Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dirty Sheets

I met John and Justin at Cochran Mills a few weeks back to try and get some miles in. Bad sleep and working all weekend had become the standard rather than the exception. I knew it would hurt, but I hoped just breaking myself off would force some change.

We headed south on the road from the lot and wound around on the various gravel roads down there.

I'd once come up with a 70+ mile loop on those roads that me and John and Baldwin did once, but we had ridden it in the opposite direction, so what we did felt new to me that day.

Justin and John

It wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. The worst part was I'm running a 30x11, John's running a 32x11, and Justin's running a 34x10. Florida gears! He could tear off away from us on any descent. I think he's got that Eagle 1x12. Even with the 34 up front, he has a higher top gear than I do. I might need to invest in that sometime soon.

I could more or less hang until we hit the gravel road from Rico back to the park. The pitchy little kicks at the start just ate me up and that was it.

Justin had to bail when we got back to the lot, but John and I spun a lap of the Yellow trail.

I started cramping on the way out though.

I was crushing the pedals for 6+ hours at Pine Log a few months ago. I was crushing the pedals for days at a time a few years ago.

My god, how far have I fallen?

Black Branch

Ok, this was right at a month ago, so I remember it better than the rest.

It was work party day at Bull/Jake. I'd missed the last two because of work, but the stars aligned for that one.

The previous one was an REI trail day or something, 50 thousand volunteers showed up, and they worked all over the system. One spot that didn't get any attention though, and has been needing it for a while, is way back on Black Branch. If you ride it clockwise (which pretty much nobody does except me and Tim did once), then there's an old roadbed for a while, which still has most of its gravel still in place. It rolls up and down over various hills, and though it's not ideal, it's not in super-bad shape, and it's nowhere near the watershed, so it's non-idealness isn't really hurting anything. Eventually though, the hills get steeper, the trail starts to get a bit rutted. As it is, the trail is rideable, but it needs some attention to stay that way.

All that can be done is old-school turnouts, as often as we can dig them.

You got it!

Turnout 1

I say old-school turnouts, but really, we managed to make rolling dips out of most of them. The soil was that tough red Georgia clay, full of old, buried gravel. It packed really well on the back side, and we utilized what we dug up as much as possible.

Turnout 2 - 1 Turnout 2 - 2

Rider up!

Turnout 3

It was a beautiful day, and we must have been passed by 3 dozen riders, all of whom looked like they were pushing 180bpm.

We had a really effective crew that day, and we managed to complete 100% of what Debbie wanted to get done. Every now and then it's like that; everybody who knows what they're doing is on the same page, and everyone who's learning just works super hard. It was like that. Ideal.

It was a lot of work too. Several times we had to cut the runout like 20+ feet off trail and then go back and regrade it 2 or 3 times.

All work was ball-approved. Sadly, I'd forgotten to bring the soccer ball, but Debbie had several little inflatable Marvel Comics-themed balls. They could get hung up on roots and such, but they got the job done.

I just realized that I think I missed this month's work party. I think it might have been yesterday. Dangit. Too much going on.

I don't think there's another one until January either.

Well. Barring anything unforeseen, I won't miss that one.

Allatoona Creek

Working through the backlog...

It appears that I went to Allatoona Creek a few weeks back. Ah, yes. I remember it now.

It had been a long time since I'd ridden there, I was certain that Driftwood and Hocus Pocus would be finished, and I wanted to check them out in their finished form.

Driftwood was formally open, or at least the signage suggested so.

Driftwood Marker

There were apples on the ground near the entrance too.

Apples on Driftwood

Apparently there was an apple tree in the area. I'd run into wild apples on the previous ride at Yonah too. A new trend, it seemed.

There was a couple at the trailhead there, and we had some discussion about something. Sadly, I can't remember now what it was about. Too much time in between, I guess.

Driftwood was more than twice as long as it had been, last I'd ridden it. I was pleased to discover that it ran all the way out past the end of the old roads, and along the lakeshore for a while, kind of like Yonah. Another new trend - providing actual views of interesting natural features.

Lake Allatoona 1 Lake Allatoona 2

About 2/3rds of the way around, I ran into one of the West Georgia Sorba guys working on the trail. They were having an event out there the next day, it turned out, and he wanted to clean up a few spots. We talked shop for a while, and it made me want to get in on a couple of their work parties. Sadly, again, it's been too long, and I don't remember the details.

I headed over to Hocus Pocus afterwards, which required riding all of Mumbo Jumbo and Voodoo.

