Eagleton Mine Camp Trail, PA
I didn’t roll out of home base, which is what I call my house, until about ten o’clock in the morning. I had one of my main guys, Big Jim, [LINK TO BIO] “The Old Man,” with me already, so he and I drove to meet up with the rest of my “Pit Crew” because they were on the way up north towards the Eagleton Mine Camp Trail [LINK: http://www.visitpa.com/pa-horseback-riding/eagleton-mine-camp-trail] in Pennsylvania, which is where we were headed.
My “Pit Crew” for this adventure includes Big Jim, Chris P., [LINK TO BIO] and Big Shawn. [LINK TO BIO] I call these guys my “Pit Crew” because they are my support for my WooFDriving adventures. We call Chris P. just like it sounds—Crispy. He is a master electrician, and he’s always fried from being overworked. The shoe fits, so to speak!
Eagleton Mine Camp Trail (EMCT) is part of the Sproul State Forest in Renovo, PA. According to the website for the trail, EMCT was named for the mining village that existed in the area in the mid- to late 1800s, “when the Eagleton Railroad climbed the Tangascootac Valley to the village on the plateau.”
On the way up to EMCT we passed Bald Eagle Lake, [LINK: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/baldeagle/] which I assume a lot of eagles go to do their thing. It was really beautiful to drive past on such a gorgeous day, but we decided to just enjoy the view and didn’t stop for pictures.
When we got up to EMCT we drove up a mountain, and we were free styling, looking for an area of the trail—or even the roadway—we could go down. At the top, we found a dirt trail, which on GPS looked doable for the cart, and was wide enough so Chris P. could follow in the truck with the drone to track us while we were furwheeling [sic] (bare with me, I really love to play with words).
Everything started off good, but we got to a gate, which precluded some of the trail. We started to fit under with the cart, but it turned out it was unlocked so we could open it after all. We all went right through, and Chris P. could follow. What we found were a lot of big ruts from other vehicles driving back in there.
Turns out, EMCT is home to some natural gas wells. The Marcellus Shale has been beneath the ground in Pennsylvania for centuries. According to State Impact [LINK: https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/tag/marcellus-shale/], a reporting project for NPR, “Marcellus Shale is a sedimentary rock buried thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface. It stretches from upstate New York south, through Pennsylvania to West Virginia, and west to parts of Ohio. Named after a town in upstate New York, the rock itself is millions of years old, formed from mud and organic material. The natural gas created over millions of years as a byproduct of decomposition is trapped in tiny spaces and fissures within the rock.” In other words, the fracking [LINK: http://www.what-is-fracking.com/] boom hit EMCT.
These trails are utilitarian. They were probably built originally to access the gas areas, which made them good for us to ride because they’re wider than a bike trail, but they were also rougher because there are more vehicles than people and bikes using them. The tracks and ruts were filled with water. Riding them was like four-wheeling. I have several different bikes that I take out with my dogs, and the one we were using is low to the ground, so we were catching a bit of mud. The dogs were super happy! The water was clean for them to drink, so I was comfortable with that. I was able to straddle the tire tracks riding the center while the dogs ran in the ruts on the sides. It was warm out, so they enjoyed the cool water.
In some places it was a little deeper and it got pretty muddy. Every now and again we would sink and I’d have to get off and navigate the bike by hand. Some ruts were quite deep. The dogs were up to their chests at times in the water, but they were fine. Sometimes there were runarounds to avoid the bigger ruts, but not always. It was definitely an adventure! We were so deep into nature, real secluded, and it was just awesome.
This was one of the rougher (ruff-er, get it?) trails we’ve done—not treacherous, but rugged. I’ve got other bikes that have bigger wheels that would have worked a bit better for us, but I usually have a bike or two down at any given time, and I didn’t have one of the bigger-wheeled bikes with me. The bike I was on wasn’t submerged too high, though, so we worked it out.
I often have a passenger—or co-pilot—with me when I take the dogs out on these more eXtreme adventures. I also had a single rider bike with me this time, but it’s nice on a trail to have someone on the cart with me in case we need to pick up the bike, or need to take the dogs off for some reason. We’re also often deep in the woods, so you never know what kind of wildlife you might run into. Big Jim rode with me yesterday. We usually go about 3.5-4 miles an hour with the dogs. Every now and again, the dogs will have a burst and we hit about 12 to even 15 miles an hour depending on circumstances, but a 6-7mph pace is pretty fast for us.
Big Jim and I were having a great time talking and shooting the breeze. We’re always on the lookout for wildlife, and it’s nice to have a partner who can scan the woods while I steer the cart. We’ve seen some pretty cool stuff over the years—bears, porcupines, and we think, a mountain cat, although the jury is still out on that. You can check out some photos of the wildlife we’ve seen here. [LINK: woofdriverinspired.com] We haven’t seen Big Foot yet, but we’ve seen just about all the indigenous creatures in the area.
We did catch a few glimpses of deer on this trip. There were a lot of hunters out, but they weren’t right in our area. I always wear a bright orange vest just in case. It’s bow season, so they’d have to be pretty close to shoot, and it would be hard to mistake us for a deer.
Sometimes the dogs will pick up a scent, but we can’t always find what they’re smelling. That’s one of the big thrills about our adventures, trying to see and identify wildlife. When we go out on our night rides, critters eyes will glow. We can pan the area with a headlight and see their eyes in the woods. We have gotten pretty good at telling what they are—deer, possum, owl, coyote—just by where we see their eyes, and whether they’re high up or close to the ground. Most animals, when they see us on the cart with four dogs coming through, will stay out of the way.
The ride through the EMCT was an abbreviated run for us—about 3.5-4 miles. We usually go at least ten miles, and fifteen to twenty when it’s cold. Chris P. is our drone pilot also; he’s a more advanced pilot than me. He was flying the drone over us to capture some video footage [LINK to footage], but he lost control of the aircraft for a few quick minutes because he let it fly a little too far away from the controller. We have extenders for the antenna, but Chris P. didn’t have them on.
We were able to get some cool fall footage, and we really wanted to document it with the drone and the 360 VR cameras. The 360 struggled a little because it was getting dark in the woods while it was still bright in the sky. These VR cameras can have a hard time finding a happy medium. The colors were a bit dulled and details were washed out because the light wasn’t evenly spread.
When we started driving back down to where we came from, we saw a stretch of mountain that would be good for a downhill run. I wanted to get the dogs a few more miles, so we set up. Chris P. was going to jump into the car (with Big Shawn driving) so he could fly the drone, but it had a small crash when the drone hit a branch. It was dark, so instead of fixing it in the field, we decided to use a light bar that I have for my truck to follow me and the dogs and provide awesome light for the VR camera to capture the moment nicely. [LINK TO FOOTAGE]
It was a great mush, but there were a ton of hunters leaving the mountain because it was now dark—more than we realized—so we kept getting traffic. When the hunters drove by, I had to pull way over to the edge of the road. I had to be really careful. That’s just one of the reasons why I need a team with me. When vehicles need to get around me on tight road and I’m at the edge, it can be precarious. Ultimately, we managed to get another three miles in, and it was just a really great run.