Thursday, July 27, 2017

Jake, Bull, and Black Mountains

On my trails site, the historical topo layer from 1898 shows most of the trails in the Bull/Jake Mountain system back when they were roads. One in particular caught my eye when I first got that layer working. Bull Mountain proper apparently used to diverge from its present loopish route and lead up to the gap on Black Mountain where the Black Mountain shelter sits these days.

I'd found the trail leading over to it from the other side like 10+ years ago, and seen that it keeps going in the direction of Bull Mountain, but I'd never gotten back up there to fully explore it.

Well, having finally explored the heck out of Pinelog, I felt like getting back up to North Georgia this past weekend, and that particular road seemed like the right thing to check out.

I forgot they were replacing the bridge over the Etowah, so I had to turn around at Hwy 136 and backtrack through Dawsonville, but it didn't add too much time.

I was at the Jake lot and ready to ride by about 3.

Bike at Jake Lot

There was a guy next to me with a dog who was super tired and needed help getting into the bed of his truck. He struck me as a mountain biker, but I saw no bike. Apparently he had broken his tailbone a week or so back! Funny story actually... He rode all of Rope Mill, managed all of the technical trail on the north side, only to slip on the damp wood of the bridge coming back across it. What luck. Sounded like something that would happen to me. He was finally feeling good enough to get outdoors and had been hiking the Jake side all day, and apparently wearing his dog out.

I took the Connector and the 83 Bypass over to Bull, climbed up to the Whoops, stayed left on Bull, and climbed up to the old truck.

There's a chunk of it about halfway up to it that I finally remembered to get a photo of, though somehow managed to forget to mark the location in my GPS.

Truck Chunk

I guess that's a chunk of the truck. Looks like it.

When I got up to the truck, I was super tired. It's been a tough couple of weeks. Not enough sleep. Not enough miles.

I made it though. Yay, truck!

Bull Mountain Truck from Behind Bike at Bull Mountain Truck Bull Mountain Truck Cab Bull Mountain Truck Motor

Just above the truck, the trail currently bends around to the right side of the ridge, but according to the map, the old route looked like it hung around the left side.

I'd never noticed anything like that in the past though, but the map made it look like it was a pretty major road, so it ought to be pretty obvious. It was, in fact, when you know where to look, and for the first hundred feet or so, it would have been rideable had I been interested in riding it, but deadfall and overgrowth cut it short there. So, I parked the bike against a tree, changed into my hiking shoes...

Hiking Shoe

(which I had the foresight to bring)

...and pushed up the road.

It basically crested the little hill, bent left, and dove down the ridge toward Nimblewill Creek.

A few hundred yards later it became a semi-decent trail.

Old FS28D

It was so nice that I followed it for a long way down the ridge, well past where I'd have turned off to head toward Black Mountain. It looked like it got a bit of foot traffic. I didn't seen any indications of other traffic though, and it looked like maybe people come up from the bottom and then head back down when it gets overgrown, only a few hundred yards short of the Bull Mountain Trail.

I was tempted to follow it all the way down, but it was heading in exactly the opposite direction from where I wanted to go, and I was already a bit pressed for time.

I'll have to get back to that one.

I'd seen the trail I needed to take earlier, so I headed back up and took it.

It was also fairly overgrown at first, and almost right away a bit of deadfall was placed so perfectly that if I hadn't known that the road kept going, I probably would have thought that it ended there.

A big circle revealed the bit leading on though, and before long it was wide open, and there were indications that someone had been that way recently.

Old FS77A

I followed the trail up the ridge for a while. Eventually it started to sidehill, just as the map said it should. Then it dove down to a creek crossing, just as the map said it should. Then it climbed back up, sidehilled some more, and finally dropped straight down the ridge towards the Bull Mountain Trail, in no way like the map said it should.


There were a couple of overgrown side trails in the area, and I followed a few of them, hoping to get back on track, but they turned out just to be stacked side loops and nothing discernible led uphill from anywhere.

There was an unnatural flat spot off of one of the side loops that looked like something might have been there at some point, but no structure, debris, or anything remained.


I double and triple checked my route against the map. I even went so far as to look at the GPS route and compare it. It appeared to line up. I couldn't imagine that the map would make such a specific, but false, claim about the route. It didn't make any sense.

Eventually I gave up and headed back. I'd have to put my GPS track on the map and see what I did wrong.

Back at the bike...

Back at the Bike

...I changed my shoes and put my helmet back on.

I'd put my gloves in my helmet and put it on the ground under the bottom bracket before I left. Apparently my gloves were so dirty that they adequately simulated a corpse, and my helmet was full of all kinds of large bugs. Dozens of them. They poured out when I lifted it off the ground. I shook even more out of the gloves.

I'm not especially squeamish about such things, but it was a little unnerving, even to me.

I was even reticent to put my helmet on my head without thoroughly examining it first.

Later I even got Iz to check my hair for ticks.

I was in luck though. No ticks. Nothing bad at all.

On the way back, I hung a left down the Whoops to see how the rolling dips we restored in early June had faired. We'd had an ungodly amount of rain. I feared the worst.


Rolling Dip 1 Rolling Dip 2 Rolling Dip 3

Well, it's a good thing they're 90% rock. If they'd been dirt, they'd have been gone.

The surface dirt was a mess, but they were still structurally solid. Ugly, but solid. Hopefully they'll firm up if it ever stops raining every day.

The turnouts below each of them were functioning really well though.

Rolling Dip 3 Turnout

Long term, we really need to do some road-trail-conversion stuff up there though, or reroute to the east.

I felt a lot better in the ride out than the ride in. I guess it takes 3 or 4 hours to warm up these days.

Nimblewill Church was packed when I drove out past it. It was Sunday, but I've been there at that time on so many Sundays and never seen it packed like that. Something was going on, but I couldn't tell what.

For the drive back, I took the route I should have taken in. It wasn't dark yet, but it was trying to get dark. The air was comparatively cool. Rolling through the mountains with the windows down, at that time of day, feeling tired and relaxed... It had been so long since I'd done it, I'd all but forgotten about that part of the experience.

Ahh, el luxurio.

I don't remember what I did for dinner. Must not have been all that great.

When I got home, I checked my route against the map. At some point, I'd noticed a trail diverging from the trail I was on, and leading up the ridge. I'd even marked it. That was the trail I should have taken. the route I took almost perfectly paralleled the route that I'd have taken if I'd followed that trail, so it looked like I was on track, but in fact I was several hundred yards down the mountain from where I needed to be.


Well, it would appear that I've been on the bike a bit too much lately. My explore-the-woods skills have gotten a little rusty.

I know what I'm doing this weekend.

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