Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Muffler Ridge

A while back, while trying to find my way from the Bull Mountain trail over to Black Mountain, I discovered a much more distinct trail running southward down a little ridge in the vicinity. It was a fairly clean trail, but it didn't go where I was hoping to go, so I put off exploring it at the time.

This past Sunday, the urge to see where it went was strong enough to get me off of the couch and into the woods.

The bottom end of the ridge parallels FS28D, so I drove out to the end and parked. It's a rough road though, and you have to ford Nimblewill Creek, but it turned out that the Escape was up to it. It's still deer and bear season, and I half expected to find someone already parked back there, but good fortune was on my side, and I was all alone in the woods.

Still, I wore my orange...


Just in case.

A very old version of FS28D continued for a bit past the end of the existing road before just kind-of blending into the backslope. Across the draw there was a short segment of road that ended abruptly at both ends. If the two were ever connected, the bridge connecting them must have been quite a sight. I can't imagine the purpose of that second segment, or why they wouldn't have been more directly connected.

I love finding little mysteries of the forest like that.

Since the old roads didn't lead up to the ridge, I whacked up to it directly and found the trail, right where I expected it to be.

Old Muffler Ridge Road 1

It doesn't look much like an old road where it lies directly on the ridge, but various bits of it sidehill, and it's more clear there.

Old Muffler Ridge Road 2

It was a little bit braided, but not badly. There were at least 2 downed trees that blocked the trail for 100+ feet each, but otherwise it was clear and easy to follow.

I found this poor little guy near one of the downed trees. Almost stepped on him.

Young Squirrel

I guess that's a really young squirrel? Maybe?

I followed the trail north until I was sure I'd been there before, then followed it back south as far as I could.

At the south end you pass this muffler...

Muffler Ridge Namesake

...and beyond the muffler, it doesn't appear to have ever been a road, just a trail, and an abandoned one, at that.

At some point, during all of this, I noticed that my map was no longer in my hand. I have no idea where I lost it, but it's probably still lying there. I felt like I had a good enough mental picture of the terrian though, and worst case, I had the GPS, so I didn't go back and look for it at the time. Maybe I'll find it next time I'm up there. I've actually done that before.

To the south, the trail hung a hard right before petering out entirely. I ended up whacking down to FS28D.

I've got an old topo map from 1914 that shows the old road running down the ridge a bit before coming to an end. I figured it wasn't impossible that it just runs down along the ridge without connecting to anything, but it seemed unlikely.

I'd seen a food plot a short distance up 28D from where I was, so I checked out the little road leading into it.

I say "food plot" but it was completely overgrown with privet. Super, super overgrown. The little road did its best to bend around some of it, but it ended quickly. There was a slight trail beyond though, which led to an old road, which led back up to the ridge, and came out right at the old muffler.


I'll call it "Muffler Ridge" then.

I'm sure there's a real name for it, but it's not on any maps. I've half toyed with the idea of knocking on doors before... "Excuse me sir, would you happen to know the name of this geological feature?" (points at map) (door slams in face)

One cool thing about the ridge, and the privet field, is you can see Bull Mountain proper from it, and the ridge that runs up toward Springer.

I think this is Bull Mountain itself, right here.

Bull Mountain

If not, it's to the right, out of frame. It's really easy to pick out when you're on the ridge, but there's too much in the foreground to take a good photo.

It's funny, it's such a well known mountain, but I don't know of any other spot that you can actually see it from. Maybe you can see it from the overlook on the BMT...

Anyway, it was actually starting to get dark at that point. I'd only been out for like 3 hours, but I didn't feel like kicking around in the dark that particular day, so I trudged back to the truck and headed out.

Not a great day, but not a bad day. Given how infrequently I make it into the woods anymore, I'll take it.

I'd better get back to work though. Maybe I can get enough done to justify another trip to the woods this weekend.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dirty Sheets

I met John and Justin at Cochran Mills a few weeks back to try and get some miles in. Bad sleep and working all weekend had become the standard rather than the exception. I knew it would hurt, but I hoped just breaking myself off would force some change.

We headed south on the road from the lot and wound around on the various gravel roads down there.

I'd once come up with a 70+ mile loop on those roads that me and John and Baldwin did once, but we had ridden it in the opposite direction, so what we did felt new to me that day.

