back from Raystown Lake... back from a week of vacation camping and mountain biking with the boys at Raystown Lake in PA

map of the Allegrippis Hiking and Biking Trails

Raystown Lake and the Allegrippis Trails...

This week past I went to central PA to go mountain biking with my boys on the Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake for a bit of SUMMER VACATION!

this was our first trip to Raystown Lake 
the plans were made without much research
not much more than the stories I heard over the years and a quick glance at some captions and photos on the web
just a basic understanding of the proximity of the natural surface mountain bike trails to Raystown Lake

From what everyone said Seven Points Marina was the place to camp... the only place to camp... but no one was specific about which to campground to select within the Seven Points Marina or if they were it was already too abstract information for me to retain it for when I made our reservations

so based on availability with our late booking we took a spot at the Meadow Camp... having no idea what to expect

it was no more than a toss of a dart at the dart board
I really had no idea of the layout of the land
most of my intel was over word of mouth
I had glanced at a map but did not have any concept of scale or proximity

but in the end... to meet our schedule and the Seven Points availability I took what was available with no consideration of this campsite or that campsite
I was just stoked to reserve something

everything was an unknown... I figured it would work out no matter what

the Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake have a reputation for being the signature design of the IMBA Flow Trails
mountain biking for EVERYONE
it was my goal to take my boys mountain biking at a location where there was the least possible room for discrepancy between the strength, speed, and ability of my 11 and 14 year old boys

so... the boys returned from a month of sleep away camp
they were given one night of comfort in their own beds
then we were back into the car and pointed back towards the woods for more camping
to my pleasure... the boys were entirely agreeable with the mountain biking\camping adventure
map of the Seven Points Recreation Area

the trip would be just shy of a week
arrive on Sunday - leave on Friday
that would allow for five nights of camping
that allows for plenty of days of mountain biking and splashing in the lake

I suspected that we had time for plenty of mountain biking on the IMBA designed Flow Trails on the Allegrippis Trails

NOTE: I did not take ANY photos on this trip
all the photos attached here are old shots
some recent... some not so recent
the photo process can be consuming
brought the camera... but could not balance it all

I guess I weighed the scale of "all or none"

to which I selected none
not one shot on the iPhone
not even one Instagram post
the Canon DSLR never exited my pack

why no photos?
I just was not feeling it
or perhaps it had to do with the fact that there was too much to do
not being a seasoned camper there was much adjusting to do

cooking at the camp alone took a great deal of energy
then of course... always struggling to entertain the boys
breaking up the never ending battle between brothers
not only trying to keep them entertained... but also safe
the boys are now much older riding much bigger wheels

here is the basic breakdown about how it all unfolded

SUNDAY: In the morning I attacked the task of packing the car
As much as the Honda Element may boast about its size and pack-ability... it was tight

one adult... two not so small children... one 55 pound dog... three bikes... and camping gear
just as there was not much logistical planning
there was also no real planning in the packing

Saturday I grabbed all sorts of gear
Sunday I stuffed all that gear in the car

three bikes ontop of the Element
then after removing one of the passenger back seats I stacked storage containers filled with tents, sleeping bags, hammocks, camping cooking gear, and other assorted necessities 

so... with the car loaded with gear and then kids we pointed north
well... west and then north
the GPS on the phone directed the way 
having no actual agenda we drove at a mellow pace that involved stops to pee, eat, and pee again

after roughly 4 hours of driving we arrived at Raystown Lake
on the grounds we located our camping spot at the Meadow Camp and set up our week long domicile
while I set up the two tents
Dean and Grant hung their hammocks in the woods adjacent to our camping area

with the tents in place we drove around to get the lay of the land
we scoped out the proximity of the Allegrippis trailheads
we bought firewood from a local convenience store
and then drove down to check out the lake

it was late afternoon Sunday
much of the campers had pulled out
it was mellow at the lake
no issue finding parking... no issue finding a spot to lay the towels
we all splashed around spending most of our time chill-laxing on the yellow pvc pipe that divides the swimmers from the the beach and boaters on the lake

