Rider's log: heading North on the Lehigh Valley Gorge trail

lehigh gorge trail lehigh valley gorge
My first ride of October has been done. I haven't been on a ride in over a week, due to lousy weather and lack of motivation. I'm thinking my annual bout with Seasonal Affective Disorder is going to be pretty bad if I'm already feeling it. But, I got tired of hearing myself whine about the impending Winter and decided to change my attitude.

Dressing in layers, I wore the Under Armour compression shirt my brother gave me (like this Under Armour cold gear shirt (Google Affiliate Ad) but not all black) under a t-shirt and a zipped up jacket. I also wore some thermal underwear under my tights and a pair of sweatpants. I was quite comfortable in the mid-60 (F) temperatures, but, of course, once I actually got down into the gorge, the sun disappeared. Obscured by the high ridge, the lack of sun meant the gorge was much colder; I'd say about 10 degrees colder. I ended up wishing I had a pair of gloves, and I'll definitely be wearing some for the 50k on Saturday.

Yes, so, I'm a baby when it comes to the cold -- and this isn't even cold, yet. Regardless, I went for a total of 50 miles and had a blast.

lehigh valley gorge trail fall foliage lehigh riverIn all the weeks I've been riding into the gorge, I never once thought to head left, following the trail North towards White Haven. This was a hideous oversight that I sought to correct, right away, and I'm all the happier that I did. The sights are incredible!

There is still a lot of green on the trees, but Mother Nature has been hard at work, and her palette has diversified quite a bit. Yellows, reds and oranges are becoming more pronounced, but you have to take in the whole landscape, viewing a wider panorama of the gorge walls to really see it.

Much of the Fall foliage sights I saw today were like riding along in a picture postcard. I half expected to see 50-foot-high letters on the side of the gorge, spelling out the words, "Welcome to PENNSYLVANIA." It's such an amazing scene; the view is delicious, a treasure.

As beautiful as the foliage is, because I never rode North before, I had no idea of the other natural sights there were to see in the gorge. For example, this beautiful waterfall that was much more amazing than any I had previously seen on the trail heading South.
Buttermilk Falls, view of the top in the Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail
The top of Buttermilk Falls
The pool at the bottom of Buttermilk Falls
This waterfall was too tall for one picture. Unfortunately, you still don't quite get the scale of how high that top ridge is. Another unique feature is the pool at the bottom. Huge slabs of stone make up a path that you can easily walk down and into those falls. Just when I thought I'd seen every amazing thing the Lehigh Valley Gorge has to offer, I see something like this, and I suddenly remember that I've only seen fractions of the whole thing.

Riding along, if you look out over the river, you can seen train tracks that run along the length of the gorge. This is all a part of the original lines that were a part of the gravity railroad that helped deliver timber, coal and other supplies down the line, to Jim Thorpe and beyond. When riding South, you do eventually cross the tracks that come over from the other side of the river, but they cross the river up North, as well. At the point where they cross to the North, I never expected to see anything like this:
Short tunnel beneath a train trestle in the Lehigh Valley Gorge D&L trail, near White Haven

Unfortunately, I never expected to see something like this, either:
Interstate 80 crossing the Lehigh River near White Haven, as seen from D&L Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail
Interstate 80, crossing the Lehigh River.
From an architectural standpoint, it's interesting to ride under a double-lane highway, especially to see how high up it is. However, the traffic is extremely loud.

The Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail (aka D&L Trail) continues up past White Haven for quite a distance. I stopped before actually reaching White Haven, as my bike computer clicked over 25 miles (it's a 15 mile ride just to get to the gorge from my house) and I only wanted to do a 50 mile round trip. The sun was rapidly setting, and I wanted to get home before dark.

Of course, just because I was eager to get home doesn't mean I was in such a hurry that I couldn't stop to take more pictures.
D&L trail Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail near White Haven

D&L trail Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail near White Haven Fall Foliage in North-East Pennsylvania

These huge pylons are all that remain of a bridge across the Lehigh River.
D&L trail Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail near White Haven Fall Foliage in North-East Pennsylvania

Mushrooms on a log in the D&L trail Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail near White Haven Fall Foliage in North-East Pennsylvania

Since writing up this post on the 4-feet when passing bicyclists law in Pennsylvania, I decided to take the initiative to "take the lane" when going into intersections and turning. I also rode a little deeper in the lane on the Weatherly Plains Road, just to see if it would make any difference in the way drivers pass me (and to avoid the nastier bumps and potholes that inhabit it.) I have to say, 3 or 4 cars did give me a wider berth. Most, however, just continued cutting it as close as possible while blazing past at ridiculous speeds.

Normally, I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it, except that one driver happened to come much closer than comfortable -- in front of a state trooper who was coming from the opposite direction, no less. I had hoped the trooper had seen what had happened, but he just continued on his way. So much for my attempts at public education. Although, taking the lane leading up to stop signs, lights and intersections had much better results. One driver approaching from the opposite side of an intersection even waved me through, allowing me to make a left turn after waiting at a red light. Signaling your intended direction and making eye contact can go a long way.

After more than 5 hours of riding, a hot meal and a comfortable chair were exactly what I needed. I've read that taking a break for a few days after intense training can have many benefits, and I have to admit, I really did feel much stronger today than ever before. It has almost been exactly 2 months since I started training for the Flaming Foliage Ride, and I'm riding farther and faster than I ever imagined back in August. I can't wait until Saturday!


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