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Pine Creek Gorge Bicycle Camping Part II – Sunday

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Note: this is Part II in my account of a bicycle camping trip in the Pine Creek Gorge. If you haven’t already, I recommend you read Part I first.

On Saturday night, I had sent my cell phone alarm clock for 5:00 am so I could catch the sunrise over the Pine Creek Gorge. I’m not a morning person at all, and I slept poorly, but I woke up when my alarm went off. I was sleeping lightly anyway.

There was already enough natural light that I could make my way to the vista without my headlamp. All was extremely quiet — even the birds were just beginning to awaken. As I approached the overlook, strangely, it appeared white. I was astonished when I finally got a full view of the gorge, I realized it was literally filled with fog. It hadn’t been foggy during my short walk at all, but the fog in the gorge reached nearly to the top. I could just make out the top of the mountain across the gorge from me. It was an incredible sight, boulstered by fact that with very few exceptions the only sound was the rushing of the creek hundreds of feet below.

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The fog moved a bit with the breeze, and I could see and feel it growing ever higher. I probably don’t need to post this many photos, but in some of these photos you can tell from the fogline by the mountain across the gorge that the fog was moving.

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I spent maybe 20 minutes in this spot. I moved on before the sun actually rose — I wasn’t sure how long I would have to wait, and I wanted to get moving. By this time the fog had begun pouring over the edge of the gorge and out into the road. The light was just beginning to break through the trees, and the effect was stunning.

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I saw a deer on my way back. The fog never made its way back to my campsite. I wanted to get moving fairly quickly, but it took a long time for me to filter water, cook and eat breakfast and tear down camp. Somehow, it was nearly 8:00 am when I finally started riding. This is early for me, but given that I got up at shortly after 5:00, I expected to be moving sooner. It’s a weird feeling, getting up at dawn and wishing for an earlier start.

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It was a wonderful, cool morning and I was glad to be riding. My legs felt a little tired but overall surprisingly fresh from the previous day’s riding. About the first 20 miles of riding would be on lovely, quiet, remote state forest roads surfaced with the smoothest gravel. I saw another overlook as I headed out. Here is the map of my route on Sunday.


View Pine Creek Gorge bicycle camping part 2 06/14/2009 in a larger map

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I began my day of riding with a wonderful descent. A great way to get the blood pumping. I was amazed by the roads during the first several miles of my ride. They were very well-designed. I went through several climbs and descents of 200+ feet. But the roads were so well designed that it was a real joy. Rather than taking a steep approach to the climbs, the roads switched back repeatedly and gradually made their way up. Each time it took well over a mile to climb 200 feet. Once again, I was able to use a low gear and just spin my way up these roads.

Descending on these roads was equally wonderful. It wasn’t a high-speed affair at all, but at times it felt like I had endless, curvy-but-flowing downhill runs. Looking at the terrain map, you can see that they were somewhat forced into these choices by the terrain, as a couple of smaller streams/gorges feed into Pine Creek Gorge. But the designers definitely could have taken a steeper approach. And given the huge but gradual climb the previous day, I think this design was no mistake. Also of note, I crossed the West Rim hiking trail and it appeared to take a much steeper approach.


View Pine Creek Gorge bicycle camping part 2 06/14/2009 in a larger map

The scenery during this time was mostly simply the heavily-wooded gravel roads flanked by ferns and wildflowers. It was very pretty, and there were a few overlooks when the road went close to the gorge. I saw a few more deer, and at one point a rafter of turkeys crossed the road a bit ahead of me.

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“Drivable” is relative. This would be fun to explore sometime.

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Unfortunately, once I got into a rhythm with these repeated, gradual climbs and descents, the road design changed drastically. The climbs got considerably steeper and I lost the flow. It was a real struggle getting up some of these slopes. Particularly brutal was a rather steep 300-foot climb. This would’ve been difficult even if I hadn’t been carrying so much gear. With the extra weight I was hauling, I had to stop a few times. This took me to the highest elevation of the entire weekend, at around 2182 feet. As a point of reference, the elevation at the start had been about 723 feet.

I started to realize I hadn’t had enough to eat, and tried to force down some snacks, but I found it rather difficult to eat. Maybe I need to bring a greater variety of food next time. I had bought some Ramen that I never ended up cooking. I think that would’ve helped considerably. I was doing OK, not going to bonk or anything, but not feeling particularly energetic, either.

