I was pleased to finally experience the new skills area at Raystown Lake, PA. It’s special for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is the first of it’s kind built on federal land. I feel like mountain biking has already secured a place in our culture as I see it used everywhere in advertisements from vacations, to credit cards, to a multitude of product displays in stores, none of which are selling mountain bikes per se, but they are using mountain biking as a vehicle to show adventure, and fun etc. in order to make their products more alluring. Having the park go in at Raystown makes me feel as if mountain biking is finally becoming acceptable, or understood, more than just tolerated. It also makes me fell less like a second class citizen or pariah. I still sting from the outcast vibe that followed me throughout the 80’s well into the OO’s. Even today I sometimes feel like Jim Crow is alive and well when it comes to bikes and trails. Anyway, I’m not sure if it was a hard sell to get a skills area at Raystown as I’m sure the town of Huntingdon knows very well what mountain biking has done for the local economy, or rather what a great trail system has done to draw people to the town. I’m sure Dirt Fest alone is a boon. The new skills area is icing on their trail cake. It’s small, but sweet and fun. I was happy to see it placed right across from the Raystown Lake Project visitor center, not tucked away like an unwanted whatever. The skills area is important for the site itself, and other potential sites across the country because it signals that this sort of thing is now OK… Of course it always has been OK, I didn’t need a federal blessing to know that, but the stinging sensation is waning.
The feel and flow were nice, and the wood structures solid and well thought out. There were a few minor erosion issues. I’m not sure if it was the imported soil selection and it’s ability to withstand steep slopes, or course’s placement into the landscape itself. I believe it is a little bit of both. Nevertheless, it’s worth a visit.
That said, does anyone remember how silky smooth Raystown/Allegrippis trails were the first few years after construction? Not anymore. Every year I visit more and more fines have eroded/displaced away so it’s getting more and more bony…Welcome to the northeast. It was special while it lasted. Still is, but it’s different now.