Sunday, July 6, 2014


A year and a half ago it would have seemed wrong to go two weeks without riding at least one of my bikes in real mountains. I guess it still seems wrong, but opportunity cost being what it is, such has been the way of things.

The longest climb I have around these parts is Mableton Parkway from the River to Veterans Memorial. It's worth doing but it pales in comparison to real climbing, and real descending for that matter. Mountains! Mountains are required for such things.

Yesterday everything came together though, and the frere and I put in some pretty good miles in the mountains.

He said to meet him at Starbucks on Atlanta Road at 8. I think he expected me to drive over but screw that, Starbucks is only like 3 miles away or something. I put some clean clothes and barefoot shoes in my camelback and just rode over.

The morning air was surprisingly cool. It is summer isn't it? I wasn't so sure. I might need to get up earlier and ride in the morning. It was wonderful!

I did have to wait for a train though.


That was less wonderful, but I like trains, so the train was cool, just not the wait.

I met the frere at the appointed time and location, we drove up to Dahlonega and parked just south of Stone Pile Gap.

Stone Pile Gap

R-Ranch on the left, Trahlyta's grave on the right.

Woody Gap straight ahead!

The climb up to Woody Gap isn't too bad. Easy spinning, should you choose to do so, or you can make it harder if you like. We chose to spin as we had too many miles ahead of us to screw around and blow up early.


The weather was perfect. Sunny, no wind and it felt like it was in the 60's. The shadows were much cooler than out in the sun. Whatever it is up there that smells like cinnamon was smelling like cinnamon. Everyone was still hung over from their 4th of July festivities so traffic was really light. My legs felt strong.

We passed a few riders on their way up and a few more on their way down. I thought I recognized Mark Johnson, but I don't know who he's riding for these days and I didn't recognize the kit the guy was wearing. Probably not him.

I thought I remembered a kick at the very end, up near the gap, but I must have been thinking of somewhere else. No kick. The descent into Suches was fun - faster and twistier than I remembered. I was thinking, it must have been at least 4 years since I'd ridden up there. I've driven it a bunch since then, and hiked the AT through there, but it seems like it's been at least that long since I've been on the road bike.

We blew through Suches and continued north on Hwy 60 through several sets of twisty curves. I'd driven that road dozens of times but never ridden it. Woohoo! I'd been missing out.

We rode along the Toccoa for a minute or two but it was impossible to get a photo. When the road flattened out we started passing farms and getting good views of the mountains.

Hwy 60 Scenery

Two years ago I probably could have recalled the name of that knob from memory. Not any more. It seems like all of that information has been replaced. I wonder if it's still in there or not.

Somewhere in there a guy caught up with us and rode with us for a mile or two. He was doing sort of the inverse of what we were doing, without the Woody Gap climb, but he'd started a little north of Blairsville. We were riding a little conservatively for his taste though, and he eventually took off down the road.

At the Cooper Creek Store, some riders pulled out behind us. One of them caught up and rode with us for several more miles. His buddy caught up after a while too. They were also doing the same loop as us, sans the Woody Gap climb. It's funny... John put the loop together by eyeballing Google maps a few days before, but it's apparently a fairly common route. I guess we all just think alike.

We hung a right at Skeenah Gap road and our tag-alongs dropped back for the rest of their group. I've driven that road many times, and hiked all over the place to the north of it, but never ridden it. The climb to Skeenah Gap doesn't feel like you're doing anything until the very end. You pass a church on the right and then it kicks straight up into the steepest part of the entire route, for like a quarter mile or less, tops out, and then even the descent off the back side is mild.

All right then.

Two gaps down and I was feeling great. This is me, feeling great.


We wound around to the northeast and eventually tee'd into Hwy 5.

I don't remember if it was along Skeenah Gap Road or Hwy 5 that we passed this dairy, but the name was great.

Butt Dairy

Heh, Butt Dairy. Who knows, if you live in Blairsville, you might be drinking Butt milk.

The fields to the right gave many clear views of Duncan Ridge.

Duncan Ridge

We were basically circumnavigating the Cooper Creek WMA. I'm not sure I ever knew those peaks by name. Or, I would recognize their names, like I know one of them is Shope Knob, but I couldn't have ever recited them.

Further on we hit Hwy 5 and headed eastish. Brasstown Bald loomed ahead of us the whole time.

