Sunday, February 28, 2010

Secret Trails

My dad was in town this weekend and he met me, Travis and Norma at the secret trails. These trails are so secret that I even blurred out the backgrounds in the photos so you can't tell where they are.

 Travis and Norma


Yeah, good luck figuring it out. You'll never figure it out. I even geotagged the photos with garbage. Flickr says they were taken in a place with no name.

I didn't even bring my GPS and I GPS everything. Seriously, it really felt weird to ride a new place without it.

There were three distinct trails. The first was about 90% dead flat. There other 10% included a gully run, a couple of humps and a few bridges. All flow. There were a bunch of artifacts out there; a trophy, a scarecrow, some other crap.

The second trail was hillier, more technical and a lot more challenging. There was a tent out there, possibly occupied by a homeless man.

The third trail wound back and forth along the banks of two drainages. It was infinitely steeper and infinitely more technical. After descending and re-climbing the same hill 10 times in 5 minutes, my dad was like "man, screw this" and walked back up to the entrance while we went on. If you want to work on switchbacks, this is your trail. Infinite switchbacks.

 Norma Downhill

 Travis Downhill

All three trails were total small intestines. The ratio of space-that-is-trail to space-that is-not-trail was exactly one-to-one. Even if I had GPS'ed it, it would have been incomprehensible. I'd need one of those big antennas from up on the top of an 18 wheeler. An unbelievable use of space. We rode almost 15 miles, on what might seemed like 10 acres of land. Crazy.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blue Ridge WMA

Me and Travis tried hard to meet up with some friends of a buddy of mine this morning. But the directions we got, while accurate, also accurately described a very different place, which is where we ended up. By the time my buddy called back, we had already given up and rolled out. Maybe next time.


The weather was nice. Still technically cold, but the sun was out and for the first time in weeks, it actually felt warm.

A few miles in it was a very different story. The north face of the ridge gets zero sun.


The road was covered in all manner of ice and snow, in all phases of melting. Some spots were slippery, some grippy, some like sand, some like concrete. All sketchy.

At least the views were nice.

 Mountains 1

 Mountains 2

Pow! Popped my chain. I've been milking this chain for 2 and a half years. I guess it's got to go sometime. And, just my luck, today I forgot to bring a powerlink. I tried to fix it without one, but the pin kept going in sideways. Travis had one though. Thanks bro.

We had clean roads for about a minute and a half, and then back into the snow.

 Snow and Ice

The entire north side of the ridge was garbage. Twice the effort for half the distance, and the very thought of standing would trigger a slide. We made the best of it, but we also headed south directly.

On the north side, our arm and knee warmers were barely enough. On the south side we were actually hot.

P'chang! Popped a spoke. Woohoo!

Back at the cars we realized we'd only ridden about 3 hours. That will never do. A quick lap around Montgomery Creek was in order. I realized halfway into it that I've almost never ridden the direction we went.

I also realized that my front left brake shoe was completely worn out and back at the cars again, I noticed that the slice in my rear tire that I've also been nursing had finally started growing. As my brother would say... total rolling junk show.


I think I may have to invest in a few new parts before the race season starts: chain, middle ring, cassette, brake pads, rotors, tires... I really need to get my wheel relaced, but I think I may just get the spoke replaced. Maybe when I've got 4 or 5 steel ones in there...

Junk show aside, the ride was pretty good. Not a tremendous number of miles, but still a lot of effort. Travis is always cool to ride with and the trails were, in fact, fun. I'd really like to see some better weather, but these days, I'll take what I can get.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Coosa Backcountry Trail

It snowed all over the southeast yesterday, enough to keep me off the bike today. I half considered riding my mountain bike on the road loop here, but my brother John wanted to go hiking instead. Yeah, that's probably a better idea.

A few months back, I explored all over Slaughter Mountain and there was a sign at Wolfpen Gap that said "you're on the Coosa Backcountry Trail, it's a 12 mile loop, you can't finish it in a day" or something like that. Sounded like a challenge to me. Today we gave it a try.

The drive up was sketchy. Snow and ice. Heading north from Dahlonega, we got stuck behind a lady driving 12 miles an hour, weaving back and forth across the entire road, through blind corners in the oncoming lane, talking on the phone! Unbelievable.