as the sun dropped the boys got hungry so we migrated back to the camping area where we would start and fire and then grill directly over the fire

it was a simple dinner
hot dogs and sausage... with buns, mustard, and pickles

then there were strawberries and pineapple 
ending the evening with a movie on Dean's laptop

morning came and we woke in our tents
we woke in our tents while the people camping around us woke in their RVs
we were really outnumbered
2 person tents are not the standard at Raystown Lake

when we checked in the young woman behind the counter was stern and strict about the two structure limit

which intrigued me... the camping spot is stated to be for up to 10 campers
in my circle... 10 campers would mean 4 to 6 tents
Raystown Lake is accustom to another type of camper... RVs and Pop Tops

there had been a minute where we thought that we would be where we were planning on borrowing a neighbor's VW camper van
but... a week before the departure for our trip the Miller's van caught fire
better on his watch than on mine
it would have been moderately inconvenient had the van caught fire on our trip to Raystown Lake
not to mention expensive!

MONDAY: the week agenda was loosely scripted
there were no hard plans other than doing some riding and then splashing in the lake
there was also the notion that we could do some hiking
then also maybe some boating

I woke before the boys
while the boys slept I tried to make the camping breakfast more appealing
while setting up the milk and cereal I was aggitatated with myself when I realized that I had not packed adequit utensils... we had one spoon and three people eating cereal

after a simple breakfast of cereal and some fruit we were on the bikes riding straight out of camp towards the south section of the Allegrippis Trails
not sure what to expect we just guessed our way around
the night prior I had been given some trail advice by a local with a fat-bike
we dipped into the woods just past the Ridge Camp on the Vee Cee Trail... then onto Dark Hollow

we rode a little bit but found ourselves at the trailhead after just an hour of riding

shorter ride time then I was looking to make happen
but both Grant and Didg seemed to be ready to head back to camp... so I did not fight that momentum

dropping in and riding some more trail was tempting

but I did not want to risk burning out young Grant on the first day of riding
so we rode back to camp then headed into town for some supplies

in town we had lunch at BOXER'S and got some trail advice from ROTH ROCK OUTFITTERS
we tried to buy as much as we could from local businesses
but found ourselves shopping at Walmart
at Walmart we got more food
and each of the boys bought a hatchet

when we returned to camp the boys were well entertained with the task of turning all of the firewood into kindling
it was a relaxed tone
during the strongest sun of the day we took shelter in the woods on the hammocks
then ended our day swimming in the lake
only to return to camp for some burgers on the fire followed by another movie on the computer

somewhere in day one or maybe day two Grant cut his finger with a knife as he tried to open his new highly powered flashlight
it was a pretty serious cut
I tended to the bleeding 

we cleaned things up and once the bleeding stopped I sealed the cut with some Crazy Glue

over the course of the trip we monitored his thumb
Grant was initially hesitant that he would be able to bike
but the next day I put a band-aid and his glove over the wound and he was able to ride without issue
the glue held and there was no bleeding while riding

TUESDAY: When riding the trails on the southside I was a little shocked about the change in elevation
Part of my objective was to find a set of trails to ride with my 11 and 14 year old sons

my younger son Grant is a strong cyclist... but it is a great deal to ask that he keeps pace with his teenage brother
especially when 14 year old Dean does such a good job chasing my wheel at an adult race pace

it pleased me to find out that the trails on the north side had less elevation change
the conversations at Roth Rock Adventures gave us an idea of some loops on the north side

initially I had the intention of attempting a sub 20 mile ride

but ended up modifying our ride as we rode

Didg was doing a fine job of holding his own as well!

the boys were digging it
there were lots of smiles
the swooping downhills were a blast

fast turns and joyous curves
with undulating climbs 

to keep Grant's spirit up... instead of having him playing perpetual catch up we try to let him lead...

