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Perspectives on Outings - Many Travels
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by Dan Soeder, Chapter Outings Chair | 2012

I  have been on the run this fall and winter like never before. A lot of things at work are requiring my attendance at numerous meetings, and I’ve been traveling almost every week since the middle of September. Much of it has been “local” — Washington, DC, for an American Association of Petroleum Geologists meeting, State College for a Marcellus Shale summit at Penn State, Philadelphia for a meeting with the EPA and Temple University, and Pittsburgh for a review of the DOE carbon sequestration program. Other trips have been a bit farther; I was in Minneapolis for the Geological Society of America annual meeting in October, and up in Calgary the week of Thanksgiving to talk to the Geological Survey of Canada about shale gas.
 
I  try to get out and walk the local trails when I get to new places. So much time is spent in the car or sitting on an airplane getting there, followed by sitting around all day in a meeting. Walking the streets, sidewalks and trails of a new place in the evening is about the only exercise I get when on travel, with the possible exception of running through airports. Walking doesn’t require any equipment except a pair of shoes, so it is a great exercise when traveling. Some travel is close enough to allow equipment; I brought my bicycle in the car to the Washington meeting and went for a ride on the Mount Vernon trail along the Potomac the last afternoon before driving home. I’m going to take it up to Philadelphia on one of these EPA trips to ride the bike trail along the Schuylkill River.
 
You can learn a lot about a new place by walking around. I never fully appreciated the size of the Penn State campus driving through it. It is reportedly four miles from end to end, and after walking across it and back, I can believe that. I used to live near D.C. and there are lots of places in and around Our Nation’s Capital to visit on foot or by bicycle. I find new places in Pittsburgh every time I visit. Many of the buildings in downtown Minneapolis are connected by covered, heated and lighted pedestrian bridges, which must be quite handy in the winter up there. Calgary is one of the most pedestrian friendly cities I’ve ever visited.
They have sidewalks everywhere, foot-bridges that cross main roadways every few blocks, and crosswalks where yellow caution lights flash when you push the “cross” button, and traffic stops. Amazing! Many towns have rail trails, hiker-biker trails, and other dedicated trails that are usually well-marked, safe and go through the most scenic parts of the city. I find that it is almost always rewarding to hike or ride them.
 
It isn’t always necessary to get on an airplane to visit a city. There are some great places to hike or bicycle in Morgantown, Fairmont, Elkins, and probably many other towns in West Virginia. Farther afield but still close are Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore and Cleveland. No one ever said Sierra Club outings have to be in the woods. If you have a favorite city walk or a ride, let me know, and maybe we can turn it into an outing.
 
I had a break over the holidays, but then the travel starts up again in January. I’m looking forward to a Duke University environmental workshop in Durham, NC; a trip to Ocean City, MD for an outdoors teachers’ conference; and a trip down to the Yucatan in Mexico for the North American Carbon Atlas Partnership meeting. That one alternates between countries, and I’m thankful the January meeting fell on Mexico’s turn, instead of Canada’s. Looks like I might get in a few good hikes.
 
See you outside!

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