Most of the time my trips to Western PA are for a distinct purpose, a birthday, a holiday, a wedding, or a baby shower. This time the purpose is for another sacred holiday...hunting season. Now to explain something you may not understand (unless from PA) this is a holiday that will rival the importance of Christmas or the birth of your first born. This is a holiday schools are closed for and there is much anticipation/hype leading up to the 2 weeks most men and quite a few women become a ghost in their own home. Not to been seen awake or moving by the major of their family. The only other holiday that can rival hunting season is the first week of trout season but that is for another post. While I have not been hunting since a teenager, last year my husband took up hunting with my dad. Therefor even into my 30s as an Ithacan I still celebrate the Western PA holiday of hunting season.
Another special event around this time is my friend Kendra’s birthday luckily we are able to celebrate together! To make the weekend even better we decide to celebrate by attending a Penguins game. What else would 2 adult women from western PA want to do as a birthday celebration? NOTHING! The kicker to make this weekend even better, the Pens are playing the LA Kings! A little hockey factoid: Dustin Brown is the caption for the LA Kings and is from Ithaca! Obviously my second NHL team is the LA Kings! I even took a day off work to drove down early to make sure I had time to hang out with Kendra before the game. I love my job and don’t take time off work unless it is for a very special event such as my oldest friends birthday celebration! Unfortunately our plans had to change about a week before the game, do to a breastfeeding little one who is it bit too picky to take a bottle. Who else better to take Kendra’s position than her little mini-me. I am beyond excited to spend some time with Maylyn.
Friday rolls around I wake up early to squeeze in a run before we hop in the car for the trek to PA. I have some time to hang out at my parents before we meet up with Kendra’s husband and little girl to car pool to the ‘burg around dinner. We descend into Pittsburgh around dusk to see the lights of the city sparkle off the rivers. I am once again reminded how beautiful Pittsburgh.
The game was a nail bitter and I am reminded Pittsburgh is the best city to be a sports fan. After an overpriced yuengling, some nachos and ‘fake’ cheese, and a few games of “I spy” with Maylyn the game is in overtime. Too much dismay the Pens loose in a shoot out. The Penguins loss does not damper Marylyn’s spirits at all, and she is chattering just as much as when we arrived. I loved spending time with such a young happy spirit that has not been touched by the stress of life yet. I wish I had the same level of excitement, untamed laughter, and fresh outlook still flowed so freely from me. My appreciation of mothers with the patience of a saint and the strong arms of the hulk is renewed.
Due to the holiday of hunting season, I have a Saturday morning to spend on the trails. I decide to take this opportunity to revisit the site of my worst race every. Yellow Creek State Park in Penn Run, PA. I have previously been on some of these trails before at the Running with Deer Flies 25k, where I hit a major wall and felt like shit for the majority of the run. My plan is to run the Ridge top and Simpson Trail. It is also my hopes that this will be a safe location to run since it is hunting season and I don’t anticipate many hunters at Yellow Creek.
My plan for the day is to run 10 miles; I start with a loop around the Ridge Top trail that was only about 2 miles. I was unable to find any signs for the Simpson Trail; the only trails with signs are snow mobile trails and the Ridge Top Trail. Since I was only at mile 2 of my first loop with no sign directing me to Simpson Trail I decide to try to snow mobile trail. Along the trail I did see a few hunters dressed in their orange, which made me a bit unsettled. I was not necessarily unsettled because I was scared about being in the woods with a strange person with a gun but because I don’t really trust them to be very aware of their surrounds if they saw a deer. In hopes to avoid these hunters and some very soggy trails I veer on to what I hope is Simpson Trail. So far I have seen 2 hunters and 2 mountain bikers, none of which provided any friendly greetings. As I head down Simpson Trail I start to appreciate the solute I am find on deserted trails without any hunters. I start to relax a bit and enjoy my run with very little hills. Around 5 miles I take a bit of a break on a bridge to let Pepper go swimming. I notice another mountain bikers coming towards the bridge so I hop down on a rocky area to let him pass. He stops on the bridge and we chat about watches and hopes of the trail we are on being Simpson Trail. Thank-you random mountain biker for being the kindest person in Yellow Creek Park! I turn around and head back to the car. When just about at the car I see the trail that leads to a Waterfowl observatory, I obviously couldn’t pass this by without exploring. Even if it added more mileage then I was planning my interest was peeked and I went down the trail. I arrive at the waterfowl observatory to it all board and locked up for the winter but it is December. These things happen I will have to go back in the summer to check out the inside of the tower.