COURSE NARRATIVE and HISTORY
Section 1: Canoe Creek - Mile 0 to 4.7
4.7 miles.| 561 feet climb; 564 feet decline
3.5 miles of trail; 0.9 paved road or trail; 0.2 crushed stone
Runners will start from the large open field between Pavilion 2 and the lake, running northbound to Limestone Trail, past the historic kilns, then taking Hartman Trail to the top of Moore’s Hill and past the caves on your right that are home to the Indiana Bat and a view of Scotch Valley to the west (left). Runners descend Moore’s Hill Trail, crossing over Canoe Creek, then southbound on Beaver Pond Trail to the lake. If any of you yinzers ran the Dirty Kiln, then you would be familiar with some sections of this course, After crossing through the East Shore Day Use Area, participants will take a left on a service road to paved Beaver Dam Road (right turn). This will proceed to the newly-built Canoe Creek Connector Trail and under Route 22 via the Terry Wertz Memorial Underpass and along Route 22 to Flowing Springs Road, over the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River, and to the first aid station near the beginning of the Lower Trail. This aid station is called Flowing Springs Station.
History: The area in and surrounding Canoe Creek State Park is rich in limestone. The limestone was quarried and used for many purposes like providing needed raw materials for the iron and steel industries of Pennsylvania. There are several abandoned quarries on the park lands. Two limekilns also operated within the boundaries of the park during the 1900s. The Ironstone 100K will past through two of these sites. The remnants of the first kiln was once owned by the Blair Limestone Company stand today as a reminder of the industrial past.
Wildlife: The Frank Felbaum Bat Sanctuary is the home of the largest nursery colony of little brown bats in Pennsylvania. This one-time church, now known as the Canoe Creek Bat Refuge, attracts visitors interested in observing the bats as they emerge each night for feeding. The park is also the site of a hibernaculum for more than 30,000 bats of six species, including the endangered Indiana bat.
Section 2: Lower Trail Williamsburg - Mile 4.7 to 9.8
5.1 miles.| 0 feet climb; 36 feet decline
5.1 miles of paved trail or crushed stone.
Participants will run on the Lower Trail - a multi-use, 17-miles of crushed limestone rail trail (unrewarded bonus points if anyone can tell me how many fence posts are along the "Never-ending Fence"). At the borough of Williamsburg is AS 2 Williamsburg Station. This is a crew-accessible aid station.
One would think, "17-miles of slight downhill grade on a rail-trail would make for fast running". Ha ha! Not so fast! Depending how you spend your time training, spending a few hours on crushed limestone makes for a unique challenge. As Chris Traeger would say, "Ended with a 5 1/2-minute mile, my personal low. I think the pavement in this town is soft."
History: Much of the Lower Trail, paralleling the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River, was part of the Pennsylvania Railroad as the Petersburg Branch of the PRR. In 1979, the rail corridor was abandoned. Over the next 8 years, the rails were sold for scrap and the corridor put up for sale. In 1989, Rails to Trails of Central Pennsylvania Inc. purchased the first 11 miles of the Lower Trail from Williamsburg to Alfarata from the Penn Central Corp. Another 5 ½ mile extension from Flowing Spring to Williamsburg was added in 2004. The first four aid stations on the Ironstone 100K course are named "stations" as a nod to the train stations that were along the former rail line.
Section 3: Lower Trail Mt. Etna - Mile 9.5 to 20.5
10.7 miles.| 0 feet climb; 126 feet decline
10.7 miles of paved trail or crushed stone
Participants will continue to run on the Lower Trail. At 5.9 miles, runners can refuel at AS 3 Mt. Etna Station before another 5.1 miles to the terminus of the trailhead at AS 4 Alfarata Station.
