Golden Triangle

Excerpts from the Golden Triangle newsletter published by the AYH from 1950-2004

January 1950
(Page 2) Sunday, February 12 - BLAZE THE BAKER TRAIL - This time between Springdale and Tarentum. Bring lunch. Distance 12 mi. Cost $1.10. Leader to be announced.

March 1950
It is a long way from Westphalia, Germany to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a long time from 1910 to 1950, but this is how far hosteling has traveled and how long the IDEA has endured. Indeed, that is precisely what hosteling is -- the idea that, given the opportunity to travel inexpensively and adventurously, the youth of the world would find health, happiness, and international understanding. With the tramp of a heavy boot on a mountain trail or the rush of fresh air against the cyclists' face, intolerance sinks to nothing, and impatience with one's fellow man disappears. Hosteling transcends the artificial boundaries of race, religion, and nationality and establishes that while there are differences between various groups, it does not follow that one is inferior to another.

Somewhere in the deep conscience of the Westphalia school teacher, Richard Schirmann, these thoughts must have moved when he initiated the first youth hostels in country schools -- empty for the summer months. They surged irrepressibly through Western Europe so that hosteling was firmly rooted by 1933 when Isabel and Monroe Smith, of Northfield, Massachusetts, voyaged abroad to find and feel the import of this spirit new to the United States but not necessarily alien. Upon their return, they established the first American youth hostel in their home then, with a burning ambition to make hosteling a household word they began their expansion. New England, ideally suited because of natural beauty, small towns, and numerous academic centers, became the first hostelized area. It remains today the bulwark of the movement. But in due time, other national areas accepted the IDEA -- The Great Lakes, the Pacific Northwest, the Great Smokies, and others. By the time the United States entered the recent war, hostels numbered 250 and passholders nearly 20,000. It was not a movement to be regarded lightly.

Hosteling swept Pennsylvania like a flood in the late 30's -- and mushrooming almost overnight was a chain of hostels along the Horseshoe trail from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and along the Appalachian trail from the Susquehanna to the Delaware Water Gap. A State Council was established in Philadelphia, as well as a local council in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area, Pittsburgh, too, felt the impact of AYH and, under the leadership of Horace F. Baker, eminent attorney, established a council in 1941, followed shortly thereafter by a model hostel in South Park.

Unfortunately, great forces of evil were afoot in the world, and the thing hosteling opposed most -- WAR -- came to pass. Whole peoples relegated their pleasure and ideals to the back of their minds and united in an even greater effort. The United States was no exception. Amid the rubble of foreign communities lay ruined hostels. In this country, no physical destruction occurred but AYH membership and participation dropped markedly as did the number of hostels. Councils floundered and fell disorganized, and the newest groups, such as the one in Pittsburgh, were the first to go. In the aftermath, while foreign nations counted their broken buildings, American hosteling surveyed a terrible loss in everything but reputation, and, while not returned to its beginnings of 1933, faced a reconstruction problem of prime magnitude. With courage and new determination, however, the loose ends were gathered, the veterans of the movement were summoned and advised of the task which lay ahead, and deliberate reconstruction began.

Six long years after the demise of the original Pittsburgh Council, a fledgling local group began anew on Washington's Birthday, 1948, to hold hikes intended eventually to expand to a full blown youth hostel movement. Simultaneously, Mr. Horace F. Baker invited a number of civic-minded citizens to a dinner at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton Club in an effort at reorganization. This group, guided by professional AYH workers from New York, Philadelphia, and Northfield, constituted itself a steering committee to formulate a new organization. It resolved to emphasize hostelers and hosteling rather than hostels in its initial phases, and this sound policy paid dividends we are all happily reaping today.

Elsewhere in this annual report will be found detailed summaries of progress in 1949, a banner year for AYH in Pittsburgh. It was made possible through the selfless, unflinching devotion of many fine people to an IDEA. It has borne fruit because of active participation of all of you in activities which we firmly believe constitute a firm foundation, not only for priceless companionship at a local level, but for elimination of animosity in a far greater sphere. With your continued support and enthusiasm, hosteling in Pittsburgh will inevitably reach the high stature it proudly enjoys in the great cities of the East. The community will come to look on hosteling as an integral and valued part of the culture of mankind.

(Page 3) BAKER TRAIL SONG (Tune: "Field Artillery Song")
Over hill, over dale,
On the Horace Baker Trail,
As the hostelers go hiking along.
Pick 'em up, lay 'em down,
Leave the stragglers back in town,
As the hostelers go hiking along.
For it's hi, hi, he,
Though we're beat as you can see,
We sing out a lusty hiking song.
If a tourist comes by,
We'll ptui in his eye,
As the hostelers go hiking along.

In the early Fall of 1949, the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Council authorized the construction of an extended trail to connect Pittsburgh with Cook Forest, an estimated distance of 125 miles. The trail was named the Horace F. Baker Trail in honor of the prominent Pittsburgh attorney who served as president of the first local council and whose guidance and assistance have played so prominent a part in the progress of the present Council.

Construction of the trail is accomplished in several steps. First, one or two scouts establish a logical route to be followed by a blazing party which marks the route with bright paint blazes on trees and rocks. The third step is the establishment of mileposts, to be followed by parties establishing campsites at regular intervals. The final refinement, of course, is the opening of hostels along the route.

The trail starts in Aspinwall and roughly parallels the Allegheny River to Freeport, where it crosses and proceeds to Kelly Station, Crooked Creek Dam, Mahoning Dam, and thence to Cook Forest. At present, scouting is virtually complete to Crooked Creek Dam and blazing has been accomplished as far as Tarentum. This portion of the trail almost completely avoids paved roads and crosses streams by such rustic means as cable and log bridges.

