Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Allegheny Front Trail, June, 2010

From June 24th to the 27th my hiking partner Andy B. and I tackled the Allegheny Front Trail located in Centre Co., PA, Northwest of State College. Our goal was to hike the whole trail, but also take advantage of the trout streams along the way. To that end, we decided to start on Rt. 504 east of Black Moshannon State Park and hike counter clockwise. We would do 8 miles the first day, 9 the second, 17 the third and 6th the fourth. The third day had to be long to maximize the fishing on Thursday and Friday. This would prove to be quite demanding. If you look at the map, you will notice that Rt. 504 provides a good point of reference as it bisects the the area we hiked in. The first two days we would be in the northern part of the loop, and the last two days in the southern part of the loop.

Day 1

We hoped to get on the trail by noon, but had to wait out a passing Thunderstorm, so we didn't get on the trail until 1:00. Our goal was to camp on Benner Run. The trail was well marked and the going was easy, however, we had to hike through alternating patches of ferns and blueberries which, despite wearing gaiters, left our boots soaking wet from the passing thunderstorm. Fortunately, the blueberries were ripe in this area, and that made up for the wet boots. The sun was coming out and there was a breeze, which also made for nice hiking conditions. We made great time on this section of trail, and arrived into Benner Run by 17:00. We set up camp, then went fishing which proved to be quite tough because of being in a Rhododendron Tunnel. After fishing, we had supper and sat around a small fire for about an hour before retiring for the evening.

Day 2

Slept in, then took our time eating breakfast, drinking coffee (backpacking tip: Starbuck's instant coffee is like drinking fresh brewed coffee; no need for filters) and packing up. Got on the trail around 10:00 and hiked down Benner Run. This was one of my favorite parts of the trail. Benner Run is scenic. Arrived at the Black Moshannon Creek around 11:00 and decided to fish for awhile and have lunch. The fishing was great. There were numerous holdover trout and the browns didn't hesitate to take my beetle pattern, or Andy's Stimulator/Green Weenie tandem. After lunch, we were on the trail by 13:00, and hiked along Black Moshannon for about a mile, before hitting our first real climb out of the valley. According to the map, we were to come to a scenic overlook, but after easy hiking on a fire road, we came to a clearing, but not much of an overlook. As we started down into the Red Moshannon, we were afforded a view of the Rt. 80 Bridge, not all that scenic. Shortly afterward, we encountered our first rattler, who coiled up on the trail and forced us off. This was the biggest one at about five feet. Later we would encounter another one in the Red Moshannon Valley.

Upon reaching the Red Moshannon, we were disappointed. Turned out that the red Moshannon was as a dead as a door nail, because of acid mine damage, which was evident by the "yellow boy" on all the rocks, and the orange tinge of the water. The trail in this section was gently rolling, and fairly easy except for the climb out of Sawdust Hollow and Panther Hollow. We arrived into Six-mile Run around 18:30. We made camp, then went fishing. I was pleasantly surprised to catch both wild brown and brook trout. I didn't catch any stocked fish here.

Day 3

This was to be our long day, and it started out well, but ended badly. The Hike out of Six-mile run was pleasant, scenic and easy. We reached Rt. 504 quickly and pushed on through another easy section of trail through a mixed pine forest. We took a break for lunch after descending back into Six-mile Run. From this point on, the hike was not enjoyable. After climbing out of Six-mile Run, we entered into a section of the forest that was devastated both by gypsy moths, and also clear-cuttings. This opening of the forest canopy allowed brush to grow up, and combined with little to no trail maintenance, made for hours of "bushwhacking." We made it to the State Park boundary around 18:00, but because we couldn't camp in the park, we had to push on 4 more miles racing the setting sun. Another challenge in this section was the insects. We had no problem with bugs on the north section, but every biting/annoying fly - deer flies, horse flies, mosquitoes and gnats - took up residence near the lake at Black Moshannon. We finally got to the east side of the park around 20:30, and found a decent camp just on the other side of the Julian Pike. Our feet were sore and we were tired, so we crashed early. During the night we were hit with a brief thunderstorm.

Day 4

We wanted to be out early, so we got on the trail by 8:00. The passing storm had everything wet, but the trail was easy going in the beginning until we got to the vista section. Again, the gypsy moths devastated this area, and the brush, which was also dripping with water, was almost impenetrable, especially where the raspberries took hold. Combined with the thick vegetation was the rockiness of the trail, and the trail designers penchant for gaining elevation only to immediately drop back down. When we came out to Rt. 504, we were quite happy to be done with the AFT. Oh, this was the vista section of the trail, and despite all the work, we were not rewarded with many stunning views, because of the haze that hadn't burned off from the storm.

Final Comments

1. We did the trail counterclockwise, and the northern part was the nicest. If we would have started on the southern part, I think we might have bailed. I won't do this trail again in its entirety, but I would do the northern half for the fishing.
2. Bring gaiters!!!!
3. Bugs were bad in the southwestern and southern part of the trail. Andy had a head net, and I wish I would have had one. The gnats, although they didn't bite, were constantly in our eyes.
4. Trail maintenance was poor in the areas devastated by gypsy moths. This would probably not be noticeable in late fall, or winter, but in summer, with all the growth, it was hard going through the brush. Also, there were three different colored markers: Orange (mostly), yellow and red. There was a very confusing section near Smays Run, because a snowmobile trail and the AFT used the same color markers.
5. The clear cuttings that the trail went through were unsightly. Markings on the trees in the southeast indicate more clear cuttings are on the way.
6. This could be an interpretive hike for environmental degradation: acid mine damage (Red Moshannon); clear-cutting; invasive species and I'm sure it won't be long until gas wells start springing up
7. Selinsgrove Brewing made everything better. We were ready to hike the AT afterwards.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pichot Triathlon, June 2010

I wasn't planning on signing up for more than one spring triathlon, but after Gretna I wasn't happy with my performance. It wasn't bad given I had a knee injury which hampered my training, but it was not the performance I wanted to end with, so I signed up for Pinchot again. And, Pinchot has always been "beddy, beddy good to me."


Nothing out of the ordinary. Up at 4:30, bowl of cereal, cup of coffee, and a bathroom break, then I was out the door, and off to Pinchot. I arrived around 6:00 a.m., which gave me plenty of time for packet pick-up, set-up and a warm-up, both on the bike and running. I also had time to talk to, and to help, my buddy Dave L. who was competing in his first tri (He finished well despite cramps, way to go Dave, congrats!)


For a sprint, Pinchot's swim is long, a half mile. Also, it varies depending on who set's up the course. Last year I swam the course in under 15 minutes, so I think it was a little short. This year seemed more like a true half mile. I was relaxed in the water, and stayed with the pack for the most part, and hit T1 at 16:36, which is around 1:53 per 100 yards. I am now consistently swimming under 2:00 per 100 yards, which I'm happy about.


I'm still a little slow on the bike, but I did manage to come in under an hour for 18 miles. I held my own, but was passed by two people in my age group. One, I couldn't close the gap, the other, I maintained contact with. Time: 58:33


The effort I expended to achieve a sub-1 hour bike was felt on the run. This has been my biggest problem with the lack of bike training time. I can push on the bike, but I have been having problems transitioning to the run. It takes me longer to get my legs back under me. Nonetheless, I was able to quickly catch and pass the two riders who passed me on the bike. I then opened up a gap, and was able to cruise to the finish. Time: 22:03


Good here: 1:21/:53

Results and Final Comments

Time: 1:39:26; 18th overall; 2nd in AG. Hardware, Woohoo!!!!!
Another great Pinchot race, thanks CF Foundation and volunteers.