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Category Archives: Camping

Three Perils of Mountain Biking and Tips for Avoiding Them

After keeping you all in suspense, I’m sorry to report that mountain biking was uneventful and that I was awesome at it…or, something like that.  Honestly, although I had some concerns about trying mountain biking, I truly thought I was going to be really good at it.  I’m athletic and have good biking endurance from commuting and riding my road bike.  I was slightly off in my confidence and assesment of skills – just slightly…

The drive up to Raystown was per usual:  me as dj, a stop at Burger King for lunch, and meandering through a mix of quaint and sketchy little towns.

The always classy Breezewood Motel

By the time we made it up to the Susquehannock Campground (the primitive sites, instead of where we usually stay at Seven Points) on Friday, we decided just to set up camp, make dinner and hang around by the fire – no riding just yet.  So I joyfully sat watching the fire lick up the logs, sipping on my oh-so-tasty Avery IPA (hoppy, delicious craftbrew in a CAN), blissfully ignorant of things to come.  

Saturday morning, we swung over to Rothrock Outfitters to pick up my women’s specific bike. 

The folks at Rothrock are super chill and very friendly.  They tightened up my bike, gave me an extra tube, I signed a waiver and I became the proud renter of a Scott Contessa 50.  I will say, I highly recommend using these guys.  They also have kayaks for rent, camping gear, and even Ruff Wear equipment for your adventure dogs!  Plus, their shop is pretty cool and is just 15-20 minutes from the campground in Huntingdon, which is worth checking out itself.  

Back at camp, it was time to set sail on my maiden voyage.  My initial concern with mountain biking was the tree roots and rocks on the trail.  Ryan assured me that you don’t really notice them and you just kind of pop over them.  I was skeptical.  But, after riding on the road by our campsite to make sure my seat was adjusted properly, Ryan had me “off-road” through our campsite.  I quickly saw that rocks and roots were of no concern and I was now feeling unstoppable with my one major concern now pushed aside.  Silly…

Peril #1 – Speed

As I very quickly learned, so many mountain bikers like the trails at Raystown because of their “flow”.  I just thought this meant the trails were smooth.  Basically, it means that the trails are built in such a way so that you can build speed and momentum and rarely pedal.  To me this meant I was stuck in a maze of rocket boosters propelling me toward trees and off of cliffs at warp speeds.  Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but let me explain my fear of speed…

I got my first big girl bike for my 5th birthday.  I had picked it out and was super excited.  But, once I got the bike, I was terrified to ride it.  Without the safety of my training wheels there were too many unknowns.  How was I supposed to balance the bike, steer and pedal all at the same time?  Wasn’t I bound to crash and get hurt?  I would not get on the thing – how could my parents even buy me such a unsafe gift?  Finally, my mom gave me a deadline.  If I did not ride the bike by then, she would sell it to another little girl that would.  So I pouted for a week, waited until the last day, got on the bike, started crying as my dad jogged along side of me and just like in a movie, tipped over as soon as I noticed he was gone.  I was like this with lots of “daring” acts – rollerblading, water slides, cliff jumping, etc.  Not exactly Evel Knievel.  

So, back to the mountain biking…the first trail we were on was ok, but was enough to get me a little nervous.  I felt much more out of control then I would have liked.  Then we went onto the hydroloop.  This loop was complete with a lakeview.  Lovely for those who aren’t worried about falling off the trail and tumbling down into the lake, but for me it just increased my anxiety.  I was on my brakes practically the entire time trying my best not to pick up any speed whatsoever.  At this point, I learned that using the rear brake caused my bike to fish tail a little bit.  Usually this wouldn’t be that problematic, but at my slow speed fish tailing combined with roots and rocks made for a little bit of a challenge.  So, I started using my front brake…(a hint of foreshadowing here).

Then we hit the doe trail – my favorite!  It was flat and mellow and everything I thought mountain biking was going to be.  I pedaled and was in control of my own speed.  It was a nice bike ride through the woods and it was awesome!  The trail was punctuated with a couple little rock gardens that I actually was able to navigate and was really beginning to like this. 

