Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for October, 2008

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.

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.

Rock wall

A bench by the trail

Looking at the traffic below

Riding through the gap

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.

Carverton Road

Share The Road



Bike lane/shoulder

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.

Frances Slocum Lake

Lake on the left, mountain on the right

Obligatory bike shot

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.

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.

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.

Shoemaker Road

Looking toward Wilkes-Barre

Industrial area

Going under 309

Dusk on a quiet street

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.

Nescopeck State Park

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Last weekend, mom drove our car up from Indiana and stayed for a couple of days. This was huge, as it meant I didn’t have to tow the car behind the U-Haul. She also helped unpack and clean. I was going to work on Monday, but I ended up taking the day off so I could spend it with her. After all, I no longer live just a few minutes away from her, and this was the last chance to spend time with her before she flew back to Indiana.

After a very productive morning, we decided to check out a state park in the afternoon. We chose to go down to Nescopeck State Park, which is a bit south of Wilkes-Barre. The drive there was beautiful, taking us on 309, up the mountain to Mountain Top, and back down the other side. Around here, I actually have to use the low gears in my car.

We went to the park office first, which was a much more impressive building than I expected. We got a trail map and some information about other parks in the area. Then we decided to go down to see Lake Frances, and planned a hike of probably around two miles. The folks at the forest office even gave us a couple of bright orange vests, as it’s hunting season.

Our hike started by traveling along one side of the lake. The trail we were on goes all the way around, I believe, but we only went along one side before turning onto a different trail. I was hoping for some vistas or mountain views but this particular park is in a valley; we did get some views of surrounding mountains, but I’ll have to explore other parks to find the epic vistas I crave.

Lake Frances

Lake Frances again

A small pier

We got on the Nescopeck Trail, and I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the trail itself. It was more like a fire road than a trail, really. It was very wide and smooth, and flat, and even had slight tire ruts. It was overgrown with grass, but it was well-maintained. It was pleasant, but it was more of a walk through the woods than a hike. Still, it was a beautiful day and I was happy just to be out.

The trail is wide, but it’s hard to complain with scenery like this

We passed a pond or small lake and looked for an access point, but couldn’t find one. We hiked on and found a very quiet, peaceful spot by Nescopeck Creek. It was off a small side trail and it’d be easy to miss it. We explored the creek a little and rested before heading out.

Nescopeck Creek

Mom, resting on a very large rock

The trail leading back up to the main trail

We continued on our way, and the trail followed the creek on and off. Before long we reached another lake, this one arguably more beautiful than Lake Frances. The afternoon autumn light, the blue sky, the clouds, the foliage, and the reflections in the water all made for quite an impressive scene.


Another shot of the lake

We got on the Woodland Way trail and this one was narrower, more rugged,  and more interesting. The trail surface had a lot of rocks, and thick moss on one side. It meandered along the lake shore.

Moss by the trail

Rocky trail

This was another stunningly peaceful place. We stopped every few steps to admire it, and did not speak much. It required a certain quiet reverence.

The Lake, with Mount Yeager in the distance

Rocks and leaves

Trail surface

Another lake shot

Within a few minutes, we were back at Lake Frances. From there, it was only a short walk back to the car.

Lake Frances

All in all, I enjoyed the park. The hiking was easy, but the scenery was quite beautiful. I’ll have to try some of the other trails there and see if most of them are interesting like the Woodland Way trail, or more like the easier Nescopeck Trail. There are a whole bunch of other parks I want to check out before going back here, though.

First bicycle ride in Pennsylvania

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

So, we’re now residents of Kingston, Pennsylvania, and still trying to get settled in our new home. I haven’t had much time to ride my bicycle, but I did manage to get out for a ride on Saturday.

It’ll take me a while to learn my way around here. I’m already getting there in the car, but I still have yet to determine what the good bicycle routes will be. Some people seem to ride on Wyoming Ave/Route 11, but that is a pretty busy, 4-lane road. It even has a bike lane for part of it, but it only runs for a small portion of the road. I’ll probably try riding there sometime, but I think that I can find a better route on smaller, residential side streets. There isn’t one small road that parallels Wyoming Ave, but I’m hoping I’ll find a few roads I can string together to make a good route.

