Riding from Ohiopyle, PA to Davis, West Virginia and back

Posted by Montana

“You know it’s supposed to thunderstorm all day,” says Colleen.

“I think I’ll be alright. It might miss me,” I say.

“Ok, I just don’t want you to be miserable and come home complaining about it,” Colleen says.

I futz around, pack the rest of my stuff onto my bike. Got the camera, got my sleeping stuff, have a dry pair of underwear. No room for a rain jacket. Maybe I won’t need it. I roll out the door. No better grab it. Back in the door. I strap the jacket to the top of my bars roll away from the house again.

Up the first climb out Ohiopyle. I’m a little nervous. Davis is 75 miles away, I don’t know my route, and black clouds are puffing and sliding across the sky. I pull out the cue sheet, sweat drips off my forehead and splotches some of the ink. Nuts. I wipe my eyebrows. Can’t be doing that.

Alright, I need to go right on Glades Road, left on McCracken School. I put the sheet away. Left on Glades, right on McCracken. Left on Glades, right on McCracken. No that’s not right, right? I check the sheet again. Left on Glades, not right.

I turn left on McCracken, and ride down the road a few hundred feet. Wait, this isn’t right, I should have gone right. I spin around, and roll onto the first dirt of the day. A few miles later, I scan for my next turn. There’s an unmarked trail off to the left, but it sure doesn’t look like Mason Dixon Road. I check the map on my phone. It is. These cues are going to be impossible to follow without road signs. I tuck away the paper directions.

I cross the border into West Virginia, ride a bridge across I-68, and bounce down some rutted, rocky, single-lane tracks into Cuzzart.

Welcome to the Cuzzart General Store! Hours - None

Cuzzart General Store – Hours – None

I ride past one farm house, where the road turns from dirt to trail, and a short brown dog rushes out of a garage.

“Sit! Sit down!” I yell.

“Bark bark bark!” he yells.

“Sit the hell down!” I yell.

“Bark bark bark!” he yells.

This conversation clearly isn’t getting either of us anywhere. I pedal faster and the dog finally gives up the chase. I drop into the woods.

West Virginia road

A puddle. With ridges, for flavor.

A few miles later, I ride past a group of eight people on five ATVs. All the people are staring at the road. I wave and say hello. They all wave back in unison and look at me blankly. Weird.

Around the next bend, there’s a black plastic hose sticking out of the dirt, pumping water onto a little pallet platform. Perfect. I was almost out of water. I fill both bottles. The sky rumbles. That doesn’t sound great. The road turns from trail to dirt to gravel to pavement. The wind picks up, grey clouds roll like waves. The hills thump and echo. I better find some shelter before this storm hits.

I run into a little pavilion next to a white church. The rain pings sharply against the metal roof. Louder, louder until I can’t hear myself talk to myself. Lighting strikes the steeple. The thunder blasts. Jesus that was close.

The storm starts to let off. I put my rain jacket on, which I’m very glad I went back for, and get back on my bike. The lightning is gone, but it’s still raining. I ride a flat gravel road over Snaggy Mountain which is more of a Snaggy Bump and hide from the rain in an old log cabin. At this point I kind of want to go home. I’m all wet and uncomfortable. Then the sun starts to come out. Oh boy. I fold up my coat and ride into the nice weather.

Storms and sun

20 more miles of dirt and pavement until I get to the bottom of the climb into Tucker County, where I drink my last drop of water. 15 miles to go. My only food today has been a bag of peanuts, so I’m feeling a little out of gas, but I should be able to make it to the Purple Fiddle in Thomas. I start grinding up the hill.

A while later, my stomach is contracting. Gotta keep going. Beef wraps at the top. A trickle of water runs down the hillside. No, don’t stop. Just keep rolling.

I finally make it to the Fiddle, and order a beef wrap and a Seneca IPA in a mason jar and sit across from a chubby kid with eyes that are permanently sunk into his game playing thing.

After I finish eating, I get back on my bike and head for camp.

