Monday, February 18, 2013

Planning your summer wilderness adventures, with some local stops

With the sky-rocketing price of gasoline, more and more people are looking to decrease there fuel bill every month.  At the same time we are all planning our summer get-a-ways.  By staying closer to home we can lower our fuel bill, and take advantage of the local wilderness opportunities that are less than 30 minutes from our front door.  Not only will these local adventures help your personal economy, they will also help to decrease your carbon footprint.

Increased environmental awareness has been all over the news recently, with more and more companies going "green."  Not only has this effected the business world, but it has also begun to reach into our vacation time as well.  Ecotourism is a growing movement, where people are utilizing their personal time to have a positive impact on the environment. 

According to The International Ecotourism Society, an ecotourist aims for responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.  While that may sound like a lofty goal, it can be as simple as driving less during your vacation.  Two local hiking trips, are less than 20 minutes away from anywhere in the city, and are great day trips to experience local wild places.

The first, and shortest of the two would a day trip hiking the Wintergreen Gorge.  The portion of Four Mile Creek upstream from Cooper Rd in Harborcreek is commonly known as the Wintergreen Gorge, and it offers some of the most beautiful scenery, and easy hiking trails, that the Erie area has to offer.  The picture above was taken after Super Storm Sandy deluged the area with rain.  The trail itself dries out quickly, but the creek is amazing to watch for hours, sometimes days after the rain.

To get there take east 38th St past the Bayfront Connector, and Bird Dr.  This is where east 38th St becomes Cooper Rd.  Continue on Cooper Rd and just past the intersection with Shannon Rd there is a bridge over Four Mile Creek .  On the eastside of the bridge is a convenient parking area

For a nice starter hike I would suggest starting from the parking area and follow the primary trail up through the woods.  This main trail follows along the base of the hill for about a quarter of a mile and stays between twenty and fifty yards from the creek itself.  In this portion of the trail there are several areas to cut over to the creek and enjoy the natural beauty of the running water. 

After about a quarter of a mile the trail does divide, with the main branch continuing up hill for another quarter of a mile, heading away from the creek and arriving at one of the back parking lots of Behrend College.  The trail does continue on from the parking lot, and at this point is about the size of a good mountain biking trail.  Approximately 200 yards up the trail from the college's parking lot is an overlook that has been well used over the years, but remains unimproved.  The overlook offers a wooded view up the rest of the Wintergreen Gorge, that is stunning any time of year.  However, when the leaves change in the fall the view is breathtaking.

If I am in the mood for a more rustic hike, I follow the main trail for about a quarter of a mile, until it divides and I will take the trail to the right.  This trail is smaller, and continues to follow the stream as it winds its way up through the Wintergreen Gorge.

As the crow flies, the gorge would be about one and a quarter miles, but since the creek winds back and forth, I would estimate the total hike of the stream bed to be about one and a half miles.   

The second, and most diverse, would be the series of trails that make up Asbury Woods Nature Center.  This 200 acre tract contains wetlands, trails, forests, streams, fields and historic properties.

There is a small network of trails around the Asbury Woods Nature Center on the east side of Asbury Rd just south of W 38th St.  These trails highlight the local ecology, and offer great learning opportunities for school age kids. 

On the west side of Asbury Rd, just across from the main entrance to the Nature Center, begins a large network of trails.  The primary trail system covers well over two and a half miles winding through diverse habitat, crossing Walnut Creek, and eventually working all the way around to Brown's Farm on Sterrettania Rd.  There are several unimproved trails that give access to remote fishing holes and beautiful cliffs along Walnut Creek.

Exploring the entire complex of trails can be done during the course of a day, by utilizing a map that is printable from  Of course all of the main trails are well marked, some even contain boardwalk areas in order to view wetland habitat.

As part of being an ecotourist, I want to leave the land better than I found it, so I always carry an extra plastic bag in my daypack.  This way should I encounter any trash along the trail, I can easily collect the trash, and dispose of it properly after my hike.   By committing to driving less while on vacation, and taking advantage of local wilderness adventures, we can all have a positive impact on our environment.

Over the next several months I plan to highlight even more local areas like these.

Happy Exploring!
Scott M

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