Marty McFly went to 2015, not 2012.

THERE HAS BEEN A PHOTO circulating on the Internets lately of Marty McFly from the movie “Back to the Future”. In the movie, inside the DeLorean is the LED display for the flux capacitor stating that 2012 was the year Marty went into the future. The picture is a hoax. Marty was sent to the year 2015. However, it had me thinking. In the time machine/DeLorean, Marty came from 1985 before he started moving back and forth in time. What was I doing in 1985?
Ah, 1985! People were rocking out to the catching hooks of Huey Lewis and the News (Back to the Future Reference #1 [B2TF-R #1]), hairstyles were as high and vast as the Rocky Mountains, and I was pounding the pavement in my new pair of British Knights and Red Reeboks. (Those Reeboks were stolen from me when I was at Sir Skate one evening. I am still very bitter about it.) I was just starting junior high school. Back then, I wanted to be a writer. Many years later in college, I realized that one needs good grammar skills to become a writer. Who knew? Anyhow, I did manage to write my first magazine article and at the age of 12 I was published. I wrote a story about mountain biking at Trough Creek State Park in South Central PA that appeared in Mountain Bike Magazine. (I am still trying to locate that article but to no avail.) Being the introspective and sentimental renaissance man that I am, on a humid Saturday afternoon in July I took a drive down to Trough Creek, this time to run the trails. Roads? Where I was going, I don’t need roads! (B2TF-R#2) It is 2012 and we are nowhere near to getting the hoverboards (B2TF-R #3) we were promised, but perhaps a pair of trail shoes could be a lot more fun?

ALL THROUGHOUT MY CHILDHOOD and into high school, I would be at Trough Creek about five to ten times a summer. I loved it there. I would hike and mountain bike, not only through the state park but also up into the state forest lands to the south and east of Lake Raystown in a region called ‘The Barrens’ – not to be confused with The Barrens southwest of State College, PA. I had little interest in swimming and boating due to my buoyancy issues (I can’t swim) and I was more interested in the mountains. Back in the early to mid-eighties, I had one of the first mass-produced mountain bikes. I think it was called the Schwinn Iron Horse or something like that. It was the days before fancy metals like aluminum and chro-molly. Changing gears were akin to navigating the throttle controls of a steamboat and having 15 gears seemed almost too much for most minds to comprehend who where more accustomed with Atari 2600’s and manual crank car windows. While I was writing this blog, I tried to find my old bike. My dad has it but it is somewhere out there hidden underneath a drainage tunnel somewhere within 50 miles of my parents home. My father, a Wolverine high school alum, (not a Back to the Future reference but to another 80’s movie, ‘Red Dawn’) has items like tools, bicycles, propane cylinders and ammunition hidden throughout the three-county region — just in case. Back in the Eighties it was in preparation if the Soviets attack. Today, it is zombies and aliens.
When I wrote the article for the magazine, mountain bikes were so new, Pennsylvania’s DCNR did not have a policy on them. Today, you can not take your mountain bike on the trails within the park so now your only option is to walk — or run. As a kid, the park seemed huge. I recall pretending that imaginary evil men chased me with bazookas as I hiked atop the cliff edges on Ledges Trail. Why would Libyan terrorists (B2TF-R#4) chase a 12-year old boy through a state park is a great question but at that age one isn’t concerned with plot holes.

Cooperas Rock

I STARTED MY TRIP NEAR Copperas Rock, up Copperas Rock Trail, along the side of the gorge and back down to the creek on Rhodendron Trail, (which seemed more technical than I remembered it) past the Swinging Bridge and Rainbow Falls. If you want to see something really cool, go to the park around mid-August. About 90 minutes to 2 hours before sunset, a shaft of light will appear above Rainbow Falls and strike the ground along the steps leading up to Balanced Rock. The cliff edge to the right above the falls is so fractured, there is a hole in the side of the cliff, allowing a beam of light to go through. I would imagine as a child that the beam of light was a booby trap that Indiana Jones has to walk around in like in that cave in Peru. (Okay, that was not Back to the Future reference but Back to the Future was produced by Spielberg, who also directed Raiders of the Lost Ark.) On this day there were no light beams to dodge as I ran up the hallow and made the switchback up to Balanced Rock.

