For Tyler Matechak from Dickson City, helping people have fun outside has become something of a calling. The Air Force veteran launched a new group, Steamtown MTN, last summer as many of the COVID-19 restrictions were being lifted. Read how the group has evolved and what he plans for the future:
Q: How did you get into checking out the local trails?
A: Years ago I got into mountain biking, so I’d go out with some friends to local spots like Lackawanna State Park, Merli Sarnoski, Aylesworth, and the Dick and Nancy Eales Preserve on Moosic Mountain. Back then, the resources for navigation weren’t as good as they are today. If you had a friend that knew a good route, you’d keep taking that same route over and over until you knew it by memory, or you got lost and wandered for hours until you found your way out! Unfortunately, I was never a very talented biker so I’d keep getting hurt on these very technical, rough trails so I had to get out on my own and look for trails that weren’t as rough in the area. There’s not many around here. It was easier for me to do that on foot with running than it was on a bike. Funny enough, is I prefer the rougher trails for running and smoother trails for biking. As far as favorites go there’s too many to list! Lackawanna State Park has the miles and miles of well maintained, mostly easier trails. The Bell Mountain Powerline Trail is the best spot for some gnarly mountain running. But then there’s the spots to just get in some good scenery like Campbell’s Ledge, Top of the World or all the amazing hidden waterfalls in the area.
Q: How did the idea to start a group come from?
A: I’m a gym guy. During the first lockdown, I had to find something to fill that void so I got on the trails more (and) started exploring more and more. I was on a trail run with my friend Maureen at Lackawanna State Park and we both kept thinking how this area is so amazing for trail running but there’s no one actually out here running these trails. It was weird because the area has a big culture of road running, mountain biking and even hiking to a lesser degree. So instead of just being the only weirdos running on the trails, we decided to teach people how to do it. We reached out to Lackawanna State Park to hold a free beginner trail running clinic right as we were going into yellow phase of reopening, which had a 25 person gathering limit for outdoor events. We posted a Facebook event and shared it to the local running groups and we didn’t expect much. We’d be happy if a few showed up. But immediately, we had a ton of interest. We had well over the limit as responding “going” or “interested.” So we ended up needing to do multiple clinics to get everyone in that wanted to
do one. We actually had a lot of people show up that knew how to trail run but just wanted a group run so we started doing those as well. Every Tuesday, we would have a “Trail Tuesday” evening run where we would go somewhere new. We’d get different people to guide the run and show off their own routes to the group. Problem with running is that everyone has a different level of fitness and skill so paces can have a wide range so we started doing different pace groups as well as a hike group, since there was a big outcry for that! It’s tough to say how the group has grown but it’s very easy to see how to area has become more active when it comes to getting out in the woods and finding what’s in our backyard. A year ago no one had ever heard of Top of the World, the Bell Mountain Powerline Trail, or all these crazy waterfalls we have here. Now all these places are common knowledge with people even coming from out of town to see them!
Q: Who can join the group?
A: We hold beginner and different level skills clinics so the knowledge is there for anyone to get better. This year we’re doing weekly Wednesday night run and hike meetups at Lackawanna State Park. No set route or pace. Just show up and run/hike what you want with who
you want and we just meet at 6 p.m. at
the Pine Pavilion by the pool and end at the same place. This really is for everyone, no matter where you’re at with your ability. There will be somebody there that’s at your level! You can find more information on these weekly meetups and other events on the Steamtown MTN Facebook page or the MTN Run Team or Steamtown MTN Hikers and Ruckers Facebook Groups.
Q: What is your vision for the future of the group?
A: I see NEPA becoming a destination for the outdoor scene similar to what you see in Colorado or the Adirondacks. The cool thing with this area is that you can be in downtown Scranton or anywhere else, point in any direction and within two miles find a trail system with some real hidden gems. We have all these old coal mines and ghost towns everywhere and because of this there’s so many old roads and trails. I’m working to get these old systems mapped out and published to different platforms like All Trails, Strava, Google Maps, Trail Forks, etc. This way the secret will be out and you no longer need to travel anywhere to get a good hike or hear anyone say “There’s nothing to do in NEPA!”
In 2021, similar to the running/hiking meetups we started doing rock climbing/bouldering meetups in the area which is another area of immense potential for the region. You don’t need to drop $100s to hire a guide or buy a ton of equipment, just show up hang out, climb a boulder, fall on a pad and have a blast!
Q: When you’re not checking out new trails or visiting your favorites, how do you spend your time?
A: Mostly training. I’m a competitive obstacle course racer/Spartan racer and trail runner. I’m about to be 30 so the idea that I have a limited amount of “prime years” to find out how far I can go with it has pushed me to take all that more seriously. I’m under the assumption that you only live once and that’s all you get so I just work hard and try to change some things for the better.
Also I’m a huge nerd with finance. I had a good string of luck last year with the stock market crash and recovery and have become obsessed with the stock market and cryptocurrency. I put myself in a position where I don’t have to work the 9-5 anymore so I have more time to trade and to train. So if I’m not out on a trail or at the gym, I’m normally glued to my phone either making a trade or researching my next one.