Cycling, hiking, camping, etc — now back in southern Indiana. Words and photos.

Archive for April, 2009

West Side Trail

Friday, April 17th, 2009

I found another bike path, the West Side Trail. It starts a little ways from the Forty Fort end of the Levee Trail and heads northeast, following the Susquehanna River. The roads between the two trails were a little high-traffic for my taste — I wish there was a better way to get from one trail to the other. Maybe there is; I will see if I can find an alternate route.


View West Side Trail 04/09/2009 in a larger map

The trail is pleasant enough, it’s smooth and flat and has some nice views of the river, some mountains, and the small, private Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport.

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Arriving at the West Side Trail

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Eighth Street Bridge

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Susquehanna River

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Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport

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Mountains

The trail runs for about 2.5 miles before joining up with the sidewalk along US Route 11/Wyoming Avenue (know locally as “The Avenue”). Now, The Avenue is a busy four-lane road. I have seen plenty of people riding their bikes there, but I wouldn’t want to do that. It’s a very busy road, and I encounter a lot of idiotic motorists when I drive there.

At the intersection is the Wyoming Monument, which commemorates the Battle of Wyoming, which took place back in 1778. According to Wikipedia, “More than three hundred Patriots were killed in a battle followed by a massacre, in which the Iroquois raiders hunted and killed fleeing Patriots before torturing to death thirty to forty who had surrendered.” It was more than a little weird to be riding along and suddenly come across an obelisk and a couple of canons. And weirder still to imagine a massacre occurring in what is now a park.

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Battle of Wyoming Monument

I rode on the sidewalk for about a block or two and then got on Susquehanna Avenue. This is a pleasant, low-traffic road through mostly residential areas. I found an interesting-looking side trail/dirt road and followed it. I followed it down by the river, where I could see a small island. There were side roads branching off of it, but I did not take the time to explore those.

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Pond

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Grasses

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A makeshift snowboard, now abandoned

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Susquehanna River

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The Trucker, with fields and mountains in the background

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Power lines

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Cattails

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The Trucker again

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Small island

The rest of the ride was on roads, most of which were not too memorable.

I’m glad I found the West Side Trail, and Susquehanna Avenue. These could both be useful as parts of a longer ride. I wish the roads between the Levee Trail and the West Side Trail were safer.

In general, it can be a little frustrating trying to find routes through town. In some places, there are large areas with no through streets aside from the major thoroughfares. The West Side Trail and Susquehanna Avenue give me a good east-west route, but I have to go a bit out of the way to get to them.

Larch Tree Trail

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

On Sunday, Sarah and I decided to go for a hike. We just stayed close to home and went to Frances Slocum State Park. This time, we hiked the Larch Tree Trail and part of the Lakeshore Trail.

We parked by a picnic area and walked along the Lakeshore Trail, a wide path with some picnic tables. It was a beautiful day. We were cold at first, but it was sunny and as we got moving we warmed up considerably. A few signs of spring were noticeable, which was nice to see for a change.

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Buds

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Frances Slocum Lake

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Cattail fluff

We were only on the Lakeshore Trail briefly. It dumped us out on a road, and then we went across a bridge to the Larch Tree trailhead.

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A view of the lake from the road

We knew little about the Larch Tree Trail, other than that the pamphlet said it was “hilly.” We entered the woods, and the trail climbed for the better part of a mile. It was gradual most of the way.

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Sarah (who got a great new haircut)

At the top, we saw a field just off the path and decided to venture out. It seemed like we might be able to see something from there. We were right. We spent a few minutes taking in the view, and the dog took advantage of the wide open space to do a little extra running. Sarah even laid on the grass for a couple of minutes to look at the sky and absorb some rays.

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A nice view (Rob thinks so too)

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Rob

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Us

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A nice barn

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Sarah laid down on the grass and took this one

I later figured out that we were looking out over Eighth Street. I often ride through the area immediately below where we were standing. It’s funny how different things look from a different vantage point.

The trail turned downhill and stayed that way. I guess “hilly” means it goes up a hill, and back down.

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From the top, you can’t see much but you can get a sense that we have done some climbing

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Sarah and Rob

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Stone walls … in the woods!

