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8.13.2017

Exploring Nature & History Around PGH's Schenley Park

Today we explore Junction Hollow and lower Schenley Park in the area of Panther Hollow Lake. This nondescript area is the junction of some of Pittsburgh's most prestigious centers of learning, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. The hollow is home to a small neighborhood, the P&W Subdivision Rail Line, and the Bellefield Boiler Plant, a building that sends heating and cooling to many buildings of the surrounding institutions. The boiler plant gained fame on its own in Michael Chabon's novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, where the plant is known as the "Cloud Factory," for the great amount of steam that it emits during the winter months. For this article, Brit opted to use my camera, so these are all her photos.

Some context to the location of the spot, at the quiet nexus of the University of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Library and Museums, and Carnegie Mellon University. This is the first time we stopped in this spot, and it is pretty neat to see.
"Time to move!"

"It's time for me to fly!"
Now we head over to Schenley Park Panther Hollow Lake. This pond is fed by Phipps Run and Panther Hollow Run, and it is almost unrecognizable from what it was a few years ago. The pond gets easily choked up with tree limbs, sediment, and more, from storm runoff. In the last few years, a basin was erected at the head of the pond, just beyond its walls, which catches the runoff junk, and leaves the pond in decent shape as a wetland habitat, complete with lilly pads, cattails, and more. It is a quiet respite from the city down here. Mature woodlands surround the area of Panther Hollow Lake, along with connections to the trail networks located throughout the park.
Chipmunks are funny to watch
The forests throughout Schenley Park are impressive. One cannot help but look up and be amazed by the beauty. Of the four major Pittsburgh City Parks, Schenley, Frick, Highland, and Riverview, 373,000 trees were counted in 2010. 
Look for a minute and you will see a blue dragonfly hovering over the one leaf.
Panther Hollow Bridge showing through the trees. This impressive bridge dates back to 1897 and its main span measures in at 360 feet, with a complete bridge length at 620 feet. It is a near twin to the nearby Schenley Bridge.

A rabbit hanging out in the grass near the gutter that protects Panther Hollow Lake from storm runoff junk. 
A good bit of the infrastructure throughout the park dates back to the Great Depression New Deal programs that were instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt. More than a dozen of these bridges were constructed throughout the park, making this place a favorite for hikers, runners, and people just looking to take a walk to get away from it all. To think that this infrastructure is still thriving and functional, nearly 80 years after they were built to employ people that were struggling during the Great Depression, is incredible. 
    

I am not one for selfies, or to have photos taken of me, so it is funny seeing the way I look when I am exploring.

    
Some beautiful wildflowers in bloom.
The little stream had lots of little frogs jumping around in it.
Here is the Tufa Bridge. It dates back to 1908 and was built using tufa, a white, porous, cryptocrystalline calcium carbonate, which is formed as piled-up mineral deposits formed beneath the water's surface (thanks PGH Bridges) and it is really beautiful. If you look closely at the stone, you can see tiny coral like tubes and straws and nodules.

More frogs!

Heading back to Panther Hollow Lake
This shot shows quite a bit of wetland vegetation, the most obvious signs of how the work to stabilize the habitat of the pond is paying off. 
Schenley Park, and the area around it, are a ton of fun to explore and we highly recommend it. Exploring Schenley Park is a quintessential part of being a Pittsburgher, and one of the easiest ways to connect with nature and history within the city. Be sure to check out!

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