Hocus Pocus

Mumbo is built into the side of a decent hill, and you get a bit more elevation than on the rest of the trails in the system. It had, until recently, been a very natural trail though. You just kind-of experienced the terrain. Now there are banked turns and jumps and other obstacles all over it. Those are fun, but I think that's another trend that I'm not so sure I welcome. Here and there, sure, but not everywhere. I guess most of the rest of the system is still pretty natural though, so it's not actually everywhere. Eh.

Voodoo is loaded with obstacles. Nothing remotely natural about it. Hocus Pocus splits off about half way around Voodoo.

I expected it to be more difficult than Voodoo, but it was nothing like that at all. Of the three, it had the most natural feel. I really felt like I was experiencing the terrain as I rode it. I could see that it incorporated some really old trails and even older roadbeds too. Unfortunately, some of those sections weren't exactly IMBA-regulation, but being out past Voodoo, I imagine they won't get as many passes as the rest of the system either.

The trail ran way out before doubling back on itself lower down the hill. It crossed dozens and dozens of what appeared to be man-made channels, mainly running directly downhill, but some of them did sidehill, a lot like the channels I'd seen at Yonah. I'm not aware of any mining operations in North Cobb there, but it's not impossible that somebody had, at some point. On the way back, I noticed that Voodoo ran right up and around the head of a gnarly, artificial-looking gorge that could have been the cut.

Or maybe I was letting my imagination get the best of me. Who knows?

I have no memory of the rest of the day. It must not have been too exciting, or maybe my memory is failing with age.

I've got to quit going so long without writing.

Yonah Preserve

These last few months have been super hectic. Kathryn and I have both been working 7 days a week, 12+ hours a day. On the upside, we're getting semi-caught up financially. On the downside, there hasn't been a lot of time to do anything, together or individually. There's been even less time to write about the little that I've been able to do, so I guess from that perspective, it's fortunate that I've done so little.

Goodness, what a rationalization.

If anyone has been busier than Kathryn and I, it's Clark and Suzy, and their Unicoi Preserves business has been doing quite well because of it. I like that I can start typing "unicoi..." into the google search box and the second suggested result is "unicoi preserves". Ha!

Somehow though, through some monumental stroke of luck, Clark, Suzy, and I were all available on the same day, a little over a month ago. It was the weekend after Hurricane Irma came through, I think. Clark is overseeing the new trail work at Yonah Preserve, in Cleveland, and as such, wanted to get out there and see what kind of damage the storm had done. Preston, the guy doing the machine work, had reported that it was terrible. 30+ trees down on both loops. Yikes.

Suzy and I tagged along, and I managed to get a good sneak peak of the system.

The front gate is off of Albert Reid Road. Eventually it will be open to the public, and the little road in will be paved. For now it's all dirt though, and gated.

Front Gate

Of course, Clark had a key.

Past the gate, at the bottom of a little hill there was an old, abandoned house-ish looking building nestled under a monumental Sycamore.

Clark and Suzy at the Old Main House

The building is due to be demolished, and they're going to put in some kind of parking area. Man I hope they can do it without cutting down that tree.

The trail led eastish from there and followed an old roadbed to the dam that creates the Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir.

Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir

I tried to determine if the lake has some other name, but I couldn't find any.

I did find that it lies on Turner Creek, but not the same Turner Creek that tees into Town Creek to the north, nor any of the other half-dozen Turner Creeks that I know of. It's its own Turner Creek, distinct from those.

The dam is punctuated by a spillway.

Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir - Spillway

And the backside of the spillway is steep and scary-looking.

Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir - Spillway Outlet

I hope some idiot doesn't ride under the chain and go tearing down that slope some day. I can't imagine it would end well.

There are various old roads running through the property. Most of them date back to the early 1900's, or at least I see them on old topo maps from around then. The whole area was apparently mined hydraulically for gold at some point. Later it was Camp Appalachian Wilderness. More recently, some percentage of the land was owned by the YMCA. Eventually the county got a hold of it. I'm not sure when the lake was put in. Clark knows a guy who knows the history pretty well. Maybe I'll get a chance to pick his brain on it some day.

We followed one of the old roads out to the most recently completed singletrack.

It was easy to spot. The bulk of the trail-building machinery was parked nearby.

Trail Building Equipment

At first, the trail looked great, aside from the kind of leaf and branch cover you'd expect in winter, rather than late summer.

We quickly ran into some downed trees though.

Downed Trees

And then it was just one after the other, for the next two or three miles.

The trail crosses a feeder of Turner Creek at some point, and it's heavily armored to, across, and from the creek.

Armored Creek Crossing

Man, that must have been backbreaking work. I think it's the longest stretch of rock-armoring I've seen.

