BikePacking, Part 2

The bikepacking bug came biting again. Last week, I received a message from Will and Kyle that they were planning an overnighter in Promised Land State Park. The thought of a fire, dehydrated food and camp coffee, oh yeah, I was in. I’ve been cultivating my next overnighter on the bike since my last trip. Will plotted out a route from Shohola, so all we had to do was pack, pedal and relax.

I planned on taking my Van Dessel WTF again with my large seatbag, frame bag and handlebar bag. Knobby tires on a route that included 90% pavement was probably not the smartest idea I’ve had. I went with a Camelback instead of a backpack, because I freed up some room with a hammock instead of a tent.

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Friday came and the weather was perfect for a summer outing. At 85 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night, with no rain in the forecast, we were able to pack light as we did not need to consider the thought of a storm. I met Will at Bridge Park, on Twin Lakes Road in Shohola. Kyle had a prior obligation and left from home. We rode to Rt. 6 and pedaled up to Rt. 434(Well Road) and made a left. We climbed up and over Rt. 739 where the road changed to Blooming Grove Road. As soon as you cross over Rt. 739, you enter the twilight zone. Well, not really, but it certainly seemed like life slowed down a bit.

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I think we saw one or two cars, the entire time on Blooming Grove Road. The landscape included quiet, country homes, set way back off the road and farms situated on lush green grass with well maintained barns. As we crossed Rt. 402 and came into the town of Blooming Grove, we passed what appeared to be the only commercial establishment, the Blooming Grove Tavern. The parking lot was at full capacity.

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We made a left on Egypt Road and were treated to a really nice red barn, a waterwheel and a lazy creek. Egypt Road seemed to go slightly up for the entire 3 miles. A left hand turn at the end, put us on Rt. 390, the main thoroughfare leading into Promised Land. We rolled up and down Rt. 390 for 6 miles and made a right on Lower Lake Road. We dropped down the narrow park road for 2 miles to our campsite. As we pulled up, Kyle was already there waiting to tell us about the alternate route he took on mostly dirt roads.

We dismounted, began to unpack and setup camp. I chose to go with a hammock this time, instead of a tent, so my setup was fairly easy and quick. After our last trip, TC from Action Bikes and Outdoor in Milford, highly recommmended a hammock and I don’t think I’ll ever go back in a tent again.

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We collected wood and fired up our camp stoves to get ready for a well deserved dinner after a hard ride with over 2,200 feet of climbing on loaded gravel bikes. By the time we finished eating, the fire was roaring and we shared some laughs. I indulged in a little red wine (Sangiovese), that I transported in a steel growler on the front fork of my bike. By 10pm, exhausted, I retired to my hammock and pulled the bug fly over my head and slipped into a deep sleep.

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Again, I had to work the next day, so I woke up early and packed up my gear as I boiled water. After securing everything to my bike, I gulped down a hot cup of coffee and headed out. I snaked up Lower Lake Road and out on Rt. 390. That early in the morning, the traffic was a lot lighter than the previous evening.

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About halway home, I had to stop and take a picture at the Blooming Grove Tavern. The terrain was a lot less hilly in this direction and when I hit Rt. 739 I turned right and rode directly to my house. Another trip in the books. The next one will have to be away from a campground as camping in the deep woods provides a unique challenge that begs to be explored.

What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Peter Wolf – Lights Out

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Back in the Saddle

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to get on a bike. Sometimes, life gets in the way and then you find your way back. This Sunday morning, I got out of bed and decided to just ride out of the garage, through my community and onto the gravel that is Five Mile Meadow Road. You see, what’s been keeping me away from my bike is still there and I was beginning to think that going for long bike rides was selfish and my way of running away from things. How wrong I was. This ride, through the beautiful state forest, helped me realize how grateful I am to be able to get away for a few hours and just pedal through the woods. I can still get back to reality, just with a renewed perspective.

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Anyway, I scooted up through my community and into the deer trail that leads to Five Mile Meadow Road. I turned right and immediately felt relaxed. I hung a left on Standing Stone Trail. It’s amazing how the weeds have grown through the middle of the road since my last ride there. The creek crossing was rideable today, although I stopped for a quick photo. I plowed through the loose gravel, as this wonderful 3 mile stretch is closed to vehicular traffic and the road surface does not get too packed down. Standing Stone takes you through the Pennsylvania Deer Management area that is fenced off for a few miles, along most of the road.

