Dave Hurst column about having fun with outside recreation even after pandemic ends

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Our two-year (and counting) experience with the pandemic has held some silver linings amidst all the dark clouds. Rediscovering the joys of outdoor recreation is a good example.

Sporting goods retailers have long struggled to keep stocks in stock. There was a shortage of equipment and associated clothing everywhere.

Bike shops in particular suffered from crazy conditions. They could not store bikes in the showroom. People were filling workshops with — er, shall we say “classic” — bikes that had been sitting in garages and basements for decades, needing maintenance.

Now that it’s Spring 2022 and conditions are approaching normality (for now), don’t forget this two-wheeled companion that has kept you calm and sane at a time when both were threatened. Because your bike is still a good health machine.

This is not a new concept. Plug bike sayings into your favorite search engine and see what comes up:

“You mustn’t be sad while riding a bike” or this variant: “Smile more. Ride a bike”, both are not attributed. John F. Kennedy once said, “Nothing compares to the sheer pleasure of a bike ride.”

Sitting on the saddle, exerting energy and experiencing the physical world so directly combine in a beautiful, almost mystical way to focus the mind on the place and the moment. And interestingly, the effect of cycling can be the same whether you’re riding on a city street, a dirt road, a railroad track, or a single-lane forest.

Now that it’s May, we’ve reached the time of year where we can comfortably ride at each of these locations. And it’s also a good time to remember how blessed this region is with places to ride a bike – whatever your preferred cycling discipline.

If roads are your bike, the Laurel Highlands Bicycle Club has a helpful website, LHORBA.org, with information on routes and organized rides that run weekly from May through September. BlairBicycleClub.org is another good resource.

The Allegrippis Trail system at Lake Raystown is one of the most popular mountain bike systems in the east with 24 36 miles of singletrack trails and a skills park. From May 20th to 22nd, the family-oriented mountain bike festival Allegripis Trail Days is coming up. All information can be found on Raystown.org under activities.

The Quemahoning Trails around Quemahoning Lake in northern Somerset County is a fast growing mountain bike system with an equally fast growing popularity. It currently contains over 22 miles of finished trails with an additional 14-15 miles yet to be developed. Laurel Summit in Forbes State Forest, Blue Knob State Park and Resort and Highland Park in Johnstown all have extensive trail networks. Again, LHORBA.org is the place to go for information.

Railroads have exploded in the Alleghenies and are growing so fast it’s difficult to keep them all on track. The queen is the Great Allegheny Passage, which traverses our region from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland (and then on to Washington, DC as the C&O Canal Towpath). GapTrail.org.

The Trans Allegheny Trails are a 12-way system stretching west from Huntingdon County across the Allegheny Front through Cambria and Indiana counties to Westmoreland County. Most of these are rail tracks, but each has a distinctive personality and most have some quirks.

Information to help you navigate the Trans Allegheny Trails system is available at TransAlleghenyTrails.com or through an excellent new trail system map now available at most trailheads, the Indiana County Tourist Bureau and the Visit Johnstown Visitors Bureau should be. You can also email [email protected] and request that a card be mailed to you.

As we strive to put the pandemic behind us, don’t leave your bike there too. Life will always be frustrating, and your bike will always be your mental machine.

Your kayak may be different, but that’s a topic for another May day.

To reply to this column—or to read other of Dave Hurst’s columns—visit www.hurstmediaworks.com.