Last week I said I had been waiting five long months to write my first of spring column. I played golf with girlfriends on Thursday April 10, my first crocus bloomed on Saturday April 12 and the first daffodils furled out the next day thanks to the 76° warm afternoon. I can see tiny blades of green showing like a young man’s first beard through the dried brown winter grass in my yard. I haven’t seen a single weed yet, but this year I will rejoice at that sight too.
My garden lies in wait for George Albright, III to come with his tiller and compost moving equipment. That job will be done by the end of the month and then the soil will be warm enough for cool crop planting. I saw the first signs of buds on a maple tree that grows in a northern exposure close to our upstairs bathroom window. It is the first ones I always notice. The birds are definitely singing, chirping and flying around my yard this week.
My spring 2014 walking/hiking program has begun. Since April 1 I have logged 26.5 miles over 8 outings. That’s a little more than 3 miles each time, but the hikes can have very different features and no two are alike.
As Mountaintop is just that, mountainous with numerous hills and inclines and downhills to match, there is always a variety in the terrain. Hiking/walking outside is far more challenging that turning up the “hills” feature of a treadmill or stair stepper. Each step outside engages my whole body in the effort.
Straight out my door in Wilderness Estates in Rice Township we have “heart attack hill”. I don’t want to get one, so the exertion that comes with climbing that first hill is preventive medicine. Once at the top I turn left at our infamous Heslop Road and walk on down through the woods and streams on the public road toward the Pennsylvania State Gamelands (PGA). It is exactly one mile from my house to the end of the graveled part of the road, where a gate was erected last September 2013 blocking travel for vehicles.
Last Saturday I was delighted to see that Heslop Road had been graded for the 520-foot stretch between the end of the pave to the gate area. Rice Roadmaster Mark Taney confirmed that the adjacent property owner James Karpinski had called him about the road. Taney replied that the township had no plans for working on it now but that if Karpinski wanted to grade it that was fine with him. “We have 21 miles of paved roads in Rice now and we don’t own a grader,” Taney told me. Taney said he did not know who had graded the 500-foot extension past the pave.
The trail then goes up at another uphill grade eventually becoming a somewhat steep rocky and water eroded trail/road. The PGA sign is .2 from the end of the graded gravel and 1.3 miles from home. Next up is an even steeper grade. Think about Route 309 when it was built a hundred years ago up the mountain. Up, up, up I go again carefully stepping on rocks of all sizes and leaves filling in the spaces to the next flat area. Although this portion is only another .1 mile (520 feet) my heart is beating a lot faster and my thighs in training are getting a workout.
Ahhh, a little rest at the top and the grassy road ahead is a welcome change with its slightly uphill grade. Another .1 mile and the trail takes another challenging uphill position. I’m in it for the duration now. I will go all the way to the crushed drainpipe, where there are so many washed out rocks over the trail that only the most fearless with their big trucks can pass. The drainpipe destination is 1.8 miles from home and only .8 from the nice flat graded and graveled road I left behind. My first mile takes only about 22 minutes. The second mile takes me twice as long.
My round-trip trek is 3.6 miles. I tack on two extra laps at the end of Wilderness Drive and I’ve got my 4-mile outing on record. I won’t go past the crushed drainpipe for another month or so. I need to build my stamina to complete the additional mile all the way to Brown Street in Fairview Township. The uphill grade will go another half mile or less and then the trail will be easily passable for the final half mile.
My daughter Lara does the
walks all summer while staying with us in Mountaintop. She won’t be here until July 1 and by then I hope I will have conquered the outing.
I hope the Rice Road department plans to remove the gates and posts and to do some grading someday. Heslop could be passable all the way through to Fairview Township for the public to enjoy. The total unimproved length of Heslop to Brown Street is 2 miles. Think of it as a Road to Trails project.
Heslop Closed Just last week a pole connecting a
live power line from a private yard on Heslop Road to the PPL pole in Rice Township fell over taking the line over the roadway. Emergency personnel were called including the Wright Township Fire Company. Heslop was closed for more than an hour waiting for PPL and then for the live line to be taken out of harm’s way. With Heslop closed there was no alternative access or way to escape. I suppose it is the price we pay for living in rural paradise.
Kevin Tombasco from Tombasco Tree Service had been taking down part of a large tree next to the road at the time the pole fell down. He told me that it was rotted through and nearly hit him as he worked from his elevated bucket position.
The incident was an inconvenience for neighbors, but we all jumped out of our cars to discuss the event.
Masters Tournament The 2014 Masters Tournament
had some personal significance for our family this year. Charlie Grubert enjoyed the event in Augusta, Georgia with his brothers Artie and Bob and Bob’s son Bobby Grubert. As beautiful as the course looks on TV the real experience is amazing, Charlie reported after he returned home.
The Masters winner, this year it was Bubba Watson, is awarded