I ride out of Thomas and up the windy road a few miles to Davis. The elevated sidewalks are pretty empty for a Saturday afternoon. I roll past the Shop n’ Save on the edge of town and cross the bridge onto the dirt road that borders the Black Water River. Muted, far-off thunder booms.

Time to find a spot to camp. Up and down the road, scanning the woods. The thunder rumbles again. Man, I better find a spot quick. I scamper into the woods. This place is full of rocks. Damn. I wish I would have brought my hammock. I find a little crack between two boulders, string my tarp and blow up my sleeping pad.

I’m swarmed by mosquitoes. I swat my face and arms. They keep swarming. I need to go get some chemicals to repel these little bastards. I crash back through the weeds and onto the road, and ride back to the Shop n’ Save to get bug spray, a bomber of Torpedo, and a coffee cake.

On the way back, I walk down to the river to wash off. The water is deep orange. I cup some into my hands, it looks like iodine. I wonder if I should bathe in this stuff. Well, it’ll probably be alright. I soap up.

The storm hasn’t started yet, so maybe I can find a better camping spot. I roll up all my stuff and ride farther down the road. A few miles in, there’s a nice clearing by the river. I reset my campsite, read until the sun sets, then go to sleep.

A mosquito buzzes in my ear. I slap it. It buzzes again. I crush it against my head. Silence for a few minutes. The buzz comes back. Christ. I’m covered in deet you little beasts, leave me alone. I pull a t-shirt over my face and pass out.

Black Water Camping

I crawl out of the tarp the next morning, and into a big mass of poison ivy. That’s fantastic. I guess I’ll find out if I’m still immune to the stuff in the next few days. I repack my bike, and roll back into town to the Bright Morning Inn for breakfast. I eat a big stack of banana-walnut-blueberry-pancakes with thick cut bacon, drink four cups of coffee, then head back towards Thomas, and on to Ohiopyle.

Since my phone is out of battery, and I can’t navigate on all the confusing back West Virginia trail roads, I decide to take the more straightforward route through Oakland, Deep Creek, and Friendsville, Maryland.

Tucker County windmill

Top of Tucker County

I coast down out of Tucker County. Into the rolling farmland and red roads in Maryland. I’m spinning my highest gear, making great time. Through Deep Creek, up a climb then steep descent to Friendsville, then up another hill to Markleysburg. I start toward Confluence, the closest town to Ohiopyle. The road pitches up steeply, I shift into my lowest gear. I’m starting to lose energy now, I’ve come 60 miles on two bottles and one cliff bar.

Up, up, up. The road finally levels out at an old church. I pull off the road. I could climb up another 1000 feet over Sugarloaf Knob, then descend all the way back to Ohiopyle, or I could drop into Confluence, get a burger, then roll back into town on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail.

Hell, I’ll just take the mountain. It’ll be five miles shorter. I pedal a hundred feet up the road. Nope. Out of gas. I turn around and coast down the hill to the Lucky Dog Café.

Great Allegheny Passage Trail

After a pretty decent burger, (not as good as a Falls City Pub burger) I roll onto the GAP Trail, and burn the last 12 miles into Ohiopyle.

That was a great little mini tour. 151 miles total, a ton of climbing, and lots of time in the saddle. I’ll have to do some more of those.

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The Drake hatch is happening in Ohiopyle

The highly sought after Green Drake has been spotted!  Initial reports began to surface on Saturday May 25th.  Then on Sunday, Drakes were spotted on the Middle Yough and Meadow Run and Beaver Creek.  Water levels have stabilized and we expect to see around 2 feet on the Ohiopyle gauge for the foreseeable future.   Water temps are a little lower than normal for this time of year.  The ten day forecast is spectacular for Ohiopyle, (15470).  And lucky for us fisher types, that coincides nicely with what we think will be the remainder of the Green Drake Hatch ( Ephemera danica)

Trout on the Middle Yough

The most alluring vision is to take that large trout when he makes a splashy rise and targets your Dry Drake!  That is the best.. but keep in mind you will have much more success sub-surface.  The emerger will generate many more hook-ups.  Keep in mind as the hatch progresses, fish will become more selective, as well as the water will be clearing

Check out this beautiful Green Drake caught on Meadow Run.

