Author Archives: Kim

Building new trail at Camp Tuscazoar

Trail Building at Camp Tuscazoar

Trail Building

The Buckeye Trail crew successfully took more of the Buckeye Trail off road and back on trail-trail that they BUILT.

Picture by Heather Johnson

Trail Building is Hard  Work

Other than some mechanized tools such as the Dr Mower Dr Mower Buckeye Trail and chain saw, trail building is done by hand.

macleod trail tooltrail work

Tools of Trail Building

There are several steps to trail building. The first step is the mapping out of the trail. There there is both art and science involved in trail building. (The first step is actually getting all the permissions to move/build trail from all the involved regulatory entities, but that’s a blog post all by itself.)

There is  consideration of the slope, you don’t want to exceed a certain  grade. You want to the trail to be fairly level, the hiker doesn’t want to walk on a cambered area. There might only be a limited area that the trail can be built.

Big Stuff Out

First you clear big trees, and logs.   Yep, the  volunteers  dug  that tree completely out of the trail.The tree is removedThe area might need to be brush hogged.  Loppers are used to cut away vines and brambles. A leaf blower may be used to blow large loose debris and leaves off the area to be worked.

McLeod or Fire Rake

The fire rake is to rake all the vegetation off the area. We want to get down to dirt! You can also turn the fire rake sideways and hack away roots with the rake.

Benching

Some areas of the trail may need to be benched. A bench cut is the result of cutting a section of tread, or shelf across the side of a slope.

Benching Building Buckeye Trail

description of benching

Diagram from http://traildesign.tripod.com/benching.htm

If you look at the side profile of this cut it looks like a bench, hence the name.  Every rock, stump and woody plant must be thoroughly dug out, and the ground leveled off, with just enough slope that water can drain off.

trail building

What is everyone doing? Digging out every root and rock in our way!!

Chopping tree down

building trail

trail tools

Power Line

Our new section of trail leaves the woods and goes thru the power line. In this section, we were removing the heavy vegetation to get down to the dirt. This was harder than benching! We quickly became aware of a certain plant that grew in clumps that would require several whacks with the Pulaski or mattock to get it out of the ground.

The Buckeye Trail crosses the power line

Removal of sod under powerline

The Finishers

The finishers are the volunteers who follow the benchers and rakers to  you guessed it “finish” the trail. They rake any big berms of loose soil off the trail so the water won’t pool on the trail.  They might remove roots and rocks. There are many different opinions on what the “finisher” should do.

Volunteers hard at work

What Do You get for your Effort?

Some of our awesome volunteers Buckeye Trail Crew

A few of the Sunday volunteers who stopped working long enough for a picture snap! Others were still working!

Besides tired legs and an aching back? The satisfaction of seeing trail that you created, you built! A sense of pride when you hike through the woods, knowing this trail would not have existed without your hard work.

Next time you are out hiking in the woods, pause and admire the trail that volunteers built!

Day Hike on the Buckeye Trail Whipple Section

Hiking the Buckeye Trail

Round Bale Dressed for Halloween

I was lucky enough to have Sunday free to join Jerri and Karen on their hike on the Buckeye Trail in southern Ohio. This was on the “Whipple” Section. The Buckeye Trail is divided into sections, and it always feels good for a hiker to complete an entire map! Buckeye Trail Section Maps
(News flash: Karen and Jerri finished the Whipple Section on this hike!)

completing whipple

Circuit Hiking the Buckeye Trail

Karen and Jerri have less than 50 miles to go to complete circuit hiking the Buckeye Trail. What is circuit hiking? It’s another word for section hiking. Few hikers have the time to complete the entire 1440 mile Buckeye Trail in one effort-in fact, less than 20 hikers have done so.

