Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hiking Through the Northern Suburbs with Rachel Carson

The Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy seeks to bring more people into the natural world via an increasingly interconnected network of suburban trails.





 

In mid-June, 70-year-old Ken Zellars will embark on his 20th Rachel Carson Trail Challenge. It’s a sunrise-to-sunset, 35-mile race along the rugged course as it zigzags through Allegheny County. 

Zellars, who grew up in the North Bessemer section of Penn Hills, has an impressive resume as a runner, having completed the Pittsburgh Marathon 15 times and the Boston Marathon three times, among other grueling feats.

In recent years, however, he’s abandoned the pavement — he ran his last street race in 2011 — to focus on the trails of western Pennsylvania, particularly those maintained by the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy.

“I got a bug,” the Valencia resident says. “Once I got on the trails, road races just weren’t my cup of tea anymore.” 
 


 

Named to honor Pittsburgh native Rachel Carson, whose research and writings helped launch the modern environmental movement, the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy (rachelcarsontrails.org) is a Wexford-based nonprofit with a goal of connecting people to the natural world. It does so primarily through the stewardship of more than 170 miles of trails, which traverse seven counties in western Pennsylvania.

Three trails receive the conservancy’s primary focus: The 133-mile Baker Trail, a hiking and backpacking trail that ends in the Allegheny National Forest; the 44.8-mile Rachel Carson Trail, which runs through North Park to Harrison Hills Park; and the 1-mile, limestone-paved Harmony Trail situated between Route 910 and Richard Road in Wexford.

High-visibility examples of the conservancy’s impact include the footbridge it added in 2018 over Wexford Run, where the western terminus of the Rachel Carson Trail meets the Harmony Trail. This summer it plans to re-roof the Crooked Creek Covered Bridge on the Baker Trail. A great amount of its work, however, consists of what Board President Bob Mulshine calls, “incremental improvements,” such as a 750-foot extension of the Harmony Trail they also intend to complete this year.
 


 

That added footage, while seemingly inconsequential when considering the other 897,600 feet of trails the group manages, has big potential. It will bring the Harmony Trail closer to a long-term goal, Mulshine says: a regional loop that would connect all of the conservancy’s trails. A project under exploration for Wall Park in McCandless could link to the Harmony Trail, and elsewhere to a proposed Commodore Perry Regional Trail in Cranberry, Pine, Adams, Jackson and Marshall townships. 

“Every little step brings us closer to another connection,” he adds. “By us making a move on things that we can control, it gives other groups that have similar goals of getting people outside and connecting to nature a target as well.”  

Funding for these projects, and several others planned for 2019, comes from personal and corporate donations, government grants and annual events, including the one-day, 50-mile Baker Trail Ultra Challenge and the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge. The latter event has grown so popular since it was first staged 23 years ago that there is now a lottery system to select the 600 participants. 
 


 

Board member Donna Stolz stresses that the conservancy relies entirely on the efforts of volunteers; last year, more than 400 helpers logged 5,000-plus hours of work. “We’re always looking for people who have similar goals in their lives and want to get out and be in nature,” Stolz says. “We have lots of big things planned, but we can’t do it alone.

“The keys of [Carson’s] writing were to get people so excited about being outside — and to preserve what we have. If we can do that in a meaningful way by providing ways of getting people into the woods just to see what’s out there, then maybe we’ll be better stewards of this land,” she says. 
 
Zellars says the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge is one of his favorite events, due to the steep terrain. He holds the distinction of having completed the challenge the most times; he’s also the first person to complete both the 100 Mile Quest (hiking 100 miles of conservancy trails in one year) and the Geotrail, a geocaching adventure that follows all 44.8 miles of the Rachel Carson Trail. Time spent on the trails maintained by the conservancy provides him with a connection to the earth and a break from the stresses of modern society.

“If I’m having a mentally down day or am feeling stressed out, nothing does me better than a walk in the woods,” he says.  

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

The 400-Word Review: The Lion King

Despite a great voice cast, the new version of "The Lion King" was a bad idea from the start.

Why These 6 Days in 1969 Were So Important to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but we're not the only ones. We take a look at six notable events from 1969.

Women in Power: The Pros Changing Allegheny County

Allegheny County breaks the old boys’ club by placing women in key positions.

Growing Together: Farmers and Chefs Elevate Pittsburgh Dining

These seven farmer/chef pairings are leading the charge toward more vital vegetable dishes.

Afraid to Go to the Dentist? Consider the Sedation Solution

For some patients, dental work wouldn’t be possible if they were fully alert.

Restaurant Review: Spirits & Tales at the Oaklander Hotel

Executive chef Jessica Lewis’ strong voice is undermined by inconsistencies throughout the restaurant.