Rainbow Falls

After taking a rest for a few moments at Balanced Rock, I hopped and jumped down the trail and took notice of a couple walking the trail below the boulder. I am about to confess to a secret… There are times, satisfying little moments, that feel great to be a fit and healthy runner. This is one of those times. I call these moments a “MILF moment”. Here is the breakdown: I was running down the path from Balanced Rock. I immediately noticed that I caught her eye. She locked her gaze on me as I ran toward them, giving me an awestruck look much like the look Lorraine Baines gave Marty McFly/Calvin Klein in her bedroom. (B2TF-R#5). She smiled cunningly and flirted with her eyes. Then she looked over to her husband, who in the these situations is always either overweight or unattractive. This woman had at least four points over the guy – she is an 8, he was a 4. She looked back at me and sighed. I chuckled under my breath. Hee hee. Brawah-ha-ha.

Balanced Rock on the edge above Trough Creek

At the top of Terrace Mountain, Brumbaugh Trail finally opens up for some good running.

I TOOK BRUMBAUGH TRAIL up to the top of Terrace Mountain. It was mess. Even though the trail was marked with orange blazes, they were faded and difficult to see. There were frequent blowdowns that coincidently occurred at critical turns, and large sections of the trail that were overgrown. My legs suffered the brunt with scratches and abrasions from the thorns and brairs that stung the more I sweat. However, the trail did reward me with a great section of singletrack at the very top of the ridge with Lake Raystown to my left and the gorge to my right. This section was short lived as I slowly made my way closer back to the creek and the trail again become a tangled mass. Many years ago as a teen I tried climbing the trail in the reverse direction on my bike but lost sight of the trail and gave up. Running down the trail, instead of up, it is not hard to see why I failed to follow the trail through the dense brush.

Overgrown Brumbaugh Trail

I finally made it to Forge Road that paralleled the creek. I looked at my GPS and was surprised to have ran only three miles even though it felt like six miles. I decided to explore in a direction I never tried before when I was a kid. I would run along Lake Raystown and travel south along its shore on a trail called Terrace Trail. The unspoken code of the trail running states that one shall never regret any trail one runs on. Adhering to this oath, I have no regrets. But the trail was not what I expected. I was hoping for a section of fast and well-worn singletrack. What I found was another trail overgrown with briars and overhanging trees that I had to cut a swath with my arms as if my forearms were machetes to make any forward progress. Every five feet I would run into a spiderweb – the nearly invisible strands covered my face and I could feel spiders crawling over my neck, face and hair. I looked like Indiana Jones after he tried to outrun the rolling boulder in the cave somewhere in the Peruvian jungle. (another Raiders reference.)

Rocks along Terrace Trail. Could the Broad Top Snake be lurking here?

ALONG THE TRAIL, I SAW AN outcrop of rocks that I had to squeeze between it and the lake. This looked like a possible home for the Great Broad Top Snake. According to local legend, the Great Broad Top Snake is probably not one snake but a species of large snake, unknown to science, that lives in the region from Lake Raystown to the west and Tuscarora Mountain to the east. Here, a large black snake, as round as a telephone pole and anywhere from 15 to 25 feet long, calls this remote section of South Central PA its home. Jon Baughman, local author and newspaper reporter for the Broad Top Gazette wrote about the snake in his book “Tales of the Broad Top”.
Another confession: My father and I are eyewitnesses of this monstrous snake. We were mountain biking many years ago near the town of Wood, racing downhill on a remote backcountry logging road. I saw the same thing as my father but for this blog I interview him and he gave me this account:

“We were flying down the road when I see what I think is a log up ahead crossing the road. Then I realized that this log was moving! My son and I slammed on the brakes and we watched a large black snake – about 20 feet in length – climb up a sharp embankment at a speed faster that anyone could run. Instead like other snakes that slither with its head tight to the ground, the head of this snake was arched up like a cobra – about six inches off the ground. The huge snake, taken by surprise when we came down the road so fast, was knocking down sticks and plants in its path trying to get away from us as fast as it could. I have been in the woods my entire life and encountered dozens of snakes including large copperheads and rattlesnakes – but it is the first time I was actually scared for my life!”

