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Archive for the 'Rain' Category

Pinchot Trail, north loop

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Last week, The Blasphemous Bicycler (hereafter known simply as “TBB”) invited me to hike the north loop of the Pinchot Trail, in Lackawanna State Forest on Saturday. If you haven’t read his blog, check it out. It’s an excellent combination of cycling, hiking/backpacking, and of course, blasphemy and other topics. Always an interesting read. Anyway, I accepted the invitation and throughout the week watched the forecast for Saturday get increasingly gloomy. By Friday, the forecast called for temperatures in the 50s and a 90% chance of steady rain throughout the day.

Admittedly, I felt a bit concerned. I had never done a hike this long (10+miles) and I had no idea what to wear for 6-7 hours of hiking in the rain. But I had waterproof* boots and a $2 poncho, so I figured what the heck? Why not? This would be a good way to test rain gear, TBB’s new stove, and our will.

* My boots claimed to be waterproof, but I had not fully tested this claim.

We started hiking around 9:45 am, in moderate drizzle. A short ways into the trail we found a box with a log book and maps. We signed in and took some maps. Our first impression was that our ponchos were working well. In addition to keeping us relatively dry, they covered our packs and allowed some breeze to flow through. The ventilation was much appreciated. They did give us a bit of a hunchback look, with our packs under there, but we made the most of it.

TBB, rocking the hunchback look. This stream popped up seemingly out of nowhere and disappeared under the rocks, and reminded me of the Orangeville Rise of the Lost River in Indiana

This trail must not see a lot of maintenance, because there were a ton of downed trees around which we had to maneuver. But the defining quality of this trail, at least to me, was all the rocks. I am not used to such rocky trails, coming from Indiana, but in this area long sections of trail basically amount to huge rock gardens. TBB tells me this trail was actually fairly moderate, in terms of rocks.

One of many fallen trees blocks the trail

The first of many sections of very rocky trail


The trail mostly climbed for the first few miles, but it was mostly very gradual climbing that was fairly easy. There were a couple of short steep sections, but nothing bad. At some point we encountered some dense fog for a good 45 minutes to an hour, making for an even more beautiful hike. We alternated between conversation and quiet hiking, getting lost in the crunch of the leaves beneath our boots, the pitter-patter of the rain drops on our hats and the sounds of the blustery wind rushing through the trees and over our ears. The trail was very straight and flat for some time. We heard a loud noise that sounded like a small engine starting. Startled, I asked, “What the hell was that?” TBB said it was a grouse; a few minutes later he spotted another one, although I didn’t see it.

Straight, flat, and easy foggy trail

Bare trees

Hiking through the fog

We crossed a gravel road, the first of several we would see. We commented that these roads would be great for cycling. Bikes aren’t allowed on the trails, but the roads were smooth gravel and looked extremely inviting.

Gravel road

Foggy, mowed clearing


More fog

After a while, the trail got considerably rockier and passed by a cranberry swamp (I think). We climbed a bit more, ending in a large, bare rock face.

Exposed rock face

Cranberry swamp

We started a long, difficult rock-riddled descent. The rocks, wet and leaf-covered, were quite slick, and there was no way to get even footing. This made it tricky to move without slipping, and the weird angles punished our ankles. We took our time and made it through safely. TBB’s poncho billowed like a trenchcoat in an action movie.

Billowing poncho

Rocks. Yes, that’s the trail.

Making progress …

We saw a small stream and wondered if it was the creek we saw on the trail map. It seemed like it might be; we were a little disappointed, expecting something bigger. TBB filtered some water from the creek, and we took a break under a hemlock tree that shielded us from the rain so well we thought it’d stopped. Some trail mix and water had us feeling more energized. Only when we started hiking again without our ponchos did we realize it was still raining, and put the ponchos back on.

Small creek

Now we had more rocks to deal with, this time going uphill. Once we reached the top of the hill, we realized we had another big, rocky descent ahead of us and suspected that the creek we had been looking for was up ahead. We could see a big mountain on the other side of the valley, and wondered if we had to climb that next.

Rocky climb

Descending into the valley

As it turned out, we were right. We took another, shorter break by this much-bigger, rushing creek and scouted out some potential campsites there. It was an incredibly peaceful scene, quiet except for the sounds of the rushing water.


Potential campsites

Another shot of the creek

We lingered for a bit, then decided to move on. TBB said, “It’s difficult to leave a spot like this,” and I couldn’t agree more. The creek was probably the highlight of the whole hike in its scenic beauty and placid setting. There was no bridge across the creek, so we crossed on some rocks. They were very wet and slick, and one was loose. We both got our feet wet crossing the creek, and I noticed a leak in one of my boots after I crossed. Air bubbles escaped from my boot with each step. Hopefully I’ll be able to reseal it.

