Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Real Camping in the Blue Ridge WMA

Last time it was fake camping. This time it's real!

This past Saturday I woke up early, had an exhausting day running around everywhere in the world, and didn't get on the bike until about 6PM. Sounds like an odd time to start a ride, but it was actually by design. I had a plan. Ride Bull/Jake, head up over Cooper Gap, camp somewhere on the other side, get up the next day, refuel at the Cooper Creek Store, come back over Winding Stair Gap, and hit some more Jake on the way back.

Good plan? Maybe. Lots could go wrong. But, that's kind of the point too. So, that doesn't actually go in the con column.

Alright. Onward.

On the way up a guy in a black pickup with a personalized plate that read CNOEVIL merged from the far right lane all the way over into the far left lane (which I was in) in one shot. I must have been in his blind spot the whole time, or evil, because he didn't C me, and I had to crush the brakes and utilize the shoulder, but it worked out. No accident. Back on my way...

I stocked up on calories at the Gold Creek Store. Total garbage - Honey Buns, Cheetos, and some kind of beef stick. Mmmm.

When I got to the trailhead, there were still a bunch of cars in the lot. I wasn't alone in getting a late start either. Right after I showed up, so did another couple, and they got going before I did. Didn't look like they were planning on being out all night either, or even into the dark. Hope they made it out in time.

My phone was at 22% for some reason. Maybe the charging plug wasn't pushed in all the way? Great. Mission glitch number one. Airplane mode it is!

I took the connectors over to Bull, headed up Bull proper, and had a pretty nice time of it. The trails were in fine shape. Well, except for The Great Rift, of course...

...which just keeps growing and growing.

I took a little break at the truck, just long enough for a snack, some stretching, and the obligatory photo.

The new grips didn't give me any trouble ripping down Bare Hare. I was worried that they might, and I don't know whether I've just gotten used to them, or if the new gloves made the difference, but whatever... Shred!

Coming around the back side, I made a side trip up Whoop-de-Do's. Some, apparently dubious, machine work had been done earlier in the year and I wanted to check it out. Historically, the rolling dips had been maintained at about 4 feet tall and like 8 feet deep. They'd quickly get crushed down to about 3 feet, then eventually develop a notch, backfill, and start failing. The new work left them much shallower, like maybe 2.5 feet tall, but deeper, maybe 12 feet. That's the impression I got at least, my numbers could certainly be off. Basically, shorter but way deeper. They appear to have gotten worn in already - crushed down about 6 inches or so, but they're long enough that they don't look like they can develop a notch. There were plenty of hoof prints too, so it's not like only bikes are hitting them. I'm really curious to see how they perform long term. Debbie didn't like the looks of them right off. I wonder what she'd think of them now. They struck me as ok.

This, however looked abominable.

The first rolling dip is now a blind step-down double. You can't see how far you have to jump until you're right up on it, and it's such a step-down that I didn't dare manual it. Doesn't look like anyone's hitting it. The worn-in line is off to the right. I'm not sure I agree with such a bike-only feature on a multi-use trail.

But, "now y'all got me talkin' politics"...

It started getting noticeably darker on the way across the dam.

The vistas were gorgeous.

That's what I'm talking about!

I did start getting a little anxious as the sun went down though. Felt like I needed to hurry up. It'd been a while since I'd felt that. It'd also been a while since I'd done a night ride, which probably didn't help. It was officially dark coming down No-Tell, and pitch-freaking black on Montgomery Creek.

I was also officially out of water at Montgomery Creek proper. That little channel beam is still there, crossing the creek. I perched on it and filled up, while watching a tiny little rainbow trout slip through the current. It's amazing how little effort it takes them. Even more amazing was its ambivalece to my presence. My light shone right on it, the entire time I was working, and it acted like I wasn't there. No change in its behavior at all. I felt like I could have reached down and plucked it out of the water. Nothing to be gained though. On my way.

Camp Merrill looked like it's gotten a couple of upgrades. There's new sewage-related machinery on the right side of the road. It whirred and whirred as I rode by. The officer's club looked open. The neon signs were lit. I've heard that they don't mind serving civilians, but it wasn't a good time to find out. They're doing a lot of work on the gate too. It's looked the same for so long, all of the recent changes seem weird. Lots of upgrades. I wonder if they know something that I don't.