I had to wonder if these roads were designed by someone different or at a different time from the ones I was riding on before. Here, the designers chose to eschew the gradual climbing mantra and many of the roads just went straight up the slopes.

Still, I was enjoying myself. These gravel roads were wonderful (even if not ideal) and I only saw a few cars, some backpackers, and a few guys messing around on mountain bikes. Otherwise, I had the forest to myself.

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From my map studies before I embarked on this journey, I knew I would have a very steep, winding descent on a gravel road. I had considered climbing this way, but it looked like it would be too steep. There was an elevation change of about 800 feet in 2 miles. I was actually a little nervous about riding down it. The Trucker had performed admirably up to this point, but the brakes are one of the few weaknesses to the LHT “Complete” build.

And it was a challenging descent indeed — but I did not encounter any problems. I did stop a couple of times to let my rims cool and give my hands a rest from squeezing the brakes constantly. The road was very steep and had many tight turns. In some places it took on a washboard texture where people in cars had clearly tried to drive up, but their wheels had spun in place, damaging the surface. So, it was the kind of descent where you really just have to ride the brakes the whole time and try not to wipe out in the turns. Not a lot of fun, really. I will look for another option if I go back. I’m not complaining at all, I just think there has to be a better way.

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With that, I was on a paved road for about a mile, and then back on the Pine Creek Rail Trail. The paved road was fun while it lasted, and I realized I’ve done very little road riding with the Trucker loaded down. I’ll have to do more of that soon. From here, I had about 10 miles of easy riding on smooth gravel, all slightly downhill. It was an uneventful — and once again, scenic — end to my ride.

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I was quite tired and hungry by the time I got back to my car. And the flies in that Black Walnut Botttom parking lot were horrendous.  I was back at my car by noon, and home before 3:00 pm.

It was an amazing trip. I learned a lot about riding the loaded Trucker, and I am getting better at setting up my tent, using my alcohol stove and loading the bicycle. It’s a good feeling to be becoming more familiar with my equipment, and on each trip I do of this kind, I get better at it. And of course, the scenery and wildlife were incredible.

Pine Creek Gorge Bicycle Camping Part I – Saturday

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I was considering riding the Great Finger Lakes Bicycle Tour last weekend, but I decided against it, mostly because of the cost. Instead, I planned a bicycle camping trip along the rail trail at Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. The trail is some 60 miles long, and most or all of it runs through the gorge, with fantastic views of the creek and the mountains.

I had read about other S24O trips there by The Blasphemous Bicycler (another trip) and FiveToedSloth. They rode part of the trail, camped at one of the campgrounds alongside the trail, and rode back the next day. I had another plan. I parked at around the halfway point (Black Walnut Bottom), rode to the northern terminus at Ansonia, then turned around and headed back, but rather than take the trail back, I climbed up the mountain along the west rim of the canyon. I wanted to get some views of the gorge from above, then camp at either Colson Point State Park or in the backcountry in Tioga State Forest. I pored over some maps and found a way to climb the mountain that appeared to be fairly gradual, and a good route for the return trip on Sunday.

Here’s a map from Saturday.


View Pine Creek Gorge bicycle camping part 1 06/13/2009 in a larger map

Saturday morning, I dropped Sarah off at work and then headed out to the trail. It was about a three-hour drive, and I got some lunch along the way. I was riding by about 1:00 pm. The trail surface was wonderful smooth gravel, and while it was slightly uphill the whole time, the climbing was nearly imperceptible most of the time. White and grey clouds filled the sky, and threatened rain.

The scenery was incredibly beautiful. For the most part, the trail was wide open, with mountains on both sides, and the creek down the middle. I took a ridiculous number of photos, but I’m only going to post a few, relatively speaking. Much of the scenery looks the same in the photos.

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As you can see, the scenery was fantastic the whole time. I really enjoyed looking over toward the west side of the gorge (on the left side in most of the photos) and thinking, “I’ll be riding up there later!” It’s very cool, and daunting, to see where you’ll be going in that way.

