Monday, June 29, 2009

The Black Forest Trail

For the past four days, my friend Tim F. and I hiked the Black Forest trail in Northern PA. The last time I completed it was 14-15 years ago. This trail is a 42 mile loop through some of the most remote and beautiful sections of the state. The area also contains some of the best wild trout fishing in the Mid-Atlantic region. We planned and executed our hike to take advantage of the angling opportunities. To be able to fish a different stream each day, we began our hike on Rt. 44 as opposed to Slate Run Road, which is the actual starting point listed in the Black Forest Trail Guide.

Day 1: Rt. 44 to Little Slate Run (23.61 - 35.82)

Began hiking just after 2:00 p.m. Pretty level hiking from Rt. 44 to to the descent into Callahan Run. First tough ascent out of Callahan Run up to Hemlock Mountain. Clear day, great vistas. Began seeing a lot of toads, which would continue to be obvious the rest of the hike. The laurel was past peak, but still blooming at places. Blueberries were just starting to ripen. Tough descent in to Naval Run, then a tough ascent up to the ridge overlooking the Pine Creek Valley and Naval Run. Descent into Little Slate Run, or so we thought. We were tired and didn't realize we had to make another steep climb. Tough going, but then we descended into our camp. Arrived later than expected. Set up camp, made supper and decided to fish in the morning instead of the evening. Fished Little Slate Run in the morning; picked up numerous brook trout on a parachute Adams. A few were pushing the 7"-8" range. Nice fat brookies for a stream of this size. Packed up and began day 2.

Day 2: Little Slate Run to the mouth of Red Run (mile 35.82 - 7.20)

Tough ascent out of Little Slate Run, then fairly level hiking until the descent into Slate Run. This descent was tough, and hard on the quads, but a beautiful section of the trail as it passed cool rock formations. Great vistas overlooking Slate Run. At the bottom, we had a little trouble finding where the trail crossed the road. Had to bushwhack and linked up with the trail again. Continued hiking on the BFT, but made a detour for lunch at the Hotel Manor. Great burgers, and worth the stop. Crossed Slate Run near the Hotel manor and linked back up with the trail. Tough climb out of Slate Run into the Algerine Wild Area. Cool rock formations on the way up to the old slate mines. Hit by our only thunderstorm of the trip. Waited it out under the trees for about a half hour. worst part was hiking through the wet laurel afterwards. Should have brought gators, because of all the water that was channeled down into our boots. Wet feet for the next day. Tough ascent into Red Run, then camped on Slate Run. Again, because of delays, we were unable to fish Slate in the evening. Got up, had breakfast then fished Slate Run. Used a bead-head green weenie and hooked but lost three nice trout including one that was probably pushing 15"-16". After fishing Slate Run, we walked up Red Run to see the mini-glen. Took our rods and caught a few wild brookies. Began day 3.

Day 3: Red/Slate Run to County Line Branch ( mile 7.20- 16.17)

Crossed Morris Run, nice waterfalls here, then a tough ascent out of Slate Run, but gradual. Level hiking the rest of the day. Was able to get brief cell phone reception in the vicinity of mile 11.74 (normally, I would not give a hoot about this, but having two young children has changed my priorities. It was nice to hear that they were doing well.) Stopped at Rt. 44 for lunch, and to dry things out in the sun. Flies were bad, but they were not the biting kind, just annoying. After lunch, gradual ascent into County Line Branch. Made camp early just before BFT crossed the stream and headed up. This is a nice camping area. Two other parties were also in this vicinity. Headed downstream after camp was set up and fished my way upstream. Caught about 20 wild brookies including some really nice 8" fish on a yellow stimulator. I was impressed with this stream and it's trout population. Made supper, and sipped the rest of the scotch that I brought along. Nothing better than a good Scotch cut with mountain water.

Day 4: County Line Branch to Rt. 44 (mile 16.17 - mile 23.61)

Tough ascent out of County Line Branch including a rock scramble near the top. After negotiating the rock scramble, it is level hiking for the most part with the exception of two short but steep climbs. Passed through a really neat high country meadow and a dense stand of Rhododendron, which was still blooming at places. Made it back to the car around 11:15 a.m. Drove into Waterville and had subs at McConnell's Country Store. They were great (A half sub was larger than most places whole sub, tasty, and reasonably priced.) and I was also able to get a Frozen Run Birch Beer , which is a must when in the Pine Creek Valley.

