 miles; Terrain: Rolling to flat. Pavement quality is good, average posted speeds range from 25 mph to 45 mph. Numerous long climbs throughout.

Road biking in Central PA. Photo by Evan Gross.

Road biking in Central PA. Photo by Evan Gross.

 

GEOCACHING

Explore the Pittsburgh-To-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway™. The Main Line Canal Greenway Geotrail (MLCG) –a series of geocaches tied together by a common theme. Developed as part of the Greenway initiative, the Geotrail is a new, unique way to experience the Greenway and bring focus to its various features, from the land and water trails to the historic canal and Pennsylvania’s heritage.

Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is a growing worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache anywhere in the world, pinpoint its location using Global Positioning Technology (GPS) and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. A geocache is any type of hidden container, ranging from a film canister to a small metal box. A GPS device and a free geocaching.com account are necessary to find these caches. Once the account is set up, search “MLCG” to determine the coordinates of the Main Line Canal geocaches and use the GPS device to find them. Locations are rated easy to hard. Once you find the cache, you can trade small items, confirm you were there by signing the book, and re-hide the cache just as you found it.

Completing the geotrail requirements will earn geocachers a commemorative MLCG trackable geocoin, highly prized by veteran geocachers. To earn the coin, finding at least four geocaches in each of the six Main Line Canal Greenway Clusters is required. Before heading out, download The Main Line Canal Greenway Logbook from the Greenway website. At each cache, there will be a code that must be recorded in the MLCG Logbook. More information and the MLCG Logbook can be found at http://www.mainlinecanalgreenway.org/geotrail.

Check out other geocaches in the area including the ones placed in Seven Points Recreation Area and at Lake Raystown Resort – an RVC Outdoor Destination at http://www.geocaching.com.

 

SCOUT OUT HUNTINGDON TRAILS

Huntingdon County would like to share our history with you and Scouts. Matt Price, Eagle Scout and Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau Executive Director, worked with local attractions and partners to design a route that covers 100 miles of heritage in Huntingdon County. The trail is especially geared towards exploring the museums, hiking trails, historic sites, and various landmark attractions that exist in our region. The trail is laid out in five segments, each of the segments is designed to be completed in a weekend.

Boy Scouts can earn the 50-Miler award by thru-hiking any three segments of the Scout Out Huntingdon County trail system.

A commemorative patch is available for each scout completing at least one trail segment.  The central patch and a segment for each individual trail can be purchased at the Raystown Reflections Gift Shoppe, the Juniata Valley Council of the Boy Scouts, or at many of the attractions along the trail.

A Scout Out Huntingdon County Trail Guidebook is available for purchase at the same locations. The guidebook features detailed maps, directions, and stories about the trails and sites along them. There are various badges that can be achieved on the Scout Out Huntingdon County Trails.

Categories: 2014 Visitors Guide, Outdoor Recreation, Things to Do | Leave a comment

Time to escape into the woods.

By Ed Stoddard

A good friend of mine once said: “When I feel life is getting a little crazy, I know it is time to escape into the woods.”

The ridgetops are often cloaked in mist early in the morning, and the day that I set out was no exception. It was a weekday. A day off; for rest, reflection and recharging. I had camped overnight to enjoy the stars, quiet and a small crackling campfire all to myself. I was not expecting to see anyone on this Tuesday as I started up the trail, and I was soon lost deep in thought as I walked and breathed in the sweet morning air on the Mid-State Trail…

Trough Creek State Park mist_ecsDSC_1121www

Morning mist at Trough Creek State Park. Photo by Ed Stoddard.

Huntingdon County is full of trails like the one that I was on that morning. High vistas and rolling valleys wait for your boots to bring you to their views. You have a variety of options; from short trails like the one that leads to Hawn’s Overlook to bootbuster longer trails like the Ironstone Loop in Stone Valley and Terrace Mountain Trail that parallels Raystown Lake. Mountain bikers, trail runners and hikers alike travel here to enjoy the well-groomed Allegrippis Trails. (Thanks RMBA!)

