Thursday, June 7, 2012

Groundhog Day yet again

Ohiopyle to Ohiopyle. 30 miles of riding for 3:13 hrs and (? Miles of hiking for at least 45 min. No net gain in travel.

Today was what I fully expected on this trip: just a logistical bloody nightmare!!
But let’s start from the start. Got up at 6 AM and began mapping the route that Pat had gone over with me. I got online and went through the whole bloody route all the way to Point Marion on Google maps, and it seemed to wash right with what Pat and I had looked at last evening – to the tee. Unfortunately I just couldn’t fine this route on the PA Gazetteer. Now some of the stuff did show up on my digitized PA USGS topos, but not to the extent of the google map thing. Anyway, looked like a good start to the off road. I then put together a meeting spot for Judy, mapped out and good to go.
We drove back to my end point in Ohiopyle from yesterday and I began the day by crossing the the Youghiogheny River and then going off onto the Great Gorge Trail. The trail riding was super easy and it took me up to a trailhead parking area on Kentuk Rd – asphalt. So I went L as advised on gravel berm to the next road, Middle Ridge Road – gravel. So I was sitting pretty sweet. And let me tell you the crap hit the fan on Middle Ridge. I mean that was one of the nastiest, cruelest one-lane gravel road climbs I’ve done in PA. It far surpasses anything I’d ridden in the Black Forest. This thing must have been a good 15-18%. Never but one time in over a decade of riding mt bikes on the gravel fire roads of the Black Forest did I have to use the littlest cookie. But this thing…God help you! I was in the saddle, in THE easiest gear I had trying to get up over the summit of this thing. I mean it was so steep that I had to lean forward on the bars while seated so as to keep the front end down in the gravel doing 3 mph. No kidding.
And I was thinking, I’d never in a million years take my van up that road for fear of it totally loosing traction and then sliding backwards. But I climbed the bastard!! And then it false flatted for another half mile. It finally topped out and this thing turned to asphalt, and undulated for 2-3 miles through farm country – a total heart breaker for sure. Now the riding in the grass and weed berm was nearly as difficult as the steep climbing. Fore again, I was in the littlest cookie going like 4 mph. Wow, I was a whole mph faster in the berm. This road dumped out on SR 2010, again asphalt, and again I road in the berm, this time a V-shaped drainage ditch that was a complete bitch to stay on top of. I had to hikeabike a few of the climbs and descents due to the precarious nature of the V ditch – there were spots where it was just totally a bad idea. So I got to my next road – Shaffer School Rd – again asphalt. And again, back on berm, this time not V-shaped, but more flat and grassy.
And finally this took me to Greenbriar Rd, which was gravel, and then a quick left onto the infamous “no named” road. Now Mr. No Name started out pretty cool, like any backcountry fire road. But over the course of the next couple of mile is just deteriorated into a thin ribbon of dbl track ATV trail. Basically I couldn’t do much seated because the rocks and cobbles were just too big and I didn’t want to put too much weight on the back tire. I have some shots where this thing is just a thing ribbon cutting through the forest as far as the eye can see. Honestly it was enjoyable despite the treacherous nature of the track what with all the big rocks and ruts and stream crossings.
Now according to google maps and what Pat and I had worked up, this thing did a Y and I take a right and then a Y and I take a left and another Y and I take a final left. So I was watching my Y’s. Past the first, but it wasn’t as evident as it should have been. But I counted it nonetheless. Did a couple of climbs that were so steep that I just couldn’t for the life of me stay on the bike. So had to walk a couple of those bad boys. And the descents, well, I did them but wow, I had to hang my butt way down by the back wheel in order to NOT do an endo. But the screwy thing was that there were a gazillion little side roads branching off of this one main track. It was a bit disconcerting to say the least, but I figured that I would do my L at the Y when the roads were major. Problem was that I just never hit the Y’s, just all these little side tracks going off in all directions. It must be used by hunters on ATV’s.