Creek crossing

Shortly after leaving the creek we saw a handsome large buck run through the woods ahead of us. Now, we had to climb for quite a while. We encountered a couple of other hikers, who were covering the entire Pinchot trail system over the course of three days. We chatted for a couple of minutes, then moved on. This climb was rocky, but not as bad as some of the places where we had just hiked. We didn’t have to hike all the way up to the top of the next ridge, though, as the trail gradually climbed up the side as the ridge came down a bit. Still, it took a lot of effort to reach the top. Hiking on the ridge, we got some glimpses of surrounding mountains through the trees; just a few weeks earlier we wouldn’t have been able to see very much.

Climbing the ridge

Ridgetop hiking

Once we reached the top, it was flat for a while. We soon came to another road crossing and decided to make that our lunch spot. I had a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and some Cheez-Its, TBB brought his stove and made some Ramen. The hot meal was an awesome idea; next time I’m on a long, cool hike, I’ll bring my stove. The rain stopped and started back up briefly but we took off our ponchos and for a few glorious minutes, the sun came out. I took my boots off and let my socks and feet air out a bit. I wished I had brought dry socks, something I had considered doing.

Lunch spot

Testing TBB’s new stove


The sun came out for a few minutes


TBB’s hat, GPS and trekking poles

We started hiking again, this time without our ponchos. We soon came across a bright orange salamander. He wasn’t moving very fast, but he was still alive. It seemed awfully cold to be a salamander. A few minutes later we saw another one that wasn’t as brilliantly colored.


It felt great to hike for a while without the ponchos. They do restrict your range of motion a bit, and also make climbing over rocks more challenging, since it’s harder to see your feet. It’s funny how something you take for granted under normal conditions — hiking relatively unencumbered — can feel like such a luxury at a time like this.

More brush covering the trail

Sometime around 3 pm it started getting darker. It had been fairly dark all day, but we were surpised at how quickly we were losing light. It was a bit disheartening, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. We did pick up the pace a little during the easy stretches. But soon we had a tricky, rocky downhill section. We had some good views as we hit the edge of the ridge and hiked down.

Reaching the edge of the ridge

About to descend. A boardwalk is visible below.

The wooden boardwalk was very slippery

We knew we were getting close to the end of the trail. We had a little difficulty figuring out which way to go. Eventually, we figured it out and before long reached the road, where we’d walk the last mile back to the car. As soon as we reached the road, the skies opened up, the wind blew harder, and the rain began pouring down on us. These were the kinds of conditions I feared we’d have all day. I was glad it didn’t rain this hard earlier in the day. Water was running down the back of my poncho. I put the hood on to stop it, but I was already drenched. We walked along the road fairly quickly, although it made no difference. We were already drenched. This was an important lesson: the ponchos worked fine when it was only drizzling, but heavy rain, especially combined with strong winds, meant we got soaked.

The road

Reaching the trailhead. You can see raindrops falling, if you look closely

TBB by the trailhead sign


We were glad to be back at the car. It had been a fun hike, despite the conditions, but I think we were ready to be out of the rain, and it was getting quite dark.

Mount Gilead / South Shore loop, and a little rain

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Last night I decided to try a new route. None of the roads were new to me, but I hadn’t ridden them in this particular configuration before. I liked it, and it serves as a reminder to try some slight variations in my routes more often. This route came to just over 26 miles, a pretty good length for a post-work ride and a bit longer than my Water Works and Shilo routes. View the route on Bikely.

There were scattered storms in the forecast, but I checked the radar before I left and it looked clear. Just a few specks of activity to the south. There were some rather dark clouds outside, so I wondered if I was going to get rained on, but I figured I could always turn back sooner if things got ugly. As I rode toward Mount Gilead on 45, I was passed by a car I recognized — it was Dave, my mountain biking buddy. I waved, and he waved back. His dog was in the car with him, sticking her head out the window (as usual).

I turned on Mount Gilead Road and it started sprinkling a bit. The road was speckled with drops of water, but I didn’t get too wet — Mount Gilead is lined with trees, which make for excellent shade if it’s sunny, and a little protection from a light rain. The rainy vibe to this whole ride was great. There’s something about cloudy, threatening conditions and a light, warm rain that I really enjoy sometimes. It feels different from riding on a sunny day, and I tend not to see very many other people on the road, making me feel more of a sense of connection to this land. I see it in all seasons, in all conditions, and in this case I was just about the only person out there.

Mount Gilead Road

I made the long descent into the valley, going very slowly since the road was a bit slick. When I reached the bottom, there was steam rising from the road and some fog in the field. It was really cool to see the steam coming off the pavement, although it was so humid my glasses fogged up. It was still raining and I did get a bit wet, but it was warm and felt good.

Steam rises off the pavement and the cornfield

Riding in the rain


I made the climb back out of the valley, taking my time and trying to keep my wheel from spinning out due to the steep, wet surface. There were some amazing clouds that I could see once I reached the top. Shortly thereafter, it stopped raining.

Awesome clouds

When I reached 45, I debated whether I should turn back. The clouds I could see didn’t look too bad, and the more foreboding ones were still to the south. I decided to keep riding. There was astoundingly little traffic. This portion of 45 doesn’t normally have a lot of cars, but I think I went 15 minutes without seeing a car. I did, however, see a wild turkey alongside the road. I tried to get a photo, but it ran off into the woods. It was an uneventful and very pleasant ride along 45. This stretch is very curvy and has some climbing and a lot of descending. Again I kept my speed down as the roads were still wet.

