Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Big Creek

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My Dad's in town. He and my mom are taking my kids to Disney World. Usually when he's in town we go ride somewhere in the mountains all day. It's one of my favorite things in the world. But as fate would have it I'd already signed up and paid for ORAMM. All we had time for was a quick spin at Big Creek on his way up here to pick up the kids.

 The Padre Kitting Up

The iPhone takes blurry action shots.

 The Padre Riding

This photo is representative though. After ORAMM yesterday my dad was stomping all over me. I was just chasing the foggy blur. Near the back we started climbing. The trail got steep and I was like "yeah he's going to slow down" but he just stood up and punched it and I could barely hang on. It was bad.

We only got to ride for like 45 minutes bit it felt a lot longer.

They'll be in Florida for a week. Hopefully we'll get to ride again when he gets back.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


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ORAMM. The Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell. 65 miles and 11000 feet of climbing in the Pisgah National Forest just east of Asheville, North Carolina.

Absolutely brutal.

I've done it 3 times in the past. The first time I rode conservatively and suffered phenomenally over the last 20 miles. I only finished because I didn't know which way to go if I wanted to bail. The second time, the course was different and not as difficult. I still suffered, but I had it, and I felt like I could have pushed harder. The third time, it was back to the original course. I pushed harder, felt great, but despite having plenty of energy, cramped horribly for the second half and didn't walk straight for 3 days. This year, my goal was to push as hard as I could, but not cramp.

Mitchell is interesting. There are 5 rest stops, several long downhills and several very technical climbs. If you take short pits, descend well, and climb technical stuff well, you can eventually beat much stronger riders. You'll switch places all day, but eventually you'll get by them. That was my strategy.

Saturday afternoon I drove up to Old Fort and arrived just in time to sign in.

Old Fort is so named because there was once an actual old fort nearby. Now there's a museum. The race starts at the museum.

 Old Fort Museum

I'd hoped I could throw down my tent in the field at the start. I could not. The nearest camping was up Curtis Creek Road. A while back I added all of the ORAMM roads and trails to my trails site, so as fate would have it, I actually knew how to get to Curtis Creek Road from there.

The primitive sites were all taken, so I ponied up 5 bones and stayed at the official Curtis Creek Campground. Something odd was on the picnic table. A rock? It looked like a rock. But it was soft and flexible. A potato! Heh.

A family of weirdos was set up next door. The mom kept saying strange things. The two teen boys were whinier than my 7 year old. They seemed to be having a good time though. Weirdos or not, a family having a good time together outdoors gets my high five. Still, it was a good thing that I didn't have to listen to them because it was dinner time.

My Father's Pizza in Black Mountain is fantastic.

 My fathers pizza

Half-cheese, half-pepperoni. All yum.

I'd planned on eating breakfast at Hardees, but I was camped a bit far away for that. A quick trip through Ingles and I was covered.


I slept ok. Not great, but ok. I only sleep really well when I'm worn out. Still, I got probably 6 good hours and I felt good in the morning.

Curtis Creek itself.

 Curtis Creek

Across the creek there was this weird little building.

 Stone Building

During the race, I saw a plaque and a trail leading to it. I'll have to go back and find out what it really is some day.

Time to ride. The parking lot was full, but I didn't see anyone I knew.


The field.


I saw Patrick Jones on the starting line. I used to hang out with him at the GAP races way back. There's a 50% chance that he thought I was my brother.


5 minutes in I was already in trouble. My legs had that my-blood-is-raping-my-blood-vessels feeling. Unspeakably painful. Not enough warm-up and I should have ridden to work Friday.

Halfway up Old 70 Patrick rode up next to me. We talked for a while. He moved on. My legs started to feel better but I was getting passed non-stop.

Rolling into Kitsuma a friend of a friend of mine passed me. Phonetically his name is pronounced "Von-nee". I have no idea how to spell that. Vonny? Vaughny? (Update: it's Vonnie). At any rate, he's a buddy of Steve Julain's, another guy I used to race with a bunch. Steve was way back behind us on a singlespeed and we didn't see him all day. Vonnie rode on past me. But! I can climb the hell out of Kitsuma and apparently not very many people can. La, la, la, right up the switchbacks, past like 30 people walking, including my new friend. The first descent was a mess. There's a really technical section and 10 people were walking it. I rode through them, but one guy, trying to get out of my way turned his bike sideways, blocking the whole trail and I had to go around him to the left, on a risky line. The rest was uneventful. Kitsuma is rough. Riding it feels like getting punched in the kidneys.

No gatorade at the first rest stop, just Heed. Heed tastes like liquid dust. I'm not a big fan, but it'll do. I saw some guys who'd passed me earlier. Quick pit and I was out before them.