Dean and I would send Grant out ahead and wait a few minutes
then we chase
depending upon the terrain and Grant's intensity this effort has varying success

we guessed our way around the trails without a map
somehow I lost my 5 dollar trail map after nothing more than a glance

the trails are well marked and there are maps in the woods on the trail
in our short day of riding we were already getting a sense of what trails to repeat on future rides

Osprey and Hydro Loop brought serious smiles to our faces
Hydro Loop was so much fun that Dean and I repeated it

later we would learn that Fawn to Osprey would increase the downhill fun
towards the end of the ride Grant started to fade
I sent Dean ahead and worked to keep Grant's spirit up
Didg was also starting to drag
for Didg there was not enough water to cool his jets
for Grant there was just a tough combination of heat and climbs
then maybe a few more miles than Grant had wanted

it pleased me to see that Grant was able to get Didg to drink from his Camelback... he had more success squirting water from the bite valve than I had when I sprayed water from my water bottle at his mouth

eventually... we got ourselves to parking lot

Grant and Didg chilled in the shade while Dean and I went ahead and did a few more miles


the boys rocked it
I was so proud
I was pleased that there were only a few complaints
but this can be expected in the effort to to please the two different age boys

yes... the balance of riding with the different age boys
not enough miles for Dean
too many miles for Grant
too fast a pace for Grant
too slow a pace for Dean

it is hard to please all the participants 
yet I try

I felt as if we were having fun... fun on the trails and fun at the campsite

this day unfolded similarly to the day before
morning mountain bike ride
afternoon of dodging the hot sun in the shade of the campground 
everything followed with.... 
grilling and chilling in the campground after cooling down in the waters of Raystown Lake

WEDNESDAY: Guess what we did after we woke up... 


it must have been amusing to the other people in the campground
it is an odd mix of cultures
the campgrounds in a cross section of America

in the Meadow Camp across the road from us was a family with a pop top camper
a mother with 4 of her five kids spent the day breaking up fights and feeding endlessly hungry children
all around the camp ground retired couples sat in folding chairs along side their rolling homes... massive RVs all around
people rolled out with their speed boats before the sunrise and returned by the afternoon
it was a cultural experience for me

but... just as the behavior of the other campers was peculiar to me
I would suspect that our behavior was also unusual to them
that said...
our behavior was not entirely unique

on the trails we ran into other families
similar to us... there were mothers and fathers with children all in matching cycling kids
all of the cyclists far less local than the RV and Camper culture
there was a cluster of kitted out riders from Canada
we saw large summer camps with kids of assorted comfort on the bike
then on the beach we saw other people with high end bikes and matching lycra  team kits 

the first two days of riding were not easy
I had considered that this third day be a rest day
but Grant was adamant about riding
so... I let this act as a rest day for Didg and then I would try to keep it as a moderate day for the boys with the intention of doing a longer ride the following day

Grant at 11 is a wonderfully precocious child
Grant is capable of independence in a way that his older brother would not have been capable at his age
I spoke with Grant about the loops and gave him my recommendations
I thought that we would head to the trail-head on the north side and roll out with a series of left hand turns

then as a group we would take Buck to Fawn
Grant would take Fawn to Osprey and Hydro Loop
while Dean and I would explore with a series of left hand turns
we had sampled Sidewinder in both directions the day prior

I looked forward to flowing Ray's Revenge and a few other trails we had yet to sample

it was amazing
Grant and his independence and Dean and his ability to chase my rear wheel

while Didg stayed back at camp tied up in the shade with food, water, and a camping chair

Didg was dog tired... his muscles were clearly sore and his paws were obviously tender as well

the lack of water on the trails caused for a hard day in the woods for the dog
he lacked the water that aids in cooling him down and recharging him

I was not certain... but at that moment I thought that Didg may have had his last day chasing the mountain bikes
but Didg still got his afternoon swim in the lake
and free range movement around the campground