So far, the riding was very easy, to the point that I don’t have a lot to really say about it. It rained on and off for at least an hour, but fortunately it never rained hard enough for me to get completely drenched. I spent some time listening to music while I rode (the “Cedar Grove” album by Jeff Lang), but it seemed like every time I turned on my mp3 player, it started raining and I had to put it away. Eventually, I gave up. It was nice to listen to some mostly-acoustic, bluesy music for a while, though. The mood was just right.

Interestingly enough, the further I rode, the more wildlife I saw. I had seen a few deer here and there, and someone warned me that they had seen a rattlesnake alongside the trail. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter it.

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Later, I saw a deer eating right by the trail, and she did not run away as I approached. I took a couple of photos before I continued on my way.

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After about 30 miles of beautiful, easy riding, I reached the end of the trail. It had been raining, but it stopped. I found my way over to Colton Road, which would take me up the side of the mountain and into Tioga State Forest.

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I was nervous about this climb. I knew from studying maps that this was going to be the easiest way to make the climb, but it still rose 700 feet over the course of about 3 miles. And, my bicycle was fully loaded with camping gear.

The climb was more doable than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, it was quite challenging. However, it was paved (I thought it was going to be gravel) and it was only steep in a couple of different spots. The rest of the time, I was able to put my bicycle in a low gear and just spin, spin, spin. I even did most of the climb in the middle chainring!

I should point out that this was the first big climb I’ve done on the Long Haul Trucker when it’s been loaded with gear. I was amazed with how well it went, and I have to give the bicycle some credit for that. The gearing is quite low, and the bike feels so solid at all times. Steep climbs would still be a problem, but I am very happy with the Trucker’s performance.

Threats of rain continued, but aside from a few drops here and there, no more rain fell. The sun even came out after a while.

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Eventually, I reached the top, and I pulled off to a picnic shelter to take a break and have a snack. A couple was by their car with their dog, I just went by them and went into the shelter. I started eating and suddenly something fell from above. It landed on the ground and I realized there was a pile of animal droppings down there. I looked up, afraid of what I might see. It was a porcupine! It had climbed up the posts and was sitting in the rafters.

Just as this happened, the man was walking over with his dog to say hello. I pointed out the porcupine, and called the dog back. He noticed that the posts had metal on them to prevent animals from climbing, but you could see where the metal had been scratched away. I didn’t even know porcupines could climb.

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I moved away from the porcupine. I talked to the couple for a few minutes, and then they left. It occurred to me that the porcupine might have been stuck, but I can’t imagine what I might have done about it. I hope it’ll be OK.

I started riding again. I had a bit of a descent, followed by some modest ups and downs. Soon, I reached Colton Point State Park, and came across a vista.

The view was absolutely breathtaking. I could see the gorge for miles in either direction, and the trail I was riding on just two hours earlier was clearly visible. It was amazing, and so rewarding to think that I climbed all the way up from the bottom of the gorge under my own power. In these photos, the path that follows the creek is the rail trail.

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I rode around on some of the roads in the state park. Other overlooks presented themselves. Wonderful.

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Now I needed to decide what to do about camping. I sort of wanted to ride on and find a nice backcountry spot somewhere in Tioga State Forest. However, I was right by the Colton Point State Park campground, so I checked it out. It was pretty nice, and quiet, and even had some walk-in spots that were away from everything. I rode down the trail to see how these spots looked. They were secluded and very nice. The tent pad was a bit overgrown but nothing unamanageable. I get the sense that these walk-in campsites don’t get a lot of use.

I decided I had better camp here. It might take a while for me to find a backcountry campsite. These spots weren’t free ($19) but it seemed worth it. I chose a site that’s accessed by a thin trail through a field of dense ferns. On the other side of the campsite was a wooded area. I saw another deer on my way back to the campsite.

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As it was, it took me a while to set up camp and cook dinner. One thing that bothered me about the state park was that while there was water available, there were signs saying not to use the water without treating it first. I don’t remember the reason they stated — I think it was something about the water supply being affected by surface water.

I had brought my water filter, so that was no problem. However, I didn’t have a bucket or anything like that. I had brought my CamelBak bladder to keep water at my campsite, but I had to fill it with untreated water and filter from there. This meant using the filter any time I needed water for cooking or drinking. A real pain.

I had a surprisingly tasty meal of freeze-dried lasagna with meat sauce. I finally made a windscreen and figured out a better way of setting up my alcohol stove. I was able to boil water faster than ever before. The hot meal and a cup of hot tea had me feeling good. I snacked on some other food as well, although I should have eaten more.

