Monday, July 6, 2020

Payne's Creek

Way back in the mid 2000's, IMBA trailbuilding really started taking off - stacked loops, grade reversals, rolling dips, outsloped trail, half-backslope, etc. These strategies had demonstrated their worth, and Georgia was really starting to get on the bandwagon. One of the first trails that was purpose-built during this new era (well, new at the time) was Payne's Creek. I remember hearing about it, and being like "Yeah! I can't wait to ride that!" only to find that it was waaaay up I-85 out by the South Carolina border, and they'd only completed about 7 miles of trail. So, I put it on "the list" and kept checking back. Eventually they completed another 2 miles, but still, it was under 10 total miles, and there was so much else to do... I never made it out there.

But, then, somehow, a few weeks ago, I woke up with the urge to drive all the way out there and ride it. I can't really explain it. I think it was nostalia, really. Long ago, when trails were few and far between, riding one was an all-day experience. The ride was part of it, but so was getting out of the house all day, seeing strange new parts of the world. I got a taste of that when I was in Texas a few months ago. Maybe I've yearned for it since. I guess that's what it was about.

At any rate, I was really excited to drive 2 hours to ride 10 miles of trail. So, I packed up the truck and did just that.

And, right away, Adventure!

Before I even got on the interstate, I got stuck in traffic while this 18-wheeler trailer burned in front of me.

Trailer Fire

You can't see any flames in this photo, but that steady stream of water was absolutely necessary to suppress them.

You might also notice that the sky is super hazy. That's because the dust that blows this way from the Sahara has been particularly dusty this year. It happens every year, but this year it's been worse than usual. Which, I guess is a good, overall summary for 2020 - worse than usual.

The drive out was uneventful. I couldn't remember the last time I'd taken I-85 that far out, so the sights were satisfyingly unfamiliar.

In the vicinity of Payne's Creek, I noticed this really cool old house/store with its really cool old yellow roof.

Old House

Across the road was a civil-war era cemetery.

F.M. Cole Civil War Cemetery Arch Grave of Rev. F.M. Cole

...where a church once stood.

F.M. Cole Church Site Marker

See! This is what I'm talking about. It's not just the ride. You run into neat stuff along the way.

Oh! Also! Along the side of the road, there were dozens of campaign signs, for the local mayor or something, I forget. I forget his name too, but what I remember is that the signs were just his name, and the silhouette of an AR-15 below it. Ha! Now that's what you see when you drive out to the middle of east Jesus! I imagine the candidate is running on a protect-the-2nd-ammendment platform, so it probably makes sense. Whatever the deal, it really got my attention, which is the idea, I guess!

At the trailhead there was a group of riders all sprawled out in the lot behind the open trunk of an SUV, talking about all kinds of mountain-bike stuff. I was about to say hi when a guy, separate from that group, rode by and said hi to me instead. He lived nearby, and this was his hometown trail. He knew it well, so I got some good info from him about it. He asked me about the various Atlanta trails too. He'd always heard that Blanket's Creek is great, but kept putting off the drive out there. I loved how similar our mindsets were. I hope my finally driving out to Payne's Creek motivated him to finally drive out to Blanket's.

The trail though!

It was like this:

Paynes Creek Trail Shred 1 Paynes Creek Trail Shred 2


It was all those IMBA terms I used above to describe it. It flowed like Jackrabbit. I kept wanting to press my pace, and found myself having to back off on the gas, over and over. It did seem a little rooty in places, but not in a bad way. Overall, it was much like riding Dwelling, with about twice the distance, a little less elevation, and less rock.

There are also lots of great views of Lake Hartwell.

Lake Hartwell

Though sometimes you have to go a little off trail to get to the edge of the water.

Fantastic trail! Super fast and flowy. I'm not sure if it's worth the drive all the way out there from Atlanta, unless you're in the specific mood that I was in, but it is definitely worth the drive if you live within an hour or so.

After shredding all that singletrack, I mosied around the park itself for a while. There's a boat launch.

Paynes Creek Boat Launch

(actually, there are two of them)

There's a beach:

Paynes Creek Beach

(I think there are actually two of those as well)

And there are a gazillion campsites. At one point, apparently, there were at least twice as many campsites. If you look across the road from any given campsite, you'll see an abandoned one back in the woods a bit. Tons of this kind of thing:

Old Campsite

I'm not sure what motivated the downsizing, but it left ruins, and I like ruins, so yay?

I scared the hell out of a park ranger on my way back to the car. There's this one road where you go screaming downhill, around a fairly sharp curve, and as I went screaming downhill, around said curve, there was a park ranger coming the other direction. I was tucked way back, with my knee out, swung through the apex, and I didn't even come within 2 feet of the center line on the way out, but to him, it must have looked like I was going to end up in his lane. He slammed on his brakes and lurched off of the road. I gave him a sort-of puzzled look and just caught a glipmse of him grinning and sighing as I sped by. Poor guy.

Before I'd left that morning, I'd noticed another trailsystem about halfway back home from Payne's Creek - "The Fox Trails" or something like that, near Commerce, GA. If I had time, I figured I'd hit them on the way back. It seemed like I'd have time, so I hit the road, and pulled into a Racetrack in Commerce for some gas. I hadn't noticed the sky during the drive, but while I was pumping gas, I felt a cool breeze from the west, and heard a faint rumble. Hmm...

Walking to the edge of the lot, I could see darker sky in that direction. Then the wind started picking up. After a quick check of the app, it seemed like I wouldn't be doing any more riding that day.

Rain Coming In


By the time I'd grabbed a snack inside, it had started to rain big fat, pelting drops, and the wind was really kicking. I got back to my truck just barely in time to keep from getting beaten and soaked. Traffic was moving 35 miles per hour for most of the way home through it. There were 2 upsides though: my bike got really, really clean, and it washed all of that dust out of the air.

No comments:

Post a Comment