History: The Lower Trail, paralleling the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River, was part of the original towpath of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal which operated in the mid 1800’s. The Juniata Division Canal was approved in segments starting in 1827 with a canal from near Duncan's Island in the Susquehanna River to Lewistown, 40 miles (64 km) upstream. Subsequently, the state agreed to extend the canal to Hollidaysburg and the eastern end of the Allegheny Portage Railroad, 127 miles (204 km) from the Susquehanna. A total of 86 locks were required to overcome a change in elevation of 584 feet (178 m) over the full length of the canal, which opened in 1832. One of the remains of these locks can be seen near mile 12.
Section 4: Spruce Knob - Mile 20.5 to 27
6.86 miles.| 1929 feet climb; 734 feet decline
3.8 miles of singletrack; 2.8 miles of dirt road, 0.25 feet paved road
Now on the Mid State Trail and crossing a paved road immediately after the aid station, runners will take a dirt state forest road (Brickyard Road) to a switchback where the Mid State Trail leaves the road on the right. Now a singletrack, The Mid State Trail will descend into a shady hollow and then along Norfolk Southern railroad to the corner of Barre Road and Neubauer Lane (turn left). Participants will cross the railroad and run through the small village of Barre, cross the Little Juniata River and make a left turn onto a road on Mountain Road (gravel). After 0.6 of a mile, runners will reach the Mid State Trail Barre Trailhead at the Little Juniata Natural Area. From here, it’s a 1.6 mile climb of 1400 feet on technical singletrack to the top of Spruce Knob with most participants arriving just before sunset. Be sure to step off the trail to your left for one of the most spectacular views in Central PA.
Now on top Tussey Ridge and after 0.8 of a mile on technical yet flat singletrack, the course will descend the ridge to the west (left) on Rainbow Trail to Colerain Road. Don't let the name, "Rainbow Trail" fool you. In fact, we are renaming it, "It's Not All Sunshine and Rainbows" since it is a steep scree slope and it will most likely be dark when you make your descent. Make a right turn on Colerain Road, uphill, and to AS 5 Colerain positioned at Canoe Mountain Vista. Here, you can see Spruce Creek Valley, Tyrone and Canoe Mountain (behind this mountain is Canoe Creek Lake from where you started.) Onward.
Geology: The Juniata River is one of the oldest existing rivers in the world, being dated as 320–340 million years ago, older than the mountain ridges through which it flows. This is truly evident here at Alfarata and at the Little Juniata Natural Area. These ridges resulted from the Alleghenian orogeny uplift events, when Africa (as part of Gondwana) slammed into the Northern part of EurAmerica.
Section 5: Tussey Ridge - Mile 27 to 36.6
8.9 miles.| 741 feet climb; 1122 feet decline
8.7 miles of singletrack or doubletrack; 0.2 miles of dirt road
After the aid station, runners will return to the Mid State Trail via Colerain Road and back on the Mid State Trail as runners will continue northbound on Tussey Ridge. Here, things get real. After crossing the Stone Towers, the narrows will the terrain dropping off on both sides of the trail. Promontory offers 270 degrees of views. Then it is more technical terrain until Henry Gap Vista (there is a bench and stone chairs about 15 yard below you on your left and is our featured photo on the homepage of the website). This entire section from Stone Towers to Henry Gap Vista we have dubbed, "The Ankle Graveyard".
Next, not to be outdone, is "Tiltrock Tantrum" where sheets of rock have been tilted 30 to 40 degrees upward from the Gondwana and Laurasia collision forming Pangaea supercontinent during the Carboniferous. "Don't blame me, blame plate tectonics!" Eventually you will reach Pennsylvania Furnace Road. Turn right, downhill on Pennsylvania Furnace Road. Runners will turn slightly left at the first switchback and onto Pump Station Road (double track). After 1.07 miles down Pump Station Road and a left on Harry Valley Road. Aid Station 6 Indian Steps is that the bottom at the intersection of Harry's Valley Road.
Geology: Tussey Mountain is in the Ridge and Valley province of the Appalachian Mountains. The surrounding mountains like Brush Mountain, Mount Nittany and Bald Eagle Mountain ridges, are part of the same Paleozoic anticline rock formation consisting of older Ordovician Bald Eagle Formation Sandstone and Juniata Formation Shale, and younger Silurian Tuscarora Formation Quartzite. During the Appalachian orogeny, these layers folded up with the underlying and overlying layers into the Nittany Arch.
