Monday, March 5, 2012

Bear Creek

My sister-in-law just had twins, so my wife's in Baton Rouge for a couple of weeks and I've got the kids all to myself. On the one hand, it means that I can't realistically go do any 7 hour tour-de-North-Georgia's but on the other hand, it means I get to spend a lot more time with the kids and possibly force them to do 7 hour tour-de-somewheres with me. Unfortunately though, here were no 7-hour tours-de-anywhere this past Saturday.

We'd planned on doing some trail work up at Bull, but it stormed the night before and we had tornado sirens going off 'till 2 in the morning. As such, we all slept in the living room in case we had to flee to the basement. We'd have slept in the basement, if it weren't so filthy. I think we're going to have to do something about that filthy basement. Trail work after a storm sucks. Eve if the trail is dry, the soil is really heavy and we were short on sleep. We'd planned on doing two things though, and we could still do the other...

Had my wife been in town, I'd have likely been riding the Pinhoti with Karlos and Jesse and their crew of Floridian bikepackers this weekend. I wasn't able to make the trip, but I figured the kids and I could at least drive up and meet them up near Mulberry Gap when they rode through. I'd also been meaning to drive around and get some photos of some stuff up there for my trails site, the kids LOVE Mulberry, there was a better than even chance that I'd run into somebody else I know up there too... it seemed like a win in every direction.

We made a game of it. I listed a bunch of things I wanted photos of and Iz checked them off as we got the photo. The kids don't seem to like just randomly walking or driving around in the woods, but if I call something a Checkpoint or an Objective, magic significance is attached and suddenly they're all about it.

Checkpoint 1 was the Dawson Forest lot. How it is that I managed to get 15 miles of GPS data the last time I was up there, but failed to get a photo of the lot, I will never understand, though I seem to do a bit of that, so maybe I'll have an opportunity to study it again soon.


 Dawson Forest Kiosk

(That's my camera noise.)

We even got photos of the old loading dock...

 Dawson Forest Loading Dock

...and abandoned nuclear facility.

 Dawson Forest Nuclear Facility

Legend says that the whole area was owned by the Air Force (I think it was the Air Force), and during the cold war they had a test reactor up there for some reason. There are 2 sites and there was once a rail leading between them. USGS maps show all of that, but for some reason Terraserver has been down for weeks so I can't look at it now. At some point the Air Force took their ball and went home, gave up the land, and the state fenced off the potentially dangerous area, ripped up the rail and eventually converted the whole site into a trail system. Conspiracy theories and accusations of radioactive contamination abound, and more than one explorer has jumped the fence, gone poking around and posted his exploits on a forum somewhere, expecting glory, only to be told that he should run to the doctor to find out if he's been sterilized. I'm sure the truth likes somewhat south of the legends, but they're entertaining nonetheless.

Dawson Forest was sort-of on-the-way, but we didn't hang around long and afterwards made all haste to the Bear Creek Metro Area.

Our first stop was Mulberry Gap. It wasn't a checkpoint per-se, but we needed to see what was what. It was around noon and it wasn't impossible that the Florida boys were still there. Nobody was in the Dining Hall though and nobody was in the barn. Plenty of people appeared to have spent the night, but they all seemed to have been out adventuring. Andrew and Ginny were at the Snake Creek Gap TT, which is where I'd have been had there been no Pinhoti Shred and no new nieces and newphews. There was a van with a trailer and Florida plates parked near the barn but no sign of its occupants. Eventually I ran into Diane, who'd just come back from dropping them off at the start. They probably got on the trail at 11:30 or later. We had plenty of time to see the sights.

So, we drove all around, taking pictures, singing songs and telling jokes.

CP2 was the Lower Bear Creek Trailhead.

 Lower Bear Creek Kiosk

Bear Creek itself was looking pretty, as usual.

 Bear Creek

CP3 was the Pinhoti 2 Lot.