Anyway, given my lack of knowledge of the roads here, I decided to play it safe for my first ride and go ride on the multi-use path on the Levee. I’m normally not a big fan of paths like this, preferring to ride on actual roads, but I figured this would let me ride without worrying about traffic too much. Also, I knew it would be scenic, as the path follows the Susquehanna River.

I had a route planned to get to the path, but didn’t really follow it. I ended up riding on Market Street, which is a 4-lane road and a little busier than I like, but traffic was light and riding there really wasn’t problematic at all. I decided to ride over the Market Street bridge before getting on the path. The bridge has wide sidewalks, great for cyclists and pedestrians.

Riding through a neighborhood near mine

Looking down on the path from the bridge

Crossing the Market Street bridge

View from the bridge

Looking toward downtown Wilkes-Barre

The Susquehanna River

After checking out the bridge, I rode back and got on the path. I wanted to see how far it went in both directions. I started heading south, passed a small pond and some tennis courts and other sports fields, and found that the path didn’t go very far at all. Once at the end of the path, I saw a trail going down the side of the levee and decided to follow it.

The levee path

I was glad to have the Long Haul Trucker instead of my old road bike, because the trail wasn’t paved. Parts had a strange, dark-colored gravel. There used to be a lot of anthracite coal mining in this area, so I wondered if it was crushed coal.  But for the most part it was a dirt trail. It was mostly fairly smooth, and the Trucker handled it well.

Dark gravel

While the trail followed the river, I couldn’t see the river through the trees, for the most part. I did, however, find some side trails that went down to the river. Additionally, there were some smaller trails shooting off the main one that were a little more challenging, and more fun. I also went under a really cool train trestle.

Looking at the river through the trees

The trail passes under the train trestle

An easy section of trail

I saw a side trail going down toward the river and followed it. I got some great views of the river, Wilkes-Barre, and the trestle. There was some dry ground by the river (I believe the water level was just low) that was sadly littered with tires. The Susquehanna, while scenic, is apparently a highly polluted river. The land by the river was very sandy and rocky to the point where my tires sank in when I tried riding on it. I decided not to go down by the water.

Susquehanna River

Trestle (tires litter the ground in front of it)

My bicycle by the river

The trail seemed to end at what appeared to be a jump track. I think motorcycle riders use it; I heard some engine noises that seemed nearby. If I had the mountain bike with me, I would’ve attempted some jumps.

I headed back the other way and took in some more views of the river along the way. I thought I’d have to ride up and cross Market Street on the road, but instead, the trail took me under the bridge.

More easy trail riding

Looking back at where I rode under the bridge

The trail on the other side of the bridge was a bit trickier — it was narrower, with more twists and turns, and some roots and rocks. It was also clearly less maintained, as there were some trees down on this side. The trail went closer to the water, which I liked, but there was a foul smell emanating from the water. Ugh.

Looking back toward the Market Street Bridge

The sun gets low in the sky

Tough section with lots of roots

I passed another train trestle, this one with a ton of graffiti, and tried to figure out where the trail went. It got more and more difficult and debris-covered, and eventually just ended. I tried a couple of side trails, to no avail. I had to turn around and head back where I came from. Before long, there was a trail back up to the levee. The smooth pavement felt great after the rougher trails. I headed north, to follow it to the end.

Arriving back at the levee

Riding under the tracks

Levee trail behind me

The levee (and path) curved and headed toward the mountains. The sun was getting low in the sky, and the colors on the mountains looked amazing.

Riding toward the mountains

The path ended in Forty Fort, the next town north of Kingston. I found my way home on quiet streets. I  got home before dark.

A Kingston neighborhood

This sure was a great ride — especially considering it was my first ride in our new home. I rode under 10 miles, but was able to ride on a variety of surfaces: paved roads and paths. gravel paths, and dirt trails. And I got to see the Wilkes-Barre and Kingston, the Susquehanna River, the mountains, some very colorful foliage, along with the Market Street and Pierce Street bridges and a couple of railroad trestles. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out for another ride soon.

Ear to the Breeze is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).