Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club, a Pennsylvania Hiking Club
Appalachian Trail hiking and moreAlong the trail in Pennsylvania
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Oral History
Video Project

Hiking Tales

Sunshine & Blue Skies

Celebrate the New Year

The Soap & Whiskey Bridge

A Hike or a Swim?

My First Backpack Trip



Trail Tales
Stories, club history, and photos from our members' experiences in the Great Outdoors. Members, if you would like to share a "Trail Tale", please submit your information and photos to:

BMECC Oral History Video Project

Tracey Witmyer, a new and active BMECC member, recently served as one of our "Appalachian Trail Maintainers." The pride and joy she felt during that year of volunteering on the A.T. and working with other BMECC members sparked something in Tracey. She wanted to dig deeper into the rich history of the Club and its connection to the A.T. She became motivated to see, hear, and archive the experiences and stories of long-time Club members — in their own words, unscripted, and not edited in any way –– through video interviews. Thanks to opportunities available in her college internship program, she was able to undertake this special project and accomplish her goal of recording and preserving this valuable oral history. Tracey loved working with and learning from each of those special members who have shaped our Club's past, present, and future. You can view some of Tracey's interviews below:

Dave Crosby

Linda Enders Roxberry

Joan Moyer

Gerry Kramer

Al Shrom

Catherine Shade

Gene McCarney

Hiking Tales

Sunshine & Blue Skies in FebruaryNolde Forest Mansion, Berks County, PA

Sunshine and blue skies brought sixteen hikers out to visit the Nolde Mansion. The mansion is open to the public the first Sunday of the month. Hiking at Nolde Forest

We were able to hike an assortment of trails throughout the forest. The mansion provided a brief respite after the initial hike. Home movies of the Nolde family were enjoyed by all.

Afterwards, some folks opted to hike a few more trails before heading home. It was too nice of a day to spend indoors!

Martyann Gutierrez

Nolde Forest Mansion, a beautiful stop on our BMECC hike

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BLunch stop while hiking to the Pinnacle, along the AT in Berks County, PAMECC Celebrates
the New Year

Eighteen hikers celebrated the New Year by participating in a hike to the Pinnacle on New Year's Day 2012. The unseasonably warmer temperature on that day added to the eagerness for folks to be out on the Trail. There was a short stop at Pulpit Rock before continuing to the Pinnacle. The sun was warm, the views were clear, and everyone agreed they started the New Year by putting their best foot forward!

Martyann Gutierrez

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The Soap and Whiskey Bridge

Historic Skew Bridge Historical Marker, Reading PAIn addition to maintaining 65-miles of the Appalacian Trail, the hiking club is engaged in the adopt-a-highway program plus, in the last few years, we have also taken on the cleanup of the Skew Bridge area of Reading. This area receives a lot of foot traffic and needs a lot of attention. We take pride in maintaining this historic bridge area.

The magnificent Skew Bridge on Sixth Street in Reading is a fine example of masonry skew-arch bridge construction. Erected in 1857, for a cost of $27,804, it was designed and constructed under the direction of Richard Osborne, an Englishman who also designed the first iron railroad bridge in the United States. A railroad line was needed to connect Reading to Harrisburg, PA and Osborne was employed by Lebanon Valley RR to locate this line. Due to the angle and grade crossing Sixth Street in Reading, a special design was needed rather than the typical “Keystone” bridge. Osborne turned to the Skew-Arch style bridge and he demonstrated its effectiveness by his scale model made from soap. Because of limited funds, workers were paid in part by rations of whiskey – hence the nickname, the “Soap and Whiskey Bridge”.