In another account from the family, my grandmother told me that about 45 years ago she was traveling down a paved road where the lake is today. She ran over what she thought was a log but stopped the car and turned around to discover the log was gone and nowhere in sight.
Passing the rocks, it was a good place for me to do a farklet.

AFTER ABOUT A MILE OR two, I had enough of the trail, turned around, and made my way back to the state park. I ran down into a glade of pines along the creek to see some kids “trapped” on a rock in the middle of a deep part of the creek where it empties to the lake. As I looked to my side at the kids jumping off the rock, I literally ran into a large pine tree and I fell to the ground. I was knocked down senseless, much like when Doc Brown was hanging a picture in the bathroom and hit his head on the toilet. (B2TF-R #6). But instead of having a “eureka moment”, I just laid there for a few moments on a bed of pine needles and thought about how stupid I was.

The footbridge over Trough Creek

I got up, brushed myself off, ran past the remains of the old gist mill and dam and onto the Hobbit Bridge over the creek. (LOTR reference. I call it the “Hobbit Bridge” because the hand railing only comes up to just below my knees.) Across the creek, I ran along a closed park road along the lake. I stopped to watch a teenager swing off a rope swing and into the lake. What nonsense! Letting go of a rope and utilizing momentum and gravity to be dropped into the water is stupid. The smart thing to do is to never get wet in the first place. Dumb kids! The road dead ends at a spot where several people had parked their boats along the shore – which to took them by surprise when I appeared out of the wilds. I took the other section of Terrace Trail but this time to the north. I made it several hundred years when this section was also too overgrown to be enjoyable to keep up a good pace.
I turned around, again back into the park, and took a few moments to cool in the Ice Mine. The Ice Mine is a mine shaft that may have been dug by prospectors looking for iron ore. Iron ore was not discovered but the prospectors did create a natural refrigerator. This has been formed in the shaft by the freezing and thawing of the rocks, melting snows and humid summer air. The rocks freeze in winter, contracting and allowing air to fill the empty spaces. Melting snow flows into the cave and is refrozen as ice. The ice remains thanks to cool air flowing down the mountainside and humid air rising up the mountain into the shaft. This process keeps the mine shaft icy until late summer.

AFTER THE CHILL-DOWN, I ran toward the park campground. Back in high school, I think it was Memorial Day weekend of my senior year – just a week or two before graduation – when a few friends of mine and I spent the weekend camping here. It was a dark night, when we were running around in the dark with some girls when the girls suggested something a bit… lets say, more provocative. Being the sex-starved high school boys that we were, my friend David and I were all up for it. However, my other friend Kevin, was not. As we talked to the girls on a picnic bench, Kevin started to throw stones at us from the shadows. Nothing breaks up the mood like being stoned — in the Biblical sense. So kids, here is some advice, “If you want to get laid, don’t have your friends stone you.” — (Forget what I said. That is awful advice! Don’t listen to your Uncle Ben!) I caught up with David just last week after not seeing him for about ten years. He also recounted that same weekend as the weekend when our camp neighbors played CCR until four in the morning each night. Good times… Proud Mary keep on burnin’…

Washout on Laurel Run Trail. I think I can jump it!

Backtracking to the Ice Mine, I ran up a rocky and technical grade called Boulder Trail and then made a left turn onto Laurel Run Trail. Even though I have been to this park many dozens of times as a kid, I had never been on this trail. It climbed the edge of a small ridge, crossed Terrace Road and then desended down into Laurel Run. A bit more technical with rocks, it was actually a very fun run down into Laurel Run and back toward Trough Creek. Looking at the map, I was surprised as how long the trail was – about three times longer than I anticipated – and how one section of the trail climbed high above the run and then down again in a beautiful section of white pines. It seems like Old Man Peabody had a crazy idea of breeding pine trees. (B2TF-R #7)

One of many signs in the park. This sign was on Boulder Trail.

