Pittsburgh Council previously a member of American Youth Hostels
(Pittsburgh Council, American Youth Hostels)
To provide inexpensive educational travel, intercultural understanding, and an understanding of the natural environment through hostels, hostelling, and outdoor recreation.

1997 Rachel Carson Trail Challenge

June 21, 1997

The 1997 Rachel Carson Trail Challenge is a 34-mile, one-day, endurance hiking event, held in the spirit of the Alaskan Iditarod, the Boston Marathon, the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Trail Run, and the various Ironman Triathlons held around the country each year. Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Council, American Youth Hostels, the Challenge will be held this year on June 21st (taking advantage of the summer solstice), at the crack of dawn, and will extend through the 34-mile roller coaster of hills and bluffs between North Park and Harrison Hills in Allegheny County, ending as the sun sets under the horizon. The "Challenge" is to endure, to finish the hike in one day, rather than to "come in first" or "win" the hike.

The Rachel Carson Trail stretches from North Park, in Shaler, to Harrison Hills County Park, lying entirely within Allegheny County. The trail is characterized by its roller coaster hills and is often said to be one of the most difficult hiking trails in the United States. A typical hiking pace is 2 miles per hour. The hike will begin at sunrise and will officially end at sunset, 5:50 A.M. to 8:54 P.M., a total of 15 hours and 4 minutes.

The Challenge consists of two dimensions: the first challenge is to endure 34 miles of tortuous hill-climbing and descent in whatever weather conditions we are dealt; the second, more subtle, is your ability to keep on the route. Obviously, those who have hiked the trail before will have some advantage in maintaining the proper route.

The endurance hiker participants will be given a trip sheet and a set of topographic maps to guide them on their journey. There will be a half dozen checkpoints throughout the hike, offering minimal support. Hikers are expected to carry all their own gear and necessities, including food, water, and snacks, first aid equipment, raingear, maps and a trip sheet.

One hundred thirty-five people registered for the three 1996 Rachel Carson Challenge events: the Challenge (34 miles), the Half Challenge (17 miles), and the Family Challenge (5 miles). Of those who registered for the 34-mile Challenge in 1996, only 5 people finished.

The Rachel Carson Trail is an "undeveloped" trail in the sense that no special grading or surfacing materials are used on the trail. It is a typical Western Pennsylvania hiking trail and hikers should expect to find all the conditions a typical hiker would encounter on a typical hiking trail. While the trail is blazed with yellow paint blazes, there will be an occasional missing blaze where a tree has fallen or you are following a logging road or a power line or gas line; there will be blowdowns, washouts, poison ivy, nettles, bugs, loose gravel and rocks, steep inclines, and wet stream crossings. You must even be prepared to expect the unexpected. The better hiker you are, the better you will do on the Challenge.

More details concerning the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge will be in the May issue of the Golden Triangle, including news about sponsorship, the starting point for 2000, and the route to be followed. Be sure to read it.

The Rachel Carson Trail extends from North Park to Harrison Hills Parks in Allegheny County north of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. The Trail was built and is being maintained by the Pittsburgh Council of American Youth Hostels.

"To provide inexpensive educational travel, intercultural understanding, and an understanding of the natural environment through hostels, hostelling, and outdoor recreation."

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This page was last updated January 21, 2006