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These caterpillars were everywhere (Eastern Tent Caterpillars)

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No sooner had I finished eating when I was visited by a very brazen raccoon. He ran over toward my campsite. I yelled at him to go away, and I thought he had, but then I realized he was just hiding behind a tree. I took some photos and ran him off.

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I went to bed early. Unfortunately, I slept really poorly. I kept hearing animal noises, which were messing with my head. Given how bold some of the wildlife I had seen that day had been, I was a little worried an animal would try to get into my tent. I heard some pretty wild sounds, a couple of owls seemed to be having some sort of conversation, and I even heard a fight between a couple of animals, complete with hisses and screeches and grunts. Some other birds clucked while insects chirped away. These were fascinating sounds, but at times my imagination got a little carried away.

On a positive note, I am learning to get much more comfortable using my narrow sleeping pad and small pillow setup. Aside from being a little chilly, I was physically comfortable. I just need to learn to turn off my brain in these situations.

I set an alarm for 5:00 am so I could catch sunrise over the gorge (there was an overlook within walking distance of my campsite). 

Note: This is Part I. You can read Part II here.

Stony Valley/Rausch Gap: offroad bike camping trip (S24O)

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Scott (FiveToedSloth) organized a bike camping trip this past weekend along the Stony Valley Rail Trail. We met at the eastern trailhead off Gold Mine Road. In attendance were Scott, Geoff, and myself, although Geoff wasn’t able to do an overnight trip.

Before I begin, I should mention that Scott has posted some photos here, and Geoff’s are here. Both got some good shots of the scenery, and both have some shots of yours truly as well.

It was a hot day, with nearly record-setting temperatures approaching 90 degrees. Fortunately, we were riding in the woods the whole time, and were well-shaded. Here’s a map of our trip.


View Stony Creek/Rausch Gap bike camping 04/25-04/26/2009 in a larger map

We started with some easy riding on the rail-trail. It had a very smooth crushed stone surface and we climbed a bit, but it was very gradual. This was my first time really loading down the Trucker, and I was curious how it would handle. From the start, it felt very solid. I knew we’d later encounter rougher terrain, however, and I wasn’t sure how the bike would handle it.

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Stony Valley Trail

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The Trucker, loaded

The Stony Valley Trail is located in State Game Lands 211, which has many other trails to explore. We were only on the rail trail for about four miles before we crossed a bridge and turned onto a steep, rocky trail that joined with the Appalachian Trail for a while. Our first order of business was to find Rausch Gap, and the AT shelter. We planned to camp near the shelter that night and we wanted to know where we were heading.

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Rausch Creek

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Walking a steep, rocky part of the trail

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The Appalachian Trail

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Scott, on the trail toward the shelter

We found a great campsite on our way to the shelter. It was on a ledge, overlooking Rausch Gap, with views of other mountain ridges and the soothing sound of Rausch Creek running below. Oddly enough, several people had passed this campsite and settled in inferior sites closer to the shelter. We would ultimately come back to this site; in hindsight, we should have left most of our gear there while we went out to explore further.

The shelter was interesting, basically a small, three-sided cabin with room for people to sleep and water running constantly, coming right out of the ground. A spring, I guess, although the water was running out of a pipe. Nearby were an outhouse and a few other campsites.

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Geoff and Scott, on what would later become our campsite

After leaving the campsite, we got back on the trail but soon saw a very nice spot by the creek. We stopped and for a while, we all took photos. We weren’t covering a lot of ground, but the area was quite beautiful and I was glad to be riding with others who like to stop, explore, take photos, and enjoy the scenery. No one was in a hurry: we had no schedule to adhere to, and only a vague plan to try to see a few things and explore some trails.

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Scott

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The AT follows Rausch Creek

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Tree

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Closeup of Rausch Creek

I also took the opportunity to document all the bikes. Scott was riding a Schwinn High Plains — a 90s rigid, steel mountain bike. His is set up with slick tires, fenders and racks. It reminds me of my old GT Timberline, which I still ride, and which I still consider a good bike. Geoff was riding a borrowed Trek 830, another rigid, steel mountain bike, with knobby tires. I rode the Long Haul Trucker. Scott was pretty interested in my Trucker, as he has one on layaway.

