Maple City Century – Gravel

On Sunday, I traveled to Honesdale, PA with Eric, Matt, Bob and Kyle, to do the Maple City Century, a mixed terrain 100 miler that consisted of about 85% gravel and dirt roads and just over 9,000 feet of climbing. The route brings you through most of rural Wayne County and borders the Delaware River and New York State in several sections. If you haven’t been to this part of Northeastern PA, check it out, it’s beautiful, especially during the fall foliage season.

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100, 62 and 30 mile options are offered. Each route different, but challenging in their own way. The 30 mile option gave riders a glimpse of what pedaling in Wayne County is all about, on mostly dirt and gravel roads.The 62 and 100 mile routes include long, steep climbs through farm land, logging roads and every kind of back road you can imagine.

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Action Bikes and Outdoor was well represented

It was chilly at the start, about 36 degrees, but warmed up to the mid 60’s at mid day. I did not get a chance to sample the 30 and 62 mile routes. I was up in the air about whether to do the 62 or 100 but made a game time decision to push through the 100 mile course. I was rewarded for my efforts with amazing views, awesome rest stops and a chance to ride with some fantastic people. Matt and Bob rode the 62 miler as Matt took care of repairs for the riders at the start and had to wait for the masses to depart. Kyle and Eric joined me on this epic journey.

The 100, left from behind the Post Office in Honesdale at 8:20am and rolled through town with a Police escort. 2 miles later, the gravel adventure began. I compartmentalized the ride into 4 sections, divided by the 3 rest stops. The first section was hilly to say the least. But, anyone who cycles in Northeastern, PA knows there are no flat roads here. Just ups and downs and ups and downs.

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The ride organizer made all routes available for download to a GPS enabled device. Cue sheets were also made available. However, the course was expertly marked out with easily visible color coded signs at every turn. At mile 33, we arrived at the first rest stop and were greeted with friendly volunteers and an array of energy bars, gels, fruit, trail mix, water and energy drink. Volunteers signed in all riders, to ensure they reached the checkpoint safely.

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Eric certainly approved of the descent!

The next section began with a hill, just up the road from the rest stop. Another 15 or so miles or gravel and we hit Brown Trout Trail. This extremely technical, section lasted for five miles. With the side of a mountain to the right and a cliff to the left, the six foot wide trail seemed suited for a full suspension MTB, Fat Bike or ATV.  With a waterfall coming right through, a washed out portion of the trail required a little hike a bike. This was the most challenging part of the course.

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Just as we pushed off Brown Trout Trail, we arrived at rest stop #2. What a welcome sight after bouncing around for more than 40 minutes. After filling bottles and devouring everything in sight, we saddled up and headed out into the beautiful countryside. We saw some odd old homes, rustic churches and more than a few cattle.

At mile 75, we pulled into rest stop #3. This seemed like a great place to sit down and stretch a bit. With only 25 miles to go, finishing certainly seemed like a reality. Just a few more hills and a lot more gravel!

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Thanking the Gods for a beautiful day!

I kept telling myself that the big climbs were behind us. That didn’t work very well as hill after hill punished every weary leg that pedaled on. I have to say that Eric really got me through this ride. He kept me going when I wasn’t feeling too good. As for Kyle, we only saw him for a few seconds at the start. Every time we hit a sketchy section of trail, I did imagined Kyle laughing and riding right through. It was still light out when we rolled back into Honesdale, 8 hours and 47 minutes later. A quick clothing change at the car and a brief walk to the Irving Cliff Brewery for a well deserved post ride feast.

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A beer growler for every participant

Kudos to Ride Director Zach Wentzel and his staff for putting on a first class ride. The course markers were spot on, the rest stops were fully stocked and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. The course was everything it was supposed to be and more. It’s already on the calendar for next year. September 24th, 2017. Save the date!

 

 

 

 

 

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What is Gravel Grinding?

It’s 8am on a Sunday Morning. I’ve just unloaded my bike from the top of my car. I’m doing some last minute checks to make sure I have enough food and water to get me through the day, as I’m about to embark on a 30-35 mile bike ride through mostly gravel roads in the Delaware State Forest. That day, I rode through the state forest, onto the pavement for a couple of miles and back into the forest, with a couple of diversions on dirt roads and grassy trails to end with 32 miles of an all road adventure.

This type of riding is most commonly called “gravel grinding”. Some call it “adventure cycling” and some refer to it as “all road riding”. Whatever you call it, it’s just plain fun.

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2017 Kona Sutra LTD

Gravel Grinding has been popular in the midwest for the better part of a decade. Many of the big gravel races in the US are found there because of the extensive network of gravel and dirt roads that sprawl across the region. Here in the northeastern part of the country, gravel grinding is catching on. In this area alone, we have access to numerous gravel roads that are part of the state forest as well as the McDade Trail, which is a 32 mile gravel and dirt trail, connecting Milford to Stroudsburg as part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, along with many other off the beaten path options.

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The best part about gravel grinding is that you don’t need a specific bike to get you going. You can pedal across gravel or dirt on a mountain bike, road bike, cyclocross bike, dual sport bike, comfort bike, whatever, just make sure you have enough tread on your tires to shed a little mud and stone. However, most bicycle companies are now producing “gravel bikes”. A good choice for people who just want to have 1 bike. A bike that allows a lot of options for two wheeled adventure. You can hit the gravel, ride in a gran fondo, throw racks and fenders on for loaded touring or just use it as an everyday commuter. Action Bikes and Outdoor, right in the heart of Milford, stock several models of gravel bikes, along with every type of bike and accessory as well as kayaks, paddles and most things for the outdoor enthusiast. Stop in, they are happy to offer advice on where to ride. They even have great paper maps and resources to help you on your journey.

