2021 was a good year on my bike, a good year to be submerged in nature, and a great year with those closest to me. In the past twelve months, I've ridden my bike or hiked in four States, the District of Columbia, no less than eight State Parks, three State Forests, and four National Parks. I've had the privilege to have ridden or hiked with (please forgive me if I accidently leave you out) Robin, Alex, Jackie, Sophie, Mike, Matt, Ben, Tim, Lynne, Josh, and Chris. Looking back on the year, there have been so many good outings with many special people. I tried to narrow it down, in no specific order, to what I thought were the best dozen rides and hikes of the past year. The 13th activity listed is the exception. It was, and still is, probably the most fun ride I've ever completed.
I wish you all a happy new year and I hope to cross paths with you in 2022. Let's backtrack 2021. Enjoy!
I first stumbled upon King's Gap in 2017 after taking a wrong turn while mountain biking in Michaux State Forest. This pristine, seemingly touched area of the forest, near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is an absolutely beautiful place to hike and explore. King's Gap, part of Pennsylvania's State Park system, has over 2,500 acres of forest and more than 25 miles of trail to explore and is specifically set aside, and dedicated to, providing environmental education to the citizens of Pennsylvania. It was the perfect place for a cold, crisp, January hike with Robin.
|Hiking King's Gap Environmental Education Center -- January 30, 2021|
|Hiking in King's Gap with Robin. -- January 30, 2021|
Ohiopyle State Park may be known for it's white water rafting, but there is some pretty amazing and intense mountain biking there, too! This particular ride (which linked together McClune, Canyon Edge, Sugar Loaf , Baughman, and Tom Faucet trails) had a little bit of everything...large boulders, fast and flowy single track, and a nearly 1,000 foot descent! The cherry and whipped cream on top was the cream filled cookies from the Ohiopyle Bakery and the amazing Baughman Burger at the Ohiopyle House Cafe.
|Mountain biking on Canyon Edge Trail in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 25, 2021|
|Descending Baughman Trail in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 25, 2021|
|The Ohiopyle Bakery. -- June 25, 2021|
|Celebrating my Baughman Trail descent with a Baughman Burger at the Ohiopyle House Cafe. -- June 25, 2021|
In August of 2020, Canada Hollow (in Michaux State Forest) destroyed my rear derailleur. I was forced to turn my Stumpjumper into a single speed just so I could ride back to the truck. I, accompanied with Matt "Red Beard" Linnane, got my revenge during a rare Spring time, Friday evening ride in Michaux. Immediately after school let out, I drove straight to Big Flat and met Matt for an epic ride that included Three Pine, Fegley, Astrology, and (of course) Canada Hollow trails.
|Riding in Michaux State Forest with Matt Linnane -- April 23, 2021|
|Settling a score in Canada Hollow! -- April 23, 2021|
I've lived in Pennsylvania all of my life, but it wasn't until I read a book called Weird Pennsylvania that I realized that there is a section of abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnels that can be explored, hiked, and biked. The ironic thing is, these hidden gems are located in Bedford County where I grew up. To access the old section of highway I parked near Breezewood's Gateway Rest Stop (where, for many years, my father worked). The 14ish mile, round trip ride, included a lot of graffiti and two abandoned tunnels. I didn't realized, until after I finished the ride and looked at my Garmin map, that within yards of one of the tunnels is the old Sidling Hill Civilian Conservation Corps camp. I guess I need to go back and explore some more!
|Pedaling through one of Pennsylvania's abandoned Turnpike tunnels. -- November 6, 2021|
|Abandoned tunnel ride! -- November 6, 2021|
|Pennsylvania's abandoned Turnpike. -- November 6, 2021|
Four years ago, Matt suggested that we do an Ugly Sweater Ride in Hershey. We've continued the tradition ever since. Decked out in our ugliest Christmas attire, we all enjoyed a 10 mile single track adventure in on SAMBA's Hershey Trail System. This year, the ride included me, Matt, Ben Kelly, and a huge group that Matt knows from other circles. Hey...it's Christmas time! The more, the merrier!
|Quite the amazing crew for the 4th annual Ugly Sweater mountain bike ride in Hershey, PA! -- December 11, 2021|
|Ugly Sweater ride in Hershey. -- December 11, 2021|
|Gray Beard and Red Beard posing after the Ugly Sweater Ride in Hershey. -- December 11, 2021|
|Bike shop guys (Ben Kelly and Dave Raymond) in Hershey! -- December 11, 2021|
Catoctin Mountain, part of the National Park System, is located in northern Maryland, just south of Gettysburg, PA. It's the same mountain range that, just a few miles north, makes up Michaux State Forest. There are dozens of miles of trail to choose from. On a hot and humid August day, I was joined by my son, Alex, my niece, Jackie, and my best bud, Mike. We hiked a four mile loop that included the scenic Chimney Rock and an ultra cool rock outcropping known as Wolf Rock.
