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Using The Trails

You’re probably sick of the phrase “in these unprecedented times”, but in these… unique times, when so many establishments have reduced hours, more and more Pennsylvanians are turning to the trails for recreation and entertainment. This is excellent – after all, what good is a trail without someone to enjoy it? – but this has led to some misunderstandings about trail usage which we would like to clear up for you today.

The trail isn’t a sidewalk, it’s a road – there are left and right “lanes” to be respected. Cars cannot drive three across on a two-lane road – similarly, trail users should be mindful of this and not spread across the trail.

If you need to pass someone, call out “on your left” so that those in front of you will know that you intend to pass them. If someone behind you calls out, you are required to move closer to the right side of the trail to afford them space to pass. Some trails have dirt or gravel areas to the right of the paved trail – if passing using one of these, call out “On your right”. In this instance, the people on the trail do not necessarily need to move, but they should still be mindful. Those who are out of breath may use bells or horns (usually attached to bikes) in which case the person they’re passing is expected to look back, at which point the biker will indicate which side they’ll pass on by raising their right or left arm.

Bikers always have the right of way when going up or downhills. Anyone who’s biked the Pennsylvania hills will tell you that it’s a lot harder going up than down, but the speed built while going down assists in ascending once more. It’s expected that those on foot will yield for those biking, as they’re going faster and rely more upon using consistent speed. Bikers are expected to be responsible, alerting others to their presence and intentions so they have enough time to react appropriately.

Animal Etiquette

If you’re bringing your pooch along on the trail be sure to keep them on a leash at all times and bring a bag to clean up after them. If the leash extends and retracts please do not extend the leash, because it could cause a tripping hazard for others. While parks may have bags available, many trails do not provide them. Additionally, many bikers use the trails regularly. If your dog is prone to chasing, jumping, or biting, keep a firm hold on their leash and pull them close to you until the bikers are past.

Health and Cleanliness

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. Please stay on the trails, as many hills in this region are made of loose soil or rock, the climbing of which can lead to injury. Porta potties and trash cans may be provided along the routes, but don’t expect to come across them frequently. Use the restroom before you leave your house. If you’re bringing snacks, put them in a bag so you have somewhere to put your trash until you come across a trash can. Please don’t throw trash to the side of the trail, many are along waterways where the trash can end up. Once the trash enters the water, fish and other wildlife can ingest or become trapped by it, resulting in death. Besides the damage caused to the ecosystem, even a few dead fish can cause a smell that wafts over the area for weeks.

Follow CDC guidelines to prevent further spread of COVID-19. While the virus has previously been considered most serious for children, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised, the number of COVID-positive young adults has seen an alarming rise in counties and states that have gone green. Green does not mean that life returns to normal. Social distancing is still encouraged and as of June 18, 2020, Governor Wolf has stated that masks are required at all places of business. It has been noted that even homemade masks have an effect in stopping transmission, regardless of whether the wearer shows symptoms. However, to be properly effective, masks must cover both the nose and mouth. It is recommended that you bring a mask with you on the trail, as some parts are narrow and may negatively affect social distancing.

Additionally, do not allow others to pet your dog. While uncommon, some pets have been infected with the virus – but once infected, they cannot transmit it back to humans. Do not put a mask on your dog, as it may cause respiratory distress. Do not use hand sanitizer, wipes, or any kind of disinfectant on your dog.

Lastly, people on the trail love to be friendly! If you want to say hi, be sure to observe social distancing recommendations (stay 6-10 ft away) and stick to a neighborly wave. Refrain from high-fives, handshakes, and hugs, and don’t create crowds.

Blog authored by Grace St. Clair, Trail User

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