Last Thursday through Tuesday, 'milla and I set up camp at R.B. Winter State Park to help set up the Rocktober Marathon race course, do the race, and enjoy the spoils of the State Park and the Bald Eagle State Forest. Unfortunately, the region had some crappy weather (rain every day and chilly!) so it was a bit more challenging, but luckily the campground has very nice modern bathrooms to warm up and shower.
On Friday, Kuhndog told me I was to mark the final 18 miles of the race course. No big deal, minus the mid-40's and spitting rain. Nothing is worse than suiting up to ride in the rain. But once I hit the trail and warmed up, it was a great ride-all 4 hours of it. Between stopping at every turn to staple course arrows, reading the map and crashing, the ride that should have been 2 hours was a bit longer. Once back to camp, it only took 30minutes to regain feeling in my toes and fingers!
Saturday was the race, which was hands down an epic adventure at nearly 70 miles. My day didn't go very well, with 3 flats, a bent chainring, a water bottle cage that almost escaped and a wonky suspension fork. I pulled the plug after the 2nd loop (about 52 miles in), which only took 5:30!
Sunday opened with more rain, so the weekend campers left early, leaving a quiet park. After sleeping in, making great cottage cheese pancakes and helping the teammates pack up, 'milla and I headed to a beautiful gap to hike. The gap (no name I can find) was part of the race course, and has a really neat amphitheater built into a rock garden. We found a switchback trail that ran up out of the amphitheater, which we followed to the top of Buffalo Mountain. It was really beautiful: winding up a huge rock garden through the mist, on a very old trail that was laboriously stitched into the mountainside. We bushwacked down the mountain to a small stream to the North, and followed it back to the gap. It was a great place to explore, with a few trails/old logging roads to follow up the small mountain streams. Here it is:
View Larger Map
After hiking and exploring for 4 hours, we headed back to camp. I was pretty beat from the previous days race and then walking for 4 hours--but Camilla wanted to see more! Starting at 7pm, we went for a mountain bike ride on some great trails close to R.B. Winter. Camilla is new to mountain biking and rides a hybrid bike, so I chose a route that was suitable and really fun for both of us. I was really impressed with her strength and ability to ride singletrack! She totally loved it. The area has a reputation of being super rocky and hard mtn biking, but as we've proved, you can put together a nice 2 hour loop on nice trails that won't break you. Along the route we saw a bunch of deer and a porcupine, which topped off a great day of hiking and cycling.
Monday was the nicest day weather wise-which meant only occasional sprinkles and mostly sunny. We found The Hook Natural Area on the map and decided to make that the day's exploration. This turned out to be an amazing choice.
View Larger Map
We rode our bikes South from R.B. Winter up Pine Creek Hollow Road, and stashed our bikes near the Mule Shanty Trail head. The path obviously wasn't used too often, with a lot of blow-down trees and overgrown rhododendron. But that was part of the charm of this amazing place. Following Panther Run on an old rocky railroad bed, typical of trails in the region which often follow old small gauge RR beds made of small boulders. We felt like the first people ever to be there (minus the new trail marking and RR bed!)-absolutely beautiful cliffs, hemlock groves, thick vegetation and crystal-clear water. We definitely felt like outsiders peeking into a wild, untouched world. Once we got to Molasses Gap Trail, the path was easier to follow and a bit more worn (thats not saying much though). We had lunch up on a cliff overlooking the stream. I was convinced that we'd spot a bear or a mountain lion, but no such luck. Eventually the narrow stream valley opens up a little bit offering a cozy place to nap under the sun. With the sun warming us and the stream rippling in our ears, it was a lovely snooze streamside.
Even though the weather was crap, we got to explore the fruits of the Bald Eagle State Forest, or just a small fraction of it. Between hiking in natural areas, cycling on the well maintained trails, and modern camping at the State Park-we had a very rich and memorable camping trip. I can't wait to go back to explore more trails, gaps and natural areas!
Thanks for reading,