According to Wikipedia, the March Equinox occurred last night at 7:26 PM local time. We can finally stop thinking about the groundhog; spring is officially here. All I want to do is go outside and play.
Even though the nights are getting shorter, they’re warming up enough to do some serious stargazing. The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh has published their 2011 schedule of Star Parties at Wagman Observatory and Mingo Creek Park Observatory. I personally recommend visiting the Wagman site and using the telescope that was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie and built by John Brashear. But if you can’t make it to a party, or if you just can’t get enough of that night sky, you can always come to the library and grab a guide.
Viewing the Constellations With Binoculars: 250+ Wonderful Sky Objects to See and Explore by Bojan Kambic
Another exciting part of spring is the local Peregrine Falcon nesting season. Pittsburgh’s National Aviary hosts live Falcon Cams at the Gulf Tower downtown, and Cathedral of Learning in Oakland. If you want to know more about what you’re watching, Kate St. John of WQED has put together an incredible Peregrine FAQ, as part of her blog Outside My Window: A Bird-Watcher’s View of the World. She also covers general bird anatomy and behavior, and describes happenings in the local environment down to the appearance and function of the weeds in the winter. If you find yourself wanting to get a closer look at Kate St. John’s world, we’ve got books that can help you make your little piece of habitat more inviting.
The Backyard Bird Lover’s Ultimate How-To Guide: More Than 200 Easy Ideas and Projects for Attracting and Feeding Your Favorite Birds by Sally Roth
I’m also looking forward to hitting the local trails. I’ve always been a hiker, but this year I may actually get myself a bike and explore some of the nearby rail trails. Of course, when starting any new fitness routine, your doctor should be your first stop. But after you’ve been declared healthy, we can help you figure out what to do next. Here’s the book I’ve had my eye on –
Knack Cycling For Everyone: A Guide to Road, Mountain, and Commuter Biking by Leah Garcia and Jilayne Lovejoy.
Are you getting ready for any fun outdoor activities?
Pittsburgh is a city of hills and valleys, rivers and plateaus. And while it may not seem to have the most bike-friendly terrain, there are many ways to enjoy the Steel City by bike. With the help of the bicycle advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh and a rising number of people getting around by bike, cyclists are gaining more respect and a greater presence in the city. Riding in traffic may not be for everyone, and for those individuals Pittsburgh offers multiple car-free bike paths along the rivers.
Eliza Furnace: Named for the historic Eliza Blast Furnace, this paved trail leads Downtown from the edge of Panther Hollow at the foot of Oakland/Greenfield. Also known as the Jail Trail, the Eliza Furnace Trail eventually connects to the South Side Bike Trail via the Smithfield Street Bridge or Hot Metal Bridge, depending on which way you are heading. There is free public parking at the trailhead off of 2nd Avenue (885) between the Hot Metal Bridge and the intersection with Greenfield Avenue. Parking is also available at the Downtown end of the trail in a parking garage near the Jail.
North Shore Trail:
The North Shore Trail has what I would consider three distinct sections: The Ohio River, The North Shore, and Washington’s Landing. The Ohio River section begins at the old Western Penitentiary
about 5 miles up the Ohio from the Point. This section is best accessed via one of the other two sections as it can be difficult to find parking near the trail. The North Shore section offers some of the best views of the Point and surrounding areas. It passes by the Science Center, Heinz Field, and PNC Park. There is usually somewhere to park around this area, unless there is a sporting event. The Washington’s Landing section follows the Allegheny River away from the Point and eventually ends up in Millvale Riverfront Park, which offers ample parking. From this section there is also the option to take a pedestrian bridge to Herr’s Island where you can hop on another trail that will take you around the edge of the island.
South Side Bike Trail: This paved trail runs from just past Station Square almost the entire way to Homestead, stopping just short of Sand Castle. Winding its way along the Monongahela this trail passes through Station Square, Riverfront Park, and the South Side Works. It can be used with the Eliza Furnace Trail to make a nice, flat, car free loop. Parking is available in the South Side Works areas, but can be tight in the evenings. There is also parking at the Station Square end of the trail.
Great Allegheny Passage Trail:
Pittsburgh is the Northwestern terminus of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail
that goes to Cumberland Maryland. The trail then becomes the C&O Trail and heads all the way to Washington, D.C. While this trail officially starts at the Point, it is very difficult to travel from the ‘Burgh to Port Vue where the car free section begins. It is advisable to drive to the trailhead in Port Vue, located just across the Youghiogheny River from McKeesport. Take the 15th Street Bridge from Walnut St in Mckeesport and make a left onto River Dr/River Ridge Road. The trail begins where the road ends. If you aren’t quite up to planning your own trip on the Great Allegheny Passage trail the folks at Venture Outdoors
, a local non-profit organization, can help get you on your way.
Here are some resources to help you plan your own bike ride: