Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — June 2005

Area Near Proposed Landfill Still a Worthy Hiking Destination

by Dave Coleman

In this space last fall, Ben Cramer wrote about the potential ecological impacts from the proposed Snowshoe (Rush Township) landfill, as well as the 19-mile-long rail-to-trail that follows Moshannon Creek from Winburne to Clarence and passes through the area in which the landfill is proposed.

Cramer wrote that this is a private trail — open to members and guests only. Since then, it has been confirmed that it is not a private trail and is indeed open to the public as a multi-use — motorized and non-motorized conveyances allowed — trail.

The trail has been developed by the Snow Shoe Rails to Trails Association with grants secured and administered by the Headwaters Charitable Trust and a whole heck of a lot of volunteer time.

The SSRTA is primarily an ATV enthusiast group, however they welcome non-motorized users on the trail and even invite all to join. Motorized users must be members of the association to use the trail as well as have their machines properly registered with the state. Membership is optional for non-motorized users, but having pedaled the trail twice now, I have sent in an application to join ($6 annual fee) since I want to show my appreciation to the association for providing this recreational resource.

Try out the trail yourself and decide if it is worth your $6. But don’t wait too long. The trail is in jeopardy and would not be available for ATV, bike or even foot use if an eastern Pennsylvania developer gets his way with the proposed landfill. Plans for the landfill include re-railing the trail and bringing in garbage by train to the landfill. Not only would we lose a nice rural, forested corner of Centre County, we would also lose a great trail.

One can get to the proposed landfill site from either end of the trail. I have biked from the southern (Windburne) side twice. Here, the trail is accessed from the Black Bear Creek parking lot from a short spur down to the rail-trail. Turn right at the rail-trail (turning left will take you over Black Bear Run and to the western end of the trail within a quarter-mile) and proceed East along Moshannon Creek (“The Red”).

Within less than a mile, you will cross on a bridge marked “Six Mile Run.” This is misleading as you are actually crossing Moshannon Creek, not Six Mile Run. If you look to the right when crossing the bridge, you will see Six Mile Run flowing into the “Red.”

You are now in Clearfield County. After another mile, you will come upon one of the rougher sections of the trail as some of the original ballast — larger fist sized stones — of the railway is on the surface of the trail. This makes the bike riding a little bumpy, but still manageable. After about a mile, the surface improves to a smoother smaller grit texture. The trail follows Moshannon Creek but climbs higher from the creek level as you continue. At one point, the trail is seemingly directly above the creek, which allows for a good view of the creek and its narrow flood plain.

After about five miles from Black Bear Run, the trail runs under the Interstate 80 bridges — which are impressive structures although the recent bridge rehabilitation project has left the landscape barren beneath the bridges. Nevertheless, it is clear that the I-80 crossing, from the top rim of one side of the river gorge to the other, affords an unbroken corridor along the Moshannon Creek valley for wildlife and people alike.

Another half mile brings you to the Viaduct, the bridge crossing for the railway of yesteryear and the rail trail of today. This is an impressive crossing of Moshannon Creek in itself but since it has not yet been rehabilitated for the rail-trail use, crossing is not encouraged. Fifty feet of handrail in the center of the bridge is missing and all but the grated walkway along the broken handrail is railroad ties with large (8–12 inches) gaps between. Bikes should be walked across and children carefully chaperoned. The SSRTA and the Headwaters Charitable Trust do not recommend crossing. The proposed landfill area can be reached from the other end of the trail if you have any doubt about safely crossing the Viaduct.

Once past (on the east side) the Viaduct, you are again in Centre County and in the tract of land proposed for landfill. You will notice that this is not the wasteland — a “brown-field” — that the landfill proponents would like you to believe. It is forestland that has recovered very well from the timbering and strip-mining of the last century. In fact, this forest tract has regenerated better than a lot of our timbered state forest areas I have seen that are being actively managed.

Two more miles of trail will bring you to the Peale Tunnel — a cold, wet and dark quarter mile that goes under a minor ridge between “Red” Moshannon and Black Moshannon Creeks. As of this writing, the tunnel is closed for repairs, but there are trails that go up and over the ridge that are fairly easy to negotiate with bike with some judicial use of bike pushing and/or slow controlled descents.

From the west (Black Bear trailhead) end, take a trail to the left of the rail-trail, climb a short hill and go right for a steep-quick up and over, or go left for a longer, but not as steep drop and climb around the ridge.

About a half mile on the east side of the tunnel, check out a nice overlook over the forested Moshannon Valley.

The other convenient trail access is at Gillentown. This is about four or five miles from the Clarence end and about 7–8 miles from the Peale Tunnel — going south (west). Going east towards Clarence from Gillentown is probably not a good idea for bikes as the trail in this section has a fair amount of ballast on the surface.

Most of the land between the Gorton Road crossing and the Viaduct are in the proposed landfill area. From either direction, use this trail to see the forests, waters and recreation resources that could be impacted and lost. Then you can be a better judge as to the relative worth of the proposed landfill.


Dave Coleman lives in Patton Township and volunteers for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club as well as the local Moshannon Group. He can be reached at dyatesc@aol.com.