The doe trail connected to another and we wound our way to a nice scenic overlook, where we stopped to take in the view, take a little break, and snap a photo!  This was just like hiking, but faster!  I could get into this.

At the overlook

Then came berry trail…

The berry trail had overgrown thorny bushes that snagged at your skin and pulled and scratched as you rode past.  I have many little scraps from these and I couldn’t help but think that this was the dumbest thing ever and nobody could think this trail is fun.  It just got worse…a set of rollers.  These rollers were downhill and I was going way to fast for my own liking.  I couldn’t stay completely on the brakes so I had to pump them.  Then it got to a point where I couldn’t really control my speed at all and I caught air off of one of the hills. I panicked, slammed on my brake (the front one) and caused the bike to buck me off into the thorny berry bushes.  This leads to mountain biking lesson #1 – do not slam on your front brake because you will get bucked off.

Scratches from falling in the bushes

Unfortunately for me, I’m a slow learner and I bucked myself two more times after this.  On one such occassion, I landed against a log.  I have a lovely bruise on my back to remind me of why you should not ever jam on the front brake.

Peril #2 – Feet Positioning

For a little while, we hit some parts of the trail that “suck” – climbs.  I liked these parts.  Although they are a lot of work, I was in control of my speed and direction.  During some of the climbs, I would get a little squirrely and the bike would start zig-zagging up the hill.  Ryan gave me mountain biking lesson #2 – keep your eyes three feet ahead of you and your bike will track straight.  Genius trick that worked like a charm!  These parts I did fairly well on. 

As we kept riding I was feeling more and more confident.  Then came mountain biking lesson #3 – keep your pedals level with one another.  Even when I ride my road bike, I usually ride with one foot down and one up when I’m coasting.  I took this same stance to mountain biking.  Well, what happens when you do that on mountain biking trails is you catch your pedal and/or foot on the ground, a rock, a root, etc.  Lucky for me I only hit the pedal and it just startled me.  You can really, really hurt yourself doing this so DON’T.

Ryan ripping around showing me how it's done - level pedals!

In addition to keeping your feet level when you can, you should also keep your feet on the pedals.  Seems pretty obvious, but trust me, it isn’t always your natural inclination or the will of whatever physics is going on.  I was not using clip pedals for very obvious reasons, so I had flat pedals and tennis shoes on.  On a few occassions my foot slipped off of the pedals.  Most of the time it was just an annoyance, but once it caused me to slip off the bike.  Luckily, it was just on a climb.

Beyond the things out of your control, there is also fear.  My fear came into play during the banked turns, or berms.  While experienced people will say they are fun and easy and your bike will naturally go around them, I say that they are horrific.  I rode through two or three and was convinced I was going to wipeout, so I took my feet off to brace myself or to try to cushion my landing or whatever was going through my mind…I don’t know.  Well, Ryan informed me that if I kept doing that and did fall or catch my foot on a root or rock, then I would break my ankle or leg.  So, do not do this either.  Keep your feet on the pedals and level.

Feeling good despite 3 falls (feet still not level...)

Peril #3 – Shit Happens

After three falls and a handful of close calls, I was still a little shaky on this activity.  Just when my confidence was getting up, I would fall again or almost fall.  Then toward the end, I decided to go for it.  The last set of rollers were pretty level, instead of downhill, and the turn at the end seemed gradual and easy to make.  So, for only the fourth or fifth time all day, I completely let off of the breaks and rode through the entire section.  I was gaining speed, pedaling right off the jumps, and genuinely having fun and loosening my death grip on my handlebars.  Then, before I knew what happened, I had wrecked HARD and was lying face down half on the trail, half not.  WTF?!?