Upon completion of Sector No. 1 (to Crooked Creek Dam), a brochure will be prepared describing the route. This will be available to AYH members and to other groups in the community interested in hiking.

May 1950
Horace Forbes Baker, who was instrumental in founding the Pittsburgh Council, passed away February 24. The Baker Trail will be a memorial to his great influence in hosteling.

(Page 4) Sat.-Sun., June 10-11 - BAKER TRAIL OVERNIGHT HIKE-BIKE. Good training for summer extended hike trips. 15 miles each day with packs over Freeport to Aspinwall section. Cost $2.80. Leader Tony Pranses (PE 1-2556). Cyclists will meet hikers for camp out. Distance 45 miles each day. Cost $1.80. Leader Buddy Edlis (MO 1-3229) Bring Sat. lunch.

September 1950
(Page 6) Sat.-Sun., Sept. 23-24 - CROOKED CREEK OVERNIGHT. A hike along the newest section of the Baker Trail, with swimming and hiking at this favorite spot in Armstrong County. Bring eating and sleeping gear, Saturday lunch. Cost $4.00. Leader, Herb Buchwald (MA 1-4725).

November 1950
(Page 4) Saturday, December 2 - BAKER TRAIL TIME. This one overlooking New Kensington, with a campfire supper directly above the Aluminum City. Be sure to bring $1.45, mess gear. Leader, Mary Ellen Timberlake, LO. 1-2333

January 1951
Phil Ewald has been put in charge of the extension of the Baker Trail. The trail has been blazed to Mahoning Dam. A brochure will probably be issued this spring so that other organizations can travel it. The trail will extend from Aspinwall to Cook Forest.

(Page 4) Sunday, Feb. 4 - GOLDBRICKING ALONG THE BAKER TRAIL. A 10-mile hike and a visit to the brickyards in Freeport. Bring lunch. Leader Field Curry, FR 1-1646. $1.55

March 1951
(Page 1) Jack Stein, Chairman of the Trips and Trails Committee, announces the following extended trips for the summer of 1951:
Pittsburgh's Baker Trail from Aspinwall to Cook Forest, with open campsites (hike) - $30 - Aug. 4 to 19

(Page 3) Saturday, April 28 - MAHONING DAM ON THE BAKER TRAIL. The beginning of Sector 3 on the Pittsburgh Council Aspinwall-Cook Forest Overland Trail. Leader, Tony Pranses. Cost $2.50. For information, call Bruce Merritt, Fe. 1-3857.

May 1951
A "Guide to the Baker Trail" was mailed during March to all Pittsburgh passholders and AYH Councils. The brochure, which contains a complete set of ten maps of the 133-mile trail, is available without charge to all new Pittsburgh AYH passholders. Additional copies are available for 20¢.

The maps in the Guide are the work of George Howe, who spends his non-hosteling hours in the Geography Department at Pitt.

Phil Ewald, chairman of the Baker Trail, has announced that the Crooked Creek trip of May 19 and 20 will blaze the trail from Freeport to Crooked Creek, while the Mahoning Dam to Cook Forest section will be blazed by the end of June. They have been scouted.

A Boy Scout troop from Wexford will be out on the Trail the weekend of April 22, while a troop from the South Hills will go from Crooked Creek to Springdale the weekend of May 19.

By Herb Buchwald

Betty Bierer, Roger Giler, Ross Firestone of Cleveland, and I started the Easter trip off by a taxi ride from Clarion to Cook Forest. It was 10:30 p.m. when we got there, too late to get a cabin. The only thing left was an open pavilion. The snow and 18° temperature didn't bother us that night--much! After breakfast we made our way to the fire tower, which is the start of the Baker Trail. The walk along the Clarion River amid snow flurries and sun streaming through the clouds started the trail off perfectly. After lunch we climbed Hill 1776, the highest point on the Baker Trail. That afternoon we found that it was not all honors to be a member of the first party to hike the Clarion section of the Baker Trail. Yes, we got lost. The detour took us at least 5 miles out of our way, bringing us to Corsica after a 22-mile day. In Corsica we persuaded a minister that we were human and deserved a ride in his car to Brookville for a stopover at Chet Merkle's. The next day was spent in some of the most beautiful lonely virgin pine country yet to be seen on the trail. We found lodging in the soft hay of a North Freedom barn that night. The rain and wind howled, but we didn't know it until 5:30 the next morning. Ross went home, but we carried on past Mahoning Dam on one of the wettest, coldest, windiest days of the season. That night we found lodging in Dayton's only hotel. It was a beautiful Easter morning, and before the churchbells beckoned, we had started on our last day. We were now again in well marked Baker Trail country. Late afternoon we reached the Hammel's in Plumville (Louise Pranses' family), and were welcomed to an inviting dinner, before we returned by bus from a very well spent Easter vacation.

(Page 4) CROOKED CREEK ON THE BAKER TRAIL. Good preparation for the rough hiking trips this summer. Packs, eating and sleeping gear are all necessary. Leader, Phil Ewald, Le. 1-3541. Estmated cost $3.50

Wednesday, May 30 (Memorial Day) - BAKER TRAIL. A 10-mile hike along the Allegheny Sector of the Baker Trail, including many beautiful views of the Allegheny River from the heights. Bring your lunch and 90¢. Leader, Dan Moore, MO 1-4024