Packing List and Lessons Learned

Tent (Time brought his Kelty Tarp)
Therma Rest with lounger
Sleeping Bag
Two wicking tees
Two shorts (one pair convertible)
Two pairs of socks
Lycra shorts
Polar fleece
Food and snacks)(I highly recommend Enertia Trail Food)
Rain suit
Ditty bag with knife, headlamp, rope, 1st aid kit, snake bite kit, lighter Charmin to-go and candle lantern
Fly rod, reel and small chest pack
flip flops
wading shoes
trekking poles

Next time, or future trips: Poncho instead of rain suit, because of versatility; gators are a must because of stinging nettles and in the event of wet vegetation; find a shoe that can double as a wading shoe and camp shoe. Teva Proton might fit the bill, I'll have to test it. One extra pair of socks would have helped. Despite being in shape, more "sport specific" prep is need to strengthen backpacking muscles and toughen up the feet.

All in all, a great trip, relaxing and wild. Enjoy the photos.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Harrisburg Triathlon

I spent the first part of Father's Day competing in the Harrisburg Triathlon. This event wrapped up my spring schedule, now it's time to begin looking at the second half of the year, which could possibly include an olympic tri, some century rides, 5Ks and some longer trail runs. When it comes to triathlons, however, as much as I think I'd like to do a longer one, the convenience of training for, and my schedule, makes the sprint triathlon the ideal event for all around fitness for me.


Nothing new here. My routine has been pretty much established: up early, a bowl of cereal, a cup of coffee, and out the door and on the road. After checking in and securing my spot on the racks, I went for a 10 minute ride and a short run to warm-up. I also had an XS Energy Blast drink, which someone gave me to try.


I knew this was to be a PR day even before stepping foot in the water. The river at Harrisburg was almost at 6.00 feet, which meant I would be moving at a Phelps-like pace.

The swim began in three starts; I was in the third wave. As we were watching the first wave get ready, I noticed swimmers being sucked downstream and having to fight to regain their positions. This was only a few feet offshore. Last year in July, we had to swim out a about 20-25 yards to get in deep water. Fortunately there was a line in the water and most swimmers were able to secure a purchase on it.

When our wave was on deck, I grabbed a hold of the line, but didn't like my start position so I decided that with a minute warning, I was going to swim out and try to move down a little: big mistake. You would have thought that I would have learned my lesson by watching the previous waves, but I tried to go out a little and was immediately over my head. Next thing, I was being swept downriver, and knocking into people. Fortunately, they thought it was amusing. with about thirty seconds to go, I had no choice , but to point up stream and swim like I was in an endless pool. When the gun sounded, I simply turned around, and I was on my way downstream.

What a great swim. Normally, when I look up to sight on a buoy, I think, "wasn't the buoy that far away the last time I looked." Not yesterday, with the current, the buoys came into view, and were passed in no time. I was able to stay with the pack, and came out of the water just a little after the swim leaders. I knew my chances were now good, because my better events were coming up.


Harrisburg is a flat course, and last year I had trouble transitioning, because of all the spinning and unvarying terrain which didn't allow for position changes on the bike. I went out fast, and was right behind a guy in my age group. we were in a narrow part of the course, and I thought about passing, but didn't. After crossing the river, we headed up it, and I was right on his tail. Two things happened then which caused me to separate: 1) I felt my timing chip begin to come undone, so I had to slow down and fiddle with it, 2) my GPS wasn't on its mount properly and almost fell off, so I had to fiddle with that as well. When I looked back up, I realized I allowed a gap to open up, and it was a gap I wouldn't be able to make up. I did, however, pass riders at a steady clip, and passed another rider in my age group. I wasn't passed by anyone, but I couldn't gain ground on the rider I was initially right behind.


After a great ride. I quickly got my shoes on and began to run out the transition area. I had caught up to a buddy of mine, Don A., on the bike and was focused on staying with him on the run. He quickly changed his shoes, and was gone, which caused me to hastily try to keep up. I got my shoes on, and went after him, but right before the timing mat realized I had my helmet still on. What a rookie mistake. Fortunately, I was able to place it on the ground without having to run back to my transition area. My legs recovered quickly and by the halfway point I was able to really open up my stride. I was trying to catch up to the guy who got ahead of me on the bike, but I couldn't find him. Then I saw him about 400 yards out. After crossing the bridge, I narrowed the gap to about 50 yards with only about 200 yards to go. I couldn't, however, catch him, and as it turned out, the 18 seconds between us was the difference between winning the age group and second place.

