Hemlock Farms and Beyond

This past weekend, the warm November weather sent me outside for two full days. Unfortunately, not to ride, but to catch up on some yard work. The shed needed to be cleaned out and reorganized, patio furniture needed to be put away for the winter and firewood needed to be stacked and brought up to the porch.

I did manage to squeeze in a ride on Saturday. Conscious of the hunters in the Delaware State Forest (it’s rifle season), I opted for a road ride. I headed out at about 8am, down Rt. 739 towards Lord’s Valley. While freshly paved, Rt. 739 is by no means conducive to bicycles. The surface is narrow (no shoulder), with cars moving at around 50-60 mph. A steady cross wind was pushing me into traffic. A right on Rt. 434 provided me with a little more room to work with and the head wind, although brutal, was a lot safer. 434 is a roller coaster type road with 4 foot shoulders. A left on Rt. 6 (PA State Bicycle Route) and I found the cross wind again. Then it poured for about 25 minutes. Then the sun came out to play. Still undeterred, I made a left on Rt. 739 and finally I had the wind at my back, albeit for only a few miles.

I hung a right into the main entrance of Hemlock Farms and immediately began climbing past the gate and over the hump that is Hemlock Drive. I took a coffee break on a picnic bench at Elm Beach and enjoyed the sunshine and quiet. Refueled and ready to go, I took Forest Road back to Rt. 739 for the return trip. While a private community with a lot of security, I have never been stopped for riding my bike through. However, good luck trying to drive in if your not a resident.

What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Squeeze – If I Didn’t Love You


Pedaling Through a Pandemic: The Final Chapter

I thought I’d moved on from outlining my observations about this pandemic. I was wrong. I’ve told you about my fears and explained the precautions I’ve taken. For three months now, I like many other people have been consumed with everything that is this pandemic. However, being an observant person has caused me to see the real change here. Just like after 9/11, people struggled for a time then eventually, they adapted to the new normal and thrived.
What I noticed today was breathtaking. People were outside, at barbecues, in parks, running, walking and cycling. They were eating outside at restaurants, towing boats to the lakes and going about their lives. Of course, most were wearing masks, but regardless of the situation, people are finding a way to thrive. With all the other shit going on in the world, this is still here. But, we are winning the war with this invisible killer, because we are not lying down.

That said, on the most beautiful of days, I was able to score two rides. First, I got out this morning for a 45 mile solo spin from my house, out to Rt. 739, down Log Tavern Road. I jumped into the Pocono Mountain Woodlands ( the gate was open) and pedaled over to Raymondskill Road. A left on Frenchtown Road took me up to Rt. 6. Turning left, I fought the wind a little, but managed to make it to Costas Family Fun Park. This seemed like a good place to turn around and head home.

Flying down Rt. 6, I took Rt. 739 up past Pike County Blvd, navigated the weekend traffic as I slithered through Lords Valley and into Hemlock Farms for a short loop, before returning to Rt. 739 and subsequently into my community to hit 2 more hills before arriving home. 

After a little lunch and a few hours of stacking firewood, my son suggested a ride in the Port Jervis Watershed. We loaded the bikes on the car and headed out. By 7pm, we were ripping through the woods. Maybe I overdid it today as the force of every rock was reverberating through my upper body. Maybe I’m just old. Either way, it was nice to be out there and I did not want this incredible day to end. But all good things come to an end. I will savor the memory of this day for a long time. 

Stay tuned for some more product reviews.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Electric Light Orchestra – “The way life’s meant to be”


Surly Karate Monkey: Reviewed

A few months ago, I decided to sell one of my hardtails. I have been considering a Surly dirt road touring bike for some time. I just did not have enough room in the garage. I really liked the Ogre and the ECR for their ability to carry a heavy load over a big distance on rough terrain. But, I decided to go with the Karate Monkey which allows you to instal a suspension fork if you really want to hit some technical singletrack.


