Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for June, 2009

Susquehanna Warrior Trail

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

On Sunday, I decided to check out another local rail trail, the Susquehanna Warrior Trail. I’ve been wanting to explore this trail since we saw it on our return trip from Indiana back in March, and later, found its Web site. I found conflicting information online, but I expected the trail to be 10-16 miles, one way. I had to drive about 20 minutes to reach this trail. It’s within biking distance, but there’s no good way to get there by bicycle that I could see. Here’s a map of my ride.


View Susquehanna Warrior Trail 06/28/2009 in a larger map

I parked by the Garden Drive-In movie theater near West Nanticoke, PA, and got ready to ride. There were some rather ominous clouds, so I braced myself for possible rain.

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The trail runs between US Route 11 (a fairly busy highway), and the Susquehanna River. At times, it runs right alongside the road, but at times, it goes into the woods and closer to the river. I was hoping for some nice river views.

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The scenery from the trail varies but can be generalized as similar to many scenes here in Pennsylvania: a strange combination of run-down industrial buildings and wonderful mountains. It’s sad and beautiful, all at the same time.

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The wildflowers were in full effect.

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UGI Power Plant

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Some less-than-friendly signs had me wondering if this was a safe area. First were the STAY ON TRAIL. KEEP MOVING signs. (Why?)

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This strange sign reads, “Stay On Trail / Keep Moving”

Next, we have, thanks to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the S.C.I. Retreat (medium security correctional institution).

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Pennsylvania Department of Corrections – S.C.I. Retreat

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Bridge to the “retreat”

And finally, a firing range.

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Firing Range – Keep Out

Views of the river were few and far between. I’m sure there would be some nice views during winter or early spring, when the leaves are off the trees. I did enjoy some nice wooded areas and clearings.

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After a while, I reached the town of Shickshinny. This is a small, run-down town. I arrived and caught a glimpse of a military funeral, just in time to have the 21-gun salute startle me. Around this time, it started raining.

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Soon, I came to the PPL Riverlands Park. I had only gone 7 or 8 miles at this point. I saw a small trail down to the river and rode down to look around.

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I got back on the Susquehanna Warrior Trail, but reached an impasse in just a couple of minutes. The trail continued, but it was waterlogged. I rode a little bit to see if it would dry out. No such luck.

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Not convinced the trail ended here, I rode around a bit on some gravel roads until I reached US Route 11. I rode down the road to a bridge to see if the Susquehanna Warrior Trail continued beyond the bridge. I could see the trail below, but it was in worse shape than the last section I looked at. Alas. I took in some nice views before heading back.

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I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get to ride as many miles as I’d hoped. And I just wasn’t that impressed with the trail. There were a few beautiful areas, but most of it was nothing special. It started raining harder, so I put the camera away for a while … until I took a side road I discovered to a boating access point that was very pretty.

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It was an enjoyable ride, and the rail-trail provided a pleasant way of riding some easy miles. But I only got to ride a little over 17 miles. I was hoping for closer to 25. Was it worth driving to this trail? Yes, it was worthwhile to ride it once, but I’m not sure I need to do it again.

Revisiting the Endless Mountains

Monday, June 29th, 2009

We’ve been getting a lot of rain — pretty much every day, we get some rain, although it usually doesn’t last for very long. That, combined with a sudden influx of work, meant I didn’t get to ride very much during the week last week. However, on Saturday, I went for a longish ride. I decided to repeat the Ride to the Endless Mountains that I did back in March, only this time, I rode the route in reverse. I thought this would make some parts of the ride easier, and some other parts would be harder. PA Route 292 seemed like it’d be particularly fun in the other direction. Here’s a map of my ride.


View Ride to Endless Mountains (backwards) 06/27/2009 in a larger map

And the elevation profile:

Endless Mountains Elevation Profile

The ride started with the long climb up Bunker Hill Road. This took more out of me than usual, in part because I haven’t ridden as much lately, and in part because of the heat. It probably wasn’t warmer than 80 degrees, but that feels pretty hot when you are doing such a long climb. There was some chance of rain in the forecast, and some ominous clouds had me wondering if I would get rained on. However, it was warm enough that I didn’t feel the need to bring any rain gear.

After the big initial climb, there were some significant ups and downs. They don’t look that big on the elevation profile (in the 5-15 mile range), but many of these “smaller” hills still involve a couple hundred feet of elevation change.

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Most of this riding was on paved roads, but I did enjoy some very nice gravel on Jake Moore Road.

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After a while on that gravel road, I went by the very beautiful Lake Louise.

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Soon thereafter, I came across Brace’s Orchard. At first, I rode right past it, but then I realized that I was running low on Gatorade, and I thought some apple cider would really hit the spot. I stopped and bought a quart of apple cider for just $1.50. It wasn’t the best cider I’ve ever had, but it was the perfect thing at that moment. Maybe a little sweet for my taste, but still tasty, and it sure beats Gatorade.