Results and Final Comments

* Time: 1:13:14; 54 seconds per 100 yards on the swim (current aided); 21.9 mph on the bike; 6:30 pace on the run. 27th overall; 2nd in my age group. I was the 4th fastest swimmer in my age group, 2nd fastest on the bike and fastest on the run.

* Once again, another great event by Chad Krebbs and his family. Thanks for all you do to make these races possible.

* One of the greatest moments of the race was when an organization called Athletes Serving Athletes crossed the finish line with a challenged athlete who completed his first triathlon. I'm not sure who the individual was, but he swam with the boy in a boat, biked with him in a trailer and pushed him in a jogging stroller on the run. I introduced myself to members of the organization, and am hoping to get involved in some way. To begin with, we're donating our jogging stroller to the organization, because equipment is one of their needs. Check them out:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

5K Pasta Run

The 5K Pasta Run, sponsored by the American Lung Association, was held last evening on City Island, Harrisburg.

I decided to run this to see where I stood in terms of aerobic/running fitness. Having trained for triathlons this spring, I was curious to see just how fast I could run a stand-alone 5K. Although I have been doing a lot of racing and running in the last two years, This race was only my 4th 5K. I used to run three miles as part of the Marine Corps physical fitness test, and set a PR at 17:01 for that distance. The first 5K I ran was around 15 years ago. I agreed to be on our school's team for an event held in the Lancaster area known as the Corporate Challenge. I don't remember my time, but our team did win the corporate challenge for our category.

The run was well organized and started promptly at 6:30. The weather was humid and hot. I started at the front of the pack, and went out fast. By 800 meters there was a fast group of 5-6 high school/college runners, a 10 meter separation, me, another 10 meter separation then the pack. I held my ground until around 1.5 kilometers, then was passed by two individuals younger than me. I was still holding steady, but the combination of heat/humidity and a small hill broke my pace around 2 miles. At this point I was passed by the individual who would win the masters category. I tried to stay with him, but couldn't. I think if I would have had a little more fuel in the tank, and could have kept him within about 10 meters, I could have out sprinted him to the finish. In the last 400 meters I did make up some ground on him, but not enough to close it up. He ran a smarter race than me; I went out a little too fast I think. I'm still learning the optimal pacing strategy for this race.

I finished 13th overall, 2nd master, and 1st in my age group with a 19:40, which ties my current PR. I can go lower, but it is hard right now, because of training for triathlons. Extra running means less time on the bike and in the water.

After the race, Tina and I took advantage of the pasta dinner, which was excellent: two types of pasta, salad, Italian bread, fruit, cookies and bananas. I recommend this mid-week race.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Flounderpalooza 2009

This is the third year that Andy B. and I have been making the trip to Cape Henlopen to fly fish for flounder. We always try to go this weekend, because it is National Hunting and Fishing day and licenses are free, actually, you don't need a license.

I left for Andy's Friday evening, and we, along with Andy's wife, Kim, had our traditional supper at Sean Bolen's Irish Pub in Belaire, MD. I had my usual, Shepherds Pie, and a Resurrection Ale by the Brewer's Art in Baltimore.

We left for Henlopen around 7:00 a.m., and arrived there around 9:45 with an outgoing tide. Normally we fish an incoming tide, but we decided to try the outgoing time this year as it fit into our schedule. When we started we could hardly wade out, but after about an hour, the tide was low enough that we could get out pretty far. The fishing wasn't bad, we missed a few and landed some, but nothing of any size.

Around 1:00 we packed it in and headed to Rehoboth and Dogfish Head Brewing. I tried two new beers, a 75 minute cask ale and a pale India ale (yes, pale India ale), both were tasty and the food was also good. I must mention that if you are at DFH and they offer the mango habanero chicken wings, get them.

After DFH we headed home. Next year we are planning on camping at Cape Henlopen State Park, so we can take advantage of more fishing and different tides.