|Standing on Chimney Rock. Catoctin Mountain in Maryland. -- August 6, 2021|
|Hiking across Wolf Rock with Jackie and Alex. -- August 6, 2021|
|Hiking Catoctin Mountain. Left to right: Alex Raymond, Jackie Raymond, Dave Raymond, and Mike Graham. -- August 6, 2021|
|Hiking on Wolf Rock, part of the Catoctin Mountain trail, with Mike Graham. -- August 6, 2021|
If it wasn't for the epic ride that you will read about at the end of this post, this probably would have ranked as my favorite ride of the year. This half-century ride started in Brunswick, Maryland. The C&O Canal Trail was my main conduit for the day...deviating from the trail to visit Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and Antietam National Battlefield. Along the way I was able to check out the spot of John Brown's raid, Burnside Bridge, and the Bloody Lane. For a history nerd, this ride did not disappoint!
|Antietam National Battlefield -- May 15, 2021|
|The Bloody Lane at Antietam. -- May 15, 2021|
|Burnside Bridge at Antietam National Battlefield. -- May 15, 2021|
|Harpers Ferry, West Virginia -- May 15, 2021|
|C & O Canal Trail near Brunswick, Maryland. Later in the summer, while passing the same location, this super cool graffiti was painted over. -- May 15, 2021|
For our anniversary, Robin and I stayed in an old stone mansion Bed and Breakfast near Frederick, Maryland. Even though Frederick is only about an hour from where we live, I had never been there. What a super cool town full of great shops, restaurants, museums, and so much history. One of the days we were there, Robin and I took a 10-ish mile bike tour of the city. It was so much fun and a highlight of the summer!
|Riding the city streets of Frederick, Maryland with Robin. -- July 18, 2021|
|Frederick, Maryland with Robin! -- July 18, 2021|
Matt, Tim, and I did a lot of shuttle rides in Michaux this summer with the goal of maximizing our fun and putting together rides that would, otherwise, be extremely long. The best of the summer, in my opinion, was a late June ride that started at Big Flat parking lot and ended up at Camp Michaux. Along the way, Matt, Tim, Ben, and I pieced together Ridge Road, Three Pine Trail, Fegley Trail, Three Mile Trail, and Rattlesnake Ridge. Good times!
|Shuttle ride (Big Flat to Camp Michaux) in Michaux State Forest. Left to right: Dave Raymond, Ben Kelly, Matt Linnane, and Tim Sindlinger. -- June 29, 2021|
I've visited Ohiopyle dozens (if not hundreds) of times in my 48 years...but never in the Winter. Last February, I had an odd Friday off from school and Robin and I drove the three and a half hours from York to Ohiopyle State Park to experience the park's natural beauty in the winter. We hiked along Ferncliff Peninsula and and down to Cucumber Falls. What we experienced was nothing short of amazing. We hiked on the fresh snowpack , through the the mountain laurel, along side of cold mountain rivers and streams, and under frozen waterfalls. What a total sensory experience.
|Hiking with Robin in Ohiopyle State Park. -- February 12, 2021|
|Ohiopyle State Park. -- February 12, 2021|
|Ohiopyle State Park. -- February 12, 2021|
|Meadow Run in Ohiopyle State Park. -- February 12, 2021|
|Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle State Park. -- February 12, 2021|
|Exploring Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle State Park. -- February 12, 2021|
|Exploring Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle State Park. -- February 12, 2021|
Sometimes the best of rides happen by accident...and this is one such ride. Matt, Tim, and I met for our weekly Tuesday Michaux ride with a plan in mind. One accidental wrong turn (which was completely my fault) led us down a series of trails that I didn't know were there. Matt, then took over and led us back to the vehicles...pedaling trails completely new to me. It amazes me that I've been riding in Michaux for over 15 years and there is still so much of the forest that I haven't explored. This wrong turn ride was one of the best of the year.
|Michaux State Forest. -- July 27, 2021|
|Dave Raymond, Tim Sindlinger, and Matt Linnane in Michaux State Forest. -- July 27, 2021|
Patapsco State Park near Baltimore, Maryland has always been a fun place to ride...but once REI got it's hands on it and added even more trails...the place is nothing short of epic. Matt and I enjoyed a post-Christmas ride in Patapsco...highlighted by the new descent from Buzzard Rock and great single track such as Captain John Smith Trail. This is definitely a place we need to come back to next summer to explore in its entirety.
|Dave Raymond and Matt Linnane on Captain John Smith Trail in Patapsco. -- December 28, 2021|
|Flowy and smooth single track in Patapsco State Park. -- December 28, 2021|
FROM "THE FORKS OF THE OHIO" TO MOUNT VERNON--AUGUST 13, 14, 15, & 16, 2021
Without a doubt, the most epic ride I've embarked on spanned four days, three States, the District of Columbia, and 350+ miles from Point State Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to George Washington's Mount Vernon in Virginia. The ride utilized, in their entirety, the Great Alleghany Passage, the C & O Canal Trail, and the Mount Vernon Trail. For the first time in my life I rode back-to-back century rides. The first 125 miles, from Pittsburgh to the Eastern Continental Divide, were literally uphill the entire time. I loved every single minute of this adventure...none of which would have been possible with the support and assistance of my wife, Robin, who rode the few miles of days 2 and 3 with me and picked me up at my ending point each day. Here is how each day went...
