Well, we did it—the around-the-lake ride we’d been planning and anticipating for weeks. On Sunday, six of us ended up partaking in the day of grueling climbs, leaf-strewn descents, and all-around good times. It couldn’t have been a better group—a fun and tight-knit bunch of like-minded individuals. For some, it was a harder ride than others, but no one ever fell too far behind, and I think it can be said that everyone had a rewarding experience. I know it was definitely one of the best rides I’ve ever done.
Many of us had spent the last week deliberating over which bike to use and what wheel and tire setup to run to best accommodate the mix of trail, grassy paths, gravel roads, asphalt, and everything in between. And then, the morning of, there was the usual deliberation over clothing that occurs during the colder months—how to be warm enough without being so warm that you become so soaked with sweat that downhills are too unbearably cold.
The day began early. We were all ready to go at 8:30am as planned, rolling out the back parking lot of the shop towards Corbin Road, our first climb of the day. On the dirt road, I fell into a good rhythm, right beside Phil. We chatted on our way up the hill, and I recounted how less than a year ago, I could barely hold a conversation and pedal uphill at the same time. I love those moments of realizing how much I’ve progressed as a rider, and being able to actually appreciate the company of my fellow riders rather than simply struggling to keep up most of the time is a great rewards of that progression.
Near the top of the mountain, we veered off the road onto Terrace Mountain Trail, which spans the length of Raystown Lake and meanders along Terrace Mountain, dropping to lake level and climbing back up the ridge several times. It ranges from singletrack to doubletrack, with a few mildly technical areas.
The toughest part about the trail during Sunday’s ride was the thick layer of leaves on top of loose rocks. Most of the rocky areas were completely covered, so picking a line was a matter of luck more than anything, and some of the descents were more like a semi-controlled slide. Stray sticks were abundant—and one of them lodged itself somewhere around my derailleur, resulting in some disfigurements that seemed to indicate that I’d be finishing the ride on a singlespeed. My disappointment was visible—I’d looked so looked forward to this ride and wasn’t sure about my ability to do the rest of it with only one gear. But I wasn’t about to let a broken derailleur send me out of the woods early. I hiked my bike ahead to the expert mechanic (Evan), thinking about which gear ratio would be best for the rest of the route. Luckily, he was able to fix the derailleur, and it became a mute point. We happily met up with the rest of the group at a vista not far down the trail.
Last time (and the only other time) I rode the TMT, it was late summer or early fall, and the leaves were still on the trees. The views were pretty incredible then, but now, it was like the entire trail was one long vista, and the lake was visible at almost all times to our right. Back down at lake level, we met up with Fink Road, and it was time to climb again. And climb. And climb some more.
Fink was quite a bit longer and steeper than I had realized, and by the time we got to the top of the ridge, my legs and lungs were burning. We all reconvened at the entrance to Horse Knob Fire Trail and passed around bags of cheese, beef jerky, and trail mix before continuing along the gently-rolling grassy doubletrack. I’d been looking at Horse Knob on the map for a couple weeks now, thinking it would be a neat spot to check out and ride, so I was pretty excited to find that we’d be incorporating it into our lake circumnavigation adventure. It turns out it was a pretty cool trail, and I was right to be excited.
After following the ridgetop for a while, taking in more great views and enjoying the relatively easy riding, we finally descended into Trough Creek State Park, almost immediately crossing a small bridge over Great Trough Creek. Then it was another gain in elevation before popping out onto pavement—the first pavement we’d seen since leaving Huntingdon. I was feeling pretty beat by this point, the duration and distance of the ride longer than any I’d done in a while. After battling headwinds on the hard road, we unanimously made the decision to cut our route short a little in essence of time, crossing to the other side of the lake at Rt. 994 instead of going to Weavers Falls. John and Brent had a dinner engagement to get to, and we decided it would be better to continue enjoying the ride and maybe finish before dark rather than turning the last part of the ride into a slog. Though I was slightly disappointed that I once again wouldn’t be riding all the way around the lake, I also knew that this time, our decision was for the best.
Evan assured us all that there was “just one more small climb,” up into what is known as the “High Germany” region near Entriken. Though I had gone this route during our last around-the-lake excursion, I couldn’t quite remember exactly what the climb was like, and we all discovered that the rest of us probably wouldn’t have billed it as “small.” But that’s come to be expected.
After that, we dropped into a little valley, pedaled back up another small ridge, and then coasted down to the start of one of the coolest parts of the ride—the network of trails that follow an old railroad bed almost all the way back to town. Our route followed closely to the lake shore briefly, then wound through fields and forests and over a little stream, finally leading us to ruins of the old Brumbaugh Mansion. We stopped at admire the stonework set against the stark yellow of a tree still hanging onto the last of its leaves, then continued on our way, soon finding ourselves on pavement again. From here on out, it was a straight shot to town. We spread out, some taking off and surging ahead, myself content to casually pedal my way back, in no real hurry to end the day of riding. It was just growing dark as we returned to the parking lot where we had begun 8 hours earlier.
It was a combination of factors that made it one of the best rides ever—the route, the scenery, the time of year, the weather, the challenges and the overcoming of them, and perhaps most of all, the people. So thanks guys—it was great spending the day on bicycles with you.