Thursday, November 15, 2018

Leaf Peeping Hill Slugs

Twin Pines, 4 November 2018

15 November 2018

I've now fallen so far behind in blogging that I've forgotten the stories I wanted to tell.

I: Pennington to Flemington

We hit peak leaf color the first weekend in November. That Saturday started out rainy. Jim graciously ceded his Sunday morning slot so that the Hill Slugs could roll out of Pennington towards Flemington. Ricky, Jim, and Len met me at my house. We picked up the others -- Bob, Joe, Pete, and Racer Pete -- in Pennington. Len has only just begun to ride up here, so I made sure to point out every scenic spot for him.

I let the group get ahead of me as we descended Rileyville Road towards Wertsville Road.

The barn at the bottom of the hill is always worth a picture.

There's a vineyard just west of Losey Road. I like to stop for the tree next to the vines. I have a handful of photos of this tree in winter.

As we rode along Old York Road, I pointed to our right and said to Len, "That's the Sourland Mountain."

Reaville Road was worth a stop too.

There were cows at the bottom of the hill, in a pasture next to the barn.

Across the road was a field of dried corn stalks.

In front of me was a puddle of yesterday's rain, reflecting the yellow trees.

There's a new bench outside of the old Stangl pottery factory in Flemington.

Our rest stop was at Factory Fuel, of course.

I told Len to keep an eye out for the view on Manners Road as we headed back toward the Sourland Mountain. When I stopped for pictures he stopped too.

Farther along on Manners Road there's another good photo spot from the driveway of the Candlelight alpaca farm. We didn't see any alpacas.

Going sideways up the mountain affords the best view, so we went from Rileyville to Saddle Shop to Runyon Mill to Orchard, where the best view is from the farm halfway down the road. I pointed to the hills in the distance. "That's where we were," I told Len. Once in a while we could see a car on Old York Road.

Len took some pictures facing south, where there's more pasture running into the side of the mountain. I took all of my pictures facing north. Jim was stopped ahead of me doing the same thing.

When I caught up to Jim I saw the goats.

We turned on Linvale to climb the rest of the way up the mountain, then went down the other side as far as Snydertown, where we turned east and climbed again. Last week the leaves were pretty up here. Today they were even better.

Back in my neighborhood the color change was just getting started.

II: High Bridge to Bartley on the Columbia Trail

November 10 was cold and windy. It was a good day to be off the road and on the Columbia Trail. 

Pete was concerned about all of the rain the day before making the trail muddy. I told him not to worry, and besides, this would be a Hill Slugs ride, where nothing ever goes exactly to plan.

As I drove into High Bridge I saw three bikes parked outside of a coffee shop. "Those people are nuts," I thought. As I turned the corner I saw three familiar faces at a table by the window. Yep, they were nuts: they were Jim, Ricky, and Andrew, all of them with wide-tire road bikes.

Pete had his off-road commuter bike. Chris had his new mountain bike, complete with Winnie the Pooh, his new mojo, strapped to the front.

The trail is wide, flat, and under a tall canopy of trees. We were protected from the wind as we made our way northeast.

My goal was to find the path off the trail down to Raritan River Road, which would take us into the Ken Lockwood Gorge, turn to dirt, and lead us to Hoffman's Crossing Road in Califon, where we'd pick up the Columbia Trail again. The only problem was that, despite spending time with maps the night before, I couldn't find the connection. I knew I'd seen it the last time I was up here, but I couldn't remember where it was. Fortunately, Chris spotted it, and down we went.

The detour was worth every second.

There were several spots in the gorge that had short walkways over the river bank.

Then we found the requisite "Road Closed" sign. We went around the barrier without even putting our feet down.

The other side was barely wide enough for one car, and cratered enough with potholes that, despite Chris' suggestion, I would not bring a skinny-tire road bike down here. I'd spend too much time looking down and I'd miss the river completely.

Above us the Columbia Trail bridge crossed the Raritan River. I stopped for pictures. When I started up again and reached Chris, he was talking to someone up on the bridge who wanted to know how we got down here. At first I thought it was a random biker. Then I realized that one person who had registered for the ride hadn't been there at the start. This must be him. I couldn't tell for sure because he was so far above us. I gestured in the direction we were going. In the photo below, the rider on the bridge is the bright yellow dot between the two trees.

When we reached Hoffman's Crossing Road, Jerry was there to meet us. He'd been the one on the bridge. He hadn't registered for the ride and had arrived a few minutes late. From up on the trail he could see us down in the gorge and had figured out where to turn to meet us.

Past Califon the trail has an open section through a field.

Somewhere north of Long Valley we rode through a snow flurry.

The end of the trail is in Bartley.

We turned around, into the wind. The sun made the trees across the river glow.

Where the trail crosses Schooley's Mountain Road there is a coffee shop called The Coffee Potter.

Inside was warm and crowded. We found a corner table. There wasn't much in the way of drinks besides various coffees and hot chocolate, but the pastry selection was impressive.

Back outside we provided our own fall color display.

Ricky discovered that his bike wallet was missing. Figuring he'd dropped it when he stopped for a picture in the gorge, he said he was going to retrace his steps. Pete and Andrew decided to go with him. My plan was to stay on the trail the entire distance back; we'd meet up again in High Bridge.

They started out before we did. I wonder if they stopped for the group of Clydesdales. "Fuzzy feet!" I exclaimed, always having wanted to see a Clydesdale up close. They're massive. I only thought to take a picture after they'd passed.

Fortunately, Jerry was smart enough to get all of the horses into the picture. He said I could swipe his photo:

Crossing the open field again, we stopped again.

When we'd passed through Califon on the way up I'd seen only one gnome home. On the way back I only saw two. They were disappointing this time.

We met up with Ricky, Pete, and Andrew on Hoffman's Crossing Road. They'd gone down into the gorge to where Ricky had stopped, but they couldn't find his wallet. He now suspected he'd left it in the car or at home.

South of Califon I stopped a handful of times, each time getting passed by the same runner who wound up in a handful of my pictures.

Several of the stops were an attempt to get a glimpse of the road we'd been on down in the gorge.

Of course I had to stop on the bridge over the gorge.

And again on the other side.

By now we were very spread out but also very close to the High Bridge trail head. As we packed up we all agreed this was well worth the drive and that we should come back next fall.

III: Snow

It's November 15. We had our first snowstorm today. Winter isn't supposed to start for another month. Bleah.