Saturday, June 25, 2011

Touring the Allegheny National Forest

The weatherman is an idiot!

It was an early morning for us as sleeping in a tent is not as comfortable as sleeping at home. We woke up at 5am for a few minutes then went back for another two hours. Once we were fully up, we organized our belongings in the tent and while Heather was getting ready, I walked over to the beach to take in the sights.

At 8:45, when everything was in the tent, aside from valuables, we went for a ride. Our plan was to ride to Warren, PA to meet up with fellow VROCers Bob and Linda, who we briefly met in Kentucky in 2009. They volunteered to be our tour guides for the day after I contacted Linda with our intentions of camping at Evangola. Just as we were leaving the park, a deer crossed our path. I stopped to let the deer through but then noticed a young fawn that stopped right in the middle of the road, some 100 feet in front of us. It stared at us for several seconds before proceeding off the road. It stopped again, before disappearing into the trees, to give us another stare.

The morning was overcast but we were hoping that the skies would eventually clear. Our decision not to wear raingear quickly backfired on us as we nearly got soaked in the first ten minutes of the ride. We stopped under the water tower in the village of Farnham to put our raingear on and then rode west to Dunkirk where we’d have breakfast. The place we picked was Denny’s as it usually has Wi-Fi. It was also in Dunkirk that we saw the first signs of the sun.

Rainsuiting up in Farnham, NY.

The rays of sunshine were short-lived however, as we’d be riding under overcast skies with periods of rain throughout the day. We also didn’t get lucky with Wi-Fi at Denny’s even though they had it, but our netbook had difficulty connecting with any websites. On top of that, my plate of grits was unusually small which contained as much food as a cup of yogurt.

After breakfast, we rode non-stop to Bob and Linda's house in North Warren, PA. The roads were still wet in most places but we made it there around 11:20am, a little behind schedule. Bob and Linda came out to greet us and after a few minutes Bob's Nomad was out and they were ready to take us out on a tour.

In front of Bob and Linda's house in North Warren, PA.

Our first stop was downtown Warren where we pulled in to a Kwik Fill for gas. While at the station a local resident approached us and told us of his less than favourable views of Canadian gentlemen's clubs and beer prices in Canadian bars. Based on my own life experiences I could not disagree with his point of view. We parked the motorcycles behind the gas station and took a couple of pictures of downtown Warren and our hosts/tour guides pointed out plastic chairs lined along the main street. They were left, roped to posts, by people who wanted to save themselves a spot for Warren's annual July 4th parade which was just over a week away.

In front of a fountain in downtown Warren.

The next stop was the Kinzua Dam which is one of the biggest in the United States east of the mighty Mississippi River. It was built in the early 1960's to provide flood control and power generation for the nearby area. While there, we also walked through a trail in the forest that we thought would take us to other side of the dam but only took us a few hundred feet down the parking lot. We eventually rode to the other side of the dam to take a few more pictures. I should mention that on the way to the dam we passed a fallen biker who was getting medical treatment on the side of the road. Later, I found out that he hit a deer with his motorcycle but his stay in the hospital was very short.

Water spilling from the Kinzua Dam into the Allegheny River.

After visiting the Kinzua Dam, we rode through some winding back roads to a couple of lookouts: the Rimrock Trail and Jakes Rocks, from where we had a long distance view of the dam, the Allegheny Reservoir and the surrounding area.

Heather, Bob and Linda at the Rimrock Overlook with the Allegheny Reservoir behind them.

At about that time we were all getting a little hungry so Bob and Linda took us to Bob's Trading Post just outside of Kane, PA where we enjoyed a nice lunch and ice cream. The weather was even beginning to improve and there were more periods of sun than clouds. But just as we were getting ready to continue on, a quick shower dimmed our spirits again.

The final stop on our sightseeing tour of the Allegheny National Forest was the Kinzua Bridge State Park - home of the, you guessed it, Kinzua Bridge. The Kinzua Bridge is a marvel of engineering and was built in the late 1800's before being reconstructed in 1900. At the time it was built, the Kinzua Bridge was the tallest railroad bridge in the world. Today, however, only nine of the original 20 bridge towers are still standing as the remaining 11 could not withstand an F1 tornado that tore through the area on 7/21/2003. I was amazed at both the impressive work that made the bridge as well as the natural forces that destroyed it.

The Kinzua Bridge.

From the Kinzua Bridge State Park, Bob led us into New York and Quaker Lake where we stopped and said our goodbyes. It was nearly 6pm when we rode our separate ways. Heather and I made another stop at a Kwik Fill just a few minutes from Evangola and arrived at our campsite at 8pm. We spent about an hour or more unwinding outdoors before we headed in to then for another early night. Thanks again to Bob and Linda for taking time out of their day to show us around.

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