Sunday, March 29, 2009

Old FS69A

show on map

The drenching rain finally let up yesterday at noon. I'd been wanting to explore a bit of the Blue Ridge WMA off of FS69A for a while now. Time to go hiking.

The road in...

1 - FS69A

There's a rock wall or something just off the road. Maybe there was an old farm here. Next time I see a Ranger, I'll have to take a look at his map.

2 - FS69A Homestead Ruins

FS69A is "maintained" up to a point. After a small roadblock, a trail continues on the old roadbed. I dub this trail "Old FS69A" though probably it and FS69A had some other name before the FS designation. It's clean for a while but after the first little gap, its overgrown with rhododendron. The old roadbed is still easy to identify and a trail is discernible. But you've got to push through it.

3 - Old FS69A

A balloon. I've seen several of these over the years. A kid lets it go, it flies really far, loses altitude, hits a tree, pops and lands in the woods. It's surprising to me how many end up on an actual trail though.

4 - Balloon

I was treated to a small sliding falls. Looked cooler in real life.

5 - Falls Along Old FS69A

The trail eventually improved and led around to the back of Rock Creek Lake and along upper Rock Creek itself, then suddenly ended at the creek. Across the creek was a dense nightmare of thorns, relatively free of trees, except for holly, which also has thorns! Maybe there was an old farm here too, or at least a field. After getting cut to ribbons looking around I finally just headed up to FS69.

The Edmondson Pond Nature Trail was just up the road, so I made a quick loop around it. With the recent droughts, the pond has dried up a bit each summer and each time the beavers have moved their dams further in. The pond is probably a third of the size it was a few years ago.

6 - Edmondson Pond

I'd seen a spur trail back on Old FS69A that looked interesting, so I headed back to check it out. It was surprisingly clean. This is a mystery. Maybe folks use it to get to the back of Rock Creek Lake rather than dealing with the thorns?

8 - Old FS69A Connector

I almost stepped on this little guy.

7 - Salamander

The trail cut some time off my trip back to the car. It was still early though and I had plenty of legs left. I'd always wondered if there was a trail leading up Mill Creek. I mean, it's called Mill Creek, maybe there's a mill up there somewhere. I'd seen a well-groomed trail leading up it's south bank before. How far did it go? There's also a trail way up by the Benton MacKaye at the very top of Mill Creek. Do they connect?

Turns out the well-groomed trail went a few hundred yards to a dam. It's so well groomed that it even has streetlamps. Beyond that, a trail did continue. At first it was just a little overgrown, but eventually it was choked with downed trees and rhododendron and very hard to push through. It crossed the creek umpteen times, sometimes in thigh-deep water, and passed through several flats where no trace of it remained but remnants of old fords. In one spot, a spring had formed right in the middle of the trail. I kept wanting to turn back, but then kept finding more of the trail. I'd also hoped for an awesome waterfall or something, but no luck, just a couple of little shoal-like thingies.

9 - Shoals On Mill Creek 1
10 - Shoals On Mill Creek 2

At infinite length I did give up on it. The trail may continue beyond where I left it, but I was running out of daylight. And the rain was back. Woo.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


show on map

Toward the end of last weekend's 6 hour hand-slammer, I firmly resolved to ride something smooth and flowing as soon as possible. At first it looked like a bunch of us might go camp and ride at Tsali. When that fell through, my brother suggested Chicopee. In the past it was pretty rough, but recently most of the trails had been rerouted following IMBA guidelines. I hadn't ridden any of them, they might be just right. No plans on Saturday, so I gave it a shot.

Comfy swag from last week's 6 hour.

2 - new socks

New signage everywhere.

3 - tortise trailhead5 - white tail trailhead

This is the definition of flow. Ahh, el luxurio. I rode this all day long.

8 - tortise trail22 - flying squirrel trail

Some pretty scenery.

13 - walnut creek 114 - walnut creek 2

Some somber.

10 - chicopee plane crash plaque11 - chicopee plane crash memorial

I rode every inch of every trail in the system, and a couple of loops twice. Definitely the right decision. It was dicey getting back to the parking lot though. I ran out of water and had long since given away my Clif Blocks to a lost and bonked couple on the Flying Squirrel. A few miles more miles and I'd have been in trouble. This explosion of purple lifted my spirits on the climb out. The photo doesn't do it justice.

18 - granny gear hill

Back at the parking lot there were bigger problems, a kid had ridden off away from his dad and was now lost. I still had legs, the bonked out couple was doing better and the kid's dad was feeling strong too. We had about 2 hours of light left, so we planned out a search pattern. But, just as we clipped in, the kid rode out of the woods. Ahh, perfect timing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sawnee Mountain

show on map

Sawnee Mountain is 15 minutes from my house.

1 - Sawnee Mountain Plaque

When it's warm I take the kids up there after work to climb on the rocks and "see the whole world". Today I even got Kathryn to come with us.

The girls are getting strong and fast. We made quick time up the Indian Seats Trail.

2 - Iz and Sophie on Indian Seats Trail 14 - Iz and Sophie on Indian Seats Trail 2 - Exposed Granite

Sawnee Mountain is covered in Yucca Plants. I can't imagine that they're native. The upper elevations are composed of loose, deteriorated granite and the Yucca's seem to love it.

3 - Yucca Plants

The Indian seats. Empty and occupied.

5 - Indian Seats6 - Iz and Sophie in the Indian Seats

"The whole world." I think technically Sawnee is the southernmost Appalachian mountain. But, when it's clear out, you can see across the piedmont to Blue Ridge, where they really start in earnest.