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Turning left on Silver Lake Road, I hit the pavement for about a mile and took a diversion through Little Mud Pond Road, a 1 mile horse shoe that puts you right back on Silver Lake Road. I then turned left back onto Five Mile Meadow. After a short climb, I made a right hand turn and dropped down Bald Hill Road. Bald Hill is a neat crushed gravel road that pretty much descends for 2.5 miles and comes to an end. An overgrown trail leads into private property. I have never explored here, as there are more than a few No Tresspassing signs. I turned around and headed back up to Five Mile Meadow, climbing through the dense woods.

Hunting cabins, complete with OutHouses and no running water, litter the landscape, through the Delaware State Forest. Some are run down and some look well taken care of. I ripped up Five Mile Meadow and slipped into the deer trail and back into my community. I rode towards the back of my community on gravel roads that are a little less forgiving. Large stones that just do not seem to penetrate the hard clay that make up the road surface. I found a clearing and another creek that seemed like a good spot for a drink and another photo.

 If your going to escape for a little while, there’s no better way than just hopping on your bike and pedaling into the woods at a relaxed pace. You really can just forget about the world for a change and enjoy the serenity. 

VBC Century Ride

This past weekend, Mike H, Steve and I, traveled up to Plattsburgh, NY to do a Century ride through the Adirondacks. A ride that is near and dear to my heart. This ride is put on by the Adirondack Garda. All proceeds are donated to the Tour de Force, a charity ride that raises money for the families of Police Officers killed in the line of duty, nationwide. I’ll detail the Tour de Force in a later post.

This is the 3rd annual Valcour Brewing Company Century Ride. It was previously called the Dry Dock 100. I rode in the 2014 event and I was extremely excited to be able to have a chance to be a part of it again. The inaugural ride was a 103 miles. A figure eight that started in Plattsburgh, came back into town at mile 50 for a fantastic lunch stop and looped out and back for another beautiful 50+ miles.

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The 2016 event featured 4 rides. 25, 50, 78 and 103 miles through the beautiful Adirondack Park and alongside Lake Champlain. Each ride featured perfect roads, absolutely stunning scenery, a quality lunch stop, well stocked rest areas and 2 awesome post ride parties. All riders, received an Adirondack Garda t-shirt, Valcour Brewing Company/VBC Century pint glass and some first rate swag. The gun went off at 8:30am for the 50/78/103 mile rides. The 25 miler, was an out and back, that started after lunch.

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For the 103 miler, it was a tale of two different types of weather. First, the rest stops were at miles 25, 50, 75 and 94. For the first 25 miles, there was a strong head wind. You sort of forgot about the wind as you came to the top of a hill and were hit with an incredible mountain top view. As you made the turn and looped back into Plattsburgh from the 1st rest stop to lunch, the wind changed directions and the road grade cooperated. That might have been the fastest 25 miles I have ever ridden.

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We were treated to a nice lunch on Lake Champlain. Darcy, Ann and a bunch of other volunteers, really did a wonderful job. From the sign in to the aid stations(which were top notch), everything was done to make sure the riders slipped through the course with ease. The Plattsburgh Police Department and the New York State Police did a fantastic job with the lead out and traffic control at the intersections.

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After lunch, about a mile in, you hit the only big hill on the course. It twists and turns as you climb for approximately 1.5 miles. You drop back down into farmland and fight the wind for another 20 or so miles. Along the way, we passed over 100 cyclist from Canada that were pedaling through one of the best cycling regions in the country. At mile 75 we rolled into the 3rd rest stop just off the border of Quebec on Lake Shore Drive. Across the lake, you could see Vermont. The wind turned to our backs again as we made our way into Plattsburgh along the lake.

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The last 2 miles are on a bike path, along Lake Champlain, that leads you right into the VBC parking lot and through the finishing chute. We were greeted with cheers and directed upstairs for the post ride party. Valcour had several different beers to choose from in a saloon that overlooked the lake. Down the hall, the Adirondack Garda provided a delicious recovery feast. We went back to our rooms to shower up and headed over to an undisclosed location for  a pool party, complete with margarita machine, beer, BBQ, hot tub and great people to sit around with, relax and reminisce about a great day.

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The following day, Bob and Bruce took any willing riders on a 50+ mile recovery ride up through the Lake Placid area, with a ferry ride across the lake to Vermont for lunch. We were sorry to miss this excursion as we opted to head home in the morning, but heard it was a good time!  Just a few more pics of this fantastic event:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure Loop(gravel, mud, grass & Pave)

With a break in the humidity for a day, a gravel grinder through the Delaware State Forest seemed like a good idea. I’ve written a few posts about different areas of the forest (Five Mile Meadow Road, Standing Tall Trail, Flat Ridge Road area, Whittaker Road and the High Knob Road, High Line Road area), but this time, the idea was to come up with a way to connect them and extend the ride.

