Saturday, February 16, 2013

PA Grand Canyon

My blog entries are normally 85% running stuff and 15% other.  Running for me lately has been up and down - both physically and mentally.  I had the opportunity to get away and go camping - something I don't get to do often but love.  I wanted to blog some of teh details to share but also to later refresh my memory on a great place. 

The place - PA Grand Canyon.  Camping at Leonard Harrison State Park - literally a few hundred yards from the overlook on the east rim.  Having been to the "real" Grand Canyon (as I described it to my 7 yr old), I was wondering how this would compare.  In reality I knew it wasn't even close in magnitude but PA has it's own unique beauty. 

We arrived late Friday afternoon - myself, my brother, a camping buddy and my 7 yr old son in tow.   After a 3 hour drive, we arrived to nice weather and pleasantly surprised to a decent campground.  This isn't always the case with state parks in PA.  The bathroom was nice and clean.  We set up, started a fire as the sun started to set and cooked some hot dogs over the flame.  But we knew the storm was coming - just praying it would blow to the north.  It started with the wind and then the rain.  We hunkered down under the canopy and just hung out for a while.  My 7 yr old just thought it was cool to play out in the rain at night.  Maybe it would have been but this front brought in cold air with it.  We ended up going to bed around 9 simply because it was cold and not much to do. 

After a cold rainy night, we woke early (thanks to my 7 yr old who has way too much energy) to a nice rising sun that eventually helped dry things out.  After a very full breakfast, we headed out to explore and hike the trails.  Because we were so close to the east rim, we were there at the overlook quickly and treated to a beautiful sight.  After some gawking and plenty of pictures we hiked a short trail - the overlook trail I believe it was called.  My 7 yr old says he enjoys hiking but always seems to complain during the beginning of a hike.  I think he might just become a trail runner as he was bombing his way downhill on the trail.  Normally I wouldn't care but since there is a nice drop on one side of the trail into the canyon, I had to squash that quickly.  After this trail we made our way down the Turkey Path Trail which led down to the canyon floor.  This trail is only one mile but was absolutely beautiful.  My standard of beautiful is certainly different than most as I think in terms of trail running.  The signs all said "Beware - this is a rugged and steep trail".  To me that meant it was probably perfect and it just about was.  It was one mile of pure switchback heaven. But there one problem - I was not running.  We were hiking.  All I kept thinking was I need to run this trail.  It was begging to be run.  But first , we hiked! We came to the bottom of the canyon floor to a beautiful sight of a wide creek meandering through the canyon.  There was also a rail trail that followed the creek.  There were many bikers using the rail trail on this day.  We sat on the creek on large flat rocks and ate some lunch and snapped some pictures.  We saw an unusualy sight - dozens of rock towers.  I have seen these before on trails but usually very small.  These were large (a couple huge towers) and wide spread over this part of the creek.  It was a strange occurence but rather interesting.  After relaxing for a bit on the rocks, we started our trek back up. 

Let me break for a moment to describe the trail:  From the top it starts with nicely groomed trail that would go for a few hundred yards and then turn sharply for a switchback.  After several of these the trail met up with a run that displayed numerous waterfalls and pools of water.  The trail portion became rugged and steep, sections of mini caves, steep ledges off to one side and many (many) steps.  Some years back steps were built in the more difficult sections to navigate.  My son counted 127 on the final section.  There were at least 3 other sections of steps and in between were sections of rugged trail.  The run of course made it's way to the creek at the canyon floor. 

Back to the climb back up.  It started with steps, and more steps and so on.  My 7 yr old took off and led us up the trail.  At times he is an endless ball of energy.  We made our way to the top in a much faster time than we descended mainly due to all the pictures we took on the way down.  Once at the top, I couldn't stop thinking about running that trail.  I contemplated doing it later that day but with all the people visiting, I thought I would get caught up in passing people and get annoyed.  So I waited until morning. 

And so it began, woke up the next morning.  It was cold.  I am not used to camping in the cold.  I was bundled beyond bundled.  I milled around for a bit trying to get warm by the fire.  And then I thought, there is no time like the present.  So I got ready and started on down the road towards the trails at the canyon.  One problem - the park didn't open until 9am and I was early.  There is no gate but there was a DCNR worker cleaning up around the entrance area.  So I went into stealth mode and found a trail that went around the entrance.  I was able to get a good warmup for 2 miles and then snuck my way behind the entrance.  It was here that I realized that there was a strange fog in the canyon making it impossible to see down to the canyon floor but there was also blue skies and the sun beaming down.  After gawking at this sight I took off down the Turkey Path Trail.  I figured I would have it all to myself and I did on the way down.  I had the time of my life.  I was flying down the switchbacks enjoying every single step.  It was one of those truly epic moments I will never forget especially descending into the foggy abyss.  The lower half of the trail is very technical and also has some stairs thrown in so I slowed down considerably.  As I got down to the canyon floor, I was out of the fog.  I looked up and could not see the blue skies.  This fog was settled in the middle of the canyon.  I figured I would add a little mileage so I ran a couple more miles out and back on the rail trail.  On my way back up the Turkey Path Trail, I pushed and pushed. It was tough but oh so fun.  I passed a few people coming down and realized the park had opened.  In the end I made good time ascending.  The imagery of this run will never leave me.  It has to be my favorite non-race trail moment up to this point in my life.
I can't wait to go back and run the Turkey Path again. 

Posting this 6 months after this trip, I still remember ths trails vividly. Unfortunately (for now) I cannot find my pictures of the area.  Until I can find them, you may have to use your imagination. 

1 comment:

  1. The PA Grand Canyon is one of my favorite places on Earth. I have hiked the Turkey Path Trail. Every year, we go on our annual "Canoe Trip" and stay at a campground in Cedar Run, PA, several miles south of Blackwell at the south end of the canyon. Saturday morning we shuttle the canoe-ers of the group up to the very northern end in Ansonia. Then we spend the day paddling back to the campground in Cedar Run. 22 miles in all, I believe. I haven't canoed in many years because my little ones are too little to take out on frigid water (we go the last weekend in April), but when we did canoe, we used to stop at various places and hike up the trails and up the various little no-name streams chasing waterfalls.

    Thanks for bringing back some great will soon be time to head up there once again....I am contemplating running the rail trail the whole way through the canyon this year....or perhaps biking it.