Getting to the Watershed Trailhead
“Watershed” was my first mountain bike ride in the state of Pennsylvania. I had flown into the Williamsport Airport the previous afternoon, was picked up by my buddy Drew, and had spent the night getting to know his lovely wife (Shanna) and their incredible four-year-old daughter (Sophie).
My first task before riding was to reassemble my bike, which Drew had also picked up. I had shipped my Specialized Camber Evo Expert via Bike Flights in my Tri All 3 Sports ISP Case, which required removing the pedals, handle bars, wheels, and derailleur.
Watershed … Mosquito Meadow
Length: 17.23 miles
The next morning we set out to ride Watershed, which lay just outside South Williamsport. Everything outside looked wet, yet we experienced no rain or drizzle despite a dark gray sky. For my entire six-day stay in central Pennsylvania, I could not get over the greenness surrounding me … green pastures, green rolling hills, green forests, and green lawns surrounding every house.
As we drove from Montoursville to South Williamsport, Drew told me a story about the security at the Watershed Trailhead. He and his buddy had just parked at the trailhead and were getting ready to ride when his buddy called him over to show him a gun he had in the trunk of his car. Neither Drew nor his buddy removed the gun from the trunk as they looked it over, yet a couple minutes later a security vehicle pulled up and questioned them about the gun.
Drew asked the guards how they knew about the firearm, and they told him they had security cameras in the Watershed area, pointing to a small domed structure at the top of a pole some 40 yards away. Drew said he just began to laugh, thinking about all the times he had changed his shorts after a ride when no one else was around.
Note: I checked into this security issue by going to the official site for the Watershed (The Williamsport Municipal Water Authority), and found this statement: “The (WMWA) practices a proactive watershed protection program including control and ownership of land, seeking of conservation easements on private holdings, and patrolling and monitoring for water quality.” I guess camera surveillance is necessary to preserve good water quality!
Have you done this ride? What did you think of it? How about sharing your thoughts on our Visitor Stories page?
Starting the Ride
After we got everything ready, we went to the Watershed kiosk, signed in (another security measure), and proceeded up a doubletrack (called Mosquito Valley Road) for a little less than a half mile. Then we turned left onto Armstrong Road (another doubletrack), which ran parallel to an exquisite creek (called Remington Run), and continued for a little over a mile before we made another left turn around a locked gate and onto a bridge spanning the creek. The bridge struck me as unusual … the driving/riding surface looked to be made out of a bright green, honeycombed plastic grid.
When I took out my Galaxy S5 to take a photo of the gate and bridge surface I had nothing but trouble. Sweat was dripping from the tip of my nose and front of my helmet. Some of the drops landed on the phone surface, even though I tried to keep it dry. My hands were so sweaty I could barely hold the phone, and my heavy duty OtterBox Case could not prevent the salty liquid from penetrating its bounds. Once the liquid got between the clear plastic of the case and the screen of the phone, all functions went crazy.
I had to remove the case (no small feat with slippery fingers) and try to dry the screen by wiping it on my shorts (soaking wet) and jersey (even wetter). I guess Watershed was my first introduction to high humidity!
We climbed steadily, heading toward Hagerman Reservoir, our first of three loops on the ride. It was kind of like a stretched-out three-leaf clover or the radiation symbol. Before we reached the reservoir, we came across a clearing, where a huge swath had been cut out of the thick forest to make room for some power lines. We have plenty of power lines in southern California, but no forests.
Hagerman Reservoir was serene … not a ripple on the surface. When I see such calm water, I flash back to my water ski/wakeboard days and dream about how smooth the water would feel as I swung away from the stern of our power boat.
Drew told me Hagerman Reservoir was off limits to boats and fishing, but confessed he would like to take his canoe out there and cast his line to see what he would get—hopefully not trouble!