State Road 45

I turned on South Shore Drive and rode toward Lake Lemon. I picked up some good speed on the hill from the highway. This one is straight so I was able to let loose a little more, hitting 36 mph. Not insanely fast, but it felt good, and I maintained a speed above 30 mph for a few minutes on the flat ground.

South Shore Drive

Trees and a barn

I reached the causeway and really enjoyed riding across the lake. I always do, but there was something magical about the way the sun burned orange but interacted with the clouds, bursts of pink and purple permeating the sky and being softened by the clouds.

Reaching the causeway

Land and water on my left

More water on my right

Looking across the lake

After crossing the lake, I had to a big climb to contend with. I’ve done this climb many times before, but not much this year. It was harder than I was hoping. It doesn’t help that I have had some interruptions to my riding this year and my weight is up and I feel a bit out of shape. I struggled with this climb more than I like, but I made it up anyway. And I certainly got a good workout in the process.

Tunnel Road was scenic as always and I continued admiring the sunlight. It was rather cool outside, a pleasant change from the heat we had for a while.

Field on Tunnel Road

My shadow

The sun

I turned back onto State Road 45 (I realized this route includes three stretches of riding on 45) and headed toward home.  This road was wet, although it wasn’t raining. I must’ve lucked out as while clearly some rain had come through here, I didn’t get hit by it.

Riding home on 45

45 again

I really enjoyed this ride. It makes me want to do more rides in rain, or at times when it’s threatening to rain, anyway. On the other hand, I was lucky I didn’t get hit by any storms … that could have changed my tune considerably. The weird thing was, by the time I got home, I was pretty much soaked, but more from perspiration in the extreme humidity than rain. This was a  great ride through some beautiful country, made even more beautiful by the conditions.

Rain and hiking

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

It’s been raining on and off throughout the week, which so far combined with my injuries has prevented me from commuting by bicycle. I thought about going for a bike ride last night, since my ride on Sunday went well, but instead opted to go for a hike with Sarah. I think I made the right choice — we had a great time, and hiking puts less strain on my finger.

We did the Rock Shelter Trail at Morgan-Monroe State Forest, which we’ve hiked a few times before. Sometimes I feel reluctant to go back and hike the same trails again, but I tend to forget that each time is different — especially since the last time we hiked there was during the winter. The time before that was a sunny spring day. Yesterday was somewhat overcast, warm, and extremely humid.

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Starting to hike

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The trail was a bit muddier than we expected; usually during the summer trails dry out pretty quickly around here. For the most part the trail was pretty solid, though. As we made the long descent into the valley, the humidity increased. By the time we reached the bottom, my glasses were foggy and they mostly stayed that way. It felt almost like hiking through a rainforest or jungle — or at least how I imagine that’d feel. The air was heavy and hazy with humidity, foliage still dripping, and the sky barely visible, most of the sunlight blocked by the thick canopy. It was a highly atmospheric experience.

Once we reached the bottom, we were at a creek. Rob was thirsty and took a couple of good drinks of water — and then, being the dork that he is, laid down in the water. It wasn’t very deep, but he sure seemed to enjoy it.

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Rob, cooling off

The trail followed the creek for a while, and the creek was mostly dry. I was a bit surprised that given the rain we’ve had and how wet the ground was, the creek didn’t have more water in it. In some places the trail had suffered some erosion.

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Looking off to one side of the creek

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Erosion, Rob, and … a UFO?

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Rob enjoying a small pool in the creek, again

Before long we reached the rock shelter for which the trail is named. It can provide some respite from the heat on hot, sunny days, but it really wasn’t any cooler yesterday than the surrounding area. I had to be extra careful climbing up since my right hand is not too useful right now.

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Rock Shelter

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Looking down from the rock shelter

We started climbing out of the valley. I tried to take some photos of the switchbacks on the way up, but it was too dark. My camera wasn’t working too well. After a while, we came to a pond.

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We kept going and reached the point where the Low Gap trail shoots off. The two trails are together for a while, but if you take the Low Gap trail instead of staying on this one, you end up going 10 miles instead of 3 or 4. Someday, we’ll do that, but 3-4 miles was perfect for a post-work hike.

We followed a logging road for some time. We didn’t see any logging going on here this time (last time, we did). We could see where some logging had taken place, but we were glad that at least the machinery was gone.

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Walking up the logging road

Soon we were back at the car. We really enjoyed this hike, and we are very lucky that we can do things like this after work. We took the scenic route there, and the “scenic scenic route” home — meaning, a very meandering, beautiful drive that took about three times as long as the most direct route. And we relished every moment. We saw deer, some pigs, and rabbits — not to mention a couple of pony-drawn carriages. Those were odd, but interesting. As we arrived back at home, it was starting to rain. Good timing.

We’re talking about possibly trying a short backpacking trip soon. Neither of us has ever done that, and it sounds like a lot of fun. We’ll see!

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