Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sandy Creek Trail

Biking season has started in Western PA. Sunday found Dave and I contemplating where we should take ourselves and our bikes for the afternoon. The weekend before we had been out to the Moraine State Park both Saturday and Sunday so we were looking for a change of scenery. With that in mind we decided to drive up to Sandy Creek Trail which is a little bit north of us. It happens to be one of our favorite places to bike.

We drove to Belmar where we unloaded our bikes. It is an interesting place because three bike trails intersect at this spot.

After we unloaded our bikes we decided to take a short ride on the shortest trail. This bike path runs south from the parking lot along the western shore of the Allegheny River. Last year this trail was under construction so we were pleasantly surprised to find that a lot of work had been done since our last visit. We rode about 3 miles south and decided to turn around so we could get to the trail we really wanted to ride on that day. We think it only goes maybe another mile or two before it ends and on another day we plan to explore that further.

We were back at our starting point and the beginning of the Sandy Creek Trail.

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Immediately we have to cross the Belmar Bridge which spans the Allegheny River.

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Of course, Dave is all about the structure of the bridge.

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While Dave is fascinated by beams and bolts I am looking at the view. The Belmar Bridge is 1385 feet long with a wooden deck. This is the view looking north from the bridge.

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If you were paying attention you remember I said there are three bike trails intersecting at this point. After crossing the bridge one has the choice of continuing east and staying on the Sandy Creek Trail or getting on the Allegheny Trail. To get to the Allegheny Trail bikes must be carried down a winding stairway down to the bank of the river. That bike trail runs both north and south from that point for many miles. That bike trail has two tunnels to the south, one which requires a flashlight. We have ridden that trail and is a beautiful trail to ride as it follows the river but it was not on today's agenda. We were going to stay on the Sandy Creek Trail and head east for eight miles. This is probably the prettiest trail we have found so far as it winds through the hills, valleys and forests of Pennsylvania. We will encounter one tunnel, no flashlight required, and six more bridges. There is very little development so the only people we will see will be other bikers and walkers.

I love riding through the Deep Valley Tunnel. In the middle it is very cold and very dark. Even though one can see from one end to the other it is amazing how dark it can get in the middle.

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This bike trail ends in Van and here comes Dave. He made it.

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Now all that is left to do is turn around and ride eight miles back the other way. No bike ride is complete without food and today was no exception. Who knew Subway was in the middle of nowhere?

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There are lots of sights along the way. In fact, this is the trail where Sarah and I ran into that BIG, black bear last summer. But today it was all about the views,

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nature's artwork,

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and a little man-made artwork thrown in for good measure.

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The best part about this trail is riding east away from the Allegheny the trail has a slight incline which means going from Van to Belmar (and the car) is a little bit easier. I like to end my day of riding going downhill. It just makes it a little easier that way. All in all we had a good time though by the end we were both cold. What little sun we had was gone and the wind had picked up.

We ended the day at 25 miles on the odometer. Not too bad for the first trip out. We plan on riding again Sunday but have't decided where. I will keep you posted.

Stay tuned because I have an exciting contest coming in a couple of days. You won't want to miss that.

2 comments....porters always have something to say!:

Jock said...

Spring time there looks a little farther along then it does here.

megawatt miler said...

i like that tunnel better than the other one

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