The trail looked like it would be fun to ride without all of the downed trees. Twisty, bench cut IMBA flow. Unfortunately we didn't get to ride more than a few hundred yards at a time. Preston was right. Understated even.

At the north end we took a little diversion off of the main trail over to a former primitive camp.

Legend has it that at-risk youth were brought here as part of a rehab-type program. There were various skeleton structures in the area, but making them habitable required a lot of work. They had to outfit the structures to live in, get the bath house, kitchen, etc. all working, and maintain it all without for some period of time.

It was all in ruins now.

Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness - Primitive Camp 1 Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness - Primitive Camp 2 Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness - Primitive Camp 3 Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness - Primitive Camp 4

Though, I'm not sure it didn't look much different when it was in operation, at least when the campers would arrive.

The trail runs down to a point on the north side of the lake.

Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir - Point Clark at the Lake

I love that you can actually access the lake from the trail. So often trails are built on land with gorgeous natural features, and the trail just winds around in the woods, avoiding all of them.

We hung out there for a while. There was an old canoe rack and various other remnants of the old camp scattered about. It looked like some locals had been fishing there too. I wonder if the lake will be generally open for fishing when the system is open to the public.

We finished the loop like an hour and a half or more after we started. That's how many trees were down.

We wanted to check out the other loop too, but the bikes just seemed like the wrong tool for the job, so we changed shoes and headed out on foot.

Actually, just me and Clark did. Suzy'd had enough Adventure for one day and headed back home.

Right away, we noticed that someone had shot up the carsonite marker.

Already Shot Up


Don't put up a sign in North Georgia if you don't expect it to get shot.

We quickly got into the downed trees too. There were a great many more than on the first loop. We'd made the right decision to go on foot. Way easier.

Several times, the trail crossed under various obstacles associated with an old ropes course.

Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness Ropes Course

In a few spots, I couldn't understand what you were supposed to do. I could clearly see the parts of the course, but how a person was supposed to interact with them was not at all intuitive. I remember thinking that I must have missed out as a kid. None of the camps I ever went to had anything that cool!

There were also dozens and dozens of old channels cut into the backslope. They were all somehow related to hydraulic mining. The various feeders ran water down from somewhere to some main ditch where it was directed into a pipe that blasted it at into the various draws, removing dirt and revealing gold.

It would take a monumental effort to make sense of them though. They ran every which way. It wasn't clear where from or where to.

Well, it was clear where to, ultimately.

The trail actually ran right past the head of the main gorge.

Old Hydraulic Mining Gorge

Sadly, it looks like nothing in the photo. In real life, it's striking. There was gold down in there once.

I realized later that I recognized the ditches. There are a similar ditches at Blanket's Creek, though not nearly as many. I know that there were 6 gold mines in that area (thus the town of Sixes and Sixes Road), but I was never sure whether the Blanket's Creek area was mined. Maybe it was.

So, I might have mentioned that there were a lot of downed trees. The root balls were particularly impressive on some of them.

Root Ball


Somewhere back in there, there was an apple tree, and ripe apples littered the ground under it.

Wild Apples

I wasn't brave enough to try one.

We found this cool toad too.


And this equally cool snake skin.

Snake Skin

And that was about it.

Yep, lots of downed trees. One little section of trail looks like it'll need realignment too. Not too bad. Hopefully they can get some sawyers in there to clean it up and I'll get invited along on the ride to inspect that work too!

I'm not sure when the system is set to be open, though I'm sure Clark told me. The loops look largely finished. I can't imagine it will be terribly long from now.

We met Suzy back at their house, and we all ate at Bigg Daddy's in Helen. There was a band jamming outside on the patio, Clark and Suzy knew several of the guys in the band, and they hung out with us after their set. I ate some kind of enormous fried chicken sandwich with peach barbecue sauce on it. I highly recommend it, but I also highly recommend riding some epic loop beforehand to establish the 5000 calorie deficit necessary to justify it's consumption. I'm not sure what mutant chicken they made the sandwich out of, but I seriously want to see that chicken in real life. How can it even stand?

Ringneck in the Garage

Worst backlog ever.

Lets see... It would appear that mid-September we had a Ringneck in the garage.


Super cute and little.

I tried to pick it up but it was so small and flat that I was worried I'd hurt it trying, so I ended up scooping it into a box and depositing it in the bushes outside. I think that was Iz's idea but I really can't remember it perfectly clearly now.

Darn backlog.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Reinhardt University

The first time I drove through Waleska, I noticed the Reinhardt University campus, which pretty much dominates the little downtown area. Each successive time through, I was like: "Oh, yeah, Reinhardt University." At some point I heard there was a trail there, and always meant to check it out, but a decade's worth of years went by and I was never sufficiently motivated to do so.