I climbed Cooper Gap Road in the dark, and wished I had a wider beam light. I had to stop twice too. Once to stretch my back. Once to eat a bit.

At the gap both AT campsites were occupied. One had a blazing fire going. I'm not sure what the etiquette is there. The sites are big, but I haven't done enough AT camping to know if they're considered big enough to share. On the north side, about halfway down, I found a weird road that I'd somehow never seen before. Not a trail, but a you-could-drive-your-truck-on-it road. I double-checked my map when I got home even. I'd never marked it. I figured I must have seen it before, and ignored it because it wasn't really a road, just a little jaunt over to a campsite. Nope. It went for a while. There was a spur to the left. I eventually stopped when I found a cable strung across the road at just over head height. WTF?

Too much WTF for me.

A little ways down, there's an actual campsite. I checked it out too. For years, it had 2 old campers parked in it. They were similar, but one always looked 10 years older than the other. Recently, the older one had been replaced with a brand new one, and then the other one disappeared not long after. The old ones were creepy enough, but the new one looked even creepier. The door was hanging open. Like "come on in... and get murdered."

Too much WTF there too. And, I wasn't sure if it was on FS land or not. The longest you can camp on FS property is 14 days. Those campers had been there for 20+ years. So... Maybe not. And, the guy who owns the adjacent land has some seriously threatening signs on the west end of it. Yeah... moving on.

I knew there were various places to camp on Williams Gap Road, but dang, I forgot how it's all climbing for a while. Ugh.

I found a spot that looked like it used to be a trail off to the right. Looked like it's just a turn-around now, but the woods to the left of it was flat enough to lie down on.


I have 6 stakes, but I couldn't find one of them. I looked and looked. Nothing. Dangit. Old-school. I used to not carry stakes, and just use little chunks of sticks, but they're not so reliable. Good enough for stake number 6 though.

Next up - dinner. Honey bun and a beef stick. Both delicious. I also ate a bunch of Cheetos and drank the rest of one of my bottles.


Kind-of. I kept dozing off, needing to move around, and finding myself stuck to my bivvy, with my liner wrapped up around me. Screw this. I'd been pondering turning the bivvy into a quilt for a while. Done. A slit down one side, and it was great. I was lying on my mat, which was adequately comfortable, and not sticky. I could pull it under me if I wanted, and loose enough that it was easy to keep the liner on top of me. Ahh, el luxurio. I slept very well after that.

For a while.

Sometime during the night it started pounding down rain. Hours and hours of rain. Long enough to doze off, wake up, doze off again... Several times. The tarp worked great, way better than my tent ever did.

Gear-test success!

Too successful, actually. I slept so well that it was 10:30 when I finally woke up. My phone was apparently in low-power mode, and I guess that means that the alarm doesn't go off? On the upside, I still had 17%.

So, I wasn't out of power, but I was out of water. I'd managed to finish off the other bottle during the night. Not a big deal, the next stop was the Cooper Creek Store, it's mostly downhill to it, and it seemed like there were various places to get water along the way. Hell, the route basically follows the Toccoa down from its headwaters.

When I rolled out onto Gaddistown Road, I noticed a trail off to my left, that paralleled Williams Gap Road. I'll have to go check that out someday.

At the time though, I had vistas like this to check out.

All up and down that road.

Before I got to Northside, I passed a rider coming in the other direction. It looked like Chris Joice but I couldn't be sure. Whoever it was, he was loaded down. We exchanged nods, and kept moving, but just around the next corner, there were like 7 more riders, equally loaded, headed my way.

"TNGA training ride? Yeah!?" I shouted.

"Hey man! What's up dude?!" One of the guys responded.

Was that a yes? I hoped it was, but it's hard to say.

Turns out it's a long way to the Cooper Creek store. Much longer than I had remembered it being. It turned out I had a few sips left though, and only started getting actually thirsty a few turns from the store.

Ahh... Cooper Creek Store. Somehow I failed to get a photo of it. It turned out I had plenty of food still in my pack, both for whatever meal that was intended to be, and for the ride home. I did need fluids though, so I downed one Powerade and refilled my bottles with two more. I tried charging my phone too, but the charger for my light wasn't up to the job. It was still at 17% when it was time to go. Hmm...