How to Circuit Hike

One of the best ways is to find a friend who wants to hike with you! That way, you can stage a vehicle at each end. Shuttle one car to the end of your planned section, then drive back to the other. Sometimes there will be planned hikes. . The Buckeye Trail Association usually has some circuit hikes going on, you can check the website or on the Meet Up website.  A group just finished up their circuit hike of Ohio, which took place on one weekend a month which took about five years! Sometimes you can get a shuttle from a “Trail Angel”, someone who may live in the area, and be willing to give you a ride to the trail head, eliminating the double car shuffle

bridge sign

Electronic Maps Available

It’s becoming easier to follow the BT these days! The Buckeye Trail maps are available on paper and electronic versions, two of them!  We hiked with both. I was using the Avenza application,  Jerri and Karen had the Guthook guide.  (I actually didn’t take mine out of the backpack this day.) Between “following the blue blazes” and double checking with the Guthook app, we were easily able to follow the Trail.

Scenes From the Trail

A criticism I hear about the Buckeye Trail is: “There’s so much of it on roads.” Yes, about 50 percent of the current BT is on roads. But here are some views of the road hiking:

Bucolic scene Buckeye Trail

Bridge on road

Donkey on the Buckeye Trail

Bridge on a Blue Bird Sky Day

Have you hiked the roads of the Buckeye Trail? What’s your favorite section?

Steel City Loop: Biking Around Pittsburgh Day Two

Leaving Neville Island

Day Two starts at 9am. I wanted daylight and rush hour traffic to be over. Grand Avenue was not a bad road to ride. Neville Island seems to be the recycling and pallet center.  Turning on the busier Neville Road,

Neville Road

I hoped I would not pick up a flat from all the debris in the lane. It turns out I did have a bike lane more or less to ride in.

Fleming Park Bridge

The Fleming Park Bridge loomed. This was the bridge that was closed for about one year. It was now open, with a dedicated bike lane across the bridge-much appreciated!

Fleming Street Bridge

My route now follows Route 51, or Island Avenue, over to the McKees Rock Bridge. It wasn’t a bad mile or so. I’m sure it could have been a worse bike ride. In any case, no worries, I made it across the McKees Rock Bridge  on a sidewalk.

Next turn, down California Avenue, left turn on Eckert  Street which would link me up with the Riverfront Trail.

Losing the Route

Hmm. I do remember “Ride with GPS” cautioning the planner on “penciling in” a route. It turns out, as I blithely traced a line from California Ave to Eckert Street, I ignored the fact that California Avenue was OVER Eckert Street. (Note: my current Ride with GPS files still shows this. Don’t follow this! You would need to follow Antrim Street to McClure Avenue to Eckert Street.)

Finding the Trail

I knew the Riverfront Trail was beside the river, I needed to head toward the river. I went down California Avenue the wrong way (it was a one way street) passing a police car that didn’t care. I saw the Route 19 sign that pointed toward downtown, which had a sidewalk. I biked down that way, saw a sign for the Riverfront Trail, and was back to where I needed to be!!

North Shore

Pittsburgh has a very nicely developed waterfront. There are numerous museums, ballparks, eateries, plenty of activities. It was a bit strange that not many people were about, since it was noon when I got to the area. Maybe everyone was having a Halloween party at lunchtime.

Point State Park

pointparkpittsburgh

This is the beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail, usually referred to as the GAP. I got my picture taken at the water, then headed down the GAP/3 Rivers Heritage Trail toward Homestead.

You can cross over the river on a bike or as a pedestrian, in multiple places. Today I stay on the north bank to follow the GAP, since my last tour in we covered the Southside Riverfront.

Homestead

It might not look like the greatest view, but I will point out it’s a safe passage between two highways.

On my way to Homestead, I came across Alf. As he looked like he might be ready to have lunch, I didn’t want to disturb him, just got a quick pic and moved on. It was surprising how little traffic on the trail there was today.

Lunch

Chik Fil-A for lunch! I made my lunch stop rather quick. I was nervous inside even with the bike locked up outside, I’ve  heard tales of bikes stolen (even locked)  in five minutes. I consumed about 5000 calories and biked on.

