Bear Run Nature Reserve, Pennsylvania

Did you expect me to have a 4 day weekend without fitting in a hike somewhere? You know me better than that.

I contacted more than a few hiking clubs in the Pittsburgh area begging for someone to take me hiking. Unfortunately, I asked for a long hike with lots of elevation changes and, well, the Pittsburgh hikers thought I was nuts. However, the Allegheny Sierra Club claimed to have a 9 miler at the Bear Run Reserve near Ohiopyle on Sunday. I tried to call the hike leader but his phone wasn't working properly, all I got was a beep. But that didn't deter me, I figured I would find the place and show up, which I did.

The Sierra Club didn't show up, but one other person was there looking for them too. So we went on a hike together. This unassuming nice hiker named John probably didn't quite understand what he had gotten into when he agreed to go hiking with me. After 10 minutes of hiking we had lost the trail so I suggested an nice bushwhack(after a Ranger Lady told me not to bushwhack) through the woods which was sucessful, we found the trail. This nature reserve boasts a good set of trails and you can actually squeeze out a 10 mile loop with about a thousand feet of elevation change. The western perimeter of the property abuts the Youghiogheny River but the trail stands about 100 feet above the water so you can get a good view in winter. Unfortunately, there is also some railroad tracks so it can be a little noisy with the trains.

On my way home I stopped in Ohiopyle to take a closer look at the 43 mileYoughiogheny River Trail which is a crushed stone bike trail very much like the NCR. I went into a store and asked about the possibility of tubing and someone informed me that tubes aren't allowed. The place would be idea for my one of my tube and bike extravaganzas, it's a shame. I did see a few people kayaking in the very cold water which means there are some hardcores around here. I will need to do some more exploring next summer.

Pittsburgh, PA

I have failed to visit the glorious city of Pittsburgh for the last 25 years. Why? Well, for a not so good reason. I used to date this guy who went to Carnegie Mellon. One day while I was visiting him on campus he got down on bended knee and asked me to marry him. He painted this picture of our life together where he would go to PhD school for then next 10 years and how I would get a job to support us, clean the house and raise our children while he busied himself with his studies. He told me I would make a wonderful wife and mother to our unborn children. Needless to say, the day he proposed was the day I broke a landspeed record by car out of Pittsburgh and I haven't been back since. This left a bad taste in my mouth about Pittsburgh which is a perfectly good city and didn't deserve my ire.

Now that Rick Santorum is out of office I felt it was safe to go back. Pittsburgh was a town never meant for tourists, but that doesn't mean ignore it. The place was built so that a few people could get rich off the backs of unsuspecting immigrants from Europe during the Industrial Revolution. The Carnegies, the Mellons, and God knows who else would build these megafactories that cranked out steel, ketchup and other goods that the rest of the country needed, and these folks somehow convinced these Europeans that toil in a miserable place under miserable conditions was a good idea.

Since Pittsburgh never cared how comfortable and pleasant it was, it used the wonderful riverbanks to place some rather ugly highways and railroad tracks. Consequently nobody gets access to the waterfront. I am not this situation can be fixed, all I know is that if I were a politician I'd be making a big deal out of relocating some roads and trains somehow.

But the real star of the show isn't the waterfront or lack there of, but the edifices the immigrants built. It would take me a month and a much better camera to do justice to the many churches, factories, homes and halls that these people created. The immigrants that came to Pittsburgh were Germans, Italians, Slovaks and Russians. They knew exactly what to do with all the stone and brick lying around and boy did they build and build and build. Even the old factories are amazing with all sorts of architectual delights.

These folks liked to outdo each other, the German church had to be bigger than the Ukranian church next door. I guess what was being told to these people was that your life sucks now but if you work really really hard at the factory you would go to heaven and life will be much better. After a few years Pittsburghians quit believing in this BS and quit going to church. The steel industry took a nosedive and the locals decided that they should move elsewhere and get degrees in computers and move to Maryland, which is where many of them are located now. So many of these huge building stand empty. The vacated churches are being transformed into homes and bars so they get a new lease on life.

However, people, this place has some wonderful real estate bargains, probably because there aren't that many jobs in Pittsburgh. So if you are looking for some cheap living and a reasonably pleasant place you should look into Pittsburgh. This is primarly why I was there, to help my friend from New York take a long hard look at a more manageable place to live.

I wonder if they let people kayak on those rivers? I'll check into it.

Lucky for me I left on Saturday night, it was a good decision because the Ravens thoroughly humiliated the Steelers the next day 27-0, and I didn't want anyone to cap my ass, driving around with the Maryland tags. They take their football very seriously.

WMRT, Sideling Hill, Fort Frederick SP, Maryland

First of all, I know why many of you searched out my blog today, so I'll give you what you want. I didn't see many whitetail on Sideling Hill, probably because I wasn't there during feeding time and it is pretty steep in the area. I did see a gaggle of turkey, maybe 20 on my way up. I saw several whitetail, does mainly no bucks, on the WMRT(Western Maryland Rail Trail) near mile markers 13-15 at sundown. Have at it boys. Now you owe me some meat.

