Despite the dismal forecast I had a bad case of cabin fever, and I had been planning this ride all week. I wanted to do the entire length of the trail and back, first as a “test”, and second just to check things out and cross this one off my list of places to see. I was up early, filled the water jugs, packed some Powerbars, and clamped everything down. This time I put the front wheel in the trunk, and the bike was much easier to secure now that the lawyer lips were history.
(A first ever: 3 water bottles!)
The interstate was practically deserted on the trip up to Dauphin, and a steady drizzle greeted me as I pulled into the trail head. There were maybe four cars parked as I took off around 8:30. As soon as I got under the trees, there really was no problem with the rain. Other than dodging the occassional puddle, it kept things cool and made for a pleasant ride. I had packed a windbreaker in the Carradice, but that’s where it stayed.
Just like the previous time, the first bikers that I saw were “fishing rigs.” I wish I had stopped to take a picture of one. Two of the mountain bikes that I saw were outfitted with utility buckets affixed as panniers. I assume they would allow keeping the catch fresh on the trip home, as well as perhaps carrying bait in. One of the bikes had an old style ’50’s era pressed steel rear rack. Talk about retro.
At about 8 miles in I stopped to take this shot. The whole ride is incredibly scenic and remote, but this area just stuck out; probably because the canopy opened up a bit and the sun was making an attempt to break through. I also apologize, realizing now how many shots have my bike in it. It’s still very new, even with the thick layer of mud accumulated on this ride.
I also ran across, and fortunately not over, these guys. On the black gravel they stuck out like a sore thumb. They’re infant salamanders, only about an inch long. Transplanted city boy that I am, I had to stop and check them out.
Raush Gap seems to be the high point of the trail, and was also the remotest, being a few miles past the midpoint. There are also a number of side roads to destinations unknown, but I didn’t have time to check them out. It was pretty cool when I realized that I had been biking for close to an hour out in the woods since I had last seen anyone, and that was a campsite over by the creek. Here is a shot of the trail where it opens up a bit, as well as another where it runs right along the creek:
I knew that I was getting close to the end of the trail when I came upon three seniors riding towards me, and sure enough, the crossing gate appeared in the distance. Checking my mileage, though, it didn’t seem quite long enough. After going through the gate and into a parking area, I went another 100 yards, crossed a paved road, and continued on the trail into another State Game Land. After a few miles I came upon this lake off to the side, and stopped for my “second breakfast.” It was really an incredible view, and it took quite a bit of restraint not to jump in and test the water.
Another half mile and I came upon the “end of the road.” As I was taking this pic, three mountain bikers came up from behind the gate, portaged around, and we talked. The lake is actually the watershed for Lebanon city, and they had been viewing the spillway. We rode out together for about a mile, until I picked up the pace a bit.
I also need to mention the family that I passed as I was going through the parking area. It looked like a father and two teenage sons getting ready to ride. What stuck out was their dress, which was basically plaid short sleeve dress shirts and long dress pants. No bike gear, no lycra, no helmets, and no smiles when I gave them a good morning. The father looked like 250 lbs of farm-bred muscle who I would want on my side in a tight spot. I passed them later coming back, and figured that they had done the entire trail at a healthy clip.
On the trip back I started feeling tired at 30 miles out, purposefully slowing my pace a bit; then getting a second wind at 35 miles. I stopped again at where Raush Gap had been and learned about Diversion Wells. Its pretty cool, but in a nutshell, they take the acidity out of the mine runoff and make the water alot healthier. Here they are:
All told, the trip was just over 39 miles. You can tell from the pictures, it’s worth an all day trip. I’d love to do it again but be able to explore the side roads, maybe take a dip in the creek, and stop for a real lunch. Also, given the terrain in parts, I think the ideal bike would be either an LHT or Crosscheck, but with 42-44 cm tires, and a suspension post. The 37s take a lot of the bumps, but there were some areas where they used coarser stone to replace the original cinder pack, and the ride gets downright jarring. I stopped once to tighten the leather on my saddle, and I also noticed that the creeking on my headset had stopped – I guess it just needed some breakin.
I hope to get back again this summer.
Distance: 39.2 miles, 2007: 291.5