McKeesport

After Homestead the area becomes more industrial with less views.  I cross the bridge that tells me I am into McKeesport.

Good signage

McKeesport is where I part from the GAP and follow the Steel Valley Trail toward Clairton.

McKeesport Clairton Bridge There is good signage for the Steel Valley Trail, where it separates from the GAP, pointing me on toward Clairton. I bike across the West 5th Avenue Bridge, then follow signs for the SVT. This is a break from my planned route, but I can see I am just running parallel to West 5th Avenue which is a far busier road.

There is very little traffic through the burgh of  Glassport. It is  my last bridge of the day! There is no sidewalk. On my side. BUT I do see a sidewalk on the other side to use.  It is then a short bike ride on roads, back to the Montour Trail!

Montour Trail

It’s back to well maintained trail- hardly any walkers, runners, bikers out on this late afternoon. Montour Trail South I am on trail, which then switches to Peters Creek Road, which has very light traffic. I’m getting a bit tired, so I stop and eat another wonderful Chik Fil-a sandwich before biking on.

The Montour Trail folks have done a great job with signage. I think you could follow the Trail even without a map of sorts. The Trail on the south end does have some road sections, which I was happy to get through and get back to plain rail trails.

The rain started about four o’clock-while I was still on the roads.

I knew from my route planner that I would have a bit of a climb right toward the end of my trip which I was okay with-since I knew about it!

View from the Green Tunnel

When I encountered the Green Tunnel, I knew Tandem Connection would be coming up soon-and before I knew it, the Steel City Tour was a wrap!

Salsa Bike on Montour Trail

82 miles around the city of Pittsburgh. My next post will be both route planning and some gear failures. This was a pleasant ride-especially taking two days.

I Completed the Steel City Loop

I biked the Steel City Loop!

Steel City Loop Map

 

What is the Steel City Loop? It’s a bike route around the city of Pittsburgh. I did not make up this route, I found it courtesy of the Ohio River Trail  Council.  It’s been on my To Do Bike List for several years.

The route consists of using the Montour Trail, Riverfront Trail, Great Allegheny Passage, and the Steel Valley Trail around the city of Pittsburgh.

The Fleming Bridge closure put this on hold for most of 2019. The bridge reopened in August, and a few free days in my schedule appeared, the weather looked decent, so off I went! There will be another blog post on planning the route, but here’s how the trip went down.

Two Day Trip

On my planning post (to follow) I go over my planning details and why I rode the route I did.  The route is 82 miles, easily done in one day, but why push it when you don’t need to. I rode 30 miles on Day One, 52 miles Day Two.

Day One: Hendersonville to Neville Island

I started the trip off from Tandem Connection in Hendersonville, where I had permission to park overnight.   Leaves on the Montour Trail Thanks Tandem Connection! I headed off, north on the trail. I was familiar with most of this section, having biked to Coraopolis on a previous bike trip.

Road Construction McDonald

Great Day on the Trail

I picked great weather for this day! It was in the sixties and a bluebird day.

Unofficial Trail

I got to mile zero on the Montour Trail.  Salsa Bike Mile Zero Montour TrailThe route to follow would be bike to Route 51, or State Avenue to the Coraopolis Bridge. Which is a very busy road. OR, I could take the rather unofficial trail like route along the Montour Run…which leads over to the bridge. Rumor has it that this will be made into “official trail” sometime.

You bike under the Coraopolis Bridge, and there is a ramp leading up to the street.  

Coraopolis Bridge has a Sidewalk

Sidewalk Coraopolis Bridge

I was very relieved to see the bridge had a sidewalk. I had used Google Earth to check out all my bridges. The last thing I wanted was to have to bike in traffic, on a busy bridge.  Google did not really show a sidewalk, so this was a bonus on my last mile of riding for the day.

