Sunday, October 21, 2012

Warwoman WMA

Ha ha! It's fall again. Seems like this happens every year.


Every year! What's that all about?

Cool weather, no bugs and red and yellow leaves, woohoo! Time to go run around in the mountains with friends.

A few weeks back, Michelle saw a cute photo of Sophie that I put up on Facebook and suggested that we all needed to go for another hike together. I agreed! But then I got busy for a while. This weekend though, everything worked out and she and Travis and the kids and I coordinated-up a waterfall-heavy hike up in Rabun County.

We met in Clayton and convoyed over to Warwoman Dell.

Interesting fact: there was going to be a railroad all through there.

 Blue Ridge Railroad Sign

I wonder exactly where it was going to be run. I've heard of that tunnel too. Norma mentioned it once. I wonder if it's in the National Forest. Hmmm...

We weren't checking out old rail beds though, we were headed in completely the opposite direction.

 We Begin


To the Bartram Trail.

 Bartram Trail Sign

There were allegedly several awesome waterfalls really close to the road there.

We would find out.

Sophie hung out with Michelle and talked non-stop. It's funny, she's usually pretty quiet, but if there are enough people to occupy Isabel so that she doesn't have to compete for attention, she becomes a world-class chatterbox.

Me and Travis and Iz walked a little bit ahead and Emmy the dog walked even a little bit further ahead.


Actually she ran ahead then ran back, then ran ahead again, over and over. She probably put in two or three times the miles we did.

The first falls was right there, not a quarter mile from the road.

Becky Branch Falls:

 Becky Branch Falls

Not bad.

There was this great little yellow salamander there too.


Never seen a yellow one before. Cool.

The Bartram Trail was cool too. Narrow, twisty, and it didn't look like it got a ton of traffic, at least that section. I need to thru-hike it some day. How many miles is that? I need to finish the Georgia AT first though, I think. Oh, I'm getting sidetracked.

The next falls was a couple of miles further on.

There was a little falls by a campsite and we wondered if that was it, but the campers directed us to the real deal, which was a good bit more spectacular.

 Martin Creek Falls

We spent twenty or thirty minutes there.

Took some photos...

 The Girls at Martin Creek Falls

 Travis and Michele  at Martin Creek Falls

On the way back we checked out the little one too.

 Small Falls on Martin Creek

Just below the cascade there was a deep pothole.

 The Room of Doom

Travis said that in his paddling days they called those "The Room of Doom."

Sophie only heard part of that and she was all: "What's a Room of Doom?" Cute.

A girl at the campsite mentioned a small but impressive little gorge thing below the falls. It was pretty cool all right, but hard to get a photo of.

 Small Gorge on Martin Creek

The rest of the hike back made the girls kind of tired.

"How many minutes did it take us to get here earlier?"

Iz, in particular, is very creative with those kinds of questions lately.

It didn't take too long to get back. It's only like 2 miles out and 2 miles back.

Upon entering the Warwoman Dell again, we noticed a pair of old trout rearing tanks from way back in the CCC days.

 Old Warwoman Dell Hatchery Tanks


Trout are good but I'm not sure I'd want trout for too many meals in a row.

Speaking of meals, it was lunch time and we headed back to Clayton for some Zeppelin's. The last time I ate there was years ago on the way up to one of Isabel's gym meets. They have good pizza and groovy decor, but it is a little pricey.

Ha ha kids, you thought we were done, but no!

Back into the mountains...

 Clayton the Holcomb Creek Trail.


 Holcomb Creek Trail Sign

Holcomb Creek Trail. Fancy.

We descended deeply off the road to Holcomb Creek where we found the most impressive falls we'd seen yet today.

 Sophie at Holcomb Creek Falls

It doesn't look all that big close up on Sophie, but this wide shot with Travis and Emmy puts it in perspective.

 Travis and Emmy at Holcomb Creek Falls


Further down the trail we found the Ammons Creek Falls too.

 Iz at Ammons Creek Falls

So many waterfalls! Everywhere!

I wonder how many more there are up that way.

The hike back out was all uphill and steep. Steeeep.

And, oh, look, another waterfall.

 Holcomb Creek Falls (Upper Cascade)

The trail out ended at the road and we had to walk back on the road, which seemed weird to the kids. In retrospect, I could only think of one other time we did that, so yeah, maybe it would seem weird.