Okay, back to me. Accuweather was calling for sunny skies on Saturday and partly cloudy on Sunday so I figured I'd better get out there. I spent Friday night in Berkeley Springs, WV only to wake up to an overcast sky on Saturday morning but that was not going to put a damper on my day. I had big plans for a bike and hike. I ate a hearty breakfast at the Bridge Restaurant in Hancock, MD. I will make a note that I received a free donut and a free calendar magnet while eating, these people will get more of my business.

I started out on my bike in Hancock on the WMRT and headed north to Pearre. This leg was pretty uneventful as not too many people were out except for a very large boyscout troup. I stopped along the way the explore some abandoned houses near Hancock. I am sure the Park Service managed to run these people off for some reason.

Once I got to Pearre I was bound and determined to successfully climb Sideling Hill because I had failed miserably on my previous attempt. I rode my bike up a very large hill and down a very large hill on Pearre Road to get to a starting point on an old fire road where I locked the bike up and started the hiking portion of my day.
The road was not flat or switched backed, but it got me up most of the way quickly. Then the last half mile up with 300 feet of elevation I had to perform on a bushwhack to the top. I didn't take a compass, GPS or map so if I had not found my starting point off the fire road on my return I would have been really screwed. I used a sightline and landmarks to get myself back. I made a video at the summit.

Once I got back to my bike things got ugly. It was about 2:15PM, sundown was a 5PM. I was not interested in climbing that hill back to Pearre on my bike so I was thinking there might be a way to scooch back through the forest to the canal. As I was pondering my dilemma a gentleman in a car stopped. The man asked me whether I needed to look at a map. Normally advice I get from strangers is pretty good. I explained my situation and the man claimed he was an expert on the area and he suggested I head north on Pearre Road toward Little Orleans if I didn't want to go uphill.

Disclaimer: I would have made the same mistake if I was left to my own devices but when other people offer themselves up for me to blame for my problems I readily sieze the opportunity.

The road northward ended up being a hill about 3 times the size of the hill I would have had to climb had I headed south. The hill was brutal and I am pretty sure I ruined my brakes on the way down. There was no easy way back to the canal. I cursed that "expert" the entire time. The man had Pennsylvania tags, I should have known he didn't know squat about terrain in Maryland. This added an extra 7 miles to my journey and an hour that I didn't have to spare. I was pretty happy when I finally got back to the north trailhead of the WMRT. Needless to say I rode as fast as I could back to Hancock to get there precisely at 5PM.
It was getting really cold too. I almost took these people up on their offer.

After cooking up a delicious dinner in the minivan I headed back to Berkeley Springs. The night's entertainment over at the Red Guitar Coffee Bar was a pseudo band called "The Real McCoys". This band consisted of the town doctor, the proprietor of the Red Guitar and a few other stragglers who didn't quite know each other very well but well enough to cobble together some pretty good rockabilly music. The place was packed to capacity and lots of fun until some unwitting soul tried to move a chair. Everyone knows that the chairs do not, will not, cannot move from their predesignated spaces. The proprietor proved that you can play pretty mean riff on a guitar while yelling at someone about rearranging the chairs.

Sunday I woke up and decided to visit Fort Frederick State Park. I had been there before but refused to pay the entry fee. This time the park office was closed so I could get in for free.
It was a lonely day because I was the only one there. Here is my description of the fort which differs slightly from the official approved version from the maryland government.

In the 1700s several white people came to Maryland from Europe to make copious use of the potential farmland and the natural resources of this recently discovered area. The Indians, who were already happy on the land, didn't like the white people taking over. So the Indians started wreaking havoc on the white settlers with some raping, pillaging and killing. The white people were scared so they built a fort to cower behind until they could blow the Indians to Kingdom Come using their muskets, something the Indians didn't have. The Indians were defeated. Those that were not killed were sent to live on reservations in the desert, become alcoholics and enjoy liberal profits from their casinos. Why Indians can have casinos and the settlers cannot beats the heck out of me.

Duncan Knob

Normally I have beautiful photos of valleys and vistas, however, this time I failed in the photo taking department. The backpacking gang decided to take a jaunt on Saturday at Duncan Knob nestled securely in the middle of the Massanuttens, the weather was perfect to start. We started at the lower parking lot south of the Massanutten Visitor's Center off of 211 using the Massanutten Connector trail to intersect with the Massanutten Trail. When the 6, of us, Terri, Lisa, Keith, Ted, Ron and myself got to the intersection our party split evenly with 3 going west and 3 heading north. I was with Terri and Ron northward, when we got to the intersection at Scothorn Gap Terri and I decided to head east and Ron continued north. We all planned to rendezvous at Peach Orchard Gap. However, our plan went violent awry when we learned that 26 boyscouts plus leaders were planning a campout at the very same spot.

We altered the plan to take control of the peak at Duncan Knob. When Ron, the first hiker to arrive, got to the summit he found a group of Chileans there. We had no choice but to create a new campsite to the east on Duncan Knob Trail. The sun was setting and one member of our party went up Duncan Knob to have a look around. We started to set camp and realized this person was nowhere to be found. Panic ensued. We sent a search party up the mountain who found our lost lamb and brought them back to safety. We built a nice fire, told stories and went to sleep.

Then is started to rain and the temperature dropped. Here is a picture of our campsite in the dark at 7:30AM Sunday.

Here is a picture of some unhappy campers.

In the rain we quickly quickly hiked back to the cars. Despite the inclement weather on Sunday we all had a pretty good time.