Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hike up Mount Tom, August 2010

Little needs to be said about my hike up Mount Tom. But there's much I want to say.

I first saw this mountain when riding the Pine Creek Rail Trail in 2009. Mount Tom is at the head of the canyon, standing out as one rides the trail or drives along Route 6. The view below is from the little church in Ansonia.

I decided then and there, astride my bike, that I'd hike up that mountain one day. Part of it was just knowing it was there. Part of it was that I had a friend I'd met on a bicycle message board I was posting to, a fellow using the screen name "Tom Stormcrowe", who like me had overcome physical limitations. Climbing Mount Tom was obvious but potent symbolism and a tribute to my friend. After my first round of treatment on my knees in 2010, I made plans to spend a few days in Pine Creek Gorge and hiking Mount Tom was a priority.

I picked up a guidebook from Pine Creek Outfitters that contained a description of the trail to the overlook atop the mountain. After reading the description and speaking with the staff at the outfitter I decided I was going to hike the longer but easier way to the top, following the old logging road. The shorter way required some scrambling and bushwacking I didn't feel I was physically capable of. Another day, perhaps.

The morning of the hike was hot for the gorge, and the air was sticky. My having camped for two nights without a shower didn't help my mood either. Nor did my initially parking at Darling Run and not finding the trailhead there. Frustrated, I put my car on the wide shoulder of the road and searched for the logging road gate.

Once I found it, I headed up. And up. The climb wasn't hard, but it was long. The road had been overgrown with grass, and I was glad I'd applied Off! to my legs and boots. I was covered with the repellent, and the two spots I missed - my shoulders - were soon covered with flies. They'd probably not smelled anything like me in a long time.

The climb continued. I trudged on. After a couple of miles the trail began to flatten and the tree cover become thinner. I passed through an area that had been logged within the past couple of years. I spotted the blue blazes and knew I was close to the overlook.

And before I expected it, I was there. The overlook is getting overgrown, unfortunately, but the view of Route 6 and Ansonia is still pretty impressive.

Once at the top, I had lunch, walked around at the top of the mountain, and caught up with my phone calls. (There is no cell phone service through most of the Pine Creek Gorge, and outside the city of Wellsboro the signal is weak at best. But I had a full set of bars on the mountain top.) I placed a call to Tom Stormcrowe explaining what I'd done and where I was calling from. He seemed nearly as pleased as I was.

I put my new tripod to good use and posed for a couple of victory photos. Looking back at this hike if I regret one thing its that haircut. Right idea, wrong execution. Short hair is great when rough camping. Near-shaved head? Not a good look and prone to sunburn.

Getting down the mountain wasn't hard, but again, it was long. I felt very stiff at the end of the five mile hike. But an hour and a meal in the air conditioned comfort of Pag-Omar Farmers' Market refreshed me, and I ended my day with a ten mile ride on the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

Mount Tom isn't big or high, even by Pennsylvania standards.Nor is it a difficult hike. But hiking to the top made me feel good in a way I hadn't in a long time. When I met my friend Judy for a ride on the rail trail in September 2012 I pointed towards Mount Tom. "See that mountain?" I said. "I hiked up it." I was smiling as much at that moment as I was when I reached the top in 2010. Just like I'm smiling now writing about it. 

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Flashback to President's Day Weekend 2008

I'm republishing this post from my old blog, with some minor editing, to show what I'm building to through my hiking and riding.   When I rode this weekend tour I had bad knees, but I worked through them and overcame them. Also, note how much thinner I am in the photos. With hard work I can get back there again.

Neil Fein is a bike tourist, editor, and musician. I rode with him for a couple of years, and although we don't ride together any longer we remain friendly. Neil's account of this tour is posted here:

The President's Day weekend promised to be cold, so naturally Neil Fein, the NJ half of the Neils on Wheels Bike Touring Team, wanted to do an overnight tour. "It's only 35 and 30 mile legs" he said on the phone. I was very out of shape and hadn't ridden any distance in nearly a month. So of course I said "Sure." What better time and place to break in my new Bicycle Club of Philadelphia jersey than on frigid rides sixty miles outside the city?