8 - View from Sawnee Mountain

Kathryn hung out while the kids and I climbed around on the rocks.

7 - Kathryn Near the Indian Seats9 - Sophie and Iz Inspecting the Way Down10 - Iz and Sophie Climbing Down11 - Sophie and Iz Near the High Point

Daylight was fading so we got going.

12 - Family on Indian Seats Trail

We found a tiny black "circle head" (non-poisonous) snake with on the way back. Iz actually stepped on it, but didn't hurt it. I didn't even think to get a pic.

The kids played on the playground for a few minutes.

16 - Sawnee Mountain Playground

And then we ate at Chili's.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Canada Creek Falls

show on map

Isabel had a gym meet that somehow finished before noon. Kathryn was headed for a nap. I had the whole rest of the day to spend with the girls and apparently yesterday's 6 hour didn't totally kill me. They just wanted to watch TV for the rest of the day, but I sort-of talked them into going back up to Canada Creek instead.

It was all spooky-haunted-forest on the road to Woody Gap.

1-Hwy60 in the Fog

We parked on the slab at Garrett Farms, looked around a bit and headed off around the knob to the south.

2-Garrett Farms Slab3-Garrett Farms Bridge Abutment4-Garrett Farms Apple Tree

Yesterday's rain made Canada Creek high and fast. The terrain near the 4th cascade is steep though, and it was tough to get a good view.

5-Canada Creek Falls Cascade 4-15-Canada Creek Falls Cascade 4-2

The 3rd cascade was easier to see, but there's more of it upstream that you can't see in these shots. The kids love walking around on rocks and were starting to appreciate that they weren't home watching TV.

6-Iz and Sophie at Canada Creek Falls Cascade 3

Sophie found a hollow log and having seen Over the Hedge recently, was certain that many families of animals lived in it.

8-Sophie Finds a Hollow Log

We climbed up to the old road that eventually becomes Gooch Road South and headed west.

9-Sophie and Iz Climbing

Getting down to the 2nd cascade was challenging, but the kids are like little goats and we got it done. At this point they were really glad that we didn't stay home. "Dad! Dad! This is awesome! Yeeeeaaaah!" It was so loud, we had to yell. The kids decided that the foam in the pool looked like polar bear fur. A family of polar bears must live down there. This would end up being our favorite spot of the day.

11-Sophie and Iz at Canada Creek Falls Cascade 2

The main cascade was tricky to get to. Across the creek, a road leads right to it. But the creek was high, the current was strong and there was a barbed wire fence line strung across right there. Rather than getting soaked, swept away, sliced up and arrested, we sidehilled the south bank until we found a good spot. While taller than the 2nd cascade, it wasn't quite as impressive.

12-Canada Creek Falls Main Cascade

I gave Iz the map, showed her where we were and let her try to get us back to the truck without backtracking past cascades 3 and 4.

13-Iz Navigating Gooch Road South (4wd, Not Pivate)

She got us up to the gap on Rich Mountain but the intersecting trails there were confusing. I wanted to check out the trail leading up to the top of the knob, so we ended up going up that way. Iz was getting a little tired. Sophie couldn't exactly figure out the walking stick.

14-Sophie and Iz Climbing Rich Mountain Trail

I figured we'd just head cross-country to the truck from there, but my reckoning was off, the sun was hidden by clouds, I didn't check my GPS and we ended up heading along the west ridge instead of the north ridge. Soon the terrain started looking wrong and my shortcut turned into the long way around. That'll teach me. The kids didn't mind though. It had been a good day.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Heritage 6 Hour

show on map

My Saturday was open. My bike was re-cabled and newly chained. There was only one thing to do. Waking up early sucks. I ran out for supplies,


and camped out instead. It was windy, cold and raining, but I stayed warm and dry and I actually got better sleep than usual. As an added bonus, I was able to back my truck right up against the transition area, pop the trunk and set up my stuff right there.


My only spare tube had a schrader valve in it for some reason. Scott Hodge from Addictive Cycles was doing neutral support and found a good one for me. Hodge is great. At the Fools Gold last year I was hungry and he gave me a chicken biscuit. Best support ever.

The bike started out sort-of clean.

4-Bike Before

I ran into some friends; Russell (left pic) and Norma (left side of right pic).


The race itself was mainly an exercise in slip management. The trail was pretty dry. Or, I should say, the dirt was dry. The roots were not. Slip, slip, slip. All day long. Heritage has so many exposed roots. There's no way to dodge them, you just have to not crash. It's hard to carry speed too. If you like to be beaten relentlessly, that's your trail. By the end I was slow and tired.

This year there was a 4 PM cutoff. If you come in after 4 PM your last lap doesn't count. I crossed the line at 4:00:03. Woohoo.

My bike got a little dirty.

7-Bike After

Hot chocolate cured my sadness. That's Hodge on the far left.


Out of pure morbid curiosity I checked the standings. By some miriacle, the big clock at the finish line had been off by 5 seconds. By the official timing, I'd actually made it in at 3:59:58. Woohoo!!! My RFID tag didn't go off on the 4th lap though, so my 5th lap time was wrong, but they'll fix it. I think I got 11th out of 25. Better than I thought.

Norma got 2nd.

10-Norma on Podium

Timing mishaps aside, Dirty Spokes puts on very well organized events, and Tim, the race director, is a great guy. If it's your kind of thing, do a Dirty Spokes race.

Update -- Looks like I got 12th out of 26 with 12 seconds to go per the final results.