From left to right: Dan, Jesse, Gary, Adam, Jeff, Jamie, & Me
Last night I stayed at my sister's in Meadville, PA since we had a group run planned for 9:00 this morning in Oil Creek State Park. This was my first trip here, which includes more than 50 miles of trails, including the 36 mile Gerald Trail. Click Here to read about the history in this area. Gun season is currently underway in Pennsylvania so we knew going into the run that it would be pretty exciting. Last night we looked in a few stores to find a couple orange hunting vests to purchase, but of course they were all sold out. So, we settled on getting some fluorescent pink duct tape which Jamie used to decorate herself like an 80's rock star.
We were running a bit late this morning so I wasn't able to stop at McDonald's for breakfast but hoped there would be something along the way. Our plan was to meet Dan Kuzma and a couple of his friends from Youngstown, along with a couple guys from the Titusville area (Jeff Nelson & Adam Peterson), at the parking lot next to the Drake Well Museum (the world's first commercially successful well drilled for oil back in 1859). Jeff and Adam were both informed of our run from one of their friends that posted on the TeamPR Forum under the screenname "runtrail24" after finding out that he had to work on Saturday. Thanks again for giving us a couple of great tour guides for today's run!
As we drove into the center of Titusville I saw a Country Fair, so I stopped and picked up a breakfast sandwich. I don't think we saw anyone there that wasn't wearing orange and purchasing either cigarettes or chewing tobacco. They were probably like, who's this weirdo coming in with running tights on?
After eating my breakfast in the car we continued driving to meet everywhere else. The trip to here from Meadville only took about 35 minutes which was nice. Right before you turn left and cross this bridge near the center of town I spotted a McDonald's. I thought, I'll have to remember this for the next time we have a group run here. From the center of Titusville it's really easy to follow the signs they have posted for the Drake Well Museum and soon we arrived at the parking lot near the museum. You know you've gone too far if you cross over a one-lane bridge. We parked next to this car with a CC sticker on the window so I figured this was one of the guys we were supposed to meet. His name was Andy and I noticed he was wearing a Div. 5 cross country championships stocking hat so I jokingly said, uh oh.. looks like we're in trouble. I think he said that he went to the state meet 10 years ago.
Soon, everyone else showed up and after a group photo we took off over the one lane bridge and picked up the Gerald Hiking Trail on the south side of Oil Creek. Jeff, who is a high school CC/track coach in Titusville and once coached Andy, led the way for us. Despite being 44 yrs. old I could tell that he's in great shape when he started running up this pretty steep hill early on. I was breathing pretty heavy at this point but at least it was warming me up quick. The temperature this morning was in the upper teens but the wind chill made it feel like it was only in the single digits.
It didn't take me long to figure out that I was really going to enjoy this park. Most, if not all of the trail, is narrow single-track with some large and small rocks to make it technical in spots. The scenery and terrain reminded me a lot of the Laurel Highlands Trail and Mill Creek Park. The trail, which is marked with yellow or white blazes the entire way, runs along hillsides overlooking Oil Creek, providing some awesome views. Here is a picture of me at the first scenic overlook that we came to...
Somewhere near this area we passed two hunters and it wasn't long after that when we heard a loud gunshot that I think startled everyone. For most of the run we didn't hear many shots fired. When it did happen though, you could hear the loud echo through the valley. Thanks again Jeff for staying in front of me with your bright red shirt!
Continuing on, we signed our names in a notebook kept on the trail for hikers and then passed through a large section of pine tress and even an area full of laurels and some man made bridges which reminded me a lot of the LHHT. Pictures are worth a thousand words so here you go...
Jeff said he adds another rock to the stack each time he passes by here
Looking off the side of the trail. Nice big hills for some off-piste running.
This area has some history
Strange graveyard in the middle of the woods
Somewhere around 5 or 6 miles we reached our turnaround point and crossed over Oil Creek (pronounced "crick" by locals) by way of this bridge near Miller Farm (shown on the park map ). Once you cross over this bridge you meet up with a bike path. You can hop on this or take the trail head that we got back onto, near this shelter area with restrooms. These shelter areas in the park would make for nice aid stations if an ultra marathon is eventually organized here. Jeff did tell me that he and others are talking to the park about possibly organizing one in the near future. That would be awesome if it comes to fruition. I've already thought of a cool name for it... "Burning the Midnight Oil"
After passing the shelter area you'll see these signs giving you the option to head east back to where we started or you can turn left and continue west on the Gerald Trail...
There seemed to be more hills on the west side of the creek but still lots of nice views and even a few small waterfalls...
The best part of the return trip was the last 2 or 3 miles where the trail runs slightly downhill along the hillside. It felt great cruising through this section and glancing to my right occasionally to admire the views of the valley and the hillsides. When we got back to our cars with a total of 12 miles complete, Jeff showed us this steep hill that they do sometimes for hill repeats. He said you have to get down on all fours at one point of the uphill climb so it sounds like a lot of fun for next time...
Before driving back to Meadville Jeff also told us about a brewery in Titusville called " Blue Canoe" that is right in the center of town. At this point I didn't think the day could get any better. Unfortunately they don't open their business until 3pm on Saturday so we'll have to make plans for a future group run. If you're interested let me know!