Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Appalachian Trail Run: Cumberland Valley Crossing

Yesterday I went for a 16 miler on the Appalachian Trail with a  couple buddies.  We did the crossing of the wide Cumberland Valley in central PA, north-to-south.  Used to be that this section was totally on roads and was notoriously the pits, but in 1992 a relocation was completed that utilized woodlots, fencerows, etc. to make for a beautiful, almost secluded wooded trail corridor.

The day was beautiful, mild, and we saw lots of deer.  Plus a small flock of bluebirds along one of the ubiquitous fencerows.  The trail corridor is interesting in that as you pass north to south, you first come down off North Mountain to reach the valley proper.  Then in rapid succession you cross PA Rt 944 in a pedestrian tunnel under the road; cross I-81 on the highway bridge that carries Bernheisel Road over the interstate highway; cross U.S. Rt 11, the former main north-south corridor prior to I-81, on a pedestrian bridge; cross the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks at grade level; and cross the historic Pennsylvania Turnpike on the highway bridge that carries Appalachian Drive over the turnpike.

Admittedly I am a transportation geek, but objectively speaking, all of these crossings are just plain interesting, as they involve historical routes from the past and present.

Last item of note, I am normally rather sure footed, rarely falling, but near the end I took a hard fall.  Rather than try to catch my fall with my arms I just turned the fall into a buffalo roll where the brunt of the impact was absorbed across my chest, shoulder, and back as I rolled.  Thankfully I impacted nothing hard—like rocks—and am only minimally sore today.  But it could have been disaster.

All in all, a great run.  Nothing really exceptional about it, but that’s part of the beauty, I guess.  Runs don’t have to be spectacular, they can be just as gratifying when they are plain ordinary.  See, an ordinary run trumps a sedentary period of equal duration anytime.

After the run, when the car shuttling was over, I visited the Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch (also image credit for above shot) location where PA Rt 74 crosses North Mountain west of Carlisle, PA.  I have always wanted to scope out a migratory raptor viewing site, so this was my day.  The birds were sorta quiet this day—the recorder told me that they had had just 18 birds over about 4 hours that morning…but in rapid succession soon after my arrival 4 red-tailed hawks and a bald eagle cruised by on their way south!  So perhaps I brought good luck.

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