After Ryan helped pick me and my bike up, he showed me where the trail washed out and why I had wrecked.  I took only the tiniest bit of solace in the fact that there were tread marks from where other bikers had clearly done the same thing.  Still, I was in too much pain to really care that much.  This lesson I call shit happens.  There is not much in way of tips for avoiding this.  Everyone wrecks at some point.  It may be something you did, or it might be a fluke thing in the trail, or an animal stepped in your path or whatever.  Unfortunately, my wreck had some very mean consequences…

I scrapped the hell out of my elbow, which continues to throb even as I type this.

War wound

Different shot of my arm

Then, I must have hit my thigh on my bike or something because I have a scrape across it which is surrounded by a bruise bigger than my hand.  It hurts to walk or touch – you’d be surprised how much you touch your thigh or rest things in your lap.  It sucks.

Giant bruise on my leg

I also managed to smash the area right below my lower abdomen.  I have a nice cut there as well, and what cut would be complete without a bruise?  Don’t worry, fist sized bruise there as well. This one really hurts.  No movement without it hurting.

Overall, I still enjoyed my time mountain biking and had I only ridden on the beginner’s trails, I would have been fine.  Also, if you aren’t pre-disposed to be a speed-fearing spaz, you won’t buck yourself off.  Really, I should have only wrecked the last time.  Still, even just that one time, well…especially that last time, was a tough fall and I am definitely still feeling it.  If you do go, which I would still encourage most people to do, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Start on beginner’s trails and work your way up
  • Try not to let fear get the best of you and don’t over think things
  • Do NOT slam on your front brake or you will get bucked off your bike
  • Keep your feet on your pedals and level whenever possible
  • Look three feet or so ahead of you to keep your bike tracking straight

The night was spent nursing my wounds with some cold beers, delicious burgers, Ibuprofen and ice.  There was no way I was riding in the morning, so Ryan went out on his own and I cleaned up camp.  After returning my rental bike, Ryan and I explored Huntingdon a little bit.  We were going to go to Boxer’s Cafe, which is supposed to be awesome, but it was closed on Sundays.  We’ll have to get it next time.  

We drove around a bit, passed Puff convenience store (specializing in cigarettes) and then decided on pizza!

We had some tasty mozzarella sticks before moving on to a truly delicious white pizza with garlic, cheese and tomatoes courtesy of the Original Italian Pizza.

Great pizza... and cheap beer to go!

It was certainly a much better choice then the strangely named restaurant at the campground marina, which has mediocre food and bad service.  However, hilarious slogan of “what would life be without memories”.

With bellies full of pizza, we decided to rent kayaks and paddle around the lake for awhile. A safe and gentle activity for my sore and recovering body.

Until next time…

Mountain biking/mother nature – 1, Heather – 0

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Camping, Cycling, Food and Drink, Travel

 

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Friday Escape – Into the Woods

Later today I will be headed out of DC to my primitive campsite at Raystown Lake.  Though not my first time camping at Raystown, this will be my first time mountain biking there – or anywhere for that matter.  As anyone who knows Ryan can tell you, he loves bikes of all sorts.  Usually when we go camping he finds some time to either go out on his own or hits the trails with some of our biking friends.  Meanwhile, I occupy my time reading, kayaking or drinking beers and hanging out by the fire.  Trust me, I’m perfectly content with this set up.  However, there has always been a part of me that wondered about the appeal of mountain biking.  I like the wilderness, I like hiking and I like biking….perhaps I would like mountain biking?  On the other hand, the idea of launching myself off of a rogue root or rock and into a tree sounds horrifying.  Still, I have to give it a try and this weekend will be my maiden voyage!

I did a little research and the good people at Rothrock Outfitters have a short lady sized bike that I’m going to rent.

Will I become hottest thing to hit mountain biking since I don’t even know what -or- will I get my ass handed to me by mother nature?  I’ll find out tomorrow, but you all will have to wait until Monday.  Wish me luck!

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Camping, Cycling, Friday Escape, Travel

 

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Friday Escape – New Zealand!

