Perfect day, perfect gravel
With less than a month until the second annual Rothrock Trail Fest, perfect weather over the weekend, and a few hours free, it was time for some gravel course recon. This year's event offers up a 25-mile and a 50-mile option for the gravel riders with both groups setting off at 9AM on September 22nd. If you're not familiar with the course, keep reading and we'll give you a little taste of what's to come.
The race begins from the Tussey Mountain ski area which provides a great view of Mount Nittany. When you return from the ride, the Food Truck Festival and live music will be in full swing.
The asphalt of Bear Meadows Road quickly gives way to the gravel of Laurel Run Road as riders make the right-hand turn to begin the gradual climb. A classic forest hairpin turn leads to a slight kick in the gradient before the road mellows out again.
You'll know you are near the top of the first climb when you make the second hairpin turn and push through the last hundred yards or so. The latter half of Laurel Run Road will pass by quickly as you descend parallel to Laurel Run and pass a number of hunting camps.
As the road begins to pick up a little bit of elevation via some mild rollers, you'll pass by the entrance to one of three state parks within Rothrock State Forest, Whipple Dam. Unfortunately some time on the water will have to come another day as you make a left turn on to Greenlee Road where you will be greeted by some bigger rollers. As you cruise along, be sure to follow the arrows and stay left when passing the intersection with Beidleheimer Road.
Greenlee is the biggest climb of the day for the 25-mile course and can challenge even the best riders. When you see the sign noting that you are entering Bear Meadows Natural Area, you can celebrate a little and take comfort in knowing that the climbing on the short course is over. A right turn on to Gettis Ridge Road followed by a left on to North Meadows Road will lead to a nice long descent back to Bear Meadows Road and a quick spin on gravel and pavement to the finish.
Note that both distance options follow the 25-mile route until reaching Bear Meadows Road where the short course turns left to the finish and the long course turns right for a little more fun in the saddle. In the next post we'll cover the remainder of the long course.
Rothrock Forest District and the Friends of Rothrock State Forest hosted a Conservation Volunteer Day on June 22, 2019. During this safety training, trail building equipment demo, and trail building day 33 people volunteered their time to learn and begin building a new trail. The equipment demo showcased the forest district's mini-excavator, mini-skidsteer loader, and a recently purchased (via Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau Grant) trail blade attachment. The demonstration showed the mini-excavator breaking new ground and clearing the trail corridor. The mini-skidsteer and trail blade attachment then demonstrated how those pieces of equipment functioned and would be utilized to finish out the roughed in trail.
Following lunch, the volunteers and district staff made their way up Musser Trail to the new off-shoot trail (has not been named at this time) that will ultimately take trail users from Musser Gap parking area up and over Tussey Mountain while offering numerous loops as part of the Rothrock’s new trail plan to have 60 miles of new, professionally built, multi-use trail created. This new trail is approximately ¼ mile long at this time and will eventually be continued on through a contract with a private, professional trail building company that will be contracted to create a 7.5 mile trail loop in the Musser Gap to Little Shingletown area as phase one of the new trail plan.
In addition to the equipment demonstration and trail work experience, volunteers received training on risk assessment in the forest from both a recreation and trail work perspective. Tick awareness training was also provided by Karen Poh, Ph.D and Hannah Greenberg, MS from the Penn State Department of Entomology.
Rothrock State Forest is comprised of 96,345 acres located in Huntingdon, Centre, and Mifflin counties and is managed by the DCNR Bureau of Forestry. The core mission of the Bureau is “to ensure the long-term health, viability and productivity of the Commonwealth’s forests and to conserve native wild plants.” To accomplish this, the Bureau manages state forests under sound ecosystem management, to retain their wild character and maintain biological diversity while providing pure water, opportunities for low-density recreation, habitats for forest plants and animals, sustained yields of quality timber, and environmentally sound utilization of mineral resources.
Rothrock contains unique habitats, supports extensive wildlife diversity, influences adjacent private forest health and provides ecological services, recreational opportunities and economic benefits to local economies. As the communities surrounding Rothrock State Forest grow, it is important to protect these natural resources and services. This is done by strategically enhancing and expanding on opportunities that could further benefit local economies while protecting Rothrock State Forest’s natural resources.
Each year a detailed activities plan is crafted to address these various stewardship goals. You can find the current 2019 Rothrock Activities Plan here.
The Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation Friends of Rothrock State Forest chapter assists in these efforts by raising funds for trail development and improvement, organizing events, activities and work days, and providing education opportunities. Please consider assisting by volunteering with the Friends of Rothrock chapter and participating in our events.
The early morning sun shining through the trees over Laurel Run Road in Rothrock State Forest.
Running through the heart of Rothrock State Forest Laurel Run Road connects Bear Meadows Road near the Galbraith Gap Trailhead to Whipple Dam State Park.
Rothrock State Forest maintains more then 180 miles of roads throughout the District that provide scenic driving, gravel bike riding, horseback riding and snow mobile riding opportunities.
Picture by Kyle Fawcett
I've always wondered what the view of the night sky would be like in Rothrock State Forest what with the larger towns and cities surrounding this District but I've never had a chance to check it out. So this past Saturday with the forecast calling for absolutely clear skies and the moon not supposed to rise until early Sunday morning I packed up my camera gear and headed out into the woods.
It turns out that Rothrock is fantastic for viewing the stars!
I started with a quick night hike to the Indian Wells Overlook on the Mid-State Trail from the Big Flat Natural Area parking lot on Bear Gap Road. I've hiked this section many times, something that I always recommend people do before attempting a night hike, so I was pretty familiar with the route and the terrain. Arriving at the overlook I could hear Barred Owls calling from Bear Meadows below me and as I set up my camera gear I could clearly see the Milky Way hanging over the Kishcoquillas Valley to the South. From there I headed to Bear Gap Vista which with it's view to the North the Milky Way isn't visible at, but you can get a view of the night sky over State College and see just how much light the city is emitting into the night sky.
My next stop was Whipple Dam State Park where I grabbed a couple of pictures of the Milky Way over the lake. I tried to get a shot with the Milky Way reflecting off of the lake's surface but it just wasn't far enough in the Western portion of the sky at this time of the year. Perhaps in the Fall I can get that shot. Next up was the parking area at Bear Meadows and then the overlook on Wampler Road. By that point, it was about 1:00 Sunday morning and I was exhausted so I found a pull-off and grabbed a couple of hours of rest before heading out to explore more a dawn.
Pictures by Kyle Fawcett ( Facebook Instagram)