Over the weekend there was a dam release on the Lehigh river and my wife wanted to ride her plastic coffin down it. I obliged as the diligent husband I am, but only if I got to ride some of PAís finest and forgotten trails in Jim Thorpe. Scouring the internet brings up legends of good times and good friends spending a weekend together riding and drinking Keystone or Yuengling, but all with the common theme of a trail named, ďAmerican StandardĒ.
The trail is listed as being closed due to ice damage until further notice from 2004, but ride reports afterwards still exist. I found a GPS track from a website with late 90ís style .html formatting and it was on.
We packed up the truck and headed south stopping at Moon Lake Park along the way for some singletrack so twisting I always get vertigo on Mo-Zee. I slashed a tire on 58-58 and needed to find a burly 29er tire in the middle of coal country at 4 PM on a Saturday. Luckily, Main Bike World in Kingston came through with a Bontrager 29-4 instock. They also have more BMX bikes on the floor than any shop Iíve ever visited.
Then, we headed to Hickory Run State Park for camping. From our one night stay, this place sucked. ďCampsiteĒ was basically in a large soccer field, not rustic or secluded at all. I kept waiting for 35 minivans stuffed with weeble wobblers to show up and hear a barrage of whistles and overzealous parents. Didnít happen though, just obnoxiously loud people, yippy dogs, and a 40 mph road 15 yards from the campsite with people driving by and blaring their horn all night. Stay out of sites 280-300. I wonít be back unless we can get in the 165-228 section, which requires a 2 night minimum stay on busy weekends.
The wife started her adventure at 11:00 and the pooch and I headed down to the mythical trailhead arriving around 11:30 and on the bike around 11:45. The directions for the trail were ominous, as in, park in a dirt lot 2.4 miles out of town, ride down the 55 mph highway you just drove up 0.25 miles and the trail is on the other side of the road at a truck turn off with white blazes, donít go in the woods across the street from the parking lot since itís a rifle range. So with much trepidation the dog and I make our way to the truck turn off and low and behold two white blazes, things were looking up!
We enter in and follow the 12Ē wide brown path through the low laurel and about 5 minutes in, I know this trail is going to be awesome. I realize Iím grinning ear to ear floating over round moss covered rocks and enjoying the openness of the forest around me. After some time we then hit a double track and I keep the speed in check to not kill our 11 month old Siberian Husky. Off this double track comes one off the most fun down hills Iíve ridden in PA; just the right height drops to have fun but not stuff myself, nicely bermed turns to angle the bike over, rocky sections to naturally check your speed. All down into a creek crossing and gnarly short rocky uphill out to another fire road.
After the second fire road section I thought it was time for a slog up to the top; nope, more downhill. This time it lasted forever, so much so, that I started to wish it turned back up as I thought I was really going to regret the climb back up. On this stretch of the trail comes its namesake where the boy and I enjoyed half a bar and back at it we went.
The trail finally turned up and there were some sections of positive elevation gain, but nothing lung busting. Lots of rock gardens that were easily rideable with the right gearing and momentum. We ended up back up on top with Posted signs to our left and PA State Game Land markers to our right. It seemed the trail was on a no-manís land, a proverbial Petoria, with no claim to its awesomeness. May be this is why the closure is not enforced?
At the 15 mile mark you end up back at PA 93 and have the option of crossing and going 10 more miles of fire roadish trail with very scenic views or heading back down to the car. At this point the puperoni was cooked and I knew the wife was finishing up her float, so we headed back. It took about 2.5 hours at a pace of 5.3 mph.
Iím not one to promote poaching, but to me, this is a must ride. The trail is in great condition; very few unsanctioned trees down or rear derailleur killing branches. Great flow with the feeling of descending more than climbing.
A true PA built American Standard.
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