Its proximity to Pinelog brought it to mind recently, and now that I've almost thoroughly explored Pinelog, I figured it was finally time to get over to Reinhardt.

I drove up this past weekend and had a fairly easy time finding the lot. Reinhardt University Kiosk

I had a more difficult time finding anyone to talk to about riding.

On the website, there's a waiver you have to sign, and it says that the trails are open to the public but use is handled on a per-case basis, or something. I figured I'd sign the waiver, ask permission, and hit Pinelog if they wouldn't give it to me.

No luck though. There was no one around at the (hilariously named) Boring Sports Complex.

Boring Sports Complex Sign

And there were a few guys playing basketball or something at the wellness center next door.

Rollins Wellness Complex

But, they looked like students and all of the offices were dark. It kind of made sense, being Sunday.

The kiosk didn't mention any restrictions on trail use, or the waiver. I figured I'd keep the waiver on me and show it if anyone asked. Worst case, they'd ask me to leave. Also, there was only one other car in the lot when I rode out. Not events going on or anything. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be bothering anyone.

First though, I rode a couple of roads in the area, for context.

The road on the west side of the system (Grady Rd.) had this abandoned elementary-looking school off to one side.

Mountainbrook School (Abandoned)

There was a Subway across the steet at the end of Grady. But those were the only things that stood out. The rest was just standard small-town houses and shops.

Ok, trail time. I rode the little paved trail down to the Boring Sports Complex, and milled around there until I got the layout. That was a little tricky, actually, because the trail map I got off the web showed it all under construction, and it showed trails running through parts that have been civil-engineered and built-out.

But it wasn't too tough to sort out.

After that, I did loops and loops and loops until I'd ridden all of the dirt.

The beginner trail is just a big loop around the outside of the system.

Trail "1" it's called. It's mostly gravel road and some double track.


It appears to have originally been the access road for the local water treatment plant.

McClure Water Treatment Facility

There are signs all over for the intersecting trails, which are also numbered, 1-8.


At one point, the main trail diverges from a gasline cut into the woods, and there's an old bridge over the creek there.

Moores Creek Bridge

It's seen much better days.

And was apparently built by Sorba a while back.

Moores Creek Bridge Signage

The trails running through the middle of the loop are intermediate/advanced trails. 5 is more doubletrack, and was apparently originally the access road for a pond and the dam that creates it.

Reinhardt University Pond

There was a duck on the "pond" seconds before I took the photo but I think he saw me.

There's also a sign warning of Erosion on the way down to the dam, but the trail was actually extra nice there.

Erosion Warning

I guess they fixed it.

The other trails are more singletrackish, and actually pretty fun to ride. 6 is half old roadbed...

6 (Old Roadbed)

...half bench-cut singletrack, and probably the nicest of the lot.

6 (Singletrack)

I found this old stone block on 4.

Stone Block

Weird circular holes appear to be drilled at one end. I guess it was dumped out there way back. It really stands out when you're riding by.

8 starts off as just an access trail for a little 2-pad campground...

Reinhardt University Campground

(which actually has bear activity warnings on its signage!)

...then rips downhill, jogs out to a gasline cut and continues ripping back to 1.

Plenty of fun.

I think the web site alleges 7 miles of trail, but I only found about 5. Maybe 5.5 if you generously account for GPS error. It seems unlikely that I missed 1.5 whole miles, but you never know.

Overall, it's an OK system. Not exactly modern, glowing bench cut trails, but old-school trails are fun to ride if they don't get a lot of traffic, which these don't appear to. Yeah. It was a good ride.

The uncertain ok-ness about riding there makes me dubious about coming back though, even if I could find a way to link it up with Pinelog for more miles.

Cochran's Falls

I worked on my rent house in Cumming for most of August. 12+ hours a day, two or three days a week, and usually both days on the weekend. Tenants can really, really beat up a house. I'd be amazed if I hadn't seen it all before.

Kathryn and the kids joined me as much as they could, and Billy was right there with me too, like 3 weekends in a row.

I said something like this at his wedding: Me and Billy have fun together. Bike rides, hiking, camping... And that's what most friends do, get together, and have a good time. But a REAL friend helps you move. A REAL friend helps you pull the engine out of your truck, and then pull it back out when you realized you put the oil pump in wrong. That's the kind of friend he's been to me. I guess I can add to that list that a REAL friend helps you tear up carpet, repaint, and turn your rent house too!

