Mountain Biking Northeast Gem: Cathedral Pines out of Yaphank, New York is a raging torrent of fun.
Hundreds of feet up reach the hilly mountain bike trails of the Pines!
Who would have thought that on Long Island, of all places, there would be dozens of state, county, regional parks, and some unofficial areas too, featuring mountain biking trails of all difficulty levels.
Long Island, the jewel, no longer the joke, of the Northeast biking scene.
Yes, the island is a largely flat space, from end to end. This is due to the glacier drag and recession at the end of the Ice Age that formed LI.
But hidden among the flat wetlands are some staunch hills and thick forests, like the Pine Barrens.
Alltrails has Cathedral Pines elevation up at 217 feet, 5.7 miles long, not 2000 feet, but for a flatland/forest/farm/wetland hybrid it is not bad.
And the long gradual inclines and steep curving descents, along with black diamond off-shoot trails full of narrow lanes, trick jumps, and fast pacing make for oh so much fun on the bike.
It is really as hard as you want it to be, depending on how fast you want to lean into those deadly turns and switchbacks.
Listed as a beginner to intermediate course overall (sans the black diamond side loops), I would say that it can very much lean moderate-to-difficult if you take it fast and muddy.
These trails, especially in the winter and spring get gnarly when the mud and leaves pull at the tires, like quicksand.
There have to be at least five or six black diamond loops that appear as offshoots on the main six mile trail.
These add another five miles of advanced hill climbing, complete with fallen logs with boards for riding, more difficult jumps, and some very stark inclines and declines.
All the while the trail is substantially narrower than the main trail.
At times you need to feel that you squeeze through the trunks of trees in a space barely wide enough for a bike to get through.
Going it fast along these diamond trails can be cause for some serious testing of one’s brakes – hydraulic-disc brake response times testing, anyone? – and you should not be ashamed if you bailout at any point as these are pro runs.
But going back to the main Pines loop there is so much variation in the turns, switchbacks, hills, forest vegetation, and fallen obstacles that it is always fun to relish the sheer beauty of the place.
You have to pay close attention to the many hoary oak roots that rise up, like tendrils, and also the drainage that can make slippery settings in some hairy places.
There is a lethal sand trap area and long grueling ascent after a fast-fast-fast descent round and down conflicting curving paths where touching the brakes, just a tap, is often necessary to prevent a disastrous fall.
The flight down the swampy curve is bullet-fast, but then the sand trap grabs you.
The next rise to elevated heights includes a long stretch of root-filled, sodden sand and leaves that slow you to a crawl.
The work to get past this long slow wind to the rooty hill that contains the feet of trees on the path, making rigid steps, that are damn difficult to manage and to keep up a pace so as to not lose one’s balance and fall.
The payout of jumps and fun leading to a couple of sheer nasty downhills in the finale make this a lot of fun.
I love the Pines!
“Mountain Biking Northeast Gem: Cathedral Pines” was written by R.J. Huneke. Aside from scribing about tech and gadgetry, R.J. Huneke brings his rampant coffee habit and his penning of Rune Works to his thriller titled Cyberwar and to his web design work at CMOSync.com. He was first published as a columnist for Newsday, though art in the form of drawing, reading and writing began at the age of four and has yet to abate.