Decision made, I drove the 100 miles to Neil's home on Friday the 15th. The plan was to 'warm up' with a short ride with Neil F. that afternoon. Neil doesn't drive, and he was riding a short errand to pick
up flowers for his wife after work. So as he rode by his home to head to the florist I fell in line behind him. I developed renewed respect for his commuting skills as I traveled with him through traffic on Rt
27 in Highland Park. I also learned if you pack carefully you can carry tulips in your panniers.

The next day we headed out to East Windsor at 11:00 AM. A problem with my rear brake led us to Highland Park Cyclery, where Nathan replaced the pads. By 11:30 we were rolling again through
New Brunswick, and then past the city into the Middlesex County countryside. I was glad to be free from the urban area, and not just for disagreeable drivers; one of the ever-present utility cyclists nearly crashed into me because he was riding against traffic and cut in front of me.

We headed toward the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath. The land as we approached the canal was so attractive I could almost forget it was New Jersey. And I could almost forget the cold. Almost. Neil and I had several exchanges along these lines:

"Neil, how are you doing?"

"I'm cold, Neil."

We reached the canal, and I soon discovered the towpath was too wet for a 260 pound cyclist on 32 cm tires. I sank nearly 2 inches into mud. So we changed plans and traveled on Canal Road. Along the way we dodged ice patches on the road, and lots of gravel. We stopped at Griggstown so I could pose in my BCP jersey:

Soon enough we reached Kingston, where we searched for lunch. By now it was nearly 2:30, and the deli in town was closing. So we ate lunch outside.

"Neil, how are you doing?"

"I'm cold."

We decided to cut out a scenic five mile swing through a local park, but in doing so we missed a turn on our cue sheet, and wound up riding six miles to save five. By 5:30 I was very cold, and hungry, but thanks
to Neil's GPS unit we located the home of our host. I was soon enough warmed up, and I entertained the 
twin two year olds in the home bypointing to my jersey and booming in a deep voice, "I am BCP-Man!" The
little fellows were fascinated with my jersey, and they wanted to try on my helmet and play with my helmet 

However, the children were bewildered by the fact two cyclists could have the same first name. Their mother asked them "what's his name", pointing to Mr. Fein. "Neil" they shouted. (Two year olds never speak
in anything but shouts.) "And what's his name?" she said, pointing to me. The children looked confused. "His name is Neil" she said, to which they both shouted, "BCP-Man!" The kids did catch on by the time we
left; I understand afterwards they were asking, "where are the Neils?"

The next morning we left about 9:15, and arrived at Neil's mom's home an hour later for brunch and a chance to get out of the cold. I ate well, too well. When we left two hours later I was full, too full to
ride without discomfort.
"Neil, how are you doing?"

"I'm cold and I ate too much."

"You're supposed to. It was a Jewish brunch."

"I feel bloated."

"You really should convert. We have much better food than Christians do."

"Please don't talk about food."

We reached Neil's house by three PM.

The next ride was a recovery ride on President's Day to test one of Neil's new commuting routes. My 
extended weekend of Neils on Wheels cycling ended with a ride Tuesday morning to Neil's work carpool, 
then a ride back to my car and a drive back to Pennsylvania to start my work week. Another Neils on 
Wheels  Bike Touring Team tour in the bag. Here's the official photo of the NOWBTT members, including 
BCP-Man, resting after a recovery ride

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Indian Creek Valley Trail, July 2012

In July 2012 I visited Western Pennsylvania on vacation. Although I was four months into my recovery from surgery, I was still weak and taking a drug that made me weaker. My grand plans for a rapid return to the old me were not happening. I would fall asleep BEFORE going for a ride or hike, I had so little stamina. However, I had nature deprivation, and I had to fill the emptiness even if I had limited ability to do so. 

