Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jake and Bull Mountains

Yesterday I had plans to head east to Augusta and ride a bunch of miles out there. I'd hoped to rope a couple of friends into riding with me too, but I got no takers and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the riding with friends part was more operative than the riding a bunch of miles part.

As luck would have it, Dr. Z was trying to get a ride together from the Jake Mountain lot this morning. We were to be there, ready to ride at 9:45. And, though I'd been up late journaling last night, I was there, ready to ride at 9:30.

There was one other truck in the lot when I got there, and I recognized it. Literally every time I've ridden at Bull or Jake this year, I have seen it and ran into it's owner on the trail or in the lot. She's a former equestrian who lives nearby. She can't ride after having had a hip replacement, but she and her cute little dog hike all over Bull and Jake Mountains. She's the sweetest lady and I hoped I'd get a chance to see her on the trail.

9:45 came and went. Nobody had actually replied saying they were going to show up, so I started thinking she'd called it off and felt silly for not posting "I'm in" or some other trivial indication. At 9:50 some folks showed up with a horse trailer. At 10:00 a truck finally pulled up, but it was loaded with dudes.

One of those dudes was Marc Hirsch though. Hirsch! A while back, he'd broken his hand. He told me how, but I don't remember now. It was bike related, but I think he was working on his bike and it was some freak accident. Maybe it was from a tire exploding when he was trying to get it to seat. Michele had the same thing happen to her the night before though so maybe I'm getting them mixed up. At any rate, he was healed up and he invited me to ride with him, Eric and Chris (I think? Man, I'm bad with names) who are a couple of pro's riding for Atlanta Pro Bikes. There would almost certainly be some spelunking in the pain cave, but seeing as the folks I was hoping to meet didn't look like they were going to show, I was all in.

Of course, not 10 minutes later, they did show.

At first I didn't recognize them because they were in Michael's truck and I figured it couldn't be him. He'd busted his finger in the same watersports accident that took Michele out a few weeks back and wasn't riding mountain bikes for the time being. But, indeed, it was them:

 Michael and Michele

Great photo of Michele there. I have this uncanny ability to take the shot right when at least one if its subjects are looking away.

I was then faced with an impressive moral dilemma and with Hirsch and crew still getting ready, the ethical centers of my brain had plenty of time to waffle back and forth about it. With which group should I ride? It was a no-win situation - the Kobayashi Maru. It seems like the older I get, the much more of those I run into. It was possible to disappoint either of my friends, or potentially, neither might mind. Both are generally cool. Aaaa! I ultimately decided not to bail on Hirsch's crew, having actually committed to ride with them. If it seemed a little awkward, that's why. Sorry guys.

Me and the dudes rolled out a few minutes after all that and went flying down Jake Mountain. After the first couple of rollers, you can literally coast all the way to Jones Creek. Man, these new trails are great.

On the descent to the creek, we passed the owner of the truck and her little white dog. I'd talked to her for a while the last time I was up there, but I'm not sure if she recognized me or not. I'm sure I'll see her again. I need to get her name next time.

At the creek, I waded in directly but everybody else was all "Oh, come on, you've got to be kidding..." We all like to get dirty, but I think I'm the only mountain biker there is who likes getting wet too.

Not far up after that we ran into a lady on horseback. Her horse spun when she saw us, but she held on and got it under control. When it spun, I noticed a long braided tail... I know this horse! And, for that matter, it's owner. Russell had been talking to her at Dry Creek when we drove up a few weeks back. Her horse is extremely scared of bikes and she had been hoping he could help desensitize it, but she couldn't get the horse to go anywhere near his bike. Today, we stopped, she got him off trail in a corner and we walked by. The poor animal was noticeably nervous, but he was holding it together. I mentioned that we'd met at Dry Creek a few weeks back. She kind-of remembered. I'm pretty sure at the time she was way more focused on just getting on the trail.

What are the odds though, that of the thousands of mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians in North Georgia, I'd have randomly run into one of each that I knew?

Speaking of running into things, we ran into this black rat snake a few miles later.

 Black Rat Snake

Marc identified it. I thought it was a king snake before I got a good look at it.

We stood around gawking while and it eased itself away...