At Neels Gap, we stopped by Mountain Crossings and I ran into James Ingram, who I'd met at last year's Fool's Gold. Cool guy. Great shop too. My bro got some supplies.

At Vogel, we talked to the park ranger at the Vistors Center...

"Where you guys going today?"
"Coosa Backcountry Trail."
"What are your intentions?"
"... To walk around it."

It was an odd way to phrase the question. My bro wasn't exactly sure how to answer. The guy was cool though. He didn't mean anything by it, he just said it funny and it was good for a laugh later. He pointed us to the trailhead and we got moving at 10:30.

 Vogel Trailhead

The snow was challenging, like walking in beach sand. Every step came with a downhill slip.

 Coosa Backcountry 1

The weather was good though, the sun was shining, and we made really good time down to West Fork. Heading back up to Coosa Bald, we got some sun and the snow was tackier. For a few miles, we didn't even slip. Around Calf Stomp Gap we caught a group of about 10 hikers who were heading up to camp on top. One of the guys looked familiar but I couldn't place it. Later I realized that he kind of looked like a guy in some photos a buddy of mine took of the members of a meetup group that he goes hiking with sometimes. I wonder if it was them. Hmmm.

We got to Wolfpen at 2:30. I tanked up at a small creek just down the road and we pushed up the hill to a little campsite for lunch. The sun was gone and the wind was whipping. We tried to get down the ridge out of it, but somehow it was coming from every direction. I cooked up some beef noodles while my bro cooked up some oatmeal and cocoa using these weird little fuel tablets.


Sitting there, I just got colder and colder. In his bag, my brother was warmer, but his shoes froze solid. Tradeoffs... Eventually we just got moving again, back into the beach sand, up to Slaughter Mountain and down into the the cove.

 Coosa Backcountry 2

Wolf Creek looked pretty awesome.

 Wolf Creek

We got back to the truck at 5:15. It took us almost 7 hours, but we managed it. My knees are a little trashed though, all those random rocks under the snow... If it wasn't Valentines Day tomorrow, I could really go for a recovery ride. Was it fun? Yeah, kind-of. Both fun and painful. Cool to do, but I think I've had enough snow hiking this year.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Super Bowl Sunday! And since it was the first time since 1984 that I really cared about watching the Super Bowl, I was reluctant to go for a ride. But since it was also likely to be the only day of good weather this weekend, I went for it. It would be tight, but if all went well, we could get in an epic day of riding and still catch the game.

I met Norma, Travis and Russell at Nimblewill Church at 9 and we were riding by 9:30. The plan was to climb up to Nimblewill Gap, descend 28-3, take some roads and trails around to Noontootla, climb that and descend Winding Stair back to the car. If we could get back by 4, I could get home by 5 and get to my brother's house by 6:25, just in time for the game.

The climb up to Nimblewill was nice. Sunny sky, not too cold. At the top it was all snowy, but still not terribly cold.

 Nimblewill Gap

In the winter, from somewhere up there you can see the gold steeple of North Georgia College in Dahlonega, and I meant to take a picture of it, but of course, I forgot.

28-3 is usually sketchy because of how rocky and chunky the roadbed is, but today it was a new level. There were inches of snow to either side, and in the tire tracks, ice with a thin layer of snow on top. Sometimes the ice was thick enough to ride on, but then randomly you'd break through and roll for a while before popping back up onto it. Nobody crashed, but not for lack of trying.

Eventually we got down out of the snow and it was a lot easier. Still chunky and fun, but no longer scary. Russell has become a formidable descender too. In past years, Travis and I could take off and leave him when it got technical, but not any more. I noticed this a few months back on the Hickory Nut, but I'd forgotten about it until today.

From 28-3 to Noontootla there was an endless series of pointless ups and downs, a two-footed dab in a freezing creek, an infinitely steep climb, one of my favorite descents in the world and a long log-crossing on the slipperiest log I've ever dared to cross. All awesome.

Me, Travis and Norma had a nice tempo climb up Noontootla. I was following my bonk-at-the-top-of-Noontootla weight loss program again, but this time I timed it better. Norma and Travis got away from me in the last mile, but I kept them in sight for all but the last 500 yards or so.