Accordingly, I planned short hikes and rides. Nothing big, but pushing my capabilities still. My first bike ride was a mile on the Montour Trail, as I've written about in another post, and my second was eight miles on the Indian Creek Valley Trail. The ICVT is one of many rails to trails projects in Western Pennsylvania, all progressing at different paces in different places. The goal of the ICVT is for a 22 mile trail ending in a connection to the Great Allegheny Passage, the 150 mile trail between Pittsburgh and Cumberland. That grand vision, which includes building a bridge of the Youghiogheny River for the connection to the GAP, is many years away. The day Judy and I visited there were eight miles finished, and we rode four of them out and back. 

We started from the small trailhead in the town of Indian Head, and headed north. The first stretch of trail led through farmland, but soon enough the gravel trail was shaded by trees, and we were in the woods. The trail was beautiful, lush with green, and Indian Creek splashed in the gorge below us. The day was warm, but not hot, and bugs were few. 

When we reached Melcroft we were surprised to see an old railroad trestle spanning the creek. The trestle connects a parking and picnic area on the far side of Indian Creek. The ICVT website,, had little to say about the trestle, which struck me as odd, since bridges are a selling point for a trail. I enjoyed crossing the creek both ways, and Judy borrowed my camera and took photos of my crossing. You can clearly see my incisions from the knee replacement, and that my bike is now too small for me. I already knew in my heart I'd have to sell Roark, the bike I'd been riding for years and thousands of miles. 

We turned around at the four mile mark, not because I was tired, but because I was afraid I would become tired and not be able to ride back. That was probably excessive caution on my part. I should have pushed my limits. But I didn't want Judy to have to come fetch me, especially after she'd been carting me around all week. I should, God willing, be in Western Pennsylvania next month and will be riding the Indian Creek Valley Trail again, this time the whole completed section and on a bike that fits me.  I look forward to crossing the Melcroft trestle again, and whatever else appears in my path. 

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gear: My Bicycle

In addition to riding and hiking reports, and observations on weight loss and knee replacement, I thought a series of posts on the gear I use might be of interest. I can't say my gear is the best available, but it serves my needs well enough. I'll start with the biggest item I use - my bike.

I currently ride a 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker. It's an all-steel bicycle, with a set of 'touring' or 'butterfly' handlebars instead of the traditional drop bars, and an elevated stem. I've added a leather Brooks saddle, the Imperial model with the anatomic cutout, a Tubus rear rack, extenders on the crankarms, and "Landcruiser" pedals from Bike Nashbar. Bicycles can be formed to fit their owner, and I've done so here. The handlebars address my balance problems by allowing me to reach the brakes and shifters without having to remove my hands from the bars, the stem helps my bad back, the saddle will conform to my body with time, the rack will hold what I need to carry with me, and the extenders and pedals accommodate my wide stance and my size 13 feet.  As I ride it more often I'll probably make other adjustments to it.

I've named my bike Notung, after Siegfried's sword in Wagner's Ring, because the bicycle is steel and because Notung is a sword only a hero can wield. In other words, I hope to live up to my bike. I plan on using Notung for not only day rides, but touring as well, so it will either carry a trailer or a set of panniers front and back. I have a trailer, which I'll discuss in another post, but I lack the front rack and the pannier.


Pine Creek Rail Trail, September 2012

In September I spent time hiking, riding, and camping in Tioga and Elk Counties. During my time up north in Tioga I spent a morning riding part of the Pine Creek Rail Trail with my friend Judy. She'd never been to the trail, or to this part of PA, and so we rode ten miles on my favorite 'introduction' stretch - from just north of Ansonia to past Four Mile Run and back. I feel this ride gives a person a taste of the canyon and the 64 mile trail, and has some attractive views.

We started at Darling Run Trailhead, just inside the canyon, and headed south. The canyon was beautiful, as I've always found it to be. But Four Mile Run was a trickle, as unfortunately I've always found it to be. (I need to visit in the spring, not after a dry summer.) Judy seemed to enjoy the trail almost as much as I do. She brought her camera, and as she's a better photographer than I am I'm using some of her photos in this post.