Fairfield Inn and Suites

Fairfield Inn and Suites was one mile down the road on Neville Island. Nobody blinked when I rolled my bike inside and up to my room. There is a convenient Kings restaurant next door, and a gas station across the street in case any necessities  are needed.

After working all night, a three hour nap, and a thirty mile bike ride, and two IPAs later, it was time for lights out!

Got time to read Part Two? Here it is!  Biking Steel City Loop Part Two

Biking the Greenbrier River Trail Day Two and Three

Day Two Marlinton and Cass

sign to marlinton

I was so happy to wake up alive in the morning. I was happy to roll into Marlinton, and have breakfast at the Dirt Bean Cafe. Dirt Bean Cafe MarlintonThe Cafe is both a coffee shop and a bike shop!

Cass

I made it up to Cass! It was a very hot day.  I got to see the Cass Train. It was small. I guess I was remembering the Silverton/Durango Train. I felt sorry for the engineers shoveling the coal into that engine on this hot hot day.  I didn’t stick around Cass very long, I was too eager to ride some miles back down the trail and get camp set up for the night.

Campsite Mile 70

Mile 70 campsite greenbrier trail

How far can I bike today. I biked 40 miles to Cass, how much farther can I go? The further I go south, the less I will have to bike on Saturday. But I don’t want to kill myself either. I decided to stop at Mile 70, at 615 pm. I biked about 50 miles. Again I am exhausted!

Saturday Day Three

I wake up kind of refreshed. That’s a lie. I was sore and tired. Ugh. Maybe I’m not cut out for a Tour Divide ride when I can’t even handle a flat little rail trail.  Shut up Kimba, and drink some coffee, you got 70 miles to go.

early morning greenbrier trail

 

My breakfast this day is a Mountainhouse spicy mac and cheese. This isn’t exactly my first choice, but I surprise myself by eating it all down. I get on the trail about 730am and resolve to not make any extended stops.

I am a 1/2 mile out of Marlinton when I feel it becoming harder and harder to bike. Guh!! A flat! BUT I am a 1/2 mile to Marlinton-and the Dirt Bean Cafe, which is also a BIKE SHOP. I resolve to just add air to the tire and let the bike shop fix my flat. I can fix my flat, but I know a bike shop pro can do it quicker.

Back to the Bean

The proprietor of the coffee/bike shop is able to fix my tire. She shows me the tiny brad that I managed to pick up on the tire. Yes, I said SHE. I regret not getting her name. Thanks Dirt Bean Cafe for the yummy scones and my tire fixed!!!

More Food for the Road

I got more food for the trip south. 3 scones, a chocolate chip cookie. I know I am going to stop again at Seebert, at mile 45, for more drinks and food.

Seebert

 

A hot day. I buy Payday bars, Sour Kids, potato chips. I’m debating buying a beer but then I see the Code Red Mountain Dew-yes, that has the caffeine and calories that I need!  The last 30 miles were a bit of a slog. All I wanted to do was finish. Ugh. And bathe. And get a hotel room.

The Finish

I did it! I coasted back into the parking lot at 615 pm Saturday. I felt much better!!

Conclusions

The Greenbrier is a great little trail. It is not as secluded or remote as I thought. You do have to plan your water and food supplies. But the trail is *only* 78 miles long, you could bike it all in one day. Or you could meander up and down the trail, stop to swim or fish. There are nice locations to stop and camp out on the trail. I did notice there are now cabins and Airbnb’s available. I’m sure there are rentals in Marlinton. Cass has lodging available in case you don’t feel like camping in a tent.

Fall would be a great time to bike the Greenbrier River Trail!

 

Biking the Greenbrier River Trail

Biking the Greenbrier River Trail

The Greenbrier River Trail Day One

My Loose Plan

I had a very loose plan for my trip. Start at North Caldwell, bike north for some miles and camp overnight. I knew it would take me four hours to drive to the trailhead. I didn’t know how fast I would be able to bike, weighed down with all my gear.

My Ride

This was my experiment with tent camping and hauling.