Russell wasn't feeling all that great and had planned on taking a short-cut to Winding Stair. Unfortunately he'd flatted too and caught a ride with a guy. We talked to that guy on our climb up Noontootla, but then when we got to Winding Stair, Russell wasn't there. Some Rangers were parked nearby though, and they'd seen some other folks come through. We figured they must have given him a tube.

The descent down Winding Stair is also one of my all time favorites. Though, somehow on two different occasions, I managed to get a stick jammed up in my spokes, where it would whack my frame with every revolution. Sounded like I'd broken something, but it was actually no big deal.

Near the bottom, we ran into Matt and Michele who I think might have thought they were on Cooper Gap Road instead of Winding Stair.

 Matt and Michele

At the very bottom we saw Russell driving toward us. He'd apparently gotten back unscathed. Once again I had to walk the last 20 feet of the climb back up to the church because of uncontrollable chain suck.

We got back at exactly 4:00. I got home at exactly 5:00 and got to my brother's house at exactly 6:26, only missing the kickoff itself. Not a moment to spare all day. And, to top it all off, the Saints won in their first Super Bowl ever. Geaux Saints!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

DeSoto Falls

Me and the girls went to DeSoto Falls years ago with their cousins. Actually, I'm not sure Sophie went, she may have been too young, it was that long ago. Today it was in the low 30's and sprinkling snow, but that's good weather these days. Sophie was in. I promised Iz we'd stay on trails and that the trails we were going on were popular. She was in too.

There was one other car in the parking lot.

First we took the short trail to the lower falls. The other folks that were in the parking lot were coming back the other way.

"Ha ha. Dad. I'm drinking the falls. Take a picture of me drinking the falls. Huh, huh."

 Iz Drinking the Falls

The trail to the upper falls was longer. The last time we were there the kids were so little that it seemed like a hundred miles to them. This time they were just talking and joking the entire time.

It's too bad there's nothing to provide scale. The falls looked awesome. The last time it was barely a trickle.

 Upper DeSoto Falls

The snow was just barely starting to stick.

 Snow on the Rail

Sophie was sliding around on the deck.

 Sophie on Upper DeSoto Falls Overlook Platform

The map showed another set of falls to the north and a trail leading toward them. Apparently the trail used to be part of the DeSoto Falls system, but it's not maintained any more and there was a sign posted, discouraging people from hiking it. By the looks of it, the sign was working. Perhaps though, the trail could stand a little traffic today.

The trail was a little overgrown here and there...

 Daniel Camp Cove Trail 1

...but not enough to bother Iz. She was happy until we started climbing. It was super steep and apparently hikers had scrambled up it for one year too many. I can see why it was closed.

 Kids Climbing Daniel Camp Cove Trail

There was one little overlook where you could see the lower falls.

 Daniel Camp Cove Falls

"And I realized with horror that I'd seen this awful thing before..." One winter, years ago, while climbing Neels Gap on my road bike, I'd looked over, seen the falls and thought it was awesome. Since then I've looked but never seen it. You can't see it in the summer, too many leaves on the trees. Standing at the overlook today though, I could see the road.

The trail led up to the creek that generated the falls, and there was even a bridge and an old campsite up there. The trail appeared to keep going to the north, but we wanted to get further upstream. It looked like there was another falls up there. The girls and I headed upstream, off trail and without realizing it, I broke my promise to Iz.

At first it was easy, but after a challenging creek crossing, the girls were terrified of going any further uphill. It was rockier up there and we might have to cross the creek again. I was confident they could do it, I've seen them climb over much tougher terrain, but they were a little freaked out and disoriented. They weren't even sure which way to go to get back to the trail. I felt so sorry for them. I knew exactly where we were and which way to go, but I couldn't convince them that it was OK. They needed to get their own confidence back. Continuing up definitely wouldn't do that.

"Pretend you're lost in the mountains. If you have to get out, which way do you go?"

"Downhill. Follow the creek."

And we did. I followed their lead, right back to to the trail and they knew to take that downhill too. Before long we were laughing and joking again and the trauma was over. It didn't hurt that it was warmer down at the bottom too. Poor girls though. I hope the memory of being able to overcome the fear outweighs the memory of the fear itself.

We ate at the Yahoola Creek Grill. I always forget about that place and end up eating at Moe's or Zaxby's or something, then I drive by it and I'm like "Oh yeah..." Well, today we finally ate there. Grouper fingers. Yes. I'll definitely eat there again.