THURSDAY: Thursday morning as I stirred in my tent I got a sense that it was about to rain
without hesitation I grabbed my iPhone and checked my Dark Sky App
sure enough... rain was headed our way so I got the boys to get out of their tent and put the fly over the tent while I put the fly on my tent

then we debated about the plan
the forecast on the smart phone did not look good
with the threat of fast approaching rain we discussed our plans
Grant was quick to bow out
Dean was game to ride

we dragged our feet with our discussions
we were slow to suit up and load the bikes
by the time we were driving to the trailhead it was pouring rain
at the trailhead Dean and I mounted up and took to the trail

it was AWESOME riding in the rain
the trails with their IMBA SOLUTIONS trail design were sustainable and unaffected by our tires rolling on them as it rained
Dean seemed to be propelled by the notion of STRAVA
but I had to let him realize that he could not be racing for his Personal Best on this day
I felt so strongly about this that I avoided some of the faster loops including the Hydro Loop in an effort to keep things safe

again the boys impressed me
Grant's independence in his ability to hang back with the dog
Dean's desire to ride in the rain and then his ability to hammer in my shadow

it was aggravating... my chain was loose
the rain at the trailhead had me neglect things
I did not tighten my chain
my chain dropped a number of times on the ride
an issue that could have easily been avoided

so much of my time is focusing on the kids' bikes
one day we had a flat on the trails
had to patch the tube in the woods because I mistakenly was only carrying a 29er tube and foolishly left the 26er tubes in my tool box
at the end of the day I was glancing at brakes
so much time focused on the kids' bikes had me ignoring my own bike

Grant on the stairs of the US Capitol with the Supreme Court in the background

it stopped raining halfway through our ride
the forecast for rain through the late afternoon was inaccurate
the rain came on hard and then stopped
the sky cleared up and we had the rest of the day to do as we pleased

Dean and I had a decent ride
it was evident in our pace that each of us was feeling the efforts of the three days prior
the short ride as our last ride was enough

back at camp we ate lunch and debated about the events of the day

there had been talk about renting a canoe
after lunch I went down to the marina to get an idea of what would work best for our adult, two kids, and a dog format
it turned out they had both single and double sit on-top kayaks


I reserved two boats and then went back to camp to try and rally the troops
the boys were in their hammocks asking for more time to relax

our format of ride hard in the morning
then chill in the afternoon would change on this day
I gave them a little more time... but not the time to relax they had enjoyed days prior

after some prodding I got the troops to motivated

once the boys were in the boats and we were paddling across the lake I told the boys the plan
we would try to find "the cliffs"
I had heard that there were three sets of rocks at Raystown Lake for cliff jumping
it was not entirely clear how long of a paddle it would be to get to these rocks
but we were going to try

the boys were enjoying boating

but the notion of paddling to the cliffs upped the fun factor

on our way out we scoped out one set of cliffs
I had inquired with various people about the cliff options
as we approached one set of cliffs I discussed the jump options with a father with his family as they passed in a speed boat
he was not aware of people jumping at this first set of rocks

I knew that the first set of cliffs were a less popular.. lesser known... and a less exciting set of cliffs... I was looking for something that was completely unfamiliar to me, but I was afraid distance of the preferred cliffs

it was all a big unknown to me

the father in the speed boat offered to pull us in our boats to the other cliffs
Grant was overjoyed with the notion of the free ride
but I was suspect on the kayaks ability to be be pulled
it sounded like a potential catastrophe
so we paddled past one peninsula and then another
as we crossed the point of the second peninsula I could see people jumping off some rocks across the lake



as I paddled I watched boats pull up and various people climb up and jump from different spots





I arrived at the rocks before the boys
we pulled our boats out of the water and approached the rocks
the boys had no hesitation
I spoke with some of the dads about the cliffs
questioning their knowledge of the area
one family had been coming to this spot for years while the other father had been here for the week but investigated the depth of the water extensively on his first day

seeing the speed boats pull up to the cliffs... then to see series of people jump off the cliffs as I paddled across put me at ease

this was the spot... it was proven to be a safe jumping spot

we stayed a little longer than the other families
the speed boaters more than likely made several visits to the cliffs during their lake visit
this was our one shot deal
the boys jumped and dove off the high rocks
young Grant petitioned me to jump off the highest rock... I refused

after a number of both refreshing and exhilarating jumps we got back in the boats and started paddling back
sometimes I forget the kids are kids
I have adult logic
kids lack logic

the boys paddled back at a kids' pace
I turned back and watched them
I watched them sit dormant... no paddles in the water
I watched as they splashed each other
I paddled back and gave them instructions to follow me

paddle across the lake from peninsula to peninsula 
then paddle along the coast of the peninsula

then cross quickly
respecting the boat traffic
avoiding the boat traffic

the kids went to the center of the lake
it gave me parental anxiety
the boat traffic was beyond respectful of the boys
but I thought my boys could have handled things differently