So, February’s issue of Outside Magazine features an awesome article on New Zealand that is totally unfair because now I can not stop thinking about going.  Of course New Zealand isn’t new to Outside or to anyone that is in to being outdoors.  In fact, it should already be close to the top of any adventurer’s travel list.  But this article just hit you with everything all at once.  

Of the two main islands-the North and the South Island-I think that the North Island would be where I would start.  According to the article, you can go yacht racing, trout fishing, mountain biking, visit volcanoes, dip in the hot springs, see crater lakes, and do some under-the-radar surfing.  Two of New Zealand’s major cities—Auckland and Wellington—are also on the North Island along with most of the native Maori culture.  Not to mention that there are beaches and stunning scenery everywhere you look.  Work up a thirst in all of your adventures?  You can go wine-tasting.  Really, what can’t you do in New Zealand?!  For the more daring, you can even go bungee jumping.  As you may recall from my other post, bungee jumping is probably not for me.

Plus, the part of the article that really hooked me and keeps playing in my mind is the idea of touring around New Zealand in an RV – brilliant!  And with the right travel companions, completely awesome!!!  Obviously, you would need to be renting one and this company offers varying sizes.  I truly don’t know if I can think of anything more fun that driving around in one of these things with some friends, great music coming through the stereo, some tasty snacks, maybe some Snapple, stopping off wherever we want (New Zealand does not require you to camp at a campsite) and doing tons of cool shit along the way.  Feel like kayaking today? Sure.  Little hiking adventure?  Why not?  Lounge on the beach – yes please! 

If that doesn’t excite you, then I don’t think I want to know you.  However, I’ll give you another angle – maybe you are enticed by the fact that this place is so amazing that it served as the location for the fantasy world of Lord of the Rings. 

Basically, a trip to New Zealand would just be fantastic.  Make sure you allow yourself at least 2 weeks and bring along people that can appreciate it and have fun with you!  Until I can afford this sum of everything awesome trip, I’m just gonna keep dreaming about.  For now, off to the bar for $1 PBRs!  It’s close to embarking on a road trip in New Zealand….right?

 
 

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Appalachia…Comin’ Atchya!

On Saturday, Ryan and I woke up early, packed up the car and drove out to Shenandoah National Park.  At the gate, the easel listed the three nearest campgrounds as FULL, meaning we would be driving another 80 miles to get to the open campground.  Ugh!

oh noooo!

 As we neared the first campground, Matthew’s Arm, Ryan thought that we should just stop in to check.  “Well, I don’t understand why they would list the campground as full if there were sites available, but yeah, we could check,” I said.  Of course, there were plenty of sites open – WTF?!  Do they not want people to camp here?

We went into the Ranger stand and got the bear speech – lots of bears sighted, keep food and remnants in the vehicle, keep chapstick and toiletries in the vehicle not in your tent, etc.  Of course, Ryan was excited and hoped that we would see a bear.  I consider myself to be an adventurous sort, but I am not exactly itching to see a wild black bear.

After circling around, Ryan and I chose a site – if you are looking for solitude, this is definitely NOT the place for it.  Very few sites (I’m talking maybe three) have much of their own space.  Most are crammed into a few loops so that you have neighbors on both sides and front and back.  We just wanted to get away for the weekend, so no big deal for us this time around.  After a quick camp set-up (we brought the EZ-Up tent), we went on a little hike along the Appalachian Trail.

Appalachian Trail

© 2010 Heather Freitag

Nothing too strenuous and definitely something that even the novice hiker can accomplish.  We started out on the Traces Trail…

© 2010 Heather Freitag

Then connected into the Tuscarora/Overall Run Trail….

© 2010 Heather Freitag

From there, we connected into the Appalachian Trail….

© 2010 Heather Freitag

© 2010 Heather Freitag

Finally, into Piney Branch Trail….

© 2010 Heather Freitag

Unfortunately, it is a little too early for fall colors.  Although we did see some colorful, creepy bugs…

Nasty

When we returned to camp, it was time for buffalo burgers! And of course, some wine.  You may be starting to see a trend in our camp food…but, can you blame us?!  When it is so delicious, especially after a hike, it is hard to deviate from a good burger!