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Scott’s Schwinn High Plains

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Trek 830

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My Long Haul Trucker

I should probably point out, since I’m sure someone will cry fowl about our riding on the AT, that here, the AT joins some State Game Lands trails, which allow bikes. There were no indications bikes were not allowed, and we were only on the AT as long as necessary to get to the campsite and the other trails. We did our best to be respectful of the hiking intent of the AT. In fact, this section even had a crushed stone surface much like the rail-trail, which was conducive to bicycles.

We continued riding, and apparently we missed the turn for the trail we were looking for. We were trying to find the Horseshoe Trail. Instead, we accidentally stayed on the AT and hit a section that was unridable, with insane stone steps. We turned back to try to find the right trail.

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Scott on the AT

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Insanely rocky section, complete with stone steps, on the AT

On the way back, we passed a large pile of coal rejects (there’s a technical term for these, but I can’t remember it). One of many ruins from the old coal mining town of Rausch Gap.

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A pile of coal rejects on the right

We saw some red blazes indicating SGL trails, and attempted to follow them. We had to lean our bikes sideways and duck under some fallen trees. The trail abruptly hit Rausch Creek, with no good way to cross. Things looked even more rugged on the other side, so we decided to go back and try to explore an old railroad siding Scott had seen previously. But first, Geoff crossed the creek on foot to if there was any way we could continue on this trail, while we filtered water from Rausch Creek. The water was cold and sweet and tasted wonderful. We splashed creek water on ourselves to cool down. A much-needed break. Geoff returned and reported that we needed to turn back. The trail was mostly non-existent on the other side, and crossed the creek repeatedly.

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Ducking under some trees

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Rausch Creek

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Heading toward the railroad siding

Scott and Geoff walked their bikes for a few minutes. They told me the trail got really steep up ahead. I rode ahead a little bit, but as promised, the trail soon became impossibly steep, and loose rocks killed whatever traction I once had. I walked the rest of the way. The other guys caught up a minute later, and we left our bikes and went out on foot, exploring an old railroad bridge, with Rausch Creek now running below us.

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Geoff and Scott push up the steep, rocky trail

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Heading toward the old bridge

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Geoff inspects where the bridge once was

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Rock wall on the other side of the creek

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Looking down

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The Trucker, overlooking a ravine

We went back to our bikes and turned onto the old railroad siding. This would prove to be difficult riding. It’s basically a wide trail, but it is not maintained. There were sticks, rocks, puddles, and mud spots to deal with, and still a lot of leaves from last fall. This was a great test of the Trucker’s handling loaded down, off the road. It performed admirably. I was able to do wheelies over some logs and rocks, and shift my weight forward to carry the rear wheel over them, even with the extra weight. I didn’t experience any shimmies or anything of that nature, although this was not exactly a high-speed affair. The only problem I had was that my tires had a tendency to sink in the muddy spots — but we all had that problem.

While it was challenging, this was very pleasant ridgetop riding. Well, actually, we were only partway up the ridge, not on top of it, but the feeling was similar. We passed numerous boulder fields and saw a few side trails. I wonder if they lead anywhere; they’re not on any map I’ve found. You could spend days exploring this place and still not find everything.

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Old railroad siding

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More of the trail

We saw a pipeline right-of-way, which was in effect a very steep, rocky trail perpendicular to our direction of travel. We noted that we could go back down to the rail-trail that way, if necessary. But it looked on the map like we should be able to make a longer loop.

In a few places, we had to get off and walk our bikes around mud — in one place, the whole width of the trail was flooded. It was tricky getting past that part.

Our exploration of the railroad siding ended abruptly when the trail turned into a stream. All of a sudden, it was completely covered in water, for as far as we could see. We had no choice but to turn back.

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Looking down a pipeline right-of-way

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Suddenly, the trail became a stream

This meant once again walking around the disgusting, swampy puddle that covered the whole trail. We had to walk on the higher ground and rocks along the side, letting our bicycles roll through the mud. It was quite a mess.  A few minutes later, we were at the pipeline again, and we had to walk down. It was too steep and rocky to ride. It was quite a challenge keeping good footholds while trying to move slowly with a loaded bicycle. I saw some mayapples and some young fiddlehead ferns along the way — signs of spring that I always enjoyed in Indiana. It was comforting to see them here as well.