On Heartbreak Ridge I rode most of the switchbacks, but it didn't help me. A couple of folks passed me walking and I didn't see many other riders. My legs were feeling OK now. On the back side, a girl was sitting down just past a downed log, looking distraught. At first I thought she'd crashed, but it turned out she'd just dropped her chain to the outside, over the pedal and couldn't figure out how to fix it. I'd already stopped, so I fixed it for her, took off, rounded a corner, hopped a log, washed out in the soft sand on the other side, crashed, bruised my hand and smashed up my left knee. So much for karma.

Climbing up to Star Gap, I continued to get passed. The girl who's bike I fixed passed me, and a million other riders.

Loose doesn't begin to describe the descent from Star Gap. I sketched a lot. A LOT. One guy was able to hang on to my wheel though. The two of us passed to either side of the girl who's bike I'd fixed and freaked her out. I figured we'd drop her, but she just grabbed his wheel and followed us all the way down, sketchy drifting and all. Awesome.

Quick turn at the next rest stop and again, passed a bunch of riders who'd gotten by me.

Next up, Curtis Creek. Go climb this road. There is nothing nice about it. I felt alright at first, but not for very long. I always forget about the actual pain of Mitchell. A couple of miles in and my knees were hurting, my hips were hurting, my back was hurting, bad. BAD. I forget about that. I remember the level of effort, but I forget about the actual pain. Vonnie caught me, so did a bunch of other guys, but I got past them at the rest stop and on the next descent.

And so it was. Back and forth. All day.

Down to the Black Mountain Campground, back up to the parkway. I was using every climbing technique I knew. When I'd switch, I'd feel relaxed for a while, then eventually I'd have to switch again. Eventually, nothing felt good. Just constant suffering. I got passed on the climb, but didn't even need to pit at the top.

Up to Heartbreak Ridge, down the ridge itself. Kitsuma is a kidney puncher. Heartbreak is a hand slammer. No cramps yet, though. And I got a little recovery in my legs. As hard as the ride was, I was still on target.

Quick pit. Up Mill Creek Road. A little faster, and of course, more pain. Some of the same guys passed me again, but not all of them. Hmmm. Vonnie passed me again in the Kitsuma parking lot. The irony. I climbed the switchbacks a second time. Up on the ridge, I climbed a section that a bunch of folks were walking. I would never see them again. Yes! I'm finally dropping people, 5 miles from the end :) On the descent, my fingers were sore. My triceps were getting sore. My kidneys were sore. I could smell my brake pads burning. I actually let it go a little more than usual just to keep from having to grab the brakes.

I still felt pretty good at the bottom. My hands were ringing but my legs were good, so I put my elbows on the bars and TT'ed it on back to town. There were 3 guys ahead of me that I recognized, but there was nothing I could do to catch them.

I have no idea how I did overall. I didn't get into the top 10 and I finished in just over 8 hours. Not sure how that compares to earlier years, I'll have to look that up. I did accomplish my goal though, I pushed it as hard as I could and didn't cramp. I never felt strong though, not once. Gonna have to work on that, the Fool's Gold is coming up.

The free post-race spaghetti was the best tasting spaghetti ever. The bath I took in the creek was the most refreshing bath ever. The drive home wasn't too bad. I didn't get sleepy. But my legs hurt the whole time. I did get treated to some sunbeams, which looked stunning in real life.


I'm feeling OK now. I should be able to get a recovery ride in tomorrow. We'll see.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cane Creek

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Cane Creek. Land of ticks, waterfalls, and long, steep, abandoned trails. Seriously, who uses these trails? The litter is 10 years old and there isn't even any ranger paraphernalia.

Andrew, a buddy of mine from work, and I did some exploring up there today.

We started off down the Turninglathe Branch Trail. I'd been there before, years ago, back when I didn't know jack about running around in the woods, and ruined a hunter's day. Today we blazed on past that, and straight into some overgrown garbage. Bad trails left and right. Eventually we abandoned all hope and just followed the creek. Except that wasn't any easier.

 1 - Overgrown Near Turninglathe

We did find a turtle.

 2 - Turtle

At long last, it opened up, and lo, the trail appeared again. We got back on it, it T'ed into another one and we took it down to the top of a waterfall. I thought it was the same falls I'd found the last time I was there, but in fact, it was a different falls.

 3 - Andrew at Turninglathe Cascade 3

 4 - Turninglathe Cascade 3

The road appeared to end there. Again we followed the creek, and eventually reached the one I'd seen before. It had an upper section that I hadn't seen the last time.

