Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Other Fool's Gold

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In the Blue Ridge WMA, there's the well known 50 mile Fool's Gold route that everybody's ridden. But there is also the little-known "Other Fool's Gold" route which as far as I know has only been ridden contiguously by my brother and myself. I try to ride it once a year. Today was that day.

I parked just up the road from Camp Merrill. The Rangers were firing up the Blackhawks, maybe I'd get to see them doing cool stuff later. I guess they were just working on them though, or something, because they'd just start them up and shut them down, over and over. Oh well maybe next time.

During my last minute gear check I discovered, oh crap, no chain lube. I have no idea where it went, but my trusty little bottle of Tri-flow was gone. The chain looked OK though and sounded OK. It'll have to do.

I'd parked my truck at a crazy angle. It would make a good picture, so I pulled out my camera and, glitch number two, the camera was dead. I fiddled with it for a few minutes, but it was not turning on. I hope I just forgot to charge it. We'll see. No photos today.

The route sort-of follows the Winding Stair/Noontootla loop with some interesting diversions. The first couple of miles flew by. I talked to an AT hiker for a minute or so at Horse Gap and moved on. More miles flew by. And then I hit Wildcat Ridge. On my trails site I list it as an unmaintained road, but I think I'll have to change that. They ran the bulldozer out there recently and it was slow and soft. Maybe it'll get some gravel soon. After Wildcat Ridge I was moving again. I passed a rider going the other way on Doublehead Gap Road. More miles flew by.

Pop! A spoke popped. I've popped more spokes this year than ever before. It might be time to get the rear re-laced. Wrapped that up, got moving again. Then I flatted. Come on! Maybe the popped spoke was pushing into the tire? No, that wasn't it. When I pulled the tube out, I found a little piece of metal lying in the tire. It looked like a ferrule or something. Maybe a chunk of a spoke? Nothing I've seen before. The rim strip was split too. Either could have caused the flat. I patched the split with a Clif Block wrapper, aired up and got moving again.

Rolling, rolling. I passed 2 turtles. If it was Dave vs. Wild, I could have eaten them :) That was about all there was out there to eat too. I only saw 1 good blackberry all day. The hemlock buds are all mature. Plenty of trout, and me without my fishing rod. I did see 3 wild turkeys, good luck with those. I guess that's why god invented Clif Blocks. I had plenty of them. Yum. I did not bring much water though. Fortunately, I did bring water treatment tablets. My first tank-up was back at Rock Creek. My second was at Noontootla.

Climbing Noontootla was where I first started feeling the ride. By the time I was back at the truck, I was ready to be done, but not dead by any stretch. No cramps, no devastating hunger or thirst. Just right.

Fifty-odd miles in right around 8 hours. In some spots I was flying, so you can imagine the climbing. I haven't done many long rides this year, but if this one is any indication, I should be all right for Mt. Mitchell.

Wish I had pictures.


  1. Damn, too bad your camera was dead.

    I've done Winding Stair + Double Head loop ride once before. Good FS road ride. Did you also hit some single track on this?

  2. Oh yes. There was singletrack, plenty of singletrack. I'll have to show you sometime.