Woohoo, what a day! Good weather, good friends, quality time with the kids. I think I've seen enough waterfalls for the next 10 years though.

Maybe next time we'll go to Stone Mountain or something.


Man, what a week. What a couple of weeks, actually. I flew to São Paolo on the 7th and lived like a resident of Brazil for a week with a client/friend, then got super sick on the way home and spent several days in bed before starting a bottle of antibiotics that I'm still only halfway through. I'm sort-of caught up on work but I haven't even thought of the bike or anything else in forever.

Today I took the first step back though, a couple of hours on the road with my brother in Douglasville.

For the first hour and a half, there wasn't anything especially interesting about the ride aside from me suffocating and searching hard for my legs. But, then we found some rough roads and a scary-fast downhill by Mirror Lake and things started getting interesting.

Eventually we found some gravel and a sketchy old bridge.

 Sketchy Bridge

And crossed I-20. It always seems wild to cross an interstate, for some reason.


I spun frantically a few times and dug once or twice.


Work, no sleep, illness and antibiotics don't make for the best fitness.

But the air was cool and the leaves are changing and we were rolling.


It was familiar and comfortable, even when I was falling back. It felt like I was doing something that I was supposed to do.

Man, I love to ride.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jake Mountain

Debbie emailed me a while ago. The October work party was coming up and it wasn't looking like she'd be able to make it. Could I lead the day?

Indeed. I believed so. And, I was flattered that she believed so as well. Maybe even a little more than flattered actually. I hoped to make her proud.

As the days ticked by, I got emails and facebook replies from several folks who wanted to help. We'd also gotten access to the USFS's Ditch Witch and JK was available to run it. Things were looking good.

On the day of, I'd coordinated with Debbie to get some tools and the work log out of the CTHA trailer, which she keeps at her folks' place in Dahlonega.

To describe their property as beautiful just doesn't really say it.

 Misty Morning

It's a reasonably large horse farm with rolling pastures, several forested acres and little creeks crossing the roads. With the early morning mist floating over the northern end, it just defined tranquility.

I'd brought Isabel with me. Sophie'd had a birthday party to go to.

Iz was up and pulling at 6:30 but when 8:30 rolled around, she was right back down again.


Man, she's definitely becoming a teenager.

JK and Humberto were there when I arrived. I talked to them a bit. The Jake Mountain trail still needed deberming from Its initial construction for about half of a mile north of Jones Creek. The hill coming up off of the creek needed a little attention too. They were going to attempt to tackle that with the Ditch Witch.

They didn't have time to hang around. Theresa was on her way with the machine and they had to meet her, though she was a little concerned about traffic. The KKK had applied to adopt a section of highway a while back and were turned down by the state. The ACLU is now appealing the ruling, and apparently there was a rally or something that morning, in Blairsville, which is where the Ditch Witch was.


The ground crew started arriving at 8:15 or so. We had a several old-school players including myself and the Iz, Kathleen Tokuda, Jeremy Bordelon and Cindy Groom from CTHA. But two new folks showed up as well - Gabrielle, who's last name I forget, but who lives in Rome and recently moved up from Florida, and Billy Pickens.

Technically, I don't think I can call Billy "new". This was the first time he'd come to a work party, but I've known him for probably 10 years now. We rode together A LOT in the early 2000's, through more adventures than I have room to detail here. I'd easily put him on my list of best friends ever. He had to finish school and get his career started for several years there, but now he's back riding and generally picking up some of his old preoccupations, and man it was good to see him!

Around 8:45 we gathered up the tools, I gave the standard safety briefing - circle of death, snakes and bees, head protection, and so on. Moments later, we loaded up the vehicles and headed north.

Provided JK and Humberto were successful, finish work should be done for all of the Jake Mountain and Moss Branch Trails.

Beaver Pond and Black Branch remain, but they don't have nearly as much work to be done as Jake and Moss. With any luck, we'll be done with the finishing work on all the rerouted trails in the next 6 months or so. I hope so, at least.

We headed down to Beaver Pond.

The first half mile or more uses the original trail, or old roadbed actually. It wasn't rerouted. It's relatively flat, but there were a dozen or more old-school turnouts that needed clearing. Also, the vegetation at ground level in that section had been encroaching all summer, but up higher, at I'm-up-on-a-horse level, it was worse.

