November 26th, 2007

Dry Run
By Dave Pearson, PA



"You hear that?"

"Hear what?"

"That noise."

"Which noise? The big rustling leaves noise or the small animal crying noise?"

"Small animal crying noise! I Didn't hear any animal crying noise. I meant the big rustling leaves noise. You hear an animal crying?"

"Shhhh! Hear that? That animal crying noise."

"That sounds almost human. What is it?"

I had a brainstorm as Gillian and I drove back from the lake in New Hampshire last summer. See, whenever we can, we take, as William Least Heat Moon would say, the "blue highways" to and from the lake. It takes a bit more time than the interstates, but the scenery and atmosphere are well worth the extra miles.

As we gawk at the landscape and enjoy the twists and turns of the asphalt under the tires, I'm drawn the forests we pass by and the small streams we pass over. Surely water cannot look that good and not have trout in it.

But there is never time to stop and fish any of these streams, so I don't know exactly how good the fishing really is. But I've come up with a plan to enable me to find out.

"Don't know. Might be a coyote. I've heard them make sounds sort of like that.

Jeeze! What was that! Sounds like a strangling rabbit!"

"You've heard a rabbit being strangled?"

"No, but I imagine it would sound like that"

"I can't believe all the sounds. I feel like I'm trying to sleep in the middle of an animal playground."

"Or battlefield."

"Or both."

Next summer, I think I'll ride to the lake on my bike. It's about 600 miles, give or take. The trip should take about two weeks if I put in roughly 50 miles a day. I can ride from late morning to late afternoon, set up camp, and fish these streams in the early morning and the evening. If all the roadwork gets overwhelming, I can stop at a motel to shower and recharge. I haven't actually plotted a route yet, but all in all, it sounds feasible.

At summer's end, when we arrived back home, my average bike ride was about 10 miles with an occasional 20 mile trip to stretch my endurance. In the early fall I started taking longer and longer bike rides until 30 miles was my average ride and about once a week I made a 50 mile trip. Sometimes I did a little more.

Now, this is more like it. If I keep this up, by next summer I'll be in great shape to take my planned road trip. Still, I need to take a few shorter trips with all the traveling and camping gear lashed to the bike to get the feel of a fully loaded bike, to field test all the camping gear, and catch a few trout along the way.

Well, I took the first of these shorter trips. My first dry run. I imagined a trip for 60 miles or so on a secondary highway - Rt. 45 or Rt. 192 - then a trip a few miles back into the Rothrock State Forest. The trip would last three days and I would take a companion. We would leave early Friday morning, get to a good campsite by late afternoon, spend Saturday fishing and hiking and perhaps a bit more riding, get up early Sunday morning, break camp and ride home.

As it turns out, George and I weren't able to get on the road at the crack of dawn on Friday...it was more like the crack of noon. It was a later start than I would have liked, but it still gave us five good hours of travel time with enough time left at the end of the day to set up camp in the daylight.

We also had to leave for home on Saturday, rather than Sunday, which really cut into the fishing time, but, if things worked but, we would camp streamside and there would be time to catch a few on Saturday morning before we broke camp and went home.

We're Off

And we didn't take Rt. 45 or Rt. 192! Instead, we traveled along the back roads of central Pennsylvania and the jeep trails of the Bald Eagle State Forest. This was a much more scenic route, but a lot less direct and quite hilly.

The first 30 miles or so went quite smoothly. The air was a tad chilly. There was a slight breeze and it was at our backs. The road went gently up and down over hill and dale. We glided on smooth asphalt.

Then we got to the short rails-to-trails section of our journey. We rode on a railroad bed devoid of rails and ties made this way to be used by hikers, bikers, and fishermen looking for trout on the catch-and-release section of Penns Creek.


We rode through an old train tunnel and then over a bridge to a state park on the other side of Penns Creek. Here we followed a gravel road - a jeep trail, really - which parallels a wonderful little trout stream. We did not stop here. It was mid afternoon and we had to press on.


"What on earth was that?"


"Didn't you hear it? It sounded like a bobcat ripping a turkey apart limb by limb"

"No, I didn't hear anything like that."

"I hope none of these sounds are being made by bears."

If you are on a road which parallels a trout stream, and you are headed upstream, you are also heading uphill. George and I rode on a gentle uphill slope up this jeep trail for a little more than 7 miles. It was murder. It was also 4 o'clock and we were nowhere near our destination. It was time to consult a map.

We went left at the 'T' in the road. Our revised plan was to travel another 3 or 4 miles on this road, then take a hiking trail back into the woods about half a mile and camp along the headwaters of a pretty good trout stream - not the stream I originally had in mind, but pretty good none the less.

We flew down hill for a couple of hundred yards, followed a right hand bend in the road, and were greeted by a hill of tremendous proportions. It just went up...sharply. And it kept going up out of sight. Hill without end.

We put our bikes into the granny gears - smallest chain ring and largest sprocket on the back - and sloughed our way up the hill. It was 4 o'clock.

My speedometer read my speed as somewhere between 1 and 2 mph. At this rate we would be setting up camp at 7 o'clock in the dark. I can walk faster. And would have if the bike weren't weighed down with so much gear.

What a stupid way to travel. I can't take it anymore. Airlift me out of here. Let's camp here, by the road, anywhere. My legs are burning. Let's just stop.

But we didn't stop. We inched up the impossibly long hill, finally got to the top and zipped a quarter mile down the other side. Then we found the hiking trail and went back about half a mile to look for a campsite.

We went to the stream. George saw it first and commented, "I don't think you are going to catch any trout here." He's right. These headwaters are little more than a shallow collection of springs. We were just too far upstream and it was too late to camp elsewhere. The fishing would have to wait until after breakfast.

I set up my hammock and George set up his bivy. We broke out the stove and cooked dinner. Ramen noodles and chicken for me; Thai noodles and tuna for George.

After which we brewed and drank a couple of cups of coffee. The coffee was so good.

We then put our food and cookware in a bear bag and slung it over a high limb. It was dark. It was 6:30.

George was smart. He brought a book. I lacked such foresight. I jumped into the hammock and zipped myself into my sleeping bag. I lay there tired to the bone and wired from the coffee. After a time, George's light went out.

Later, all the creatures of the forest used our campsite as a dance floor.

We retraced our path the next morning and flew down the hill in moments which had taken us hours to climb the day before. Ah! Biking! What a great way to travel. There is nothing like it.

We stopped at the small trout stream we passed by the day before. I fished for an hour or so, George made himself a cup of tea and curled up with his book. The fishing was excellent; the catching was good, too.

We went back over the bridge, through the tunnel, down the rail trail, and back onto asphalt. Then the wind started blowing in our faces. My legs felt weak. The up hills were harder and the down hills brought no relief. George, as tired as he was, had to slow his pace and wait for me. I couldn't believe how hard the trip home was for me. It felt like I was riding with a flat tire.

As it turns out, I had no flat tire. But when I finally got home and unpacked my bike, I discovered a broken spoke on my rear wheel. This caused the rim of the back wheel to rub against the brake pad for close to a quarter of the wheel's revolution. In effect I was riding and pumping the brake all the way home.

The trip was good and I'll do it again. Next time, however, there will be a bit more time for some fishing. ~ Dave (black gnat)

About Dave:

Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo. His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar for a living. You may contact Dave at: pdewey2@aol.com

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