Friday, March 23, 2018

Berry College

Rain, rain and more rain. That's what we've had most weekends now, for months. This past weekend was no exception. Saturday it rained. Sunday the trails were still drying out. It got kind-of cold too. I think it even froze Friday night.

Sunday I wanted to ride, but I had to wrack my brain a little to decide where. Noontootla is my go-to FS road route, but I'd done that semi-recently. It seemed like there was some little bit of something that I hadn't yet explored at Berry College, and upon checking my map, I confirmed that there was.

Decision made!

Berry College.

I parked at the near end of CCC Camp Road (AKA Seven Bridges Road. Yes, that Seven Bridges Road)...

Berry College WMA Kiosk

And headed off down that-a-way to the Mountain Springs Church area.

Mountain Springs Church Side Building Mountain Springs Church Dining Area Mountain Springs Church Main Building

I'd been to it before, but apparently not taken any photos. Don't remember why.

It looked like they were starting to get a little cemetery going on the hillside nearby...

Mountain Springs Cemetery Hillside I followed the road up it, and bam!

Mountain Springs Church Cemetery

They weren't just starting. They'd used up so much of the top of the hill that they had to start working their way down it, I guess.

I poked around some of the other roads in the area until I was back around to my truck, and then I basically started the ride over again. Out on CCC Camp, but this time up the Hurtin' Gator to the top of Lavender Mountain. Whoo, my little Gator was hurtin' too. Not my best climb. And, having routed my chain correctly earlier, I didn't even have an excuse.

Instead of pushing on up to the House o' Dreams, I dropped down a bit and picked up the little bit of Mountain Goat that I'd never ridden before.

I wasn't alone out there that afternoon either. I must have passed 20 or more couples hiking, both down the road, and on various little side trails that I definitely need to get back up there and explore.

One of the reasons everybody was out seemed to be all of the redbud that was blooming up and down the road.


They flanked the downhill side of the road, all the way down it. Beautiful, bright purple flowers everywhere. Dazzling and vivid. They really grabbed your attention, way more than the photo suggests.

There was a little powerline cut up there too, and I could see whatever mountain that is in the distance. I remember figuring out what there were once. It's like Armstrong mountain, or something like that.

View from Mountain Goat

Another little bit that I'd never ridden was the road that leads down past the reservoir.

Man, was I glad I rode it that day though. It doesn't just shoot past the dam, it winds around the lake for a while, and there are a couple of little spurs that lead down to nice spots to relax and take in the view.

One spot was occupied by another mountain biker, who'd ridden up with a hammock, strung it up between a couple of trees, and appeared to be napping when I passed him.

Another led to a memorial swing.

Berry College Reservoir Swing

With its own customer service line.

Swing Customer Service Number

I imagined calling it and getting connected to an offshore call center. Ha! The thought made me smile a little.

The intake was really cool looking.

Berry College Reservoir Intake

Just a big, boxy hole in the water.

Berry College Reservoir From Dam

I'd have been tempted to take a swim if it were warmer out, but there were several signs prohibiting it. I guess that's just as well too, because I might have been tempted to check out the intake, and that might have ended in a violent, possibly deadly waterslide.

Across the dam I could see more hiking trails.

Berry College Reservoir Dam

And there were some stairs down to the creek to the left.

Yep. Need to go back there and do some hiking.

I dropped down off of the mountain and took some trail that I forget the name of out to the Possum Trot Church. From there, I explored the Clay Mines Roads a bit, and found the actual Clay Mine, though I didn't realize what it was until later and didn't get a photo of it. The various silt ponds downstream of it were a lot less photogenic than the reservoir, so I didn't get a shot of them either.

From there, I rode west on Technology Parkway, hung a right on Fouche Gap Road and climbed up over the gap. It's a longer climb than the Hurtin' Gator, and I think it's steeper too, but it was paved, and I was a lot more warmed up, so I had a pretty good time of it.

A truck passed me right as I peaked out and then struggled to stay ahead of me on the twisty descent. If a screeching tire is a happy tire, then he had some really happy tires.

I felt good on Sand Springs Road too. It's a steady climb, but it's not too steep.

I'd seen the ruins of an old farm on it last time, and this time I stopped to take a couple of photos.

Home Ruins on Sand Springs Road Barn Ruins on Sand Springs Road

There were Trilliums popping up everywhere along the road there.


Just starting to pop up.

At Texas Valley Road, I noticed this old shingle shack.

