Following my trip to Ohio I spent two days visiting my friend Troy at his organic farm outside Meadville, PA. Troy was eager to show me a couple of his local bike trails, and my first morning we headed out to the Ernst Trail. The five mile main line of the Ernst uses part of an old rail line that crossed land owned by Ernst Conservation Seeds, a company that sells native plant seed for restoration of natural areas. According to Troy one big client of Ernst is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who uses their seed mixtures for medians on highways. For more about Ernst and their products visit Ernstseed.com.
We started our ride at the small trailhead on the outskirts of Meadville. Immediately the trail won my heart for having a covered bridge in the first half-mile. Covered bridge purists will note that its not ‘authentic’, but no matter, I enjoyed riding through it and enjoyed its landscaped setting over a small stream. Troy was happy to see it again as well since his farm helped pay for it. I was happy Troy stopped, as he’s far faster than I am.
The trail passes through one of Ernst’s fields, and then follows French Creek for a couple of miles. I live near another French Creek, and Troy’s is a much bigger stream. Its also more scenic, with benches and an observation platform allowing the rider or walker to take in the views. On this hot August day the shade was welcome, as I was working hard to keep up with Troy. My friend had a bike that was new to him, and while it looked small, it fit him well enough he could use his powerful and organically fed muscles to drop me like a hot rock. Fortunately this was a trail, and I was unlikely to get lost.
The main branch of the Ernst ends at a small park outside of town. But a mile before the end the trail branches off onto an extension. We doubled back and found the new stretch of trail, so new its surface hadn’t been improved with pea gravel or pavement. As for the route itself, it runs two miles through some secluded woods and farmland, rolling up and down small hills and at one point using the driveway to a trailer park. We were the only riders on the extension and I loved it for that reason. And the scenery was as beautiful as any I’d seen in Westsylvania.
By the time we’d returned to the truck we had 14 miles of riding for the day. Troy was feeling “peckish” and suggested we ride to one of his favorite places in Meadville for lunch. Voodoo Brewery was less than two miles from us, and I found the ride to be less fearsome than I thought it was going to be. The climb from the trailhead was work, but doable. Yes, I am riding through a crosswalk in the photo, but I was following Troy’s lead and besides, Voodoo was right there.
I was rewarded for my riding effort with the best veggie burger I’d ever eaten. It was made with locally sourced vegetables, and was red with beets.
It was so good I was able to ignore the fact my friend sitting next to me was downing beef tongue tacos. I can’t speak to the beer selection, as I don’t drink, but Troy was pleased with his choice on National IPA Day. As for the bar itself, Voodoo struck me as hipster without the aura of smugness one finds in such places in Philadelphia or New York. And there wasn’t a single fixie parked outside. I’m not a person who frequents bars, but I’d come to Voodoo for the food if I didn’t live six hours away.
We finished the ride with 17 miles and full bellies.