Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bull and Jake Mountain

It's funny, it's been a while now, but I haven't ridden any "serious" trails since cracking myself up. I hiked, got out on the road, rode some good forest roads, and eventually got comfortable riding singletrack again at Allatoona, Blankets and Rope Mill, but it wasn't until earlier today (or I guess technically yesterday) that I finally felt confident that I'd be good on real trails in real mountains. So, I packed up the car and headed up to real mountains. Bull and Jake Mountains to be exact.

New Bull Mountain Sign

The Adventure started right away. On the drive up I had to merge into the turn lane from 285 to 400 and I picked a spot with about 5 car lengths, put on my blinker, and gave it a second to make sure the space was stable, but as soon as I began to merge, the guy behind floored it, presumably in a feeble attempt to keep me from being able to get in. Post-merge, he was still accelerating toward me when I started braking for the turn. He got so close that I couldn't see any part of his grill, and he almost lost control of his vehicle as he skidded to keep from hitting me. I was impressed that he saved it, but I was also impressed by how dedicated he was to keep me from getting in... that he even persisted with the effort, long after I was already in. I kept an eye on him, but after those shenanigans, he drove totally normally all the way up to Cumming and I eventually lost track of him.

Speaking of Cumming... In keeping with my post-ride donut plan, I grabbed a Chocolate Chip Twist and a Cookies and Creme donut from The Dutch Monkey on my way through. The Cookies and Creme donut would be important later.

On Bailey Waters road I saw a lady herding sheep with Border Collies at the ranch there. It was a bit of a treat, as I've driven past it probably a hundred times but I've only actually seen sheep a few times, and I've never seen them being herded.

When I arrived at the Jake lot it was fairly full. I'd gotten a late start though, and folks were already coming back from their rides.

One of those folks was Josh Vandal. Ha! I ride at local trails all the time and never see anyone I know, but if I drive to a trail 70 miles away, I run into someone I know, who also lives 70 miles away from the same trail. He and his buddy Todd Case (I think? Man I'm bad with names.) had just finished up. We chatted for a bit. Very nice guys. Last time I rode with Josh we saw an enormous, angry Timber Rattler about half way up Tibbs, and after passing it, he destroyed me on the rest of the climb.

I got on the trail around 3PM and within a minute, ran into a lady that I've seen up there almost every time I've ridden there since 2008. Actually, maybe every single time. She lives nearby and hikes with a little white dog. She's got to be in her late 60's or 70's, but she's super fit. She had no dog with her today though. She'd done a pretty long loop and didn't think the dog would have been up to it. We chatted for a short bit, wished each other a good day and got back to our respective endeavors.

By endeavor led me over toward the Bull Mountain Lot where some guys "woohoo'ed!" me as I tore down the trail that parallels FS83. There was a little memorial there, at the end of the trail, that I'd never seen before, not 50 yards from the lot.

Memorial Near Bull Mountain Lot

The memorial was short on details, and it made me wonder what had happened there, so close to the end of the trail.

Heading over to the foot of Bull Mountain proper I passed the grader that I've seen parked at the back of the Ranger Camp before.

Army Grader

It looked like it had given FS83 a little attention, but it also looked like it might be giving it a little more.

Bull Mountain proper was tougher than I remember it being.

Bull Mountain Proper

Long days, bad sleep, and in-town trails aren't the best recipe for a good day in the mountains, and I've had my share of those lately. Sometimes it takes a bad day to motivate me to live better though.

When I got to the Old Truck I took a bit of a break. It looked like a tree had fallen across it since I was last there.

The Old Truck

A while back I was looking at photos of it to try to figure out what make, model, and year it was. Today I looked all over for any indication, but everything was super rusted out. The motor had the best chance of still showing something. It had plenty of legible writing on it, indicating the firing order and some indecipherable codes, but no make, model, logo, or anything else.

Straight Six

I took a bunch of pictures though. I might be able to identify it from them.

One thing I noticed about the 1x11 is that I have no idea if I'm climbing fast or not. I guess I feel about the same when I'm climbing, no matter what, and I'm apparently used to gauging how I'm doing by what gear I'm in. Now though, the gears tell me nothing. I need to ride with other people or something.

I noticed the Bear Hare sign lying on the ground at the top of the climb.

Bear Hare Sign

I swear it used to be at the bottom. I noticed when it went missing, actually, so I'm sure it was. Not missing any more though, I guess

I felt good on the descent down Bear Hare. The only trouble I had was from my worn out cleats. My right foot just didn't want to stay clipped in. Again though, I can't tell if I'm really going fast or not. It feels fast, but I'm not spun out in the big ring. I'm long since spun out in the only ring. So, no idea.