Shingle Shack on Texas Valley Road

It looked a good bit more modern that the rest of the ruins, and more recently abandoned. It looked like it might predate the ADA though, so the ramp was kind of confusing. I guess they wheeled stuff in and out of it regularly. But what? What would fit between those rails?

Little mysteries.

On East Texas Valley Road, I passed another old farm.

Old Barn in Berry College WMA Old House in Berry College WMA

That one is actually on the WMA property, but it's fenced off, so you can't get a great look at it. I wonder if they plan on restoring it or something. It seems like it wasn't boarded up last time I was up there.

I hung a right on Scenic Road, which kicks up a bit, and then another right on Lavender Mountain Road, which runs up the spine of the mountain. I felt great climbing all of that, and debated continuing on up to the House o' Dreams, but it was getting kind-of late, and though I wasn't worried about running out of daylight, I didn't want to get home at midnight or anything.

So, I bombed back down the Hurtin' Gator and rode back out on CCC Camp.

CCC Camp is also called Seven Bridges Road because if you ride out on it you'll count 7 bridges, but then on the return trip, you'll only count 6. The spirits must have played a trick on your mind, so it's haunted or something. I'm not sure if the big bridge at the WMA gate counts as one of the bridges or not. If not, I was inclined to call it Zero Bridges Road because you have to look pretty hard to notice any bridges at all. Maybe calling it Seven Culverts Road would be more accurate. Still more accurate would be calling it Seven Not Even Very Obvious Culverts Road. I think the road was rerouted at some point though. I think topo maps still show it bending at the end and leading directly to that church, rather than ending a bit to the south. It's been logged pretty heavily recently too, so it's possible that the culverts/bridges were more visible at some point in the past, but recent widening and regrading to support heavy trucks has obscured them. I didn't count them, but most of the culverts looked modern. I did see one old-looking rock culvert though, way down on the west end of the road. It was visible on the north side of the road, but I didn't notice anything on the south side, I couldn't even tell that there was anything to drain. It'd be funny if that's the whole deal with the road - that one drainage has gotten backfilled and obscured on the uphill side.

Who knows?

I packed it in and grabbed some Mexican food in Rome. Some pork dish. Super good. Good enough that I wish I remembered the name. Hopefully I'll just recognize it next time I'm there, whenever that may be.

The trip home was uneventful, if I remember correctly. Oooh, I think I may have left my clothes on the garage floor though. They may still be there. Yikes. If I want to ride tomorrow, I'd better wash them.

Yeah, time to wash some clothes.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cohutta Pinhoti

Cohutta Pinhoti!

Me and the frere have been trying to do a ride together for quite some time. Between his kids' cheer competitions and reliable weekend rain though, neither of us had heard much from each other for a couple of months. Fortunately, our luck changed a couple of weeks ago. Mark B. was getting a ride together from Mulberry Gap and it seemed like just the right kind of thing for both of us to get in on.

Bright and early that morning, I headed up through Ellijay...

Ellijay Billboard

...and arrived at Mulberry Gap at the appointed time. Mark is always punctual, and also he lives up there now, so he was already there, but everybody else was running a bit behind. No problem though, that just gave me more time to catch up with Andrew and Kate and Ginny. It had been quite a while since I'd seen them, all winter basically. Everybody seemed to be doing well. Diane's in Florida pretty much full time now, spoiling her grandson, or at least trying.

Marc, John, Chris, and Ed showed up a bit later, but not late enough to delay the actual start of the ride.

Andrew, Marc, and Chris

That's Andrew, Marc, and Chris, left-to-right.

I'd ridden with Chris like 2 times before. Once up there, and once in the Oconee, back in 2013. I was sure I'd ridden, or at least raced with Ed before. I recognized him and his bike, but I don't know when it might have been.

The weather was perfect. Slightly chilly even, but I was sure I wouldn't be chilly for long, climbing in the Cohuttas. We rolled out downhill, hung a right on CCC Camp Road, and that was about it for the downhill, for a long time.

Rolling Out

We passed that property that has the sign that says something like "Nothing on this property is worth risking your life over." Obviously implying that trespassers would be shot. Apparently two of the guys (can't remember which two) had seen and heard a guy fall off of a ladder on the property, last time they were riding up there. They even debated for a second whether verifying whether his life needed saving would be worth risking theirs. They decided yes, and helped the guy out. He was an elderly gentleman, but apparently as tough as you might expect, living on a farm in the mountains, and was hurt, but not badly injured. He thanked them, and kindly, didn't shoot them for trespassing.

Everybody had to either pee or shed layers at the Cohutta WMA sign, so I took a photo of it.