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The beauty of gravel grinding is it gets you out of traffic and puts you right in the middle of nature. There’s no need to hammer through the woods. Slow down, enjoy the scenery and take in everything that nature has to offer. You won’t regret it. In fact, there seems to be a growing number of riders in our area that love having the opportunity to pedal in areas that until recently seemed foreign. On both sides of the Delaware River, there are trails and roads that lead to waterfalls, farms, corn fields, breathe taking views, wildlife sightings, streams, creeks and lakes.

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If you are up for the adventure, try one of the areas local gravel races. The Maple City Century, on September 25, 2016 starts in Honesdale and takes you through beautiful and scenic Wayne County on mostly dirt and gravel roads. In October, Action Bikes and Outdoor sponsor the Erie 80. An 80K gravel, dirt and paved MTB ride that shows you all
that Port Jervis has to offer. If you are not looking for an organized race, there is usually a group riding from somewhere. Mostly from the shop parking lot.

So if I’ve peaked your interest just a little bit, get out and pedal a quiet country road, you’ll be planning your next gravel ride before you load your bike back on the car.

A Little Gravel Prep

Getting out today was harder than I thought. I got up at 6:30am to meet Eric for a morning ride. I took the dog for a walk and got wet as it rained hard for about 10 minutes. I text Eric and opted for a few more hours sleep over a wet ride. He manned up and went out for a rain ride. I waited until 3pm, when it was dry and the forecast looked clear to venture out into the woods.

I’m planning to ride in the Maple City Century next Sunday in Honesdale, PA. It’s a 100 mile gravel adventure with lots of climbing. So, I wanted to just get a few extra miles in on some loose gravel roads to help prepare for the event.

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I rode out of my driveway and up through my community, then veered into the woods via a deer trail and onto Five Mile Meadow Road. I haven’t been on a bike since Tuesday, so I took it easy as I let my legs warm up to the hills. I headed out to Silver Lake Road and climbed up the monster hill before turning left onto Flat Ridge Road.

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About halway up Flat Ridge, I met up with Bob, another local cyclist that was also training for the Maple City Century. He was doing almost he same ride that I was doing today. After, pedaling up to Minisink Lake and turning around, I came back down Flat Ridge and took Bob’s advice when I turned right on Coon Swamp Road. Coon Swamp is gravel and loose packed dirt. It continues for a couple of miles and comes to an end at the top of a hill, with a cool camping spot, over looking Coon Swamp Lake.

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Coming out of Coon Swamp, just before I got back to Flat Ridge, I was startled as I noticed a black shape in the roadway. It was a huge black bear. I fumbled for my phone to take a photo, but he scampered away as I tried to get closer. Probably better off for me. It never ceases to amaze me what beautiful creatures they are.

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Back on Flat Ridge, I rode on, knowing how lucky I am to have this incredible state game land, with all the gravel emergency access roads, right in my backyard. I descended down Silver Lake Road and hung a left back onto Five Mile Meadow Road. From there, I pedaled through the deer trail and home.

I’ve written about this area a few times before, but I felt compelled, as a new road or trail, especially one that ends high above a lake, providing superior views, needs me to tell you about it, so you can go ride it and see for yourself!

What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – The Babys – Isn’t It Time

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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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Daylight Savings Time=Fun

Since moving the clocks ahead on Sunday Morning, I have been unable figure out what and where I want to ride. The when is all taken care of. The when is as soon as I leave work. With about 2 1/2 hours of daylight left when I leave the office at 5pm, I could do a road ride from work or a multitude of gravel and dirt rides from Dingmans Ferry or Milford. Today, I chose a dirt/gravel and road ride with Steve. We decided to hit the trails and gravel roads off of Old Mine Road.

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You can get to Old Mine Road from either Dingmans Ferry or from Milford. I prefer to leave from Milford. Leaving from Action Bike and Outdoor in the Heart of Milford, head out to the Milford Bridge. Once over the bridge, on the New Jersey side, hang a right onto Old Mine Road. Travel about 6 1/2 miles and make a right onto Mettler Road. Mettler is a loosely packed gravel road. When you get to the river, turn right onto Van Auken Road and thats where the fun starts. Van Auken is a mix of loose gravel and dirt, that quietly takes you into a trail after about a mile.

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The trail winds through a couple of campgrounds along the Delaware river and treats you to some beautiful views of the river and the Delaware Valley. Your probably ok here with a hybrid, cyclocross or mountain bike. There might be a bit too much rocks and roots for a road bike, though. However, I did go over the bars and into the mud after hitting a large root in the trail. Didn’t feel good at first, but I was lucky enough to pedal out of the woods. The singletrack does wind along the ledge as you climb out of the woods and make a left back onto Old Mine Road. After a half mile, you turn right and climb Jagger Hill.

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A little over a mile of climbing and you come to the top right at the Upper Ridge Road Trailhead. Thats where the climbing continues. Another 3/4 of a mile up in the loosest gravel, dirt and sand you could imagine. Alot of sand on that side of Old Mine, but a really nice section of trail with alot of up and a whole lotta downs!

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The trail comes out on Rt. 560 in Layton, NJ. You have a few choices to get back to Milford. Old Mine Road, Rt. 209 (on the other side of the Dingmans Bridge) or the McDade Trail. This ride is another example of all the terrain that can be ridden in and out of milford.

What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Aretha Franklin  – Who’s Zoomin Who

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