When I first got there, I saw some road bikes outside. I exchanged some pleasantries with the roadies, and we sat near each other outside for a while. I don't remember the route that they were riding, but it must have been long because they had a guy in a truck supporting them. They'd all (including the guy in the truck) been stopped at some point by a cop looking for another cyclist, a lady in a white kit, who'd been harassed by some guy in a van to the extent that she'd called the cops on him. The cop was looking for them both.

Man, I hope that turned out well.

Time to go.

I headed westish, picked up Rock Creek Road, and climbed.

From Hwy 60, it's kind of a long climb, actually.

I took a break at Edmondson whatever-it-is.

It was a pond, then a wetland, then a meadow, now it's just trees. Tall trees even. The frame for the old Edmondson Pond is still there, but the sign is long gone, along with the pond.

Between there and Winding Stair Gap, I leapfrogged a guy in a Jeep a couple of times. I grabbed a snack at the gap, and the guy pulled up next to me.

"You're really humping it aren't you?"

Heh. Humping it.

"Man, I'll tell ya!"

We talked for a bit, then he took off, and I passed him again before getting down to PR Gap.

The IKON's were sketchy on Winding Stair. I kept feeling like the front wheel was going to slide out. Then when I let it, it did, a little, a couple of times. Yikes.

At the food plot, I noticed a trail leading up the ridge to the left. I'll have to check that out someday too, though I'm pretty sure I know where it goes.

At the FS77/28-1 Y, there was a guy getting stopped by the police. He was driving a jacked-up blue truck though, and fortunately not a white murder van. It was weird though. I've never seen cops back in there, except during the Family Gathering. I can't imagine they ran into him on patrol. No idea, but I didn't hang around to find out either.

Moss branch was a bit of a jungle. Constant leg-whackage for the first mile or so. Looks like a good candidate for some trail maintenance next month. When I got to Jones Creek, I just had to get across and climb out. But, that seemed like a LOT of work, and I badly wanted a nap. We left a jillion bags of gravel there some months ago, and they're still in a big pile. A big, comfy pile.

Oh yeah. I think I might have even fallen asleep lying on them.

I don't know how, looking at that photo now, but it felt pretty good at the time. Maybe the scenery helped.

I don't know.

However long later, I got up, crossed the creek and climbed out. It wasn't as much work as it had seemed.

And... Done.

Back at the lot, I got changed, then ran into some hikers coming off the trail with a bunch of dogs. A few minutes later some guys rode up on motorcycles. A little after that, a horse trailer drove out, and as I walked to the bathroom, I saw a trail runner coming down the road to the lot. In the span of a few minutes, I saw (if you include myself) people doing just about everything you could do up there. So weird.

I hit the bathroom, got back, jumped in the truck and took off. At that point, I experienced the weirdest glitch-in-the-matrix ever. My wallet was under one of my windshield wiper blades. I'd put it in my pocket when I went to the bathroom. Did I lose it that quickly? Did someone find it that quickly? It didn't seem possible. Wait... I'd have taken it out of my pocket to drive. It was in my cupholder! How could it be in my cupholder AND under my windshield wiper? That's when the glitch-in-the-matrix feeling really started to kick in. It kicked in, full-on, when I was standing there, with my wallet in one hand, and an identical copy of it in the other. It just couldn't be possible.

I stood there, absolutely confused for a few seconds, before it struck me what must have happened.

The wallet under my windshield wiper was the one I lost on that ride with Eddie and Shey a while back. Scott Hanson found it. He must have been at Jake that morning, noticed my truck, and left it for me. That's the only possible explanation. Yep, it had my insurance card in it. Ha! As unlikely as it sounds, that's what must have happened.


I grabbed a snack at the Gold Creek Store, then some chicken at Zaxby's in Dawsonville, and that was the end of it.

My gear worked out pretty well. I need a little iPhone brick, some kind of lightning-to-mini-usb converter, and a gallon baggie for trash. I may also need some alcohol wipes. We'll see. The biggest problem I had, actually, was that I was completely soaked with sweat at the end of the first day, and my clothes stayed wet overnight. In the past, I'd always been able to dry them by keeping them in my bag with me. But, I guess they either never got that freakin' soaked before.

Actually, that was the second-biggest problem I had. The bigger problem was cumulative lack of sleep. I've been sleeping like crap for weeks now. Lots of work and late nights. In theory, that's easy to fix though, I just need to get to it. Sadly, I'm binging a Netflix series while writing this. And, not sleeping.

But, this show is so good...

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Fake Camping at Pinelog

Yet another marginally blog-worthy after work ride!