Cohutta WMA Sign

At this point, I was still mid-pack, having no trouble keeping up.

We stopped briefly at Barnes Creek Falls.

Ed at Barnes Creek Falls

And that was about it for keeping up.

It was like a lightswitch. I was off the back for the rest of the ride. At least while climbing.

We ran into a couple of guys at the overlook. I initially thought one of them was Glen Slater, but it wasn't. He just kind-of looked like him. Everybody else stopped, but I was about 20 seconds back by then. Everybody took off when I caught and I wasn't about to fall further off by gawking at the view, so sorry, no photos of that.

We ran into some fellas from MGap at the upper Bear Creek Lot. They'd shuttled up and were planning on downhilling back to Mulberry Gap. We wished them luck and did a little downhilling ourselves.

Switchbacks and Crossing Barnes Creek

After crossing Barnes Creek we assembled again and I led the descent down Bear Creek, at least, at first. Almost immediately, I lost my chain. I'd had to do some work on it a few days earlier, and forgotten to lock out the clutch. Dangit!

OHHHHH, also! The work I'd had to do was reroute the chain correctly through the derailleur. Between the jockey pulleys, there's this little chain guide that the chain has to go over. The last time I broke a link, I apparently routed it under the guide. It had been dragging on it for months. When you're in smaller gears, it's not so noticeable, but it was really, super noticeable when I was climbing. I figured the chain was just too short. It is a little short, but also, it was freakin' dragging hard against the guide.

For months!


Anyway, I'd fixed that, but it didn't seem to be helping me climb. Forgetting the clutch didn't seem to be helping me descend either.

A little later I got way sideways manualling a puddle and almost crashed. Then I got a stick jammed between the spokes and the frame. Then later I dabbed in a creek and had to walk around this guy standing there trying to figure out where to go. It was funny... The guy's female companions seemed to think that the trail kept going on that side, rather than cross the creek, which is a common mistake at that particular crossing. It's a really wide crossing there, and it kind-of goes around a corner. The guy was standing on a rock in the middle of the creek. He seemed to have gotten himself on one that he couldn't get off of without getting wet, and didn't know which way to go or what to do.

P1 was fun, but I was off the back again.

Mark was like "Sorry for passing you, but I just didn't want to wait any longer." Ha! Yeah. Yeah.

P2 was also great. I was off the back on the climb, but mostly kept up with Mark and John on the descent.

I love that trail, but the very tail end of it beats the heck out of me these days.

As we rolled back towards Mulberry, some of the guys were debating whether to ride P3 or not.

Post P2

John was like: "If we just take a left, we'll end up finishing it. So lets just take a left."

Ed ended up going straight, but the rest of us took a left.

It goes without saying that I was off the back again. But, I cleaned every switchback. I did dab once, but just in some random spot. I got passed by some dude going for a Strava KOM at one point. He passed everybody, it turned out. He was on a mission.

I was only about a minute back at Hwy 52, or so they said.

The frere was lookin' real photogenic that day.

Lookin Good

Real good!

I cleaned all of the switchbacks in the other direction, except the last one. Arguably I didn't dab until the rocks and roots that follow it on the next little climb, but I think of them as being part of the switchback.

Back at Mulberry, Ginny had some pulled pork sandwiches ready for us.

My God, they were good. Nothing quite like a pulled pork sandwich to hit the spot like that.

Lunch at MGap

There was some chocolate cake with fluffy whipped raspberry icing on it too. It almost hit the spot as hard as the sandwich, but I wasn't quite as hungry by then, so I'd have to relegate the cake to second place.

There was this reclining lawn furniture on the back deck too, so I reclined in it for long enough to worry about whether I'd get a sunburn or not. It was the first time this year I'd even thought about the sun.

Yeah, Cohuttas!

I'll be back up there for the Brutal Loop later this month, if all goes well. Can't wait.

Oh, yeah, on the way out, I stopped and took a photo of the rock wall and collapsed chimney of the old homestead ruins at the corner of Shakerag and Conasauga Road.

Shakerag Homestead Rock Wall Shakerag Homestead Chimney Pile

I've seen them there forever, but never managed to get a photo. That was kind of my last chance for a while too. They'll be totally obscured by leaves soon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Paulding Forest

Some time last month I apparently went hiking in the Paulding Forest. I don't remember the motivation exactly. I remember that it was kind of late in the day. Seems like I had a bunch of stuff to do that day, and I was just trying to fit something in.