 Pinhoti 2 Lot

On the way up to it we passed several of the Trailblazer adventure racers. They'd had a little training ride up that way earlier and the riders I saw were sweeping the little pink flags. We waited at the lot for them to finish climbing up to it so we wouldn't have to get past them on the way back down and talked with them for a while when they arrived.

There were at least 3 things going on up that way this weekend. The Pinhoti Shred, the Trailblazers training ride, and there was apparently a 100 mile ultra marathon going on too. I can ride my bike for hundreds of miles but I struggle to run even one. It's pathetic. When he or she wakes up in the morning, an ultra marathon runner is 100 times harder than I am all day. It turned out that the marathon had a 100K option too, you know, for people who are only 62.1 times harder than I am when they first wake up in the morning.

CP 3 was Barnes Creek Falls.

 Barnes Creek Falls  Barnes Creek Falls (Downstream)

Barnes is often barely a trickle, but it was really flowing with all the rain we'd gotten the night before. Oddly though, it was very warm and sunny all that day. It even got into the 80's for a little while, and except for puddles, the roads and trails were totally dry. It's REALLY trying hard to be Spring. Stupid groundhog... Come on Spring!

CP 4 was the Bear Creek Overlook.

 Bear Creek Overlook

It turned out I did already have a photo of that but we enjoyed standing there for a while anyway.

CP 5 was the Upper Bear Creek Lot.

 Upper Bear Creek Kiosk

CP 6 was the Little Chapel by the Creek.

 Little Chapel by the Creek

CP 7 was the old fire truck just down the road.

 Fire Engine

We passed back by Mulberry but nobody had seen or heard from the Florida boys yet. There was a SAG stop for the marathon at the start of P3. Earlier I'd thought the guy manning it was Charles Myrick but it turned out to be a guy named Paul and his son. I must have bugged him 3 or 4 times, but he hadn't yet seen my guys either. Ditto for the SAG stop at the start of P2.

We figured they'd be along any minute though, so we parked at the end of P2 and waited. Before terribly long the marathon leader came through.

 Ultra Marathon Leader

Over the next hour we watched a dozen or more runners and two groups of dudes on bikes come through. We'd seen the first group three different times earlier and joked that they might have thought we were stalking them. The second group was from Alabama and they'd run into our guys up at Potatopatch a few hours earlier. All right! So, we knew they'd be along eventually.

We waited, and more runners came by. At last we saw some guys on bikes, but it turned out to be Shane and Carebear, back from scouting the lower half of the Cohutta 100. They'd seen our guys too, also near Potatopatch. We talked until we were all cold from standing around and they headed back to Mulberry.

I had planned to meet my brother up by my place for dinner around 6 or 6:30 so we eventually had to just give up and go home, and much to our disappointment, we resolved to do just that. But, we figured we'd run by the SAG at the bottom of P2 again, just to see if maybe they'd seen them in the last 30 minutes or so. Nope, they hadn't... BUT! we drove up the road to turn around at the end of P1, and there they were!


Even better, I had cell service over there, called my bro and he wouldn't be ready 'till 9PM. Double-woohoo!

The Florida dudes were headed to Mulberry for the night, so we drove back over. Shane and Mark were there. Andrew and Ginny were back too. The guests were back from their respective adventures. The stove was lit in the dining hall. Ginny's delicious cooking was on the breeze. There were dogs running around. The girls scratched every dog. Sophie was a little scared of the German Shepherd but he was very sweet. The coziness was building. Before long, the Florida crew showed up one by one, led by the Naked Indian himself.

 The Naked Indian

Actually Karlos may have gotten there second. I forget who arrived first. Aaron maybe?

We hung out for about an hour and a half. It was really good to get to see them. Jesse might have been a little disappointed that I hadn't brought my tiny wheels, but he'll get ample opportunity to joke about them in a few weeks. They already had stories. I'm sure they'll have more before they're done and I hope I get to hear them soon. I was jealous, but I had good reasons for missing the ride so I was only a little jealous.

And like that! We were gone.

I met my brother for dinner, right on time. We're going to the Grand Canyon soon and we've got a few details to sort out first.

It's gonna be good.

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