Rides We Like: Sheep Hole Road

By CJ Rudy

 

Rides We Like: Sheep Hole Road

Oct 19

About as much information as I could find in reference to Sheep Hole Road, located in Ottsville, PA, is that one house is as old as 250 years old. Connecting Geigel Hill Road with Headquarters Road, this gravel pathway is beautiful. But finding history on this breezeway is immensely difficult.

 

The road is a bridge lovers’ wonderland. There is a span at the northern intersection, before accessing the unpaved road. There are two steel bridges, some twenty feet in length, slicing the road into thirds. Then, shortly after the road returns to pavement, there is the decades-long closed Headquarters Road bridge, a structure built in 1812 that PennDOT is determined to tear down. For a gravel road, there are quite a few bridges present.

The northerly entrance to Sheep Hole Road involves crossing this span on Geigel Hill Road before turning right.

 

Then there’s the rideability. From either direction, this mile-long bobsled run is fast. North to south, though, is regarded as slightly downhill. This was the direction we took recently, because it had been a while since we last said ‘hello’ to one of our favorite gravel sectors. 

 

The road is flanked by hardwoods, making the recent pass-through perfect at the start of the autumnal change. The road parallels Tinicum Creek. The northerly start features shale cliffs across the creek to darken the already small rays of sunlight. Even in drought, this road has damp patches. After a short uphill ramp, the route gets windy while the scenery opens up. The surface turns more to clay than gravel, though the entire road is a light red color, with gray pebbles on top. Quickly the first metal bridge appears to send the rider up and over the Tinicum, which swings to the rider’s left. To the right is a meadow behind a sentinel line of pine trees. This portion of the road is more like a trench. It’s hard to fight the urge to pop out of the riding surface and zip along the low grass on the right side.

The initial portion of Sheep Hole has a short rise accompanied by beautiful forested views.

 

At the halfway mark, the second bridge appears. It is from this span some of the most dazzling views of a Bucks County fall come into focus. The stone-dotted Tinicum Creek gurgles off into the distance, toward another bank of cliffs before turning left. Trees line the creek as well as pocket the ledges. Early yellow leaves eddy on the creek surface. One could stand here all day and recalibrate.

 

Rolling on, and two tucked up houses appear on the left. I’ve often wondered who lives on such a remote road. Across the street from these abodes is another meadow, complete with landscaped grass trails down to Tinicum Creek. Tonight a couple was using those walkways alongside their sheepdog. The road has started to kick upward; oncoming traffic is always difficult to see. Though the road feels far removed from society, it almost always had an approaching car to deal with. The road is not only capped by bridges but also cliffs. This time the cliffs are on the rider’s left, shooting into the sky rather clumsily. The brown and red dust is kicked up here because this portion is usually dry. It also marks the end of the paved portion.

The second bridge over Tinicum Creek that features a peaceful respite from the bustle of major roads nearby.

 

Curious about the name Sheep Hole Road, next to no information was gained after extensive research. Search terms including the road name, road name plus history, road name plus Ottsville all yielded real estate results or numerous updates to the stagnant story of the Headquarters Bridge targeted by PennDOT. Per history.com, the earliest date of structures in the area go back to approximately 1750, though that was a blanket time span given to many of the early Bucks County structures.

 

But back to those who live on the road. This unpaved road houses the driveway and hidden million-dollar houses. One house occupied the real estate market for $4 million. This unkempt ancient road is the final turn for affluent Bucks County homeowners. Meanwhile road cyclists fly down the road trying to raise dust clouds for effect. Once before a motorist asked my business on the road, to which I simply shrugged and answered, “Riding my bike.” It made it clear locals squint at any presence, be it cyclist or otherwise. No sooner did I finish the unpaved road than I waved to a runner setting out to pound the Sheep Hole gravel.

 

Sheep Hole is a Bucks County road through and through. The route was strategically laid out to avoid the inconvenience of the PennDOT blockade on Headquarters Road bridge more than once. To roll down the wavy and windy gravel road is to step back into history and admire the beauty of the throughway that parallels a creek. Just how far back that history goes is hard to discover. One thing is for certain, asking the locals is not an option. All I’ll ever respond with is, “I’m simply riding my bike on Sheep Hole.”