Surly frames are made of 4130 CroMoly Steel. This is especially dear to my heart. You can find lighter bikes for sure, but nothing rides like steel. The fork is also 4130 CroMoly steel and has enough bosses for all types of touring and bikepacking. The frame has ample bosses for 3 bottle cages or oversized gear cages. The Karate Monkey has rack and fender mounts, making it a more than worthy commuter. Modern touches, like thru axles and hydraulic disc brakes, really round out this solid offering. 


After more than a handful of rides, I think I can supply opinion. First, as you know, I’m fond of steel bikes. Not in the way of vintage, but modern steel with a classic look. I’ve owned plenty of carbon and aluminum bikes. They are stiff, light and fast, but I prefer the plush ride of quality steel. I’ve pedaled through some rough, technical singletrack, gravel roads and Jeep trails. The ride quality is there. It’s pretty quick when it needs to be and smooth over rough terrain. The only drawback might be the weight. Loaded up for a weekend excursion, it probably wouldn’t be first up any hill. But that’s not why you buy this bike. You buy it because it’s versatile. It can be set up as a 29er, 27.5, single speed, geared or as Surly says in about 487 different configurations.
I was between sizes, so I decided on an XL frame. I did not want to be cramped on longer excursions. Because of the larger frame, I needed to shorten the stem, so I opted for an 80mm Salsa Guide. SRAM NX 11 speed shifters, 30t crankset and rear derailleur, paired with Sunrace’s 11-42t cassette make for a more than capable drivetrain, however, the SRAM Level brakes could probably be upgraded. The 27.5 X 3” Surly Dirt Wizard tires are up to the task. After a few rides, I purchased and installed a Surly Moloko handlebar. It offers multiple hand positions and handles just about any bag you throw on it. To spice it up a little, I slapped on a set of Kona Wah Wah pedals and Van’s Grips, both in purple.
If you want a rig that can handle singletrack, touring, bikepacking, gravel roads or Jeep trails, the Karate Monkey is your next bike!

What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today: The Animals – It’s all Over Now, Baby Blue




First Snowfall

Thursday evening blessed us with the first snowfall of the winter season or should I say fall season. With about 5 weeks to go, before winter officially starts, we were blanketed with anywhere from 8-12 inches of wet snow.


On Friday, I attempted to take the Cannondale Beast of the East into the Delaware State Forest. It did not go well. I spent more time on my feet than on my bike. The snow was extremely sticky, the hard packing type of snow that gets stuck and caught in every part of a bike.


Entering Five Mile Meadow Road from the deer trail connecting my community with the forest, I pedaled in quad tracks to Ben Bush Road. That was about as fas I could get. The quad tracks went off the road and into the woods. I decided to head back, as forward progress was completely stalled.

45 North Wolvhammer boot print

Walking back up Five Mile, I realized that snow shoes would have been more appropriate. Anyway, the shadows from the trees, the quiet and deer running through the snow really changed my outlook on the day.  I was able to get a good upper body workout in, shoveling the driveway, when I got home.


What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Blood Sweat and Tears – Hi-De-Ho



Pike County by Bicycle

Cycling Pike County can open many doors, create new experiences and set the table for a fitness lifestyle. Over the past century, bicycles have been used by children and adults as transportation, leisure and fitness. These days, riding a bicycle can take on many different forms. There is mountain biking, road racing, gravel riding, touring, bikepacking, BMX, cafe riding, commuting and just about anything you can imagine. CC255693-A747-4110-B3E7-33C4C79D22D2

Let’s start with one of the most family friendly places to ride, the McDade Trail. Starting at the Milford Beach Trailhead in Milford, this multi use trail stretches 32 miles to Hialeah Trailhead in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The trail surface is crushed stone and remains primarily flat for the first 21 miles, with a few small hills sprinkled in. After The Bushkill Boat Access, the trail climbs sharply into a few switchbacks before rolling on to Hialeah. During the summer months, the Pocono Pony, a free bus service, is available with bike racks going north and south at 7 locations along the trail. At many points, the trail runs along the Delaware River, traversing farms, pine forests, camp grounds and boat launches. Spotting a Bald Eagle, a Black Bear, White Tailed Deer and Wild Turkey is not uncommon.