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Working our way around the swampy puddle

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Looking back up at the pipeline

Once we got to the bottom of the hill, Geoff headed back. Scott and I rode back to see if the campsite we wanted was still available. We were quite tired and moving slowly by this point. Fortunately, nobody had claimed the site. We dropped off some of our gear and rode down to Rausch Creek to filter more water.

We filled all of our water bottles. I had brought the bladder from my Camelbak, which holds 100 fluid ounces of water, to use as a dromedary bag at our campsite. So, we filled that as well. It took a while to filter that much water, but I actually enjoy the process. It’s a good excuse to sit by the creek for a while.

Once we had all the water we could carry, we headed back to the campsite to set up camp and cook some dinner. Scott had borrowed Geoff’s REI tent, which was very nice. I brought the cheap bivy tent that I got last year. Despite the fact that Scott didn’t have any instructions and had never set up this tent before, he finished a while before I did. It took some doing to figure out how my tent went together. Ultimately, I figured it out. I didn’t have instructions, either, but I wasn’t sure where they were, and I remembered them being fairly useless before.

By this point, we were seeing some alpenglow on the other side of the gap. We couldn’t really see the sunset through the trees, but some oranges and pinks were reflected off the other ridge. It was lovely.

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Tents and alpenglow

We cooked dinner. I have an alcohol stove, and Scott brought an Esbit stove (which use small, white tablets as fuel). We found Scott’s stove could boil water much faster than mine, but my stove can burn longer. Scott also had a wide, shallow pot, which probably helped speed up the process. Anyway, neither of us had trouble boiling water, mine just took longer. Scott also had a homemade windscreen that worked very well. I will definitely need to make one for my stove, or buy a pre-made windscreen. Scott let me borrow his, and my stove worked much better with the windscreen.

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Scott’s Esbit stove and homemade windscreen

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My alcohol stove

Scott tried a method for making coffee that I had read about, but never seen in action. He had a filter ball for loose tea leaves, and put coffee grounds in it, then submerged it in hot water and let it steep. Unfortunately, it didn’t work very well — he said the coffee was weak, and the filter let some grounds through it. I think he’s going to have to find a different way of making coffee. I love coffee too, but I opted for tea, as it is a lot easier to make. I think we both benefited from a hot, caffeinated beverage.

We both brought freeze dried backpacking meals. They were OK. Scott said the beef in his stroganoff was awfully salty. I had some pasta that was better than I expected. It was a vegetarian meal and while I am not a vegetarian, I think meat might not work too well in a freeze-dried meal. Everything in my meal reconstituted well — pasta, cheese, sundried tomatoes, some sauce, jalapenos. The jalapenos added a lot of flavor and I think made the meal.

I should have eaten more. I must have been feeling some effects from the heat, as I was not feeling very hungry. Later that night, I got quite hungry but didn’t feel like getting up to make more food. I brought plenty of food with me, I just didn’t actually EAT enough of it.

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Dusk falls on our campsite

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The Trucker

Soon, darkness fell, and we started to wonder: what do we do once it’s dark? Neither of us had really brought anything to do. We tried some night photos, most of which did not turn out (at least mine didn’t) but our time was mostly spent on conversation. We sat for a while, taking in the stars and just talked about stuff. But we were both tired and we soon decided to call it a night.

It was the earliest I had gone to bed in a long time. But I did not sleep well. I laid there for a while, looking up at the stars. I left the fly off my tent, even though I thought it might get chilly. I could always put the fly on later, or cover up more. But I really enjoyed being able to look up at the stars, and feeling the breeze flowing over me. It didn’t really take me very long to get to sleep, but I kept waking back up. I’d sleep for a while, and then wake back up, turn over, and fall back to sleep, etc.

My sleeping pad is really quite comfortable, and I brought an additional pillow, but I like to sleep on my side, and when I did so whatever arm I was laying on would fall asleep. Eventually, my allergies started acting up as well. As the night wore on, it did get colder. I used my cycling jacket as a blanket, and while I was still a little chilly, it didn’t bother me. I guess the biggest problems were my arms falling asleep, and not being able to breathe very well, thanks to my allergies.

