Experimental music, photography, and adventures

More sweet mixed terrain in NEPA

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

I just keep finding more great gravel roads in this area. In this case, I set out to do a ride that I knew would involve some gravel, but there ended up being more than I expected.

A few bike-related comments, before I talk about the ride. I occasionally start to second-guess my choice of the Long Haul Trucker (mainly when I’m hauling all that extra weight up a mountain), but then I hit some gravel and I don’t even have to hesitate on this bike. I just keep on trucking, so to speak. When I did have a sportier road bike, I could do gravel, but I always tackled it a bit tenuously, and in some cases it was too sketchy. And as someone who can’t afford a different bike for every kind of riding I do, the Trucker is pretty much ideal, as it makes a great all-arounder.

The other day, I gave the Trucker a good, thorough washing, lubed some parts, and took the rack off. I simply haven’t been using it. It’s a shame not to haul stuff with a Trucker, but there it is. I also left the handlebar bag off for this ride, and I think the loss of weight from those two items was noticeable.

I wanted to do something different, and planned a ride to the northwest of where I live. I frequently go north and/or east, because those areas are a little easier to get to. I decided it’d be worth the extra effort to explore some new terrain. Here’s the route.


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Unfortunately, this plan meant either going a few miles east first, up Bunker Hill or the Back Mountain Trail, and then heading west, or tackling the absolutely brutal climb up Larksville Mountain Road. I decided to take the more direct route. I’ve only done this climb once before, and this time, it was every bit as hard as I remembered. The road rises about 900 feet over the course of 2.5 miles — there’s more climbing after that, but that’s the worst part. I’ve done longer climbs that weren’t as steep, and steeper climbs that weren’t as long, but this one’s just brutal. I will have to see if I can find an easier climb to the west.

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St. Vladimir’s Cemetery

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Steep!

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Looking back

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Power lines

Eventually, I reached the top. It took me nearly 40 minutes to go 3 1/2 miles, and I was already feeling pretty tired. I was a little worried about the 40 miles of riding I had planned, based on how I felt at this point. However, I had some downhill time ahead of me and I felt rejuvenated after enjoying some easier riding for a while. And it usually takes me about an hour of riding to truly find my groove, anyway.

I followed Weaverton Road over to the other part of Mountain Road, and rode down the mountain on the northern side. Here’s where things got new to me. Once I hit the bottom of the hill, the road turned to gravel. I rolled on smooth, scenic, relatively flat gravel roads for a few miles. This bit of respite was much appreciated. Gravel and paved sections alternated seemingly at random.

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Descending Mountain Road

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Country scene

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Handlebars

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Just lovely

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Some field
s, a hint of green starting to show

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Mountains

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Barn

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Drake’s Creek

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Reflections

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Goose and tree

After a while, I crossed PA Route 29. I could probably ride on 29, but it is a fairly busy road. I had planned to explore some more back roads. I crossed Harvey’s Creek and after a little climb had some good views of surrounding mountains. I decided to stop and get a couple of shots of the Trucker by some stone walls. I see walls like these all over the place around here, so it seemed fitting.

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Harvey’s Creek

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The trucker by a rock wall and a view

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Unobstructed view

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Closer shot of my bicycle

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Run-down barn

Soon, I reached signs indicating I was entering State Forest land. I knew there was a tract of Lackawanna State Forest out in this direction, but I didn’t know that I would be riding through it. This find was a pleasant surprise, especially since the Lackawanna State Forest maps indicate a piece of land here, but don’t show anything on it. I passed several fire roads/possible trails. I was tempted to explore, but aside from a brief outing on foot on one trail I decided I ought to keep moving. I’ll definitely need to make another trip to explore these fire roads and map them out the best I can; as far as I can tell, no such map exists.

