An Adventure with No Agenda

I remember how every day used to be an adventure. Where we grew up in Monroeville, I had a friend who lived only about a block away, but it always felt like a grand adventure just to walk to each other's house. Looking back, it's hard to believe that a few pine trees and some underbrush with bare space in the middle could have seemed so big, but it did. It was our own private Neverland.

A small reservoir at the beginning of the trail head.
That small patch of land was home to orcs, goblins, trolls and other mythical beings. Later, it became the prowling grounds for Skeletor and his band of villainous goons. Sometime after that, Cobra Commander made it his terrorist stronghold, and then there were groups of ninjas and other assassins. By the time it lost its charm and became nothing more than a patchwork of pine trees and underbrush, I was no longer living in Monroeville. We had moved to Hazleton and had a real forest to explore as opposed to a small, suburban garden. Back in those days, we had grand adventures with no agenda. Today, I tried to reclaim some of that.

I had to miss out on the Thursday night trail ride last week due to a bout with the flu. I wanted to get out there so badly, to try out my new bike and ride in the snow, but there was nothing I could do until I was well. Finally, today, the warm weather and my growing desire for some exploration became too much to resist. I immediately headed out to see if any of those old trails and access roads were still available. We live in an area where people are constantly riding ATVs and dirtbikes around. Surely, there must be some decent trails I can ride, right? Of course there are.

Forgive me if I'm vague, but I'm not entirely sure of the legality of where I rode, today. I don't know who owns that land. The water company? The various mining companies still in operation? I just don't know. Most of the "Posted" and "No Trespassing" signs I came across only prohibited hunting and trapping, riding ATVs and motorized vehicles in the area. I figured, if it was obvious that I meant no harm, any trouble I'd run into would be easily cleared up. Even so, "No Trespassing" is still pretty explicit, and those signs were posted EVERYWHERE. I decided to tread carefully.

Old creeks and waterways make for a great trail ride.
For the first part of the trip, I was able to get into the wooded areas without much trouble. I easily rode around a gate and made my way across a road I was very familiar with, even though it had been torn up to repel vehicles. Most of the area wasn't as open and as I'd remembered so I had to look around to find any kind of a trail. It felt more like hiking with a bike for a little while. And then, there it was... a clearing and an obvious trail that I was able to ride. GOLDEN.

Being out on the trail, not really sure where I was going, brought back memories of being a kid back in Monroeville. My friend, my brother and I had gone out after school and were exploring the woods. It was sometime in January and we had been out so long that the sun had set. We were soaking wet from jumping trough icy mud puddles and the falling snow. Even as cold as we were, we didn't want to go home, we just wanted to keep exploring. I had that same feeling, today. I didn't want to turn around and go home. It was such a thrill to feel like I was out in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilization.

Jagger bushes. I was careful to avoid being cut to ribbons by these.
The trail gave way to some access roads that eventually looped back and headed into the "strippins" -- swaths of land scarred from strip mining operations. I came across odd concrete bases, pipes that seemed to come from and go nowhere, deer tracks, ATV tracks, dirt bike tracks and hiking boot/shoe prints. Then, suddenly, I came across two men walking towards me. I thought to myself, "Here it comes, I really hope these are just regular dudes, out for a walk or something." When I got a little closer, I could see that they were in their teens and were wearing camo pants -- a regular clothing staple in NEPA -- but we exchanged greetings as I rode past. I breathed a sigh of relief, glad that they weren't cops or men from the mining company, looking to bitch me out for riding on their land.

I was now riding on familiar terrain and knew how to get back out of the woods to get home, a full 2 hours after I'd left. That feeling of going out as far as possible, seeing things few people get to see, was amazing. I wasn't quite satisfied, though, just like when I was a kid. I still remember how angry my dad was with us for being out so late and not telling anyone where we were. I understood why he was upset, but I didn't care. The thrill of going out there and knowing that something amazing could be just around the corner -- that's what kept me going then, and it's what kept me going today. It wasn't a quest and it wasn't a mission, it was just an adventure with no agenda.
Another water reservoir.
The photo from the head of this post, uncropped.


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