Admittedly, I have spent very little time alone in the woods. The perception of cycle-touring is often of wooded campsites and rolling meadows; kitschy diners, roadside fruit stands, and friendly folks. With luck, some of this will come true, but beware of truckstops, overpriced state park facilities (30 amp power, what for?), raging motorists, bugs, heat, cold, rain, and wind. No, it’s a good life, really.
South-central PA has been a dream. Rolling farmland separated by linear, parallel east coast “mountains”, the Appalachian. Rural state highways around here offer shoulders (route 26 from MD state line to State College, PA), or low traffic volumes, or both. PA maintains almost a dozen signed cross-state cycling routes, which I have intersected at several points along the way. While I have not been explicitly following any until now, they always reassure my route selection. I just caught up with PA Route G, which will guide me the next 20 miles to intersect 65 traffic-free miles along the Pine Creek Rail Trail.
Just a few miles out of State College, past Tussey Mt Ski area is Rothrock State Forest, and as I’m told, over 350mi of dirt road and trails, most of which is open to biking. This, along with a culturally rich, rural town, makes State College a haven, not unlike Ithaca, NY. I wound up and around about ¾ mi of graded gravel road to find a fern-covered flat to lay my tent. And that was it. That’s the way everyone envisions it. Beautiful forested country road; legal, free camping; deer in the moonlight (not a black bear, my headlight exposed), and a light rain by morning. Camp broken, and packed up, a ¾ mile gravel descent is a quick cure for bleary eyes. Good morning PA. Good morning bike trip. This is gonna be a good day.
Pine Creek Trail tonight: great camping, great scenery, and a swim. Just as you imagine it.