You can learn a lot about how our forefathers did things and see remnants of history on quite a few treks; the Standing Stone Trail, for one example. I love the fact that we have so much public land available and undisturbed within the Raystown Lake Region for exploration. You almost travel back in time to the timbering, railroad and subsistence era that our great-grandparents lived in…I feel looking back and appreciating the historical sites is a great way to give thanks for the toil those folks invested that built our world today.

Not all of our trails are on land. Every summer the Juniata Clean Water Partnership takes a few days off for the Juniata River Sojourn. It is a great event with good fellowship and catered meals along the river.

Paddling on the Juniata below the dam is a favorite byway on slow, gentle water. I have also heard that some of our resident eagles are often seen hunting on that stretch of water. You have all of the 118 miles of shoreline to paddle and the no-wake zones to explore on Raystown Lake.

The Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau has a lot of trail information at the Raystown Lake Region Visitor Center, in the “Things to Do” section of the Huntingdon County Visitors Guide and posted to raystown.org. We link out to TheAlleghenies.com, DCNR, Mid-State Trail Association, the Standing Stone Trail Club, Raystown Mountain Bike Club and other expert sources for trail information in the Raystown Lake Region. Rothrock Outfitters maintains the website for the Allegrippis Trails; and they have a whole library of Purple Lizard Maps for the region, trail maps and guide books for sale.

We have trails that are easy hikes to boot busters, bike rides from road to “rollercoaster” trail and water trails that are great paddling trips through our fantastic scenery and historic canal remnants.

This author recommends: Get outside and enjoy the wooded paths and gentle waters that the Raystown Lake Region offers. Take only photos; leave only footprints.

b5_Mike_RideGuide_DSC_6773_liteWWW

Mike Hermann of Purple Lizard Maps rides the Allegrippis Trails. Photo by Ed Stoddard.

 

Here are a couple of favorites that you might want to check out:

GENTLE JAUNTS – easy

Some of the least strenuous trails in the area include Hillside Trail that loops from the Raystown Lake Region Visitor Center for about 1/2 mile, Riverside Trail that follows the shore of the Juniata River downstream from Raystown Dam for about 1/2 mile, and the Buck, Doe and Fawn trails that are part of the Allegrippis Trail system in the Seven Points Recreation Area at Raystown Lake.

Take a walk, run, or bike ride on the brand new 2.5 mile Greenside Pathway in the Seven Points Recreation Area at Raystown Lake. The pathway connects 19 different recreation facilities and is composed from 100% recycled tires; which means that your run, ride, or walk will not only be convenient, but comfortable and environmentally friendly.

Another set of easy to moderate paths would be the Flagpole Hill Trails in Huntingdon — probably at least 10 miles of trails that interweave through the forests and hills just outside of the Borough of Huntingdon.

The Lower Trail runs for almost 17 miles from near Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County northeastward to near Alexandria in Huntingdon County. The trail is extremely flat with only a slightly noticeable grade when riding from east to west. The Lower Trail is open year-round for hiking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching and photography and, in the winter months, cross country skiing and snowshoeing (any non-motorized use).The trail has a rolled crushed limestone surface except for a 2 mile asphalt section through the Borough of Williamsburg and running northeastward.

 ENJOY THE VIEWS – moderate

Moderate trails in the area include section hikes on the Mid-State Trail, Mid-State connectors like the Jackson Trail on the border of Huntingdon and Centre County and one of my favorites The Ironstone Loop in Stone Valley. The Ironstone Loop is 15 miles of deep valleys and high vistas.

1,000 Steps Trail is a part of the Standing Stone Trail system. The 1,000 Step were climbed by quarrymen every day on their way to work in the quarry. They climbed from the highway to the top of the mountain. It is almost 800 ft in elevation change! Over 1,000 steps to climb! Accessed from US Route 22 between Huntingdon (8 miles east) and Mt. Union (2 miles west). Look for heritage trail markers on both sides of RT 22. Parking is on opposite side of the River. There is a small spring at the trail head. Follow blue blazed trail 300 yards to the base of the steps and begin hike from here.

LONGER AND WORTH IT – plan ahead, know your limits

Named one of the top 4 mountain bike trails in North American by Mens Journal magazine, the Allegrippis Trails are more than 30 miles of stacked loops that allow you a multitude of riding or hiking options. The trails were built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. (Maintained by volunteers organized by the Raystown Mountain Bicycling Association and on lands leased by the non-profit Friends of Raystown Lake.) I love to hike these trails in the spring and fall to get bonus views of Raystown Lake when the leaf canopy is lighter. Rothrock Outfitters will tell you to go ride ‘em — and I agree with that too.