We woke up by dawn. I sat up and felt fairly awake. Scott said he’d already been awake for an hour, so we decided to get moving. I felt a little chilly so I put on some long pants and a jacket.The first signs of light were just peeking up over the adjacent mountain. I am not accustomed to being up this early, but there is something very pleasant about watching the day begin. Here is a sequence of shots, from dawn to shortly after sunrise.

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Dawn

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The sun is just below the horizon

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Sunrise

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The Trucker at sunrise

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A cup of coffee at sunrise

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Scott’s bike

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The tents

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The view, unobstructed

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Breakfast was our first order of business. I had a strange but satisfying breakfast of trail mix, bagels with peanut butter, and chicken ramen. It was a weird combination, but I had to make up for not eating enough the night before — and in fact I felt a lot better once I had eaten. And of course some tea helped me get moving.

Once we ate, we started breaking down the tents. As we did this we could feel that it was warming up rapidly. The forecast was for another 90-degree day, so we hoped we would be done riding before the hottest part of the day. We headed down to the AT shelter to filter some water from the spring there and sign the logbook. We didn’t stay long.

We rode back down to the rail trail. It was downhill the whole way, and rocky enough that it was tricky. There’s nothing like some challenging riding to get the blood pumping in the morning.

Scott was riding down to the opposite end of the trail from where we started on Saturday. His wife would pick him up there. I rode with him for a while in that direction. We were only about four miles from where my car was parked and I wanted to do a little more riding. As we cruised down the rail trail, we saw an interesting side road marked “Cold Springs.” I looked at my GPS, and it looked like this road descended some 150 feet and went by Dresden Lake. We decided to explore.

Partway down, we saw some ruins. Several foundations, one of which Scott speculated might be the remains of a hotel that used to be in this area. We may never know for certain, but it was cool to see these ruins. One foundation was very mossy.

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Cold Springs Road

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Ruins

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Mossy ruins

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Scott riding on Cold Springs Road

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Riding through a clearing

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A view in the clearing

The road took us further downhill, and we soon saw the tip of Dresden Lake, with Stony Creek flowing out of it. A bridge took us across the creek. We got off our bikes to look around and immediately saw a large spider on a tree.

We couldn’t see much of the lake itself; it might be worthwhile to go back sometime and see if we can find a trail or road around the lake. We did see an old wall that appeared to have served as a larger dam and the road seemed to have gone across the top of it at one point.

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Spider

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The end of Dresden Lake

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Bridge

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The old wall/dam, and our bicycles

Now we had to climb back up the way we had come. It wasn’t an insanely long climb, but it got steeper at the end and the gravel was just loose enough that we had poor traction. It was slow going and we were really feeling it when we reached the top.

I rode a bit further with Scott and after a while, we stopped to check out Yellow Springs.

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Yellow Springs

I decided to turn back at this point. In hindsight, I wish I had gone a bit further as we were almost to Dauphin County, and I could have added an additional county to my list of counties in which I’ve ridden (that reminds me, I haven’t updated the list in a while).

We parted ways. I’m not sure how far Scott had to ride after that. For me, it was about another eight miles back to the car. There was some climbing, but it was quite gradual. Overall, the riding was easy, and I was glad that it was. I was feeling tired, and it was getting hot. I stopped to photograph a boulder field and some strange stone arrows that were pointing at the ground, but otherwise I just kept pedaling.

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Boulder field

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Stone arrows

When I passed the AT connection, I knew that I only had a bit over 4 miles to go, and that it would be mostly downhill. This last part of the ride was a fantastic middle-ring cruise through the woods on smooth gravel. I saw the only notable wildlife of the whole trip during this time when a couple of deer bounded down the trail ahead of me.

Soon, I was back at the car. I loaded the car and headed home.

It was a great trip. I really enjoyed riding with Scott and Geoff — I think our riding styles were very similar in that we are all photography nuts as well, so we liked frequent stops to take photos. And nobody was in a hurry, we just enjoyed exploring the woods.

The camping part of the trip was really fun; we had an excellent campsite, our only neighbors were probably a tenth of a mile away and they were very quiet. I even enjoyed cooking — I’m not sure why I don’t enjoy it at home, but I do  when camping.

I think the water filter was necessary for this trip; I can’t imagine how we would have carried enough water with us. The way I figure it, we filtered over 3.5 gallons of water, which would have weighed almost 30 pounds!

This trip also served as a reminder that I basically have everything I need to do trips like this. I should do them more often!

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