When atop the ridge, look out to the west. Now, imagine the valley below is all that remains of a towering Himalayan scale mountain that towered above what is now Nittany Valley, where the oldest rock layers from deep within the eroded mountain are now exposed.
Section 6: Jo Hays - Mile 36.6 to 51.0
14.3 miles.| 2466 feet climb; 1,587 feet decline
14.3 miles of singletrack or doubletrack
After down Harry Valley Road, runners scale the Indian Steps (an unusual 500ft climb... straight up the ridge), then a right turn back to the Mid State Trail. Back on the MST, the course will soon descend the south side of the ridge on Campbell Trail (right) to Harry's Valley Road and then onto a snowmobile track called Lowry Trail. Lowry Trail will continue downhill on Tussey Ridge, crossing PA 26 and then paralleling the highway until it reaches Pine Swamp Road. (Somewhere in this section, there will be a course marshal checking runners in, making sure no one jumps the course.) Go uphill on Pine Swamp and Ironstone Trail. Turn left. Participants will go uphill until it reaches the Mid State Trail. Here, the course goes southbound on the MST up Tussey Mountain to Jo Hays Vista. Once your feet touch the pavement, keep the woods to your right until you reach the gate and Jackson Trail. A water-only aid station is here to keep you hydrated within this long section. Afterwards, the course will stay atop the ridge on Jackson Trail, past David’s Vista and its adjacent boulder fields. Agh! Jackson Trail... I'm sure you will rue the day when you traversed this path. In fact, we will mark this section with reflective markers.
After 2.6 miles of - JACKSON TRAIL -, the Mid State Trail rejoins the trail. After another 4.25 miles, Mid State Trail crosses Laurel Run Road then crosses Little Flat Fire Tower Road. Soon after crossing the road is AS 7 Little Flat. This entire section is also technical singletrack. We have loving renamed the segment from Musser Gap Vista to Sand Spring Trail as "Technical Difficulties" and from Sand Spring Trail to Aid Station 7 as "Hard Times".
History: Several Indian tribes have made this region its home, only to be displaced by another tribe every half century or so a different tribe ruled over the region. But in all those years none of the rulers sought to question the rights of the northern Indians until 1635, when the Lenni-Lenape invaded the country of the Susquehannocks and were decisively beaten on the plains near Rock Springs, in Spruce Creek Valley, at the Battle of the Indian Steps. There is great debate that more deaths occurred in this battle than at Gettysburg.
Starting here, the Lenni-Lenape were driven east, eventually to the Delaware River Valley and present day New Jersey, only to meet the newly-arrived Europeans.
Section 7: Bear Meadows - Mile 51.0 to 58.6
7.4 miles.| 325 feet climb; 1692 feet decline
7.4 miles of singletrack
AS 7 Little Flat Fire Tower is at the northernmost corner of Tussey Mountain. The Mid State Trail and the course will arc from northeast bound to the south and west atop Fourth Mountain as the trail encircles a large bowl valley called Bear Meadows. The trail stays high above the valley, it is technical and offers some boulder field traverses and vistas just off trail to your left. Many runners will see the sunrise to their left. Wait- What? The sun set on my left and now it's rising on my left? I know, right! One of the biggest treats on the course is Indian Wells Vista, again another tremendous view on this course. Now only are these view expensive, but you will not see a house, street light or any other signs of civilization except for far in the distance to the northeast. At mile 4.2 in this section, there will be an unmanned water stop at the corner of state forest roads Gettis Ridge and North Meadows roads. The course turns eastbound (Thickhead Mountain) along the southern rim of Bear Meadows. The course crosses Bear Meadows Road and then descends the mountain – the longest downhill of the race, crossing Detwiler Road and reaching the junction of Mid State Trail and the terminus of Standing Stone Trail. The course will now follow the Standing Stone Trail southbound along Detwiller Run and atop an old lumber railroad, The Monroe Kulp Railway.
