Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Seasons Change

Yesterday was the first day of fall, and that summer feeling is fading from the air.  School is well under way, and Kenny is now submerged in geometry and Spanish.  The temperatures are starting to cool, especially at night, and leaves are starting to turn color in some places.

It always seems to me that the first touch of fall makes people double down on their attempts to get outdoors and have fun.  They can see the cold and snow on the horizon and hurry to get in as much outdoor time as possible before the weather chases them inside to wait for spring.  Even though I try to carry on having fun outdoors through the winter, I feel the same urge to take advantage of the nice weather before it goes.

So there's been quite a bit of bike riding, some camping, some hiking, and even a little bit of kayaking over the last month. The weather has been very dry, so the trails are in great shape - but of course that leaves the creeks so low that boating is mostly out of the question.

The weather was great for the Conneaut, Ohio D-Day re-enactment on August 22.  Kenny and I headed up in the morning to check out the encampments before the main event.  It was amazing to see all the people in uniforms from the middle of the last century - American, British, French and German troops each had their own area. The re-enactors buy their own gear and weapons, and come to this event all at their own cost, from all across the eastern U.S.

We watched a re-enactment of a battle over a bridge near the beaches on D-Day, then got a spot for the main battle.  Though they lacked a big armor presence, the landing craft, artillery and aircraft made for an amazing, and very touching, recreation.  This was our first trip to the event, and I'm sure it will be something we'll be going to every year from now on.




I took quite a bit of video of the battle of the bridge, but it gets so blurry when downloaded to Blogspot that it's not worth putting on the blog.

Since we missed out on a real vacation this summer we tried to get as much time off as possible for the Labor Day holiday.  Kenny and I headed over to Allegheny National Forest near Cooks Forest State Park on Thursday afternoon, hoping to beat the holiday crowd and get one of the nice dispersed campsites along the Clarion River.  We got over to the river around 8:00, just about half an hour after a surprise rainstorm brought a couple of inches of rain and high winds to the area.


video

We managed to get a good site near Robin Island, just before the road was blocked by a downed tree.  It was getting dark as we set up our tents, but we've been camping so many times before that we could probably set them up in total darkness.

Diana had to work on Friday morning, but headed over just after lunch.  The rain brought the river level up from barely runnable to a good low level, so Kenny got in his first solo river kayak trip while we were waiting for here to arrive.

Kenny on the Clarion River.

Diana did manage to find her way to our site, and with the extra gear she brought we finished setting up our campsite.  We had three tents (one for Kenny, one for us, and one for the gear), a big tarp over the eating area and a tarped off shower spot in the back of the campsite.  Kenny even had his hammock set up by his tent for serious relaxing.


Diana took Kenny for some go kart racing and lunch while I took a short kayak ride down the river, with a bike shuttle.  It was amazing how many people were out paddling - I'd never seen so many non-rental boats on the river in one day before.  The high point of the trip was the surf wave at Heath Station, just upstream from Belltown.  There is an old gas pipeline across the bottom of the river, about a foot in diameter.  When the water level is right it makes a really nice, wide surf wave that's just perfect for kayaks.  I spent half an hour surfing, and then later Ken and I came back for another little surf session after lunch.  If we hadn't got the rain the night before the level would have definitely been too low, but it was absolutely perfect for us.

We stayed till Monday, so that made for 5 days out for Ken and I.  There was more boating, some bicycling, hiking, and plenty of relaxing.  We all went up to Leeper to eat at the Sawmill one evening.  All in all it was a pretty great mini-vacation and I'm glad that we got a chance to get out in the good weather.

Diana and I at Beartown Rocks.

Beartown Rocks trail.
 
View over Clarion River Valley from Beartown Rocks overlook.

Clarion River near our campsite.

The next weekend I had hoped that there would be enough rain to make the streams come up so that I could kayak.  Turns out there wasn't enough rain for that, but it was enough rain to make the mountain bike trails soft.  That left me wondering what to do, so I decided to try out a new paved trail, over at Goddard State Park in Pennsylvania.

Goddard State Park, Pennsylvania
It turned out to be a great place to ride.  They have a 12.25 mile loop around the lake, with about a mile of it on park roads, and the rest on paved trails.  These trails aren't flat and straight, like the rail trails around here.  Instead they have plenty of short hills, and lots of curves.  It was so much fun riding that I came back Sunday to ride again.  This place is definitely moving into heavy rotation on my list of fun places to ride!

Lots of hills!
There have also been plenty of bike rides in the last month, both on pavement and on dirt.  I got several rides, including a couple of night rides, on the mountain bike trails at West Branch State Park.  And I got plenty of miles on the Western Reserve Greenway Trail and Little Beaver Creek Greenway.

Evening approached on Little Beaver Creek Greenway.

Sunset at the same spot the next week.


The descent into the Gorge at West Branch State Park.

A fellow trail user on Western Reserve Greenway.

Leaves starting to change color on the Western Reserve Greenway.
There should still be plenty of time to get in another camping trip or two, and hopefully we'll get some rain soon so that the creeks run.  And there is always the opportunity to get out and ride, even if the weather turns.  Autumn is always a special time of year, and I'm looking forward to getting out and enjoying it.

Ken on baritone sax at the Apple Cider Festival parade.