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...


  1. Nice post. it is very interesting and informative. Thank you for the sharing.

    wood tools

  2. These ways are very simple and very much useful, as a beginner level these helped me a lot thanks fore sharing these kinds of useful and knowledgeable information. family educations

  3. Ijin..info investasi lahan keluarga di San Diego Hills memorial Park bebas biaya perawatan dan kebersihan selamanya klik fly fishing backpacking stovearchery clothing

  4. When you're tired, you want to relax after a stressful working hours, you need to have time to take care of the kids active.play exciting flash games. Thanks you for sharing! fly fishing reels ice fishingbackpacking tips

  5. Thank you for such a sweet tutorial - all this time later, I've found it love the end result. I appreciate the time you spent sharing your skills. camping checklist fly fishing adviser fly fisher man

  6. You need to kill time, you need entertainment. Refer to our website. hope you get the most comfort. Thanks you for sharing!shoot damaged arrow Practice Good Form backpacking saws