Thousand Steps vista

The Thousand Steps vista on the Standing Stone Trail is one of the stops on the Standing Stone Trail Club’s Sweet Sixteen Trail Challenge that started Jan. 1.

Hiking and history have combined to challenge outdoor enthusiasts on the 84-mile Standing Stone Trail.

Standing Stone Trail Club members welcomed the new year by introducing the Sweet Sixteen Trail Challenge to highlight the trail’s beautiful vistas and valleys, as well as the region’s history.

“We purposely highlighted nature and history when our committee sat down to pick the 16 challenges,” said club secretary Genny Volgstadt. “We picked a variety of features so it wasn’t all geology or vistas.”

The challenge idea came from programs club members saw in other parts of the country.

“The idea came to fruition last spring after we heard about challenges in other places, like trails in New York state,” said Volgstadt.

She said hikers can complete the 16 challenge goals sprinkled throughout the trail’s 84 miles that span Huntingdon, Mifflin and Fulton counties.

“People can do it at their own leisure. There’s no time limit, so hikers can take one week or 10 years to complete the challenge,” said Volgstadt. “Hikers who reach all 16 challenges will receive a commemorative certificate and patch.”

To get started, Volgstadt said hikers can visit the club’s website at www.standingstonetrail.org and download the maps and challenge form under the events tab.

“You’ll also find the list of challenges, which includes a trivia quiz about the challenges,” she said. “Once completed, the form can be sent to our P.O. box, which is listed on the form, with $1 to cover the cost of the patch and shipping.”

Challengers will enjoy the region’s natural beauty, but also the history behind the towns and landmarks.

“There are a number of challenges at the vistas, like the Thousand Steps and the dinkey shed at the top of the steps,” said Volgstadt. “We also feature two trail towns, Three Springs and Mapleton, and some of the history of both, such as the three creeks found in Three Springs and the date of the founding of the town.”

She said other challenges center around the Greenwood Fire Tower, which was built in 1921 to monitor forest fires, and Vanderbilt’s Folly, the remains of the South Penn Railroad bed built by William Vanderbilt in the 1880s.

While no one has completed the challenge yet, club members are hopeful folks will take advantage of the unique opportunity.

“We hope to get a few folks complete it this year,” said Volgstadt.

For those who might not feel comfortable hiking on their own, Volgstadt said the club offers a guided hike once a month.

“This month, we’ll hike a section starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 27. It’s a short hike, just 3.5 miles, and goes through some game lands,” she said, adding that additional details are listed on the website.

The Standing Stone Trail was built in the 1980s entirely by volunteers to connect the Tuscarora Trail with the Mid-State Trail. It reaches from Cowans Gap State Park in the south to the Mid-State Trail in the north.

“The trail has a lot of access points, so it makes it easy to hike,” said Volgstadt. “You don’t have to hike 20 miles. There is some amazing stonework and stone steps and the trail is very well marked with orange blazes.”

For more information on the challenge, the club or the trail itself, visit www.standingstonetrail.org.

Becky can be reached at bweikert@huntingdondailynews.com.

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