Saturday, May 26, 2012

Allatoona Creek

I have no specific memory of when I first heard about Allatoona Creek.

I do remember a while back hearing that it was open though. And I also remember kicking myself that my Dad and I didn't go there instead of wherever we did go when he's been in town. Well as luck would have it, my Dad's in town again, last night we were talking about where to ride and for some reason Allatoona Creek finally came to mind. I looked it up, went to my trails site, tried to figure out how to get there from here and noticed that I already had a placeholder marking its location. Pitner Road Park I'd called it. "Construction of trails will begin in 2011" or something like that. I stretched my mind but I couldn't reach any memory of having typed in any of that. This is a milestone I think. My database has gotten so big that I'm starting to forget what's in it, despite having put all of the data in myself.

A nerd milestone.

I started the day off right, at the Dutch Monkey, as all days should be started.

 Chocolate Boston Cream

I can't believe that I'm saying this but it's possible that the Chocolate Boston Creme donut might actually have more chocolate in it than I'm down for in a single bite. The filling was chocolate, there were little chocolate chips on top, and the donut itself was, if I may quote The Simpsons, "Covered with chocolate so dark that light cannot escape its surface."

It was chocolate overload but I ate it because, I mean, come on, it's a chocolate donut, in my vicinity, that no one else has claim to. It's going to get eaten.

The drive over took way longer than I expected.

I managed to spill half of my Mexican Sugar Coke on the passenger seat. Don't trust my cupholders with your narrow bottles.

On Cobb Parkway I ended up next to or behind a dude with a black 80's Corvette Stingray convertable, just out cruising the drag.

 LS-1 Stingray

According to the stickers on the hood, he'd put an LS-1 motor in it.

While I can't see myself putting in the time and energy into such a project, I'm glad that someone did. I enjoyed following the guy for miles.

After seven eternities, I met o meu padre at the Pitner Dog Park. We'd both sort-of expected some indication that there was a trail nearby but there were no such indications. The trailhead is tucked semi-anonymously off in the front right corner of the dog park, by the playground. My dad had even made a cursory survey of the area before I arrived and failed to discover it.

Discover it, we eventually did though, kitted up, stretched a bit...


...and commenced to shred.


The trail nearest the lot is called Turtle Back and it's got an extension dangling off it's southernmost extremity. Together, they pretty much just wind around in the woods behind the dog park, but they are IMBA bench cut flowmasters and we twisted excitedly through their drops and turns.

Near the beginning there's a small bridge though, followed by a short steep natural drop and then another short bridge drop right after that. As innocuous as it looked, on our second lap neither of us saw fit to commit to it.

I think we're getting soft. A few years back I'd have spun back just to ride it.

There was a long, turny bridge later in the lap that I did ride but it didn't erase the shame of skipping that first set of drops.

The shame.

About 2/3rds of the way around we found a connector leading over to another section of the park and took it. Though singletrack, this connector had a very different character than the trail we'd ridden so far. It was much flatter, less twisty and ran through a wetland of sorts with a bridge even over the narrow spot between a pair of scenic little ponds.

 Allatoona Creek Wetland

Eventually we arrived at a road, which we later determined to be Old Stilesboro Road and had to wait on a dozen or more cars before crossing the street. Coincidentally, when I arrived home, somebody had just posted on the Sorba forum about trying to get a crosswalk painted and signed there. I think that would be nice to have, as well as a sign in the woods indicating that there's a road ahead. Not critical, but nice to have.

Across the road there was another parking lot and trailhead. The trails beyond appeared to be on Army Corps land and had a long list of dates when they were closed except for hunting. Today didn't appear to be on the list so we proceeded forth, beyond the gate.

The whole area reminded me of the Central Florida nature preserves that we rode during the Huracan, and that I believe, the Naked Indian himself is tackling in his own ITT at this very moment.

Basically it looked like old farmland where the old fields had been preserved, with little bits of forest between them and old farm roads, turned doubletrack, winding throughout.


The map was a little unclear about which way we should go, as the trail we were on eventually blended into the lines marking the border of the property but I drew my finely tuned navigation skills against the problem... and followed the signs to the Rusty Bucket Trail.

 Rusty Bucket Signage

The Rusty Bucket was wider than the previous trails and much flatter, but also reasonably twisty. My girls could probably ride it and I would dig riding it with them. About halfway around a connector led south (I think), crossed a road (with no traffic this time) and followed a drainage line down the side of a creek and under a bridge. Mason's Bridge, I gathered, from the name of the trail.