The McDade Trail

For mountain bikers that love being on singletrack, Promised  Land State Park has numerous multi use trails that range from beginner to expert with varying terrain. Just to the north of Pike County lies the Port Jervis, NY Watershed Trails. These multi use trails offer some of the best mountain biking in the northeast.


Rt. 6 is on the Pennsylvania State bicycle route. With it’s wide shoulders, Rt. 6 offers road cyclists the opportunity to ride safely into and out of the wind. Winding through the Delaware State Forest and past Lake Wallenpaupack, Rt. 6 links with many bicycle friendly roadways, creating hundreds of different routes both epic and casual. You can even connect routes through neighboring New Jersey and New York for a tri state tour of the Delaware Valley.


Next, the Delaware State Forest is filled with emergency access roads and snowmobile trails that allow a mountain bike or a “gravel bike” to glide over the gravel surface through protected natural areas and past glacial lakes. All sorts of wildlife and plants can be spotted in this scenic forest of more than 83 Acres. The Delaware State Forest has 29 campsites complete with pic nic tables and fire rings, making bikepacking (camping from a bicycle) a modest adventure.


If you are not into pedaling deep in the woods, then Maybe a casual ride around Milford, the county seat, would satisfy your urge to spin the pedals. The Borough of Milford is laid out with a grid of streets and alley ways that make riding in town a breeze. There are many cafes, eateries and historic place to visit by bicycle. From town, you could ride up to Grey Towers, the home of Gifford Pinchot, the first Director of the US Forest Service or pedal over to the columns museum for a look at the history of Pike County. Pedal over to Rt. 209 and hike up to the “Knob” for a wonderful view of Milford. Cruise down to Milford Beach for a dip in the Delaware River.

Wherever you bike, Pike County has trails and roads that make for a safe, enjoyable sport. Get outside and ride. You can see more from a bicycle that you can from a car and riding a bike is a healthy activity and a great release from everyday life. Hope to see you out there!



7 Days/7 Rides

Entertaining the notion that riding outdoors ends in the fall, is sort of giving in to Mother Nature. Well, that’s easy to say, when the temperatures in late November, early December are still in the 40’s. Anyway, I thought that it would be a good time to get in some road rides, mountain bike rides and gravel adventures.

I started on Tuesday with a commute to work. When I left my house, it was 19 degrees. I layered up and dealt with the wind. I was just happy to be on my bike.


On Wednesday, I did a unique ride, mixing in some gravel, pavement, dirt and grass. It was 50 degrees and I took full advantage, riding in shorts and shortsleeves.  I rode up to Five Mile Meadow Road, grinded through the loose, new gravel until I heard the first gunshot. I thought I’d leave the hunters alone and head back into the community for an unauthorized spin through Seneca Lake Park.


I had a few extra hours on Thursday morning, so I looped around my community on the road bike, hitting every hill I could find.


On Friday, my son joined me for a mtb ride through the Watershed. Another 50 degree day, allowed us to dress down and enjoy a few hours of rocks, roots and beautiful singletrack.

Saturday morning brought some gravel grinding through the Delaware State Forest with Andrew. This time, I opted for a mostly orange getup. Action Bikes and Outdoor, produces an orange jersey each year, making it easy to get out in the wild, during hunting season.

Andrew in Safety Orange & Hi-Viz Green

On Sunday evening, my son and I went back into the Delaware State Forest for a spin under the stars, powered by our Bontrager Ion 800 headlights. A full moon helped illuminate the woods. We took a couple of cool new roads that I’ll detail in a later post.


Monday morning was cold. 20 degrees at 6:30am. I grabbed a quick ride on gravel, dirt and grass. The hill I’ve been practicing my grass descents on, was covered with a thin layer of frost, making for a few slippery ups and downs. Easy to deal with, when the fog is burning off the lake at the top of he hill.

What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), Today – The Greg Kihn Band – The Breakup Song (1981)



Autumn in the Delaware Valley

Each year, it seems, we get treated to something different. This year, summer lasted until mid October. I’m not complaining. However, with Halloween just a few days away, we need more than just a few leaves to fall.