I tanked up at Lance Creek to be sure I had enough for later, just in case...

Lance Creek

...and took the new Whoop-De-Do's and Bull Mountain Cutoff trails over towards Jones Creek Ridge....

Jones Creek Dam

...where I noticed a pylon on the Bull side of the Dam that I'd never noticed before.

Jones Creek Dam Pylon

Ha! Ridden there a hundred times, somehow never seen it.

With all the rain this year, the lake actually had some water in it.

Jones Creek Lake

I haven't seen water in that lake for years, maybe 5 years even.

I'd been following fresh hoof prints since the foot of Bull Mountain, and on the climb up to the ridge itself, I saw the guy on the horse that was making them. He was ahead of me on a set of switchbacks. I'd hoped to be able to say hi, but a few minutes later I was at the top of the ridge, the hoof prints were gone, and I never passed him. The heck? I figured he must have ridden off trail somewhere in there. The switchbacks would have been very difficult to cross-cut though. I guess maybe he must have gone around the end of them or something. A mystery! It was quite puzzling at the time.

Diversity of trail experience!

Jones Creek Ridge Trail

Bull has that for sure. Every kind of singletrack, old roadbed, gravel road and even pavement. Diversity!

I value that.

I also value ripping singletrack downhills with long lines of sight, and there is a great deal of that out there too.

I took FS77 up to Turner Creek, rode that over to 28-1, took that up to 28B, took that over to No-Tell, Black Branch, Jake, and Moss Creek.

All up and down the road near Black Branch there are trees marked for harvest. Have been for years now. If I remember correctly, the harvest was supposed to take place in 2008. Or maybe it was 1998. Every few years it comes up again. A few years back they marked the trees. Still though, nobody has cut them. Not a one. I like trees, so great for me. I wondered though... It's all pine. Pines grow quickly and densely, crowd each other out, and over the years the stand gets less and less dense as each tree grows bigger in diameter. Is there a known optimum density for harvest? Like, if the trees are a certain diameter you should cut then, because if you let them get bigger, the density of the stand will drop such that you'll get fewer total board feet out of them. That was on my mind as I rode through, because I'm a nerd.

I hadn't yet ridden the newer Moss Creek trail between FS28 and Jones Creek, so I hit that last. The old trail had some really terrible spots and needed to be rerouted. Taylor and Debbie and I had come up with all kinds of ideas for where to put the reroute, but there were all kinds of issues with them. Several decent looking options turned out to have short chunks that were just a bit too steep for too long. One option didn't but it was so close to the road that people would certainly cross-cut up and down to the trail. It looks like the final solution was to cut over to behind where the old game check station was, cross the road, and run up the hill to just past the food plot. I guess it was the only viable option, but it cuts out like a mile or more of trail. I'll have to run the numbers on the GPS data. It might not actually be that much. It seemed like a lot, but it might have seemed that way because of how much less difficult it was to ride.

I had to push my bike up off of the dam on the way back. Oof. I did not have to push it up the last kick from FS28-1 to the paved road though, and I felt good about that.

Oh, man. I was the only one left in the lot when I finally got back, at about 7:00 or so.

Only One Left in the Lot

4 hours but I bet I didn't even ride 30 miles. Actually, lets see... Well, actually, 33.1. And I should probably add 10% to that for all the corners the GPS cuts. Well, that's still not great, but at least it's more than 30, if a slow 30.

It was a good ride though, I got to ride some trails that are fairly new to me. I'd only ridden the Whoop-De-Do's, Jones Creek, and No-Tell reroutes once before, and never ridden the Moss Creek reroute. All very nice. And looking at the data now, the Moss Branch reroute can't even be half a mile shorter, its just not absurdly difficult, I guess.

I was starving, and as I debated where to eat, I remembered the donut! Oh glorious confection! From a fitness perspective, there's probably something really wrong about a post-ride donut, but oh, it feels so right.

Big-D's Barbecue in Dawsonville also felt so right. I've driven by it a hundred times, but never eaten there because it was on the wrong side of the road and Zaxby's and El Jinete were on the right side. It sounds like a silly reason now, given how delicious the food was. The only trouble with Big-D's is that the smallest amount of food you can get is two meats, two sides, and two hush puppies. The ribs and half the fries were enough for me. I brought the rest of it home. So, now that I think about it, maybe it's not a problem at all, because now I have some really delicious pork in the fridge that I can eat tomorrow.


Yes, that definitely qualifies as "not a problem".

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