Again, the character of the trail changed dramatically. So far we'd had 5 distinctly different trail experiences. The only thing that I love more than ripping twisty singletrack is ripping twisty singletrack through a mixed forest and then straight singletrack through a wetland and then wide open doubletrack through sunny fields and then wide singletrack through a pine forest and then open singletrack along a creek under a bridge...

In my ranking system, trail systems get substantially more points for variety of trail experience than for the number of miles of fun trail. Allatoona gets dozens upon dozens of points.

At the end of the connector there was another mile or two of twisty singletrack like we'd ridden at the beginning behind the dog park. Somewhere in there we got passed by another rider. My dad and I joked about having an easy Sunday ride but I was having exactly the kind of ride I wanted to be having and he was too. We were accomplishing our goals and there was no reason to push any harder today.

Eventually we'd reached the furthest extremity of the trail and started working our way back. We'd taken all rights on the way out and continued to take rights again on the way back to catch the other halves of the loop trails.

On the way back to the Stilesboro lot I noticed a bush full of blackberries and we ate until we were tired of eating blackberries.

 Blackberry Snack

Sometimes blackberries are bitter. Sometimes they're sour though, without actually being bitter. That's how these were. The latter. Good lord they were good.

Back at the Stilesboro lot my dad ran in to use the facilities for a moment and I noticed an older lady trudging toward me from across the lot, carrying a small child. The sun was blazing and for whatever reason, though the weather has been relatively cool for the past few weeks, today it had been 97 when we arrived and seemed to have gotten even hotter since. At first I didn't think much of it, but as the lady got closer her steps became substantially more labored until eventually she was barely more than shuffling through the gravel.

I was about to say something when she reached the shade of the nearest stand of trees and recovered enough to begin to lift her feet again.

She was close enough now that I could identify the child as a beautiful little girl. She seemed immune to the heat and examined her world intently, in every direction, in the way that only a child, to whom very little is yet familiar, can do.

"How old is she?" I asked.

"10 months... I'm her grand-mother... No, her great-grandmother. Whoo! I'm not exactly physically inclined."

So we had a great-grandmother and great-granddaughter, alone in a parking lot, approaching collapse, without food or water. How did this happen? Certainly she couldn't be in such poor shape to be over exerted by simply walking across the lot from her car...

I realized then that I might have seen her earlier at the other lot, examining the trail map with the mountain biker that had passed my dad and I earlier, another lady and another man, but I hadn't noticed the little girl at that time.

"Some friendly bikers are taking my son back to get the car. He's coming back for me in a minute."

Ahh... She's set out on foot from the other lot with the child's parents (or at least one of them) and couldn't make it back under her own power. While stopped here, some bikers had come off the trail and were now relaying the son back to the dog park lot. They couldn't take the child with them, presumably because there was no car seat.

The probability that the parents had gone back for the car on foot had been forming in my mind, but it had not yet occurred to me why they'd have left the child behind. As a father of two formerly 10 month old girls, I can't imagine leaving either of them behind with my mother in such a state, unless I didn't believe I'd make it back either. If that were the case, I can only imagine the nerve it took to commit to the action they took. I would be all nerves and bitten nails until she was safe in my sights again.

I've seen it before too. It's so easy to get in over your head on what seems like it should be a short hike. It can happen just like that.

From the looks of it, everything turned out ok. Grandma and child made it to the bathroom where there was water and shade and the rider that passed us earlier stayed with them until the father returned. Crisis averted.

The padre and I rode back to the dog park and spun another lap around the front half of the trail system. We'd been talking about random stuff all day, but somehow the conversation for that lap turned to some work we might soon be engaged in and the explicit details of how a particular Flash program is getting authenticated to run and how it sends the results of a media-rich quiz that it presents the user to a database... Not the kind of conversation that you might generally engage in while shredding twisty singletrack. This occurred to both of us about halfway through the lap. Some would deem that conversation under those circumstances outright heresy, but apparently if you're equal parts computer nerd and mountain biker it comes quite naturally. If such nerdity is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

We probably could have done a-whole-nother big lap but we both kind-of needed to get home. We hit the Gondolier Pizza joint on the way out of town. I expected the same Gondolier that me and Travis and Russell ate at in Rome after the Up the Creek Without a Pedal ride way back, but this was a totally different, lower-budget Gondolier. Budget aside though, their pizza was delicious and the two-for one deal they had going on made it all that much better. I've got tomorrow's lunch in my fridge, right now.

I took a slightly different route home and it led me past that Marietta landmark of landmarks - the Big Chicken.

 Big Chicken

All hail the Big Chicken, with it's creepy rotating eye.

All hail.

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