Dear Husband has been filling his vacation weeks in this month of October chipping away at the overwhelmingly long “to-do” list. On the top of the list was harvesting the rest of this year’s hay crop. Our wet summer left us with many hay fields that went without even one bale of hay being harvested, so mowing, raking, baling, and stacking hay consumed the first two weeks of his precious time off. Once that job was completed, he began house construction again with a goal of finally getting the entire roof trimmed and shingled.
We went into this extended vacation knowing that home tasks would hold priority with just a little fun thrown in for good measure.
So with limited days to spend having fun, we made the decision to use them for a short bicycling trip. On the top of my cycling trail list was the Pine Creek Rail Trail.
“One of the premier rail-trails in the Northeast, the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Pine Creek Gorge offers travelers a spectacular 62-mile journey through the area commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.”
We packed our tents and food into the bike bags for a three day round trip starting from the southern end of the trail in Jersey Shore, PA.
After two weeks of beautiful, warm, sunny fall days, the forecast of rain was a little disheartening, but the desire to ride my bike was stronger than my concern for getting wet. So, early on a Wednesday morning we headed out for our mini escape from our busy reality.
We arrived in Jersey Shore, PA at lunch time with light rain showers trying to dampen our spirits. In an effort to give the rain a chance to pass through and to start our trip with full bellies, we made a lunch stop at the Jersey Shore Diner for a warm bowl of Turkey Pot Pie, very yummy and two thumbs-up from these two patrons.
After lunch we found the trail head parking area, unpacked the car and headed north.
We had light drizzle for the first 45 minutes of the trip and then the rain stopped for the next 45 minutes. Our hopes were that we would arrive at our first stop 32 miles up the trail dry. But, alas, that was not to be. The rain began again and it wasn’t long before the insides of our shoes were wet from water soaking down our pants, onto our socks and into the shoes. To add to that discomfort, during one of our 5 minute stops for a drink and snack, Dear Husband was swarmed by biting flies. His joy was quickly diminishing and the focus for the next hour was to arrive at the our camping area as soon as possible to take cover from the elements. Unfortunately, the thoughts of setting up a tent soaking wet, in rain and biting flies loomed large as we pedaled.
The itinerary for the trip was to camp at Pettecote Junction Campground for two nights, leaving our supplies at camp on the second day as we rode to the end of the trail and back to camp, stay the second night and then ride back to the car the third day. After this hard first day of pedaling we made the decision to rent a cabin at Pettecote Junction if they had any available. The idea of fighting biting flies was more that Dear Husband had patience for and it was a great relief to hear the news that a cabin with heat was vacant and could be rented. So after 32 miles and 4 hours of rain soaked pedaling we settled our sopping wet selves into a cozy cabin with the heat blazing.
Day 2 we woke to overcast skies and a light drizzle. But after hot showers, a night in warm beds and putting on dry shoes, we were ready to take on the challenge of pedaling to the end of the trail in Wellsboro, PA and back to camp before day’s end.
This section of the trail from mile 30 north is certainly the most beautiful section. The trail follows the canyon floor along Pine Creek with the tree-covered mountain walls on both sides.
This year’s fall foliage has lacked the bright variety of color, and the overcast skies dulled the few colors that are still there, but my joy comes not from leaf color or bright skies, but from the time spent slowing down, shutting out the loud, pressing demands of the world and allowing your head to “hear” your thoughts. Adding to the blessing of time engulfed in nature is the physical challenge of pedaling a bike over many miles and being rewarded with a better understanding of your bodies ability to go beyond comfort zones and come away stronger.
We rode 21 miles to mile marker 9-Darlings Run and decided that due to time constraints we should begin the return trip back to camp. We had passed a hiking trail that we wanted to check out and that meant that 18 more miles(9 out & 9 back) would not allow enough daylight to do both.
On the return trip between mile 12 and 13 is Turkey Path hiking trail.
TURKEY PATH TRAIL
2 miles round trip, most difficult hiking
This difficult trail descends one mile to the bottom of Pine Creek Gorge. It is a down and back trail. There is no bridge across Pine Creek at the bottom. The top half of the trail descends through a series of switchbacks to a view of Little Four-Mile Run at 0.5 miles, then on a short distance to the first waterfall.
The trail continues downward along narrow switchbacks and wooden decking, bridges, and steps. The lowest parts of the trail are along a series of waterfalls.
The trail ends at the Pine Creek Trail. Major improvements on the Turkey Path Trail, including steps, observation decks, and hand rails were completed by the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps in 1993.
At the top of Turkey Path is Leonard Harrison State Park which includes a visitors center, canyon overlook area, and souvenir shop. The area was filled with groups of bus trip folks visiting the park in search of colorful Fall foliage. I was glad to be able to retreat back down Turkey Path away from the hustle and bustle of vacationing tourists.
After shaking out our hiking legs we climbed back on our bikes for the return trip to camp and a hot supper in our warm, dry, cabin.
It was an early start on day 3 so that we could arrive back at the car by lunch time and make it back home to fulfill some evening responsibilities. The weather was drier but just enough cooler to make our stop for a warm breakfast sandwich at a gas station/deli place along the trail a welcome treat. It’s funny how simple things like a warm sandwich on a cold day feel so special when life is reduced to the basic necessities, aka shelter/air/water.
Although our 3 day trip didn’t go as we had imagined, I loved the time away with Dear Husband. I missed spending time in the tent, but our memories of arriving soaking wet and drying out in a quaint cabin at Pettecote Junction will be unforgettable along with the well earned ice cream cone and raw milk from the little trail store on day 2.
After three days and 100+ miles of pedaling, our legs, arms and backs were sore, but we return to reality stronger in body, quieter in thought, and blessed with the joy of time spent traveling together through a grand canyon.