Monday, July 2, 2018

Bull and Jake Mountains

I'd made a bit of a commitment to myself to ride Jake and Bull more this summer. It's a great system, and I've done so much work up there, I should reap some fruit of that labor.

But... The Rainbow Family Gathering was going to be held up there this year, for a week or two, starting early July. Some folks were allegedly already up there getting things ready. I'd never heard of such a thing until a day or 2 before, but I'd seen a "Rainbow Family" sign at 52 and Nimblewill Road the last time I was up there. I didn't have any idea what it was about, and I didn't see anyone that I thought might be involved. To add to my confusion, I'd also seen a sign for a wedding at Nimblewill Road and 28-1, and I thought maybe the two of them were related.

Turns out no, the gathering is a much bigger event, and it could create a lot of traffic into and out of the area. It was still mid June, so I figured I ought to get some riding in then, if I could, in case it proved logistically difficult to do so later.

I had some trail maintenance objectives too - it had rained A LOT the past few weeks, and I wanted to see how some features had held up. In particular, I wanted to see how the rolling dip I'd built earlier that month had fared, and to check on the one that me and Iz and Sophie built on Moss Branch last year.

Traffic was horrendous through Cumming on the way up. Not because of any Rainbow Family action, just from the constant road work on 400. It must have taken 45 minutes to get from exit 14 to exit 15.

There was no traffic in the Nimblewill Area, but there was a mobile communications tower set up at Nimblewill Church.

Mobile Cell Tower

I was sure it had been set up for the event, but I wasn't sure if had been set up for the participants, for law-enforcement, or for both.

I also noticed that the port-a-potty was missing from the Jake Lot!

Missing Port-a-Potty

Well, if Woodstock '99 can be taken as a reliable indication of how a crowd can mistreat a port-a-potty, removing it was probably a good idea.

There was one other car in the lot when I got there. A lady was taking her dog hiking but didn't know the system at all, and planned to follow the map on her phone. I've seen a lot of people doing that lately. I wonder how reliable it is. Every time I ever tried to do any GPS-related thing on my phone, it nuked the battery. I could maybe get 2 hours out of it.

She asked me some questions, I gave her a little info, and she was off.

It took me a little longer to get going, and when I did, my left pedal felt a little funny. Like it was pulling my shoe in one direction of the other. I couldn't figure it out though. When I'd coast, the float felt normal. But, while pedaling, it would tug at my shoe and eventually my foot would pop out.

The heck?!

I finally got frustrated enough to stop and fiddle with it, right as I caught up to the lady and her dog.

I turned out that the pedal was almost completely seized up. I hadn't washed my bike since riding in the rain at Noontootla, and then washed it thoroughly earlier that day. Apparently that's not so good for pedals. The lady looked at it with me, and thought it was funny how small my pedals were. I needed a flat blade of some kind to get the dust cap off, but neither of us had one.

I got it kind-of broken free, and figured I could limp back to the car, fix it for real, and hit the reset button. She thought I was nuts. How could I possibly fix that? I felt pretty confident that I could, and complete my ride. My bike isn't called "the rolling junk show" for nothing.

On the way up 28-1, the pedal unscrewed itself from the crank and fell off onto the ground.



That's a new one.

Nothing to do but screw it back in, finger tight, and pray.

My prayers were answered though, and it stayed in place long enough to get back to the truck. There, I took it apart, applied copious amounts of tri-flow, got it loose enough to call it fixed, and headed back out. I didn't have an allen wrench big enough to get tighter than it had naturally gotten from wrenching on it with my hands, but pedals tighten as you ride, so I figured that would be good enough. That or it would seize again and I'd be walking out. I was prepared for both, but I figured I'd hedge my bet by asking anyone I happened to meet if they had the right sized allen wrench.

When I'd driven by earlier, there was a crew of guys hanging out by that coms tower. They looked like they might have a more well stocked toolbox than mine, so I headed over to see. Despite three of their trucks running, there was no one to be found when I got there.

It seemed strange, but that's how it goes.


Climbing out on 28-1, I'd seen this big highway sign, but I hadn't turned around to read it.

Towing on FS28-1

Apparently, parking would be prohibited along that road.

On my way to Moss Branch, I ran into several people in cars, none of whom had the correct sized allen wrench. One of the guys was headed to the gathering, but had missed the turn on to FS83. I gave him directions, but I wasn't sure that he understood them.

On Moss Branch, I saw where some dude had built a makeshift shelter off in the woods.

Rainbow Family Shelter

Barely discernible in that ridiculously blurry photo.

Trust me, it looked very, very, not waterproof, and I wondered how he'd fare over the next few weeks. There was a guy camping along the former route of the trail too. I actually ran into that guy further down the trail. We were both headed down to the creek.

I was heading down to see how the rolling dip was functioning.

Rolling Dip on Moss Branch

Pretty well, actually! Water was turning off. The mound was intact and looked really solid.

Rolling Dip on Moss Branch Detail

One of the huge rocks we'd buried was exposed, but it looked firmly cemented in place, and it was armoring the mound exactly as I'd hoped. The rest of the rocks were still buried, and the ground looked exactly like the matrix of rock and dirt that I'd hoped it would devolve into.

Perfect. Now I just need to see how long it lasts.

I ran into the guy again on the way back and warned him about drinking out of the creek. I had a hunch that he had been. He had, in fact, without filtering, boiling, or otherwise treating the water. His mileage may vary, but in 2008, I'd run out of water, tanked up there, and gotten ill from it, so I figured I'd give him the heads up.

