Monday, March 7, 2016

Rope Mill

I haven't been accumulating a backlog, or just not writing about stuff. I simply haven't had the time to get anything worthwhile done outdoors, for weeks. Aside from a few laps at Allatoona, I've been spending all of my time refactoring Windows Forms interfaces and adding Kerberos and TLS support to SQL Relay. Sounds like a ball, doesn't it? It is, when your nerd hand is as strong as mine. Turns out keeping the nerd hand strong is tough on the heart and legs though, so I put in a few hours at Rope Mill today to counter some of that.

Getting out of bed was the first challenge though. I didn't get to the trail until about 1. Actually, I might have arrived about 30 minutes earlier if I hadn't made a classic navigation error. I got off of the interstate at Riverwalk Pkwy and, for some reason, believed that Rope Mill Road was directly across the street, rather than a block to the right. So, I just went straight, and because of the hill there, you can't really see that straight isn't the right way to go until you've already committed to it. Of course, going straight just puts you back on the interstate, which I really should have realized, but somehow didn't.


No problem, I figured, I'll just hang a right at Sixes Road and loop back. This was a good plan, but the local megachurch was just getting out, and it took about 30 minutes to drive the 5 miles back to the trail. I'd have done better to park at Home Depot and ride.

(Side note: the spellcheck on my computer doesn't complain about "megachurch". Apparently, that's an actual word now.)

I did, finally, park in the overflow lot, which itself may need an overflow lot soon because there were only a few spaces left when I got there. On the way in, I saw something funny too, or at least it struck me as funny. A couple was walking toward the trails, and by the look of their outfits and gear, presumably out for a fairly serious hike. The lady though, was steadily puffing on a cigarette as she walked. I don't generally expect to see people smoking while doing any of the things that I do for fun, but over the years, I've run into it a surprising number of times.

I hit the Explorer trails first, and got a good look at the new bridge they've been working on for the past few months.

Bridge Construction

As I puzzled over how they got that crane down there, a tall, gangly, middle-aged man with a button-up shirt, buttoned up all the way, ambled toward me and struck up a conversation as he approached. He had the exact same curiosity that I had, and we puzzled about it together for a few minutes. There was no obvious way to get it down there. There were dirt and gravel roads on either side of the river, and clearly that's how the excavators and other equipment had been brought in, but not the crane. It was on this side of the river, at least 20 feet below either road. There were woods to either side of it. It could not have driven down the slope, nor did it have any hope of climbing back up it. The best we could come up with was that it was brought up the river on a barge, but that sounded like a long shot too. Was it lowered down by another crane? However it was done, I wish I'd seen it, because I'm certain I'd have been impressed.

The Explorer trails were super, super fun. The woods is kind of piney up in there and the trails were covered in fast, grippy pine needles.


There were a lot of other riders on those trails though. I could almost always see another rider and passed a bunch of them. It reminded me of being on lap 3 or 4 of a 6-hour, where everyone's starting to spread out and settle in and you start catching and passing the team riders.

I rode the Avalanche trail too, and the steep bits seemed steeper than I remembered. Man, I really need to shed this winter pork. I felt like I was carrying a pack.

I didn't run into any other riders on the Avalanche, just a couple of hikers.

Across the river...

Little River I approached the trailhead on that side, I noticed a "Rope Mill Parking" sign pointing up the old road there. Parking? Last time I'd ridden to the top of the old road, it dead ended at some private property. I'd heard rumors of people using a "forest road" to connect Blankets and Rope Mill though, and the equipment for the recent construction had to have been brought in on a road of some sort... Hmmm.

Turns out there are no more private property signs at all and the road appears to be open to any kind of traffic. I rode north as far as Lebanon Church...

Lebanon Methodist

...and south down to the river where there were several groups of people had driven vehicles down to go fishing.

Unless I'm missing something, North Rope Mill Road heads south from Sixes, becomes gravel and bends off to the north now, providing well-maintained access to the north side of the river, without crossing any private property, or at least not any that is marked as such. On bike or foot, you can bear left and access the trails. I don't recommend carrying too much speed into it though, the old road is really, really sketchy.

Old North Rope Mill Road

After exploring all that, I headed down and rode "The Mill" trails. Since breaking all those ribs, I've been a little apprehensive about jumps and obstacles in general, but I didn't have any trouble with anything today. Turns out the jumps out there are a lot smaller in real life than they seemed in my mind, and the skills came right back to me as well.

Unfortunately my legs didn't come right back, and I actually had to let a rider pass me on Raceway. A rider wearing baggy shorts, no less.

It was embarrassing.

Speaking of embarrassing, I also dabbed twice on one of the skinnies out there. Fortunately no one saw me. And, also, the way it was built, I could just reach over and touch off on the backslope, so Ha!, I didn't fall.

It seemed that I had enough time to go see if the paved trail had been extended yet, so I gave it a look as well. There's a paved trail on the south side of the river and it's allegedly going to be connected to some massive paved system that will sprawl across most of Cherokee County some day. I was optimistic that some progress had been made in the past few years, but no, it didn't look like any had. The end is still the end. The same end as before.

Maybe next year.

I did get a nice view of the river though, and a chunk of the old mill on the other side.

Trestle Rock

I didn't have time for more laps though, even short ones, so I headed back. The overflow lot is up a pretty good hill from the trailhead, but the climb out wasn't as bad as I'd expected it to be.

All-in-all, a pretty good day. Not quite Adventure, and definitely more "trail-riding" than "mountain-biking" but I'll take it. In fact, it was so much fun that I'm thinking about doing a full Blankets-Rope Mill loop next weekend.

I wasn't all the way up for that the last time I tried though. Hopefully I am now. I'll have to wish myself luck on that one.

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