Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marking the Fool's Gold

This morning I met The E at Montaluce to mark the Fool's Gold route for the race this Saturday. Or, I should say I intended to meet him there. On the way out of town I gave him a call and it turned out he was actually in Cumming at the time, so I ended up meeting him here and we wagon-trained up there together.

It was good that I did because the Montaluce property is vast and he stopped at a spot I'd never seen before: the pool.

 Monteluce Pool

The pool is out in the middle of nowhere, all by itself. I believe that the property around it is all for sale though. One day there may be a neighborhood there and then it will be their pool. For now though, it's a good place to start the race.

The Grounds Manager (Matt I think) met us and he and Eddie discussed a bunch of details that I only vaguely understood. Eddie's buddy Brian showed up a while later on a motorcycle. He was set to mark the FS roads. I would mark Jones Creek, Bare Hare and Bull. Eddie would mark Jake, Black Branch and Turner Creek.


I parked at the old game check station lot, with its single stalk of corn...

 Game Check Corn

...and its single apple tree.

 Game Check Apples

I shook the apple tree but nothing fell. There were some big ones high up that looked reasonably ripe but I guess they weren't ready yet. There was a small one on the ground and I was sure it would taste bad but I tasted it anyway. Yep. Bad. It was sweet and sour like a Granny Smith but then also alkaline like an underripe persimmon. Actually nothing edible is as alkaline as an underripe persimmon so the comparison doesn't seem fair, but you might get the idea. If you don't, then go find an underripe persimmon and bite into it, hopefully while someone else is watching you, for their amusement.

Enough screwing around with apples though, I had a job to do.

And I did it...


Ribbons all over.

Go this way.

Having to stop all the time, I was moving slow and I got a chance to see how some of the older trail work we've done is holding up. Up on Jones Creek Ridge, it was about 50/50. We'd cleared a bunch of turnouts at the beginning of last winter. About half of them are starting to need a touch-up. One person could knock them all out.

All in all the trail looked nice though. Even the trail leading up from the dam was 100% ridable. This is it, looking back down.

 Trail Up From Dam

If that doesn't look great then you don't remember it from years past.

The weather was delicious. I don't know how cool it was. It was probably hotter but I'd have guessed 70's. It was breezy too.

Man! Where'd this good weather come from?

I tied a ribbon to a short little sumac tree with fruit that looked just right.


It was just right. Perfectly sour. I love sumac but it's hard to lick and ride at the same time and you can't just put the whole sprig in your mouth without having to spit little bits of it out all the time. The ultimate conflict!

Around the back of Bull Mountain I passed Kendall Creek, the one muddy spot on the whole route.

 Kendall Creek

On August first I got an email claiming that after the race each year, this creek dumps silt into the property below for days. I can imagine that last year it might have. The landowner was really nice about it, but asked that we do something before the race. I was out of town until last Wednesday, but I took a hard look at it last Sunday. There are several potential solutions: a bridge, a culvert, rock armoring, massive regrading, rerouting the trail... All require plans and assessments and approvals from engineers or other experts certified in the district. All would take months to approve and execute. None are made easier by the 3-foot-below-grade, 10 foot wide, fall line trail or the fact that it has to be accessible by motor vehicles. The trail's been regraded since last year though and if the rain risk is too high this year, the race will be diverted to a contingency route consisting of pavement and major forest roads, so it shouldn't be all that bad even if I can't do anything. Also, there's apparently already a plan to do some kind of reroute on that trail. Still, I've been navigating the red tape and will continue to do so beyond the race. We'll see how it goes. Red tape is hell, but this litigious world just keeps demanding more.

While standing there, a deer jumped up, ran 20 feet and stopped to examine me. I guess I didn't look too threatening. It was a young buck.

 Young Buck

It never ran away, just stood there staring.

The Bear Hare roadbed is looking a lot less like a roadbed these days. There are long sections of singletrack forming.

 Bear Hare Roadbed

In another year it'll be like the grasstrack on Pinhoti 2.