Cindy tackled the brush. Jeremy, Kathleen and Isabel comprised Dig Team Pro and me, Billy and Gabrielle comprised Dig Team Noob. I joke, of course, there were no names, but I did give Billy and Gabrielle some short tutorials on what to do and why.

It's not really that complex though, and they picked it up easily.

We leap-frogged, clearing turn-outs for probably an hour before finally getting into the new trail, which was blended into to old so subtly that I didn't even notice where it had been done, and I was looking for it.

The new trail needed finish work, meaning that after the initial wear-in, which has occurred, the nicks at the bottom of each grade reversal needed to be re-established, and where necessary and permitted by the downslope, we needed to deberm the trail.

I don't know exactly why, I guess from a combination of temperature and precipitation, the soil was remarkably easy to work.

We debermed several long sections of trail.

This time, we made sure to practice very gentle deberming. It's important not to to widen a trail, but with horse trails, in particular, it's also important not to narrow it either, which aggressive deberming can do.

We were very conservative in our approach.

 Gentle Deberming

We took off the loose edge, and in some cases, we has to dig into the trail, but we carefully avoided digging through and narrowing the existing trail.

We tested all of our work with the soccer ball, and in a few cases the ball didn't roll off immediately, but I think this is ok. Something I've noticed on Jake for a while now is that taking off the loose edge seems to encourage traffic near the downslope and this slowly packs down that outside edge, naturally improving the outslope. I'm not sure if this phenomenon is unique to horse trails on clay substrate, but it definitely seems to happen at Jake. So, as such, we were less aggressive with our digging.

We still worked hard though.

 Gabrielle and Billy

Really hard.

 Iz, Billy and Kathleen

Around 11:45 we all headed back.

At the Jake/Bull Connector, we stopped to patch up the chute leading up to the trail from the road. Two weeks earlier, I'd ridden up that way with Tim and it had been so dry for so long that nothing could hold the gravel in place. Even just walking up the hill displaced it. We raked and shoveled it all back in place and packed it down. We'll just have to do that from time to time, I think. No biggie.

Looks good now.

 Fixing the Bull/Jake Connector Entrance

Post-dig we all met back at the lot. Cindy had made lunches for everyone, including sandwiches, those honey granola bars and 100 grand bars. Mmmm. Sweet, delicious candy.

Me and Iz couldn't hang around though, we still had to return the tools and work log to Debbie's folks' place and Iz had something going on later, but I forget now what it was.

We did all that.

JK and Humberto were still out on the trail with the Ditch Witch when I left so I'm not sure how they fared, but if it had been eventful, I'd probably have heard about it by now. Hopefully that's the case.

Well, time will tell, but it seemed that the day went reasonably well. I hope the next few will be just as successful. If they are, we'll be done with this finish work pretty quickly.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Forsyth Big Creek Greenway

This past Sunday I needed some big-time recovery from that Linville adventure. My calves especially. Somehow, MY calves were tired and hurting.

Isabel was buried under a mountain of homework so Sophie and I got out for a little of my favorite kind of recovery - a ride on the greenway.

 Sophie Riding

We usually ride down in Alpharetta, but this time we parked at Bethelview and rode the Forsyth County section instead.

Not all that much happened.

We rode pretty quickly, Sophie's getting stronger and faster every day.

When Isabel's not around, she talks her head off too, which is really great. She's so fun to talk to and she has all this different perspective on everything. Oh, man, I love it so much.

At the McFarland end of the trail, we stopped for a snack: M&M's and Skittles.

 Sophie Snacking

On the way out, we'd passed some bizarre contraption near Fowler Park. I'd seen it before and struggled to understand its purpose or operation. It's even more confusing now though. There's a big tank up in the air on stilts, and a smaller tank on top of that, and a corrugated pipe sticking out of the lower tank, but the pipe doesn't connect to anything. Now, there's a barge out in the middle of Big Creek that is somehow involved in whatever process they're engaged in.

 Contraption at Fowler Park

So weird.

I'm sure everything they're doing makes some kind of sense, I just wish I knew what it was.

Our ride was great, my legs felt much better afterwards, and we even got finished in time to beat the rain.