I made plans to ride with Will and Kyle at 9am on Sunday. Will mapped out a route that would connect all of the aforementioned areas into a nice loop. I rode from home and met up with Will and Kyle at the Rt. 739 Parking area.

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We headed north on Rt. 739 and made a left on an undisclosed road. To connect the loop, we would have to pedal on a jeep trail and gravel road through private property for about 2.5 miles. Back on the pave, we made a left on Rt. 402 for about a half mile, then onto the High Knob Road. Electing not to climb up to the fire tower, we connected the High Knob Road (a relatively flat, hard packed gravel road) with High Line Road and descended for a few miles down to Hay Road and into the woods.

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The old jeep trail was overgrown. We pedaled through the area that was engulfed with the early spring forest fires. You could see some burnt trees on the ground, but the growth was overtaking the black ash. However, a few hunting cabins were not able to survive the fires. We crossed an old wooden plank foot bridge and continued on the trail.

Hay Road is closer to a backwoods trail then it is to a road. We came out of the woods and made a left hand turn on Snow Hill Road, a quiet country road that is roughly paved in sections and gravel in others. A left on Resica Falls Road put us back on pavement for  about a quarter mile, before hanging a right on Whittaker Road. After a mile of gravel, Whittaker turned into another jeep trail that was a little less over grown and a little less rocky, which made the descents a lot of fun.

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As we came out of the woods again, we rode around the back end of Minisink Lake and onto Flat Ridge Road. For 3.5 miles, the gravel on Flat Ridge is small and hard packed, which provides a really nice surface. Another left put us on Silver Lake Road for a mile and a right put us on Standing Tall Trail. This is a neat gravel road that winds through a deer management section that is fenced off on the left hand side of the road. After 2 miles, a creek comes right through the road. Kyle rode through as Will and I walked through, carrying our bikes. Another mile and our paths went different ways. Will and Kyle made a left on Five Mile Meadow Road for a 2 mile ride to the parking area and I headed in the other direction to a deer trail in the woods that leads to my community.

What a nice ride through a really quiet section. If you slow it down a little, there is plenty to see. Kyle rode up on a black bear on Whittaker Road (A little noise and it walked away). There are some quaint little cabins and plenty of places to camp. The loop was just about 45 miles with some good climbs (nothing too hard). This ride is doable on a cyclocross, mountain or hybrid bike. Though, it would be a little too tough for a road bike.

What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Have you ever seen the rain”

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Overnight on the Bike

Yes, it finally happened: I got out on an overnight backpacking trip. Although I did not go it alone, as originally planned, it was an eye opening adventure that is sure to happen again. When I mentioned it to TC at Action Bikes and Outdoor, he was all over it. He planned a route that would have us pedal from Bushkill to Milford on the McDade Trail, with an overnight in Dingmans Ferry, alongside the Delaware River.

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Kyle and Will were recruited for the initial trip, and away we went. Kyle rode out from Milford to Bushkill, and met us at the Bushkill Access (boat launch). Ray and Meghan gave TC, Will, and myself a first class shuttle over to Bushkill.

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At 70 degrees and sunny, it was a beautiful evening to test out a fully loaded bike on loose gravel, and at 7pm, it left us ample time to ride 10 miles and setup camp. I was riding my Van Dessel WTF with my Revelate Designs seat pack and frame bag, and my Bushwhacker Cody handlebar bag. I bolted 1 Salsa Anything Cage to my fork to carry an unusually large steel bottle, and finally I wore a backpack, complete with a 70 ounce water blatter.

After 10 miles of pedaling, we reached our campsite. It was a nice clearing, with a cluster of trees, between the McDade Trail and Delaware River. As I pulled my tent and sleeping gear from my seat-bag, TC, Will, and Kyle set up their hammocks. Although experienced campers, they were each trying out a hammock for a full night in the woods for the first time. With our bedroom in the woods fully assembled, it was time to build a fire and cook dinner.

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After eating gourmet food by the fire, and laughing a little, TC made a bear bag, collected our extra food, and deposited it over a tree branch back in the woods. Returning to my tent, I made an attempt to light my candle lantern in complete darkness, to no avail. So, I crawled into my sleeping bag and called it a night. The temperature dropped to around 40-45 degrees, making for optimal sleeping weather. In the morning, I had little time to break down my tent and replace everything back in my bags and get to the office for a weekend work commitment.

