I spent my weekend in Rothrock State Forest, enjoying fall in the best way I know how: riding a bike and running. I had a blast.
Friday morning I drove up to Penn Roosevelt State Park, which is less a state park and more a collection of rustic tent-only campsites around a small lake in the middle of thousands of acres of public wilderness near the college town where football legends are excused for heinous negligence (aka State College). The leaves are in color, though not peaking yet because of this late-season heat. Still beautiful though, mostly golden, some copper.
From my base camp at the park, I went for a 38-mile gravel ride with 4,600 feet of elevation gain. The mountains were shrouded in fog. Some of the roads were less gravel and more grass/big rocks; despite my frustration while picking my way down them, it was invigorating to just be out exploring, encountering the unexpected. My Masi CXR, set up with ‘cross tires for the first time, was super solid. I found that by riding with a mindset of adventure/exploration instead of speed/get-a-good-workout-in, I was able to roll with the navigation and terrain issues. I wasn’t discouraged by the slow average speed, or the relative lack of distance. I rode up to a fire tower in the mist and saw woodsmoke curling up from remote cabins and had miles of gravel all to myself: basically, I created an experience in a new place, and challenged myself at the same time. That’s the whole point, right? Maybe not for others, but increasingly it is for me.
The next day I did a 20-mile trail run, my longest run ever. 1,800 feet of gain, most of it steady and not at all miserable. Everything was great until the last couple miles, when I went off trail to connect with the road that would take me back to the park and ended up hiking through underbrush over the biggest ridge yet. I was moving so slowly that my Garmin auto-paused even as I was making forward progress. But all told, I made it back to the car in under four hours, with my legs still attached. I figure that 20 miles on the trail is probably tougher than 26 on flat pavement, so at this point I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for the marathon.
It’s amazing what 36 hours in the woods (especially with no cell phone service) will do for you. The trip followed the familiar cycle of all my trips alone: excitement to leave, anxiety once left, enjoyment and frustration during the activity, comfort in the tent, satisfaction on the drive home. On day two, during my run, I was much more relaxed than the first day. I could have probably camped another night and ridden again the next morning. Still, as always, these trips would be more fun with some friends.
Small slide show below. I would take more pictures, but I don’t like stopping all that much.