Desolation 208 Scouting Ride

Purple Lizard Maps very recently came out with their map of Bald Eagle State Forest. (  This is really pretty impressive because of the sheer expanse of Bald Eagle SF.  I thought Rothrock was big and had an awful lot of riding to offer, but BESF is intimidating.  It makes my goal of riding it all (eventually) seem like a decade long ambition (if not more) rather than the 2-3 year plan I initially thought it was.  (with ‘it’ being all that the great purpley one surveys….)

In anticipation of this map, I had planned a ride that would take us out into BESF and back, from a start in B-burg.  The short story:  Great ride! (despite my wounds.. more on that later).  Great route!  This initial surface scratch has revealed a vein of gravel grinding gold.  We were really stoked about the ride we did.  It was a scouting ride, so it was assumed that the few parts of the ride that were new to us could turn out not so great and demand a re-route in the future, but that didn’t happen – everything we rode was a total ‘keeper’.

Eric and I have plans to submit this route (with a minor mod or two) to RUSA as a 200K ‘permanent’ route.  There seems to be a small but growing movement in US rando to do mixed surface rides.  You don’t get any special considerations just because some of it is on dirt or gravel, so they do represent an extra challenge to complete within the normal time limit.

Here was one, fairly recent indication of this on the randon Google group:!searchin/randon/randocross/randon/jH-NXtja2XQ/n2ezfFvaTRsJ

Part of the difficultly, and attraction, for doing such rides is the remoteness of the course.  Randonneuring puts you out there, on your own, man-against-course.  And taking a ride further afield than normal can make it even more compelling.  And peaceful too, as you aren’t apt to see very many other people out on these roads, in cars or otherwise.  But, of course, this adds to the potential difficulty because you are far from sources of water or supplies.  You just gotta load up the bike for 4 or 5 (or more) hour stretches of nothingness, more or less.

On this perm, we’d have only two store/receipt controles – the first at 65 miles (in Milroy), which is esentially at the end of a long descent – a good thing for helping folks meet the intermediate cut off time…  And at 85 miles (Whipple Dam Store) – just because its the only other place to stop. All of the other controles at critical junctions in the course would need to be info controles. There just simply are no other businesses anywhere. It’s a very desolate course – 208K long, hence the name.

So you need to be more self contained than usual.  You might even want to carry certain stuff you’d normally leave at home…. like a first aid kit, for instance.

Why on earth would I mention that?  Well, sorry to say, I could’a used one.

We got as far as to over near to Alan Seeger natural area, but I had taken a minor spill over on Treaster valley road at around mile 50.  This put a damper on things, so we ended up cutting the day short.  The combination of a newly re-graded road, a poorly managed crossover the crown of the road, and too much air in my tires all conspired to take me down.  The damage?

Well, the most important things first … the bike.  I totally twisted the handlebar riser.  See the attached picture below.  I was amazed that aluminum would twist this much without fracturing.  Other than that there was no significant damage to the bike.  I, on the other hand, have… a severe ass bruise and minor scrape, a quarter sized patch of skin now missing from my hand, and dime size patches taken off two fingers, a severely bruised lower leg and ankle, and a very tender ego.  8 days later, as I type this, I am 90% healed.

So anyways, we finished the ride by taking a beeline back to Boalsburg by way of Bear Meadows. This is the actual route we rode (Strava entry):

(this was the full, intended route:  )

This is a pretty hard ride.  We did 95 miles of it in a little less than 10 hours and we only stopped for food and water once.  If we had ridden the rest of route, we would likely have taken up the remaining 3 1/2 hours, especially if we made another stop.  It is notable that we wasted about about 30 minutes total cleaning up crash damage – between the initial on-site ‘events’ and the cleanup/bandaging later at the store in Milroy.  We also stopped to goof around a couple times, and wouldn’t have done that if we were riding with The Clock in mind.

I would take some difficulty out of the ride if I could think of a good way to do that, but there is no way to eliminate the climbs, or most of the gravel.  We could eliminate a little gravel in Stone Valley and substitute some pavement (on the last 1/4 of the route that we didn’t get to). Also, I think the last climb we did on Bear Meadows is a bit harder than the final climb up Colerain (before the descent into Spruce Creek) – that we didn’t get to ride.  I would may also eliminate McCool road.  It’s nice, but too slow to ride and too easy for an unfamiliar rando to miss.

Another possible tweak is to re-route onto Cooper’s Gap Road, not long after leaving Milroy.  This would take you over through Alan Seeger Natural Area (instead of Barrville Mtn) –  just because it is so beautiful back in there.  I’d like to expose folks who do the permanent to some special treats like that.  You gotta make all the hard work worth it, right?

One interesting anecdote…. we ran into The Wilderness 101 twice, by accident.  (We didn’t realize it was going on that day, actually).  We were rolling past Coburn early in the morning and saw all the cars over in the park, so we went in there to see what was up.   Tents and cars everywhere.  And later, we rode onto the course while going up Barrville Mt. Road, and where the course came out from Pigpile trail onto that road.

My pics 

A few choice ones:

Beautiful Morning in Penn’s Valley

Coburn Park.

Riding up Woodward Gap


Old railroad bed parallels the road near Weikert

Halfway up Barrville Mtn.

The view from halfway up Barrville Mtn. In a light rain.

W101 racers coming off the Pigpile.

Twisted riser. 40 bucks down the drain.


About rothrockcyrcle

I am an endurance cyclist always looking for new ways to maximize fun and minimize BS.
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2 Responses to Desolation 208 Scouting Ride

  1. Mike Patten says:


    Sounds like a great idea.

    A couple of weeks I did a century from Aaronsburg (where I live) to Shavers Creek and back entirely within BESF & Rothrock (except for riding to and from the forest). It was mostly on gravel with some double track and Lonberger.

    I regularly do 50-70 milers on the BESF gravel. Let me know if you need any help with the route.

    • Sounds like a great ride Mike. Thanks for the offer. I am always interested in what route suggestions others may have – especially for those roads and trails other people are more familar with than I.

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