Everything seemed to be working in my favor. After a great nights sleep, my gear slipped back on my bike without a problem. I met the guys by the fire, boiled some water, grinded some beans, and enjoyed my first real camp coffee.

I made my way up the trail to my car, only 4 miles away, and headed to work. Everyone else rode the full way back to Milford. As I pedaled back, I was already planning how to pack for the next trip. One things for sure: next time, I will be in no hurry in the morning, and the riding will be a little further.

What I did I learn? Bikes, tents, and coffee make a weekend adventure priceless!

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Gravel AM

After a couple of beautiful days, the rain is headed back. While doing some early morning road rides this week, Eric thought we should get a gravel ride in this morning before Mother Nature exercised her right to spring. With only 2 hours before I had to be at work, we settled on Five Mile Meadow Road and the surrounding trails. As I’ve previously stated, Five Mile Meadow Road, which connects Rt. 739 and Silver Lake Road, is hard packed gravel for about 6.4 miles. We started out on Five Mile, and found our way onto Standing Tall Trail, a snow mobile trail deep in the Delaware State Forest.

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I didn’t have to ride through, but it was fun!

There is a creek crossing about a mile into the trail, that’s maybe crossable at best. The trail is lined with wire fencing in conjunction with Pennsylvania’s Deer Management Program. Ending at Silver Lake Road, we turned left, followed the broken pavement for a mile, and did the Little Mud Pond gravel horseshoe. Little Mud Pond is a gravel road that’s a little more than a mile through a beautiful lake community that reminds you of an old fishing village.

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Once out on Silver Lake road again, we pedaled down and hung a left back onto Five Mile Meadow. We went up the first hill, and right onto Bald Hill Road. Bald Hill is a well groomed combination of smooth crushed gravel and dirt. Hunting cabins litter both sides of the road for 2 1/2 miles until it comes to an abrupt end in a dirt circle. Private Property separates Bald Hill from the back of the Dingman Delaware School campus.

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We zipped back up Bald Hill, right on Five Mile Meadow, and grinded our way back to the deer trail that takes us back around to my house. We were both very content to get a ride in this morning as the rain started to come down, just as we exited the woods. A quick shower and off to work, daydreaming about where to ride this weekend.

What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Joe Cocker – When the Night Comes

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Pedaling Through the Promised Land

Before long, I’ll be writing about long, somewhat fast road rides. But for now, the winter that never was, continues to linger. As long as it does, shorter, slower rides through the Pennsylvania landscape rule the day.

Located 17 miles west of Milford in Greentown, PA is Promised Land State Park. About 3,000 acres in size, Promised Land State Park is on the Pocono Plateau, 1,800 feet above sea level, and is surrounded by 12,464 acres of Pennsylvania’s Delaware State Forest, including natural areas. Visitors enjoy fishing and boating in two lakes, rustic cabins, camping, miles of biking and hiking trails, and exploring the forests.The forests of the park consist primarily of beech, oak, maple, and hemlock trees. Two lakes and several small streams add to the park’s outstanding scenic beauty.

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I parked in the main parking area at the DCNR Park Office. Steve, at the counter, was very helpful; he pointed me in the right direction, and handed me some maps of the park. Once outside and on my bike, I headed out to Rhododendron Trail. A rather flat but bumpy trail, Rhododendron Trail is a nice way to ease into the trail system. After about 1.5 miles, the trail turned to gravel, and winded through a small village of cabins along the main lake. It ended at the tip of the lake. Crossing the road and onto the tow path, puts you over the wooden bridge and along a gravel path, just above the beach.

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After cruising along the lake and through a few campsites, I came to Tower Trail. A technical, rocky sort of single-track, Tower Trail climbed up a few small hills, and dumped me into a dried up creek bed, before climbing back up and onto Cross Cut Trail. Like Tower Trail, Crosscut Trail is a technical trail that would have been better suited with a mountain bike. Today, I rode my Van Dessel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. A steel 700c monster cross bike with 29X2.1 tires, she goes almost anywhere. Still, a MTB with at least front suspension would have handled the terrain a lot better.

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After navigating a section of woods, I found the Boundry Trail. A much more subtle trail, Boundry starts at the north shore of the big lake, and winds through the forest to the southern end of the lower laker, before putting you right back on Tower Trail.

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After a few more miles, I was back at the main parking area. Although windy and 45 degrees, the sun was shining, and the bare trees gave me an awesome view of both lakes from various parts of the trail. Getting in the car and driving a few miles to a place so serene and beautiful is more than worth it. Promised Land State Park will certainly feel my bike roll over it’s trails more than a few times this summer.

What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Golden Earring – Cut.

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