Author: Joshua Schucker
Pictures courtesy of Joshua Schucker, Bill Lemunyon, Dave Bittner, and Don Fegley
Each year, just in time for the beginning of fall’s color changing beauty, the town of Pine Grove is awakened by the sound of hundreds of dirt bike enthusiasts setting out for a trip through the scenic and challenging terrain left behind by the area’s legendary mining operations.
The sold-out event is a part of the East Coast Enduro Association’s (ECEA) yearly schedule and begins and ends at the North End Fire Company in this small Pennsylvania town. The fire company has been a long-time partner with the Reading Off Road Riders (RORR), who are the brains and brawn behind the event.
The club’s members are hard at work for several weeks ahead of the event maintaining trails and mapping a unique dual sport experience. The course is laid out in two loops, morning and afternoon, that take place on property that was once considered “open” riding, These areas near Tower City, Joliet, Good Spring, Blackwood, and Llewelyn are a source of great memories to the folks that grew up riding the region in the later 20th century.
Unfortunately, times change and increases in vandalism, injuries, insurance claims, ownership changes, etc. all played a hand in losing access to these areas. Thankfully, RORR has been able to maintain long-standing relationships with the various landowners throughout the years and provide the sport with a “one-time-only” annual access to the historic areas and a great reason to mark this event on your calendar.
At just over ninety miles, the ride is certainly a full day, and while you will justify that license plate by spending some time on blacktop, don’t let the dual sport moniker fool you…this ride is no jaunt through some graded forestry service dirt roads. After all, the event is brought to you by the same folks that present the “Tough Like RORR” extreme enduro, and it’s only natural for the club to incorporate a bit of that attitude into all of its events. But, to clarify, and lessen the scare factor for next year’s participants, the majority of the difficult sections are incorporated as options that are clearly marked for you to decide your fate. However, there are some rocky areas even on the main trail. This is Central PA…you cannot avoid rocks, you just have to embrace them.
A brisk overcast morning greets the riders as they leave North End Fire Company warmed from the breakfast provided by the North End’s volunteers. The ride heads west into the land managed by Rausch Creek Trailriders Club. Today’s access is granted only for the event by the Rausch Creek management team, but memberships, as well as campsites, are available for purchase to enjoy this vast riding area annually by visiting https://www.rauschcreekracing.com/. Here the main trail will follow mostly two-track trails, mine access roads, and scenic paths with terrain ranging from the aforementioned rocks, black coal dirt, hard pack, and even sand. Several optional routes incorporate some wonderful, challenging single track and romps along the spine of “dragon-backs”, piles of overburden and manipulated ground left over from strip mining activites.
A return to the fire company for a tasty lunch follows before setting off to the Blackwood/Llewelyn section for the afternoon loop. This area is accessed by the longest stretch of blacktop in the event, but once the tires hit dirt again, you quickly realize the trek was worth it. Unlike the morning’s section, where there is an active club using the land, this area is off limits except for the Mighty RORR. So, the trails are fresh and neatly trimmed from the club’s preparation. As in the morning, the main line will traverse a mix of dirt roads and wider paths and the rocks are resigned to background noise compared to earlier. There is one difficult bit of main trail toward the end of the loop that is a consequence of the terrain and access but be sure the RORR representatives are willing and able to assist as needed. The fun level really amps up when choosing to tackle the options as the single track is truly spectacular. And, if you make it through one of the last, and most challenging options, where you ascend the mountain side through a tangle of rocky trail and tight trees, you may be rewarded with a hearty cheer and snack from the fire as you pass by an accommodating welcoming party at a rustic cabin atop the hill.
Not far beyond the cabin, the trail returns to the blacktop for a return to the starting area concluding another year’s Mighty RORR. The members of RORR are very grateful for the cooperation of the various landowners that provide the access for the event and well as the support of Rausch Creek Trailriders Club, the North End Fire Company, and the ECEA and its sponsors. Make your plans to join in next year, but be sure to watch the website https://www.rorr.org/ for sign-up information in late summer/early-fall as the event is known to sell-out quickly!