Most places are beautiful in the fall. Milford and the surrounding area benefit from sitting between the Catskills and Pocono Mountains and along the Delaware River, making for a gorgeous place to pedal.


If you want to see for yourself, get out on the McDade Trail, ride through Peter’s Valley via Old Mine Road, climb up to High Point or traverse the many gravel roads that make up the State and National forests that encompass our region. If you ride a mountain bike or want to learn, look no further than the Port Jervis Watershed Trails. Fall can be seen here at its fullest, with vibrant colors reflecting off the 3 reservoirs, creating a magical atmosphere.


Oh, and the trails are second to none. Visit Action Bikes and Outdoor in Milford for large scale paper maps with color coded trails to guide you along. A ride up to the Hawk’s Nest on Rt. 97 provides breathtaking views of fall foliage along the river and Route 6 in Pike County has far from a shortage of colorful places to enjoy all that fall has to offer.


After your ride, sample the many cafes and restraunts throughout the Delaware Valley. It’s a great way to cool down, reflect and replenish.

What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – American Girl



Ride Your Bike

Autumn has decided to play hard to get. With the unseasonably warm weather hanging around, why not find time for extra miles? All I can think about is which bike to ride!

Our time is valuable. When you get a chance to get outdoors, make it count. Go out one day and just ride for hours. Ride as far as your legs will take you. Ride a road bike on a dirt road, a hybrid or cyclocross bike on a mountain bike trail or a Mtb on the street.


Forget everything and just pedal. Take pictures, get a flat, change your tube, finish your ride. Get dirty out there. Ride through the mud, the rain, the snow, the wind or whatever Mother Nature has to throw at you!


Stay up late and map out a ride or just read a shitty novel and wing it the next day. Either way, ride your bike. Ride to the cafe, the pizza parlor or the tavern. Fill up on whatever delights you, then ride some more. Get a headlight and ride at night.


Every now and then, I’m off the bike for a few days to a week for whatever reason. The first ride back always feels like the best ride of the year. You get the idea, just get out there and pedal!

What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Pretenders –  Middle of the Road




Stewart State Forest

About a 40 minute drive from Milford, sits Stewart State Forest, known to many as the Stewart Buffer Land. Matt and I decided to make the trip east on Rt. 84 yesterday (with a pit stop at Arlene and Tom’s Restaurant in Port Jervis to fuel up) for what proved to be a really nice day out on the trails.


There are a few designated parking areas. We decided to make Weed Road our base camp. We started out on the Orchard Trail and did not see a rock or root all the way to Giles Road. We jumped over to Rock Wall Trail and found out quickly how it got it’s name. In the first half mile, you traverse 4 rock walls, and yeah, the rocks and roots appeared.


We followed Rock Wall to Mid Earth to New Road. We made a left on White Cloud Trail, climbed a few hundred feet and dropped back down through the wetlands and back up to Bypass Trail and over to Windsor Trail. Looping back to Weed Road we pedaled up the gravel hill and back to the parking area for lunch.


After a couple of pb&j sandwiches, we headed back down Weed Road, hungry for more singletrack. We found a jewel! Causeway Trail to Shields Trail to Drakes Trail is like a deep forest pump track. Hoping over to Mid Earth, we crossed New Road and took Senior to Waterfall.


Waterfall really tests you. It’s a little bit technical singletrack and a little bit hike a bike, up rock formations that appear like waterfalls. We followed Waterfall to Prime to Sara’s Way to Windsor Trail and back to New Road. New Road becomes Weed Road as we pedaled into the parking area. At a high of 74 degrees, we were treated to a beautiful day for what turned out to be a wonderful ride.

What’s  playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Santana – Evil Ways IMG_0405



Crushing Snow

Even though it’s only Mid December, winter is here. It’s so frigid outside, that the entire east coast is experiencing a cold snap. While I was walking the dog in the snow, early Sunday morning, I figured there was no way I was going ride a bike or do much of anything outside. After more than enough coffee, my lovely wife suggested spending the day either hanging Christmas decorations or shopping. Hmm, what to do?