Justin and John

It wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. The worst part was I'm running a 30x11, John's running a 32x11, and Justin's running a 34x10. Florida gears! He could tear off away from us on any descent. I think he's got that Eagle 1x12. Even with the 34 up front, he has a higher top gear than I do. I might need to invest in that sometime soon.

I could more or less hang until we hit the gravel road from Rico back to the park. The pitchy little kicks at the start just ate me up and that was it.

Justin had to bail when we got back to the lot, but John and I spun a lap of the Yellow trail.

I started cramping on the way out though.

I was crushing the pedals for 6+ hours at Pine Log a few months ago. I was crushing the pedals for days at a time a few years ago.

My god, how far have I fallen?

Black Branch

Ok, this was right at a month ago, so I remember it better than the rest.

It was work party day at Bull/Jake. I'd missed the last two because of work, but the stars aligned for that one.

The previous one was an REI trail day or something, 50 thousand volunteers showed up, and they worked all over the system. One spot that didn't get any attention though, and has been needing it for a while, is way back on Black Branch. If you ride it clockwise (which pretty much nobody does except me and Tim did once), then there's an old roadbed for a while, which still has most of its gravel still in place. It rolls up and down over various hills, and though it's not ideal, it's not in super-bad shape, and it's nowhere near the watershed, so it's non-idealness isn't really hurting anything. Eventually though, the hills get steeper, the trail starts to get a bit rutted. As it is, the trail is rideable, but it needs some attention to stay that way.

All that can be done is old-school turnouts, as often as we can dig them.

You got it!

Turnout 1

I say old-school turnouts, but really, we managed to make rolling dips out of most of them. The soil was that tough red Georgia clay, full of old, buried gravel. It packed really well on the back side, and we utilized what we dug up as much as possible.

Turnout 2 - 1 Turnout 2 - 2

Rider up!

Turnout 3

It was a beautiful day, and we must have been passed by 3 dozen riders, all of whom looked like they were pushing 180bpm.

We had a really effective crew that day, and we managed to complete 100% of what Debbie wanted to get done. Every now and then it's like that; everybody who knows what they're doing is on the same page, and everyone who's learning just works super hard. It was like that. Ideal.

It was a lot of work too. Several times we had to cut the runout like 20+ feet off trail and then go back and regrade it 2 or 3 times.

All work was ball-approved. Sadly, I'd forgotten to bring the soccer ball, but Debbie had several little inflatable Marvel Comics-themed balls. They could get hung up on roots and such, but they got the job done.

I just realized that I think I missed this month's work party. I think it might have been yesterday. Dangit. Too much going on.

I don't think there's another one until January either.

Well. Barring anything unforeseen, I won't miss that one.

Allatoona Creek

Working through the backlog...

It appears that I went to Allatoona Creek a few weeks back. Ah, yes. I remember it now.

It had been a long time since I'd ridden there, I was certain that Driftwood and Hocus Pocus would be finished, and I wanted to check them out in their finished form.

Driftwood was formally open, or at least the signage suggested so.

Driftwood Marker

There were apples on the ground near the entrance too.

Apples on Driftwood

Apparently there was an apple tree in the area. I'd run into wild apples on the previous ride at Yonah too. A new trend, it seemed.

There was a couple at the trailhead there, and we had some discussion about something. Sadly, I can't remember now what it was about. Too much time in between, I guess.

Driftwood was more than twice as long as it had been, last I'd ridden it. I was pleased to discover that it ran all the way out past the end of the old roads, and along the lakeshore for a while, kind of like Yonah. Another new trend - providing actual views of interesting natural features.

Lake Allatoona 1 Lake Allatoona 2

About 2/3rds of the way around, I ran into one of the West Georgia Sorba guys working on the trail. They were having an event out there the next day, it turned out, and he wanted to clean up a few spots. We talked shop for a while, and it made me want to get in on a couple of their work parties. Sadly, again, it's been too long, and I don't remember the details.

I headed over to Hocus Pocus afterwards, which required riding all of Mumbo Jumbo and Voodoo.

Hocus Pocus

Mumbo is built into the side of a decent hill, and you get a bit more elevation than on the rest of the trails in the system. It had, until recently, been a very natural trail though. You just kind-of experienced the terrain. Now there are banked turns and jumps and other obstacles all over it. Those are fun, but I think that's another trend that I'm not so sure I welcome. Here and there, sure, but not everywhere. I guess most of the rest of the system is still pretty natural though, so it's not actually everywhere. Eh.