Well, whatever the motivation, I hiked the "Stuffed Lion Road", which is just east of whatever that church is off of Braswell Mountain Road. The various roads back there were supposed to kind of tie in to the loop near the church. I guess I figured I'd go see if they really do or not.

I parked at the gate, but the gate was unexpectedly open. The stuffed lion was also unexpectedly missing, having been tied to the gate for at least the previous couple of years, and from the look of it, longer than that. I didn't find it lying nearby either, so it seemed like it might be gone for good.

The road itself wasn't much to write about.

Stuffed Lion Road

Not especially scenic. Not much to see to either side. It runs along a bit of a ridge, and it's been used as a tree farm to either side for years and years. There were dozens of little strip cuts off in either direction, down the length of it.

I did notice something lying in the road though, not too far from the gate.

The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion

I recognized it immediately. The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. One of my favorite albums of all time. I originally didn't buy the album because I thought the song Remedy was just too blatantly obviously about drugs. Then, at some point I realized it was about sex, and I was like "Ohhhhh.... Ha! I'm an idiot" and bought the CD. I was hoping for a continuation of the first album, but it was so different that it was initially disappointing. At the end of each song I kept thinking: "Ok maybe the next one will be like Sister Luck." Nope. Damn. It wasn't until I'd gone through it once and accepted that it wasn't going to be Shake Your Money Maker II that I gave it a listen on it's own. And I was like "Ohhhhh... Ha! I'm an idiot" and loved it ever since. Since then, I've always contended that the Black Crowes know better what I like than I do.

Just up the road, off to the left, this whitish little pillar caught my eye.

Veal Cemetery Marker

Veal Cemetery, eh?

Veal Cemetery


Dozens of graves. Most time-worn and illegible.

I expected to maybe see something else along the road, but there wasn't anything else to be seen, all the way down the length of it. I did find where it teed in to the other little system. There was a semi-overgrown spur that might be worth exploring one day too. And, there was a creek crossing. Nothing else though.

Well, almost nothing. It generally goes without mentioning that I found a balloon or two.

Mylar Balloon

I found a balloon or two.

I don't honestly even remember if the hike was satisfying or not. I guess if I don't remember, then it couldn't have been all that great. On paper it wasn't too great. But, it does count as exploration, and Adventure. So, I guess that's something.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


A little over a month ago it had been raining every weekend for the past five, and I had finally gotten tired of just waiting it out. I'd gotten in plenty of local road miles during the week, but I wanted to do some real mountain biking in actual real mountains. That weekend, it looked like it might only kind-of rain, so I jumped at the chance.

Noontootla is the appropriate loop for a day like that, so that's where I went.

The drive in was a little sketchy though.

Big Creek Road

I feared those clouds might pour down on me later, or at least make everything so damp and mushy that I'd spray myself to death riding through it. I'd dealt with that before though, and it wouldn't stop me that day.

I hung a right at Doublehead Gap and parked just up FS42 in the first little turnout. The short little strip of road between there and the gap wet and slippery, but I hoped that the rest of the route would be some amount cleaner.

The roll out from there took me past Bailey Creek Farms and I got a good look at Ripshin, or Buzzard Roost, or whatever that ridge is behind it.

Bailey Creek Farms

It didn't look too appealing that day, but one day I want to hike that ridge. Seems like there ought to be a trail up there.

At FS58 there were a couple of interesting signs.

The Civil Air Patrol was apparently doing some operation up that way.

Civil Air Patrol Sign

And the road was apparently disgusting enough to warrant notification.

Warning - Nasty Road

I didn't see much in the way of CAP folk or nasty roads though, at least not for a while. The road had some puddles, but I'd ridden it when it was a lot softer in the past.


It was a pretty nice climb. I had a pretty good time of it.

With all of the rain, and without the dense spring foliage coming in yet, it was even a little more scenic than usual.

Super Lower Noontootla Falls Noontootla Creek

Closer to Winding Stair Gap, it was as bad as the signs had made it out to be though. It's good they were there, I could imagine someone sliding around and getting stuck at the top up there, but maybe having seen the sign earlier, they'd think twice before just going for it.

FS42 was better than the last bit of 58, but not a lot better.


I also had a tougher time than I expected climbing over those little knobs by Deerlick and Fryingpan Gaps. Usually they feel like I'm getting a break from the slog up 58, but not that day. That day I had to sit back and climb them, and it didn't bode well for the rest of the ride.

I ran into the CAP at the base of Hawk Mountain.