We crossed the spillway on the east end of the reservoir and then got onto Sulphur Springs Road. We climbed close to 400 feet in about one mile on the blacktop before making a right turn at the top of the hill. As a matter of fact, the trail we got onto was named Summit Trail. Summit Trail was an easy .8 miles. But then we turned right (perpendicular to the face of the mountain) and headed straight down.
The Downhill Part
The trail was pretty steep with lots of downed trees across the trail—all small enough to ride over. The trees were not too bad because I could see them. What surprised me was how rocky the trail was even though it did not appear to be. Looking at the trail (with sunglasses on under a canopy of trees) the trail seemed to be pretty smooth.
Upon closer inspection, after stopping and removing the sunglasses, I noticed most of the rock was covered by moss or buried in low grass. Part way down Drew told me the local riders like to call this stretch Goat Trail!
Another problem I had was with the sunglasses themselves. On bumpy downhill runs, I have found that my shades tend to slide down my nose and lodge about halfway down my nose. That placed the top rim right in front of my pupils. So I began to use a lanyard cinched up tight to hold my glasses close to my eyes. But, somehow, in the packing and unpacking of my bags I lost my lanyard.
Near the bottom of the hill we crossed a small creek (or “Run” as they call it in Pennsylvania) where Drew stopped to wash his face with a cloth he had dipped into the water. Even if I had a cloth to dip into the stream I am not sure my face could get much wetter than it already was from my persperation!
Back on the Road
At the bottom of the hill, Goat Trail dumped us back onto the road we had just pedaled up to get to the reservoir… and we had completed the first of our three loops of the day. We cruised back down the doubletrack until we got to the gate and the plastic bridge we had crossed earlier, took a few more photos, and turned left, back onto Armstrong Road.
After we turned left, we followed the doubletrack about a mile and a half further up Remington Run—in the exact same direction we had been heading earlier. When we neared the end of the climbing, Drew stopped and told me his buddy had taken a silhouette photo shot of him climbing that particular hill. He said it turned out really well and he would email it to me (which he did).
Once at the top we took another rugged little trail back down to Armstrong Road. I asked Drew the name of this rugged little downhill (figuring it might be Goat #2 or Bighorn), but he said it didn’t have a name as far as he knew.
At the bottom of Goat #2 (my own name for it) we were once again on Armstrong Road. This time we rode down the road. Drew told me to keep my speed up because the trail to start Loop #3 branched off the road and immediately climbed.
It seemed like it only took us seconds to travel .8 miles down when I saw Drew veer off to the left and start climbing on a converted singletrack, where one of the “double” tracks has been allowed to be taken over by brush. After the initial climb, the trail (later Drew said this was called the Raccoon Trail) seemed to level out and follow around the contour of the mountain. With the Raccoon Trail we had begun our third loop of the day.
Eventually the Raccoon Trail curved to the north and began to follow Mosquito Creek and finally dumped us back onto Mosquito Valley Road and right back to the car (I didn’t see or feel a mosquito the whole ride). When we cruised into the Watershed Trailhead, everything was muddy and I was soaked through and through due to sweating. Drew offered me a towel and I gladly accepted. As I peeled off my outer layer of shorts and my jersey and wiped myself down, I wondered if I was being watched on a monitor.
Back at the Trailhead
Drew pulled two Gatorades out of a cooler in his trunk, which tasted great! With bikes loaded on the rack, we left the Watershed Parking lot and set off toward Montoursville. While passing through South Williamsport, we stopped at Little League World Series fields for some photos. The fields were immaculate, with a lot of very green grass all around the fields as well as on the playing surface, just like everything else in Pennsylvania.
Back at the house I quickly found the Pennsylvania soil to contain a much higher level of clay than what I was used to in California … so washing the bikes off was a chore.
After eating a light lunch, we retired to Drew’s Man Cave and watched a few mountain biking video clips and a show about crazy people who jump off cliffs and float like flying squirrels. Once again I considered myself lucky to have such good friends and to be able to share some great times at the Watershed!