The sky still looked quite ominous to the north. I wasn’t sure if I would hit the rain or not. I was headed north, so I thought I might be headed straight for the storm clouds.

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Feeling refreshed from my break and the cider, and undeterred by the clouds, I continued on my way. I hit some more nice gravel on Cummings Road and soon reached Center Moreland, where a convenience store is quickly becoming one of my usual stops. I bought some water and snacked on some potato chips. Sometimes I have a hard time eating during rides, but I’ve been trying to make myself eat more. And, I found the salt in the chips was very pleasant.

The next section of the ride was probably the easiest. I rode northwest on PA Route 292, which was mostly downhill and curved gently for about five miles. This was a different riding experience from many of the other roads around here as the road is flanked by fields, giving more of a sense of wide open space than the heavily-wooded/mountainous roads. At the same time, mountains are visible in the distance in many places. It was very scenic and fun riding.

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Soon I began to see glimpses of Brier Mountain, which I would soon be climbing. It was more than a little daunting to see where I was headed in this way. At some point during this time, it started drizzling a bit.

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Brier Mountain is on the left, with the antennae

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Once again, Brier Mountain is on the left

I turned on to the gravel Wilsey Road and started the climb. I wasn’t sure if climbing the mountain would be easier or harder from this direction. I think it ended up being a bit easier. The road took more of a winding, gradual path up the side of the mountain, whereas from the other side it was more of a frontal assault. There were some great views, although they were much more restricted compared to last time I rode in this area, now that there were leaves on the trees.

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This climb ended up being about 530 vertical feet. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I was expected it to be nearly impossible. Immediately upon reaching the top, the road started down the other side. I rode very conservatively. The road surface was smooth gravel, but the rain was picking up a bit. The trees kept me fairly dry.

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The rain came and went for a while. Once I reached the bottom of the mountain, I turned toward home. I spent more time on the somewhat-busy PA Route 309 than I had hoped, as a back road I planned to take was closed for construction. But there was a wide shoulder, and I had no problems.

Pretty much as soon as I turned off 309, the rain picked up again. It wasn’t pouring, but it was coming down hard enough that I took a few more photos and put the camera away for a while.

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I had a lot more climbing ahead of me than I realized. Eventually, I would climb to just about 60 feet lower than I had been at the highest point I reached on Brier Mountain. I have to admit, I got a little frustrated during this part of my ride. The rain and the seemingly-endless climbing tested my resolve. Looking at the elevation profile again, it appears that the road mostly climbed for about five miles.

Eventually, I neared Lake Catalpa, a small, beautiful lake. Either the lake itself is privately owned, or the road by it is. It’s a shame, it would be cool to explore this lake more.

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By this time, the rain had either let up or ceased entirely. And the climbing ended a little past the lake. Now the climbing started to pay off, as I spent the next four miles or so mostly coasting downhill. This was a wonderful, fun, easy part of the ride, and I appreciated it that much more after all the climbing I had done.

From here, the route also got more familiar. Everything past Lake Catalpa felt like the home stretch, even though I had another 12 miles to go. Most of it was downhill, and there was only one major climb left.

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It was a gorgeous ride, but it was also quite gruelling. I loved the scenery, but the climbing really got to be too much at times. I was glad it wasn’t any hotter; I’m not sure how well I could pull off a ride like this if it had been legitmately hot. I really didn’t mind the rain too much, in fact, it helped me cool off. And the clouds added an interesting dimension to the scenery.

I’ll miss scenes like these once we move back to  Indiana. However, the hills there are much more manageable, so they are conducive to riding more miles, more frequently. In that sense, I’m looking forward to moving back. Overall, I try to appreciate the different facets of riding that both areas offer.

Luzerne County Map for DirtData.org

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Some time ago, I stumbled across the very interesting site DirtData.org. The site is “An Experiment in Collaborative Cartography.” The idea is that people can create Google Maps of the gravel/dirt/fire roads in their area and submit them to the site. The more people who contribute, the better the maps will be. I’ve started a map of the Luzerne County area. It’s a work in progress, but so far, I’ve cataloged over 25 gravel roads in this area. Here’s the map. Note: there are two pages of roads listed. You have to open the map in Google Maps (click the link below the map on this page), and click on Page 2 at the bottom of the road list to see the rest.


View Luzerne County, PA for DirtData.org in a larger map

I’ve also started a map of the Bloomington, Indiana area, which I’ll post later. It’s fun making these maps, and I hope that they’ll come in handy in the future, both for myself and for others.

If you ride gravel roads in your area, I urge you to create maps to share with everyone.  Here are some useful links to help you get started.

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