Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Back Mountain ride

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Last night after work I decided it was time to get out for my first proper road ride. I planned a rough route with one major wildcard: I had seen a route on RouteSlip.com that seemed to parallel highway 309, but not actually ride on it. It was not on roads on the map. I figured there must be a bike path there, so I headed out to find out for sure.

Here’s the route I ended up doing.

And here is the elevation profile. I’m used to rolling hills, not long, sustained climbs like this. That, coupled with the little riding I’ve done recently made for quite a challenge.

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

I took a meandering path to where I thought the trailhead would be. This area has a lot of one-way streets, and a lot of streets that don’t go through, or that turn at a 90-degree angle. It can be confusing, and it means that there is rarely a straight line between places, other than major thoroughfares, where I wouldn’t want to ride a bike.

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Riding toward the mountain

As for the bike path, it turns out I was right. I easily found the trailhead, and there was a sign telling me this was the “Back Mountain Trail.” I had heard about this rail-trail, but I thought it was on the other side of the mountain. It turns out, it takes you partway up the mountain. So, it was mostly uphill the whole time I was on the trail, but it climbed very gradually for 2+ miles, so it wasn’t bad at all. The trail largely parallels PA Route 309, but it climbs to a higher point than the highway, giving some nice views of the mountains and the road. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of highway noise, but it’s still a very pleasant ride on smooth gravel with some great scenery.

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Rock wall

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A bench by the trail

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Looking at the traffic below

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Riding through the gap

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The road below

There were a few rough sections, but overall the trail was smooth. Somehow it managed to climb more than the road did over the same distance, but it really didn’t feel bad at all. I reached the end of the trail in Trucksville and debated whether to continue, or turn back. Carverton Road, the road I had planned to ride on, seemed to have fairly light traffic, so I went for it.

This was by far the hardest part of the ride. I had a good 5 miles more climbing to do, and while none of it was insanely steep, it was a long, hard climb. There was no shoulder during this section and a few motorists were a little unfriendly (I got honked at once or twice) but nothing too bad. And I could understand their frustration: I was going really slowly for a while. Eventually the grade let up and I got moving faster. Also, a bike lane/shoulder opened up. I hesitate to call it a shoulder, as it had smooth pavement and little debris, and even some bike symbols with arrows. I also saw a few “Share the road” signs, which made me feel good.

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Carverton Road

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Share The Road

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Church

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Mountains

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Bike lane/shoulder

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Mountains rolling into the distance

My photos really don’t do the scenery justice. The feeling of having climbed so far and still having these mountains loom over you is really something. The road took me by Frances Slocum Lake and Frances Slocum State Park, although the park entrance is on the other side of the lake. I crossed the road to stop and get a better look at the lake. Everything was perfect here. The colors of the leaves, the stillness of the water, the warm glow of the evening light made for a magical setting. If I had had more time, I would’ve loved to sit by the water, or ride over to the state park area.

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Frances Slocum Lake

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Lake on the left, mountain on the right

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Obligatory bike shot

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Looking ahead

I crossed back to the other side of the road. Here’s where all the climbing paid off. The next 4-5 miles were almost entirely downhill. Again, no section was too steep. I enjoyed the winding road down the side of the mountain with minimal braking. Even so, I only reached 32 mph. I would’ve been moving a lot faster if I hadn’t been wearing bulky, warm clothing. But I didn’t care, I relished the descent while feeling in complete control the whole time. I kept my pace around 25-30 mph for the next few miles. There were cars behind me, but there was no need for them to pass me, as there are numerous 25 mph or slower turns through this section.

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Starting the descent

Before long, I was back in town. It was a bit of an abrupt transition, really. For example, look at the above photo, and look at the next one I took. Granted, I didn’t take any while riding downhill except the one above.

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Back in town

It was also startlingly flat once I reached the bottom of the mountain. I took about as direct a path as possible to get home. It took a bit longer than I expected, but I had lights and it still wasn’t completely dark when I returned.

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Shoemaker Road

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Looking toward Wilkes-Barre

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Industrial area

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Going under 309

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Dusk on a quiet street

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Seminary building in Kingston

When we moved here, Sarah and I discussed the possibility that it might be harder to get away from the city here than in Bloomington. Fortunately, that really doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m amazed at all I could see on this ride, leaving from home. I can’t wait to explore the area more, and I’m floored that there is a path that goes somewhere useful. I could see incorporating the Back Mountain Trail into a lot of routes.

3 Responses to “Back Mountain ride”

  1. Tim Says:

    I just cursored through your pics and it’s so strange to see your style but not that of south-central IN. I got used to the rolling Bloomington countryside. Every day will be an adventure, which can be lots of fun. Looking forward to more to come.

  2. Dave Says:

    Sounds like a great ride! You’ll build those climbing legs in no time, and I’m sure you’ll find other routes in the area. Can’t wait to read about your next ride!

  3. Jon Grinder Says:

    I’m glad to hear you are finding good riding. It’s amazing how important that can be, some days.

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