Bike trip day 2/7: Nanty Glo to Black Moshannon State Park

This is the second of a series of posts about the recent solo bike tour I did from Pittsburgh, PA to Utica, NY.  It’s partly to share for those who are interested, and partly for me to record things so that I’ll remember.

Day two of the trip started not quite as early as I would have liked.  In fact, this was a running theme: I never actually got on the road before 8:30am.  Good thing it stays light late.  This was the first day that I had to break down camp, so I wasn’t very fast at it.  I was awake at 7am and on the road by 9.

Day two was probably the most exhausting day of the trip.  This is partly because the planned route had a lot of elevation gain, and partly because I took an unplanned 14-mile detour and ended up doing about 80 miles instead of the planned 66. The planned route can be found here. The wrong turn was somewhere around mile 15, and I ended up going through Carrolltown and Patton.  They weren’t very exciting places — I don’t recommend biking 14 extra miles to visit them.

Click on any image to see larger images with caption.

The first couple miles of the day were the end of the Ghost Town Trail.  That wasn’t very eventful, though since it was a Saturday morning I met more people than I had before.  One couple asked where I had come from.  When I said Pittsburgh, she responded “but this trail doesn’t hook up to Pittsburgh!” as if that meant I must have been lying.

Once the trail ended I was back on roads, which was actually kind of nice.  Trails are comfortably traffic-less, but paved surfaces are also to be valued.  Pretty much right away I started going up and down hills.  They were gradual though, so not too big of a problem.  Almost everything on this trip was a low enough grade that I could just go into low gear and be patient and I got up the hills eventually without straining too much.  Except trying to get out of Ithaca — but that’s another day and another post.  The country in this part of the world was quite pastoral.  I saw a ridge line of wind turbines to the south.  They might be the same ones you can see from the GAP trail, except seen from the other side.  But I could be wrong about that.

I had decent directions printed out and fixed to my handlebars, but it turns out that directions are much more useful when the relevant roads are also labeled somehow in the real world.  The little tiny back roads were nice to ride on.  They don’t have a shoulder or anything, but you can hear a car coming from a mile off (as a side point, I forget how noisy the city is until I’m somewhere where I really can’t hear any evidence of other humans much of the time).  At one point I got chased down an (unpaved) hill by a little yappy dog that had slipped out of its collar.  It was highly un-intimidating, so I actually slowed way down so that the dog’s owner (a teenage boy) could run after us and recapture his dog.  A bit later on a cop of some sort (I forget if he was state or local) passed me, then turned around to ask me where I was coming from and where I was going.  Not in any sort of discouraging way.  He was just being curious.  It was shortly after that that I realized I must have missed a turn.  Since I had a rough idea of what roads I might run into and where they went, I kept going for a few miles hoping to find my way back to my route.  I didn’t.  Eventually I gave up and called by parents, who, with the advantage of access to the internet, gave me directions.  Which I failed to follow correctly.  Which caused me to go a mile uphill in the wrong direction.  Which was frustrating.

Around lunchtime I finally found the state park that meant I was back on my maps.  It came with a bathroom, water source, and a beautiful view for sitting under a tree and eating lunch.

To make the day even longer, not too far out of the park I got the one and only flat tire of the trip.  There was a thumbtack in my back wheel.  People who leave thumbtacks on the side of the road are just mean if you ask me.  Still, one flat tire in the whole trip is pretty good, I think, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.  Plus, there was a handy grassy area next to the road to change the tube, which isn’t the case everywhere by a long shot.

There was a second batch of little tiny back roads later in the day.  This time I didn’t get lost, but it turned out that some of them were a good deal less paved than I had expected (this is the problem with roads without Google Street View).  There were also a bunch of people with ATVs in the surrounding woods who were, by the sound of it, hunting something.  I was hoping that bright yellow front panniers and whatnot made me look sufficiently unlike a deer that they wouldn’t shoot me, which they didn’t.  But I still tried to get out of there as fast as I could.

Two-thirds of the way through the day was another 10-mile stretch of bike trail — the Houtzdale Line Trail.  Much of this trail was just fine, but the end of it was rather rough with a number of puddles and large gravel.  The internet had sort of warned of this, but I biked it anyway and just went slowly over the last bit.  The trail culminated in the least impressive rail-trial bridge I have ever seen.  Basically just rail ties with gaps between them over a stream (in other words, completely unimproved).  It did have a solid wood section on one side of it, which would have been nice except that there was a rather large hole where that had broken.  I just pushed my bike over the rail tie section.  Luckily the bridge was short.

After that it was just a matter of making it the last 15 miles on roads, mostly uphill to Black Moshannon State Park campground.  I admit that by the last hill I was stopping every 500 feet or so.  I couldn’t have gone much farther that day, at least not uphill.  The campground, however, was a nice reward.  I hadn’t made a reservation since it was Saturday night and PA state parks appear to make you reserve two nights if you want to reserve a Saturday.  I had, however, called earlier in the day and they assured me that there would be sites available.  There was an empty tent site on the end of one of little roadways that wasn’t surrounded by RVs.  I felt a bit out of place since all I had was a small tent and a bike.  Everyone else had either an RV or a giant tent, an SUV, shelters over their picnic tables, coolers full of food and drinks, etc.  Camping seems kind of expensive these days (the tent site was $23), but at least there were nice hot showers.  After that particular day of biking, the showers made it seem like practically a 5-star hotel.


Bronwyn Woods