Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oconee Heritage Park

I'm still off work, and even though my original plan didn't work out, I did take off work to ride, so ride I will.

I've been riding Heritage Park since 2000, but never GPS'ed it. The last 2 times were 6-hour races, and there's no way I'm dragging around the GPS (all 1 pound of it) during a race. I've almost gone out there a bunch of times, but there's always been somewhere else I wanted to go. Not today. Today's Heritage day.

Every time I go there, I think I know how to get there, but then every time I get lost. Today was no different. After a couple of wrong turns, I finally got there and had the whole park to myself.

On the bike, I ran into a little grove of these fruits almost immediately.

 Purple Fruit

Are they some kind of Mulberry?

It wasn't long before I remembered why I've always had somewhere else I wanted to go. Heritage beats you to death.

To death.

The soil is hard, roots cannot penetrate it, and they just splay out all over. The trail is just root, root, root, root, bam, bam, bam, bam, all day long. When it's slightly damp, the whole ride is just slip-management. You slip on every root and there's nothing you can do about it except predict where the bike's going to go. It was slightly damp today.

Racing there is great, if you can take it. The constant beating wears everyone else out. But when I'm just riding for fun, it's not my favorite. So far I was still having fun, but I decided I probably wouldn't ride for more than a few hours.

Heritage is mostly piney singletrack...

 Piney Singletrack

punctuated by this kind of craziness...


and this kind of thing...


and sometimes doubletrack...


and not always in the woods...

 Field Crossing

From that standpoint, Heritage is great. It's not just a million miles of anonymous singletrack, there's good variety and each section has it's own character.

But it's not all sunshine and candy bars. Heritage is uphill, both ways. As in your grandpa's "when we were kids, we walked 10 miles to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways." When I was young, I rode Heritage park, and it was uphill, both ways. It feels like you're always climbing, which, of course is impossible, since you end up back where you started. The illusion is remarkable, and is created by short, fast, technical downhills which provide no recovery, followed by long, gradual to moderate climbs. The descents are over so quickly, all you remember are the climbs.

There is a bit of cool scenery at Heritage...


The "famous" Two Bridges...

 Two Bridges

Somebody lived here...


And here...

 Oconee Heritage Homestead Ruins 1

 Oconee Heritage Homestead Ruins 2

 Oconee Heritage Homestead Ruins 3

And here...

 Oconee Heritage Cabin

And out by the trailhead, this beautifully restored, or re-created house.

 Oconee Heritage Restored House

I'm not sure if it's a replica or what. A while back, it wasn't there at all, but up-close it looks like it's made of old planks.

But I digress.

The ride itself turned out to be pretty fun. I spun one lap, marking intersections, and the second lap I ended up behind 2 guys and a dog, moving at a moderate pace. They could have gone faster, but they were spending all of their energy arguing about health care. The young guy doesn't trust the establishment and older guy fears change. Classic. They're probably both right. They were my rabbit though. I'd stop from time-to-time to fiddle with my GPS and put it down to catch back up. More like racing than riding, and that's how Heritage is best enjoyed. Ahhh.

Rumor has it that there are going to be 4 miles of horse trails out there soon. Farmington and nearby towns have a good sized equestrian community, but by way of what must seem to them an impossibly bad joke, they can't actually ride their horses on the trails at the park with the rodeo arena and the horse stables, which is nestled in the middle of a farming community. Some folks had been riding on the bike trails illegally with predictable results. Now the word is that some of the doubletrack will be open to horses and some purpose-built, horse-only trails will be constructed as well. Sounds like a good solution. My only hope is that the horse trails don't cross the bike trails 100 times in the middle of downhills like at Yellow River.

On the way home I got lost again and ended up north of Athens before I figured it out. Yay, Heritage.

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