Multi-Modal Microadventures on the Rachel Carson Trail

Multi-Modal Microadventures on the Rachel Carson Trail

Thinking beyond the "out-and-back"

As a thruhiker, I always appreciate a grand adventure that takes me as far away from home as possible.

Seeking to replicate that big experience on a smaller scale here at home, I've developed an approach that maximizes the adventure factor. Avoiding the constraints and complications of the typical out-and-back or car shuttle trip, I've learned to incorporate multi-modal travel to unencumber myself and open up the possibilities. I'll hop a bus to the trail, then hike or run to the next transit stop or just hail a ride (Lyft, Uber) to get home. I can go however far I want, and I get a taste of that thruhiker freedom. Adding different modes of travel increases the psychological distance, amplifying a small adventure into something resembling an out-of-state, out-of-the-comfort-zone learning experience. On a deeper level, multi-modal travel puts me into contact with people and communities along the trail corridor, fostering a deeper understanding of our region.

Pittsburgh is extremely fortunate to have a transit-accessible trail of effectively unlimited length (RCT connects to the Baker Trail and North Country Trail, offering 5,000 miles of adventure between Vermont and North Dakota). Here are a few shorter transit-assisted trips I recommend for the RCT:

  • The eastern half of the RCT, from Harrison Hills Park to Springdale, is served by Port Authority 1 and P1 buses. I'll typically start at Bull Creek Rd in Tarentum and hike to Springdale, ending with a beer at the Leaning Cask Brewery.
  • North Park is accessible via the 12 bus terminating at the McCandless Park and Ride. It's a one-mile walk or bicycle ride into the park, and three miles to Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe, where I can reward myself for a trip well done. All Port Authority buses are equipped with bike racks.
  • Hartwood Acres Park is accessible via the 91 bus to Fox Chapel Rd. I'll load up on caffeine and calories at Getgo and take the Old Squaw Trail to the new Beechwood Connector and on to the RCT, turning either east or west to finish at either of the above locations.

Even if you'll be driving a car to the trail, I'd still encourage you to spice up your adventure by taking a bus or rideshare back to your car. Ride-hailing offers novel logistical solutions and affords an opportunity to meet the drivers, many of whom are from diverse cultural backgrounds. These exchanges transcend our siloed cultural bubbles and can be eye-opening and fulfilling. Thruhiking the Appalachian Trail taught me that the trip can be bigger than just the trail. So, go ahead and spice up your hike with some travel; turn that dayhike into a microadventure!blaze10.png 

David "Thatch" Fockler is an avid thruhiker and board member of the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy. His trail name, Thatch, was acquired in 2005 during his thruhike of the Appalachian Trail. He is a fierce advocate for expanding access to hiking and backpacking in our region.