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  1. #1
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    Blue Marsh: detailed trail map

    I have been looking around for a trail map with enough detail for those who haven't been there. The maps I have seen are very general that could still mislead a tired rider. Anyone have anything better?

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    Quote Originally Posted by trekmike
    I have been looking around for a trail map with enough detail for those who haven't been there. The maps I have seen are very general that could still mislead a tired rider. Anyone have anything better?

    As far as I know, there are no maps available with the kind of detail you're looking for. Do note that the directions given in the Eagle guide 'Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania' are *not* sufficient for someone who's never been there.

    There's a basic map here that has the trail shown in red:

    questions for Blue Marsh riders

    The loop is fairly simple once you've done it with someone who knows it (you basically follow the mile markers using the little hiker as a your guide when hiking and equestrian trails diverge). There are a handful of spots where this distinction is a bit ambiguous, and one or two places where 'hikers' have more than one option (i.e. there are a couple small loop trails that split off from - and then return to - the main multi-use trail. There are also numerous dead-end roads, etc., but most places where the trail intersects an old road, there are signs or arrows telling you which way to go.

    I figured it out through trial and error about 13 years ago, but I'll tell you that those first few rides were a bit confusing, and an exercise in what NOT to do when setting out to explore a new riding area. Case in point - a single 20 oz water bottle is woefully inadequate! I set out from the stilling basin, figuring there'd probably be someplace to fill up along the way. Nope. Of course, I also knew absolutely nothing about the size of the lake, length of the trail, etc. I went because someone at the local shop (in Kutztown, at that time) said, "Oh, yeah, there're some trails out there. We ride our horses there a lot". That was it. I was out of water by the time I hit Church Rd. Ran into some riders there who told me that the easiest way back to the stilling Basin was to turn around and ride back the way I'd come.

    It was miserable. ~ 30 dusty miles in late August w/ 20 oz water. Never been so dehydrated in my life. This ride actually convinced me that CamelBaks had some merit. I figured out later that it would have only been 6 miles back to the car if I'd taken the road. D'oh!

    Anyway, if you're looking for someone to show you araound, I'd be happy to do it any time.
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    Agreed with Stick the guide in the book is not good enough if you have never been there. It's a fantastic ride not to be missed by any means, but do think carefully about the length and time. You can find your way around with some trail and error, but breaking it into smaller sections, i.e. two cars, may be a good way to learn the general directions without the pain.

    The first time I did the loop was a long, long day. I thought I was back at the lot on about 50 different ocasions. Each time it was much farther than I thought.

    Enjoy and don't miss it though!

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    I agree

    I agree with both of you. I was there last November and will be escorting a few others in June. As you know, the group will begin to break up into smaller groups and they will not be able to follow. I noticed what you say: it is easy to get lost despite the trail markers. I nearly got messed when I lost the lead guy!

    I saw the map with a general line where the trail is. This clearly is not sufficient for someone that is separated from the group.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shmack
    Agreed with Stick the guide in the book is not good enough if you have never been there. It's a fantastic ride not to be missed by any means, but do think carefully about the length and time. You can find your way around with some trail and error, but breaking it into smaller sections, i.e. two cars, may be a good way to learn the general directions without the pain.

    The first time I did the loop was a long, long day. I thought I was back at the lot on about 50 different ocasions. Each time it was much farther than I thought.

    Enjoy and don't miss it though!

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    Quote Originally Posted by trekmike
    I agree with both of you. I was there last November and will be escorting a few others in June.
    June? Sadist! Do everyone a favor and go early in the morning. Summer afternoons at BM can be brutally hot. Stifling, really, even on days when the temperature seems perfectly reasonable elsewhere. The long stretches adjacent to the corn fields are usually the worst because there's little shade and - I don't know if it's the proximity of all that corn, the sun-baked earth, or what, but - those fields turn into ridiculously humid 'ovens' under the mid-day sun.

    Consider dropping a car at the ride's mid-point (old church road parking area if you're starting from the Stilling Basin). Leave a cooler in that car, with plenty of water and gatorade. This isn't mandatory, obviously, but it's nice if you have the option. This would also allow some members in your group to bail after ~ 14 OR 22 miles if they aren't feeling up to the whole loop.
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    The map on the Army corp of engineers site is crap. There's better ones at all the major trailheads. Just look for the little kiosk thing. That said though it is still easy to get yourself confused with all the farm roads/fireroads that get mixed in with the trail. The map is as clear as it can be without making it into a 24x36 monstrousity. When in doubt double back before you get too far off course.