Considering I'd been riding infrequently I felt pretty good on my bike. It was too small, I was stiff, and I took five minutes to get going at Darling because I missed the right pedal a couple of time and got frustrated, but once underway the ride was easy. I had to work to keep up with Judy, but then I'm used to that. Spending three days camping and hiking in the gorge and surrounding area had me in a great mood, and the ride only added to it.

Just past Four Mile Run we encountered a group of riders staring at a porcupine crossing the trail. And crossing it again and again. Judy and I had the same thought as we watched the creature stagger - "Rabies." One of the group decided to hike up the Turkey Trail, which runs alongside Four Mile Run up to the overlook at Leonard Harrison State Park, and contact the park staff so they could send an animal control officer. I didn't see that panning out, but its what people wanted to do. Meanwhile the group of riders decided to 'time' their passing the porcupine when he was at the side of the trail and thus away from them. Judy and I turned around and headed out of the canyon.

We continued north, past the confluence of Pine and Marsh Creeks, past the church at Ansonia, and over the bridge at the equestrian trailhead. It was a good ten miles for the both of us. Once we'd packed up the bikes we headed up to Colton Point State Park to the main overlook, so Judy could see the canyon from above, and see where she just rode an hour before. I could have stayed all day at Colton, but Judy and I were off to the next stop on our itinerary, Hicks Run in Elk County, and we had to be going. I know I will be back to Pine Creek Gorge and the Pine Creek Rail Trail, and I'm sure Judy will be back too.

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Poole Forge

On Saturday, after the disappointments of the Crow's Nest Nature Preserve and Money Rocks County Park, I stumbled onto a place that restored my good mood. While driving back from Money Rocks, I spied a covered bridge just before I reached Route 23.As I reached Route 23 to turn around, I noticed the bridge was part of a historic park. I pulled into the parking area and discovered historic Poole Forge.

Poole Forge is, as its name suggests, a historic iron forge. The buildings, including the ironmaster's home, are restored, and the Poole Forge Bridge still spans Conestoga Creek as it has since 1859. In addition to the buildings and bridge, there is a playground for children and picnic areas in the park. Although its not a large area, I put in a half-mile walking around photographing the buildings, the bridge, and the creek. It was a good ending to a lackluster day.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Meeting Matty: Walking in Red Bank, NJ

Following my hike with Chris in Bristol on the Saturday morning before Easter, I drove to Red Bank, New Jersey to meet the man who saved my life.

In December 2005 I was over 400 pounds, unable to walk a city block without stopping to rest, and had just spent the night in the hospital under observation because of chest pains. While there was nothing wrong with my heart, I was so weak the hospital had to inject me with a drug to simulate the effects of exercise instead of giving me the standard cardiac stress test. I went home with the knowledge something had to change, but not knowing how to change it. Weight loss seemed as much a death sentence as obesity.

After making the usual gestures toward weight loss every super-obese person does when they want to delude themselves, in January 2006 I was searching the Internet for something, anything, that would tip the scale for me. And on a newsgroup I found the postings of a man, posting under the name "Matty", who was nearly 500 pounds and was losing most of his excess. When most of the weight loss information I found was restrictive, and emphasized denying yourself - you can't have this, you can't have that - Matty's posts were about giving himself things. Small things such as pleasure, joy, happiness - things I found missing in my life. I searched through all his postings going back to his appointment to see a surgeon through his rejection of a cutting solution and his taking charge. When he wrote how happy and satisfied he was being able to mow his lawn I was hooked and a changed man. I lost nearly 40 pounds the first month......and 160 sixteen months later.

Matty and I became friends thanks to the Internet. He lives half a country away, so we never met in person. We kept in touch through each other's success and setbacks. He lost 200 pounds and took up running; I became a hiker and cyclist. We both maintained our weight loss, more or less - some times better than others.

For a super-obese person who loses weight, its not just a matter of calories in and calories out. The bad thinking that leads a person to grow to that size has to be changed as well. And that's a struggle harder than resisting a doughnut. In my case I never fully resolved my stress-release relationship with food, and that combined with my deteriorating knees led to some regain. I can't say what led to Matty's small regains, but he was struggling too.