Green Drake Hatch Meadow Run

Makin’ da fish crazy

The Drake hatch is in full swing and we believe it will continue for approximately 10 days.   You will also find the hatch on the Laurel Hill, Dunbar Creek, and the Youghiogheny.   There have been a couple of spinner falls, 2 maybe 3 already.  The drake hatch although famous, it is not always the food of choice for trout,, but, The fish are turned on!

If you can not make it to the creeks in the next week, have no fear…  The Sulpher hatch has begun in earnest, and it should last for a month,, especially heavy in the evenings

Stay in tune with what is happening on the yough by checking out the Wilderness Voyageurs Hatch Page or the Facebook group we started for fishing on the Yough

Categories: Fishing the yough, Fly Fishing, Fly fishing in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania Trout fishing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Three tips to get you ready for the spring biking season

With plenty of cool sunny days, spring is one of the best times of the year to hit the trail in Ohiopyle. And if you start riding now, you’ll have the fitness to put in some big rides this summer.

Ohiopyle bike Bridge Wilderness Voyageurs

The High Bridge just outside of Ohiopyle

Here are some tips to get you ready to ride:

Get a tune-up

Take your bike to your local shop (if you’re in the Ohiopyle area, that’s us) and have the mechanics tune it up. Fresh cables, brake pads, and tires will make your ride way more fun.

Check your tire pressure before every ride. The maximum recommended pressure is stamped on the sidewall of tire, but that’s usually a much higher pressure than you should ride (think of the max pressure stamped on your car’s sidewalls. My truck tires say 60 psi, and if I pumped the tires up that hard I’d be all over the road.)

Correct tire pressure depends on your weight, so you’ll have to play around with it a little. The tires shouldn’t be so hard that they bounce you all over the trail, and they shouldn’t be so squishy that they squirm under the bike. Also, pumping the tires up extra hard won’t make you go faster. A tire is most efficient when it can conform to the bumps it’s rolling over.

Check your saddle height

Seat height is really important to being comfortable on your bike. If the saddle is too low, you won’t be able to pedal efficiently and you’ll destroy your knees. Too high, and your hips will rock back and forth until you get super unpleasant saddle sores.

So to check your seat height, find a wall to lean against, get on the bike, then put your heels on the pedals. When you pedal backwards, your leg should be fully extended and your knee almost locked out. Spinning with the ball of your foot on the pedals, there should be about a 30 degree bend in your leg.

For a visual explanation check out this video, which features the handsomest bike mechanic in Ohiopyle. Or consider making an appointment for a bike fitting. 

Just remember, being able to touch the ground from the saddle has nothing to do with correct saddle height. Get off the saddle before you need to stop the bike.

Get on the bike as often as possible

You might not have time to do a long ride every day, but if you ride around the neighborhood for a half an hour everyday, your bike fitness will increase dramatically. It’s all about getting your body used to pedaling.

If you can only ride three hours a week, split that time into short rides everyday. Riding a bike will become routine, and longer rides won’t be a problem. In contrast, riding three hours one day on the weekend will just be a shock to your system, and probably a miserable time.

And if you can, commute to work on your bike. Along with all the hippy-feel-good benefits that come with bike commuting, it’s the absolute best way to become a better cyclist. Riding to work gives you a reason to ride (actually going somewhere), and will get you riding more than ever. After all, bikes aren’t just for recreation, they’re also a serious and efficient way to get around.

Swing through the shop if you are on the Great Allegheny Passage, or road riding through on RT 381.

