By: Amy Nelson, Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy, Member and Volunteer
In 2015, three friends and I did the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge for the first time. We were avid road runners, bored with the monotony of pavement. A 34-mile trek through the woods seemed like a great way to mix things up. Cut to the day of the event. Twenty miles into it, we experienced a torrential downpour which caused mud slides on some of the steepest hills. Mother Nature can be cruel. By the time the last five miles rolled around our spirits were broken and we prayed for it to be over. We made it to the finish line, all of us exhausted and in varying levels pain. For me, that would be the beginning of my love for trails.
Three of us have gone back to do the Challenge again. And again. In 2016, I joined the Conservancy’s Promotion Committee. Next up, the board. My passion for trail running has continued to grow and I’m thankful for the volunteer opportunities that the Conservancy offers.
This year’s Rachel Carson Trail Challenge takes place on Saturday, June 23. Registration opens this Thursday, March 1, and will likely hit maximum capacity by mid-April. What many don’t realize is that there are a variety of other Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy (RCTC) events and programs beyond the annual Challenge. Consider the following.
1. The 100-mile Quest program is a simple concept that aims to motivate. Within one year of signing up, tackle 100 miles on any of the RCTC trails and you will earn a limited-edition RCTC Quest patch and a personalized certificate at no cost. Visit our Quest page for free registration. If you’re planning to do the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, all of your training hikes/runs, along with the Challenge itself, count toward your Quest patch. If you live in the North Hills area of Pittsburgh, we’ve added nearly seven new miles of yellow-blazed trail (Quest-patch eligible miles!) in North Park, affording more convenient access to the trail for many. The Conservancy offers group hikes for every season of the year. Get out there and earn your patch!
2. The RCTC Geotrail is great way to become acquainted with the trail while incorporating the fun of geocaching. If you have kids, this is a great opportunity to get them outside. There are a total of 40 caches on the RCTC Geotrail. If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. Check out our RCTC Geo page for more details as well as links to general geocaching instructions. You’ll be a pro before you know it. (Accrue Quest patch miles while Geocaching!)
3. The Baker Trail UltraChallenge is the perfect trail race for runners of all levels. If you are an experienced ultra runner, the 50-mile race may be right up your alley. For the novice to experienced runner (and fast hiker), get yourself a relay team and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the trails while competing against other relay teams. Much like the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, the aid stations are amazing and the volunteers are the best! (Accrue Quest patch miles while racing!)
These are just a few of the programs the Conservancy has to offer. Stay informed by bookmarking our website. Join us on Facebook for some fun discussions and check out our Instagram feed for amazing photos. Most importantly, get out on the trails!