 5 - Upper Turninglathe Cascade 2

 6 - Lower Turninglathe Cascade 2 From Above

 7 - Lower Turninglathe Cascade 2

From there we trudged on down to Old FS247 and checked out the lower cascade for a minute. It made me wonder though, are there any more below this one? I'll have to come back to find out.

We followed Old 247 up to the gap and looked hard for the cemetery loop.

Blueberries! I should have taken a photo. We ate them. At least some of them.

Where the hell was the cemetery loop? From the other direction, it's really easy to find. From this end, not at all. Eventually we found it, but only after passing it and climbing back up through the woods. Ahh, clean trail. I was a-jawin, got distracted, and almost stepped on this guy.

 8 - Ribbon Snake

I didn't even see it until Andrew pointed it out, right after I'd walked by. If it had been a snake, it would have bitten me. I believe this is a ribbon snake. Circle head. No danger. Well, limited danger.

We continued, past the cemetery.

One of our goals was to check out some black dots that were on the USGS map. They usually mean that there is a building there, or at least that there was a building there when the map was made, umpteen billion years ago. Perhaps there would be ruins today. We followed some "trails" down to the creek. And looked around for a while. There were several areas that may have been cleared out to build on, some tree trunks in the creek that may have once been part of a bridge, and a couple of pits that had clearly been dug, but nothing else. No old boards, no old chimneys, nothing else. We followed a trail up along a little feeder creek for a while. Lots of downed trees. No good. It sounded like there might be a waterfall down below. We checked it out, but there was nothing but this.

 9 - Tiny Falls

Maybe in a couple thousand years.

Back to the cane creek trail.

Scenic little creek.

 10 - Scenic Creek

Hey, I did find something! Yesterday's trash is a precious artifact today.

 11 - Artifact

It took a while to get back on the main trail. I led us right past the trail we'd come down on :) We did get back on it though. Up, up, up. Through the flatts and the blowdowns, past a bunch of old artifacts. Past a weird campsite, to Cane Creek Falls.

 12 - Andrew at Cane Creek Falls Cascade 1

Up on "heartbreak hill" Andrew's girlfriend called him. I hadn't thought about it, but we're pretty much on the southernmost face of the entire Appalachian range, with direct line-of-sight to every cell tower between there and Atlanta. He had 3 bars. He called her back at the top of the hill and we took a little break.

Up, up, up. Last time I'd cut cross-country to an old logging road and taken it up to the gap. Today, we just followed the creek and when there was no more creek, followed the drainage.

The gap.

 13 - Cane Creek Gap

Andrew had a hitchhiker.

 14 - Caterpillar

We dined on clif blocks, "premium" nuts and asiago bread. Fancy.

Instead of taking the trail back down, we took an old logging road. One that I hadn't taken a few weeks ago.

On the way up, I'd seen ten thousand trilliums. Many different species. My mom says they're pretty rare. I can't say for sure. But, I figured I'd take some pics, since there were so many. Of course, as soon as I decided to do it, I didn't see any more. Oh, look, here's one, at least I think it's a trillium.

 15 - Trillium

I hoped the old road would take us around to the Long Mountain ridge, but it ended abruptly. A fairly well worn trail continued though. Maybe it would lead to the ridge. We followed it, and it appeared to lead right to the ridge. However, this is one of those situations where people get lost without a compass. It looked like we might be on Long Mountain ridge, we really wanted to be on that ridge, but we were really just on a little bump on the side of the mountain. The compass confirmed this. We trusted the compass. If we hadn't checked it, we'd have been seriously confused.

We backtracked to a creek and followed it down to the Cane Creek Trail. Andrew had seen several "whole ecosystems growing on a rock". Here's one of them.

 16 - Ecosystem on a Rock

On the way up, we'd crossed Cane Creek above the waterfall. Looking back down, it appeared that there might be another cascade just below. On the way down, we followed the creek and yeah, there was another cascade.

 17 - Andrew at Cane Creek Cascade 5

And another.

 18 - Cane Creek Cascade 4

 19 - Cane Creek Cascade 4 Wide Shot

And another.

 20 - Cane Creek Cascade 3 Close

 21 - Andrew at Cane Creek Cascade 3

And a salamander.

 22 - Salamander

And another.

 23 - Cane Creek Cascade 2

Wow. And there's just no easy way to get to any of it, from the gap above, or from anywhere below. I love finding stuff like this out in the middle of nowhere.

We had an easy trip back. We avoided the Turninglathe area and just took Old 247 back to the truck.

Andrew got bitten by a spider but smacked it before he could identify it. All spider bites hurt, but as far as I know, there are only 2 really dangerous spiders in Georgia; the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. You'd know it, right away, if you got bitten by either. We kept an eye on it. Thirty minutes later he wasn't passed out in agony. Probably ok.

