Miscellaneous Trips Spring 2022

Here is a compilation of miscellaneous hiking and scenic trips from spring 2022. Yes, some of these are not technically in the spring, but as a student, my definition of spring is quite generous and more in line with the academic calendar than the actual seasons.

Honestly, I didn’t get as many trips in as I’d hoped. I brought a car to Pittsburgh this semester, and I managed to schedule everything so that I had no classes on Monday or Friday. Unfortunately, some combination of being busier than expected, trying to be more involved on campus, and bad luck with the weather prevented me from taking more trips. The weather really was absolutely atrocious this semester, even by Pittsburgh standards. A local news article from April 8, 2022 was titled: “Pittsburgh has seen only four sunny days so far this year.”

Sandy Hook, NJ (12/31/21)

I took Annabel to Sandy Hook, where we strolled along the beach for a bit. Perhaps the most exciting thing that happened was seeing a rather cute red fox. Some pictures are included below for your viewing pleasure.

Red fox Asian man on log on beach Beach
The red fox, yours truly on a log, and the beach. (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

Although we didn’t know it at the time, she’ll be starting high school here in the fall, at MAST. I’m just a little bit jealous that I didn’t get to go to high school on the beach!

Paw Paw Tunnel, MD (1/29/22)

I went on a trip with the CMU Explorers Club to the Paw Paw Tunnel, part of the C&O canal towpath. The tunnel itself was interesting, and there was an okay view of the Potomac River. We were on the Maryland side of the Potomac and not the West Virginia side, much to the dismay of certain individuals who wanted to blast “Take Me Home, Country Roads” on the car.

Canal in brick tunnel View of snowy river
The Paw Paw Tunnel and the Potomac River. (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

We had a fairly strong turnout: we had three full cars (one of which was mine).

Frankfort Mineral Springs Falls, PA (2/12/22)

Having a free Saturday, I decided to drive by myself to Raccoon Creek State Park, which, at roughly thirty miles, is probably the closest park to Pittsburgh. There’s a small but pretty waterfall there: Frankfort Mineral Springs Falls. The access trail is quite short, but the icy conditions made it somewhat treacherous. Fortunately, I made it there without incident.

Icy waterfall Icy waterfall Ice formations in cave
The cold temperatures created interesting ice formations by the waterfall. (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

After seeing the waterfall, I hiked around the park for a bit, hitting about five miles in total.

Ohiopyle State Park, PA (4/2/22)

I organized a hiking trip for the ACF juniors (well, plus a senior and a sophomore). There was stronger interest than I had anticipated: ten people expressed interest, and eight people ended up going. We did seven miles, mostly on the Laurel Highlands hiking trail. There was quite a lot of climbing on the way out.

Winding river through hills
The vista overlooking the Youghiogheny River where we stopped for lunch. (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

Honestly, planning logistics for the trip was a bit of a frustrating experience, particularly because I don’t think everyone had the same expectations going into the hike. However, everyone had fun in the end, which is what matters.

Cherry Springs State Park, PA (5/10/22–5/11/22)

I organized another ACF trip, this time to go car camping and stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park. Cherry Springs has some of the darkest skies on the east coast: one can make out the Milky Way with the naked eye! We were blessed with perfectly clear skies, though it got a little chilly at night. (On the bright side, this meant that we didn’t have to worry about mosquitoes.)

Cooking food over campfire Corn with burn marks
I may have over-done it on some of the corn… (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

The stargazing was decent at the beginning of the night, but it really turned spectacular once the moon set sometime past 3:00 am. This was my first time seeing the Milky Way, which was quite a treat. None of us had fancy cameras, so we were stuck trying to take photos with our phones.

Josh managed to get some even better pictures on his phone, an iPhone 13.

(N.B. This is the last trip that happened before I originally made this post, but I think the following two entries fit the spirit.)

Raccoon Creek State Park, PA (5/21/22)

I went for a second time to Raccoon Creek, this time with some ACFers. Ingrid volunteered to plan the hike this time; it was nice not having to plan anything. The hike was nice, although we were sorely disappointed by the lack of raccoons (false advertising!).

On the way back, we stopped at Ikea, where we had their signature Swedish meatballs. I haven’t eaten at an Ikea in a while; I kind of missed the meatballs.

Allegheny National Forest, PA (5/24/22–5/26/22)

On the way back to New Jersey from Pittsburgh, I made a slight detour and spent two nights camping at Allegheny National Forest. The first day, I entered the forest from the south, driving along one of the many small forest roads looking for a dispersed campsite. I eventually found a rather nice one a short hike away from the road, situated next to a creek. I set up camp here and cooked some dinner, which did not turn out very well.

Campsite in the woods Mushrooms and peppers in wok
My campsite and dinner for the first night (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

What was most remarkable about the first night was the complete solitude: from the moment I entered the forest until the second morning (when I left for a more popular part of the forest), I neither saw nor heard a single other human or vehicle. Combined with the poor cell service, this made for quite a nice retreat from civilization. It was certainly very different from New York City, where I would be starting my internship in less than a week.

On the morning of the second day, I packed up camp and set off for a popular hiking trail in the forest. It turns out that Google Maps is not very good at knowing about random forest road closures, so the journey took a bit longer than expected. Still, I had plenty of time for a ten mile hike on the Rimrock Trail. I did get slightly lost in one section where the trail wasn’t particularly well-marked, but I managed to get back on the trail again after some searching. I saw a fair number of snakes and frogs, but not much else in the way of wildlife.

Stone monoliths in woods Log crossing over stream Trail signage
Scenes from the Rimrock Trail, including signage humor (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

To my great surprise, the Rimrock Trail doesn’t actually connect with the Rimrock Overlook, so I then proceeded to drive to the overlook to enjoy the view. It’s probably one of the prettier overlooks in Pennsylvania, and the steps carved into the surrounding rock face are kind of cool.

Afterward, I visited Kinzua Beach, but it was honestly nothing to write home about. The second night, I found another dispersed campsite and cooked some potatoes in a campfire. I came up with what I consider a particularly innovative way of cooking them, viz. smothering them under a log as if it were an oven. This worked out quite well, if I do say so myself.

Potatoes in campfire Potatoes under hot log Potato in makeshift chopsticks
My great culinary innovation (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

  1. Grammatically, I suppose that a copula ought to take a predicate nominative, but people would laugh at me if I used “I” rather than “me” here.↩︎