Mark has this saying.  Actually, it's a line form an obscure John Mellencamp song... "When it's too tough for everyone else...it's just right for us."  It's a mantra that encapsulates a certain kind of mountain biking that he and I both love.  It's the kind of mountain biking that has no real destination.  It's the ride that possibly requires a GPS, a map, or at the very least...cell reception.  This particular kind of mountain biking demands that there be no real time constraints.  Inevitably, on this ride there will be a ton of backtracking, a climbing to mileage ration that is completely obnoxious, and yes...it will include the infamous "hike-a-bike."  The final component of this ride is a friend who knows more about mountain biking than I do and can navigate his way out of just about anything.  A friend who finds craziness just a fun as I do.

Mark Lentz and David Raymond exploring parts of Michaux State Forest that were not familiar with us.  If you look closely, you can see that the downed tree broke an old wooden gate at the entrance of a logging road.  --  April 29, 2018

It's this kind of ride that Mark and I set out on the last weekend of April.  The weather was still a little crisp when we pedaled out of the Big Flat parking area in Michaux.  Our destination was the northwest side of the ridge below Ridge Road...an area of the forest that I had not ridden in almost a decade.  Mark's basic plan was to descend 3 Turn Road and then just explore.  Nothing like knowing, that no matter what we run into during the ride, we would have to climb 500 feet in a mile and half on a fireroad to get back to Big Flat!  Yep...it would be one of THOSE rides.  The area around 3 Turn Road skirts the boundary of the State Forest and Mark and I took a lot of caution to make sure that we stayed within those boundaries.  A lot of the trails we found, that at first looked promising, ultimately led to "cul-de-sacs" for logging vehicles.  A few of the trails we tried disappeared into the overgrowth and one, in particular, disappeared in to what looked like acres of downed trees.

Not knowing exactly where we are going and what (or who) we will run into...Mark and I made certain to stay within the confines of the State Forest.  You can see the State Forest boundary markers  nailed to the tree that my bike is leaning on. -- April 29, 2018

This promising looking logging took us more than a mile into the forest before turning into a huge "cul-de-sac." -- April 29, 2018

The ridge, far in the distance, is where Ridge Road is.  We parked a mile on the other side of Ridge Road.  So cool! -- April 29, 2018

Welcome to the neighborhood!  While backtracking out of this "cul-de-sac" in Michaux, I spotted this out of place boxwood shrub.  Apparently someone, who didn't want in their yard anymore but who didn't have the heart to just through it away, trekked back here and planted it in the forest.  Cool. -- April 29, 2018

By the time we finished our ride, Mark and I had explored more that 17 miles (my Garmin data is a little off) of the forest that was "new to us."  Actually, considering that I found zero STRAVA segments on our ride, I'm pretty sure that what we rode would be new to most mountain bikers.  It amazes me that, after 13+ years of mountain biking in Michaux State Forest, that there is so much of the forest that I've never seen (let alone, ridden).  A day of backtracking and bushwhacking and climbing might not sound like fun to a lot of people...but it is for me. The fun lies in the not knowing what we will be riding and what we inevitably will be pushing and carrying our bikes up, down, through, around, and over...but mostly I really just love the time spent exploring and searching and just riding with a good friend.  Ultimately, these exploratory rides are the best way for us to find new trails to ride...and, just as importantly, figure out where NOT to ride.  This certain kind of mountain biking isn't possible each time we ride and might not be for everyone...but like Mark says, "When it's too tough for everyone else...it's just right for us."

Mark Lentz carrying his bike.  Yep...it was one of those kinds of rides. It even included a "hike-a-bike" and a little bushwhacking when the trails seemed to disappear.  What a day!  Thanks, Mark. -- April 29, 2018

Life is a journey...not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- May 19, 2018

Here is the GARMIN map and data from our day of exploring and mountain biking (and bush-whacking) in Michaux State Forest.  

Happy riding!

Interested in biking or hiking some of the trails featured in this post?  Check out the TRAIL MAPS and TRAIL HEADS tabs on the ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM website.   

All of my posts are available at ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM and, if you get the chance, be sure to visit the good folks at YOURTRUENATURE.COM and PA PARKS and FORESTS FOUNDATION.