Another trip to Pinelog! I had new grips - Ergon GP1's. I'd done a quick adjustment ride on the Dirty Sheets after getting them (which I didn't write about) but needed to see how they performed on more diverse terrain. I'd also adjusted my seat a bit. Pushed it back, and dropped the nose. Seemed a lot better in the driveway, but again, I needed to try it on some diverse terrain.


Up the main road, past the last gate, up the Lezpedezious approach to Hogsback, and all the way up the mountain. You hit every single thing on that route: hard-packed, loose, and eroded gravel; doubletrack; hard-packed trail, slightly eroded trail, rock gardens, loamy trail, clean singletrack, rough singletrack, singletrack strewn with debris; roots, rocks, and downed trees. You name it.

At the top, the trail almost disappears for a bit as it passed through a campsite. There's a big fire pit off to one side, and I figured that'd be a good spot to do a fake camping test. I've slept on my pad a dozen times. The liner/bivvy/pillow worked well for me on that overnight I did a month or two ago. I wasn't sure about the tarp though. Nor had I unpacked/repacked that particular pack while still tired and sweaty, immediately fresh from riding.

Let's see...

The ground was so rocky, that it was really tough to find spots for the stakes. But that wasn't a gear issue.

Everything went up easily. I'm not 100% sure about the tarp. I have another one that I might try in my backyard. One side offers less protection than the other. You have to know which direction the rain might come from, and pitch the lower side in that direction. That's definitely an advanced move. Other than that though, no problems.

Well, maybe one problem. My base layer was disgusting. The first time I rode the TNGA, I rode with my base layer as a jersey. Back then, if it was humid, as it is prone to be during the height of summer in Georgia, my team jerseys held a ton of sweat weight. Like, more than 2 pounds of sweat, on just about any decent ride. I measured. The base layer held like 1.5 pounds. It was still a bit of a sponge, but better than any of the jerseys. These days, it looks like my PBR jersey is actually lighter, and better at shedding sweat than the base layer. Plus, I can unzip it. It needs a few modifications, but I think I'm going to give it a try.

I'd had to stop to adjust my grips a few times on the way up, and then had to stop again a few times on the way back down. I'm still not 100% sold on them. They get very slippery, compared to the Oury grips. If they're adjusted for maximum comfort climbing, then they're in a really bad position for downhill. One hard hit, and they'll wrench your thumbs off as you slide forward off of them. I hadn't realized how I place my palms against the back of the grips to take a hit until I couldn't do it any more.

I wonder if there's something that I can spray on them to deteriorate the rubber a bit and make it stickier.

Still testing...

Dirty Sheets

Again, an after-work ride wouldn't usually be worth mentioning, but in keeping with the recent trend of them actually being worth it... I rode some Dirty Sheets with Justin and Flynn last week.

It's worth mentioning for several reasons. The first being that absolutely ridiculous traffic that I had to deal with on the way over. It usually takes 40-odd minutes to get to Cochran Mill. Maybe another 10 to get to PBR in Serenbe. Not that day. I spent 20 minutes getting through the lights to turn onto Fulton Industrial, and another 20 getting through the light at Charlie's Store. There was nothing going on. Just tons of slow moving people.

I was supposed to meet Justin at Glen's at 6:00. Instead, I was turning on to Cedar Grove. 5 minutes later I was getting a ticket. 75 in a 45, no less. It doesn't generally pay to argue with police, so I didn't bother, but there is no way I was going even 60. I'd been following a guy for a while, both of us going 45. Near Rivertown Road it goes up to 55. I wasn't paying exact attention, but he sped up, so I figured it had turned to 55. I sped up too, but capped it around 60 while he pulled away from me. I saw an officer up ahead, checked my speed - hair under 60. I even laughed out loud because that guy was definitely getting a ticket! Nope. I was. I'm pretty sure the cop clocked him and just pulled me over because it was easier. Turned out also, that it didn't become 55 for another few hundred yards. Dangit!

I haven't gotten a ticket in like 7 years, and haven't gotten a speeding ticket in like 10+. Now I have a super-speeder ticket, of exactly 30mph over. Just what I need.

I got to the shop 30 minutes late. Justin and Flynn were ready to go. Glen was closing up. His family was there waiting on him. Everybody was waiting on me. I pull my bike down. Flat rear tire.


Justin juiced it while I changed. We were riding 5 minutes later.