After a bit, we went through a large stand of larch trees. Oddly, though, they had obviously been planted there, as they were in neat rows. Regardless, it made for a unique experience.

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Larch trees

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The trail, still going steadily downhill

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More buds

We walked a little further and could see a deer further down the trail, looking right at us. We tried to get closer for a better shot, but she bounded off through the forest.

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Deer

Soon, we were back at the road. We walked back over to the Lakeshore Trail. We will have to take a picnic here sometime, it would be a great place to relax and enjoy a meal. On the other hand, the field we found would be as well, and it’s a little more secluded.

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A great place for a picnic

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Sarah took this one … she has a penchant for solitary trees

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Buds and sky

It was quite a pretty hike, and I liked that we saw such a variety of scenery in such a short distance (under three miles). I am looking forward to more outings like this: spending time with my lovely wife. Hiking, taking photos, laying in the grass, spotting wildlife. Maybe next time we bring a lunch. Sounds perfect to me.

Ricketts Glen and State Game Lands 57: more mixed terrain

Monday, April 13th, 2009

I woke up Saturday morning to drizzle, strong winds, and temperatures in the 30s. The rain was forecast to end during the morning. I had planned about a 44-mile ride starting at Ricketts Glen State Park and riding through State Game Lands 57. I wasn’t sure what kind of roads to expect in the SGL, but I assumed there’d be some mud. A good opportunity to really test the Trucker a bit out of its element. Here is the route I ended up riding.


View Ricketts Glen and State Game Lands 57 04/11/2009 in a larger map

The rain stuck around longer than I expected, and while I wasn’t really waiting for it to end, I was moving pretty slowly getting ready. I prefer not to drive in order to ride my bike, but I’ve found it’s worth it sometimes to see more varied terrain, especially here in Pennsylvania. The sights are more varied within a smaller distance than in Indiana, but the mountains make riding so much slower that it’s harder to get far enough away from home to see them. So, in some cases it’s worthwhile to drive to a different starting point.

By the time I got to Ricketts Glen, the rain had stopped. I got out of the car and it was colder and windier there than it was at home — not surprising, since Ricketts Glen is at an elevation of about 2500 feet. I felt chilly as I was getting ready to ride, but I knew that the ride would warm me up.

It was really a kind of miserable day. The rain had stopped, but it was cold and blustery, and quite overcast. Dead leaves were blowing about, and everything still looked dead. Spring is slower to arrive on the mountain; in fact, it felt much more like a late fall day.

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Trees by the parking lot

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Lake Jean

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The road, still wet

The first few miles were on the road. There were some good hills, which warmed me up on the climb and made me feel even colder as I rode down the other side.

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Field

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A nice, rolling descent

After about four miles of road riding, I reached State Game Lands No. 57 and turned onto Loop Road/Mountain Spring Road. The road here was gravel, which is what I was expecting. I passed Water Fowl Pond and rode on smoothish gravel for a few miles, dodging some rocks and water-logged potholes along the way.

Of note to those interested in Pass Hunting, apparently during this time I rode through Opperman Pass, although I was unaware of it at the time. I don’t remember seeing a sign, but it shows up on several maps. I should probably start a log of any passes or gaps I ride through, just for fun. I’m a little surprised at how little information I can find about pass hunting on the Web. Anyone know of any good sites?

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Entering State Game Lands 57

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Water Fowl Pond

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Loop Road

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Cherry Ridge Run

Soon, I reached an interesting marshy area and a lake. I stopped for a few minutes to enjoy this quiet spot. So far, the riding had been easy, but that was about to change.

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The road goes by a marsh

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The Trucker

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Fuzzy grasses

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Beech Lake

A couple minutes later, I turned onto a gated State Game Lands road called Beech Lake Road. The gate was closed, but went around it. It said it was closed to all vehicles, but had horse and bicycle symbols on the sign. I guess bicycles aren’t considered vehicles here; normally I’d rant about that, but in this case it was a good thing.