As one of the race committee members have said, "Running in Detwiller Run is like running through Jurassic Park - it is so wild, you half expect to see a dinosaur around the corner."
Personally, I never seen any dinosaurs, but I did the the largest rattlesnake I ever seen in my entire life. Note: there is almost a 100% certainty you will see a snake, snakes, rhumba of snakes, and/or piles of snakes somewhere on the course.
The aid station will be immediately after Alan Seeger Natural Area - one of only 20 old growth forests in Pennsylvania. This 390-acre area along Standing Stone Creek includes virgin white pine and hemlock. Towering above the trail as it winds through 20-foot-high rhododendrons is a hemlock forest bypassed by the loggers at the end of the 19th century. This area is named after Alan Seeger, an American war poet who fought and died in World War I during the Battle of the Somme and is sometimes called the "American Rupert Brooke".
History: In 1966, Dr. Boone Sumantri proposed a ridge-top hiking trail, the Central Allegheny Trail. The proposed trail, roughly sketched out on 15 minute topo maps hanging on Dr. Sumantri’s living room wall, started at the Colerain Picnic Area along Route PA 45. The other proposed trailhead was to be at a roadside rest on route US 15, just south of Williamsport. The plan, at least at the northern trailhead, was to connect the Central Allegheny Trail to the Loyalsock Trail.
On a sunny Sunday, in September of 1969, Dr. Thomas Thwaites and fifteen members of the Penn State Outings Club ascended to Little Flat just south of State College. With trail blazing tools in hand, this first group of Mid State Trail trail blazers began opening a trail from Kettle Trail towards the North Meadows Trail. Following the ridgeline, this first group of Mid State Trail trail blazers opened up a meandering trail on Fourth Mountain, opening up the first natural scenic view of the MST looking down on Bear Meadows. A monument is erected at the site of the first blazed section of the Mid State Trail.
Section 8: Broad Mountain (aka Mount Quads) - Mile 58.6 to 63.5
5.4 miles.| 1374 feet climb; 1407 feet decline
5.1 miles of singletrack; 0.3 miles paved
The final section offers one of the most significant climbs as the course follows the Standing Stone Trail up to the top of Broad Mountain and down the other side, crossing Seeger Road twice - before and after the summit. With 1400 feet up and 1400 feet down the other side, we affectionately call this gem, "Mount Quads".
At Greenwood Furnace State Park, the course will cut straight across a park service road, down another park access road into an elongated traffic oval past the Wagon and Blacksmith Shop before a right turn to Founders Pavilion. Congratulations on your awesome finish!
(Note: Depending on the number of participants, spectators and park visitors, we may have participants make a right on the park road and do a short loop on Chest Springs Trail, finishing in the opposite direction at Founders Pavilion.)
History: Greenwood Furnace was open for operation on June 5, 1834. The parent company, Norris, Rawle and Co., selected the site because of the ease in access to the needed natural resources, iron ore, limestone, trees for charcoal and a steady water supply. Greenwood Furnace was able to produce up to five tons of pig iron ingots per day at the height of its production.
Soon a small village sprang up around Greenwood Furnace to support the needs of the workers and the furnace. The village included 20 houses, a company store, company offices, stables and a blacksmith shop. A deposit of high quality iron ore was discovered in the area leading to further growth in the Greenwood Furnace area. A gristmill was constructed in 1842. Greenwood Lake was built at this time to create a water supply to power the mill. Greenwood Lake is currently used as a recreation lake by visitors to Greenwood Furnace State Park.
Ownership of Greenwood Furnace Iron Works was transferred to John A. Wright in 1847. Wright was one of the founders of the Pennsylvania Railroad in nearby Altoona. The ironworks at Greenwood and nearby Freedom Iron Works were supervised in part by Andrew Carnegie.