Civil Air Patrol

That group there in the photo was their leaders. The CAP guys themselves were semi-assembled behind them in a tangled mass. I'd forgotten about seeing the sign earlier when I rode up on them, and I was like: "Man, what is this? Some Forest Service thing...? Whoa! That's a lot of camo! Ohhhh.... that's right... Civil Air Patrol."

I don't know what they were up to that day. I heard that a long time ago they used to do mock rescues and orienteering and stuff. I've run into them several times over the years but I've only ever spoken to them once. It was like 15 degrees outside and one of the guys was just stunned that my fleece bib and jersey kept me warm enough to exist, much less ride.

I didn't talk to anyone that day though.

Further up, FS42 was super foggy. You know it's super foggy when the photo even looks foggy.

Foggy FS42

I had to be careful dropping down to Hightower Gap. Two cars passed me coming the other way, and I had a tough time seeing them coming. I flicked on my little commuter light, but I'm not sure it really did much of anything to make me more visibie.

I passed the lake and the fish hatchery, and the church. I have so many photos of those that I didn't bother getting another one.

I did get a pic of the old bridge over Little Rock Creek though.

Old Little Rock Creek Bridge

That's the bridge we used to cross, way back. I remember them building the new bridge, but I don't remember the year. Seems like it was early 2000's though, like 2002 or so.

Crazy how overgrown it is now.

Rock Creek Road was dry and clear.

Rock Creek Road

I hung a left on FS333, but I didn't get far.

FS333 Bridge

It was kind-of closed.

FS333 Sort of Closed

Not a full-on Keep Out, but a friendly Please Avoid Area.

since they asked nicely I pushed on toward the Toccoa.


I was a little muddy by then...

Kinda Muddy

...but the sun was actually starting to come out here and there.

Slightly Sunny

I never saw any actual bright spot on the ground, but there were little patches of blue sky.

At Hwy 60 I made a little side trip and checked out the ruins of the Rock Creek Cafe.

Rock Creek Cafe Sign Rock Creek Cafe Block House Rock Creek Cafe Satellite Dish Rock Creek Cafe Collapsed Structure Rock Creek Cafe Chicken Coop Rock Creek Cafe Shelter Rock Creek Cafe Shed Rock Creek Cafe Cabin Rock Creek Cafe Cabin Porch Rock Creek Cafe Greenhouse

It looked like the main structure had burned at some point, got sort-of cleared, and then the rest of it was just abandoned in place. Judging from the chicken coop, greenhouse, and various plots around the property, it looked like it might have been a farm-to-table kind of place. The internet knows nothing about it though, and I never saw it open, so I really have no idea.

Just down the road on Hwy 60 I spotted a chimney down by the creek.

River Forest Area Chimney From Road

There was some weird brick thing near it, but not much else.

Weird Brick Thing

I'd never noticed it before, so I imagine it's pretty well obscured in the summer. No idea who used to live there. There's not even a dot for it on any of my old maps.

I passed Margret at fairly high speed.


...and climbed up over Tooni Gap at a decent pace. Seemed I'd perked up a bit since Winding Stair.

Tooni Mountain

It started drizzling sometime around then. It looked like I'd ridden into it, like it had been drizzling there for a while already. But it was super spotty. I rode in and out of it over and over.

At the Petty Family Cemetery, I made a quick stop to get a photo of it.

Petty Family Cemetery Marker Petty Family Cemetery

I'd passed it a dozen times, but there was always some reason not to stop.

My reason that day probably should have been that it was getting late and rainy.

Late and Rainy

I had a couple of blinky lights though, and it wasn't cold enough to care about the rain.

At some point it looked like my red blinky light had died, so I put the white one on the back too. It was funny to me at the time because the exacty same thing had happend a year or two ago, in nearly the same spot, doing nearly the same ride. It turned out though, that the battery wasn't dead, it was just so covered in mud that it wasn't visible, and it was too dark by that point to tell.

I managed to lose my glasses and chain tool somehow, maybe when getting the stuff out of my pockets. I'm not sure. All I know was that I didn't have them when I got home and I couldn't find them anywhere in my truck.


That's why I buy cheap glasses. The chain tool was from like 1998 too, and struggled with 11-speed, so I guess it's time was up anyway.

I ate dinner at El Rey in Ellijay, but I don't remember what I had, only that I ate there.

I do remember being TIRED on the way home and stopping at two different gas stations. One for a snack and the other for a soda. Both just to wake up.

The ride was Ok. Not great. I'd had a tougher time than I'd expected to have.

Just shaking off the winter, I guess.