    Like everyone else said take extra water and food. The only water to be found is at the Day Use Area or the Rangers office. I also ran out badly the first few times there.
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    trekmike if you live far away I could mail one to you I live 11 miles from blue marsh and could swing by and get you a map that way you have one

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    Yeah, Stick, I know what you mean by going in June! I would rather do it in April/May but the schedule is filling up and I have a trip to Moab the first week in May. I am not sure I want a Blue Marsh enduro just after coming back from Utah. Anyway, options are still open on setting a date. Are you seriously cautioning against going in June?

    Anyone that wants to join in is certainly welcome. It will be a mixed crowd of different fitness levels, so make sure you will be able to hook up with others of similar skills etc...

    I am interested in getting one of those maps from bankofdad if they are worth anything. I just don't want anyone to get lost! I live in lower Bucks County so Blue Marsh is not close.
    Last edited by trekmike; 03-24-2007 at 06:55 AM.

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    Garmin 305

    yea, does anyone have a map on their computer? motionbase? That would be really good. I hate getting lost.
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    The trail can get tricky to follow at spots. I do the loop a few times a year and lead group rides for my LBS there as well. Just finished the winter Wed. night rides. It's way to muddy there right know to ride and will be for quite some time, Marsh is in the name for a reason, it holds water well. The horses churning it up helps with that too. When it gets into August, early mornings or night rides are the best, but at night you have to keep moving or shut your lights off cause of the bugs. Also there is lots of Poison Ivy that you will pedal through, I apply an Ivy Block type product on my lower legs which seems to help.

    It is best to park at Church Rd and do the lower loop first, then when you get back to Church Rd after 23 miles you can decide if you feel like you can tackle the 7.5 mile ski slope loop or not. Or at least re-fuel at the car if needed.

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by trekmike
    Are you seriously cautioning against going in June?
    Nah, I think 'cautioning against' is too strong a statement. It's just a very different ride during the summer than it is during the cooler months. I've ridden there in the worst of the summer's heat & humidity. While it can border on an exercise in suffering, it's manageable as long as you prepare for it (bring as much water and sports drink as you can carry, stay hydrated, etc). And, if you have people in your group who may not be capable of finishing, definitely have a car at both ends of the lake. I've done the loop more times than I can remember, and I still suffer like a beaten dog on the hills over those last 5 or 6 miles, every time.

    Oh, and I almost forgot the most important thing - COLD BEER. Throw a six-pack or two in a cooler, and leave it at the start/finish. Knowing that It's there, cold, refreshing, and just waiting for you, can be a tremendous motivator when the going gets tough.
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    You are right. The last leg of the loop is brutal. In November, I was hitting on some serious fatigue for sure, wishing it was finally over! We started at Church Rd and went clockwise. What do you think?

    And the beer! Yeah, it can be refreshing but right after a long haul, sometimes it makes me feel worse until I recover a little!!

    Damn... nobody's got a decent map.

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    Quote Originally Posted by trekmike
    You are right. The last leg of the loop is brutal. In November, I was hitting on some serious fatigue for sure, wishing it was finally over! We started at Church Rd and went clockwise. What do you think?
    Can't say. I've never started at Church Rd... I've always gone clockwise from the Stilling Basin. Your way makes good sense though, because you'll hit the visitor center about 9 miles in (or 16ish if you do the ski area loop first). Can refill bottles or camelbaks there.
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    I will be in the area the next couple of days. Would Blue marsh too wet to ride tomorrow??

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    Well said everyone. It's all a matter of following those triangles that have the figures of a horse, a hiker and a bike. If you follow those you should be ok. However, there is a spot past chuirch road, I want to say around mile marker 26 or so, where the trail comes to a T. You can either go left, up the hill, or right, down the hill. At the same intersection there is a sign that points out to the "day use area" to the right. If you go left, after you climb for a little bit, you will end up in a parking lot. As soon as you exit the trail, go to the right and there should be another well marked trail that will take you down for a little. Make sure that you make your first left turn in to the marked (traingle hiker, biker, horse marker) trail. If you go straight, you will end up at the same original "T" intersection that I mentioned.
    If you choose to go right at the "T", you will go down for a short distance, and then start to climb up. Make sure you keep your eye open for the trail that goes to the right (well marked), becasue if you miss it, you will end up in the parking lot at the top, wondering where the hell you are.
    Did that made any sense? Probably not, unless you've been lost like I was.

    I can make it in the fall with two 16oz water bottles. The summer is a 70oz camel back and then some water bottles, cuz it gets hot as hell in there. I've been tempted to jump in the lake to cool off. But I dont want to continue my ride with a wet ass.