Flynn's got a beautiful gravel bike that can't weigh even 18 pounds. I've been riding my full bikepacking rig for months now, every ride, and Justin pretty much always does that unless he's racing. Flynn was murdering us on the climbs, but I was happy that I could more or less hang with Justin.

We did an odd lollipop loop that I'd done something similar to before. It's like 20-odd miles, but you never have to cross South Fulton.

The ride was fun, but my bike was giving me a little trouble.

The first problem was the seat. I'd been riding a RavX SpeedX forever, and loved it. But, the leather was deteriorating to such an extent that I'd been trimming and super-gluing it down for years, and needed to replace it. Badly. As fate would have it, Glen just happened to have an old RavX SpeedX (slightly newer than mine) in a box of old parts, that Randall Stauffer had tried, hated, and given him, years ago. I'd replaced mine with that one, and then promptly destroyed it in my last crash, having only ridden it a hand full of times. Ebay was short on SpeedX's but did have a SpeedMax, which is lighter, more modern (though by no means fully modern), but a little different. I'd ridden it at Pinelog, and by the end of the ride, it felt like it was trying to split my pelvis. By the end of this ride, I could tell that the rail on one side was slightly looser than the rail on the other side, and it made a hot spot on my right butt. I also felt like I wasn't getting full leg extension.

The second problem was the grips. I'd bruised my hands pretty good during that last crash, so they pretty much perpetually felt like they would after several days on the bike. The Oury's are great for shredding singletrack all day, but I'd even had trouble with them on that overnight I did with Eddie and Shey. My hands had felt tired pretty much constantly during the last few rides. I was glad to be done with this one, just because I was tired of leaning on the bars.

...Things to work on.

Post-ride, Flynn took me to this great restaurant in Serenbe called Halsa. No idea how to describe it except as "vegetable-forward" which I got from their website. That may sound terrible, but it's freakin' fantastic. I got a bowl of "forbidden rice" with black beans, corn, and chicken on it. Forbidden rice is almost black, apparently difficult to cook, and has a great texture. The bowl was endless too. I ate for like 30 minutes and only managed to consume a little over half of it. Flynn had some kale tacos with peppers and stuff in them, and some soup. I think I'll stick to the rice bowls in the future, but I'll definitely eat there next time I'm down there at dinner time. So good.


I wouldn't normally write about an after-work ride, but last week, I managed to ride Pinelog for the first time in a million years.

I just spun a figure 8 on the roads, but even doing that it was clear that a lot had changed!

The roads are way less accessible by trucks these days, and mostly look like this:

Basically doubletrack.

Nearly every little side road/trail has been crosscut. Most are choked with lezpedeza. Some with young pines. I have no idea which are still passable, even on foot. I may have to totally re-explore the whole system at some point.

The overlook is getting to be less and less of an overlook.

I had to hold my phone way up high through the one gap in the trees to get that shot.

The church is the same.

Or, it looks the same from the outside, at least.

The Lewis Furnace is still standing, but the area surrounding it is densely overgrown now. There's barely a campsite, and the road that led to it before is more of a trail now. Not even doubletrack.

It's still a road up over Pine Log Gap. In fact, it had been freshly graveled in a few spots, and it was loose and shifty.

On the backside, the Cripple Creek Ore Bank was full of water. Unusual this time of year. I could barely make out where the old railbed diverges away from the modern road. If I didn't know it was there, I'm not sure I'd ever think to look for it.

I always love these rocks.

My modernish iPhone washes out the color less than my old 4s did, but it still doesn't quite capture the colors.

The old lower lake was fully planted, and the view of Pine Log Mountain was as striking as ever.

My 34-11/52 felt really good up there. I never felt too spun out. It even felt good on the road, coming back around toward White. I could stand and crank when I wanted to. I could spin up over Wolfpen Gap when I wanted to as well.


Trail Creek Park and the North Oconee River Greenway

A week or so ago, I was itching to do some exploring. There are plenty of trails within an hour or two that I've never ridden, but most of them are only a few miles long, and not worth burning a whole Saturday or Sunday on. Some of them have second trailsytems nearby though, so you can combine them. One such system is the one at Trail Creek Park in Athens. I'd actually tried to ride it once before - drove all the way out there, in light rain, to find it still raining when I got there, and the Weather Channel app still saying that there was a 0% chance of rain.

