Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bicycling from Franklin to Punxsutawney, via the Allegheny River Trail and the Sandy Creek Trail. June 25

June 25.....72 miles in 6:36....I woke up to torrential, nonstop rain, and I rode it out as long as I could, before I made the decision to ride on a rainy, cool day, rather than wait for a sunny, hot, and humid day.  After some distress on my last ride in the heat, I figured the rain would actually work to my benefit as I would have some juice left for the two days following this one, that promise to be mountainous marathons.
After riding into town, and hooking up with the Allegheny River Trail, the next 28 miles were all on asphalt trails that were reclaimed from old railroad lines. What a huge difference from the Montour Trail in Pittsburgh, which is packed pea gravel. If these trails would have been swampy, I may have sunk in the mud. The rain was relentless, very heavy at times, just heavy at others. The clouds were low in the hollows I was following, and the trees were heavy with their full leaves weighed down by the rain. The Allegheny River was muddy and rushing near flood stage, with the streams and run offs from the hills running at full capacity. I rode through over wash after over wash that ran across the trail as they made their way down to the river, and later, to Sandy Creek. I had to stop three times to climb over fallen trees, and the deepest stream I rode through was probably six inches. In retrospect, the miserable day was really quite unique in its challenges and scenery, and it was enjoyable. My gear stayed pretty dry, because I have giant, heavy duty zip lock bags that hold everything I have with me. It was too warm to wear rain gear, so my lightweight orange jacket and shorts did just fine. Somewhere along the Allegheny, the Sandy Creek Trail crosses the river and runs perpendicular to the river trail, away from the river, up Sandy Creek Hollow. The most difficult part of the day occurred when I had to get the bike up a switchback set of soaking wet, mossy, slippery wooden steps, which climbed about thirty feet. There was a wooden slope for wheeling a bike as you walked up, but it was so steep, and my bike was packed so top heavy in the back that the front wheel popped straight up and caused me to slip backwards, every step of the way. I ended up just carrying it as I negotiated the stairs. I guess the rail to trail people didn't see fit to put an elevator out there in the middle of nowhere. Once on the Sandy Creek Trail, I went through a really neat (read dark, wet, slippery) train tunnel, where the air temperature was at least 10-15 degrees cooler than outside. I also saw a sleek, black animal that could have been a mink, or a weasel. He was the highlight amongst the deer, toads, salamanders, and rabbits that populated the trails. 
The trailhead emptied me out on US 322 as the rain became intermittent, but everything stayed soaked, and the drainage was running full blast. The road was smooth, with nice shoulders. I hopscotched from town to town as US322 rolled up and down with great consistency. Small towns like Shippenville, Clarion, (the Clarion River was flowing calmly and clearly, like the rain had no great effect this short distance from  Franklin), Strattonville, on to Brookville. At Brookville, which had a sweet, historical, flag lined Main Street, PA 36 turned off of US322 to the south, headed towards Punxutawney. There was no rain by this point, but it was cool enough for comfort, with wet roads, and heavily flowing drainage. PA36 was relentless, with hill after hill, helping me achieve 5226 ft of ascent. This road was also smooth, nicely shouldered, with less traffic than 322. When I got into Punxutawney, I discovered that the ground hog statues were still everywhere, but the famous downtown motel that I stayed in last time was closed, with pending legal action. The motel was made famous by the movie Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray. When I stayed there last time I stayed on the same floor as the Bill Murray Suite, but I had a cheaper, smaller room. Very old with historical charm. This time, I had to climb a mile long hill out of town on US119, towards Indiana, PA, to find the towns only operating motel. It was reasonably priced, across the street from a Walmart and a Pizza Hut, so it was Pizza Hut for supper, where I ate an entire large pizza. I saw the days'  first piece of blue sky as I rode into town, but the skies opened up for one final deluge as I unlocked the motel room door. It was great timing , after a surprisingly nice day of riding in rain, and under cloud cover.

Looking from the Sandy River Trail Bridge, down on the Allegheny River Trail (after climbing up the slippery stairs)

Sandy River Trail Bridge

The swollen Allegheny River

Views from inside the tunnel

View from inside the tunnel

Raging water flowing off a hill

Downed tree on the Sandy River Trail

Muddy drainage across the trail

More downed trees on the trail

Roseville!  No relation!

Everyone has heard of it, few have been there!

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