I paddled back to them... gave them stern instructions... I want them safe... I am a father and I worry... they are kids... and well... kids do not always listen clearly... kids will be kids

we got back to shore
surprisingly to me
the boys had had enough swimming at the cliffs
we went back to camp instead of going to the beach one last time

luckily Didg did some swimming at the cliffs so he did not need any more beach time either

we returned the rental boats and then marveled at the cluster of domesticated carp
hundreds of MASSIVE fish gathered by the dock waiting to be fed
their large mouths open waiting for bread crumbs from the tourists
as much as the conditioning of these fish may have irked me... we joined in on the fun and fed the fish

tossing some pieces of bread into the water started a feeding frenzy

back at camp the boys got back to their tasks
chopping wood with their hatchets... throwing throwing knives into the trees... reading National Geographic as they lounged in their hammocks in the shade of the woods... 

as I cooked ribs for dinner

our last night was a repeat of the nights before
night one we watched the movie in the shade of a tree along side the tents
by the next evening we moved our movie set up with camping chairs and a cooler as a table to set the laptop was moved to the logging trail in the woods right behind our camp site

just as with the nights prior our movie had an intermission that involved stoking the fire that was made for dinner

then would be made for the purpose of the boys making some Jiffy Pop Popcorn
then back to the movie

the routine each day worked well
by the movie's end we were all exhausted from our active day at Raystown Lake
the bike ride and the swimming in the sun had us all ready for bed by the time of the "quiet time" at the camp sites

FRIDAY was much like SUNDAY
more of a travel day than a vacation day
in the morning we woke and ate breakfast
I had the notion of either spending the morning at the beach on the lake or taking the kids on a hike

there were all sorts of hikes in the area

I was leaning towards the 10,000 Step Hike

or something to that effect, but the boys were ready to head home
I sent the boys with the dog to the marina with a bag of bread to feed the carp while I tried to fit all of our camping gear back in the car

I thought that we would have more room in the car without the food, firewood, and grilling charcoal 
but no... it was a game of Tetris trying to get everything to fit and still have room for two boys and a dog in the Honda Element

in the end the trip to Raystown Lake and the Allegrippis Trails in Central PA was a SUCCESS
a trip that I would recommend
a trip that we would definitely repeat
the drive was not that long
the lake and the mountain bike trails
and of course the cliffs

the trip was a great balance of relaxing and exhilarating 
the proximity was perfect
there is so much more to do than we did
we did plenty... but I know that there is more to do
there were more trail loops to explore on the Allegrippis Trails
there were all sorts of hiking trails and caverns to explore
there is more room for adventure on the water

on this trip we had tentative plans for people to meet us for some camping and some riding
but those plans made over drinks did not develop into reality
next time we may work harder to have friends camp with us

compatible adult playmates and compatible kid playmates would have been a great additive

not vital... but it would be nice
friends definitely up the fun factor
not that we ever had a lack of fun

the Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake made for a great family mountain biking\camping adventure
there is a good chance that our summer vacation will be a return to Raystown Lake

the boys had a blast
I had a blast
the dog had a blast
Raystown Lake is a BLAST!
the lake and the mountain bike trails

great randomness when I search for

info on the camping and the trails

everyday that we rode it was important for each of us to rest-recover-and refuel after each ride
the pattern of "chill-laxing" in the afternoon was intentional
after the morning ride everyone was pretty wiped out

we slowed things down after the ride
less structure
less activity
the boys were forced at least one banana each day
there was chocolate milk 
and of course... lots of water

I felt that the mellow mid-day was a pleasure
there was enough time in the day to relax in the lake in the late afternoon
this pattern brought me great pleasure
the boys needed some free time and some free play
too much structure can be exhausting

it all worked out really well

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