Voodoo is loaded with obstacles. Nothing remotely natural about it. Hocus Pocus splits off about half way around Voodoo.

I expected it to be more difficult than Voodoo, but it was nothing like that at all. Of the three, it had the most natural feel. I really felt like I was experiencing the terrain as I rode it. I could see that it incorporated some really old trails and even older roadbeds too. Unfortunately, some of those sections weren't exactly IMBA-regulation, but being out past Voodoo, I imagine they won't get as many passes as the rest of the system either.

The trail ran way out before doubling back on itself lower down the hill. It crossed dozens and dozens of what appeared to be man-made channels, mainly running directly downhill, but some of them did sidehill, a lot like the channels I'd seen at Yonah. I'm not aware of any mining operations in North Cobb there, but it's not impossible that somebody had, at some point. On the way back, I noticed that Voodoo ran right up and around the head of a gnarly, artificial-looking gorge that could have been the cut.

Or maybe I was letting my imagination get the best of me. Who knows?

I have no memory of the rest of the day. It must not have been too exciting, or maybe my memory is failing with age.

I've got to quit going so long without writing.

Yonah Preserve

These last few months have been super hectic. Kathryn and I have both been working 7 days a week, 12+ hours a day. On the upside, we're getting semi-caught up financially. On the downside, there hasn't been a lot of time to do anything, together or individually. There's been even less time to write about the little that I've been able to do, so I guess from that perspective, it's fortunate that I've done so little.

Goodness, what a rationalization.

If anyone has been busier than Kathryn and I, it's Clark and Suzy, and their Unicoi Preserves business has been doing quite well because of it. I like that I can start typing "unicoi..." into the google search box and the second suggested result is "unicoi preserves". Ha!

Somehow though, through some monumental stroke of luck, Clark, Suzy, and I were all available on the same day, a little over a month ago. It was the weekend after Hurricane Irma came through, I think. Clark is overseeing the new trail work at Yonah Preserve, in Cleveland, and as such, wanted to get out there and see what kind of damage the storm had done. Preston, the guy doing the machine work, had reported that it was terrible. 30+ trees down on both loops. Yikes.

Suzy and I tagged along, and I managed to get a good sneak peak of the system.

The front gate is off of Albert Reid Road. Eventually it will be open to the public, and the little road in will be paved. For now it's all dirt though, and gated.

Front Gate

Of course, Clark had a key.

Past the gate, at the bottom of a little hill there was an old, abandoned house-ish looking building nestled under a monumental Sycamore.

Clark and Suzy at the Old Main House

The building is due to be demolished, and they're going to put in some kind of parking area. Man I hope they can do it without cutting down that tree.

The trail led eastish from there and followed an old roadbed to the dam that creates the Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir.

Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir

I tried to determine if the lake has some other name, but I couldn't find any.

I did find that it lies on Turner Creek, but not the same Turner Creek that tees into Town Creek to the north, nor any of the other half-dozen Turner Creeks that I know of. It's its own Turner Creek, distinct from those.

The dam is punctuated by a spillway.

Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir - Spillway

And the backside of the spillway is steep and scary-looking.

Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir - Spillway Outlet

I hope some idiot doesn't ride under the chain and go tearing down that slope some day. I can't imagine it would end well.

There are various old roads running through the property. Most of them date back to the early 1900's, or at least I see them on old topo maps from around then. The whole area was apparently mined hydraulically for gold at some point. Later it was Camp Appalachian Wilderness. More recently, some percentage of the land was owned by the YMCA. Eventually the county got a hold of it. I'm not sure when the lake was put in. Clark knows a guy who knows the history pretty well. Maybe I'll get a chance to pick his brain on it some day.

We followed one of the old roads out to the most recently completed singletrack.

It was easy to spot. The bulk of the trail-building machinery was parked nearby.

Trail Building Equipment

At first, the trail looked great, aside from the kind of leaf and branch cover you'd expect in winter, rather than late summer.

We quickly ran into some downed trees though.

Downed Trees

And then it was just one after the other, for the next two or three miles.

The trail crosses a feeder of Turner Creek at some point, and it's heavily armored to, across, and from the creek.

Armored Creek Crossing

Man, that must have been backbreaking work. I think it's the longest stretch of rock-armoring I've seen.

The trail looked like it would be fun to ride without all of the downed trees. Twisty, bench cut IMBA flow. Unfortunately we didn't get to ride more than a few hundred yards at a time. Preston was right. Understated even.