The thing that worried me the most about Day 1 was making my way out of Pittsburgh. Honestly, it was the part of the ride that I researched the most (which turned out to be a mistake). Day one, from Pittsburgh to Rockwood was uphill the entire way. Granted...it was bike path, so nothing was steep...but uphill is uphill. Along the way I passed by Kennywood Park and through Ohiopyle State Park climbing over 1,800 feet and covering over 108 miles...the longest single ride I have ever done.
|My starting point...Point State Park (the site of Fort Duquesne) in Pittsburgh, PA. -- August 13, 2021|
|Following the Great Allegheny Passage out of Pittsburgh. -- August 13, 2021|
|Leaving Pittsburgh on the Great Allegheny Passage. -- August 13, 2021|
|Mile 73 of the Great Allegheny Passage. -- August 13, 2021|
|Passing through familiar territory! -- August 13, 2021|
|My ending point on Day 1...Rockwood, Pennsylvania. -- August 13, 2021|
Day two started the same way that day one ended...uphill. Robin was able to join me for the first few miles before I took off on my own. I had a real sense of accomplishment when I reached the Eastern Continental Divide and began cruising down the mountain into Cumberland, Maryland that eventually gave way to a feeling of concern. In Cumberland the I reached the end of the Great Allegheny Passage and the hopped onto the C & O Canal Trail...which isn't nearly as modern of a trail as the GAP. This is the part I should have done my homework on...not realizing that I would be riding for 35 miles (dodging thunderstorms) in Green Ridge State Forest without any cell reception. Nothing went...but they could have. In hindsight, I could have been a little more prepared. By time I met Robin in Hancock, Maryland I had completed my second century ride in as many days...covering 105 miles.
|Robin rode the first few miles of Day 2 with me. -- August 14, 2021|
|Salisbury Viaduct on the Great Allegheny Passage. -- August 14, 2021|
|Reaching the Eastern Continental Divide on the Great Allegheny Passage. -- August 14, 2021|
|Mile 0 of the Great Allegheny Passage and the start of the C & O Canal Trail. -- August 14, 2021|
|Cumberland, Maryland -- August 14, 2021|
|Paw Paw Tunnel on the C & O Canal Trail. -- August 14, 2021|
|Wrapping up Day 2 in Hancock, Maryland -- August 14, 2021|
Day 3 of my journey was the easiest. The storms had passed, the humidity had dropped, the sun was out, and my ride from Hancock, Maryland to Brunswick, Maryland was flat the entire way. Robin rode the first 10 miles with me before she turned back. My ride along the Potomac River was absolutely scenic. After two consecutive 100+ mile days, the 70 miles on Day 3 seemed rather easy!
|My Day 3 starting point on the C & O Canal Trail. -- August 15, 2021|
|Like the day before, Robin accompanied me for the first 10 miles of Day 3! -- August 15, 2021|
|Passing through Fort Frederick State Park on the C & O Canal Trail. -- August 15, 2021|
|C & O Canal Trail. -- August 15, 2021|
|The mid-point of the C & O Canal Trail. -- August 15, 2021|
|Riding along the Potomac River on the C & O Canal Trail. -- August 15, 2021|
|Brunswick, Maryland was my Day 3 ending point. -- August 15, 2021|
When I started my ride on the final day of my journey, I only had 71 more miles to go. My friend, Lynn Nicoles, joined me for the first 12 miles. Lynn, a cancer survivor, was participating in a the Great Cycling Challenge to help fight childhood cancer. I was honored to have her join me and allow me to be part of her continuing effort. After we parted ways, and with a little more than 50 miles until my final destination, I was plagued with not one, not two, but three flat tires in a 30 mile stretch. Thankfully, I didn't have a fourth...or my ride would have been over.
The C & O Canal trail ended very unceremoniously in Georgetown. I then crossed the Francis Scott Key Bridge into Virginia and hooked onto the Mount Vernon Trail for the last 18 miles of my journey. By the time I had reached the gates of the home of our first president, George Washington, I had covered more than 352 miles. Waiting for me, at the gate, was my friend, Matt Briney, who escorted me (and my bike) to the front door of George Washington's Mount Vernon for a very satisfying end to the best bike ride of my life.
|I was joined by Lynn Nichols for the first 10 miles of the last leg of my journey! -- August 16, 2021|
|The first of three flat tires that plagued me on the last day of my journey. -- August 16, 2021|
|Riding into Georgetown and approaching mile 0 on the C & O Canal Trail. -- August 16, 2021|
|"Welcome to Washington, D.C."! only 18 more miles to Mount Vernon! -- August 16, 2021|
|Passing through (and under) old town Alexandria on the Mount Vernon Trail. -- August 16, 2021|
|George Washington's Mount Vernon! -- August 16, 2021|
|I was so happy to be greeted at Mount Vernon by my friend, Matt Briney. -- August 16, 2021|
|I did a thing! 350+ miles from Pittsburgh to Mount Vernon! Photo by Matt Briney. -- August 16, 2021|
Life is a journey...not a destination.
David A. Raymond -- December 28, 2021
|The Twirly Top became a must stop after each Michaux ride in 2021! -- October 23, 2021|