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    I've got a trail map at home and can take a low-fi scan (picture) and post it if anyone wants. It's better than the one on the army corp of enginneers site.

    Let me know if interested.
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    not so hard

    Compared to most areas, it's a whole lot easier to follow the trail at Blue Marsh. There's the triangles and there's mile markers. It's pretty easy to stay on course. I went out there solo for my first ride there and only got confused on the part CaballoLoco discusses. Trick is you quickly know you're off trail so you can backtrack til you see blazes and get back on.

    The last time I was out I got confused at Church Road but figured out which way to go within minutes.

    Trick to riding the loop is to bring a copy of the map (even though it lacks detail), follow the blazes and make sure you see mileage signs every mile.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaballoLoco
    Well said everyone. It's all a matter of following those triangles that have the figures of a horse, a hiker and a bike. If you follow those you should be ok. However, there is a spot past chuirch road, I want to say around mile marker 26 or so, where the trail comes to a T. . .

    Did that made any sense? Probably not, unless you've been lost like I was.

    LOL, it made enough sense to me. I never got lost there, but it did take a little head scratching to figure out where to go after turning left at the T and climbing that rocky hill (which always seems to hurt just a bit more than it should!). IIRC, there's a yellow gate at the top, and a gamelands parking area. Like you said, from there you turn right and head downhill through a grassy doubletrack section, and keep going straight until you hit the paved access road for the Day Use area. Take a left on the access road, then pick up the trail on your right, or take the access road out to Palisades Rd, turn right and follow that back to the stilling basin.
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    Mile posts?

    You know, I didn't recall whether there were mile markers at the trail head "triangles". Knowing this will make it a lot easier because there is a map available w/ mile markers on it. Are the markers separate or w/ the triangles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Burgess
    Compared to most areas, it's a whole lot easier to follow the trail at Blue Marsh. There's the triangles and there's mile markers. It's pretty easy to stay on course. I went out there solo for my first ride there and only got confused on the part CaballoLoco discusses. Trick is you quickly know you're off trail so you can backtrack til you see blazes and get back on.

    The last time I was out I got confused at Church Road but figured out which way to go within minutes.

    Trick to riding the loop is to bring a copy of the map (even though it lacks detail), follow the blazes and make sure you see mileage signs every mile.

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    Well, yes!

    That is the point of the thread. I would be glad to see what you have! Post it.

    Quote Originally Posted by fxdwhl
    I've got a trail map at home and can take a low-fi scan (picture) and post it if anyone wants. It's better than the one on the army corp of enginneers site.

    Let me know if interested.

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    Here's a quick shot of the map. Like I said before these are at the kiosks at the major trailheads. It's a little hard to read but milemarker 1 is by the text Blue Marsh Lake in the lower righthand corner and increase as you go counterclockwise around the lake.
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    Quote Originally Posted by trekmike
    You know, I didn't recall whether there were mile markers at the trail head "triangles". Knowing this will make it a lot easier because there is a map available w/ mile markers on it. Are the markers separate or w/ the triangles?
    Not sure if I understand what you're asking, but most of the mile posts aren't at trail junctions (if any at all). They start from, and return to, the stilling basin - clockwise from mile 0 to mile 30 - and the mile marker posts don't have hikers or horses on 'em, iirc. They just count off the miles...
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    Quote Originally Posted by fxdwhl
    Here's a quick shot of the map. Like I said before these are at the kiosks at the major trailheads. It's a little hard to read but milemarker 1 is by the text Blue Marsh Lake in the lower righthand corner and increase as you go counterclockwise around the lake.
    That's the same one I posted in an old thread (that I linked to in my first reply to this thread).

    guess I should've linked directly to the map!



    [edit: I resized the map so the thread wouldn't be so damned difficult to read. If anyone wants the full-sized .gif, pm me w/ an email address or follow the link in my first reply]
    Last edited by Stick; 03-28-2007 at 07:31 AM.
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    miles not on trail signs

    The mile markers are separate from the trail signs. They help b/c they provide regular confirmation that you are still on the trail.

    Going clockwise, the first long climb is at mile 6 and the section between there and ~18 is the hardest, culminating with the climb up to the ski station. Then it's very easy for a few miles before it starts rolling again around mile 22. 22 to the end the climbs aren't long but some are pretty steep and, well, you have 22+ miles in your legs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Burgess
    The mile markers are separate from the trail signs. They help b/c they provide regular confirmation that you are still on the trail.