And then the car accident came. In October of last year my friend was nearly killed while driving. And he nearly had his left leg amputated before his surgeon decided that if you put enough metal into the limb it's repairable. Matty was bedridden for months, and spent more time in a wheelchair after his surgery than I did after mine. None of this helped his weight loss.

By March he was cleared to drive and so Matty planned a weekend trip with his son to a comic book convention near Red Bank, NJ. We set aside Saturday afternoon for a walking tour of the town.

As I drove out across New Jersey I wondered what our meeting would be like. I owed this man so much. Being a writer, I'm a creature of emotion. But when I stepped out of the car at the Marina in Red Bank there was no emotion other than friendship - Hi and a handshake. We had met before, just not in person.

Red Bank is a pretty little town. In 2007 my first ever bike tour was an overnight to Red Bank, and I had those thoughts in my head as well when I walked with Matty. We strolled at the waterfront before venturing downtown for dinner and a walk.

My friend did very well walking as far as he did with a cane. We kept the hiking to a mile tops so not to tire Matty or cause him pain in his repaired leg. But as we walked I reminded him "The doctors told you that you'd never walk again. What are you doing now?" We discussed our plans, Matty's return to running, my hiking and riding. I think it was clear to both of us that neither of us fell or failed in our life changes many years ago. We only discovered, and are discovering, that its a lifelong joy. We can succeed as long as we want to. And we both want to. 
I'm going to Michigan, Matty's home state, for a 5k run in March 2014. Guess who is going to run with me?

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The Easter Egg: Hike with Chris at Silver Lake County Park

The Saturday before Easter I met Chris for a short hike at Silver Lake County Park. We'd been to the park before, but in winter when it was snow covered. Now it was awakening with spring. And if it wasn't fully awake, it became so once it saw Chris in his colorful glory. On seeing his purple and pink attire, I told him "You look like an Easter Egg" and people around us broke out laughing in agreement. 

The hike was a couple of miles, from the parking area to the Visitor's Center, along the marshy edge of the lake over boardwalk and on drier, firmer trails. Its a little refuge of green amid the sprawl of Bristol and Levittown. 

My friend Chris, who was a Boy Scout before he grew to looking like he ate a Boy Scout, was in talkative form. With me that's his usual state. I didn't expect his Doctor Doolittle routine with the fauna at Silver Lake. Here he's trying to lure a Canada Goose into a discussion on goodness knows what. The goose isn't silly and isn't buying the come-on. 

Then there was the snake. Chris is amazing agile for a man his size, and when he spotted a small garter slithering in the grass he had to grab it.

Chris claims he was taking the creature's photograph. I maintain Chris was hungry and was using the mobile app for My Fitness Pal to look up the calorie content. Finding it too low, he set the creature free. We had lunch afterward at a local diner without a snake to spoil his appetite.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center

In September and October I focused on hiking as my primary exercise. I did this not only because I was in one of my periodic bicycle funks, but also because hiking would help me smooth my gait. I still had the stiff-legged look, best described by W. S. Gilbert in Patience: "To cultivate the trim/ rigidity of limb/ its best to get/a marionette/ and form your style on him." Walking on uneven ground would be fun and would pay off in my everyday life more than spinning on a bike would.

In looking for places to hike, I stumbled upon an oddly named state park, Nolde Forest, south of Reading. Since the Pennsylvania state forests and state parks are separate administrative structures, I wondered why "Forest" was in the name of the park. As usual, there's a fascinating story behind it.

Jacob Nolde was one of many Germans who settled in Berks county during the second half of the 19th century. His life is the quintessential American success story. A weaver, he found work at a factory, rose to the top, and eventually started his own company knitting hosiery. By 1900 he was one of the leading citizens of Reading, employing hundreds of workers.

Just because you work in Reading doesn't mean you want to live there, and so Nolde purchased land in the hills south of the city for his estate. Much of Penn's Woodlands has been stripped bare by a century of lumbering, and two centuries of charcoal, iron, and steel forges, and Nolde wound up with barren hillsides. On one tract of land he found a single pine growing amid the meadow that sprang up when the trees were cut. Seeing that one tree, combined with his memories of Germany's Black Forest, led Nolde to decide to replant his land with pines.