Well, the only way I could brave a day out shopping would be if I could spend a little time out on the bike first. So I layered up, put my mtb shoes, helmet and gloves by the fire for a few minutes and headed out on the Trek Stache.img_0157

The roads were covered in the white stuff, so I snuck through the woods, behind my house and into the Delaware State Forest. Not sure where I was going (but that’s the fun part, isn’t it?), I found a snow mobile trail that would have otherwise been brutal to ride over, but with the snow packed into it, I felt like I was on a pedal assisted sled. Somehow, that trail ended a little over a mile later at a driveway to a hunting cabin. I ventured down and ended up on Five Mile Meadow Road. It’s cool to find trails you never knew existed, and probably rode by more than a few times.img_0161

I jumped into the old Boy Scout camp and found some untouched, endless trails of 6-8 inches of snow. I worked my way past all the dilapidated buildings and dropped down to the lake. Rock Hill Pond, at the foot of the camp, which I believe is now part of the PA State Forest, is completely engulfed in nature. After propping my bike up for a pic, I attempted a sip out of my water bottle. I was only out for about an hour and my bottle was frozen. Lesson learned. Next time, I’ll carry my bottle or wear a hydration pack.img_0154

Pedaling up from the lake and out of the camp was an adventure. When I reached the gravel roads again, I felt as if I were rolling along a smooth section of blacktop. I scurried through the trees and back into my community, satisfied and ready to take on the day and the stores. But first, I would relax a bit and warm up by the fire.img_0156 What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Just the Classics – Santa Claus is Coming to Town (The Jackson 5 version) and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.jackson5-christmasalbum


Erie 80

erie-80Saturday was a magical day for cycling in the Tri-State area, especially The City of Port Jervis. The inaugural Erie 80 Mountain Bike race took place in the brand new Watershed Park Trails & Recreation Area. The trail system is the brainchild of Dejay Birtch, a Port Jervis native. Birtch currently lives in Arizona, but returns frequently to build trails. Dejay, along with TC Crawford, the owner of Action Bikes and Outdoor in Milford, plus an amazing volunteer trail crew, have carved out over 25 miles of trail. All their hard work was on display yesterday. img_0076

The registration and staging area took place in front of and  inside the tiki bar at the Erie Hotel and Restaurant. The Race drew over 150 registered riders, a huge number for a 1st year race. The Erie 80 is an 80 kilometer(50 miles) Race. A 40k and 12 mile Fun Race  were also offered. It all kicked off at the corner of Front Street and Jersey Avenue and headed up Pike Street, onto Orange Street, a left on Reservior Avenue and into the Watershed. img_0075

The volunteers really shined. Every turn was clearly marked, making it easy for all riders to stay on course. The aid station at mile 9 and again at 12 was stocked with energy snacks, water, soda and all kinds of goodies from Honey Stinger.  Trek Bicycles was on hand to help with repairs.

On a personal note, it was really cool to hit the trails with riders of all abilities, from extremely fast racers to average MTB enthusiasts to road riders, like me who were finding out just how hard mountain biking in a densely wooded forest can be.

Three miles in and we climbed to the top of Point Peter, treating the riders to a majestic view of Port Jervis, the Delaware river and the Catskill, Pocono and Kittatinny mountain ranges.

A birdseye view of what rocks can do to a tire

I rode with friends, Jim from Long Island and Sean and Pete from South Jersey. At mile 6, Sean shredded his rear tire on a rock. He booted the tire with a candy wrapper and rode on for a little over a mile, when the hole proved to be too much for the foil wrapper to seal. From that point, he walked to the aid station, where Trek/Bontrager had a bin full of tires, tubes and a little of everything to keep the riders going. A quick tire change and Sean was back on the trail. Everyone endured a little pain yesterday, whether it was of the mechanical kind or physical, but it was well worth it.

The terrain was a mixed bag of hills, smooth trail and some rock gardens, until we re-entered after exiting the mile 12 aid station. From there, it was rock garden after rock garden, really challenging riders. In between the rocks and hills, were bench cut trails, that carved they’re way through the hills, while overlooking streams that flowed from reservoir to reservoir. Oh, and least I forget the amazing views of all three reservoirs.