At The Piazza in Dahlonega, a lone tick crawled across our table. We'd been relatively short on ticks all day. Figures one would show up at this late hour. Andrew crushed it and I disposed of it in the bathroom. I figured I'd check myself, and, of course, I had one biting my leg.

The price we pay.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shooting the Hooch

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Me and the family took a little mini-vacation to Helen yesterday. We drove up Friday ate at The Troll Tavern and spent the night at the Econolodge. Can't beat $60 for a double queen when everyone else wants $175 for a single king. It might have been worth it to pony up a few more bucks though. Kathryn wasn't too comfortable and tossed all night, keeping me up as well.

Saturday we ate some "free" breakfast and headed up to Anna Ruby Falls.

 Anna Ruby Falls 1

 Anna Ruby Falls 2

I'd taken the kids there before. But they were really little so it was new to them. There are several trails leading out from the area. I'll have to check them out one day.

Back in Helen we were joined by the Starling family, or 3 of them, at least. We ate lunch at, again, The Troll Tavern and proceeded forthwith to the river.

 Tubing 1

 Tubing 2

 Tubing 3

 Tubing 4

 Tubing 5

Ahhh, Cool River Tubing. For the first mile or so the water was only a few inches deep and we got stuck a lot. Both of the girls realized early on that they needed to stand up and push their tubes when that happened. But neither of them wanted to do it. So they'd just get stuck and sit there, act like they were trying to get going again and whine until I either went back to help or fussed at them. Eventually they quit doing that, though, and all was well for quite a while.

Even after the first mile, Sophie got stuck quite a lot. I stayed with her while everyone else floated away.

Back on dry land we were hungry, but we'd had enough of The Troll Tavern. Pizza time.

 Dinner 1

 Dinner 2

Yay pizza. Tomorrow I'm going hiking. Hope that goes well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bowman's Island

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Yeah I just keep going back. The walk did my cramp-damaged legs some good yesterday. I figured more walking today would do even more good. This time we parked at the fish hatchery and hiked the southern trail.

I gave the Iz the map and let her navigate. She did a good job. It took her a little while to figure out which way to go at the turns, but she got it.

There were only a couple of purple lines left on my map and we covered them today. The first one led here.

 The-The House 1

 The-The House 1

"The-The House" apparently. I don't like being on private property but I didn't see any signs so maybe it was ok. I'll have to check the map later.

The second just led into the neighborhood.

We paused at the gate for some jungle gym action.


Along the road back we checked out some side trails that went to the river and to a field and to nowhere.

The whole time we kept passing fresher and fresher horse sign but never ran into any horses. The girls were excited about the possibility, so it's too bad we didn't see them. We did see 2 white tail deer but they were too well hidden to get a shot of. Plus we see deer every time we're out there, probably the same deer even.

After the hike we drove around the neighborhood following the trails along the side of the road. I think I've gotten every trail out there.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bowman's Island

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Bowman's Island. Been there a hundred times. Couple of trails I haven't hiked. Etc. Etc.

Got the girls and Kathryn out there today.

 The family

We went counterclockwise in a big loop. Early on we saw a really long cottonmouth, like 5 feet long or more, reminded me of the ones I grew up with in Louisiana. Later we saw some less dangerous wildlife. This is a frog. But it just looks like a blob of mud :)

 Small Frog

We followed a spur trail that connected up to the neighborhood. It was a pretty rough trail. I figured it would lead to somebody's backyard, but it turned out to be an official trail with a sign and everything.

We backtracked to the main trail and kept going, took the connector to the southern section of the northern trail and took a side trail near the big rock. I'd been wondering where it went. Now we know.

 Tree House


We took another "trail" back to the main trail, took it just past the next dry creekbed. Sophie led us down along the creekbed to the Creek Trail and we took it home.

I picked a bunch of little seed ticks off of my ankles. Luckily, nobody else had any on them or they'd probably never want to go out in the woods again.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tribble Mill 6 Hour

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Today I rode the Dirty Spokes 6 hour race at Tribble Mill Park.


Breakfast at Waffle House was fantastic. For some reason, the Waffle House in Cumming is choice. My eggs are always scrambled properly. Nothing better.

The trail is about an hour from my house. I drove around the park for a while before I figured out where to go. It kind of looks like you're going into a neighborhood when you're going the right way. I actually used the Google Maps app on my iPhone and the photo of that kiosk up there to figure out where I was and where to go.

After registration I ran around looking for friends. Norma was back from BC with a sweet injury.