In 1910 Nolde realized that his enthusiasm and money were achieving results, but that continuing and caring for his new forest required a professional forester. He hired an Austrian, William Kohout, to manage his forest holdings and increase the size of his personal Black Forest. When Jacob Nolde died in 1916 the project was continued by his son Hans. In 1926 the Nolde mansion was constructed. Three years later William Kohout passed away, still employed managing the Nolde family forest. By the late 1960s the land and mansion was purchased by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and added to the state park system as Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center.

This October day was warm, and I set out in early afternoon. First up was a walk around the exterior of the Nolde mansion.  The building, which now houses the park offices and rooms used for educational and public events, is an odd mishmash of styles. One could imagine the parties the Nolde family would host, and cars pulling up outside the building dropping off people who could have stepped out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources hasn't devoted much to keeping the exterior of the mansion in shape. Its a pity, as restoring the garden would take work, but give tribute to the Nolde family and add pleasure for the visitor. The Italian tile in the garden is chipping, the fountain doesn't work, the ponds are full of stagnant water, and there's a big hole in the ground where another fountain or a birdbath is missing. The hole isn't barricaded and its a matter of time until someone steps in it and get hurt.

I've included photos of the tile at the fountain. The center of the panel is a tribute to the Nolde family heritage. German-American folk art, or Fraktur, often incorporates birds in the design, and the bluebirds in the panel are a stylized version. Note also the flowers, another common element in Fraktur.

Having spent time at the mansion, I drove to the trailhead at the mill on the property. I hiked about two miles along Angelica Creek, using the flat Watershed Trail, the slightly hillier Kohout Trail, and a couple of others. Whenever you hike at Nolde, bring a map - there are trails all over the park, and they intersect frequently. While trails are generally well marked, its easy to miss a turn, as I was soon to find out.

After my hike and extensive photography of Angelica Creek and the small cascade at the former mill, I drove to the far side of the park. I'd heard about an overlook, and I wanted to try to find it I headed down a muddy and spring-laden trail, only to find it wasn't what I wanted. Having reached three miles, I turned onto what I expected to be a connecting trail that would lead me back to my car. Instead I was traveling further from the parking lot, further into the northern part of the park. I realized something was wrong when I looked down the cut in the photo below and didn't see the road I'd traveled on to get here. I immediately turned on my heels and walked back the way I'd come.

While it wasn't very dark, the sun was setting, and I began to have panicky thoughts. My walking was improved but I was far from sure-footed. If I fell no one would find me until morning, if then. I had no jacket if the night was cold. I had no flashlight either. And no food or water. Cell phone reception was very poor.

Fortunately I found the right turn once I backtracked, and I was soon at my car. As the sun set I even walked a short stretch of the Coffeepot Trail, simply because I liked the name. I finished the day with a bit more than four miles and a desire to hike at Nolde again.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Money Rocks

Another of my short hikes from Saturday. I had a tremendous feeling of disappointment about Money Rocks County Park. A friend recommended the overlook, as did the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Harrisburg. So I traveled to the wilds of Lancaster County hoping for a bargain. Instead at this free park I got what I paid for.

The trail to the rock formation isn't long or rocky by Pennsylvania standards, but it is covered with graffiti. So are Money Rocks. While the formation allegedly gets its name from farmers hiding their savings in the crevices, its clear Lancaster County isn't making an investment in the park.

Unfortunately the promised view of the Welsh Mountains isn't worth the effort of the climb. At least during the growing season, the overlook is overgrown. Add in the trio of young men smoking pot at the top of the rock formation, and I had reason to find the visit more a trial than a pleasure. It didn't help the young men called me "sir." Perhaps they thought I was a narc, although they didn't take any care to hide what they were smoking. 

Still, it was hiking, and the worst day of hiking beats sitting on the couch. And this was far from the worst day. While I'll probably never go back to Money Rocks, I'm glad I went.