Wilderness Voyageurs, 103 Garrett Street, Ohiopyle Pa, 15470

800-272-4141

#ohiopyle

#greatalleghenypassage

Categories: Biking Vacations, Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Bike Tour, Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle, Wilderness Voyageurs | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

March Fly Fishing Tips and Hatches for the Youghiogheny

March 22 – spring in Ohiopyle!

Levels are good on the Yough Tributaries while the big river is a little high. Color is pretty green and little snow remains to melt. Water temps are presently running 36-38 degrees in most areas.

Hatches

Spring has arrived and the hatches can’t be far off. Look for early winter stones sz 16-18 on most days. Gray & Black Caddis also sz 16-18 should be hatching soon. On cloudy days we are seeing some blue winged olives sz 18-20.

Dale’s Tip for the week

European nymphing is a perfect technique for the spring water levels. A two or three fly rig consisting of a heavy anchor nymph and a smaller dropper or two is just the ticket. Make sure at least one of your nymphs is a little black stone or a bead head prince in sz 18.

The delayed harvest stretches on Meadow Run, Dunbar, Laurel Hill and Indian Creeks have all been stocked!

Categories: Ohiopyle | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

NEW! Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Bike Tour – Best of GAP 4 Day

Ride the GAP End to End in 2013!   Wilderness Voyageurs is introducing a new 4 day Inn to Inn journey from Homestead, PA to Cumberland, Maryland.  This trip will cover the Great Allegheny Passage at a relaxed pace and will allow for plenty of time to explore the trailside, small towns, and soak your feet in the Youghiogheny River.  This bike tour will average about 35 miles a day, as opposed to our 6 day Pittsburgh to Washington DC tour that averages 60 miles a day.

Great Allegheny Passage- Wilderness Voyageurs

The GAP Trail crossing the Cassellman River on the spectacular Salisbury Viaduct

Wilderness Voyageurs has been conducting tours on the Great Allegheny Passage since 1999, today we are the largest bike outfitter operating in the corridor. Why is this important?  Because, you get more time to enjoy your vacation when you put our 14 years of experience to work for you taking care of  all of the details, luggage moving, snack breaks, meals, lodging, and bike tuning.  We make it easy to explore and enjoy the trail.

You will meet your guides and fellow travelers at the Wilderness Voyageurs’ base in Ohiopyle, PA.  Here you will park your car and have your luggage loaded into the SAG vehicle.   Munch on a bagel while the guides load your bikes and attend to any last minute bike tuning before we load up to head for Homestead, PA and the start of your vacation.  You will spend 4 days, traversing from Homestead, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland, on this world famous Rail- Trail.  Beginning your meander in the shadows of the Pittsburgh skyline and then quickly you will turn into the Youghiogheny Valley where tall trees and small towns are your companions.  Overnights will be spent in Perryopolis, Confluence, and Meyersdale, upon arrival in Cumberland you will be transported back to Ohiopyle where you parked your car.

One of the things that has us so excited about this new tour, is our new lodging partners, the Levi Deal Mansion in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania.  This gorgeous B & B is 2 blocks from the Great Allegheny Passage, and will be our refuge on night 3 of this tour.   Meet our innkeepers and have a peek into their beautiful home, that they have lovingly restored to turn of the century grandeur……

Details of the Great Allegheny Passage Bike Tour – 4 Day

The inaugural departure for this tour is July 21, 2013 with additional departures on September 8th and October 6th.

KATY TRAIL Bike Tour - Wilderness Voyageurs

KATY TRAIL along the Missouri River

Have you already biked the GAP?  If so, you may be interested in the KATY Trail, the longest Rails to Trails project in the US,  an excellent 6 day biking vacation that crosses Missouri.