Historic Skew Bridge, Reading, PAThe large central vault arches gracefully over a wide roadway, and two smaller side arches provide safe walkways for pedestrians. Rumbling across the top, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad's engines hauled their heavy loads of coal past Reading's Outer Station, and on to Philadelphia. In 1924, P & R changed its name to Reading Company, which went bankrupt in 1971 and was merged into Conrail in 1976. Today, trains of the Norfolk Southern Corporation, its owner since 1999, still use Osborne’s rugged skew bridge which crosses over 6th Street between Buttonwood and Greenwich Streets in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Catherine Shade

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BMECC hikers in Zion Slot Canyon, UtahA Hike or a Swim?

A trip to Zion National Park in Utah proved to be one of my most memorable family hikes. My family and I visited Zion on a trip we took over the summer. Zion was my favorite of the six National Parks we visited on that trip (but Bryce Canyon holds a close second).

At Zion we took a park tour bus to the “Temple of Sinawava”, where a hiking trail follows the river upstream into “the Narrows”, where the canyon floor gets down to only 20 feet wide. Starting at the Temple we hiked a mile with lots of playful squirrels, until the trail ended. We sat on a rock and switched our hiking boots for water shoes and loaded our boots into backpacks. Then the fun began…

The slot canyon had rocks and sand to walk on in some places, in others we were up to our chest in the cool Virgin River, holding our backpacks with our boots and camera over our heads to keep them dry. The air temperature was 106 degrees in July, so after the initial shock of the cold-water temperature, it turned Water Hikeinto a ton of fun. Each mile we progressed, the more narrow it got, and the fewer people were near us. In a slippery spot our 11-year old son fell fully in the water. But he didn’t care. It made swimming a higher priority for the rest of the hike.

The walls of this canyon are made of sandstone, which absorbs and holds an enormous amount of water. This water trickles out of the sandstone in many places, making the canyon floor a virtual rainforest. Moss and lichens grow out of the rocks, and there are small waterfalls and beautiful pools everywhere you look.

We had packed food so we took some snack breaks and kept going and going until we had been hiking for 3 hours. At that point we realized we had better turn around, since a 6+ hour hike is pretty long for two kids. None of us really wanted to turn around, but the hike/swim back provided a whole different view of the magnificent canyon, and plenty of wet and wild fun.

Michelle Hnath

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Backpacking at Worlds End State Park, PAMy First Backpack Trip

I vivdly remember my first backpacking trip. I was very nervous and inexperienced, but full of anticipation and determination. I had packed everything but the kitchen sink. When I tried to lift my pack, reality set in and I promptly reevaluated what I thought was so necessary to bring. I had to shed about 10 pounds from my pack in order to carry it comfortably.

We were going to hike the Loyalsock Trail at World's End State Park. The group arrived Friday night at a reserved campsite in the park. A "meet and greet" took place around a campfire and plans were finalized for the backpack to start the next day. I didn't sleep well that night. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was determined to take this next step in my hiking experiences.

My Campsite in World's End State Park, PennsylvaniaWhen I awoke the next morning and opened my tent, I couldn't believe my eyes. It had snowed overnight and everything had a dusting of white. Any doubt had disappeared and I immediately smiled. My reason for hiking was confirmed. It was beautiful; it was peaceful; it was exactly where I wanted to be.

The Loyalsock Trail proved to be one of the most difficult trails I have backpacked in PA. It was not the best choice for a first backpack but I will never forget that moment when I opened my tent. It was exactly what I needed to overcome my anticipation and endure the difficulty of my first backpack I love waking up in the woods to the sounds of birds chirping and the sun peeking through the trees. The morning snowfall was a bonus.

I have returned to the Loyalsock Trail on several occasions to hike additional sections. It is a beautiful trail with lots of vistas and stream crossings. It remains a challenge even though I have returned with more experience. I will never forget that feeling when I opened my tent that crisp morning. My enthusiam was at an all time high and kept me going as I was putting one foot in front of the other carrying a backpack for the very first time.

Martyann Gutierrez

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Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club, P. O. Box 14982, Reading, Pennsylvania 19612-4982, USA,

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Photos: Brian Swisher, Michelle Hnath, Martyann Gutierrez

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