Monday, November 23, 2009

Drawing Blood

Friday afternoon I was able to get out for my local ride to Paris Mountain and back. I can’t remember anything too exciting happening besides a nice 30 mile after work ride to get the weekend started off right. I did throw on ‘Ol ridge’ so things seemed a little harsher than normal but its that time of the year to start taking it slow and the rigid fork helps with that on the downhills.

Sunday rolled around and nobody wanted to ride in the drizzle (I told you that Clay’s ride would suck winter riding passion right out of these poor unsuspecting souls) so I decided that base fitness and dog exercise were the name of the day.

I set out headed to Jones Gap wondering what I could do that was ‘new to me.’ As I have covered all the trails in the Mountain Bridge Wildnerness Area besides Bill Kimball and a small connector off of Hospital Rock trail. I have always wanted to connect Hospital Rock with Rainbow falls but wasn’t sure of the exact path through “Pretty Place” and Greenville YMCA’s property. So without a map or compass I set out to make this loop once and for all.

With Shade and Buddy in tow sporting their blazed orange just in case we started our ascent up Hospital Rock from the visitor’s center. Even with a cool fall day and a light rain and drizzle I quickly warmed up and shed some layers. As I was encompassed in the stepping mantra that we know as hiking, I didn’t see a fallen tree above me and stepped up to feel a sharp pain on the top of my head. After a few choice words, I looked back and the culprit was a sharp branch sticking off of a fallen pine. It left me with a bleeding scalp but nothing serious.

I really love being in the mountains this time of the year as I can see out to all the ridges and contemplate where the trails on the other side of the mountains lie. As I stood there taking in the view I realized the sound of the rain had changed. Sure enough when I looked down it was sleeting slightly adding to the ambiance. It took a mere 40 minutes to get to Hospital Rock and I decided a picnic was in order along with a warming fire. I have been distraught with myself for not building proper fires in the rain twice this year and both happened to be in Clay’s company so I figured I better practice in case one is actually needed in the future.

Luckily I was able to prove to myself that I still am capable of starting a fire in the woods and the dogs and I relaxed for 40 minutes before taking off again! I think this is the longest rest I have ever taken on a solo hike and it was very nice listening to the rain under the shelter of the rock with my warming fire. I covered my fire tracks with some rocks and headed onward up Hospital Rock trail.

After some huffing and puffing up the steeper sections we made it to the connector trail and I could only surmise from this point as I had never hiked the connector and the map just shows the trail teetering off into nothing. I had always figured that it ran into some trails at Camp Greenville but wasn’t certain on which way to go from there.

After a short hike up the connector I found myself on an old road bed that is obviously still driven by hunters or other recreationists. I never saw no trespassing signs and just as I was about to give up my mission I noticed a Camp Greenville marker on a tree. Then not long after that I saw some signs indicating that I was currently on CCC which I knew was the correct way. Sure enough CCC popped me out just up the road from Pretty Place so we walked down to check out the Chapel and its view. After a very wind chilling moment looking at the rain we started on the trail that I knew took us to Rainbow Falls from a previous excursion with Shade and Kristin. The entire time hiking through Camp Greenville I didn’t see a soul. I thought for sure someone would be out at the chapel as they open it up to the public on Sunday’s but we had it all to ourselves.

Hikers beware going down the top portion of Rainbow Falls as there are some roped climbing moves and I had to assist Shade and Buddy in a couple spots. We found ourselves at the falls pretty quickly and we took the view in for a minute before heading the rest of the way down.

A total of 5 hours in the woods without seeing a soul.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Riding with Blue Ribbons

So it was a great camping weekend this past weekend. I know of some guy, who came up with this crazy ride plan and from the beginning I said “Ain’t going to do it even though it does sound grand.” I knew from the beginning that I would not be in great shape come November and the last thing I wanted to do was to blow out all of my passion for winter riding this early in the season.

So with that in mind Kristin and I decided to make it a joint effort for fun. I headed up to the campground Friday evening. Joe and I came up with a plan for a night ride as I couldn’t stand sitting around after more than 10 days off the bike.

Our plan for the evening was slightly ambitious and I kept commenting that if I were riding “the route” that I would take off on Friday night as there is no way I would sleep well anyway but all this is gibberish since I was obviously a spectator for this weekend.

So Joe, Buddy and I headed out into the night. As we drew closer to Clawhammer the decision was made to go up it. Then as we came to Maxwell Cove, we decided it was an excellent cloudless night for an excursion to the top of Black Mountain.

The climb up Maxwell went by quickly and we arrived at the Gap with Buddy still in tow. Buddy really enjoyed the hike up to the overlook and I was surprised by how quickly we came up on Turkey Pen trail head.

We took in the views on top of Black while I complained about the city light pollution that we could still see. I exclaimed that one really has to reach the Parkway before some of that pollution fades but we both agreed that this was a pretty nice spot for a night time picnic.

The great thing about all the October rain is that it makes biking with the dogs so much easier as there were plenty of opportunities for Buddy to drink along the way. After some walking and bike descending, we made it past the Buckhorn shelter and onward to the next overlook. Joe (a.k.a. I need an LED) said he wasn’t so sure about his new battery and he was scared it might not make through our proposed route of Buckwheat to Bennett.

We reformulated our plan and decided a trip down Avery Creek would better suit our needs. As “I need an LED’s” light kept fading, I was having a blast down Avery as I can’t even remember the last time I rode this trail and I am ready to go back during the daylight.

I had warned Joe that I sometimes get turned around trying to follow Avery at the bottom and sure enough we got turned around two or three times before we made it out to 477. If you think finding your way in Pisgah is tough, add some darkness along with leaf litter and see how you fair.

When we made it back to camp, only two “participators” were still up around the fire. Clay expressed his opinion about the 14 hour mark and then tried to find his tent as Joe and I kept the fire going into the wee hours.

After hearing the “participators” head out in the dark Saturday morning I drug myself out of the tent and started pinning blue ribbons on myself for the ride. I think I had eventually pinned 4 or 5 of those blue ribbons on before the “morning” ride took off.

Joe and I had a guest in the form of “Not too Fat to start a century” but “maybe too fat to ride candies” Nick with us. He had an unfortunate blow out of his pedal early on but Joe had a loaner for him. Sure enough he would break the non-loaner less than 5 miles into his second attempt at a ride that day.

Buddy had to chill in the car and wait for Momma to show up this day as we would be frequenting the too busy for a dog highway 276. Unlike our “participant” friends, we were looking for a nice easy day. So with extra Blue Ribbons in our pockets we took off up Bennett Gap to Coontree.

Coontree was a hoot until I had a small wreck trying to ride the log ride at the bottom. Another pedal catastrophe had “I ain’t too fat to attempt a century” talking about the campsite and his house. Joe and I convinced him that a ride was going down for him sans upward pedal stroke on one foot, onward we pressed.

Davidson River to Butter Gap via the newly found trail thanks to the non-promoter of the non-event that was going down. That’s a lot of vagueness but you get the point. After a break down by a creek and a lot of BS’ing about almost catastrophic bike events of the past, we made the final push up to Butter.

Hesitantly I took the lead down butter but with 6 inches of goodness on either side of “Broken Pedal” he was still able to keep pace despite his mechanical woes. I thought for sure I was going to get passed. It was nice riding Butter without all the stop and go that it was from downed trees last time.

I argued that we didn’t have skinny tires therefore we should push back up Coontree and descend Bennett to complete the day’s trip and eventually everyone agreed. Again the descent down Bennett had “I’m going to sue Wall Mart for everything they got” riding my ass all the way down as he insisted I go first. Who isn’t going to listen to a guy who weighs twice your weight and can wrassle “hush hush” riders as though he was born along the Earp lineage?

Saturday afternoon and night was spent pinning ribbon after ribbon on my shirt waaaaaaay into the night. We fed racers and cheered everyone on as they finished their long days in the woods and eventually my blood ran too thin (I must have pricked myself with so many pinned ribbons) to wait for the last rider to come in.

Lost Dog Sunday was spent cleaning up and convincing Yuri to wait for me to ride. After he waited for a couple hours we were finally ready to head out. Buddy had been riled up all morning playing with every dog incessantly in the campground and I thought he needed to burn some energy as Shade and Kristin were already on their merry way home.

Yuri and I started discussing route options up Clawhammer when all the sudden Buddy was not there. I had seen him in a creek and then he just vanished. It was strange as Buddy is appropriately named and therefore doesn’t leave my side when Shade isn’t around.

I yelled and yelled as I thought maybe he had chased something up one of the ridges and eventually I told Yuri to go on as I had held him up to the point of frustration. The weird part was that we never heard rustling leaves. So I rode down clawhammer and back up to where I had lost him yelling the entire time. I was starting to get nervous when I rationalized that he must be tired and headed back towards the campground where he had been for the last 3 days. As I headed down the second time I saw some friendly bikers who said that they had seen my orange vested canine running down 477. Well at least he wasn’t hopelessly lost in the woods but now I was worried that some hunter might think he was “worthy of the hunt” even though I know Buddy doesn’t like strangers so that comforted me slightly.

Sure enough when I got back to the car there was his happy face and it brought great relief to my mind. There was even a lady there waiting with him as she had seen him running down the road. I thanked her for her kindness as she said he wouldn’t even come close enough to her to take a treat. That’s a good boy!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Its Time For Some Humor

An attempt at a family portrait on Farlow before riders started careening through.

Shadey Bo Badey

Turkey Tiki time Trial Trail (Yes I understand that even at my house I should wear a helmet, give a guy a break)

Buddy expresses his opinion "Mmmmmmmm Faaarrrrlloooowwwww"

Monday, November 09, 2009

What Do You Mean No Riding?

Its true, a weekend all about Mountain Biking but I didn’t ride one all weekend. How does that happen?

Saturday was spent working on one of my favorite trails in all of the land Reasonover Creek. We conquered two re-routes on the beginning of the trail. I told Woody one of the re-routes seemed pretty large to me but then I remembered that we had a ditch witch at our disposal which makes things a little quicker than just me and my shovel and rake. So what took me over 3 months to accomplish at my house took us less than one day out in Dupont. That works for me.

A small team of us took on a 30 foot re-route and made it our own. Its a nice little piece of trail through some rhododendrons and we were quick enough that only hand tools touched this piece of trail, a personal goal of the team.

Sunday morning our family was due for a hike. We had some friends that were hoping to finish the SWANK so we decided a hike in PNF Ranger District was in order. I talked over our hiking options with Kristin; go to the start then hike up the connector to Daniel, or we could go to Daniel then hike a bit up Farlow or go to the top of Farlow and hike down. I was happy when Kristin mentioned the top of Farlow.

Once we arrived, Shade and Buddy donned their hunting attire and were set free to sniff and chase everything in the forest. To keep things interesting we hiked the Art Loeb on the way over which put us on top of Sassafras Mountain and the views were outstanding. Hardly any leaves are left at elevation. I have some pictures to post soon.

Not long after we started we found ourselves headed down Farlow, as Kristin gingerly stepped down the leaf and rock strewn beast I asked her if she was ready to ride it. She didn’t seem too optimistic.

We made to the rock garden wall of hell just in time to pick out a great spot amongst the masses of people (ourselves) when we heard some riders. The first guy down went head over heals into the mountain laurel before the real tech begins. I saw him wrangling in the bushes and yelled up to make sure he was OK, indeed he was and not soon thereafter a friend of his came rolling down and I heard a crash accompanied with “Owe I broke my finger.” “Great,” I thought a first aid situation before racers even start coming down. Well sure enough it was someone I knew from Greenville (ends up there was no broken finger only a shattered ego after he found out spectators were on the trail) and we chatted it up for a minute before they went on their merry hike down the rest of the rocks.

Not long after we had started our lunch, we heard Sam K. flying down the trail in the lead. I gave him a little cheer as he rode the huge rocks around us as though he were headed for crumpets and tea. He cleaned the entire section at what seemed like mach 10 without so much as a dab.

Second and third came down and were quickly clomp clomping down the rocks hike-a-biking like mad men through the leaves. Kristin commented “How can they run down the trail like that in those shoes?”

In the hour and a half that we observed this section of trail we saw just about every level of experience attempt to ride and walk the beast. Luckily we did not observe any injuries to the physical body, only the psyche. My favorite comment that came at least 5 or 6 times from what I would imagine were non-locals was “Did anyone actually ride this?” Oh yes my friend, not only did they ride it, they rode while they buttered their pancakes and sugared their coffee.

One thing is obvious after observing so many folks, momentum is your friend and hecklers are not. One racer observed “Did you guys come out just to witness other’s pain?” Why yes sir, I believe you hit the nail on the head.

Ahhhhhhhhh yes, a fine day indeed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Turkey Tiki Time Trial Trail ~ T^5

For the past couple months, I have been diligently working on some single track at my house. Now granted I don’t have a lot of land but what I lack in land I make up for in imagination, dying pine trees, chipmunks and undulations.

Last night I finally finished the loop on the north side of the house. Now there is an entire single track loop except for where it crosses the driveway for 60 yards of gravel. You have to have a loose gravel climb in there somewhere or people will complain about the lack-thereof.

Currently the single track consists of two long straight-a-ways, (not including the gravel climb) 5 natural turns, 3 berm assisted turns, one pine log jump/ramp and one succession pine log roll/drop off. Trying to pin it for three laps will leave you defeated and wondering where your mommy is to make the owwie go away. I have yet to break out the laser assisted timing mechanism so you all will know what time to vie for but I guess you will just have to wait for it.

Against my lawyer’s wishes, I am holding no lights nighttime (From here on out it will be known as the T^5 Time Trial) time trial the day after thanksgiving. If you are reading this and want an invitation, send me an email and I will be sure to get one to you.

If you consider yourself part of the WNDC and you don’t plan on coming out, prepare to be flogged with bent rims, old endless cogs, treadles Nevegals and maybe a Karate Monkey but I’d hate to break another one.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Pisgah Is Back!!!

If over the past two years or so you have been wondering to yourself, self how is it that I have gotten so fast riding around on the Pisgah single track? Why is it my tires seem to stick like glue and I only fall when my ego outweighs my skill for that day?

Well fret no more because classic ice clad Pisgah (wait it isn’t below freezing yet) is here to stay for awhile and you better show her some respect.

Sunday November 1st was one of those days where you had to pay your respects to every feature in the forest whether you could see it or not, try and push the limits and you will be bitten hard.

Clay, J and myself headed to Black Mountain trailhead to start a long (hours not distance) ride in the beast herself. I had suggested to Clay earlier in the week that it is the season for nice long riding warm-ups and therefore suggested we not take his favorite warm-up which is climbing Black Mountain to the overlook right out of the truck.

We started the day up 276 to 477 and as soon as we hit 477 it started, what about going up 477 to buckhorn, down this, up that, around all of this, back up all of that and. . .

So with that I non-regrettably agreed to ride up Buckhorn from 477 to “warm up.” Of course, all of this was going on while I was snapping pictures of J trying to mount a mock bull at the horse stables set up with suspension and ropes. I guess you had to be there. Check out Clay’s blog for all the wonderful photos. (All pictures in this post are courtesy of Clay)

Buckhorn was wet, slippery, waterfall and eventually pretty steep. When we made back to Clawhammer I was excited about all the mud that would moisturize my skin as we climbed to our first gap of the day, Buckhorn.

Clay of course took off like he had dynamite under his ass and I struggled to even keep sight of him. Next thing I knew I was at the top and Clay came walking up the “hiker’s only” section of Buckhorn moments later. That damn dog of Clay’s has turned him into a monster hike-a-biker and he was actually able to push up that beast as fast as I could climb Clawhammer. If he stays healthy, he will be a formidable foe come February.

Re-grouped we started our ascent to the first lunch stop of the day, overlook on Black Mountain a mile or so past the Buckhorn Shelter. Once there Clay challenged himself with a flat change, he wanted to see how quick he could make the change and it was better than any Halloween special and downright scary.

Some “fellow cyclists” came rolling up and exclaimed it was their very first Pisgah ride. Conversations that start like that in the middle of Pisgah are always entertaining. They had been forewarned that their chosen route of climbing Avery may have not been the best choice. I said “you might have regretted that decision.” However, after what we experienced, they may have regretted the “Pisgah” decision altogether.

So our first true decent of the day to Club Gap was nice with everyone making it safely to the bottom. Clay wanted to document the Virginian’s first Pisgah ride but as we waited and waited we realized they found out they were in over their heads or flatted so we pushed on up Buckwheat.

Coming up on a recent felled tree, I had to back up and line this one up three times before I made the move up and over. J made a nice up, clip out and over move on his first try.

I found myself way in over my head when I came to the off camber rocky section as I was traveling much to quickly for the conditions. I hit the worst possible line and focused on not hurting myself and I made a connection with the rock. Just as I was going to turn and head back up for another try Clay came around the corner and hit the deck in a much more painful manner. No harm no foul and I tried again:

I cannot wrap my head around the Q-bert step on Bennett even though I have seen so many people clean it. I walked and stopped to watch Clay and J’s attempts. Clay bailed with a “not today.” Then J came and I saw him start to nose wheelie just before the top step, not good. As he met the Zenith of his pendulum, I thought for sure some DNA was about to be spread when his huge 200+ form leaped like Catwoman from the bike simultaneously unclipping from the pedals and landing feet down at the bottom of all the steps. It was an impressive save fueled by adrenaline and love for the human form.

On to the overlook, another quick respite and down the rest of Bennett. All of us walked the death defying technical move on Bennett and moved onto Coontree. Coontree is a hoot of a trail and we made it down in quick fashion.

Instead of hiking backup Coontree we decided a loop was in order so onto Horse Cove road up to the Art Loeb trail. I had forgotten how bad any climb up to the Art Loeb is but this one took me to a new place as I made it my mission to keep Clay in site. After what seemed like an eternity we made it to the intersection and I laid down on the knob just relishing the fact that it was over.
Hiking down that beautiful trail to the North Slope connector is painful but it also forces you to take in some nice views. We were rewarded with another attention grabbing decent on North Slope back to the cars. I must remember to pay my respects to the formidable foe, Pisgah. Thanks again for making me feel more alive than I knew I was.

Good ride fellas.