If your New Year’s resolution is to get in shape and lose weight – an eternal wish for many Americans – by hiking, biking or jogging along sections of the 150-mile trail that connects Pittsburgh with Cumberland, Md., There is a new book, that will improve your time doing it.
In his “Great Allegheny Passage Companion,” Bill Metzger, 75, of Somerset County Confluence, has compiled a mile-by-mile review of what to see along the Great Allegheny Passage – what was once the Yough River Trail in Westmoreland and Fayette County. He has filled it with sticky notes highlighting the topography, details not found in the thin stibrochure of visitor centers and historical photographs, many from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Readers will learn about the geography around the trail, the geology of the area, and stories about the cities and people who lived in the area that would become the trail.
Metzger said he wrote the book so those using the Great Allegheny Passage can learn about the communities people pass by or riders step through. One hundred and thirty miles of the trail lies within the state, and the focus of three-quarters of Metzger’s 319-page book is the Pennsylvania segment of the trail. It is probable that no other author has compiled as much history of these small towns and villages in one book as Metzger has done.
A motorcyclist rides along the Great Allegheny Passage across the Youghiogheny River in Ohio State Park.
The track, created along old railroads that served mills, coke ovens and mines from Pittsburgh through the Mid-Mon Valley to McKeesport to West Newton, Connellsville and Ohioopile, “strings the history of western Pennsylvania together,” Metzger said. But some of that story is hidden behind what Metzger called a “tunnel of trees,” which was no longer trimmed as the railroads left the corridor.
“I really want people to understand what’s going on,” said Metzger, who lives minutes from the trail.
The book is full of stories about the coal mines, coke ovens, timber mills, paper mills and railway lines that forged the path to the path, and the industrial titans – such as Andrew Carnegie, HC Frick and Mellons – who owned the companies and employed those who worked there long and hard for to operate them. A railroad lover whose previous job required running freight lines across states and overseeing the delivery of large pieces of equipment such as transformers, Metzger includes a healthy dose of railroad history and imagery.
He gives the reader an insight behind the scenes of how the president of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad agreed to wait to sell Yough Branch off his line until the newly created Regional Trail Corp. could raise the money and the political support. to purchase the right of way that forms the path along the Youghiogheny River, from McKeesport to Ohiopyle.
Metzger writes about what he loves. He said he has logged about 75,000 miles on various trails and has made several trips from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. crossing the 52-mile Montour Trail.
Lent by GreatAlleghenyPassageCompanion.com
Page included in “Great Allegheny Passage Companion” by Bill Metzger.
He gives the reader a thumbnail of historical events that people are probably familiar with – George Washington ventures into the wilderness of what would become Western Pennsylvania and the start of the French and Indian War – and he gives his opinion that the French would be started it if Washington had not in a fatal meeting with them in Jumonville. He reminds the reader that Indians lived in areas along the trail long before Europeans like Washington explored it.
The book, published by Metzger’s company, Three Wheel Press of Confluence, has been years in the making, though Metzger said he has been working on it seriously for the past few years. It’s an updated version of the trail guide he previously published, which focused on the trail from McKeesport to Confluence.
“Great Allegheny Passage Companion” is priced at $ 39.95 and is available through Amazon, Three Wheel Press and the Great Allegheny Passage Visitor Centers in West Newton and Ohio.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .