The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for March 10th, 2023

Montour Trail, Enlow tunnel

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one had headed over to a section of the Montour Trail which includes a railroad tunnel punched through a hill (or hillock, maybe?). Also mentioned, I’m playing around with using the ChatGPT “artificial intelligence” as a research assistant.

If you ask ChatGPT “what is the Enlow Tunnel on the Montour Trail” you get this response:

The Enlow Tunnel on the Montour Trail is a historic railroad tunnel that was constructed in 1914 and later converted into a recreational trail in the 1990s. It is named after the nearby Enlow Mine, which was once one of the largest underground coal mines in Pennsylvania.

The tunnel is approximately 600 feet long (183 meters) and is situated along the Montour Trail, a popular 60-mile (97 km) recreational trail that follows the path of the former Montour Railroad. The tunnel is known for its distinctive curved shape and its role as a gateway between two sections of the trail.

The Enlow Tunnel on the Montour Trail is a popular destination for hikers, bikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy exploring the scenic beauty of western Pennsylvania. The tunnel is open year-round and provides a unique experience for those looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Overall, the Enlow Tunnel on the Montour Trail is a remarkable piece of history that has been repurposed for modern use. It serves as a testament to the region’s industrial heritage while providing a unique recreational opportunity for visitors to the area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My interest in these ‘rail to trail’ paths is absolutely piqued. Given the often severe and physically challenging nature of the heavily wooded surrounding topography, having a railroad graded path to scuttle along has been absolute nepenthe. You can walk for four or five miles in one direction, then backtrack to where the car is parked. Railroad grading is typically one foot of elevation relative to one hundred feet horizontally. The surface of the trail is either crushed limestone or pavement of one kind or another.

So far, I’ve found all sorts of side paths which branch off of the main trail. You can find these “desire paths” by looking for areas where others have stomped through the brush.

Machine says:

In the context of urban planning, a desire path refers to a pathway or trail that is created by people’s repeated use, rather than being formally designed or constructed by planners or engineers. Desire paths are typically formed when people take shortcuts or alternative routes across open spaces or between buildings, often in response to perceived inefficiencies or obstacles in the existing network of sidewalks or pedestrian walkways.

Desire paths are important for urban planners and designers to observe and consider, as they can provide insights into the needs and preferences of the people who use the urban environment. By identifying desire paths, planners can better understand where people want to go and how they prefer to get there, and can use this information to improve the design of the built environment.

In some cases, planners may choose to formalize desire paths by paving or otherwise improving them, in order to provide a more efficient and direct route for pedestrians or cyclists. However, in other cases, desire paths may be left unpaved, in recognition of the fact that they represent an organic and responsive approach to urban design that prioritizes the needs of the people who use the space.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just off the Montour Trail path is Montour Run, a shallow but fast moving waterway which I found my way down to by following one of those desire paths. By NYC standards this would be wilderness, but by what I’m beginning to understand the Pennsylvania standard is, it’s still pretty urban. About an hour’s drive in any direction from Pittsburgh and you can be in the deep woods.

A two hour drive from Pittsburgh puts you into the reach of three states where people report having seen Sasquatches in the woods, specifically the “Pennsylvania Bigfoot.”

ChatGPT says: The “Bigfoot of Pennsylvania” – There have been several reported sightings of Bigfoot in the forests and wooded areas surrounding Pittsburgh. While there is no concrete evidence to support the existence of Bigfoot, many people believe that the creature could be a real, undiscovered species of primate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This whole “nature thing” is new to me, having lived in NYC my whole life. Back home, if you saw an Opossum or a Raccoon roaming about, it was a big deal and you’d mention it to people. Here, I’ve got deer and rabbits and every kind of bird you can imagine showing up in my back yard, and that’s about 5 miles from the “downtown” center of the City.

I got to wondering about what sort of predatory critters there might be roaming about in the rural areas, so I asked ChatGPT what it thought –

There are several predatory fauna species that can be found in the Pittsburgh area, including:

  1. Coyotes – Coyotes are a type of wild dog that can be found in both urban and rural areas of Pittsburgh. They are primarily nocturnal and feed on small mammals, birds, and carrion.
  2. Red-tailed hawks – Red-tailed hawks are a common species of bird of prey that can be found throughout the Pittsburgh area. They primarily feed on small mammals and birds.
  3. Eastern timber rattlesnakes – Eastern timber rattlesnakes are a venomous species of snake that can be found in the forests and wooded areas surrounding Pittsburgh. They primarily feed on small rodents and other small mammals.
  4. Black bears – Black bears are a larger predatory mammal that can be found in the wooded areas surrounding Pittsburgh. They primarily feed on plants and berries, but will occasionally prey on small mammals.
  5. Bobcats – Bobcats are a type of wild cat that can be found in the wooded areas surrounding Pittsburgh. They primarily feed on small mammals such as rabbits and rodents.

It’s important to note that while these species are considered predators, they generally do not pose a significant threat to humans unless they feel threatened or cornered. It’s important to practice caution when encountering wildlife and to follow local guidelines for wildlife safety.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve actually spotted a few caves carved out of the hillsides by water action, and given the “folded mountain” and “ridge and valley” topography, it would be unlikely that hydrological action hadn’t actively carved into the rock over the hundreds of millions of years that these sedimentary deposits and mountains have existed. These landforms are older than vertebrates, after all. Caves. That’s another one for my summer playlist.

VOX Automata says: There are several publicly accessible caves and caverns located in the Pittsburgh area. Here are a few examples:

  1. Laurel Caverns – Located about an hour south of Pittsburgh in Farmington, PA, Laurel Caverns is a popular destination for cave tours and exploration. Visitors can explore the underground chambers and passageways of the cave system, which features beautiful rock formations and unique geological features.
  2. Cucumber Falls Cave – Located in Ohiopyle State Park, about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh, the Cucumber Falls Cave is a small, narrow cave that is open to the public. Visitors can climb down into the cave and explore the interior, but should exercise caution and bring a flashlight.
  3. McDowell Quarry Cave – Located in McKees Rocks, just outside of Pittsburgh, the McDowell Quarry Cave is a popular destination for spelunkers and cave enthusiasts. The cave system is a series of interconnected passages and chambers, and requires specialized equipment and training to explore safely.
  4. Indian Echo Caverns – Located about three hours east of Pittsburgh in Hummelstown, PA, Indian Echo Caverns is a beautiful limestone cave system that is open to the public for guided tours. The cave features underground lakes, waterfalls, and unique rock formations.

It’s important to note that exploring caves can be dangerous, and visitors should exercise caution and follow all posted guidelines and safety recommendations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A final shot of the Enlow Tunnel, and it was time to scuttle back to the Mobile Oppression Platform. One disturbing bit of Pittsburgh history that I knew about, long before coming here, involved the so called “Pittsburgh incident of 1968” and the more recent “Monroeville incident of 1978.” Both of these occurrences were hushed up, but a local filmmaker’s fictionalizations got the word out.

You never know when that sort of thing is going to occur again, around these parts. Third time’s the charm, huh?

Back next week with something different, at your Newtown Pentacle.

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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 10, 2023 at 11:00 am

Posted in newtown creek

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