Buffalo Burgers with Muenster and Sharp Cheddar

 

After dinner, as is also becoming part of our little apres hike camp ritual, Ryan decided to whip out his bagpipes and play a few tunes.  Usually this is met with some curiosity (especially amongst children), applause, cheers, song requests, and visits from other campers who want to find out more about the mystery piper.  This particular concert was cut short as Ryan wasn’t feeling it.  Still, he was sure to give the campers a little Top Gun and Amazing Grace.

I was sitting around the fire sipping a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (fantastic and always a fav!) and Ryan was putting the pipes back in the car, when I noticed out of my peripheral a flashlight strobing around our site.  I turned around and was confronted by a ranger.  I gave a friendly hello which was returned by a hasty and anxious, “Do you happen to know which way those bagpipes were coming from?”  I played dumb and asked, “Why, is there some sort of problem?”

Before Blondie the Wonder Ranger could respond, Ryan chimed in that it was him.  It only gets better from here… The ranger starts with, “Well, I love the bagpipes, but they are resounding throughout the entire campsite and it isn’t really about quiet hours or anything, but I mean, you wouldn’t just bring a drum set in here and start practicing, would you?”  Ryan plays the peace maker and says he understands and she insists on continuing her snarky rant, “So, the bagpipes are going to stay in the vehicle then right?”

This is annoying to me for multiple reasons.  First, the time of this incident (we checked after she left) was 7:30PM!  Certainly this is an appropriate time to be making noise.  Second, children were playing and yelling, the campsites surrounding us had music on, generators are running and as I said, these sites are cramped.  Again, nobody in their right mind who enters this campground would be expecting peace and solitude.  Additionally, Ryan only played 3 songs and she was already at our site…meaning, she must have jumped out of her seat the moment she heard them and came over to “investigate.”

Next, the notion that nobody plays music in the campground is absolutely ridiculous.  As I said, many radios were on.  Furthermore, people bring guitars to play around the fire (koombaya, anybody?) and music sung ’round the fire has been going on for centuries.  It was a method of entertainment back in the day of cowboys and pioneers and a way of spreading history and folklore.  And her analogy of bringing in a drum set is just stupid – in that instance it would be about MOBILITY, not appropriateness.  You also would not bring your pipe organ would you?  Finally, the last bout of snippiness was uncalled for, the pipes are already put away lady!

To top all of this off, our friendly ranger friend asked us to see our IDs because we were both drinking beers.

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

Unreal.  So, we dig into the car and hand her our IDs.  She stares at mine and starts mouthing to herself, “85..”  She continues to mouth words to herself that I could not discern.  Finally I say, “I’m 25!”  This genius could not easily figure out my age despite the fact that I was born in 1985 and it is 2010….multiples of 5 here people!  Not difficult!

Let’s see if she can make us more angry….”So, how many nights are you all staying?”  Is she insinuating that she would not allow us to stay longer than tonight?  We don’t know and didn’t have the opportunity to find out, because we were just staying the one night.  Satisfied that she had been annoying enough, Ranger Bitchy Pants decided to leave us with her departing words of wisdom about bear safety (enough with the bears already – we get it!!) and then she moved along to terrorize some other campers.

The rest of the night was spent happily enjoying each others company, some yummy beers and a rip-roarin’ fire.

Back to Hanging Out by the Fire

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2010 in Camping

 

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Not Without Its Charm

As a person who likes to look at the positives in life, sometimes to the annoyance of others, I recently was reminded that I am right and that there is always something good, even in the strangest of circumstances.  A couple weekends ago, I traveled to Everett, PA.  “What in the hell is in Everett?” you ask.  So did most of my friends and colleagues.  My boyfriend and I just wanted to get away somewhere close by to do a little camping, maybe some kayaking and just relax.  I was also thinking that we could do some wine tasting along the way.  So, I went to visitpa.com, which is a really helpful website by the way, and found a campground that would fit all of these things – The Woy Bridge Campground.