Perspectives: A Big Life

A former newspaper reporter's assignment leads to a lifelong friendship with a man who battled a food addiction.

Our 50 Years: Why This Movie Landed on Our Cover

Hollywood could be found on the Mon, quite literally, in 1993 — leading to some fawning coverage of the mostly forgotten (but very, very Pittsburgh-centric) action flick “Striking Distance.”

George S. Kaufman’s Sensational Scandal

The Pittsburgh-born playwright made tabloid headlines in the 1930s. (it didn’t slow him down a bit.)

You Can Ride a Roller Coaster Classic

Roller coaster history is hidden nearby — and not where you might think.

Tea, Cake and Death: A Safe Place to Discuss a Scary Subject

“Death Cafes” seek to reduce taboos around the act of dying.

How He Makes the Mundane Sound Magical

Experimental sound artist R. Weis creates otherworldly sonic compositions from everyday materials.

Uber’s New Service Puts Riders in the Driver’s Seat

Passengers in Pittsburgh now can pay for a most customized experience with Uber Comfort.

The 400-Word Review: Secret Obsession

Netflix is on a bit of a hot streak with its original thrillers. Unfortunately, this dud isn't part of it.

After Dark Hall of Fame: Primanti Bros.

The beloved bar-and-restaurant chain has become a Pittsburgh emblem. It's the 10th inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Uber’s New Service Puts Riders in the Driver’s Seat

Uber’s New Service Puts Riders in the Driver’s Seat

Passengers in Pittsburgh now can pay for a most customized experience with Uber Comfort.

Comments

Do You Want to Pay More Taxes to Improve Parks?

Do You Want to Pay More Taxes to Improve Parks?

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy hopes to restore the city’s parks to their former glory, but they may need a tax increase to do so.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
The Latest Restaurant and Bar Openings in Pittsburgh

The Latest Restaurant and Bar Openings in Pittsburgh

We say hello to a new concept from Justin Severino, a summer-long dance pop-up and a new spot for cocktails.

Comments

Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 4 Recent Dishes I Loved

Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 4 Recent Dishes I Loved

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein says a corned beef sandwich, Sichuan smashed eggplants, smoked chicken wings and a cornbread dessert have his attention.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

For those who can’t stand the idea of leaving their dogs home alone on a beautiful day, these dog-friendly stores, restaurants and bars in the Pittsburgh area welcome humans and canines alike.

Comments

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

Even novice runners can work their way up to these fun and (mildly) challenging races.

Comments


After Dark Hall of Fame: Primanti Bros.

After Dark Hall of Fame: Primanti Bros.

The beloved bar-and-restaurant chain has become a Pittsburgh emblem. It's the 10th inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Comments

The Park After Dark

The Park After Dark

Kennywood’s “Night Rider” tickets may be the best bet for many visitors.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates’ Possibilities Include Contention in Surprising Season’s Second Half

Pirates’ Possibilities Include Contention in Surprising Season’s Second Half

It hasn’t gone according to the original script, but the Pirates have found a way to stay relevant — and may yet be capable of finishing what they started.

Comments

Pens’ Conundrum: The Coach and the Culture

Pens’ Conundrum: The Coach and the Culture

Try as he might, General Manager Jim Rutherford has so far been unable to change the makeup of his team as intended. It may, thus, ultimately fall on head coach Mike Sullivan to adjust the attitudes of players with a recent track record of resisting change for the greater good.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: The Lion King

The 400-Word Review: The Lion King

Despite a great voice cast, the new version of "The Lion King" was a bad idea from the start.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Secret Obsession

The 400-Word Review: Secret Obsession

Netflix is on a bit of a hot streak with its original thrillers. Unfortunately, this dud isn't part of it.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Book a Band for a Different Kind of Wedding Sound

Book a Band for a Different Kind of Wedding Sound

For many couples, family and tradition means everything. Having a band that helps reflect those can be a great way to pay tribute to your heritage, while getting your guests on the dance floor.

Comments

Eleven Couples to be Married after Love at First Bite

Eleven Couples to be Married after Love at First Bite

Wedding bells will be chiming for multiple couples this weekend … and it’s taking place at Primanti Bros. in the Strip District.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
5 Pittsburgh Vintage Homes Stores You'll Want to Explore

5 Pittsburgh Vintage Homes Stores You'll Want to Explore

PM Editoral Intern Ellie Pesetsky shares some of her favorite up-cycled furniture and home decor stores in and around Pittsburgh.

Comments

Oakmont Glassware Company Looking to Join the Big Time

Oakmont Glassware Company Looking to Join the Big Time

Amanda Lee began painting glasses in her basement to help pay for her college education. Today, she ships her products across the globe from a new, shabby-chic warehouse and gift shop.

Comments