The Race came to an end right where it all started, complete with a professional finish line, a beer garden and entertaining finishing ceremony. Don’t miss this race next year. If you don’t currently ride a mountain bike, start training, you won’t be sorry!

Results from the Erie 80 MTB race can be found here.

Watershed Trails

In two short weeks, the City of Port Jervis, NY will play host to the Erie 80 Mountain Bike Race at the Watershed Park Trail System. Since I’ve only gotten one mtb ride in all year, I figured it was time to test my skills with a few miles in the Watershed. I met up with Big John at Reservior #1 at 9am for what we hoped would be an epic day in the woods.


From the parking area, we headed up Reservior Road. Right out of the gate,  the loose gravel and dirt road climbs for about 1.6 miles. Nothing steep, but continous as we turned right on Lenni Lenape Trail and continued to climb until Lenape merged with Brant Path and leveled off. Here, we shedded our outer layers and checked the map to make sure we wouldn’t be riding in circles. At the trail head, an encased map of the entire watershed is color coded, enabling the rider to take a snapshot of the map for later reference on the trail. Having already had our share of jeep trails, we went looking for some singletrack.

Big John capping the hill

We made a right on Box Baum Road and after another half mile of gravel, we met up with Kyle, who was leading a group through the trail system. He pointed us into Mahackamack Trail and we hung a left on Lost Bear Trail. Finally, some singletrack. Nothing smooth. A lot of rocks and roots, but it rolled real nice for a couple of miles, looping right back to Box Baum Road and dropping us along the eastern side of Reservior #3. The descent allows for a clear view of the reservior and the Deerpark Dam.


From there, we turned left and enjoyed the rocky decline down Reservior Road. Before hitting Reservior #1 again, we made a left on the Beginner’s Berm and followed it up to Tallulah. Not a good idea. Tallulah is an advanced trail that goes skyward for about 3/4 of a mile. This is where we did some hike a bike. With a left turn at the top on Lenni Lenape, we cruised back down to Reservior Road and dropped back to the parking area.

Holding on for dear life!

We did not get to see the entire watershed. Next time, we’ll attempt to hit DeJay Downs and some of the Expert Trails to get a real feel for the place. What I’ve seen so far, the trails are well marked and color coded. As long as you stay on the trail system, it would be pretty hard to get lost. From what I heard, the trails are only half finished. I can’t wait to see what DeJay, TC and crew have in store for the rest of the park!

We finished it off  with a feast at Roy’s Corner at Homer’s Restaurant in Port Jervis. According to the Times Herald Record, the original restaurant opened in 1852.


What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke





The Knob

If you ride anywhere near Milford, you’ve heard of the The Knob. If you’ve even been through Milford at night, you’ve seen The Knob. The Knob sits atop the Raymondskill Ridge in the Cliff Park section of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Cliff Trail and the Quarry Trail intersect the Knob Trail. There are more than eight miles of Trail to connect in the Cliff Park area. Any one of the climbs rewards the rider or hiker with a fantastic view. In fact, the cover photo for this blog was one I took about 3 years ago, after hiking to the top.

Another view from The Knob


Today, I left from the Action Bikes and Outdoor and accessed the Milford Knob trailhead at the North Contact Station. After climbing for about a mile, I made a left on the Quarry Trail and a right on the Cliff Trail and rode up to the Knob. I pedaled down the single track along the ridge to also get a view of the Milford Bridge, the Delaware River and the vast corn fields along the river.


I descended into the Milford Cemetary, turned around and rode back up and around to the North Contact Station. My aim was to ride out to Raymonskill Road and Jump on the McDade Trail for an easy spin back to Milford. I lost my navigational skills for a moment and ended up coming out the same way I went in. I rode down Rt. 209 to Raymondskill and entered the McDade Trail.

The Knob is a nice easy hike or bike ride that can be started from anywhere in town. There are some steep sections that require low gears or possibly a little hike a bike.

Whats Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Supertramp – The Logical Song