New Trails

So I picked up a purple lizard map of the Rothrock State Forest a few weeks ago, and I’m finally going to go bike some of it.  No one’s around though, so I’m going alone, so I’m just going to do a short ride... probably the Shingletown Trail.  Should be fun.  But yeah, since I’m going alone, I wanted to post a message saying send help if I don’t reply to this within 10 hours or so.

Anyway this state forest is huge, with over a hundred miles of trails according to some of the maps I’ve seen, so hopefully I’ll be spending some time there now that the weather’s nice.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply


01. Apr 20, 2003 at 10:51pm by Anthony:

Wo.  Mountain biking at night is.... crazy and awesome and scary.

After the first 2 miles of the trail, I was like "man, I can’t wait to write about how awesome this trail is."  Four miles later, in the dark, on the top of the mountain, I was like "man, I can’t wait to write about this crazy adventure!!"

It was supposed to be a 4-5 mile loop, all nicely mapped and everything, and having hit the trail right at 7pm, I figured I’d be back to the car at 8 with half an hour of daylight to spare.  I dropped right into the first leg of the trail, which was pretty wide and downhill and somewhat muddy.  After a while I came to a fallen tree across the trail, and I figured since I’m alone, I won’t be slowing anyone else down if I stop and move it out of the way.  Well it turned out that one of the limbs was dug into the ground pretty deep so I couldn’t move it.  So much for my trail-clearing idea.

At about 3/4 of a mile, I was supposed to see a trail branch off to the right, but apparently I didn’t see it.  But at the time I didn’t realize it.  So I was unknowingly going down the half of the loop that I’d planned to come back on.  But this was a really sweet trail.  A lot of it was pretty rocky, but my "home trails" are in French Creek State Park, and nothing is rocky like French Creek / St. Peter’s Village is rocky.  And a lot of it was fast singletrack -- and if you’re a mountain biker, you know that fast singletrack = love.

This lower half of the loop was blue-blazed, it ran along a nice creek, and had some very nice forest around it.  The creek was really bendy at some points, and rushing rapids at others, and it was neat to ride next to it.  And after about 2 miles of it, I realized that I could tell by the map whether I was on the right trail, because of the creek.  Consulting the map, I learned that I was in fact on the lower half of the loop, not the upper half like I planned.  Argh.  I passed two hikers who confirmed this, rode ahead another half-mile to the parking lot that they came from, and turned around.  I was pretty frustrated because according to the map, in addition to missing that first right-hand branching-off of the trail, I missed two other trails that broke right (which is north) that would have taken me up to the upper half of the loop.

After passing those hikers (Michael was the guy’s name, I learned) again on my way back up the same trail, I finally spotted one of the trails I missed before, now on my left since I was backtracking.  Blue-blazed with white stripe.  This was really steep and I carried my bike most of it.  I passed my old calc teacher and his dog.  That was weird.  By this time it was getting dark; after the half hour it took me to hike up to the ridge and the upper trail, I was greeted with an amazing view of the city lights.  Not that State College is a city like Philly, but still it was really pretty.  I wish I’d had a camera.

After a short break there, I turned right and headed east, in the direction of the car.  At this point I’d gone about 4.5 miles, but that didn’t count the ~3/10 mile climb because I carried my bike.  And it quickly got completely dark.  Of course there was no moon tonight and it was cloudy.  But of course I had my headlight so it was all good.  However this mountaintop was nothing but rocks, not rideable at all, so I walked most of it for a good 45 minutes.  Every now and then I hopped on the bike and rode a little until the rocks made me stop.

At this point I’ll summarize a few important rules about mountain biking at night:

1. Don’t do it without a good, bright headlight.  Because first of all, without a light, you’d just die because you can’t see the trail at all, and second, without a headlight, you’d die because you can’t hold on with one hand while biking.

2. Go very slow.  No really.  You think biking over rocks in the daytime is hard, try doing it at night.

3. The creaky trees are a heck of a lot scarier at night than they are in the daytime.

4. When you start to realize how much noise you’re making as you trapse through the silence of the forest, and begin to get the feeling that you’re making yourself an easy target for the bears, just remember that that noise is probably the only thing keeping the snakes away.

5. If you look off to the sides of the trail and you begin to see pairs of eyes reflecting your light back at you... stop looking off the sides of the trail.

Now then.  After about 2 miles of this rocky nonsense, there was nice flat dirt again.  I rode and it was very nice.  But that only lasted a few minutes because I came to an intersection with another trail... a blue-blazed one!  Yes, the original trail!!  And it went to the right... south... DOWNHILL!  Ye ha.  Home, here I come.  I rode about half a mile and let me tell you, riding downhill in the dark, you have to go slow, and that’s hard.  At the bottom I saw the creek so I knew I was back on track... boy was I glad to see that water!  But then the trail came to a clearing and a "T" and this puzzled me.  I checked my compass, and the trail I just came off of was indeed southbound, and this new trail was east-west.  West followed the creek, I could see, but east didn’t seem to.  Hmmm.  Reluctantly I chose east, not very sure at all.  Now it was going away from the creek and uphill and ugh... then a nice long stretch of packed rockless dirt that I certainly didn’t remember having done on the way in.  But then, I came to a fallen tree... I hopped off my bike and check it... it was the same one I’d tried to move at the start of the trail!!  I was just about done.  I soon came upon a fence on one side of the trail, and some really muddy messy sections, both of which I remembered from the way in.  Right near my car, I passed a deer.  I said "hi there."  He didn’t.

Total distance on my handy bike computer is 7.76 miles.  About 8.5 miles, or probably a little more, if you count all the walking I did.  I got to the car at 9:30pm, so it turned out to be 2.5 hours instead of the 1 hour I planned on.  This was definitely a crazy and scary and fun trip, and to think it wasn’t even led by my brother Brian, who is usually the one to lead me into these crazy dangerous situations  : )

A couple things I need to invest in:

1. A small camera like Rolly’s.  Either the Sony DSC-P9 or the DSC-P71 probably, since they’re nearly identical to my DSC-S85 which I love, except they’re much smaller.

2. A shock fork for my bike.  I’ve been saying this for years now.  But man do my fingers/knuckles ever hurt when speeding downhill over rocky trails and it’s all bumpy.

3. An elevation-meter-thingy.  Having a compass is pretty much essential, and when you’ve got a map with elevation markings, one of those elevation meters would be really handy for determining/confirming your location.

That’s it for this lengthy edition of Anthony’s rambling thoughts.  I need a shower and some (non-granola-bar) food.

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