First of all, Woy Bridge?  Just saying the name made me feel like a six year old with a lisp or Elmer Fudd.  But, sites were only $20/night, kayaks were $12/day and the sites were riverfront spots.  So, to Woy Bridge we would go!  Making a reservation proved to be a challenge.  When you dial the number from the website, a woman who sounds like my great aunt from smalltown Minnesota instructs you to call Bill at a different number.  Seems sketchy, but a lot of small campground use host campers.  Hint to anyone who wants to go to Woy Bridge – here is Bill’s number 814-977-2845.  So, after calling Bill a few times and getting his voicemail, we decided to chance it and just drive up there.  (The day of our drive we did eventually get a hold of Bill to find out that, happily, there would be a site for us!)

After a pleasant drive, a stop at Sheetz and some Sirius radio with yours truly as the featured dj, we were getting close to Everett and nearing the part of the drive when we would need to use a detour.  The Woy Bridge website kindly noted that a bridge was under construction and gave detour details.  However, we got all sorts of turned around.  We meandered through farm country, cutting through the odor of cowpies, for about 20 minutes until we finally found the gravel road we were supposed to turn down.  It was, as the website had described, “located between a house trailer and a farmhouse.”

We checked in with our host camper – an ancient looking man who moved at one pace and one pace only…his own.  It was not so much that he didn’t have the physical ability to move any faster, but that he did not care to.  He methodically checked us in and we were on our way.  The first couple sites were a bit creepy.  People had been staying there so long that some of the campers didn’t even have tires on them anymore.  Awnings, tables, adirondack chairs, pop-up showers, tiki torches, large grills and even family welcome signs rounded out many of these sites.  I was starting to think this was more of a crazy, backward living community than an actual campground.  Still, when we got to our site it was GREAT!  It was directly on the river, had tons of space and had a giant stone fire pit.  With little fanfare or fuss, we set up our camp and then promptly set out to go to a local vineyard.

Briar Valley Vineyard – Walking into Briar Valley, there is not much going on.  However, nobody was there, the tasting host was very friendly and the tasting was $2.  If you only taste 2 or less wines, it’s free.  One glass in, I realized I had not gone to the bathroom the whole road trip and really needed to go.  I was dumbfounded to find out that there was no public bathroom and that I could go across the street to Burger King to use theirs.  So, we took a tasting time out to visit BK.  Despite that ridiculous detail and that it was not the typical tasting atmosphere  – think outdoor seating, cheese/meat & cracker trays, and maybe even some live music – the wines were pretty good.  One stood out as unique and delicious – The Lemberger.  We bought a bottle to have with our buffalo burgers later and it was absolutely tasty.  I would stop in just to take a quick taste of it and buy a bottle!

Lemberger from Briar Valley

During our bathroom break, we noticed a store that was called On eBay.  After describing to Ryan the store from 40 Year Old Virgin (he hasn’t seen it), we decided to pop in for a look.  This was not at all what we thought it was going to be.  Instead of a collection of eBayesque items that are random, unique, interesting, fun, bizarre, etc. this place was more of a thrift store meets Marshalls.  Metal shelving units held old-looking houselhold items (not vintage….outdated) and countless duplicates of the same boring castaway shirts hung from the clothesracks.  We were in and out in minutes.

Back at camp, Ryan (my boyfriend) had a stare-down with a crazy old lady who was either our camp host’s mother or wife (maybe both?) and dealt with two yippy chihuahuas in order to gather our wheelbarrel of firewood.  We made it back to camp, sat down by the river Coors light in hand and just relaxed.  A raging fire, some buffalo burgers and a good bottle of wine was exactly what we had in mind when we set out for Everett and it is exactly what we got.  Overall, I would definitely say that the Woy Bridge Campground, and Everett, PA as a whole, is definitely not without its charm.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2010 in Camping

 

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