Jim Thorpe: A Sunday Ride

I carpooled up with Renee E yesterday, and we met Hope M at the small parking area where Flagstaff Road meets Lentz Trail Highway. The plan, at Hope’s suggestion, was to ride “Twin Peaks” — a pretty old-school name for an old-school ride, basically up Flagstaff to do Mauch Chunk Ridge, then into Summit Hill to pick up the singletrack through the old strip mines on Pisgah Mountain. I think Hope wanted to see what the old trails looked like, or even of they were still there. Her use of the term “Twin Peaks” told me she was familiar with the area as it was Back In The Day, but I don’t think Renee had ever been on Mauch Chunk Ridge, though she’d been on rides through the strip mines.

(I’d been in the strippings on Pisgah, or at least portions of it, as recently as this year, and had done the full ride at least once last summer, but it has been years, possibly as many as 10 years, since I’d been on Mauch Chunk Ridge. Much of the area where the singletrack used to be has come under multiple attempts at development — someone bulldozing a bit and trying to sell lots before shutting down operations — so it was likely that the most interesting parts were long gone.)

Anyway, here was our ride:

We had a good ride, and it was a lot of fun with a few adventurous parts, but I’ll say it now: Mauch Chunk Ridge, the ride, no longer exists in the form we used to know. It was hard to look at what had been done: forest turned into “scenic overlook” meadows, old singletrack trails buldozed into wide walking paths… I remember so many good times up there, with people who are now long gone from my life, and even from this world; I prefer the unspoilt memories, and don’t think I ever need go up there again.

We skipped Bob’s Option and continued on the fire road at the top of the ridge to the end, and descended (or tried to) via the powerline trail, and from there we took the road into Summit Hill  and picked up the singletrack behind the cemetery. We actually took the Rim rather than the Ridge Trail, then ended up on a much-damaged Green Blaze Trail (ATV’s). From that point on, we were relying on my trail expertise…

I eventually made a wrong turn and got us lost, but kept my mouth shut about it, and fortunately we were soon back in familiar territory. Good thing too, because it was raining pretty hard by this point. Down the hill to the Switchback, over the cave crossing, and back to the cars for a total of almost five hours, and almost 25 miles.

This was a fun ride, the woods were beautiful, and Renee and Hope are both great company on a bike ride, but in the end I’d have to characterize this one as “bittersweet.”

UPDATE: I looked through my GPS tracks, and the last time I rode Green Blaze was the spring of 2011, the time with Anne when we rode among the mountain laurel and the locust brood. Five years… it seems like yesterday. How long since Mauch Chunk Ridge? My GPS records only go back to 2009, and there’s nothing. I’m fairly sure I rode it at the last Mountain Bike Weekend in 2005, so that’s probably my last time up there.

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