Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cheaha and Chinnabee

My family's been in Baton Rouge since our vacation last week. This weekend Kathryn's folks are driving her and the kids to Meridian, and I'm going to pick them up there. Usually I just drive over Sunday morning, pick them up and drive back, but this weekend, I had a better idea.

There are several trails between Atlanta and Meridian. I would drive over Saturday, ride some of them and camp in Meridian. I can't lose with that plan, right? Why did I never think of it before?

My brother lives along the route, so he joined me. We rode Cheaha.


That's Mt. Cheaha way in the back of that photo. The last time I rode Cheaha, I DNF'ed a SERC race there. I got the holeshot and flatted about 2 minutes into it. It was the first and only time that I chose not to bring a spare tube and CO2 to save weight. The only other time I rode there was in like 2002 or maybe before that even.

The trailhead is lavish as trailheads go, featuring not only bathrooms and a kiosk, but an entire country store.

 Cheaha Country Store

I vaguely remembered the trail being really rocky and steep. Yes, it was still rocky and still steep. My brother was on a singlespeed. "I'll just throw an 18 on, that should be OK for Cheaha." Climbing Deer Run, I was struggling with the rocks, trying to keep up the pace and stay out of the gran-gran, and he was behind me, standing up, crushing that 18. I think he walked maybe 50 feet of the climb. Hard.

A guy and his girlfriend were out there too. They didn't look super-extra fit and they'd just climbed that Deer Run climb. He asked us for the quickest route out and they rolled back to the parking lot, cutting the ride short before his girlfriend transferrence'd her suffering onto him. A wise choice.

The first lap was just brutal. Bouncy, chunky climbing and tooth-rattling descents. John said that his experience out there was that the first lap always sucks, the second is easier and he's never motivated to do a third. As he predicted, the second lap, for some reason felt just like any other trail. Easy climbing, it was still rocky, but somehow it wasn't a problem. Sea legs, I guess.

We explored all over on the second lap. I tried to ride up Relentless, which is an old road, turned meandering erosion channel. I got stalled out like 4 times. The last time I rode it I didn't even have a granny gear on my bike at all. I can't imagine how I did that.

There was also this crazy rock thing. Kind of a cave. It looked like big slabs balanced like Stonehenge or something. And there was a glass-clear pool of water at the base. Neat.

 Cave and Pool

I think I did some damage on the TNGA that will take a while to heal. My left hand has some kind of perma-bruise going and my left calf has a knot in it that won't go away and it's making my foot flex more than I want during my pedal stroke. Neither seem to hinder my riding but both are annoying. Bruises and knots aside though, I had a good time. It wasn't "woohoo!" fun, but more like "man, check out what we just rode" fun.

If you go to Cheaha, don't go looking for flow. No IMBA trails up there. I think you'd just break a Dingo if you tried to make one. There is some pretty bad erosion, but just in a couple of places, and nowhere near any creeks that I could see, so I'm not thinking there will be any flow-inducing re-routes any time soon. Even the un-eroded trails are super chunky, because of all the rock. It's just that kind of trail. Embrace the chunk.

Neither of us were motivated to ride more. But we were both heavily motivated to go jump in a river.

Up the road a ways, we walked out on the Chinnabee Silent Trail to a waterfall on Cheaha Creek...

 Falls on Cheaha Creek

...where it is difficult to get a photo of the actual falls. We jumped off this ledge into the pool, over and over and over. The water was exactly the right temperature.

 John Jumping into Cheaha Creek

I tried to get a photo of the frere, but it didn't work out very well. That's him at the bottom, just as he entered the water, which is also out of frame.

On the way back I realized I'd left my Dr. Pepper and had to run back to get it, though judging by the amount of garbage along the trail, I don't know that anyone would have thought twice if I'd left it.

Speaking of Dr. Pepper, I grabbed another one at the store on the way out...

 Alabama Dr Pepper

... and took a bad picture of that too. Man.

There is nothing like an Alabama Dr. Pepper. Far smoother than a Georgia Dr. Pepper. Seriously. Have one, you'll see what I mean.

The frere rolled back home. I proceeded to Meridian. We got lucky with the weather. There was a 50/50 chance but it stayed dry while we were out having fun. I must have driven through ten different storms on the road though.

In Meridian, I'd hoped to camp at Bonita Lakes park, but it turns out there's no camping there. There are plenty of trails though. I hope to hit them tomorrow morning while my family's driving in. The weather is supposed to be good. I got a room at the Days Inn, but next time I'm staying at the Astro Inn. $24.99, and from the outside at least, it looks a lot nicer than the Summerville Motel we stayed in during the TNGA, which was well within my standards.

Amazingly the Days Inn has both Wi-Fi and Vs. I just watched a stage of the Tour de France.

Time to get some sleep. Maybe one more Alabama Dr. Pepper first.

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