Friday, May 11, 2012

Pine Creek 200K - Jersey Shore Start

Beautiful - this can not be argued with.

This is an absolutely beautiful ride through the land of Eagle, Bear and Snake. Called the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, the Pine Creek Rail Trail is a crushed limestone walking and biking path that runs 62 miles End to End, from Jersey Shore, PA to Wellsboro, PA if going south to north, which is the uphill direction.  Of course, uphill is 3600 feet, end to end, at about a 1% grade, so it's not noticeable. 

I started the ride at 7:30 from the Weis Mart parking lot in Jersey Shore. It was about 40 out, and I had both water bottles filled, and was wearing my rain jacket because it was still a little misty out. You have to travel the roads from the parking lot for less than a mile till you're on the Rail Trail. Except for the short ride to the 3rd control, at the top of the trail, and some road crossings, this is the only spot that you encounter vehicles. 

The trail runs along Pine Creek for the most part, or within a few hundred yards of it for the complete time you're on it. Along the trail you can see some of the original New York Central Railroad mile-markers. The “L” references Lyons, New York, a major railroad juction 168 miles north of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.

The reason I chose to start in Jersey Shore which is 2 hours from home for me instead of starting in Galeton, which is another option, because I figured it would be all uphill for the first half of the ride, and then I would turn around, and it would be all downhill back to the car. Excellent, right? The problem is, with little to no grade, it quickly became apparent that one issue would be the fact that you never get to stop pedaling. You never climb that hill to coast down the other side. You don't HAVE to stand to climb, you have to remind yourself to stand for a bit to keep the blood pumping. It's not a hard ride really, it's just a taxing ride. You have to keep pumping, the whole time. 

About 20 miles into the ride I saw a black thing up ahead through the trees. As I rounded the bend, I see it's a black bear about 80 yards ahead of me, walking the trail, heading the same way as I am heading. So I stop the bike, and quietly take a picture. Then I start pedaling again to see how close I can get. I get about 50 yards away and he glances back and takes off running away from me down the trail. I chased him to see if I could get a better picture when he ran off the trail, and do end up getting within 25 yards, but the weeds are deep, and he's hell bent to get out of there.  Very cool! 

About 5 miles further down the trail I look between myself and the creek, and see two Bald Eagles sitting high in a tree watching the river. Also very cool!  Now, I am just hoping to see some Rattlesnakes. Something the trail is known for. There are educational signs all along the trail to keep your eyes open for them, and what to expect. Unfortunately, I never did see any.

The first stop is in Cedar Run at the Cedar Run General Store, which is a really cool little store at mile 33 in the ride. You pass through a couple of other small towns, and pass a store in Slate Run at mile 27 which is the last Control of the ride before the finish line on your way back. I got to Cedar Run around 10:00, and unfortunately the store doesn't open until 11! SO - I will have to swap this Control to be the control on the way back down the trail, and have the Slate Run stop on the way up. Anyways, the Cedar Run Inn was open, and the lady there gladly signed my card and I was on my way. I still had 1 full water bottle, so I figured I was OK. 

About 2 hours later I run out of water. Of course there is a creek right next to you, but I didn't have any iodine tablets, and don't like to trust creek water, because if you're wrong, you can end up very sick. There are also bathrooms at spots along the trail, but the same thing there, I have read that the water tastes like rusty pipes.. I figured, I would just push on, and be fine. It was up to about 72 or 73, and still a bit cloudy, so it was tolerable. When the trail ends, you can cross a bridge on a grass lane, and get out on Route 287 which quickly joins Route 6, and ride a mile down the road to an Acorn, where I was happy to drink a whole Big Gatorade, and fill my water bottles, grab some pretzels, and relax for a few minutes before I got started on the downhill section! It MUST get easier going downhill, even though it's only slight, right? 

Wrong. The whole trail is covered with fine crushed limestone. It's pretty, sure. It's smooth, yeah. It's even resurfaced in spots! But - it's not fast, and you never roll smoothly and get any speed up. I pushed along fairly consistently, and my average moving speed was right around 12 mph. 

The sun came out in the second half of the ride, and there was much more action on the trail and in the river. A lot of folks canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. There had been rains for a few days before and the river levels were around 3 feet when I checked online after the ride, which is perfect for canoeing. I am looking forward to heading back with the boys to do a trip, and hope I can convince Kris to go along with us, either in the Kayak or the Canoe with the boys. 
The second half was uneventful, beautiful, but part of the negative of an out and back is the fact that you've seen it all before. When I passed the Cedar Run Store, it was open, and alot of folks were eating ice cream. I pedaled on the 6 miles to the Control at Wolfe's General Store, and enjoyed a ice cream Twix bar, more Gatorade, and filled the water bottles. Short rest here, and back on the trail. 
I finished the ride around 6:45PM, about 10.5 hours of moving time, and that was split about evenly between the ride up, and the ride back down. I hoped to gain time on the way back, but the trail's lack of assistance and not being as fresh as I was at the start didn't help me to make up any time. 

I went across the road to the CVS, grabbed some water, and a Mango Sorbet out of the freezer, and a bag of tootsie rolls, and headed home. It was a good ride. 

It's funny about these Rando ride.  Fatigue and your mind play games with you. You are riding along this beautiful trail, and stream, and people are lounging downstream, letting the stream push them, and laughing and having a blast. All I kept thinking was that I couldn't wait to get home, and get the boys back down here as soon as possible. When you take one of your weekend days and choose to spend it away from your family, a little guilt sets in. When you're doing it, you realize that you're not doing it because it feels good WHILE you're doing it. It's about the feeling of accomplishment afterwards! But - it's a fine line. One of my friends said they stopped doing it not long after the rode by a lake on a long (multi-day) ride, and looked out to the lake and saw people drinking beers, having a cookout, relaxing in the sun and shade, and enjoying each others company. He asked himself why the hell he was doing this, and stopped for years shortly after that. BUT - like any addiction, he's now doing it again.

There are worse addictions to have. Vanity plays it's part, as it always does with fitness, and competitive sports, or you wouldn't bother doing them! Even if it's just to say I did this! I am not saying don't set goals for yourself. I have likely not been this fit in a long time, and I feel great! But -- at the end of the day, who's keeping score? Fitness is a very good reason to do it, and I truly enjoy riding, but I do it for my own piece of mind, and look forward to the day when the boys may come along with me. 

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