Bike trip day 4/7: Pine Creek Rail Trail

This is the fourth 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 4 was pretty much exclusively the Pine Creek Rail Trail (plus about 5 miles at the end on roads to get to the private campground I stayed at).  For whatever reason I didn’t end up taking that many pictures, even though the trial was quite pretty.  I think I might slightly prefer the GAP trail between Pittsburgh and Cumberland by virtue of it also being a nice rail trail and there being more facilities (bathrooms, water) along the trail, but I’m glad I biked the Pine Creek Trail.

I got a leisurely start to the day since it wasn’t a long day mileage-wise and there was practically zero chance of getting lost along the way.  The trail was pleasant, but very much as I expect rail trails to be: flat and along a river with interesting rail bridges every now and then.  Starting pretty early in the morning I kept seeing park ranger truck(s) on the trail.  I’m not sure if it was one truck I saw repeatedly or different trucks at different times, but in either case they were coming in to clean and restock the outhouses along the trail.  I guess Monday morning is probably a low-traffic time on the trail.  Sure enough I saw very few other bikers until later in the afternoon.

There aren’t any terribly convenient (tested/treated) water sources along the trail.  There are a few pumps (with signs suggesting treating the water) and a number of road crossings that might have lead to water shortly.  A couple of the tiny villages had general stores that probably had water, but they were only open a few days a week (not including Monday).  I started the day with a mostly full water supply, but I did run out about 5 miles before the end of the trail.  More on that later (it wasn’t tragic).

There’s not a whole lot to report about the trail, but I did pass a largish group of young Amish folks biking to a creek access point in the camping area where I stopped for lunch.  I had been sitting by the water reading, and when I came back to my bike there were three giggling Amish girls headed past me to the river.  The contrast in our clothing styles was rather extreme.  As I left the camping area, three or four more couples passed me heading in the same direction.  I had also seen an Amish horse and buggy the day before on the highway and could see the wheel tracks from frequent carriage traffic in the shoulder where I was riding.  I had tried to remember at the time whether the Amish ride bikes.  I guess they do.

There was one section of the trail that was under construction (resurfacing) which meant that I had to ride on the bumpy horse track beside the main trail for a mile or two.  That was really the only problematic spot on the trail.

As I mentioned, about 5 miles before I was planning on turning off the trail to get to the campground I had found, I ran out of water.  This wasn’t a major problem since I had drunk quite a lot already and it wasn’t too terribly hot.  However, it did also mean that I didn’t have any Gatorade for the second half of the day.  The bit of road between the trail and the campground was a bit hilly, and by the time I got there I was really fading.  There wasn’t anyone at the campground store/office when I got there and the door was locked, but they had a soda machine outside.  I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so happy to find one.  I put in some money and started hitting buttons until I found something that was actually stocked.  It turned out to be Sierra Mist (all natural, made with real sugar).  I don’t normally like soda, but that particular soda (and the second one I bought soon after) were amazing.  I went from feeling completely drained to thinking maybe I should get on the bike and just keep going for a while.  I didn’t though.

Eventually I found the campground owner and she showed me the tent sites along a stream (with rather stiff pokey mowed grain/hay stems instead of softer grass).  Again, they cost more than they should, but the bathroom/shower house turned out to be worth the price.  It started raining at about midnight and rained all the next day, and getting my bike packed up and ready for the day was much more pleasant inside out of the rain.

Bronwyn Woods