30 on the Perkiomen

Not much for me to say about today's ride. Its the longest I've ridden since I had my knees replaced. As you can tell it took a lot out of me.

The day took its toll on Chris as well. Here he is at the 27 mile mark. 

The afternoon started with my replacing my rear tire and tube. Once I'd upgraded to my beloved Bontrager Hardcase tire, we headed out. The temperatures were in the low 80s, but the Perkiomen Trail is shaded for much of its length. Still, Chris is extremely sensitive to sunlight, so he dressed in long sleeves and pants, and brought along the Joe Cool sunglasses as well. 

Our route took us from the Port Providence trailhead on the Schuylkill River Trail to Oaks, where we switched to the gravel Perkiomen Trail to past Schwenksville. This was a workout for both of us. While I am a hundred pounds lighter than Chris, my stamina isn't up to his level. Fortunately most of the rises on the trail were little or brief. The only one I had to push myself on is the detour around a home - when the trail was constructed in 2003 one man vowed to keep the project in the courts forever rather than allow the trail through his access to the creek. So the county had to build the trail up and around his house, leading to an out of nowhere climb and descent. 

Chris, ever contrary, argued with me about the legitimacy of the homeowner fighting the trail....

"I saw the trail and the guy's house, and he was right to keep the trail from cutting in his backyard."

"Dude, now isn't the time or place. Did you ride that climb? I tasted my breakfast getting up that."


After ice cream at the turn around, we headed back. Although it was technically downhill, we were both tired. I had a sore butt and hands, Chris had numbness in his butt and feet. In my case it was because I still need to work out the fit on Notung and get used to my new Brooks. For Chris, I cannot say the cause of his problems. He suspects a pinched nerve from his bike's seat. 

Having to stop for soreness and numbness means photographs. Here is Perkiomen Creek from the first big bridge, near Graterford. 

Chris crossing the same bridge.

And the inevitable Notung photo.

At the end of the day I'm sore, dehydrated, and tired. In other words, I had a great time and I hope to do it again, but for a longer distance.


Two and Two-Thirds Men: Hiking the Pagoda with Sayre

The morning of Easter Monday I traveled to Reading to hike with a fellow weight loss success story. And what a success Sayre Kulp is. Like me, Sayre lost over 150 pounds through changing his life. Sayre is now in his third year of maintaining his loss. Between the two of us we lost the weight of a man our size. Since my partial regain that' now a man two-thirds our size, but I'm going down again....

The hike utilized the trail network on Mount Penn, one of the two mountains overshadowing Reading, Pennsylvania's sixth largest city. (Mount Neversink is the other one.) Atop Mount Penn is the Pagoda, a resort hotel that had the bad luck to open during the financial panic of 1907. The city of Reading wound up owning the failed business and after letting the structure sit unused for many years a local group restored it as a tourist attraction. 

The Pagoda and Mount Penn have special meaning for my friend. He grew up in Reading, and much of Sayre's weight loss was on the climb up to the Pagoda - he would ride up the mountain in a recumbent trike reinforced for his weight. He no longer lives in Pennsylvania, so during his visit we met for a hike at his old stomping grounds. As you can see in the photo, Mount Penn is known for mountain biking as well as hiking. 

During a previous hike Sayre and I climbed up the steps from below the Pagoda to the main grounds. To do so in 2010 meant I had to get my legs over a hip-high fence. When I attempted to repeat the feat, I couldn't manage to raise my legs that far. Sayre kindly grabbed each foot and pulled up so I could get over the fence.

The Pagoda from below:

The steps, with Reading in the distance.

In addition to hiking, we talked. Sayre is a musician. I am a writer. Both talents, though different, require the souls of the poet and philosopher, and those souls tend to come out whenever Sayre and I meet.

Our hike ended as it began - in the parking area for the Pagoda. This is perhaps my favorite view of the building, taken from the trail that runs alongside the road up to the building. With a little imagination you feel you are in Japan.

Would you ever guess that these guys each weighed more than 400 pounds? Or that the old guy on the left was once unable to walk a city block?

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A Taste For The Woods: 2013-06-09

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A Taste For The Woods