At the north end we took a little diversion off of the main trail over to a former primitive camp.

Legend has it that at-risk youth were brought here as part of a rehab-type program. There were various skeleton structures in the area, but making them habitable required a lot of work. They had to outfit the structures to live in, get the bath house, kitchen, etc. all working, and maintain it all without for some period of time.

It was all in ruins now.

Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness - Primitive Camp 1 Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness - Primitive Camp 2 Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness - Primitive Camp 3 Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness - Primitive Camp 4

Though, I'm not sure it didn't look much different when it was in operation, at least when the campers would arrive.

The trail runs down to a point on the north side of the lake.

Cleveland Drinking Water Reservoir - Point Clark at the Lake

I love that you can actually access the lake from the trail. So often trails are built on land with gorgeous natural features, and the trail just winds around in the woods, avoiding all of them.

We hung out there for a while. There was an old canoe rack and various other remnants of the old camp scattered about. It looked like some locals had been fishing there too. I wonder if the lake will be generally open for fishing when the system is open to the public.

We finished the loop like an hour and a half or more after we started. That's how many trees were down.

We wanted to check out the other loop too, but the bikes just seemed like the wrong tool for the job, so we changed shoes and headed out on foot.

Actually, just me and Clark did. Suzy'd had enough Adventure for one day and headed back home.

Right away, we noticed that someone had shot up the carsonite marker.

Already Shot Up


Don't put up a sign in North Georgia if you don't expect it to get shot.

We quickly got into the downed trees too. There were a great many more than on the first loop. We'd made the right decision to go on foot. Way easier.

Several times, the trail crossed under various obstacles associated with an old ropes course.

Former Camp Appalachian Wilderness Ropes Course

In a few spots, I couldn't understand what you were supposed to do. I could clearly see the parts of the course, but how a person was supposed to interact with them was not at all intuitive. I remember thinking that I must have missed out as a kid. None of the camps I ever went to had anything that cool!

There were also dozens and dozens of old channels cut into the backslope. They were all somehow related to hydraulic mining. The various feeders ran water down from somewhere to some main ditch where it was directed into a pipe that blasted it at into the various draws, removing dirt and revealing gold.

It would take a monumental effort to make sense of them though. They ran every which way. It wasn't clear where from or where to.

Well, it was clear where to, ultimately.

The trail actually ran right past the head of the main gorge.

Old Hydraulic Mining Gorge

Sadly, it looks like nothing in the photo. In real life, it's striking. There was gold down in there once.

I realized later that I recognized the ditches. There are a similar ditches at Blanket's Creek, though not nearly as many. I know that there were 6 gold mines in that area (thus the town of Sixes and Sixes Road), but I was never sure whether the Blanket's Creek area was mined. Maybe it was.

So, I might have mentioned that there were a lot of downed trees. The root balls were particularly impressive on some of them.

Root Ball


Somewhere back in there, there was an apple tree, and ripe apples littered the ground under it.

Wild Apples

I wasn't brave enough to try one.

We found this cool toad too.


And this equally cool snake skin.

Snake Skin

And that was about it.

Yep, lots of downed trees. One little section of trail looks like it'll need realignment too. Not too bad. Hopefully they can get some sawyers in there to clean it up and I'll get invited along on the ride to inspect that work too!

I'm not sure when the system is set to be open, though I'm sure Clark told me. The loops look largely finished. I can't imagine it will be terribly long from now.

We met Suzy back at their house, and we all ate at Bigg Daddy's in Helen. There was a band jamming outside on the patio, Clark and Suzy knew several of the guys in the band, and they hung out with us after their set. I ate some kind of enormous fried chicken sandwich with peach barbecue sauce on it. I highly recommend it, but I also highly recommend riding some epic loop beforehand to establish the 5000 calorie deficit necessary to justify it's consumption. I'm not sure what mutant chicken they made the sandwich out of, but I seriously want to see that chicken in real life. How can it even stand?

Ringneck in the Garage

Worst backlog ever.

Lets see... It would appear that mid-September we had a Ringneck in the garage.


Super cute and little.

I tried to pick it up but it was so small and flat that I was worried I'd hurt it trying, so I ended up scooping it into a box and depositing it in the bushes outside. I think that was Iz's idea but I really can't remember it perfectly clearly now.

Darn backlog.