Terrace Mountain Trail, 30+ miles that primarily runs the eastern ridge above Raystown Lake. The trail meanders by Trough Creek State Park, through Rothrock State Forest and Army Corps of Engineers land. Many access points exist that could help to make this a great trail for section hikes, if you don’t choose to do the whole 30 miles in one outing. Note that major trail maintenance is underway to make this a more mountain bike and boot friendly path.

Helena and Stan Kotala_Trough Creek State Park_ecsDSC_1310www

Hiking at Trough Creek State Park. Photo by Ed Stoddard.

About the Author: Ed Stoddard first discovered the Raystown Lake Region in the 1990s and visited here often before moving to Huntingdon County in 2009. He is currently the marketing director of the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau. Ed, Heather and Genevieve Stoddard reside in the historic district of Huntingdon.

Mike Hermann of Purple Lizard Maps and Evan Gross of Rothrock Outfitters both contributed to this article – thanks!

 

NOTE: This article will be continued in future blog posts. Stay tuned for information on water trails, road bicycling, and geocaching! 

Categories: 2014 Visitors Guide, Outdoor Recreation, Things to Do | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Bald eagles at home on Raystown Lake.

By Ranger Tara Whitsel

Freedom. Strength. Resilience. The Bald Eagle represents a multitude of things. Since the mid 1970’s Bald Eagles have been making a slow and steady comeback from the effects of habitat loss and DDT pesticide use. Fortunately, Raystown Lake has played witness to that success with populations steadily increasing around the lake.

2014 Eagle Map

The staff at Raystown Lake observed and began monitoring the first known eagle nest on the lake in 1999 near the Raystown Dam. To date, five nests have been located around the lake in addition to a steady migratory population. Each year the Natural Resource Staff at Raystown Lake implements a monitoring program to support the Pennsylvania Game Commission in their efforts to monitor and track bald eagle nesting within the Commonwealth. Although the bald eagle was removed from the Federal Endangered Species List, it remains federally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Protection Treaty Act. In addition, the bald eagle remains on the threatened species list in Pennsylvania and therefore protected under the Game and Wildlife Code.

Monitoring efforts begin in January when the Corps joined the PA Game Commission on a state-wide mid winter bald eagle survey. The purpose of this survey is to count the number of eagles across the state during a very specific period of time. The first survey was conducted on Raystown in 1990 with only 2 eagles being observed and while that number fluctuates each year due to a variety of lake and surveying conditions we have observed as many as 19 eagles during a single event, which includes both adults and juveniles. The Raystown Staff continues monitoring efforts over the course of the next 6 months to determine which nests will be utilized by a pair during the breeding season and the number of successful fledglings produced in each nest.

Since nesting was first observed at Raystown Lake, 2013 marked the fledging of the 70th at Raystown. Across the state, eagles typically begin nesting activities which includes cleaning and enlarging their nest during January and February. A female typically lays between one to three eggs that hatch sometime in late March or early April, which is approximately 35 days after incubation has begun. Both adults will tend to and feed the young until they leave the nest, or fledge, which at Raystown occurs on or around the fourth of July. The juveniles will remain near the nest throughout the fall observing other eagles and practicing their hunting skills.

To spot the eagles look skyward or toward shoreline trees with open branches. Generally, adult eagles are quite easy to spot with their signature white head and tail. Juvenile eagles have proven to be a slightly greater challenge to properly identify. While juvenile eagles are still significantly large birds; they retain brown feathers over the entire body until they are approximately four years of age and typically demonstrate the full white head and tail by age five.

If you are looking for the nests, the easiest nest to view is located across the lake from the public access area of the Raystown Dam. Many are surprised however, to find that the nest they are currently observing is not the original nest discovered in 1999. While we strongly believe it to be the same pair of eagles, the nest has actually been replaced three times, as each prior nest has lasted only a few years before either the tree in which the nest was located fell during winter or spring storms or the nest has fallen out of the tree due to its increase in size each year. After each loss of nest, the pair has usually rebuilt within a 100 yards of the previous nest site and generally within a few weeks if the start of breading season was near. The remaining four nests require a boat or a very dedicated and strenuous hike for observation.