Doing work with friends is fun, or at least I like it, but at the end of the month, the work was done and we figured it was time to have a bit what normal people might consider fun. I'd last been to Cochran's Falls with the girls 10+ years prior, failed to reach the main cascade, failed to take photos of any kind, and failed to make it back since.

Long overdue!

We parked at the campsite on Cochran's Creek proper. Way back, I'd been able to ford the creek and continue driving until I hit a ridiculous mud puddle that looked like it would swallow my Durango. From there, the girls and I had walked a fairly short distance to the trail, and climbed as far as I felt safe taking them.

Since then, the road has been blocked, though people clearly take Jeeps and ATV's up the hill behind the blockage. After walking it, it looked navigable, but we were there to hike, not to drive illegal Jeep trails. Plus, like 500 yards down the road, it was blocked again, so it wouldn't have netted us much anyway.

It looked like the Forest Service rehabbed the road a bit before closing it. I couldn't easily locate the mud pits I'd wrestled with the last time. They'd clearly been bulldozed. Some of the long, deep holes had trees felled across them.

And, speaking of downed trees, the monster poplar at the end of the road now lies across it. Apparently it came down some time ago too.

At the end of the road, we made quick work of the trail up to the first cascade.

Me at Cochrans Falls (Lower Cascade)

The trail above that has several steep and sketchy kicks though.

Billy Climbing Steep Cochrans Falls Trail

I remember taking my girls on it, when they were like 6 and 8, being completely confident they could negotiate it, and then watching them validate my confidence. Looking at it the trail with fresh eyes, I'm not sure I'd take them on it today. Maybe, but I wouldn't be so confident.

There's one spot with a rock that bulges out into the trail, and you have to ease around it. It would be easy to think you have room, not have room, slip or fall backwards into the creek, and go tumbling downstream over this ledge.

Cochrans Creek

There's another section further up where you have to negotiate a slab of mossy, slanty rock with very small hand/foot holds. It's safer to cross the creek, and then cross it back. I remember taking the girls up past that rock.

Further up there was a rope-assisted scramble.

Rope-Assisted Scramble

We didn't take it though, because the trail led on. Also, Billy was like: "Remember the rope swing." Referring, of course, to the rope swing debacle on Stamp Creek the day we found the Pool Furnace and Jones Mill. Those were the days, but we didn't want a repeat.

It was a little steep and sketchy through there, and that's where I turned around with the girls. They were just too small to reach from hold to hold safely. Plus, they were a little overconfident, playing around, getting off-balance, and I was like: "ok, we're out of here."

Billy and I were grown though and made it to the base of the main cascade.

Me at Cochrans Falls (Primary Cascade)

Unfortunately, you can't get a decent look at it. The uppermost cascade is at the very top of the photo, but it doesn't look like much. Maybe in winter it would be better. I wonder how safe those bulgy and slanty rocks will be that time of year though.

Did I say we were grown?

Billy Screwing Around

Maybe not so grown :)

A steep, sketchy scramble continued from there, and I followed it a bit, but it went for a long way, and didn't look very well used. Billy didn't seem too confident, and I have a rule that you don't do anything in the woods that you aren't confident you can do. So, we headed back.

Steep, sketchy trail is trickier downhill, I generally find.

Steep Sketchy Trail

On the way in I tried to spot a giant pine tree that I'd seen the last time, but I couldn't find it. I did spot it on the way out though.

Large Pine Tree

10 years bigger now even than it was last time.

I also wanted to check out a side trail that I'd marked on my map way back and seen on the way in.

It became overgrown after a few hundred feet, but there were 2 distinct, though very old, rock-armored terraces on the north side.

Super Old Rock Wall

It looked like maybe the land had been leveled for a house or something.

Legend has it that the Cochran's Creek area was one of the first settled in North Georgia. There were lots of houses back in there at some point. It allegedly remained settled through the early 1900's, and as such, managed to avoid ever being logged. Very rare in North Georgia.

Driving back, we took Hwy 53 towards Tate and stopped at a gas station that I've been to a few times. There was a lady sitting at a table that you walk by if you're heading towards the drinks and food. I'd seen her sitting there every time I'd been in. I don't think she recognized me per-se, but as I walked by she was like: "Hi there... High-five!" and held out her hand for a high-five. I high-fived her on instinct, and it was really funny to both of us. I'm not sure if she does that a lot, but it kind-of made my day.

When I got home, I did a little research and it looks like we could have scrambled up that steep section and taken a cleaner trail all the way to the very upper cascade, which is visible from underneath a cool-looking overhang. Dangit!

Now I'll have to go back AGAIN. Hopefully I can get that done sometime sooner than 10 years from now.