Thursday Day One

I got on the trail about 11 am.  The southern end of the trail was hard hit by the 2016 floods. The trail has been repaired and in great shape.

I was a bit surprised by all the summer cabins along the trail. In all my reading about the trail, people mentioned the remoteness of the trail.  There are cabins up and down the length of the Greenbrier River. There are probably cabins about 70 miles of the 78 mile trail.

cabin along the Greenbrier Trail

Campsites

I felt fine cruising by mile 13, then 26.  There was water around mile 28, and I was evaluating where I wanted to stop for the night.   Should I stop at mile 38? I decided to go on to Mile 40 campsite.

Prisonprison sign

I was surprised to see a sign for a prison, then I saw the gleaning of the barbed wire.  view of the prison from Greenbrier River Trail

Tired

Just a short distance, later I found my home for the night. It was a bit damp, as there was a nice babbling brook that fed into the river.

I was exhausted! It was a hot day out there, I wasn’t in prime biking shape, and I had been awake since 5am.  I was in the tent by 7 pm, and pretty much asleep soon afterwards.

Night Time Wake Up Call

I woke up at 115 am to the sound of a scream. Not one scream, but numerous screams. WTF is going on?? The screams are very much like the enraged zombie-like soldiers in the movie 28 Days Later.  Is there a convict loose from the prison? Is there a meth addict going crazy in the woods?

I am terrified. I know that sounds dramatic. But I was. I have no idea what is happening outside my tent. I glance at the phone and instantly make it dark. I do not want to attract attention to my green little tent…in the middle of nowhere…where there is a crazed individual SCREAMING in the woods outside.

What to do? I briefly think of jumping on my bike and riding down the trail. But I don’t know where “THEY” are. Are there guards hunting for this crazed individual? Is that voices I am hearing, or is that the babbling brook near by?

This is kind of what it sounded like:

It may have sounded again. Then it stopped. I am still sitting upright in my tent. I can’t sustain this until daybreak, so I lay down again. Now that my heart rate is dropping a bit (I hope) I think, well, maybe that was a screech owl. What do screech owls sound like? Maybe it was a bird. I’m right on a river, there are probably owls, eagles, loons all sorts of birds around that scream.

I fall asleep.

I live to face another day. It was a bit chilly at 6 am, so I donned my rain poncho just to keep the body heat in while I drank some coffee and savored being alive. Then it was time to saddle up Myka, and head on down the trail!

Shake Down Ride

Today I rode the shake out bike ride. I’m bike camping at the end of the month. Being as I will be out of town on business the six days prior to my ride, I thought it best to figure out all the moving parts.

Biggest Moving Part

Myka wins the slot for the bike trip! It became evident that I was not prepared to haul my camping gear on Maya. Or had anything adequate for bikecamping on Maya. Or had done any sort of testing out hauling gear on Maya.

But Myka was ready for the call! Out comes the classic Ortleib panniers. Myka has done this haul before.

Off the Trainer

Myka has been my steady companion on the trainer all winter long. In fact, I just lifted her off, changed the back tire back to a road tire, and took her out into daylight.

Shake  Out Ride

I needed to feel how Myka would handle with a load. The biggest load I’ve ridden, in fact, since I will be tent camping and hauling everything. What a difference after riding Maya along!

It was a pretty chill ride. I basically stuffed my tent, bivy, binky, Jetboil, tool kit, water bottle into the panniners and took off riding. Originally, I  was not going to visit the eagle nest, as it is a hilly ride, but I thought, why not.

Eagle Update

I have an eagle’s nest about six  miles from my house. I have enjoyed watching mom and dad on the nest, and then the baby eaglets being hatched and hanging out. In April I started riding my bike over to the nest.

April view of the nest with Maya

It was always a good “destination” spot.  It looks like there is just one eaglet left (there were two originally.) None of the birders were hanging out, although some locals jumped out of their car to snap a pic with their cell phone.

The one eaglet left on nes