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D&L Vice President Elissa Thorne sent in this D&L Trail experience:
My husband and I rode the new section of the D&L Trail just north of White Haven on Saturday. This is the same part where the new 71′ bridge in Dennison Twp. was dedicated on Friday. Since this is still an “unimproved” stretch of trail, I thought users might appreciate a blow-by-blow of the ride. “Unimproved” means the trail lacks directional signs and does not have a uniform trail surface.
We came into White Haven from the Weatherly-White Haven Road. Since “Jam Below the Dam” was taking place we turned left on Towanda Street (just before the RR tracks). First we went over to see the latest improvements at the old Lehigh Valley Engine House. It will soon be the new home of White Haven Area Community Library. The Library building project has started with new glass windows and front façade that let natural light flood the building – impressive.
[Workers transform the old Lehigh Valley Engine House into the White Haven Area Community Library]
Next we backtracked and drove down Susquehanna Street (under the RR overpass). We parked in the grassy area located to the left at the bottom of the hill. This is the northern White Haven trailhead of the D&L Trail, but it not marked yet. It is also known locally as the southern trailhead of the “Black Diamond” Trail.
After we unloaded our mountain bikes (one full suspension, one with no suspension, both with 2″ tires), we assembled our water and snacks and took off to the north. The trail starts at the dirt road at the far corner of the lot.
I’d classify the first stretch as typical PA rail-trail. Most of this mile-long portion between White Haven and Middleburg Road was dirt and grass. As we approached Middleburg Road, the active rail line got closer to the trail and the trail turned to worn but ride-able ballast.
At Middleburg Road, I had inside info and knew what to expect so I’ll oblige and pass the facts along. Note: Use CAUTION crossing the road – there is a sharp curve in the road in both directions! Once you cross the road, turn left (heading slightly uphill), cross the RR tracks and re-enter the trail at the red shale pull off on the right.
[Use caution at the Middleburg Rd. railroad crossing]
[Map of Middleburg Rd. crossing]
The next section leads to the new bridge and passes though a small farm where we saw cows grazing and a flock of eight wild turkeys doing their best to scoot away. We were able to watch them in the brush for about five minutes. Nice. Again the trail surface varied but was pretty pleasant. The grassy stretches made up for the rougher parts so we were happy.
[Recent trail improvements make for smoother travels]
About 1.5 miles from Middleburg Road we arrived at the “new” bridge. It’s a beauty and the story is a good one. The bridge itself was recycled from I-81 in the Wyoming Valley. It was mothballed for several years and then cut into three section (the other two-thirds is still in storage for re-use sometime in the future). Finally, it was transported to the trail by truck. The bridge now spans active Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad tracks at a bend where the forest is lush and the stone retaining walls are reminiscent of railroad’s glory days.
[The newly installed recycled bridge opens access to miles of trail]
From here on the setting is a naturalist’s treat. We saw wetlands, lily pads, a beaver lodge, a great blue heron and forest lands filled with birch trees, ferns and other native plant species. We also encountered D&L mile markers 135 and 136. Note: The markers are being placed by trail tenders at each river mile. Mile 1 is located in Bristol in Bucks County. When complete, Mile 165 will be located in Wilkes-Barre.
The remaining trail surface fluctuates. Some sections are very smooth and other places are grassy. Elsewhere it becomes a double-track Jeep trail and then (unfortunately) it gets very rough with 3″ rocks – conditions only an avid mountain biker might enjoy.
[The trail is unimproved in the northern sections]
Just north of the Mile 136 marker, there’s a “Y” in the trail. Bear left here and follow the main path as it bypasses some obstructions. We continued for about another half mile or so. We turned back when it was more comfortable walking than riding our bikes. This is where we saw the heron take flight in the wetland on our right. Note: We should have kept going a bit farther. This morning, I learned Moosehead Lake is on the left just past the wetland… we would have liked to see it.
[The D&L Trail passes a wetland, just south of Moosehead Lake]
The ride back was quick. I forgot we had been riding up the former Lehigh Valley Railroad as we traveled north. I’ve saved the best for last. Heading south back to our car was all downhill.