My wife Janet is a Penn Stater. She and her family bleed Blue and White and for the last 26 years of our marriage we have made the pilgrimage to Happy Valley for homecoming, and other PSU related events. The bonus for me, and also my buddy who you see here on the left in the 3 guy picture (Dr. Mike Smith of Philadelphia), is that we get to ride at Rothrock State Forest. It’s always nice to have an Osteopath along when bouncing along the rocky trails of central Pennsylvania. Mike, Bobby Reading and I always get together at homecoming to ride mountain bikes and then enjoy the sumptuous feast at the tailgate during and after the game. Mike and I have had some real adventures over the years up at the Rothrock and they don’t call it Roth-rock for nothing. See the pictures above as a testament to the challenges of the trails. Momentum is always your friend on rock strewn trails but if you stray on the wrong ones, like the Mid-State Trail, you not only get some unrideable climbs but the tombstone like rocks present a challenge even when we have to walk in some sections. Mike and I have slid across icy bridges, ridden the rocks in the ice and the snow, searing heat, biblical rains, and we always consider it an epic adventure. It has been great to have him and Bobby as accomplices in mountain bike fun over all of these years. Even when I ride solo, there is something special about looking out over Bear Meadows, admiring the foliage, and looking skyward to see the Blue and White of PSU painted all over the horizon.
If you are inclined to try this area, I would recommend that you at least purchase the Purple Lizard map available at all the bike shops in State College. I have an old ratty one that I have used for years with the exception of the one year that I forgot it along with my cell phone. The long and the short of that adventure was that I ended up 25 miles from the ski area at Tussey Mountain( our starting point), alone, out of water in my pack, out of food and it was getting dark. The Central Pa. mountains are very remote and I was due back at State College an hour before. Fortunately, I was able to find one couple who was camping and they graciously agreed to drive me back to Tussey. I sat with my bike in the back of their pickup and had it not been for their benevolence, I would surely have spent the night in the wilds of the Rothrock State Forest. My wife was none too happy as I entered the Ritchey house( her roomate from college), several hours late, in the dark, and late for our dinner engagement. I am surely a candidate for a new Garmin GPS which should at least be insurance in the event that I ever get lost again. But, to continue, there are a number of great shops in State College- The Bicycle Shop http://www.thebicycleshopinc.com and Freeze Thaw Bikes- http://www.freezethaw.com which can assist with rentals, parts, and anything else that you would need to tackle these great trails. I would also recommend checking http://www.mtbproject.com and http://www.happyvalleybiking.com for further information. The Ride Guide TV show out of Canada on the Ski Channel also did a great expose on the area. You can catch the highlights on You Tube.
One thing about mountain bike riding in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is that you have to get used to riding trails that are rocky and technical. When you get into the Laurel Mountains and the Central Pa. ridges, there is no getting around riding technical trails. You can take a breather on the many fire roads,but for the most part, you will pay your dues on these paths of destruction. Some days, I feel energized and have the mojo to ride most of the rocky sections, but on other days, I have crashed and burned and have paid the price for challenging the shale and granite of the Keystone State. The Tussey Mountain Trail and the John Wert Path have several sections of real rocky terrain. If you add the elements of rain, snow, or ice, the ante is upped exponentially and momentum is definitely required to survive. However, the beauty of the ridges coupled with sunny days or changing leaves, add to the general feeling of satisfaction in immersing yourself into the mountainous terrain of Pennsylvania. My favorite moment comes at the end of most rides when we ride down the Longberger Path to the parking lot. This downhill has a few rocky sections but the descent is the reward for all the climbing of the day. Most of the rides in this area end up near the Tussey ski area and the long downhills, culminating with a tasty beverage at the end of the ride, makes all the rocky suffering worthwhile and gives you the great memories and feelings to make sure that you come back soon.
Mike,Bobby, and I are not Penn Staters, but riding in the Rothrock has forged many memories that bring a satisfying feeling that somehow we belong here. I am a Nittany Lion at heart even though I never hit a book here. I am sure that I will be eating Janet and Val’s chili and Judy’s turkey, slaw and challah for many years to come on those homecoming weekends. It tastes really good after a long ride in the Rothrock. But on those solo rides, when they occur, I will be more careful to be prepared. No more pickup truck rides for me. Thanks for reading and come ride the rocks!!!