Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Vinings Estates and Thompson Park

Local rides aren't usually worth journaling about, but today's was definitely an exception.

I planned on taking the Vinings Estates Trails over to the Silver Comet, spinning a lap around North Cooper Lake Park, and heading back home, but I kept getting sidetracked.

A year back, a nearby church clearcut a long stretch along Pebblebrook to expand its already sprawling cemetery, roughed out some dirt roads, and pretty much just called it a day. I figured they'd eventually pave them, but they never did. I was passing by. It was dirt. I mean, come on. Sidetracked.

Next, I remembered there was a right-of-way leading down from Pebblebrook to the east that I've never checked out before. There's woods for days to either side, but sadly no obvious trails, and it was clearly posted. The bottom end dumped me out at a point between two houses. It wasn't posted, but I'm pretty sure I rode through someone's yard, or at least, down the property line. Well, now I know. Again, sidetracked.

Along Nickajack I saw 12 people. Twelve. I've only ever run into anyone else out there twice - once a lady and her dog, and another time some runners from Whitefield. I guess anyone who's remotely outdoorsy is getting stir crazy these days. The middle of the woods would seem like a safe place to be socially distant, but not if everybody's doing it! Ha!

Gary Chapman once told me a story about how he and some friends souped up an old junk thunderbird and got it hopelessly stuck down where the right-of-way crosses Nickajack Creek, just west of Whitefield Academy, and eventually just abandoned it in place. They even took to calling the sandbar down there Thunderbird Beach. Every time I pass through, I look for it, but I haven't seen it yet.

I did notice this today though:

Sadly, it looks more like a truck than a Thunderbird, but I'll ask him next time I see him. What are the odds that there'd be a second abandoned vehicle in the location he described abandoning his?! But, there you have it. It's kind of a miracle that I managed to spot it too, through the woods, on the opposite (north) side of the creek.

I found this insulator walking out too.

There are still a dozen or so old powerlines running along the Silver Comet corridor with these on them.

Dangit. Sidetracked again.

I made it over to Thompson Park, spun a loop up through the upper lot and, since there were no kids in the playground, came back down and rode over the big rock. When I was up top though, I noticed a second playground up there. I'd never even noticed that there was a road leading off to the right, let alone that there was a playground there. But, with no leaves on the trees, I could see a car parked up there and the playground equipment clear as day. As many times as I've ridden up that hill, it had been a snake, it would have bitten me, many times over.

The last time I crossed the railroad tracks on Nickajack Road, there were people out trainspotting, and I noticed that the gravel on the uphill side looked a lot more like a road than just standard railroad gravel. It even had two depressions in it, like the tire tracks of a vehicle. I remembered that as I approached the tracks, and figured I'd check it out. Yep, hard packed gravel, definitely a service road of some kind.

And, wouldn't you know it, there was a trail leading off into the woods between it and Thompson Park. A well-marked trail, no less. There were plenty of super-old white blazes on the trees, but there were also tons of those same little white circles and pin flags that mark the trails on the north side of Nickajack. All right!

The trail was basically a big lollypop, and the stick led directly up to that upper playground I'd noticed earlier. Ha! And I give Sophie grief about her situational awareness...

One really weird feature of the trail was whatever this is:

It's kind of down near the tracks. It looks like some kind of assembly area. Church? Scouts? Klan?! Considering how long ago it appears to have been abandoned, those are all equally likely. I'll have to see if the internet knows anything about it. If not, Gary might.

There was a little trickle of a waterfall near the tracks too.

And further down, the road crossed the tracks at a legitimate, paved crossing, and there was a bit of a maintenance yard, with a shack labeled "Nickajack". I wonder how many such yards and shacks line the tracks of the world, way down where nobody ever sees them.

I found several more dead ends, ended up on that same trail again, and took it out a different way, where I noticed this warning:

Yikes! Glad I didn't run into it.

I checked the time, and really needed to book it back home if I wanted to get back in the vicinity of dinner time. So, that's what I did. No more exploring, and I never made it to North Cooper Lake. Ehh... Adventure! Right?

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