Wolfpen Ridge

The highest peak is Brasstown Bald. To the right of that is Jack's Knob. The low spot between them is the overlook in the Brasstown parking lot. I've been there a dozen times but I don't remember ever looking at it from this side. I'm not sure if the ridge is Wolfpen Ridge or the ridge of the Arkaqua Trail. It's one of those though.

We hung a right on Mulkey Gap road and a left on Owltown. Owltown was a net climb, but it wasn't direct. There were lots of little ups and downs, step-ups and climbs around curves. The net elevation gain didn't seem like all that much but the total climbing seemed comparable to Woody's. Somewhere in there we passed the Highland Crossing, as marked by a roadsign and I recognized the road leading off to the right. I'd been hiking back up in there years ago. Maybe the Highland Crossing counts as another gap. It was certainly in a gap. Maybe I should call the route 5-Gap instead of 4.

It took longer than I expected to get to Hwy 129, but we got there eventually. A roadsign indicated 3 miles to Vogel State Park and the turnoff to Wolfpen Gap. We were still feeling good but a little short on water.

The Sunrise Grocery took care of that.

Sunrise Grocery

I say that we were feeling good. I'm not sure that's accurate. The ride was starting to feel like work as opposed to fun. It had not yet transitioned to suffering, but it was decidedly work.

The right turn toward Wolfpen was a bit of a shock. The road gets steep right away and you really have two choices - sit back and torque it out with your legs, or keep the pace up and shift that load to your heart and lungs. I prefer the latter unless forced into the former. And so it was.

We had a treat too. The entire highway from Suches to the intersection of 129 had just been repaved. New pavement is smooth and delicious, but it's also very sticky and I could really feel how good of a grip I was getting on it. I could hear it even.

We didn't chat much on that particular climb. We did pass a guy who was either torquing it out or just had bigger gears and chatted a little with him. He was in his late 60's and happy to be able to make the climb at all.

I was a little worried about how I'd feel on Wolfpen. It's been so long since I did any serious climbing. Turns out I had it. No big deal.

Wolfpen Gap


On the back side, we blew through the curves pretty quickly and settled in to the runout to Suches. That stretch of road is just not all that great. People describe it as rollers, but that's really inaccurate. There's a decent climb up to Lake Winfield Scott, humorously referred to as Little B**** Gap. And then there are several long, spun-out descents and equally long though shallow climbs. No rollers in the sense that I think of them though. None at all.

It was funny... Some guy from Florida passed on near the top of the climb up to Lake Winfield Scott and seemed rather frustrated. He pulled ahead at first but then failed to put any distance on us over the next mile or so, even when the road flattened out. I guess it was a little too twisty. He was always there, just ahead of us. He finally did pull away, but it took him way longer than I expected.

We hung a left in Suches and though I had the opportunity to take a picture of the lake, I was just not in the picture-taking mood.

My legs were getting tired. It was a tired that I remembered well, but hadn't experienced in a long time - that long burn. Not the short term, lactic acid burn, but that burn where you've been pushing and recovering all day and it's finally catching up to you. Where you've got plenty of energy but it hurts a little to use it, and you can rest for a while and it goes away, but then it comes right back after 5 minutes. I had a burn like that in my mind too. The mind needs sugar, but sweet things didn't taste sweet any more. It was all very familiar but it'd been a long time since I'd felt it. Too, too long.

Though I was reticent about it, the climb up the back side of Woody's turned out to be a piece of cake. While arguably unpleasant, none of those aforementioned sensations actually hinder one's performance as much as one's will to perform, so if you can get past that, you're good. I was good.

The picnic area at the top was loaded and people were parking anywhere they could and milling around by the road.

Woody Gap

I'm not sure I'd ever seen that many people there before.

I was looking forward to the descent back into Dahlonega. I remembered it being thrilling and scary, but it didn't turn out that way. I was completely spun out, as usual, but I felt really comfortable in the curves, even at that speed, even through the hairpin at the end. Too much time on the road bike lately. Too, too much!

And then, sadly, it was over.

We got back to the car and headed into Dahlonega for some Zaxby's chicken. I had mine with Teriyaki sauce. I figured John would just drop me off at Starbucks again but he wanted to borrow my Esbit stove so I got front-door service. Woohoo!

I was tired though. After a quick shower I crashed on my bed and woke up at like 10:30 PM. I thought I'd screwed up my sleep schedule and dreaded the idea of being up all night, but a few hours later I crashed again and slept 'til almost noon today. Ha! I guess I was a little tired.

Yes! Mountains! I must ride more in the mountains.

I must.

Can't do it every weekend these days, but I'll bet that I can fit it in a little more often than I have been.

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