I’ve run in a lot of places all over the world, and this trail, right along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, is one of the nicest places to run. It offers many benefits for me and for everybody else in my running club. In fact, it is really a central part of my life in Philadelphia and is a big part of what keeps me happy.
The Schuylkill River, its trail, and all of the tributaries that feed it have been a part of my everyday life for as long as I can remember. As a child, I spent my days on and along the river with my mother and father. Somewhere along the line of my hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, kayaking, and just about anything else you can imagine, I fell in love with the trail and river, and all that they have to offer.
I am a yoga teacher, and I lead yoga walks at Wildwood. The combination of walking and yoga in a natural environment can result in a very special experience! I enjoy introducing people to Wildwood through the yoga walks, and I believe everyone needs to connect with nature for a healthier lifestyle. Leading the meditation at the end of the yoga walks is my favorite part of the activity. Everyone seems so much more at peace!
I was born and raised in Lebanon County, just a few blocks away from the current Lebanon Valley Rail Trail (LVRT). I can remember walking along these tracks as a kid when the trains were still running and iron ore was being shipped to the various operations throughout America. In 1972, the trains stopped running due to flooded iron mines after Hurricane Agnes. Then in 1999 Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails began to develop the land into what is now the LVRT. When I finally decided to retire, I felt a need to try to give something back to the community, and helping on the trail seemed to fit what I was looking for.
Along with an estimated 1.1 million annual visitors, I have personally walked, jogged, bicycled, fished, cross-country skied, kayaked, and climbed cliffs in the park. Best of all, I currently help plan and execute large and small infrastructure and maintenance projects. On a lovely day any visitor will encounter people of all ages and backgrounds reveling in the opportunity to be outdoors away from the noise, press, heat, or cold wind of the concrete, asphalt, and steel metropolis.
But the true wonder of the new Big Woods Trail is its accessibility. Designed to expand recreational activities to more people, this trail is hard-paved at a 5% slope. Unlike the rocky and muddy trails throughout the area, this trail is wheel-friendly and opens up hikes to wheelchairs, strollers, and other tools of limited mobility. As an educator, this enables me to bring more people out into the field for interpretive walks and lessons, which thrills me.
During a particularly exciting bird walk along the creek with community residents on May 10, 2014 I was amazed by the sheer numbers of migrating songbirds that we were finding– from Worm-eating, Blue-winged, and Bay-breasted Warblers to Gray-cheeked Thrushes and a White-eyed Vireo–when up popped a Red-headed Woodpecker. Our excitement nearly tripled as we got to see this beautiful but rare bird for an extended period of time.
The Trolley Trail is not a typical rails- to-trails project where there are miles and miles of abandoned train tracks easily ready for a straightforward conversion. The original Trolley Trail now winds through swamps, backyards, Little League baseball fields, public roads, and all sorts of personal property.
As a trail user, I enjoy walking and biking the trail, alone or with my wife. Much of the trail is shaded by large trees or passes by open meadows, providing a scenic backdrop for our outings. Bluebird boxes have been placed along the trail, wildflowers attract a variety of native birds and bees, and deer and other wildlife can often be seen from the pathway. A local blogger recently posted a photo of a red fox happily trotting down the trail; apparently humans are not the only CVT enthusiasts! I find the trail to be an easy way to get an hour or two of exercise and fresh air, and I often come across friends and neighbors doing the same thing.
It is a trail for everybody. Most any bike will do to ride this rail trail, so there is no need for special equipment, extra gears, or special tires. Just ride. I’ve seen road bikes on the trail and I’ve seen spider bikes. And I’ve seen everything in between, including hybrids, cruisers, and recumbent bikes and trikes. They all work.
Although the process of creating the Conservancy and working to accomplish its mission of protecting the land put the idea of a trail on the back burner, Roz never lost sight of the vision of a community trail. She envisioned a place accessible to all: a place to walk through and enjoy the woods; a place for kids to learn to ride bikes without parents having to worry about cars; a place to push strollers, jog, or cross-country ski. The vision was in motion and there was no doubt she would prevail.
My personal connection with Thousand Steps stems from many years ago when my parents took me there are a child. As an adult, it was one of the first places that I brought my wife when we were dating and she was new to the area. Now, later in life, I continue to bring my children, friends, and family on hikes there. Currently I enjoy running the trails in the area, and Thousand Steps is a great place to begin or finish a long run.
A Five Star Trail highlight for our family occurred when our son Regis did his Eagle Scout Project as a service to the Trail. Working with Malcolm Sias from Westmoreland County Parks, Regis planned and coordinated the building of two mini-pavilions at two different locations along the Five Star Trail with Scout Troop 405 from South Greensburg. The pavilions are large individual picnic tables protected by a shingled roof, and provide a place for trail users to rest beneath shelter from the sun or rain.
Fifteen years later, it is now a regular part of my job as a park ranger to share my wonderment out on the 6 to 10 Trail. It’s been almost ten years since the trail was developed. Some sections along the oldest parts of the railroad are for hiking only. The trails are still fairly primitive, but much improved since my first time out there. Other parts of the trail, where the rough ballast rocks used to give me so much trouble, have now been covered with smooth, crushed limestone for the enjoyment of thousands of hikers and bicyclists every month.
I first discovered the trail thanks to neighborhood friends; it was a place where we would walk our dogs. In those early days (1990s) I had a Yellow Lab, named Bart who enjoyed several swimming holes along Conewago Creek. At first my friends and I would only hike about two miles of the trail and never ventured past Rt. 743. As time went on Bart and I hiked past Rt. 743 and up to Belair Road for an eight-mile round trip.
My trip along the Montour Trail was a rewarding experience. Friendly people, a remarkable camping trail accommodation–it makes a perfect getaway for anyone seeking some solitude outside of Pittsburgh. Once all the trail sections are completed, the Montour Trail will become one spectacular trail system that creates a large “C” skirting around the greater Pittsburgh area.
When on the Trail I feel the stresses of the day go away, reminding me of the practice of Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest immersion,” developed by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries as a sustainable, non-extractive way to derive benefit from the country’s forests. I feel a friendly connection with people I meet, and am amused by the occasional dog accompanying its family for a walk. In addition, I feel appreciation for what the Trail and Greenway mean to people who visit or enjoy them, or otherwise benefit from their presence, and for the remarkable teamwork that brought them into being and continues to expand them.
The trail brings visitors from all over the United States as well as all over the world. Many of these visitors are passing through Confluence, either riding the GAP or as part of a longer trip, including many who are riding coast to coast. The natural beauty as well as all the recreation opportunities of the region leads many of them to return. The GAP is one of the best ambassadors for the Laurel Highlands Region.
No matter the season, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail hosts runners of all types and abilities. It isn’t the start line or the finish line, but the place where all the hard work and tenacity happens. On the trail, runners log their training miles and overcome their biggest obstacles.
The Heritage Rail Trail has become the go-to facility for planning and staging a successful event. Through these successes, many non-profit agencies gain public recognition and are financially sustained. The Rail Trail Authority is proud to be the developer of the Heritage Rail Trail and grateful to the York community for embracing the Heritage Rail Trail and its newest event, the Pumpkin Walk.