Sunday, January 9, 2011

Atlanta Beach

"You're working pretty hard for a 5 mile loop." - my brother's response when I told him I was heading down to Clayton County to ride the Atlanta Beach trails. I'd never been there, and exploring a new trail sounded just right this morning. Plus, it's south of Atlanta, which meant it would probably be warmer and have less climbing. Still, when he said it, it suddenly seemed like a lot of driving. He might be right. Now I'm scared to tell him about my Tour de Macon plans, he might organize an intervention.

The day started off right though, with a trip to the Dutch Monkey for a Dutch Crumb, a Cinnamon Roll and some black cherry soda. There was a bit of sediment in my soda today. Is it always like that? It tasted fine. Now I'm curious though.

Good donuts made the drive fly by. Before long I was rolling up on the Clayton County International Park...

 Clayton County International Park

...where they had various events back in the '96 Olympics. I'd heard it called Atlanta Beach, once, when I first moved here in 2000, but I could never get good directions, the internet didn't know anything about it, and eventually I forgot. Late last year I ran into a trail map, randomly. Having, in hand, confirmation of it's existence, I then felt compelled to ride it, I guess, "because it's there."

Somehow, I drove right past the sign pointing to the trailhead and ended up parking at the Nassau building.

 Nassau Building

That worked out well though. It was open, warm and had an officially designated "Men's Changing Room." Some kids were having some kind of indoor tennis clinic or something in there. In the building, not the changing room.

I bought some new shoe covers yesterday, which looked impossible to put on, like a brain teaser. Apparently you put them on first, before your shoes. It took me a minute to figure that out. They're lightweight, they hook over the cleats on the front of the shoes, and they velcro across the bottom. Classy.

It also took me a minute to find the trail, and then, yet another minute to get acclimated. It was a bit of a spider-web, old-school, a little rough, fall-liney, but still, it was in reasonably good shape. I'm guessing it doesn't get a ton of traffic. It reminded me of the old river-side trails at Yellow River.

For example, a set of step-ups, directly up an old set of farming terraces:


Eventually, I discovered the actual trailhead.

 Clayton County International Park Trailhead

From there, the trail led along the lake.


The first intersection was delightfully confusing.

 Confusing Signage

I guess you go right, but is it easy, intermediate or advanced?

Eventually, I discovered the secret of the markings. Arrows mark the recommended direction of travel, independent of their color. In lieu of arrows, you can also follow anything bright orange - ribbons, paint or other markers. Green arrows don't mean "easy trail." Yellow arrows don't mean "these arrows were once red and this is an advanced trail." All arrows just mean "go this way". I guess. There were Red, Blue and Green triangles here and there, and what they apparently meant was "the general area behind this triangle is easy, intermediate or difficult."

There's one creek that runs through the property, from north-to-south. Along that creek, I ran into the ruins of some old holding tanks or something.

 Holding Tanks

They were made out of sheet metal, nailed (not screwed) together. There was old pipework running between them. There is another set of these in the Bowman's Island unit of the Chattahoochee Recreation Area near my house, way out in the middle of nowhere, also right along the creek. Do they fill up when if floods? Are you supposed to put something in them to inject it into the water supply? I have no idea.

Around the back side of the property, the trail followed fire breaks through some piney woods, strewn with boulders...

 Clayton County International Park Main Trail

...and other odd debris.


This is my new favorite obstacle. You ride through the door.

 Trail Door

Eventually the trail led out of the woods and around the perimeter of the property. It was a little hard to follow. There isn't enough traffic to kill the grass. Looking closely, I could see some really faint yellow marking paint here and there, but I pretty much just guessed, and followed this levee wall thing on my left.

When I got back to the parking lots, the Universoul Circus was setting up their tents.

 Universoul Circus Trailer

 Universoul Circus Tend

I'd heard them banging around while I was out on the trail, but it sounded like gunfire - somebody shooting at targets or something. I wouldn't have guessed it was a crew setting up a circus.

There are probably about 5 or 6 miles of trail out there, but it took hours to map it all out. I spun another lap around in what had to be less than half an hour. That lap felt smooth and flowy and was actually a lot of fun, like a lap at a 6 hour race. It helped that I knew which way to go. I thought about spinning another one, but it was getting lateish and it's supposed to snow hardcore tonight. I needed to get back home.

I hadn't thought about it on the drive down, but driving back through the ATL, it occurred to me... Doc Chey's.

 Doc Cheys

A day that starts with the Dutch Monkey and ends with Doc Cheys... that's a good day even without a good ride, but the ride was good too, so, you know, icing on the cake. I don't think I'd drive an hour and a half just to hit it again, but maybe if I'm in the neighborhood... Actually, I'd be interested to see what it's like in the summer, and it's semi-close to my brother's house, and my dad's house. Maybe I will end up driving an hour and a half to ride it again.

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