Well, there was a 0% chance of rain a few weeks ago too, but I didn't fully trust it until I arrived at the lot under blue skies.

When I got there, I really, really needed to pee. I'd followed the signs to "parking" and "restroom", but the restroom was hundreds of yards away from the lot. The lot was completely full too, as there were multiple soccer games going on, so I had to park on the outskirts. Annnddd... The restroom was part of a building that served a little water park, that was going full bore, with plenty of wet, splashing, rushing sounds to tempt me as I approached it.

I can't put into words the sense of relief I felt after finally getting to the bathroom.


Back at the lot, I got ready, and hit the trails.

Almost every trail in the park is somehow named after a band from the Athens area. There are: Orange Crush, Drive By Truckers, Widespread, and Panic. There is also, for some reason, The Green Trail. If that name is somehow related to a local band, it's not clear to me how. Widespread and Panic are two separate flow trails, but they parallel each other. You'd think Panic might be more difficult than Widespread, but it's the other way around. Maybe because the gaps are more widely spread on Widespread?

Drive By, Green, and Orange Crush are fairly tame, but also a lot of fun. They reminded me of the Chicopee College trail. Not a lot of elevation, but not really flat either.

They both have flow-trailish side loops, but Widespread and Panic are full on flow trails with berms and jumps and drops and gaps.

Having recently crashed over and over, I wasn't in the mood to even try and manual tame doubles. I'm glad nobody was behind me on either of those runs or it would have been pretty embarassing.

At a point, one of them ends up down by Trail Creek proper, and there's a little shoal there that you can walk down and gawk at if you like.

It took a few laps to ride everything. I think there are 4 and a half miles of trail there, but I rode more than 15 before calling it quits. Getting to and from Orange Crush required me to cross the Trail Creek Greenway, so when I'd had enough singletrack, I picked that up.

I didn't know how long it was, but I knew it headed toward the river, which had its own greenway. Turns out there's a little chunk of surface street between them, where you have to climb this big hill, then drop down to the river.

At the river, you're at about the halfway point of the greenway. It's basically just a sidewalk there though.

I took it north for a while, discovered the popular corner for the city's homeless to hang out, kept moving, and eventually dropped down to a more proper path.

It looked like more path was under construction to the south as well.

There had apparently been some kind of summer camp hike there recently because someone had written all kinds of stuff in sidewalk chalk on the trail. Like "Campers! Do you see the fish?"

This being the fish:

At the north end, the greenway continued through the Sandy Creek Nature Center.

There was some side creek there, and from the bridge, I could see an large, old, abandoned building on the creek. I couldn't get a good look at it though, so I didn't see any good indication of its purpose. It wasn't on any of the maps in the area either. Hmmm...

There were plenty of side trails, but they were all hike-only. It might have been wishful thinking, but it occurred to me that maybe someday Kathryn and I could drive out there and check them out - make a day of it.

At the far north end, the trail just becomes the Sandy Creek Parking Lot, and beyond that, a local road. I backtracked to where I'd originally gotten on, and continued south.

To the south, the trail was even more diverse, crossing various roads, and alternating between purpose-built trail and sidewalks.

It passed through a parking lot at one point, for The Heritage Trail section.

There had been a waterwheel on the river there, way back.

Several different wheels, actually, at different times. They had apparently powered the machinery in the Cook and Brother Confederate Armory across the street.

The building is now the Chicopee Building or something like that. The facade looks like any of the old stacked-stone mill ruins that I've run into way back in the woods, but it's clearly been gutted and renovated several times, and these days, it's probably like any modern building inside.

The trail led through Dudley Park, and there was a side loop down toward the river and back. The park was full of these weird boulder collections.

If they have any significance other than just being decorative, it wasn't clear.

I went under at least 2 trestles too. One looked abandoned, and the other looked like maybe it had been converted to use as a path, but I couldn't really tell from underneath.

Eventually, the trail became a collection of sidewalks with markers at the corners telling you which way to keep going. Then, there weren't any more markers. I wasn't sure if I'd ridden everything or not. I wandered random streets and climbed the same hill 3 or 4 times before finally just backtracking and calling it a day.

When I headed back toward the park, I had to climb up off of the river, and passed another guy on a mountain bike, apparently headed to the park as well. I was pleased that I felt fresh enough to climb strong and pass him, even though I'd ridden close to 30 miles already.

I might not die in the woods during this year's TNGA after all!

