I try not to dwell on the negative in my outdoor writing. But the day I fell on the Tanbark Trail in the Catskills was one of the worst I’ve had outside. And it was capped by the Catskill Scenic Trail.
After I’d gotten off the Tanbark Trail, I headed back to the cabin. I was already in a bad mood, full of self-loathing. Lunch didn’t change that. But I felt a good bike ride, like the one I’d had the day before on the Walkway Over The Hudson, would change my mood. So I dressed in riding gear, loaded the bike onto the rack, and set off to the only rail trail in the Catskills.
I should have checked the mileage beforehand. I was over an hour from the trail. But having set my mind to it, I drove and drove. I finally reached the town of Bloomville…. and drove past the trailhead. It wasn’t my fault, for the trailhead wasn’t signed. When I parked, the only other vehicle was an abandoned car.
I ignored the omens and started off. The trail’s website mentions several crossings of the Delaware River – yes, THAT Delaware River – and I was looking forward to taking photos. But shortly past the trailhead the surface of the trail became a mass of potholes and ruts. I am not a strong rider, but I’ve ridden canal towpaths and gravel trails since 2007, and this was the worst surface I’ve come across. Then I discovered why the trail was so bad. The trail runs through farm land, and farm equipment used the trail. I turned around, and in a foul mood rode back to the car. I drove on to the next trailhead, in the town of Stamford, and after searching for it located the old trail station.
In Stamford the trail was in better condition, or so I thought. I rode a couple of miles towards Bloomsville, but even here there were problems. I felt odd bumps under my wheels. Apparently when they turned the old rail line into a trail they didn’t bother to remove the ties. I was riding over the railroad ties sticking up through the gravel. I turned around and rode back to the station. Heading in the other direction was the final straw for me, as I soon came across a trail ‘repair’ that consisted of dumping a bunch of loose gravel. I packed up the bike and drove back to the cabin.
Some people might say I came to the trail with a bad attitude. Perhaps. But even if I were in a good mood I’d be annoyed at a trail ruined by farm equipment and neglect. Anyway I finished the day with three miles and a bad mood even the glories of the Catskills in fall couldn’t cure.