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State Forest Land

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A fire road

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Office chair in the woods

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The Trucker waits as I hike for a few minutes

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Quite a climb

After a few big rolling hills, I made a fast descent. I thought I would have to climb shortly afterwards, but instead I turned on Hartman Road for three more miles of downhill riding. The road was not steep, but it wound for miles, following a creek. It was a very beautiful area, and I often had a rock wall to my left, and an open field on the right. I passed some incredible houses, including a new log cabin-style monstrosity, but also saw some livestock and heard waterfalls.

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About to descend

This is the kind of descent I’ve really come to enjoy. Riding down a steep road with tight twists and turns requires a lot more finesse, and can be fun, but those end all too quickly. But this road descended more gradually and had plenty of turns, but none so tight that you had to lose too much momentum.

I could have taken some great photos during this time, but I was enjoying the ride too much to bother with the camera. It felt great to just ride, with no distractions.

I rode through the small town of Hunlock on a road that was a little busier. It wasn’t crazy by any means, but compared to the quiet back roads I’d been on, it felt quite busy.

However, that didn’t last long. I soon turned onto Swamp Road to climb north. I expected a long, gruelling climb, but I was pleasantly surprised. Swamp Road followed the bottom of a gorge through mile after mile of gentle ups and downs, in a gradual uphill trend.  Suddenly the pavement ended and I found myself on yet another extremely smooth gravel road.

I continued to just ride through most of this. I really found my rhythm in way that I hadn’t for some time. The gentle climbing allowed me to sustain higher speeds than usual, and I sure didn’t feel like stopping. Eventually I came across a waterfall and had to stop to check it out.

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Gorge riding

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Waterfall

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Creek

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The Trucker

Shortly thereafter, the grade steepened, and I slowed down considerably. It was still ridable, but things got harder for a while. I passed some incredible rock overhangs/caves. Eventually I climbed out of the gorge. I passed some farms and was on PA Route 29 for a few minutes before turning onto another gravel road.

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Rock ledges/caves

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Farm

I had some more climbing to do, and I enjoyed this quiet country road. Oddly, I stumbled upon a mining operation or something, but it seemed to be deserted. I saw signs saying “HARD HAT AREA”  and “BLASTING ZONE” and sped past it.

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Mining, or something …

A few minutes later, some weirdo on a four-wheeler passed me and gave me a crazed look as he did so. He was a pretty crazy-looking guy. I’m sure he thought the same about me.

I passed what I believe to be another piece of State Forest land, and then turned onto another gravel road, this one with some excellent views.

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Trojan Road

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The view

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A distant farm

Soon, I reached PA Route 118. I thought I might be able to just stay on this road, but it proved to be quite busy, with only a narrow, debris-strewn shoulder. One section of road through blasted-out rock was a bit harrowing. Fortunately, I had an alternate route planned and that worked out very well, and though I think I ended up doing more climbing this way, it was worth it.

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PA Route 118

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Not very bike-friendly

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Rock wall closeup

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A smaller road — much better!

After a while, and what seemed like a lot of climbing, I reached the small town of Lehman, and found a convenience store. I was glad to find it, because I had been looking for an opportunity to fill my water bottles for some time. I didn’t run out, but hydration opportunities seem to be few and far between around here.

I had a ways to  go, and while I still had a few climbs ahead, it was all a downhill trend for the last 12 miles of the ride. Once again, I concentrated on riding and didn’t take many photos. The clouds got a little ominous, but no rain fell. I saw about a dozen deer in a field. The scenery was still very nice.

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Clouds

An excellent ride, all things considered. Lots of climbing, but it paid off and I really enjoyed exploring some new areas. I rode 40 miles and climbed over 4,000 feet, in around 4 hours, including stops.

One Response to “More sweet mixed terrain in NEPA”

  1. Tim Says:

    Nice, nice, nice. Something I’ve decided to do here is do a googlemap of the “cobbled” brick alleyways, and this summer I’m going to do one of the mixed-terrain/gravel roads in the area. It would be fun to see one of those for your neck of the woods.

    You can pic the locales, can’t you?

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