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Thrive Outside, a week late | Sports

It’s proof of the marketing prowess of the NFL and NCAA that they can get a large portion of the American public to stay indoors and watch football this time of year. That big, sparkling screen and comfy sofa can’t match the rewards of being outdoors and active when the leaves are blazing and the air crisp.

Many organizations that do not have the media influence of the NFL are trying to provide Americans with outdoor options. One is the Outdoor Foundation (, which works to make the outdoors more accessible to people of all races, genders and ages in small towns, rural areas and urban centers.

The Outdoor Foundation proclaimed October 9 as “Thrive Outside Day,” and this column regrets being a week late for reporting it. But it’s never too late to thrive outdoors.

According to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2021 Outdoor Participation Trends Report, more and more Americans are finding their way outside in response to the COVID pandemic. In 2020, 53% of Americans participated in an outdoor experience at least once, the highest participation rate on record. According to the report, new outdoor participants are slightly more likely to be female, younger and more ethnically diverse than existing users. The authors of the report attribute many Americans in search of outdoor recreation to “screen fatigue,” a thirst for the authentic experience after too much dependence on devices and television.

Millions of Americans who crave the outdoors find it difficult to reach even places that offer public outdoor recreation. Herald-Standard readers do not share this obstacle. In the surrounding area, free and low-cost outdoor access for the public is diversified and abundant.

On the occasion of the belated celebration of We Thrive Outside Day, this column offers suggestions for readers who have never been outside or whose outdoor activity has fallen dormant, to get out and s ‘flourish outdoors. The simplest outdoor pursuit, requiring no special equipment, permits, permits, or learning curves, is hiking or walking if that seems less intimidating.

Below are some inviting nearby destinations for a fall stroll. The selected hikes are all ‘loop trails’, meaning they start and end at the same point, eliminating the need for a complicated shuttle, and there is no repetitive return to the car as the “Loop” forms a circle crossing new territory along the entire route.

Ohiopyle State Park, Sproul Trail System

Sproul trails actually include multiple interconnect loops, so there are options for short or long returns to the car. The slopes are moderate, often level, and much of the course traverses old fields with unobstructed views of Laurel Ridge to the east. The alleys are mostly grassy and regularly mowed. Purple flames on the trees show the way. These trails are easily accessed by following signs in State Park to the Kentuck Campground. Take Campground Road just past the campsite entrance to a small gravel parking lot where the Sproul trails begin and end.

Ohio State Park, Sugarloaf Button Loop

This loop is a bit more difficult as it circles the prominent summit of Sugarloaf Knob to the top of Laurel Ridge. To reach the trailhead, from Ohiopyle take the Ohiopyle-Confluence road to the large parking lot, on your right, just west of Laurel Ridge. It is a popular spot, with a heated cabin for skiers and a picnic lodge. The loop begins and ends at the parking lot. You are at the highest point of the trail so whether you hike the loop clockwise or counterclockwise it will be a descent on the outward journey and an uphill climb on the return. If you go counterclockwise, which for some reason seems more natural to do there, your descent will be through old receding fields and the gradually ascending return will be. through the forest. You can see Sugarloaf Knob on the eastern horizon as you cross Summit Mountain on the road. 40, heading east. It’s a satisfying feeling to see the button at this distance and know that you have hiked its volume.

Ohiopyle State Park, Mitchell Loop

The Mitchell Trail offers a pleasant hike through varied terrain on moderate inclines. The loop is just under three miles around, starting and ending at the large parking lot used by Youghiogheny paddlers and outfitters for their vehicles downstream. This loop also goes around a hill but less prominent than Pain de Sucre. Still, if you hike the loop counterclockwise, you’ll face a steep climb just before you return to the car. Walk clockwise and you will be able to do this incline using gravity. This trail passes through more ancient and attractive forest with the roar of the Youghiogheny Rapids far below. It is especially beautiful later in the fall when the beech leaves turn golden and hang longer than most other foliage. The fire markers on this trail can be confusing as some are red and some are yellow. But the path itself is unmistakable. There is only one derivative route, and it is well signposted by a wooden sign for the “Mitchell Loop”. Just stay on the obvious path and you will return to the car. To reach the parking area from Ohiopyle, head south on the Rte. 381 at the first right outside of town (Kentuck Road). Turn right and walk up the mountain to a four-lane intersection at Kentuck Church. Continue straight on Holland Hill Road and follow it to the end of the sidewalk.

Ohiopyle State Park, McCune Trail

This 3.5 mile loop at the top of Laurel Ridge is the most difficult of these hikes. As the leaves fall, however, it offers stunning views of the Youghiogheny Gorge above Ohiopyle. Purple flames mark the path, winding between rocky outcrops and ledges. The trail also passes through an old farmhouse with a 1930s large spruce plantation and spring. The trailhead and parking lot is near the Sugarloaf Knob Loop. From Ohiopyle on Confluence Road, look for the small sign for McCune Trailhead on the left. The small parking lot, with room for about half a dozen cars (if parked with courtesy and consideration for others) is a few hundred yards from the main road.

Ohiopyle State Park, Meadow Run Loop

This is a 3 mile loop with some of the most attractive scenery in the park. Much of the trail follows Meadow Run, passing the “Cascades”, more impressive in some ways than even Ohiopyle Falls on the Yough. Much of the trail is muddy or rocky, and there are a few steep climbs that come back to the car. This trail is also very popular, crowded on fall weekends. Go early in the day if you can. From Ohiopyle, head south on the road. 381 to the Dinnerbell Road intersection. Turn left onto Dinnerbell and you will see the dirt parking lot immediately on the left. The Meadow Run loop starts and ends there, marked with yellow flames.

It’s hunting season and all of these trails run through parts of Ohiopyle State Park, open now or in the coming weeks to hunt bears, deer, turkeys, and small game. Statistically, hunting is one of the safest outdoor activities, but it is safe to wear a neon orange hat or vest to announce your presence as a person. Pick up an excellent map of all the trails in the park, free of charge, at the Visitor Center near Ohiopyle Falls.

Then you can thrive on the outside.

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