Driving through Pennsylvania’s Northumberland County is much like other areas of the Eastern U.S where you find the best off-road parks. There are many back roads, sleepy towns, and rolling hills to explore, but this road leads to adventure, or more accurately, the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area just outside of Shamokin, Pa. We were on our way to one of the newest and largest parks in the country for a ride with Team FCR.
Back to the Rock
This was not our first trip to the AOAA as we had been there for a sneak peak before its official grand opening a few years ago. We were curious to see the development of the park at this point and how the long term plan was being implemented.
The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area is a planned recreational project on almost 6500 acres in rural Pennsylvania near the town of Shamokin. Like the Hatfield-McCoy system, Knott County, Kentucky, and various other ride areas around the country, the AOAA is built on property long abandoned by coal mining operations, but not forgotten by locals. In fact local residents have been riding, hunting, and discretely using the property for years. With the founding of the AOAA, however, a master plan was developed to include access for all types of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, biking, 4x4 & Jeep rock crawling, horseback riding, and of course ATV & UTV riding. It’s both a motorized and non-motorized park, and there are even facilities for those that might be a little less mobile but still love the outdoors.
A welcome center with ample parking is located on the property and inside you can get trail passes and maps. The 3,000 acre Eastern Reserve is available for open riding, with mapped and signed trails noting levels of experience, while the 3,500 acre Western Reserve is designated for pre-arranged, guided tours (call the AOAA prior to your group’s arrival to set up a tour). Training for youth or new riders is available, and they pride themselves on not only their trails and a fantastic riding area, but also on their dedication to safety. We are impressed to see the work promoting wildlife preservation as well, with bat caves and a tree revitalization project on the grounds. An ambitious American chestnut tree planting program was implemented to help reestablish the once plentiful trees in the area, and we would love to be there in 50 years to see how the plan has worked. On this trip, we would be riding through the woods, though, along with our riding buddies from FCR suspension.
Suspension Experts for Trail & Track
You don’t often get to ride with national caliber racers on your average trail ride, and we were very excited that Team FCR Pro UTV Riders Justin Luketic and Clint Zentner from East Palestine, OH would join us at Anthracite.
FCR Suspension offers suspension setup with new shocks for your ATV, UTV, and even dirt bike, or they can modify most existing shocks that come with today’s machines. They also manufacture their own line of American made products and tools, and they even have both an engine and a suspension school where you can go and learn from the best on how to maintain and rebuild today’s machines. If you’re looking for a career in the sport, this is an option. One thing we’re happy to know is that the products the race team uses are identical to the ones they sell to everyday customers. That’s good news for everybody who isn’t a pro caliber racer, but wants better suspension. So why were pro caliber racers at a riding area instead of the track? For a day of product testing, to meet and mingle with trail riders, and just plain for fun like everybody else!
Old William Penn’s Pennsylvania was one of the original colonies but also had the lucky circumstance of being one of the new nation’s best sources of raw materials from timber to oil and even coal! The coal was such a high grade it came with its own name – Anthracite – which when burned produced more energy pound for pound than just about anything else. As a result, mines were opened, the material extracted, and when it was depleted in one area, the mining company and crew simply moved on to the next best location. This left the same problem as every other mine; which is a lot of empty holes and unsightly terrain, but also a severe blow to local economies. Fortunately for all of us, it turns out that former mining properties have immense recreational possibilities.
Like most former mines, the AOAA has enormous piles of excess material, along with widely varying terrain and lots of elevation change. Some of the former mining haul roads double as connector routes to different trails now and there are plenty of trails to explore. Tight trails through the trees, creek crossings, and ruts, rocks, and hill climbs provide challenges for all, and most riders will love it. Surprisingly, there is even a huge, sandy area called appropriately, “The Sands.” Our buddy Dave Crowl knows the park very well, and he and park manager Dave Porzi were our de-facto tour guides throughout our ride, taking us to trails that offered both adventure and great views of the surrounding territory from the top. There is also a HUGE excavator bucket now resting quietly that speaks to the area’s past use, but one feature everybody has to check out during a visit to AOAA is the “Whaleback.”
The Whaleback is actually a giant shale formation that looks every bit like a half-submerged whale. There are also ponds and even a small lake on the property, and depending on the weather, you can encounter everything from dust, to mud, and even snow! It truly is a year round adventure park. The owner of FCR Suspension and our buddy Bob Luketic and his team were having a great time as well, darting from corner to corner on the easier trails, but they barely backed off even on the rocky trails that made us double check our helmet strap and seat belts! To see the FCR team’s suspension soak up the rocks, ruts, and rough sections was truly impressive. Their shocks work!
A Great Day
The town of Shamokin has a colorful history, first with Native American tribes of the Five Nations, followed by explorers, settlers, and finally by hordes of miners. Thanks to the AOAA, the area has more than ever to offer. There is a different type of explorer coming now, and there is something for everyone at Anthracite!
Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area entrance and Welcome Center
100 State Route 125
Coal Township, PA 17866
39 Wilderson Ave,
E. Palestine, Ohio 44413
We are very grateful to Bob and his team at FCR for making the trip and riding with us! It was an AWESOME time! As with all good teams, there is much more behind the scenes that makes it all work, and FCR wants to thank their industry and team partners as well. Thanks again guys!
If you’re looking for a suspension upgrade or even to expand your opportunities by working alongside the pros at one of their education programs, give them a call! They can make you and your ride better!
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