 Our Crew

...and I took a couple of blurry pictures.

We rolled up Jake to Black Branch, around the new trail there to Montgomery Creek and spun the loop up there that leads past the falls. None of the guys had ever seen the falls before.

For whatever reason, the inner part of the chamois in my bib kept folding up on itself. If I stayed seated, it was fine, but if I stood up at all, or especially if I walked, it would bunch up and fold over on itself. It gave me extra padding, but it was unevenly distributed, annoying and occasionally painful. It started doing it somewhere in there and I ended up picking at it all day long. It might be time for a new pair of shorts, but seriously, what the heck?

We attempted to ride No-Tell and Turner Creek, but the APB guys were sparring with each other, rode up past me and Hirsch and past all of the possible turn off's for either. We ended up hanging a right at the Y and riding up past the old game check station instead, out on 77A and up Bare Hare.

I'd been on the front all day, trying to keep the pace down to something I could manage, but on the road it was impossible to keep up. I refilled an empty bottle at Lance Creek, but in my haste, I didn't drop an iodine tablet in it. I had another full bottle, so I figured I'd only use it if I had to and I'd either purify it then or dump it out and refill it from one of the trickles at the top.

I struggled up the Bare Hare roadbed, which is looking a lot more like singletrack these days. I was climbing strong compared to how I usually climb, but I couldn't even keep the rest of the guys in sight. At the proper singletrack, I told them not to wait for me. They had a time they needed to get back for and I didn't want to hold them up. Still, we ended up staying together, more or less, up to the very top.

We ran into Michele's crew about halfway up too.

 Michael and Michele Again

Again, everyone in this photo is looking away.

The guys were just out of sight at the top, but we were about to descend Bull. I'm usually fast on a downhill, and I figured I'd catch them but "at such odds with destiny are all the little plans of man" or something like that.

Right away: pinch flat.


I changed it quickly, but it meant abandoning the chase.

Abandoning the chase gave me the opportunity to take the obligatory truck shot though. So, that's good. Right?


It also gave me a chance to examine some of the dozens of pink ribbons, hanging all over up there. We used pink ribbons to mark the Fool's Gold route last year, somebody had forgotten to take them down from No-Tell and I'd ended up picking them up myself during a bunch of night rides last winter. At first I thought "Oh, man, did somebody forget these too?" But they had words written on them. Mostly "dip."

Ohhh. All right, somebody's going to run the Ditch Witch up here. That'll be nice. Bull's in fair shape now and it's a long way up the mountain from any streams, but it could use some work. In a few places, I'd like to see the trail pushed to the outside a bit and debris placed on the inside too. In some places though, it might not be necessary. Tons of little sprigs have shot up through the duff that's built up on the inside. I hadn't noticed them in previous years. I wonder now if that's a new development or if I just never noticed before.

Speaking of not noticing things. Apparently I didn't notice another rock and flatted again, not a quarter mile down from the truck.

 Double Flat

I'd been riding really carefully too, but apparently not carefully enough.

I usually bring a patch kit and my little pump, but figuring I'd be with a group all day, I'd left them back at the truck. Come on Dave. There was no fixing it this time and not wanting to ruin the rim, I walked.

I fully expected to walk all the way back to the Jake Lot, which had to be 6 or 8 miles away, but after a mile and a half or so, I ran into a group riding up the trail and they offered me some help. The lead rider was the guy John who owns the bike shop in Dahlonega. I can't definitively remember his last name now, Dahlman, I think, unless that's a different John, but for the last few years, between generally exploring up there, and Fools Gold-related stuff, I'd almost run into him several times, but never managed to actually do it. Well, today I finally did. He was leading a ride with some guys that were up from Florida. One of them had a 26er and two spare tubes. They also had a pump and a dozen CO2's and before long, I was rolling again. Thanks so much guys. I owe ya.

From then on, gravity did most of the work. I rolled down to FS83 and took the Bypass and Bull/Jake Connector back to the lot.

All in all it was a pretty good day. It was great to meet the APB guys and really good to ride with Marc again. I feel fast and strong when I'm all alone in the woods by myself, and I probably am compared to myself last year, but it was really good to ride with some stronger guys, get a reality check and set some expectations for the next couple of races.

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