Saturday, September 9, 2017

Jake, Bull, and Black Mountains again

Goodness, this was over a month ago.

I've had so much work to do lately, I can barely get it all done, even more barely find time to ride or hike, and even MORE barely find time to write about it. I guess it's a good problem to have, but it's still quite a problem.

Ok, so... let's see.

It appears I'd tried to discover the route from Bull Mountain up to the gap south of Black Mountain the previous weekend, and then succeeded the next weekend. That rings a bell at least.

I parked at Jake, rode over to Bull, climbed up to the truck, parked my bike...


...on the old road just uphill from it that leads over towards Black Mountain, changed shoes, and headed off in the general direction of Adventure.

The photo shows my helmet and shoes balanced on the bike rather than sitting on the ground because the previous weekend I'd returned to find both full of big, heavy-bodied ants. Figuring maybe ants don't like climbing around on bikes, that seemed like a good solution. (It worked, BTW)

I'd analyzed my GPS route after the previous Adventure, and seen where I'd diverged from the road I meant to take. I remembered even seeing it when I was out there, but it didn't look promising at the time. This time I took it, but it just headed up the ridge for a while, started sidehilling and then petered out into what seemed like nothing. Or maybe it bent left and headed up to the ridge again? Or maybe one of the braided sections below was the right one to take? I had an extremely difficult time finding anything that vaguely resembled the well-established road alleged on the old topo map.

In some cases, there was a vague indentation in the ground. In other cases, some rocks had been cleared to one side or another. In other cases, it was too rocky to one side or the other, so I presumed the old road must have gone up the middle. In other cases, more-exposed rock seemed to mark the route.

Is This the Trail

I really had to use my imagination, but I knew it had to be there, and if I kept at it, I'd reliably find some more solid indication further on.

I got WAY off a few times though, had to walk in a big circle until I picked the trail up again, and just hoped I'd find the right way to go coming back.

Of course, I found several of these out there:

Mylar Balloon

Goes without saying, really.

As I approached Black Mountain proper, I ended up on a former route, I guess, which eventually petered out completely, heading up the ridge towards the peak. It should have started sidehilling toward the gap, but I never saw anything like that. Eventually I started sidehilling myself, weaving up and down the mountain wildly, hoping to find something, but never actually finding it.

I heard voices at one point though, which meant the AT was nearby. I figured: screw it, maybe the AT follows the old roadbed, and I climbed until I was on it. Nope. No old roadbed, just beautiful, purpose-built singletrack.


I wasn't far from the Black Mountain Shelter though, and the shelter was at the gap I was hoping to have followed the old road to, so I followed the AT over to it, and milled around its vicinity for a while.

Black Mountain Shelter Black Mountain Shelter Privy Black Mountain Junk Pile Bear Resistant Food Storage

From the water trail below the gap I could see the old road to my left, and when I was done exploring the gap, I took it back.

The old road:

Old Black Mountain Road

Obvious, isn't it?

The route was much easier to follow in that direction, and I made a much more thorough effort to stay on it, or if I got off, to find it again, backtrack, link up, etc.

Along the way though, I found something much stranger than a mylar balloon, hanging in a tree.

Aircraft Debris Maybe Aircraft Debris Maybe (From Other Side)

Aluminum linkage, with some steel linkage bolted to it, painted olive drab.

Did it fall off of a military aircraft?

There was a plane crash to the south, near Nimblewill Gap, in 1969, which was removed in the 90's. But it was a private Cessna. A Cobra chopper crashed way to the northeast in the 80's. I can't find an account of another crash.

I guess it could have been flung up there by a tornado. I've seen plenty of chicken house roofing that must have been.

If someone can identify this, please do. I'm very curious.

The route back was relatively easy to follow for most of the way, but where it began to run down the ridge toward Bull Mountain, it faded into the hillside, and I had as difficult a time following it as I'd had earlier. I knew it was more distinct below too, I just had to figure out how the two sections linked up. I'm not 100% sure that I did, but I'd challenge anyone to do better.

It was getting late when I got back to the bike, I overcooked it a bit on the descent, trying to get out before dark, and flatted. Dangit! When it was fixed, it was dark, and all I had were little Spok head/tail lights, which are more so people can see you than so you can see. But, I'd ridden out Croom on them in the Huracan years back, so I figured I could probably get down off of Bull too.

I did, but it was slow going to be sure.

When I got back to the Jake lot it was decidedly night. I was surprised to see a second car in the lot, and even more surprised to see a guy moving around in the dark with a red light on his head.

As I got closer, I noticed a tarp on the ground, tables of equipment, and some contraption set up in the middle of it all.

The heck?

Turns out he was an amateur astronomer, photographing the Butterfly Nebula. Apparently that night, atmospheric conditions were perfect, and the Jake lot is a great place to set up. No light pollution, but it's right off of a main road.

Ha! Cool!

I don't remember much else about that particular Adventure, except that it was overall, very difficult. Rough country. Not sure where I was going half the time. Flat tire. Darkness. On paper, that sounds fun, but it wasn't. Not really. It was just hard. I did get where I was going, finally, so points for that, but man, what an effort.

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