This road was gravel, too, but it was rougher and looser than Loop Road. I had some climbing to do, and it was slow going for a while. The climbing warmed me up considerably, and the sun peaked out from behind the dense cloud cover a couple of times. I shed some layers and kept going. The road took me over some rolling hills and I rode through a wonderful section where there were rock cliffs on my left, looming over me, and a clearing below on my right.

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Rougher gravel

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Rock walls on one side, a clearing on the other

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The clearing

At some point, the gravel faded away and the road transitioned to dirt. A day or two of rain leading up to this ride had left things quite muddy, in parts. I had to walk some very muddy parts. The road surface varied quite a bit, alternating between muddy, rocky, and grassy — and combinations of those three qualities. The hills were especially hard, because I would sink in and sometimes my rear wheel would end up spinning.

The scenery was pretty throughout all of this, even if it didn’t change all that much. It mostly consisted of numerous swamps, marshes, and streams, and hills. The sun persevered at burning away the clouds. The day got ever brighter and the world seemed to be waking up in the process, even though it was already afternoon. I encountered a wild turkey and some deer, and a grouse and I scared each other senseless. I’m not sure who was more surprised to see the other.

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The Road

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Pond

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My tires carved ruts in the mud

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Hill

It took about an hour for me to ride about eight miles of this stuff. I looked at my GPS and realized that I had underestimated the terrain. Although if it hadn’t been so muddy, I could have moved a lot faster. At this point, if I followed my planned route, I had at least 7 more miles of this kind of riding to go, then a huge climb and over 20 miles of road riding, some of which was probably gravel. I didn’t think I felt up for it. I examined the SGL maps I had printed, and the GPS maps, and saw a way to ride about 6 miles back to the road, and then I’d just have the four miles of road riding back to the car. I would also avoid the big climb. This seemed much more plausible, so I decided it was the best course of action.

To that end, I turned onto a different SGL road than planned. This one was called Shale Pit Road, and it was basically more of the same. I think it might have been a little easier going than Beech Lake Road.

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My bicycle in a marshy area

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The road, holding water. The sun is shining and the sky grows increasingly blue

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Weird green water

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The road surface is rockier, but drier

Soon, I came across the very beautiful Sprankles Pond. Geese called out, their honks reverberating across the water. A small island was visible near the other side of the pond.

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Sprankles Pond

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Reflections

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Geese

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Ripples, and a small island

It was still quite windy, and this area was more exposed than wooded areas where I had been riding. I stopped here for a snack, even though I felt a bit cold. It was a beautiful spot.

As I continued, the scenery remained very similar to what I had seen leading up to this point, so I didn’t take a lot of photos. I just concentrated on riding. I did stop and filter water from a stream. I was running out of water and wanted to try the filter. It seemed to work fine. The water that came out was not perfectly clear, but from what I understand, this is normal and the water is still safe. I did think the water had a bit of an earthy taste. I am not sure if I chose a poor stream from which to filter water, or if that taste comes with the territory. At any rate, I felt no ill effects later.

Eventually, I ended up on Southbrook Road. At the interesection was a cool bridge over a stream. I stopped for another snack, and soon a couple of hikers happened by. We chatted for a few minutes, and they went on their way. Those were the only people I encountered in the State Game Land, although I had seen a few pickup trucks within the first mile or two. I wouldn’t want to go there during hunting season, though.

By this time, the sun was shining and the sky was a deep blue. It was hard to believe that it had been so dreary just a few hours earlier.

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Bridge

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Bellas Brook

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The bridge again

Here, the road got a lot smoother and the riding got easier. There was some climbing, but it was very gradual and I was able to keep a good pace. I passed by Water Fowl Pond again on my way back. Before long, I was back at the paved road. There was some tough climbing on the paved road, but I handled it fairly well.

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Smooth gravel

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Water Fowl Pond

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Plants by the pond

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Another view of the pond

It was another great mixed terrain ride. The State Game Lands are interesting because they have lots of largely unmaintained dirt/gravel roads, and they can have some nice scenery as well. The biggest problem on this ride was the mud. There were times when a mountain bike would have been a better choice. With the shortened route, I only rode about 23 miles, but it took 3 1/2 hours to do so.

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