Project SSR Part Six: Heading North for some R&R&R

Since the last installment in this series I suffered a bit of a setback with a knee injury, Race Report 5. After Nationals I finally got in to see my orthopedic, the fabulous Doctor Palumbo. After explaining what’s been going on with it, he took a look at it and immediately noticed that one of my calf muscles’ had atrophied. By one centimeter, which is a lot when you’ve got skinny legs like mine. Then he jams a finger into the back of my knee, “does it hurt there?” Uh, yeah! So, he figures that I tore where one of my calf muscles attaches to the back of the knee, probably while trying to sprint to a finish on a singlespeed, so I guess the pedal boat is off the hook.

It seems to be healing well, just doing some physical therapy with the crew at Orthopedic Associates in Allentown, and no racing for now. Oddly, riding the singlespeed seems to be easier on it then any of my other bikes. So I’ve been taking the opportunity to just get out and do some fun, lower intensity rides. The ironic thing about racing is that it means I don’t usually get to enjoy riding the trails around my home, in Jim Thorpe PA, much in the summer, in the last 2 months I’ve really enjoyed getting back to them.

Since both my wife and I race, her at the international level, we don’t get a chance to take many non-racing vacations. She is still training full time, but I was free, so what the hell, vacation time! I kicked around a few ideas, road touring in Northern PA, motorcycle touring in the Adirondacks, Kingdom Trails. In the end I decided to do some of each of the outdoors stuff I like. I loaded up the biodiesel wagon with a road bike, mountain bike, flat water kayak, backpacking gear, camping gear, mosquito spray, a couple boxes of food and a cooler. The loose plan was to head up to the Adirondacks, from the southwest corner, and make my way roughly towards Kingdom Trails in Vermont. I had some NY MTB maps, a GPS, and no reservations.

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I headed out early on a Saturday morning, kissing my wife and dogs goodbye, ok the dogs just got a pat on the head, and warning of a lack of cell phone coverage. If she didn’t hear from me I was more likely still alive then not. I drove up through Northern PA and into New York State via some secondary roads. A perfect summer day’s drive through beautiful, hilly, farm country, although it certainly would have been better on a motorcycle. By early afternoon I was in Old Forge NY inside the loose boundaries of the Adirondacks, which covers 6 Million acres, yes 6 million. I stopped in at Adirondack River Outfitters for some extra Primus fuel, maps and trail info. I had gotten some info on mountain bikes trails in Old Forge off of www.bikekinetix.com and wanted a local opinion. The owner hooked me up with a map and a disclaimer, yes it was about the worst map I ever saw, and it proved to be worse than useless on the trail, downright misleading. The one off of BikeKinetix was much better. Surprisingly for a park the size of the Adirondacks, there is almost zero legal singletrack, the Old Forge Trails are all snowmobile trails and gravel logging roads. Well, I was happy to just be somewhere new, so I headed down to the trailhead across from a tourist railroad and got ready for some BikePacking. BikePacking seems to be gaining momentum lately and I wanted to give it a try. The idea is to pack light so that it’s more like a regular ride then a fully loaded touring expedition. The extreme version is events like the Great Divide Race and the Colorado Trail Race, self supported epics. I was going for the 1-2 day version, mostly because on the East Coast it’s hard to string together more trail then that. I basically went with my ultra-light backpacking setup, just with a different pack. I strapped my solo tent with an inflatable sleeping pad wrapped around it to the handlebars, and put the rest of my gear in an old Camelback backpack. Clothes, sleeping bag, coffee and cook stuff, food, and water. I admit to slipping a beer in there too, I only wish I had some in cans.

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The trail started with a steep uphill, and on the singlespeed with the added weight I was questioning my decision. After it leveled off a bit and I got used to the pack it was not so bad, I had done a trial run at home and knew it took a little getting used to. I ended up riding about 4 hours and while the terrain was not too exciting the scenery was great and there was not another person to be seen. Eventually I cut a sidewall of a tire while doing some trailbreaking and decided to make camp rather than fix it then; Stan’s sealant makes quite a mess. In the Adirondacks, like many other public lands, there is a pretty wide open regulation regarding backcountry camping. Pretty much as long as you are 150 feet from a trail or waterway you can camp there. It free, and if you aren’t into having a set schedule, like me, then it’s a really flexible way to travel. I found a small clearing between a trail and a stream and setup camp for the night, making a quick dinner, hanging my food bag away from bears, and getting to bed. In the morning I awoke to the sound of loon’s cries and made a nice cup of coffee and ate some granola. Then I fixed my flat and packed up camp, making sure to leave no trace of where I had slept. Once packed up I got riding through the still dewy trails and enjoyed a morning on my bike in the woods.

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Over the next 9 days I ended up following this routine for 5 nights, 2 were spent kayaking, and one backpacking. All were backcountry camping, some in great old WPA/CCC lean-tos.

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Old Forge, Santanoni, Stoney Pond, Upper Lake Saranac, Middle Lake Saranac, and Burke Mt./ Kingdom Trails. I really came to enjoy finishing my day with a ride into the woods and making camp for the night, then having a relaxing morning in camp before starting the day with another ride. Next time I’ll cover the Kingdom Trails part of my trip.

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