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ChapterGram: September 2013

Chapter 855 Invites Pilots Out for a Bike Ride


By Gene Salvatore, President, EAA Chapter 855

Several years ago EAA Chapter 855 began searching for a new home after Kutztown Airport (N31) in Pennsylvania was closed. Luckily, the chapter was welcomed to operate from Slatington Airport (69N) by airport owner and manager Roger "Corky" Sell. Not only did Corky welcome us to his beautiful airport, he became an active chapter member, flying Young Eagles and providing building materials for bench rebuilding and runway line painting, done by chapter members on airport appreciation days.

Having my RANS S-7 based at Slatington allows me to spend many hours flying along the Blue Mountain just north of the airport, waving to hikers on the Appalachian Trail and admiring the beautiful countryside. The Lehigh River, which parallels the airport, cuts through the Blue Mountain at the majestic Lehigh Gap. Not long ago, the D&L Bike Trail opened which runs north to south for many miles from White Haven to Whitehall Township and beyond along the Lehigh River, providing mile after mile of smooth, shade-covered trail.

North of Slatington, the trail breaks out into the rustic Lehigh Gap just past a nature center, then winds around the base of the mountain's treeless north face (which surprisingly looks more like the American Southwest than the lush landscape of Pennsylvania).

The greatest thing about the bike trail is that it passes right next to Slatington Airport. Last summer as I biked the gap with my daughter, I started thinking about how nice it would be if pilots from the nearby cities of New York, Baltimore, and Washington could make the short flight into Slatington and take advantage of the great bike trails, hiking, and fishing that the area offers.

With that in mind, Chapter 855 and Corky have started a mission to provide out-of-town pilots the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends by building a bike shed at the airport next to the bike trail and filling it with trail bikes. These bikes are now available to pilots at no cost for economical outdoor fun.

We also have cleared an area of woods next to the river for overnight camping. The town of Slatington just to the south of the airport is a great place to pick up water or to stop in for lunch or dinner, and it's easily accessible by bike path. The Lehigh Gap Nature Center, located on the trail a mile north of the airport, provides information about the area's history, wildlife, and rock formations. The trail runs north for many miles with a few detours along town roads from one side of the river to the other.

North of the town Jim Thorpe, the trail winds through the beautiful Lehigh Gorge State Park. We recommend visiting the D&L website to become familiar with all the trail has to offer.

How about a day hike to the top of the Blue Mountain? Just before the Nature Center on the northwest side of the Route 837 overpass is a trail head that takes you on a wonderful hike up to the broad top of the Blue Mountain.

Do you like to fly-fish? The Lehigh River, which runs along the east side of the airport and borders the bike trail, offers anglers a chance to land rainbow and brown trout as well as feisty smallmouth bass.

The shed now holds 12 trail bikes of all sizes. Please bring your own helmets. Inside the shed you will find maps of the area, contact information, air pump, and tools to adjust seats if needed. So fly over to 69N and enjoy the day exploring the D&L Bike Trail and the beautiful Lehigh Gap.

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