Downtown Athens has various pretty good restaurants, and I ended up at Amici's. After a ride around the Oconee NF some years back, we'd eaten at Amici's. Maybe at that one, I don't remember exactly. I liked it, but my brother thought that I only liked it because I was starving. I figured I'd give it another try. Nope. I still liked it, and I wasn't just starving. No accounting for taste, I guess. Not sure which of us is right, but I'll keep eating there.

The drive home seemed interminable. I swear there are 3 times as many red lights on 316 as there were 6 years ago. Sprawl, I guess.

Progress! Marching on.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Dad at Rowlett Creek

So, I've been crashing a lot lately. Four times in the last month and a half. Busted ribs, lots of bruises, some lingering muscle damage to my left shoulder, various cuts and scrapes... But my dad has me beat.

He crashed at Rowlett Creek and broke his arm!

Of course, he broke it way out on 12 too, about as far as you can be from the car.

Heal well Dad. Heal well.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Turner Creek

Today we had a work party up at Bull/Jake, but it was really kind of thrown together at the last minute. It's been raining all week, and it stormed last night. We weren't sure who'd show up, if anyone, so we didn't go for anything too ambitious.

Last month, we'd started working Turner Creek toward the north, so we figured this month, we'd head south and see how far we could get in that direction. With any luck, we'd get to where we'd worked the previous month.

Turned out, we got a decent crew. Debbie and Nancy showed up, of course. They'd recently both driven up to Tennessee together, and both bought new trucks! A lady I'd met once before, named Francine showed up too. She lives off Jess Grizzle road, basically on the way in. I've driven by that road hundreds of times. Another lady showed up too, but I always forget her name. I worked with her husband last month. It seemed like they had an orange Subaru, but she drove up in a yellow one. "New car?" No. Turns out they have 2 of them, one orange, and one yellow! Ha!

There was a tree down partway across the road to the parking lot, so we ran up and cut it way back. By the time we got back to the cars, there were 3 more ladies hanging around. One was a trail runner named Elizabeth. The other two were her daughter and her daughter's friend, both of whom needed community service hours for school. Nice! Second month in a row we've had trail runners at the work parties.

All right!

After carpooling to the top end of the trail, we started working it south.

Right away we noticed that someone had worn in a new line bypassing the first downhill. We talked about covering it with debris, but... actually... Despite being user-created, it was, in fact, a more sustainable line, and we ended up just leaving it.

We broke up into groups of 2 and did that standard nicking, deberming, and restoring turnouts. I was working with the trail-runner's daughter, who's name also Liz (Elizabeth Jr.) Turns out she had a lot in common with Sophie - both in IB, both had taken a bunch of AP classes, both took IB/AP french, both needed community service hours for school, etc. She worked super hard. Like... Super hard. I was worried she might burn out, but no, she kept it going the entire time.

It was incredibly hot though. Actually, more humid than hot. Halfway through, 100% of my clothing was soaked. I didn't even want to get into my truck later.

We got a bunch done but had to knock off when it started thundering. Clear blue sky, but tons of thunder. It was like 11:55 anyway, and we often call it a day at noon, but we felt like we could have gotten more done. Nancy was especially reluctant to go and just kept cleaning up the corner we'd been working on, and finally telling us to go on and she'd catch up.

Back at the trucks, I ate the best apple I've had in forever, some delicious turtle brownies, and some chips. So good. That apple, especially. I got some Big D's Barbecue on the way home to top it all off.

When I got home, I unloaded the truck, showered, and slept for like 4 hours.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Cochran Mill

I wouldn't normally mention a ride at Cochran Mill, but sometimes something crazy happens. That's how it was last time I mentioned it, and that's how it is this time too.

In fact, the story is almost exactly the same:

  • My brother texted a bunch of us to see if anyone wanted to ride.
  • I was the only one who could.
  • I met him after work on Friday.
  • I was following him on the orange loop.
  • I hit something that yanked the bike out from under me and sent me flying.




This time, I pedaled into a rock though. Also, this time, I didn't break any ribs or injure my back. Actually, I may have injured my back, but just a little. Not like last time. Also, unlike last time, my seat was broken, so we had to call it a day.

