Yesterday was the first of what will be a series of outings for the staff of the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau called Monday Meanders. With the blessing of our board of directors (thank you) and the Army Corps of Engineers, from now through the middle of May, we will be closing the HCVB offices in the Raystown Lake Region Visitors Center at 3pm on Mondays. The purpose of this early closure is to give our staff the opportunity to get out and experience the area, its recreational assets, and our member businesses, in order to better serve all of our customers.
With a year-round staff of four employees, we are each taking a turn during the month to plan the outing. For our inaugural Meander, I took on the planning task. Our missi0n: to experience a new trail leading from the Visitors Center to the Allegrippis Trailsstacked-loop system on mountain bikes.
First, some background: The Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake opened with much fanfare in May, 2009. The 32-mile trail network was designed by mountain bikers and built through the cooperation of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Appalachian Regional Commission, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and others. The right-of-way for the trails on the USACE Raystown Lake property is leased by the Friends of Raystown Lake, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to enhance the environmental and recreational resources of the lands and waters of the Raystown Lake Project. The Friends contracted with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Trail Solutions crew to construct the trail network, and augmented the machine work with volunteers to put on the finishing touches. The result is a fast, flowing, fun network of trails that can accommodate riders or hikers of nearly any ability level. The trails were also constructed in a way that minimizes erosion.
Originally, trailhead parking lots were available along Seven Points Road, and Bakers Hollow Road. Both trailheads were shared with the existing Old Loggers Trail. It became evident immediately that additional parking capacity was needed. The Corps approved a plan by the Friends to expand the lot along Bakers Hollow Road, and that helped, but still more parking was needed for a popular trail network that has exceeded all expectations of its ability to attract users. The Friends proposed a few other options for expanding parking, but none of them met with the approval of the Corps until the idea emerged to connect the trails to existing parking at the Visitors Center. This idea proved to be a win-win by connecting the developed part of the Seven Points Recreation Area with the trail network, and requiring minimal clearing of plant and animal habitat when compared to creating a new parking lot.
Fast-forward to May 2012. The 1.3-mile VeeCee Trail opened with the financial support of the Friends, Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, and Specialized. The trail connects the lower parking lot at the Visitors Center with Dark Hollow Trail by following a path around the end of Seven Points Campground’s Ridge camping loop.
Now, back to yesterday’s Meander… Evan Gross from Rothrock Outfitters met us in the parking lot about 3pm with four Scott mountain bikes. He took the time to adjust the bikes for us, pump the tires, and give us instructions for shifting gears and a few other helpful tips like making sure to put your outside pedal in the down position when negotiating a bend in the trail. Why? Because if the inside pedal is down as you lean into a turn, it is likely to catch the ground and cause an accident. For some of us it was the first time on a bike since we were teenagers (we’re all in our thirties, forties or fifties). We did a few laps around the parking lot to get comfortable with the bikes, shifting, braking, etc., before we crossed Seven Points Road to the trail.
We discussed a few tips we had learned from trail reviews, one of them being not to over-brake on the downhills, because you’ll want that momentum on the uphills. Another tip being almost counter to the first one. These trails will propel you faster than it may seem, and faster than you may be comfortable with – don’t let it get out of hand. The result of these pieces of advice turned out to be that we over-braked on the way out, and wound up pushing the bikes up a few of the hills. And at least twice on the return trip, I let momentum carry me out of my comfort zone resulting in some near-misses with trees.
In the end, we got to experience an asset that we talk to a lot of visitors about, nobody got hurt, and we all had fun. Mission Complete!
Next week it’s Vickie’s turn to plan something for her and Katrina to do. Ed and I both have the day off to head to a Pittsburgh Pirates game with our families.