To reserve your biking vacation, or have your questions answered, call us at 800-272-4141, or stop into our shop at 103 Garrett Street, Ohiopyle PA, 15470

Don’t want to talk to a human?  Reserve on line at  Wilderness-voyageurs.com

#greatalleghenypassage

#bikingvacations

Categories: Biking Vacations, Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Bike Tour, Ohiopyle, Wilderness Voyageurs | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ohiopyle is paradise

Ohiopyle is calling…  You should answer

Categories: Ohiopyle, Ohiopyle rafting | Leave a comment

Mountain unicycling in Ohiopyle- Something completely different

Since I tweaked my shoulder last month, it’s hurt to go uphill on my mountain bike. I figured that I needed to take some time off riding to let the shoulder fix itself, but I couldn’t just sit around. And I can’t stand walking or running. So my only reasonable option was to hit the trails on a unicycle.

Mountain unicycling trails in Ohiopyle

Wobbling and waving down the trail.

The trails around Ohiopyle are tight, twisty, and covered in rocks and roots. And this time of year, they have a slimy coating of leaves. They’re tricky to ride on a mountain bike. Take away a wheel, a set of handle bars, and the ability to coast, and they’re trickier. By a lot.

Riding a unicycle feels weird. To go forward, I have to lean until feel like I’m going to fall on my face, then catch myself by pedaling forward, which rotates the unicycle backwards. So riding in a straight line is a constant back and forth between falling and pushing myself back up with the pedals.

Add in some hills, off-camber paths, and bumps, and staying upright becomes a weird flailing dance. Lean back on a descent, resist the wheel, push the saddle forward into the climbs, wave right arm into a left turn, shake the left into a right, grab the saddle hop up a rock, and twist around and around.

It’s exhausting.

I can happily do a 50 mile day on my mountain bike, but after six or seven miles of unicycling I’m ready stumble off into the mountain laurel and pass out (and I almost never do that when I’m sober.)

Unicycling down a trail

My photographer was able to take surprisingly artistic shots while running behind the speeding unicycle.

Despite being really hard, unicycling is fun. I’m started to get the hang of riding technical stuff, and I’ve done my seven-mile commute to work on the thing. Although it takes three times as long as it does on a bike, it’s still slightly faster than running. And unlike running or riding a bike, when I’m on the unicycle people always smile, wave, laugh, and yell encouraging things. Which makes sense, because I look ridiculous:

Categories: Biking Vacations, Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Bike Tour, Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ohiopyle looks good in white

It’s been in the single digits for the past week here. A couple days ago, we got hit with eight inches of fluffy snow.

And that made everything real pretty. The sun came out and it was clear and cold, but I was nice and warm in my Smartwool Midweight Crew and Mountain Hardwear Microchill.

Cucumber Falls was a little iced up:

Frozen Cumber Falls

The ice pile at the bottom of the falls was over ten feet high:Cucumber Falls in winter

And it was mostly solid enough to walk right up to it:Punching through the ice at Cucumber FallsThe Meadow Run slides were frozen to a thin channel:Meadow Run slides frozen

And all that snow made for great fat bike riding conditions:Fat biking in Ohiopyle

Categories: Ohiopyle, Ohiopyle Winter Activities and Skiing, Outdoor Gear | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Bikepacking out of Ohiopyle

The Quebec Run Wild Area is a really cool system of trails to the south of Ohiopyle. I’ve been looking at some maps for a while, and figuring out a way to ride from town to the wild area on single track and double track the whole way.

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So last Saturday I loaded up my pack and started the climb out of the valley.

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The trail that goes into Quebec is a ten-mile piece of single track called the White Tail Trail. My plan was to ride a gravel road out of Ohiopyle, take a trail through some state gameland, hit the White Tail Trail into Quebec, watch a cyclocross race that was going on near Quebec, then camp and ride back into work the next morning.

The climb out of Ohiopyle was pretty brutal with a loaded pack. Since I was on my single speed, I couldn’t stay in the saddle. And since I had 35 pounds of camping gear on my back, it wasn’t easy to pedal out of the saddle either.

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But I made it to the top and into the gamelands. A few miles in, I saw about 40 trucks parked in the woods. At that point, I realized that it was the first day of bear season, and I was wearing a woolly black shirt. The rest of the ride through the hunting zone was less than relaxing.

