Vehicles lined up in an orderly fashion at Rausch Creek Offroad Park creating two columns staged a bit more than six feet apart, as drivers wearing all sorts of face-coverings stepped out to air down, carefully maintaining their separation. There was a tinge of cautious excitement in the group as everyone was happy to be getting back out on the trails, but no one wanted to make any social-distancing mis-steps that might endanger the park’s re-opening. After almost two months under “stay-at-home” orders, people were just glad to be outside.
Kyle Buchter, of Off Road Consulting, carefully structured these first trail runs to comply with the CDC recommendations so that people could safely enjoy their motorized recreational activities once again. There was a Green guided ride for those who just wanted to play on the trails as well as a 101 instructional ride for those who wanted to learn a bit more. As a vehicle-based activity, it was easy to maintain “distance” since most of the time everyone remained in their Jeeps and communicated via radio. The instructional ride was a bit more complicated as techniques had to be demonstrated, but participants cooperated, wearing their masks and spreading out as they listened to Buchter explaining what the Jeep was illustrating.
The trails hadn’t seen much traffic during the previous two months because of the closure, so there was a bit of overgrowth here and there, and standing water covered some silty mud. A number of the water obstacles were rather deep in spots, but everything remained crossable. Drivers and their passengers had fun challenging their vehicles and just appreciating the outdoors. There was a lot of joy on faces young and older as the group made their way across “Pit Jr,” the deepest water of the day.
After looping around some increasingly steeper hill climbs and descents, the trail run wrapped up with a last challenging bit of rutted washed out terrain. The weather began to change and snowflakes starting falling even though it was the middle of May. The “re-opening” was complete. The invisible “barrier” marking the beginning of the “post-pandemic” period had been crossed and everyone was smiling, looking forward to new adventures adapted to the “new normal.”
Offroad Consulting will be rolling out a complete schedule of guided rides and training opportunities at Rausch Creek and the other area off-road parks as things re-open (see their website for details). Pennsylvania Govenor Tom Wolf has instituted a phased re-opening and outdoor recreation opportunities are increasingly becoming available again. For more information on outdoor recreation on public lands, such as state parks and state forests, check with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
WHERE WE ARE
Rausch Creek Off Road Park is one of three areas for legal motorized recreation in Pennsylvania’s
coal region. The historically important coal-mining region is in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the central Ridge-and-valley Appalachian Mountains and comprises Lackawanna, Luzerne, Columbia, Carbon, Schuylkill, Northumberland, and the extreme northeast corner of Dauphin counties. The discovery of anthracite coal was first made near the Schuylkill–Northampton line in the vicinity of Summit Hill by a hunter in 1791 and the first mine was established in 1775. The anthracite mining industry loomed over the region until its decline in the 1950s. The Knox Mine Disaster in 1959 served as the death knell for deep mining which faded away in the mid 1960s; almost all current anthracite mining is done via strip mining. Tours of underground mines can be taken in Ashland, Scranton, and Lansford, each of them also having museums dedicated to the mining industry. Also evident are patch towns, small villages affiliated with a particular mine. These towns were owned by the mining company. Though no longer company owned, many hamlets survive; one of them, the Eckley Miners’ Village, is a museum and preserved historical town owned and administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which seeks to restore patch towns to their original state.
ABOUT OFF ROAD CONSULTING
The Off Road Consulting group is led by Kyle Buchter a certified International 4 Wheel Driver Trainer (I4WDTA), with over two decades of experience in guiding, teaching and recovery. Based in central Pennsylvania, Off Road Consulting provides training, guided rides, mapping, trail design and layout, obstacle course construction and consulting for a client base that includes the automotive industry, military, law enforcement, and utility companies in addition to recreational enthusiasts.
ABOUT RAUSCH CREEK:
Rausch Creek Off Road Park is devoted to providing a fun, legal place for off-road enthusiasts to go four-wheeling. The park consists of almost 3,000 acres of easy, intermediate, and difficult trails featuring rocks, bowls, hills, club friendly trails, and free, on-site camping. The park is located in Pine Grove, in Schuylkill County, the heart of the anthracite Coal Region of Eastern Pennsylvania. It can be reached by Interstate 81 (exit 107, south via Route 209) or Interstate 78 (exit 13, north via PA-501).
NOTE: All text and photos are copyright JoMarie Fecci/USnomads unless otherwise noted. If you would like to use any imagery here, please contact us for permission. This article is based on the trip conducted on 9 May 2020 — conditions can change, so please check the most current conditions and policies before setting out. For more information about the specifics of this trip contact us.