Finally got to this one section where the main trail pretty much ended and I see this massive descent down a rocky gully. And I mean this thing went DOWN, like a good 600-1000 ft into a valley. Wasn’t even a road. Hell, you could ride a toboggan down this thing it was so steep. Ok, to do? Got out my cell phone and looked at the GPS maps application, and nothing showed up. It was like I was in the middle of the forest with no roads. Ditto for the Garmin GPS. Great. So I thought, “damn, I’d told Judy that I could be about 3 hrs on this portion, and I was already 2.5 hrs in. No way would I make our meeting point in 3 hrs when I couldn’t even figure out where the hell I was at! For the last day Judy’s cell had no reception up here in Fayette County, but I figured I ‘d give it a shot and see if I could reach her. I mean we were both at high points, me at the end of a ridgeline and her at the summit of a large mt, so maybe there were towers. And bingo, she answered. Told her to go back to where we camped the night before and I’d retrace my steps back to meet up with her. There was no way I was going to bushwack down a mountainside into the void, and I sure as hell was not going to try all umpteen hundred side trails out there.
As I said before, sometimes you just have to accept your fate and backtrack rather than continue to get yourself deeper into the black hole. So I headed back. Now at one of the jcn’s, it was a hard left, almost a 180, I decided to give myself 15 min to see if it went anywhere, and low and behold, this thing to disintegrated into a tangle of trails. So I rode back to the main, and then back to Greenbriar Rd. At the jcn of Greenbriar and Mr. No Name, I spotted an old gent going into his garage, so I pulled in and asked about the no name road and it’s eventual termination point, which should have been my next turn – Mineral Springs Rd.
He told me he hadn’t been on that road in decades and that by now it’s probably a jumble of side tracks. I confirmed that. I asked him if it ended up by the mt top that Judy had been parked at waiting for me. And he confirmed that it probably did indeed go that way, but that he had never gone that way. He offered me a cold bottle of water and we talked a bit more about Mr. No Name. In the end he told me that I’d probably just end up out there for days going in circles what with all the side tracks there now. So with that I thanked him and rode asphalt back to meet up with Judy. Not that descent down Middle Ridge Rd with just a flippin screamer!
Met up with Judy and we decided to backtrack to where she was so I could ride back to possibly where I turned around. Got to Mineral Springs Rd and I got geared up again and began riding this gravel dbl track down a descent and all of a sudden I was seeing these “No Trespassing” signs up everywhere. This was private property! Now on google maps, and on my Garmin this shows up as a public road, but NOT anymore!! Today was like Groundhog day from last year’s trip. Rode back up the road and stopped to ask a guy who was cutting his lawn about the road. The dude told me that it was indeed private property and he didn’t remember it being public at all! I mean this was carbon copy of last year. I asked him if he knew where I could get a county map and he told me the County Courthouse in Uniontown, about 6 miles down the road.
Rode back to Judy, we loaded the bike and headed into Uniontown for the map. And this was a cluster*^&&$# of a trip into town. I rolled into the Courthouse in my cycling shorts and shoes, past the metal detector in the lobby and up to the forth floor for the map dept. Paid 10 bucks for a map and then we fought traffic back to for 40 min trying to get turned around and going in the right direction. Got our Yurt again from last night, and here we are again. Pretty much today was a wash, despite my making about 13 miles of westerly travel. Still didn’t get me anywhere.
So to do? Well, I’m going give that County map a good going over, but having scanned over it for about 30 min already, I just cannot delineate between asphalt and gravel and trail on this map nor any map. It has a road legend, but even for Middle Ridge Rd, it was listed at all paved? That indeed is the challenge here. FORGET google maps. That information is just worthless. My Garmin GPS and cellphone GPS don’t even show the tracks, so they’ll not getting it done either. And even the people who know the area, well, it’s still pretty sketchy. So that’s the pickle of the day…to do?
Well, time to relax, hopefully listen to the Heat get beat tonight on our internet radio, drink a few beers while Judy sips some wine and I’ll continue to do my map homework. Hey, on the bright side Judy’s back is much better, her having spent way less time in the car and sleeping in a bed in the Yurt last evening. So something is working out for us. Until tomorrow……….I’m out…….Pete         

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