When I got to the entrance of the White Tail Trail off of Skyline Drive, I saw more hunters. Since I had no desire to be mistaken for an emaciated bear and shot, I decided to ride the road the rest of the way to the cross race. But at least now I know that the trail to Quebec does exist. It even has fresh blazes. I’ll just have ride it when there’s less firepower in the woods.

Buzzing along Skyline Drive wasn’t so bad:

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A couple hours later, I made it to the cross race. I hung out for a while and heckled some racers. Especially my friend Rob, whose bicycle choice was a little suspect:

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photo by Fred Jordan

Then I started the long climb back up the ridge. I made it to my camping spot above Uniontown just before dark, and got a little fire going.

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I knew it wasn’t going to rain, so I didn’t bring a tent. I sat next to the fire and looked out at all the bright lights a few miles below. Ate two pots of Ramen, burned up all my firewood, and drank the contents of the flask I brought along. I was hoping that I would be drunk enough to sleep all night without noticing the cold (see simulated summer.)

ImageThat worked for about two hours. Then I woke up. It was 25 degrees, and the wind was ripping across the overlook I was sleeping on. I wrapped my ground cover around myself, hoping that it would keep some heat in.

It didn’t. But it did keep some moisture in, and soaked my sleeping bag.

I drifted in and out of shivering sleep for the next few hours, then at 4:30 I decided to get up and start riding back to town. The sun was starting to rise when I got back to Skyline Drive, and it was a bright clear morning. Image

Pretty, but bright clear mornings are also cold mornings. I thought my fingers were going to freeze and snap off as I descended the mountain back to Ohiopyle. When I got back to town, I spent a long time thawing myself out in front of a little oil heater before I opened the store.

Overall, it was a pretty good mini-bikepacking trip, even though hunting season kept me from riding all the trails I planned on. I ended up riding 45 miles the first day, and 15 the next morning. Not a bad little adventure from the front door. Next post I’ll talk about the gear I used, and what I wished I would have used.

posted by Montana

Categories: Biking Vacations, Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Setting up a mountain bike for the winter

Some people, like Amanda here, set their bikes up for winter by covering them with junk in the corner of the garage. But she also bundles up with a puffy sweater and ski hat before she steps inside to use the computer.

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So the following winter riding tips are for those of us that are hardy enough to type in nothing more than a Zoic Tradesman Riding Flannel ($85, all sizes in stock):

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with elastic cuffs to cut keyboard drafts:

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I’ve had some of my best mountain bike rides in the winter. Knobs dig into the frozen crust through corners, and the trails in Ohiopyle can be as fast as they are in late July. Riding through the last six winters, I’ve picked up a few things to keep myself rolling in relative comfort.

So here are the top-secret secrets.

1. Whiskey in the bottle

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An ounce or two of liquor will keep a bottle from freezing in cold weather. Five or six ounces will make it feel like summer again (activate simulated summer at your own risk.)

2. Catching the crud

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The Crud Catcher ($15) is the best mountain fender I’ve used, and I’ve used many. It attaches to the downtube with a few rubber o-rings, so it’s easy to pull on and off. Never bounces around or gets in the way, and keeps freezing spray out of the face and off the water bottle. Perfect.

I also shelve my suspension fork for the snowy months, and put on rigid one. The suspension fork doesn’t work super well and cold weather, so it isn’t worth it to get the delicate fork seals covered in frozen mud.

3. The light

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The days in winter are too short to risk going out without a light. Priceton Tech’s Push ($49) puts out 100 lumens with three AAA batteries. That’s plenty of light to get home on the road, and enough to carefully negotiate single track. The thumbscrew handle bar mount is secure and easy to remove.

Those are the only changes I make to my bike for the winter season. If you ride gears, it is a good time to try single speeding, but that’s a topic for another post. Otherwise, the mountain bike you ride all summer will work like a peach.

Next post, I’ll share my thoughts on winter riding clothes.

posted by Montana

Categories: Bike repair, Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle, Outdoor Gear | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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