Monday, November 2, 2015


Now we've moved into November, and in northeast Ohio the bright reds and yellows of October have faded to the russet and pale yellow of late fall.  Temperatures are starting to get lower at night, and the hours of daylight are shrinking.  This past weekend Daylight Savings Time switched over, so now the sun sets at 5:30 - just when I'm getting home from work.

The frenzy of early autumn outdoors activity is dying down for the most part.  People are packing away their summer toys and clothes, getting ready for spending the next few months indoors as much as possible.  There are no cars at the campgrounds, trails are becoming less crowded, and there's almost no one out paddling the creeks and rivers.  The wheel of the seasons rolls around again, and people hunker down to wait for the sun again.  Almost time for me to unpack the cold weather gear and resign myself to cold fingers and toes.

There have been quite a few rail trail miles for me since my last entry in late September.  I've continued to put in a bunch of miles on the Western Reserve Greenway Trail, the local rail trail that's only 5 miles from my house.  This is my default ride when I want to get in some miles and don't have the time to travel elsewhere.  It's a nice trail, with over 15 miles north of town in our county, which then continues on in the next county north nearly to the shore of Lake Erie.  The WRGT is just about the straightest, flattest rail trail around, as the railroad bed that it was built on traveled parallel to the river, instead of crossing over several drainages, and climbing in and of a bunch of creek valleys.  Some riders say that the it's boring to ride, because of the lack of variety in the terrain.  But there's plenty to see, if you keep your eyes open.

The Rock Creek bridge and observation deck.

Looking down from the bridge at the bedrock of Rock Creek.

There were three events on WRGT in the last 6 weeks or so.  The first was the First Annual Bike Ride with the County Commissioners.  One of the three commissioners showed up to ride, and a group of 15 or so bicyclists made the short 7 mile ride.

Ride with the County Commissioners on WRGT.
Then last weekend there were two separate dedication ceremonies.  The bike trail through town, as well as the county parks bike trail both recognized a local cyclist, Garrett Wonders, who was killed by a motorist while training for the Olympic cycling team several years ago.  Both ceremonies were well attended, despite the chilly fall weather.

The Warren Bike Trail is now the Garrett Wonders Bike Trail.
My Friday after work rides on the Little Beaver Creek Greenway have continued.  This trail is 45 minutes south of me, but it's the only local rail trail that allows night riding, so it's become my go-to Friday ride. Usually I ride the 20 mile round trip of the main section of trail end to end, a beautiful ride through rural farm country and Beaver Creek's stream valley.  However I did have an incident on the trail a couple of weeks ago that was less than pleasant.

I was riding along in the dark with my lights on, somewhere around midway, when an animal ran out in front of me.  It came down the steep hillside on my left and tried to cross the trail, but was stopped by the fence to the right.  It did an abrupt about face and bounded back up the grade.  It was only like 10 feet in front of me, and startled me enough that I rode off the edge of the trail and dumped the bike at about 15 mph.  It's been a while since I've crashed on pavement, and I've got to say that I don't miss it. Several bruises, more damage to my already screwed up left knee, and road rash that is still healing.  As for the animal, I originally thought it might have been a grey fox, but after looking at a couple of pictures I think it was probably a coyote (or maybe a chupacabra).  No real damage, but it's a good thing I had my helmet on, because my head bounced off that asphalt like it was a super ball.

I also headed a bit west and rode a section of trail new to me.  I've ridden on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail before, up near Peninsula, but never had been on the southern end, down between Massillon and Bolivar.  This trail isn't built on an old rail bed, rather it's on the road used by mules to haul boats up and down the Ohio and Erie Canal.  It was a gorgeous fall ride with only a few other trail users to be seen in over 25 miles.

The O&E Canal Towpath Trail on the banks of Tuscarawas River.
With mostly dry weather continuing I've managed to get in a bunch of mountain bike rides in the last 6 weeks.  Several times I've managed to get after work rides out at West Branch State Park (the local trails) including a couple of great night rides.  I also got in rides at North Road Nature Preserve here in town, and at Bavington in Pennsylvania.  And just this weekend I got my fastest lap of the year at Quail Hollow State Park (that would be 23 minutes flat, including time to stop for a dropped chain).

The town trails at North Road Nature Preserve after raking.
West Branch SP trails with heavy leaf cover.

Sunset from the West Branch trails from a night ride.
My brother during a rest break at Bavington.
Some of the Bavington trails are overgrown with multiflora rose (my nemesis).

I even had a chance for a little overnight adventure a couple of weeks ago.  My wife was heading down to Columbus to visit her sister for the weekend, and the boy was off backpacking with the Scouts.  That left me with no adult supervision for the weekend, so I decided to pack the bikes and some camping equipment and head out.  I started with a night ride on the Sandy Creek Trail near Franklin, Pa.  This is a remote trail, way out in rural western Pennsylvania, and all through the ride I kept hearing the crashing of animals through the woods on either side of me.  Luckily the only thing that I saw were 3 porcupines wandering around the trail (no chupacabra this time).

Riding up to the Deep Hollow tunnel on Sandy Creek Trail.

After finishing my ride at Sandy Creek I headed further east, and by 10:30 had made camp near Robin's Island camping area on the Clarion River in Allegheny National Forest.  After Labor Day these campgrounds are pretty much abandoned, and I had the place to myself.  No need for a tent since it was just me and I was planning on leaving early in the morning

A tarp, cot and sleeping bag - home for the night.
View of the Clarion River from my campsite.
The goal of this trip was to investigate some multi-use trails on land recently put under Cooks Forest State Park management.  That meant getting way back on some rough dead end roads onto land I'd never visited before.  It was beautiful remote territory down by the river, but the trails themselves left a lot to be desired.  Mostly they were old logging road double track, and shared with horses - so the riding situation wasn't that great in the first place, and then it was churned up to mud by the horses.  Too bad, since this is such a perfect place for mountain biking. I can only hope that eventually PA DCNR wise up to how many people ride mountain bikes these days and put some effort into REAL mtb trails.

Old doubletrack near Cooks Forest - Boiler Trail.

More logging roads masquerading as mtb trails near Cooks Forest SP.

Plenty of rocks for trails!
Beautiful forest near the river.
Only one chance to kayak since the last entry, since it's been raining in small increments when it eventually does happen.  I took the middle half of the day off work last week and got on Beaver Creek for a quick run while the water was up.  I keep hoping we'll get a good rain event to bring up some of the Allegheny gorge creeks, but it's getting closer and closer to snow season...

I'll end up this post with some miscellaneous fall foliage pictures - gotta love the colors of autumn!

Northern Trumbull County.

Clarion River at Gravel Lick.
Mahoning River near it's mouth in Pennsylvania.
Late fall in Trumbull County.
Compass rose at a local trail.