I just can't seem to keep from crashing. That's 3 times in the last 4 or 5 rides. On the one hand, I think it's God trying to tell me that I CAN crash without breaking ribs, which I was starting to doubt. On the other hand, I don't know what else to take away from it. Maybe that I need to ride with other people more? My following skills are probably to blame for the two crashes at Cochran. The two on the River Loop were new tires and wet roots though.

Whatever it is, I hope I manage to figure it out soon, because this really sucks. I'm having a hard time finding positions to sleep in. I'm just constantly waking up because I've managed to turn in my sleep and lie on some injured part.


Sloppy Floyd State Park

Last weekend I decided to take a break from the bike and walk around a bit. I've been on the bike way too much this year. Really, for the last year and a half, and just generally haven't been exploring as much as I used to. Part of it is trying to just improve/reclaim some fitness. Part of it is "training" (if you want to call it that) for the TNGA. Part of it is just that I get stuck in a rut at times and just want to keep doing what I've been doing.

For whatever reason, I felt like hiking and exploring last weekend, so I got myself up to Sloppy Floyd State Park do some of that. I'd ridden through the park a while back, while exploring that part of Taylor's Ridge, and it looked like fun.

Turned out it was.

I parked in the gravel lot and just kind-of meandered around on the Jenkins Gap and Marble Mine trails, and on the various connectors between them until I figured out where everything was.

The Marble Mine itself was pretty cool.

It looks like it goes way back up into the mountain on the left side, but I didn't follow it. There's a barrier, I didn't have any light, I've never done any caving before, and it didn't seem like a good time to start.

There was a weird little scramble loop up above the mine that I did follow. I figured it might lead up the creek for a while, but it didn't. Just made 2 little loops and petered out.

The "trails" up there are mainly old roads that led to the mine from a couple of different directions, and they still retain the general character of a road. There are some more proper trails too, though some are more arguably doubletrack.

In particular, there are a set of trails that lead up to the Pinhoti and back down.

So, I made that loop too. Most intersections are well signed, but the names on the signs don't really match the names on the map, so it can be confusing. Also, some of the Pinhoti signs look really similar, and there are 2 intersections that are easy to confuse with one another. But, it wasn't that bad, and I managed to figure it all out eventually.

The southernmost trail leading up-to/down-from the Pinhoti is super, super steep. It has signs indicating such, and they're not kidding. I had to take quick little half steps, lean way forward, and keep moving to keep from slipping. The tread was mainly decomposed granite too, so there were tons of little marbly rocks underfoot. It was nervewracking to say the least, and I was glad to be off of it.

The park really has 2 sets of trails - one set up on the mountain, and another set down around the lakes.

The whole area was originally industrial. There was the mine, and roads and stuff to support the mine. Presumably when it was abandoned, the state bought the land and turned it into a park. I haven't done any research yet to figure out who operated the mine, but I'm sure the info is out there. The lakes weren't originally there. There was a spring though, which is now below the upper lake. The road leading through the park runs along a dam between the two lakes. I guess all of that was built when the park was created.

After exploring most of the trails up on the mountain, I ended up at the upper lake. Then, I found another connector leading back over to the mountain. It was apparently the main drag back in the day because it had various ruins along it that must have been related to the mining operation way back.

These looked like storage bins.

I've seen similar at modern facilities.

Across the road there's a privy for the nearby campground now.

But an old map shows that there was a building there at one point. I'm guessing it was the office.

Further up the road, there's a shack of some kind that isn't on any map.

No idea. Old bathroom, maybe?

After exploring all of that, I ended up back at the upper lake again.

There's a boardwalk across part of it now, but in antiquity there was a road in almost that exact spot, that led along what's now the lakeshore and then became that connector with the ruins on it. It's amazing how different it is now from how it must have been.

There's a trail, with a couple of spurs down around the lower lake too.

But, I didn't have the energy to explore it too. My shoes had been giving me some trouble too. They have plenty of tread left, but the insole is kind-of separating and the layers slip around on each other. This is garbage and basically causes the same problems that non-barefoot shoes cause. It might be time for a new pair.

At any rate, I didn't have the energy or feet left to keep hiking, so I made it back to the car and went home. I'd gotten almost all the way home when I realized that I hadn't eaten anything. There's a good Mexican restaurant just down the street though, called Rancho el Molcajete, which is generally very good, so I went there. I had no idea until I walked in, that it was karaoke night! Everybody was singing songs that I'd never heard before. But, they all knew them really well. I love that kind of thing. Every now and then you discover this whole separate world that you don't know anything about.