 Norma's Injury

Mike and Norma.

 Mike and Norma

Russell and Sunny.

 Russell and Sunny



Noah's one of the old school players. He and my brother used to beat each other up in the GAP series 8 years ago or so. He was absent from the race scene for a couple of years, but I've seen him at the last couple of 6-hours.

I got set up, kitted up and warmed up by riding around the park a bit. The park is actually pretty nice. They have bike trails, horse trails, walking trails, a paved jogging trail, a lake for fishing and kayaking and a nice playground.


I'd never been here before. Some guys who'd pre-ridden the course told me to watch the first left hand sweeper. I took a few minutes to ride the first couple of turns. They weren't kidding. The first little bit of the trail has had a bunch of work done to it lately. It's been regraded and covered with pea-gravel. The turn is off-camber and it suddenly gets tight. I'm not usually a fan of this type of trail...


...but there's a little creek right there and the old trail was a fall line trail leading right down to it, so I understand. The whole rest of the trail was tight, twisty singletrack.

Pit row.

 Pit Row

Tim Schroer, of Dirty Spokes Production. Awesome guy.

 Tim Schroer

For Dirty Spokes races, we all wear little RFID tags on our ankles and ride over a mat that detects them at the start/finish line. However, if you ride across it with your foot up, it won't register. Sometimes it won't register even if your foot is down. This has led to scoring problems in the past. Today we had to dismount and walk/run across the mat.


Lap 1 I felt really, really strong, but it seemed to be amateur hour. Riders were crashing left and right. Some guys were really struggling and holding everyone up, but absolutely refused to be passed. I was all amateur too though, and almost crashed passing an Addictive Cycles guy and then later passed a girl on what appeared to be a wide section of trail, but ended up being a gnarly creek crossing. I took the absolute worst possible line through it and got really close to her. It was just luck that the line worked out, it went over a rocky drop that I couldn't see over and through deep water that I'd no idea what was under.

Lap 2 I still felt strong and just crushed it. The group was thinning out and I passed folks left and right.

Lap 3 I almost T-boned a cat. 2 turns into the trail some little cat was walking across the trail when I came around the corner. It got out of the way though. Three-fourths of the way around this lap my left leg started twinging. I had a ton of energy, but apparently I'd overdriven my legs. Ugh. I caught and passed the guy that I'd almost crashed earlier and aplogised, but he didn't even remember that I'd done it :) We sparred for the next couple of laps. His bottom bracket was super-squeaky so I could always tell when he was coming.

Lap 4 was 100% cramp management. Both legs were twinging constantly. I had to lay up and spin and try to let them settle out. They eventually did, but I couldn't push hard anymore. All that energy and nothing to do with it.

Lap 5 my energy level started to match my legs. I could once again push as hard as I wanted, but that just wasn't all that hard. Toward the end of the lap I was fighting cramps again, but I finally dropped Mr. Squeaks. When I came in my brain wasn't working. I thought I was missing a bottle, but I wasn't and Russell was there hanging out waiting for his teammate and probably thought I was going a little crazy.

Lap 6 was hard, hard, hard. My legs were cramping, I puked at least 6 times from the overly sweet syrupy gatorade/clif-block mix but just had to keep pounding down the gatorade to keep hydrated. I got passed by the girl I'd passed badly in the creek and told her I was sorry, but it didn't seem like she was in the mood to accept my apology.

Could I do a lap 7? My instict was to just go for it so I grabbed a new bottle and some blocks, but as I rode out of pit row my brain was adding it all up. The previous lap took me 58 minutes and I had 56 minutes left. If I were feeling good, I might be able to bury myself and make up 2 minutes, but with my legs trashed and cramping, there was no way. I turned around and packed it in.

Norma however, had passed me early in the lap and had enough time to put in a 7th lap. Hard core.

 Norma 7 Laps

It took a phenominal act of will to get me up from my chair to pack up. It felt like it took an hour to get it done. I drank nearly a half-gallon of water. Noah mentioned that he didn't see my name on the results sheet. Turned out I'd signed up for the single-speed class somehow. Got that fixed.

I'd been hanging out all day with a guy named Jerry that I'd ridden a bunch of the Snake Creek Gap TT with earlier this year. Cool guy. He's doing the Trans-Rockies later this year. Good luck man!

Talked to Hodge for a while...


...mostly about the Trans-Georgia. Shey Linder and his hardcoreboys are riding it right now and are set to finish in 3 or 4 days. Hard. Core. It took me 8 rides to do it all, spread a week apart each, and I bonked out hard on 2 of them.

The result...

10th place. Not what I was hoping for, but hey, what are you gonna do? Better luck next time.