I also got a photo of this carving that someone did way back.


I'm pretty sure this predates the Rainbow Family guys. I recognized it. I swear that I saw it last time I was on Moss Branch, which was forever ago. So long ago that I'd have to look back through my blog history to figure out when that was.

"Entrance" or "En-trance" i.e. to put you into a trance? No idea. No idea what it would be the entrance to, other than the creek, or how it would en-trance you, except with its fine, fine flow.

At 28-1, I headed up to 28B, rode out to Jake, and rode down to check out the dip I'd built on the drop to Jones Creek.

On the way, I passed a sign that, I guess, indicated where a latrine was to be located. Maybe?


You decide. I saw no latrine or anything like it in the vicinity.

I saw some folks walking up the road with some dogs. One dog only had 3 legs. I saw a few people parked along the road too. One guy had leaned some deadfall up against his car, thrown a rug over it, and was dead asleep, directly on the dirt under it. No blanket. Directly on the dirt. Not on the forest floor. On the gravel at the edge of the road. I did something like that at the camp fire ring on Dug Gap Mountain once, and on the side of the road at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Florida, and once on the pavement, halfway up Hogpen during the TNGA. Must have been a long drive.

It was weird to see so many people. I typically go out there, ride 5 hours and run into like 1 other guy, usually on foot, bike, or horse.

It looked like 28B was where everyone was supposed to park. At least down one side of it.

Parking Signs on FS28B

I also passed a turtle in the middle of the road.


He didn't seem too upset with me for taking his picture.

On the way down to Jones Creek, it looked like some trail work had been done. Some nicks and grade reversals had been cleaned out. A lot of brush had been cut back. Me and Iz had done a good bit of that the last time we were up there, but this was much more aggressive than we had felt was appropriate. We had thinned. Since then, someone had mowed. The work looked good though. Did they have a work party up there that I didn't know about? Debbie said there wouldn't be a party in June, so I didn't even bother to come. Maybe there was one.

When I got down to the dip, I barely recognized it.

Rolling Dip on Jake

It appeared to be functioning as expected, but it also looked like it had been re-engineered a bit. Those 4 bit rocks armoring the outflow were new. They looked suspiciously like the rocks I'd buried in the mound. Maybe there'd been enough rain to expose them, rather than cement them in, and someone moved them. Or, maybe they weren't the rocks I buried in the mount, those were still buried, and someone drug these up from below.

Climb on Jake

Comparing this photo to the one I'd taken earlier in the month, I could see that the rocks had been moved around, and several of the largest ones were missing. I'm not sure who did this, but I would imagine it must have been the same crew that did the rest of the work. I'll have to inquire.

At any rate, the mound was firmed up, the dip was functioning, and the intuitive route through it appeared to be settling where I'd hoped it would. So, we'll see how it goes.

I headed directly back out the way I came in and rode up to 28A, which looked like it might end up being where the main gathering takes place. There were 20 or so people doing various camping-related things in the general vicinity of no-tell, near the largest of the food plots.

Everybody was super friendly - smiles, peace signs, and energetic greetings. They seemed legitimately happy to see me, and each other. If any of it was false, it was a good show. I didn't really talk to anyone though, other than to say hi.

This was about what it was like:

Rainbow Family Campsite

Tarp strung up between some trees back up in the woods. Maybe a tent underneath it, maybe just another tarp on the ground with some gear on it. Maybe less.

There was a more elaborate tarp shelter strung up, uphill of no-tell, where it intersects 28A.

We Home Community Kitchen

It looked like it was going to be a kitchen, but it was in its early stages.

There were a few more shelters along the older section of no-tell, but I didn't seen anything past the beginning of the newer singletrack.

It seemed like there were maybe 30 people total in the entire area. Again, it was weird to see anyone there at all. 30 seemed like a lot. I couldn't imagine the 20,000 that are alleged to attend some of these things.

My phone died somewhere in there and I couldn't get any more photos. There wasn't much else to see though. I rode no-tell -> Black Branch -> 28B -> 28C -> Turner Creek -> Jones Creek Ridge -> FS83 and through the Bull Mountain lot.

Climbing up off of the dam on Jones Creek Ridge, I saw 2 different turtles, each of which had dug a hole in the ground and was backed up to it. I think they lay eggs like that, but I didn't see any eggs yet. I was pretty disappointed that I couldn't get a photo of it.

Below Bull Mountain, someone had run a hose down from a spring up there somewhere, to a point near the parking lot and put a sign on it encouraging users to boil or purify the water. There was 1 car in the lot at the time, and a guy camping near it. I don't think he even noticed me ride by.

I took the trail up to 83 and rode out on gravel from there. Right as I was about to turn on to 28-1, I saw the same guy that I'd met waaayyy earlier in the day, who had missed the turn ont 83. Finally, it seemed, he'd found it, like 5 hours later.

When I got back to the lot, I was beat. My pedal had managed to stay loose enough to ride on, and, miraculously, stay in the crank.

I'd accomplished my goals, but the ride was just kind-of ok. Not spectacular. It had been a little wet, and I'd been keeping an eye on the pedal, and my tires are getting pretty worn out, and I had a new spoke in the rear and half-expected another one to pop, and I'd ridden a couple of short out-and-backs instead of long loops. Just that kind of stuff.

I can't remember eating dinner exactly. It seems like I tried to eat at Big D's Barbecue, but they were closed, so I waited until I got back to my side of the world, and everything was closed except Wendy's, and the drive-thru was super slow. That sounds right. Something like that at least.

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