    Going clockwise, the first long climb is at mile 6 and the section between there and ~18 is the hardest, culminating with the climb up to the ski station. Then it's very easy for a few miles before it starts rolling again around mile 22. 22 to the end the climbs aren't long but some are pretty steep and, well, you have 22+ miles in your legs.
    Yep... that sums it up pretty well. Here's a little write-up I did about the loop 4 years ago. (Took some digging in the archives to find it!)


    http://archive.mtbr.com/00/0EFA514A.php

    Tuesday afternoon, Blue Marsh style....or....(long!) Stick
    Apr 16, 2003 12:02 PM

    "Why I'll never be a viking." [<--- obscure, outdated reference to Passion's BikingViking]

    On Monday, April 7, I rode my (road) bike to work. It was 36 F and cloudy. An hour after I got to work, it was snowing so hard that passersby my cubicle stopped to gawk at my bike and wonder how I was going to get home. The roads were such a mess that the office closed early and I had to get a ride home w/ a colleague. It was cold and rainy every day for the rest of the week.

    Fast forward to Monday April 14. What a difference a week makes! Sunny, not a cloud in the sky, high somewhere in the upper 60's. The ride to and from work was so nice, and the forecast for tuesday was sunny, high of 75. I knew what had to be done...

    Took a personal day. Drove Isaiah to preschool, stopped by the post office for a donut and some coffee (and to file my state and local tax returns) then loaded the bike on the roof and I was off to Blue Marsh Lake.

    Blue Marsh has long been a favorite ride of mine, but it's bittersweet at best. The trail is a 30 mile loop (shown as a red line on the map above)of rolling single and doubletrack dotted here and there with abandoned country lanes and tractor roads. It is, for all intents and purposes, not a technical ride. The singletrack is fast and hardpacked, with long expanses of trail that alternately skirt emerald green fields, twist through stands of shady catalpas, or wind along the breezy lakeshore.

    However...one cannot go to BM and descend, spinning tall gears and grinning ear-to-ear forever. There are many climbs. The first of which (tiny when compared to the others) begins at mile marker 3. It's short, but steep and loose enough to serve as a wake-up call for legs and lungs.

    Mile 3.5 - 4.5 is fairly flat, but another slow grind is not far off. Old Dry Road Farm is aptly named. It's bone dry and impossibly hot as one grunts up the wide tractor road approaching mile marker 5. Fortunately, there's a very fast downhill from mile 5 down to somewhere between 6 & 7. It's almost scary fast. Big ring on smooth singletrack, launching the slope at Sterner's Hill Road, full-tilt through the sweeping turn approaching mile 6.

    Ugh. Mile 6. Should read 666. 6 is evil. The first 'big' climb. It's always been a habit of mine to charge up hills like 6, attacking it in the middle ring, but I had something different in mind yesterday. A goal of sorts. To finish the loop 'strong' which, for me, on a sunny-day ride here, meant to finish without crippling cramps, dehydration or halucinations. So, I fought against my instincts and made an effort to pace myself. I shifted to the granny ring, remained seated, and spun up the hill. I still had a long way to go.

    7 to 8 goes by quickly, likewise 8 to 9, and the strecth from 9 to 10 starts slowly up a moderate grade but at this point I'm well warmed up, things are flowing well and this is basically an easy stint along asphalt and gravel; roads abandoned when the Army Corp of engineers flooded the area in the 70's.

    Ironically, though I was feeling great and riding well at this point, this is also where my memory of specific trail features and their location with regard to mile markers on the map gets a little fuzzy. That's kinda the magic part of riding here. I've done it many times, and I know I'll enjoy the ride, but I always seem to forget (or choose to forget the intimate details of the ride. Probably because I don't want to think about how much some of the hills hurt.

    Pennsylvania: Our mountains might be small, but our hills are really big!

    The climb that starts around mile 10 and goes up to Lamms Road wasn't as bad as I remembered it. Perhaps pacing myself early on was going to pay off after all...

    Around mile 12, I noticed some daisies lining the trail and thought (rather halfheartedly) about stopping to smell them.

    Mile 13ish to Church Rd: A screaming rocky descent made treacherous this day due to fallen pines and a slippery mud bog towards the bottom. Still a great time, and a nice break from the sun-baked climbs.