We encourage you to take the challenge and visit Raystown for the opportunity to observe these powerful yet graceful birds of prey as they hunt and tend to their young. We do ask that you observe posted restrictions and not encroach upon the nests as we take each precaution to encourage successful nesting and development of Raystown’s bald eagles.

About the author: Ranger Tara Whitsel has been a Park Ranger/Natural Resource Specialist for the Raystown Lake Project since 2003 where she is responsible for ensuring the protection of the projects natural resources. Prior to joining the Raystown team, Tara began her career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a seasonal Park Ranger at Blue Marsh Lake, Philadelphia District in 2000. Tara is a 2003 graduate of Kutztown University with a B.S. in Environmental Biology. Tara currently resides in Southern Huntingdon County with her family. Together they enjoy all types of outdoor activities.

EagleBest_MeganPhotography_EDitedWWW

Photo by Megan Photography  http://www.meganphotography.net

 

Eagle Update: This year, there have been no confirmed juveniles in the Raystown nests. By this time of year, they can usually be seen in the limbs surrounding the nest, exercising and getting their wings ready to fly, but none of that behavior has been observed. We speculate that this is because of the extended winter and ice cover on the lake. However, adult eagles are still in the area. 

This is the first year that the Shy Beaver nesting pair has not been successful.  Monitoring will continue, and hopefully next spring will be once again fruitful for the eagles of Raystown. 

 

 

 

Categories: 2014 Visitors Guide, History, Outdoor Recreation, Wildlife | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Go outside, get happy!

By Bobbi Hicks

In a world where people are too often bogged down with responding to emails and jumping on their next conference call, it’s refreshing to know that retreats like the Raystown Lake Region exist. As a transplant to Huntingdon County, I quickly found that the natural beauty of the area makes it nearly impossible not to close your laptop, go outside, and get happy.

Matt_Raystown_Paddleboard_ecsDSC_6866www

If getting outside is your goal, there are a plethora of things to fill your time and your spirits. I’m a firm believer that a family that paddles together stays together. That said, if you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend renting a few Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) from Rothrock Outfitters, Seven Points Marina or the Lake Raystown Resort, Lodge and Conference Center and getting out on the water for a sunset paddle. The views are breathtaking and the time that you get to spend unplugged with your family is invaluable. For Yogis visiting the lake, there’s nothing like performing sun salutations on a SUP as the sun peeks over the mountains to take your practice to the next level.

For those visiting the area that prefer to stay on dry land, taking a walk, run, or bike ride on the 2.5 mile Greenside Pathway is an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. The pathway connects 19 different recreation facilities and is composed from 100% recycled tires, which means that your run, ride, or walk will not only be convenient, but comfortable.  Win-win, right?!

If getting out of your comfort zone and into the woods is more your speed, then grab your GPS and take to the trails and surrounding area for a Geocaching adventure! For those unfamiliar with Geocaching, it is basically a real life, outdoor treasure hunt. Several caches have been placed by Juniata College in partnership with the Corps of Engineers around the Seven Points Recreation Area. Each site has a set of GPS coordinates that indicate where a local geocache is hidden. Using a GPS enabled device, the adventurer navigates themself to the coordinates and then searches the site for a hidden Geocache (container). A list of local Geocaches can be found at http://www.geocaching.com.

When you’re visiting the Raystown Lake Region, go outside, explore all that our region has to offer, and get happy. Tour the local waters by SUP, keep it low-key with a stroll along the Greenside Pathway, and go adventuring for Geocaches. The biggest risk that you’ll take is the possibility that you may never want to leave.

Bobbi and a group of friends enjoy an evening of paddleboarding on Raystown Lake. Photo by Helena Kotala.

Bobbi and a group of friends enjoy an evening of paddleboarding on Raystown Lake.

 

About the author: Trailblazer. Raconteur. Adrenaline junkie… “Carpe Diem!” Bobbi is a mom, wife, and Juniata College graduate currently living life to the fullest in Huntingdon County, PA. 

Categories: 2014 Visitors Guide, Lifestyle, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: