Last night was one of the few times in the past few years that none of the regulars were going to show up for the Wednesday night ride. I took that as an option to park somewhere different and take a small little pre-Halloween spook night ride. How can one spook thyself you may ask? Well, park at Corn Mill Shoals and make it your goal to get to the top of Rocky Ridge by sundown.
Its been awhile since I have had the opportunity to ride a route and not ask anyone what they think about this turn or that turn, all I did was turn the pedals over, ride and take in all the electrified air that October provides us with.
I took a hint from the two guys getting out of the Middle Saluda with Kayaks at the turn by “The Best Hotdogs In Town” that the water level was pretty high from the recent rain and that I should stay away from the “wetter” trails at Dupont (i.e. Reasonover, Mine, Airstrip) and it was with that knowledge that I made my turn up Longside headed to Pine Tree.
I must say that Pine Tree is really settling in nice and I find myself really loving the new tread design as I must concentrate to make sure I don’t blow any corners. Even though I only put in one solid day on Pine Tree this year a lot of work has gone into that trail and it turned out fantastic. So here is to faster cornering to anyone who helped with that bad boy this year.
From there I took Sheep Mountain over to Buck Forest, a quick out and back to check out Grassy Falls and up Lake Imaging on over to Jim Branch. I let quite a few bikers ride by while descending Jim Branch and quickly turned into the climb up Ridgeline. I let some fellow trail user’s walk by as they were sitting a top two large beasts and exclaimed their love for October as well as their appreciation for my prompt removal of myself from the trail. I passed two more riders that were climbing Ridgeline with me and reminded myself that I was going to ride Ridgeline in the dark when I knew no one would hinder my descending.
I couldn’t decide if climbing to the top of Rocky Ridge was a good idea or not considering how far it would put me from the car but I reminded myself that I was out for a solo death march and that I needed to go slow down so it was all good.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that I would actually be able to make it to the top by the time the sunset and I was rewarded more than I have been all year on the bike. As I started down Rock Ridge, nature abetted me. I had to stop as it was obvious that with the golden red collage that was encompassing me that I had hit this area of the forest in prime time. It honestly took my breath away.
After the quick respite, I mounted back up and flicked my light on for assistance. I was down Rocky Ridge in a flash and quickly pushing up a mushy Camp Summit. Back over to Ridgeline after dark and my theory proved correct, I met no one while descending another favorite of mine. Ridgeline after dark, I prescribe it to anyone ailing.
After another quick climb up Jim Branch, I knew decisions were on the horizon. Do I climb back up Sheep Mountain or do I challenge the swollen Little River on the Corn Mill Shoals crossing? While descending Lake Imaging to Buck Forest I made a decision, Corn Mill Shoals. When I am by myself, I tend to lean toward loops.
A long spun out section down Corn Mill Shoals let me relax and realize that I was pushing it further than I normally do on a weekday night and it brought a smile as I headed into what is the most comfortable section of the forest for me to navigate. I know the Fawn Lake area of the forest better than I do my own back yard.
Shelter rock to Corn Mill Shoals, I struggled and grunted up the wet steep section and descended the most recent of my trail work in Dupont close to the wall ride. I wondered how high the river would be, could it possibly be higher than the day it caused our WNDC crew to split? Could it be high enough to actually turn me around and cause me to ride an extra two hours? NO WAY, I thought to myself, what’s the worse that could happen, I drown by myself in the middle of the night at Dupont. . . it didn’t seem fitting.
I was surprised as I turned the corner and saw that the river was high enough that it was flowing up to the dirt on the trail and as I looked across the river I could see water splashing on the ledge that is my high water marker. I know that if the water is lower than this rock (just barely today) I can cross with relative ease. Off with the shoes and I was across and in such awe of the forest again that I stopped and took it all in while I fitted my shoes back on.
A quick spin up a wet Corn Mill Shoals and I was back at the car. For the second time in my life I saw some locals letting an animal (opossum?) loose in the Corn Mill Shoals parking lot, the poor guy was obviously frightened and didn’t want to head out into the dark woods alone as it hid in the back of the cage, I understood its uncertainly in a way I couldn’t explain.
Ride on brothers and sisters, ride on.
Good luck to some of the WNDC headed to kick ass in Louisiana this weekend at the 24 Hours of Clear Springs.