    Church Rd.... the point of no return. I suppose I neglected to mention on of the key things that makes this ride tough. Once you leave the Stilling Basin, there is no potable water or concessions of any kind. You have to carry everything with you. For me, this meant a Mule w/ 100 oz water, a quart of gatorade, 2 harvest bars, tools tubes, etc. Doesn't sound like a lot, but the weight of it all doesn't make the ride any easier. Anyway, Church Rd. offers the 'Wuss's Way Out'. From there, it's just 6 miles by road back to the parking lot, or ~ 8 or 9 miles back on the trail if one opts to skip the 'upper' loop on the opposite side of the road.

    Once one continues across Church Rd towards the Blue Marsh Ski Area, there simply is no 'easy' way out. I was feeling fine, and my goal was to ride everything, so I continued across the road.

    There is a race here this saturday, and the course runs clockwise around from Church Rd through miles 15 - 21. I pity those who are doing it. Remember the daisies I contemplated sniffing? The climb from mile 16 or so to somewhere near 18 had me daydreaming of pushing the daisies up; six feet of cool damp soil atop my cramped and sunburned corpse. Honestly. That hill is unrelenting. It starts steep, turns and gets steeper and a little loamy for good measure and has at least 3 'false summits'. Damned thing just keeps going, and just when you think it can't possibly hurt anymore, it does. And then some.

    Two women on horseback were descending toward me, and I was more than happy to dismount and step aside for them, despite being only 40 yards or so from the real summit. And some poor bastards are going to race each other up this thing? At the end of 2 or 3 or 4 laps? I love to climb, but I think my heart would explode from that kind of effort.

    The descent down the other side was shady and beautiful; a graceful, swoppy kind of affair that brought a smile to my lips and some very welcome down-time for my legs. From 19 to Church Rd. was fairly unremarkable and flat....not that I was complaining.

    From Church Rd to somewhere around mile 23 is more fast, open singletrack where, if I had fresh legs, I'd stand and hammer all the way...but that never happens. By the time I reach this point in the ride, the legs feel stiff, water is well below 50%, my gatorade is gone and I'm content to stay seated and move at a moderate clip.

    Somewhere in here I remember the smell of death and decay. Like roadkill in mid-august, swarming with flies and maggots. Nice, eh? Well, turns out it wasn't death, just fertilizer. Presumably lots of it. Maybe something was dead too, I dunno. It smelled bad for a while.

    There's a short but stubborn climb at Mount Pleasant (yeah, really pleasant), then you ride on the road for a 100 yds or so to cross over part of the lake. On the other side of the bridge is another climb, and a sign that reads "Dry Brooks Day Use Area 4 mi"

    This sign sucks. The day use area is very near the end of my loop. Most days, this fact is good. I don't know that I've ever seen this sign and thought to myself, "Crap. Ride's almost over." At this point, I'm generally tired and, to be blunt, my ass is getting sore. So, why does it suck, you ask? It sucks because, I'm always tempted to try to hammer out these last miles as quickly as possible. I'm hungry. Not starving (thanks to the Harvest bars), but hungry. Energy food is great mid-ride, but it doesn't stop me from dreaming of post-ride pizza and beer. I know I've got more water in the car too. I want to gulp it down, and splash it on my salt encrusted face. I want to pour it over my head and dance a little endorphin-enhanced jig in the parking lot. Only 4 miles...

    Except it's not. It's really six to get to the car. AND...it might as well be 60. These are indeed the most difficult miles on the trail and they try to crack me every time.

    My intuition always says, "go fast. get it over with."

    My legs tell my intuition to f$%^ off, and my brain is half cooked by the sun and doesn't care one way or the other. My memory is what it is, and it knows these last miles are hard. Always. My memory, again being what it is, is not always as sharp as I'd like it to be because, no matter what, it always seems to forget at least one of the walls that will impede my forward progress. It is these final 6 miles that I've been trying to save some legs for.

    The first 'wall' caught me completely off guard. Stupid memory. The hill is so steep that my front wheel was wandering all over. I tried to control it, then fumbled to flip the ECC, but it was all in vain. I wasn't focused going into the climb, and my legs decided to go on strike. Defeated, I walked the rest of this one.

    At the top, I got back on the saddle and was determined to stay there. It worked. I rode the rest of the trail. Even now, I can't remember the exact number of insane climbs in those last 6 miles. I only remember that there was one that I didn't expect to be there.

    Stupid bad memory.

    Anyway, I made it back to the car in 3 hrs 50 minutes, for an average speed of something like 7.83 mph. Pretty slow, given the amount of wide-open fast singletrack here, but I didn't care much about that yesterday and I still don't today.

    It was an excellent ride. Thanks for reading this far into my rambling account of it!

    -Stick
    Last edited by Stick; 03-28-2007 at 07:39 AM.
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