Along Laurel Run, I came across several sets of washed out bridges and then finally on another section of Boulder Trail that climbed out of the hallow and again up to Terrace Road. Then came a section of trail that I have been looking forward since coming to the park. It is a section of singletrack where Boulder Trail gets its namesake by hopping and skipping along a knife edge of rocks and boulders and then makes several fast switchbacks down the side of the hill to the valley below. Trail runners often have a medical condition where the trail gives them spells of euphoria and giddiness. This was one of those times.
I made it back on the main road through the park. I still needed some more miles so I ran past the car, then back up Cooperas Rock Trail. This time instead of making the right on Rhodedendron Trail, I continued up Cooperas Rock Trail and climbed out of the gorge. I decided to push myself, running harder than I had the entire day. It was a very humid day and every inch of me was soaked in sweat. Running up the grade, I ran into the Von Trap family of about twenty children with aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. “Children! Clear the path for the runner so he doesn’t have to loose momentum” said the clan’s matriarch. The faux-Julie Andrews is a very nice lady.

HERE IS A QUESTION: When I was a kid, I hiked, mountain biked and spent about as much time in the woods as I do now. I would recall that there were more hiking, mountain bike and ATV trails than they are now. Why is that? As a society, have we become more lazy? Are property owners more restrictive with land use? Here is another observation: It seems that more people are out enjoying our state parks. However, they seldom venture far from their vehicles. Our state parks seem to be utilized by more people yet they explore less the trails that venture far from the beaten path.

Lookout over Trough Creek Gorge along Ledges Trail

I made my way up to the top of the gorge and made a right on Ledges Trail which kisses the side of the gorge. I ran down a steep rocky staircase to one of my favorite overlooks peering over the gorge. Then I made another technical descent into the hallow above Rainbow Falls and onto Forge Road. Then I took the road to where I crossed it early in my run and onto Brumbaugh Trail and then toward Raven Rock Trail and back to Balanced Rock. If you try to find Brumaugh Trail toward Balanced Road along Forge Road, the trail takes a slight dip to the right below the camp with the ‘No Trespassing” signs.

This pic was taking the day after the run. My legs are scratched up.

After Balanced Rock, I ran down the steep switchback trail to the stone steps toward Rainbow Falls.

“How can you do that so fast? I’m scared just walking down the steps” said a gawking teenager on the stairs to the falls.

Okay, I will admit it, I was showboating. Kids! Don’t showboat! Listen to your Uncle Ben!

I RAN PAST THE FALLS AND photobombed some people taking pictures of the falls. I then pasted more people as I ran down Rhodedendron Trail – telling those ahead that I was approaching from behind. Then came the swinging bridge across Trough Creek. As with most swinging bridges, they have an ‘amplitude’ – a tendency to bounce as you go over them. With this bridge if you cross the bridge at the right speed and stride length, the bounce of the bridge will match your foot strike and lift. On the third bounce, I hit it just perfect, the beams crossed (Ghostbuster reference) and I am propelled 10 to 12 feet forward in one stride!! Any farther and I would have been shot onto the trees on the shore!
I scrambled out to the road and then down to the car. I looked at my watch and I needed to leave immediately. I was OUTTA TIME. (B2TF-R3 #8). I had no cooldown or stretch since I had to be back in town to see a concert that evening. I am soaked in sweat. If I could draw a picture of myself at that moment, I would have a dozen “stink lines” radiating from my body. I also learned that my GPS was unable to get a good track of my route, truncating a lot of my route with straight lines instead of my actual route but my guess is that I did about 15 miles.

If you go: The park can be reached by traveling 16 miles south from Huntingdon along PA 26, then five miles east along PA 994 near the village of Entriken.