May 17, 2018 5 min read

Mike Patten has been bikepacking for over 5 years. In 2015 he finished his first self-support bikepacking race, the AML-X (Allegheny Mountain Extreme, 520 miles of orneriness through the Washington, Jefferson and Monongahela National Forests). Since then he’s finished the AML-X a second time as well as the AML 400.  

In 2016 Mike attempted the Tour Divide but crashed out in southern Montana after 900 miles. He’s giving the Tour Divide another try this year. You can follow Mike’s Tour Divide attempt and other bikepacking adventures at

Mike recently shared notes and pics from a training ride with us:

As part of my training to attempt the Tour Divide mountain bike race in June, I planned on riding 215 miles from my home in Centre County, PA to several vistas overlooking the Pine Creek Gorge in the Tiadaghton State Forest, camping along the way. Combined with about 15,000 feet of climbing, this trip would closely match typical days on the Tour Divide.

 Bikepacking Tiadaghton State Forest

A Meeting in the Dark

I left home at about 6:30 PM on Friday with the goal of spending the night at the Mid-State Trail (MST) shelters along the Pine Creek Rail Trail (PCRT) just south of Waterville. Everything went well on this leg. It got dark as I entered Bald Eagle State Forest just north of Loganton. PA. During bikepacking races we often ride at night so the more practice the better. About five miles north of Loganton I stopped at crossroads where my planned route began a significant climb. As I was reviewing the route and other options on my Purple Lizard Map a car stopped and the couple riding in it asked me if I needed help. I told them I was okay and that I was training for a bikepacking race in the Rockies. The guy asked “The Tour Divide?”. Me “Yeah, it’s next month.” Him “Good for you! I’ve done the RAAM.” After a brief discussion on the coincidence of two ultra-endurance cyclists meeting an 9:00 pm on a dirt road in the middle of a Pennsylvania forest we parted ways with me taking the more direct route.

I got to the MST shelter at about 11:00 pm, right as it started to rain. Totals for the day were 44 miles and 2,450 feet of climbing. Rain was to be the theme for the weekend! At 2:00 am a thunderstorm moved through and from then on it rained for well over half the time.

Trail shelter Tiadaghton State Forest 

When bikepacking you usually want to get an early start to the day, but when I woke up at 5:30 the rain was pretty steady. I waited for a while to see if the rain would let up and then hit the road. Just outside of Little Pine State Park I stopped at the Happy Acres Resort to get water and some food. While I was there I met Doane Hollins who had just purchased a Purple Lizard Pine Creek Map to give a friend as birthday gift. Doane said he owned a copy and that it was the absolute best map of the area.

Gravel Roads Tiadaghton State Forest PA

Into the Clouds

I headed up Boone Run Rd. The road followed the creek and was fairly gradual at first. About half way through, it ramped up sharply to over 10% grade. With a fully loaded bike this enters the realm of hike-a-bike (HAB) so that’s what I did. This climb is pretty robust at 2.2 miles and 1,050 feet.

Bikepacking Tiadaghton State Forest PA

Once on top things leveled with just gentle rollers. I rode through State Game Lands 75 and I tried to find the Bark Cabin Natural Area. The road ended at a hunting camp so no luck. This gives me a reason to come back and hike the Mid-State Trail to the Natural Area sometime.

After riding through the Wolf Run Natural Area I turned into State Game Lands 68 and started the climb up to the vistas in Beulah Land. Like a lot of Game Land roads this one was grass covered and with all the rain it was really soggy. On the way back I hit a patch of soft mud and went down.

Grassy Road Tiadaghton State Forest PA

At the Top

As I got to the vistas, of course the rain picked up. Additionally, fog had started to rise above Pine Creek so there wasn’t really anything to see. These vistas are at the top of the Golden Eagle so, again it looks like I have a reason for another visit up this way.

Beulahland Vista Tiadaghton State Forest PA

From here it was a quick descent down through the fog to Cedar Run and the PCRT. Pine Creek was running pretty high and there were a lot of small waterfalls cascading down beside the trail.

Foggy Road Tiadaghton State Forest PA

Be Careful What You Wish For

The Old Wagon Road parallels the PCRT between Waterville and Jersey Mills and pre-dates the railroad. I’ve passed the southern end of the road where it wide, flat and grass covered many times and always thought “That looks like something to try.” I never bothered to see what the other end was like. What could possibly go wrong? After a short push up by the State Forest office at Jersey Mills the trail was Ok for a couple hundred yards after which it quickly deteriorated into a rocky single track with stream crossings and in some places the trail had even collapsed down the hill. Where it widened out into double track the rain had turned it into an ankle-deep morass. By alternating between riding and hike-a-bike I got through. I guess what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger!

Old Wagon Road Trail Tiadaghton State Forest PA 

I got to Waterville at about 7:00 pm soaked to the bone. I stopped at McConnell’s Store to buy some supper (they have great sub sandwiches). I decided to head back to the MST shelter for the night and reassess things in the morning. I got to the shelter around 8:00 pm after 60 hard miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing.

The Road Home

Sunday dawned to more rain (of course). As I ate breakfast I thought things over: all on my kit was soaked, as far as I could tell it was going to continue raining, I could see that the mountain across the creek with the other set of vistas was socked in with clouds, getting to the vistas would require a big climb, and this wasn’t a race. Decision reached: head home by the shortest way.

Pine Creek Rail Trail Tiadaghton State Forest PA

I headed south on the PCRT toward Jersey Shore. Except for the rain, the riding was pretty mellow. I’ve been on this stretch of the trail a couple of times a year for the last five years or so and this is the first time I've had it completely to myself.

Mules in Central Pennsylvania 

After Jersey Shore it was surfaced roads the rest of way including the long grind up PA 880 from Ravensburg State Park. As I made the descent into Sugar Valley the rain stopped and the clouds lifted a bit. Sugar Valley has a large Amish community and passing their beautiful farms started to lift my spirits. Even the mules were giving off a happy vibe as they enjoyed their hard-earned day off. Seeing a new-born foal frolicking with its mother brought the smiles back and put me in such a good mood that I detoured a mile off route to visit one of my favorite Purple Lizards, the Logan Mills covered bridge.  

Covered Bridge

Foal in Central Pennsylvania 

One final climb over Rebersburg Mountain and home again. Mileage today was 46 with just under 3,000 feet of climbing. Totals for the weekend were 151 miles and 9,500 feet.  Not what I was hoping for but it’ll do. The Tour Divide starts in two and half weeks and I have my final big training ride this weekend: three and half days, 310 miles and 36,000 feet. Bet you can’t guess what the weather forecast is?

Weather Forecast Central Pennsylvania  

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