I stopped to tie a ribbon and noticed a dozen blank rounds scattered at my feet.

 Blank Rounds

The Rangers from Camp Merrill use these and I've seen them all over the former Blue Ridge WMA but never around Bull or Jake. I guess they get around. They police their brass but these rounds were unspent. It sounds silly but for a while I imagined how they might have gotten there. Maybe they fell out of some guy's pocket, leaning over to tie his shoe in the middle of the night, or maybe some other way, or maybe some other way...

I recognized the symptoms. I was low on blood sugar. My brain was starting to do its "I'm low on blood sugar" thing. I had about 10 Clif Blocks in my pack and I ate three. That ought to do it. Your brain runs on pure sugar, so keep it fueled or it will wander off without you.

The Bear Hare singletrack was in great shape.

 Bare Hare Trail

There's no excuse but laziness if you have to walk it this Saturday.

The last time I was up on Bull I double-flatted, so I made really, really sure not to flat today.

Last week some folks mentioned a semi-dangerous jump on Bull. It's actually an ancient, worn down set of Kelly Humps, somewhat hidden around a corner. At regular ride pace, they're no big deal. You roll into them, realize what's up and maybe even have to stop, but at race pace, who knows, especially if the rider's an out-of-towner.

I blocked the dangerous line.

 Blocking the Old Kelly Humps

The other line is cool, especially if you're already on the brakes, which presumably you will be after seeing that brush.

Eddie's going back tomorrow to replace the ribbon with Caution Tape. We'll unblock it after the race.

I ran into 2 guys riding up Bull just above the Y. Other than Eddie I hadn't seen anyone else all day. That made sense though, it was Wednesday. I kept forgetting that all day. "Funny thing about being unemployed, the weekends don't mean so much." Technically I'm self-employed, but it's funnier the other way.

After marking the 83 Bypass, I ran into this snapping turtle on FS28.

 Snapping Turtle

My brother had one when he was a kid that wasn't much smaller. He named it Montgomery. That's the perfect name for a pet snapping turtle. If you find a turtle and put it in a fish tank and it turns out to be a snapping turtle, name it Montgomery.

Eddie had parked near the Bull/Jake Connector so I took his car back toward the Game Check to meet him.

 Eddies Truck

He'd been there already though and I ran into him about 300 yards up the road, time-trialing toward me like it was race-day or something.

We couldn't call it a day though. I'd taken a stack of arrows with me to put up but I'd also managed to grab the one stapler that was jammed. I'd spent 30 minutes sitting on the side of Jones Creek Ridge trying to unjam it earlier. It always seemed like I was just about to get it but in the end it was hopeless.

Yay. Stapler.


We headed back and marked the foot of Bull, the intersections on FS83, FS77A and the Bare Hare roadbed. Now we were done.

Except not quite...

It was still light outside and there was time for some last-minute trail work.

 Last Minute Trail Work

The Moss Branch Trail leading up to Jones Creek needs some major work, but it's low-impact on the watershed and low-priority overall. Riding it earlier though, we'd both seen some opportunities to fix a couple of spots close to the road where it's in the worst shape, so we went out a did a little of that. Without two young children and a soccer ball, we had to wing it, but worst case, we at least succeeded in marking some spots for future work.

As all rides must end in a swim this summer, we swam in the Etowah.

 Creek Swim

It was dark and freezing. It's always freezing, but without the oppressive heat in the air, it wasn't that refreshing kind of freezing. Just regular freezing.

I'd apparently taken my camp towel out of my camelback when prepping for the Blanket's 6 Hour last weekend so I had to borrow one from The E. Again, without the oppressive heat in the air we had to actually dry ourselves off.

We drove into Dahlonega for some dinner at El Jimador. I had the Mole Poblano.

Eddie said: "I'll have a Dos Equis."

 Dos X's

And that's what they brought him.

"I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer a gallon of Dos Equis."

Stay thirsty my friends.

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