Saturday, October 2, 2010

Noontootla/Winding Stair/Tooni Mountain

Earlier this year, I got totally mountained-out. Between the TNGA, ORAMM and marking the Fool's Gold, I haven't even wanted to look at a long climb. I've done some hiking in the mountains, but no biking. They've been calling though, and finally, this weekend, I could hear them.

It was a good day for a long ride. The temps were delicious. A far cry from the 90+ we've been having.

 Cool Temps

Travis and Russell met me at ATL Bread and we carpooled up to the old Blue Ridge WMA game check station together. I'd actually invited some other folks, so we hung around just in case somebody else showed up. One guy did show up, and from his car, he looked a lot like Stephen Carhart, ans I was all "Heeeyyyy Stephen!" but it turned out that it was somebody else named Trey who was just up there for a ride on his own.

We headed out on FS28-1, past Camp Wahsega where a ton of girls were playing football or something, past Camp Merrill and a lone female Ranger who appeared to be headed back from doing some orienteering, up FS80 to Cooper Gap. There was a group of about 6 or 8 hikers there, headed to the Gooch Mountain shelter. One of the kids was hoping to find some spent rounds and wanted to know if the Rangers did operations out that far.

Russell was following a base mile training program and that meant keeping his heart rate down, so he was hanging back and we waited for him.

 Russell at Cooper Gap

We continued to Hightower, passing 8 or 9 riders on motorcycles. At Hightower there were like 10 cars, 2 folks coming back from a hike and a small group of hikers on the AT west of the gap. I guess today was THE day to be out in the woods.

We bombed down FS69, passed a bunch of campers and fishermen, rolled past the hatchery...

 Russell by the Hatchery

...past the church.

 Shady Grove Baptist Church

They did a controlled burn on the right side of the road a few years back, and a bunch of sumac and other brushy stuff had grown up since. I caught sight of a huge bunch of either big, fat wild grapes or possibly chokeberries, I couldn't tell which, all up in that. If I'd been out by myself, I'd have gone back and gorged myself on them, but as it was, we were really moving, and by the time I decided "well, maybe we should go back", we were all the way down the next hill.

Left on FS333, right on FS308, past even more campers and left at the old gated service road for the suspension bridge. There was a guy there collecting firewood. He had the entire back of his pickup filled with branches. It would burn for days.

We hit the BMT about 50 feet from the bridge and started walking.

 Crossing the Suspension Bridge

I've been out to the bridge a couple of times by myself and once with my kids, but it sways a lot more with three dudes tromping on it. We all had to stop for a few seconds at the center to let it settle down.

The Toccoa.

 Toccoa River

On the other side, we took a hard right off of the bridge and rode up the old northern service road to the end of FS816. At that parking lot, there were like 10 more cars and a bunch of folks headed out for a hike. I gave a pair of them directions to the bridge.

We rode up 816 to Hwy 60, where, again, there were 10 more cars parked at the trailhead there. We hung a left, and another left on Doublehead Gap Road.

Tooni Mountain.

 Travis and Tooni Mountain

At FS58 we ran into a group of at least 12 riders on horseback. Ok. This was definitely the day to be out in the woods, for everybody. They were followed by a horse-drawn wagon.

 Horse Drawn Wagon

A Horse. Drawn. Wagon. Bad-ass.

A bunch of the riders were wearing the same shirt, but I couldn't make out the words on it. They might have been Georgia Backcountry Horsemen. I kind-of think I recognized the logo, but maybe not.

Up Noontootla...

 Travis Climbing Noontootla

We ran into some of the motorcycle guys again, tons of campers, and an uncountable number of cars at the Three Forks trailhead. We waited for Russell again there.

Noontootla is my favorite climb, hands down. It's long, scenic, and you can make it as hard or easy as you want. Me and Travis were tempo climbing, but about 2 miles from the top I was suddenly hungry. Oh, no. I had accidentally gotten myself into my "bonk at the top of Noontootla weight loss program." I'd only brought 6 Clif Blocks, about half as many as I needed. Right on cue, two kicks from the top, Travis rode away from me like I wasn't even moving.

We waited for Russell at the top, and I just happened to notice this benchmark.

 Winding Stair Benchmark

I'd been in almost that same spot a dozen times, but I'd never seen it before.

The descent down Winding Stair was it's usual level of fun, but a bit sketchier than usual. My fork has been toast for a while now. I've got a new one, but I've been trying to get the last bit of life out of this one. I think it's about done now. It just doesn't react to any high frequency bumps at all, like the kind that all bumps become when you're going fast enough. The bearings are so loose too that it chatters back and forth like a loose headset. Sketchy. Travis was riding a full suspension 29'er with 2.2 tires and, again, rode away from me like I wasn't even moving. Russell was right on my wheel and just didn't want to pass at that speed. I've been wanting to try 2.2's. Between those and the new fork, maybe I can get my groove back.

I'd also tried some organic rear brake pads today, in the rear, trying to get rid of the groan. It kind of worked. They didn't always groan. It's better, especially at high speed, but it's not quiet like the front brake. I'm going to try one organic and one metal next time. We'll see.

I also tried my helmet cam again, with almost no success. When I climb it's aimed correctly. On a descent, it's aimed at the sky. And it apparently really needs lithium batteries. With Duracells, it runs for a few minutes then turns itself off. If I turn it back on, it only stays on a few seconds. If I let the batteries recover for a few minutes, it only records for another few minutes after that. Well, good to know what doesn't work, I guess.

The ride was great, just what I was hoping for. The roads were super clean too. It looked like they'd all been regraded recently. Really nice.

Back at the old game-check lot, I realized there was an apple tree right there at the edge that I'd never seen before.

 Apple Tree

All the decent looking fruit was way up in the tree though. The apples on the ground were pretty nasty looking, and I was in no mood to climb up there.

We did find good food though, at the Piazza in Dawsonville, which is the same as the Piazza in Dahlonega, which is great because it's only like 15 minutes from my house instead of 45. Yes.

When I got home I watched LSU "win" against Tennessee, in the ugliest win of all time, ever, in the world.

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