Monday, May 7, 2012

Bull Mountain

Have you ever gotten lost at Bull Mountain?

Yeah you have. It took me a year to find my way around up there.

These should help.


This too.


This past Saturday was our work day at Bull Mountain but there were at least 4 other events going on and just about nobody showed up. By rights, I should have been racing at Yargo but my bike was in the shop until that morning, I've been working late for weeks, and in all that time I've probably put in 30 miles, total. I'd have been useless at the race.

Since we couldn't round up a crew, we rode around putting stickers on carsonite stakes.

You'd think that would go quickly, but it takes like 5 to 10 minutes at each intersection. You have to clean the stake with alcohol, peel and apply the stickers, make sure there aren't any air bubbles under them and pack out your trash. Stickers had to go on both sides of the stake and there were like 2 or 3 stakes at every intersection and 4 stickers per stake.

I labeled two routes; the classic Bull Mountain Bike Loop - up Bull, down Bare Hare and around through Booger Holler and the classic Bull Mountain Horse Loop - up Bull, down Lance Creek, up the Whoop-de-do's and back down the first part of Bull.

The Mountain Laurel was starting to bloom and it was the single most noticeable thing up there. If you didn't know what Mountain Laurel was and you rode up there that day, you'd have come back from the ride like: "Dude, there were these weird white flowers EVERYWHERE!"

 Mtn Laurel

My recent habits were giving me the business on lower Bull. I forget how bad you can feel if you haven't been riding. Man, it's bad.

I had a minor question about the stickers and I tried calling Debbie. When I got a hold of her, it turned out she was about a quarter mile from me so I just waited for her to arrive.

She didn't show up first though. Humberto did. He came trotting down the Whoop-de-do's on a large white horse, wearing a sombrero. You know how when somebody buys their first lycra kit, they wear it awkwardly and it's like: "Oh yeah, I can totally see why people think we look weird in these." but then if you see dude that's been riding for a while, somehow they look totally normal in the exact same kit and you're like: "Man, I can't imagine how people think we look weird in these." Humberto was like that second guy and when I saw him coming down the trail, the music from "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" rung out loud. It was bad ass.

Humberto's horse is kind of unruly though and it wanted to go. When Debbie and Nancy arrived, we talked for a while and his horse was like "screw all this standing around" and started easing down the trail. That was it. His horse was gone. He called it but it didn't come back and Debbie and Nancy's horses aren't fast enough to catch Humberto's. He had a long walk back and he had to just hope his horse went back to camp. Man. That's something I'd never thought of. Your bike can't leave you in the woods. Waah!

We all had work to do and we split up.

I rode up Bull and made an obligatory Old Truck stop.

 Old Truck

I noticed this time that I could read the odometer.


Up near the top the ferns were getting all lush and beautiful.

 Bull Proper

I didn't need to ride Bare Hare and I've never actually ridden down the babyheads so I went that way. I noticed that a tree had half-fallen on the old gate up there and it's more or less locked in the open position now.

Where you cross Lance Creek, I've always noticed a little trail leading further uphill there. The first time I rode at Bull I couldn't imagine that you were supposed to climb the babyheads, went about 10 feet up that trail, realized it wasn't the right way to go either, figured that I'd hit a dead end and turned around. Later I learned you were supposed to climb the babyheads but I'd always wanted to see where that other trail went. There could be a waterfall up there even, you never know.

I parked the bike and explored. It didn't look like many people go that way and the further I went, the more overgrown it got. Lance creek was roaring but there were no waterfalls, just lots of rocks. The old 12 foot wide roadbed ended at the creek and a little 8 footer continued up to the left. At a downed tree, it ended too. A four foot wide spur led left and another continued.

I've seen that pattern a lot - the punctuated narrowing from road to trail, up along a creek, in a place that would have been decent to homestead. I have often wondered if, in places like that, the original trail was built or worn in by the locals just to get around, and eventually got widened, as necessary, in stages, from the bottom up, into a road. Certainly, it was eventually used for logging but I always wonder which of these old logging roads started out as Indian trails or wagon trails - the original highways of the mountains. Logan Turnpike certainly did. There are ruins along Cane Creek and Blackwell Creek. What about Bear Creek? Mountaintown? Buckeye Creek? We know what they were used for eventually, but what were their origins?

While fumbling around up there I almost stepped on this Timber Rattler. (In the center of the photo, under the fern.)


I'd stepped over it, stood within a half inch of it with my back turned for several seconds and then only noticed it when I turned back around. It was all coiled up and it was moving it's head around as if it were trying to decide whether to flee or strike. I moved smoothly and slowly away. It decided against both.

My camera seems to grey-out the ground. The ground is way more brown than it ever looks in my photos. That snake was really, really well camouflaged. Better than I'd imagine a light brown snake with v-shaped dark brown stripes could be. It looked like the ground. Just like it.

There was nothing else interesting up that way and I got back to work.

There was a huge tree down on Lance Creek and just downhill from that, a group of equestrians taking a break. They knew Debbie and Nancy and I talked to them for a while.

 Horses on Lance

I managed to get my feet wet crossing Lance Creek.

I've always seen another little trail leading upstream of Lance Creek on the other side too, and again I parked the bike and checked it out. It was even less interesting than the one at the top. Clearly people go that way, but not many, and not too often, and it just got more overgrown the further up I went.

On the way back down I ran across this black rat snake.

 Black Rat Snake I Think

Much bigger than the rattler, but thankfully much less dangerous.

I needed to get back by 6, but I couldn't remember why. I still had plenty of time, or so it seemed.

Riding through Booger Holler, it struck me again why we need to build a trail and get up off it. The trail is an old road. It needs to be maintained as a road but it can't be unless it's reclassified. The old road is a trench. It always has been and it always will be.

 Below Grade

It feels like a tunnel. With the rhodo overhead, it literally feels like you're riding through an underground tunnel.

Last year me and Eddie armored the only creek crossing on the entire trail for the Fool's Gold. The creek itself is muddy as hell, the crossing is a mess, and it's a problem for the property owner downstream. I'd hoped to see how it was performing, but somebody has gone back and removed all of the rock we armored the creek with...

 Kendall Creek

...and piled it up neatly to the side.


It would have been a lot of work, and the rock wasn't just casually chucked off into the woods. It looked like whoever did it felt like they had good reason and didn't mind the effort. We'll probably have to go back and do it all again before the Fools Gold again this year, if something wasn't working, I'd like to know what so we can manage it better next time.

The intersection with the Bull Mountain Cutoff had a bunch of posts and it took freakin' forever to mark them. The next two after that took longer than I expected too. By the time I got back to camp, I could tell that I wouldn't be back home by 6. For the life of me I couldn't remember why I'd needed to be back by then anyway and I figured maybe I'd just set that time in my mind so I could eat dinner with my family.

Humberto had found his horse. It had made it all the way to Highway 52 and got stopped by a local resident on it's way to the Gold City Corral. Apparently it had gotten away once before and showed up there a week later that time too. Crazy. Fortunate though.

At camp, he was grilling up chicken and burgers and shishkabobs and making me really hungry. I took off but soon discovered that my family had already eaten. While that was unfortunate, it gave me an opportunity. All that grilling had given me a hankering, and I followed it to Cheeky, where my family wouldn't likely want to go, for some delicious Alambres, which satisfied my hankering, entirely.

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