Monday, July 26, 2021


I so enjoyed my Mulberry Gap visit a few weeks ago, that I was back up last weekend.

I didn't run into a half-dozen people that I know this time though. It was all business. I was on the trail within 20 minutes or so of arriving.

Right before I left though, I noticed a cargo van full of people leaving, towing a trailer with like 20 bikes on it. According to Kate, Jen Braddock was doing a skills clinic all weekend, and that was the clinicees, headed out to P2 for part 1. Part 2 was jumps and drops, which I imagine was held on-site at the local flow trail, if it didn't get rained out. I almost signed up for the jumps and drops clinic a few years back. Not that I can't jump or drop AT ALL, but I could certainly benefit from some proper training. I lack a dropper post though, lowering your post is always step one, I paid good money to figure out exactly where my post should be... maybe later. Two years have passed and I'm still saying "maybe later."

I planned on riding the Bearhoti loop - up CCC Camp road to Holly Creek Gap, left up FS68 to the top of Bear Creek, down Bear Creek, P1 and P2 back to MGap. A modern classic. After last week's Mill Creek sufferfest, I'd hit the local trails a few times, suffered equally once, and felt great the other time. I really wanted to see how I'd feel in the mountains.

There's an old chimney off CCC Camp Road.

Old Chimney on CCC Camp Road

If I've ever noticed it before, then I don't remember.

Right before it starts to kick up, I noticed a rider behind me. Older guy, enduro-looking rig, baggy shorts. How the heck...? Ahh, wait, do I detect a faint whine? Yes. Yes, that's the faint whine of an e-bike. Mystery solved.

"What route are you doing?" He asked.


"Me too. Do you mind if I follow you for a bit?"

"Not at all, though I think I might be following you, if you're on that thing!"

We laughed, and talked a while. His name was Andy. I forget where he was from though. He'd ridden everything up there at one point or other, but it was spread over 15 years, and he only had half of a sense of where everything was. I'm not sure what his plan was, other than to hope to run into somebody, but I didn't ask, and I guess it worked out for him!

We rode up to Holly Creek Gap together, then on up the mountain. He'd pull ahead, then wait wherever there was an option.

I felt great up to Holly Creek Gap, but someone flicked the suffering switch there, just as they had at FS17 the previous weekend. It does kick up right there, but I've ridden it so many many many times. I know how it ought to feel. I was well fed, well rested. I could hear my heart in my head. My heart rate wasn't way up, but it really felt like it was, suddenly. It kind of came and went too. It wasn't consistent. And it didn't vary with any obvious thing, like the grade, or whether I was sitting or standing. No idea, but it was uncomfortable.

At Barnes Creek Falls there was a gaggle of riders on various kinds of bikes, hanging out, talking to Andy. A family was checking out the falls, which was really raging after the recent rain. I tried to get a photo, but my wet phone and wet fingers just would not cooperate. I didn't recognize any of the guys. They were semi-fascinated with Andy's e-bike. He took off up the hill toward the overlook at astonshing speed.

"Now you do that!"

"Yeah! Here I go..."

[takes off up the hill toward the overlook at boring speed]

The overlook was the place to be.

Bear Creek Overlook

There were two vans full of people taking photos of the view, and each other. They spoke exclusively Spanish. Four guys on motorcycles passed me on the climb and stopped right before I got there. A USFS guy pulled up in a USFS truck too.

I tried to ask the family if they had seen a guy on a bike ride by, but I confused the spanish word for "look" (mirar) for the spanish word for "see" (ver), so I ended up asking "Did you look a guy on a bicycle recently?" instead of "Did you see a guy on a bicycle recently?" and it was super confusing. My spanish is terrible. I'm piggybacking off of portuguese. "To see" is the same in both, but "to look" is different, and I confuse which is different... Turns out they all spoke perfect southern accent, 3 generations raised in Georgia english, and I felt pretty silly. They hadn't seen Andy though, only some lady going the other way. I felt confident he was up the road though, so I wasn't really worried.

I talked to the USFS guy a bit too. I'd never seen him before. He'd only been on the Chattahoochee for a few years. I wonder if any of the folks I used to know are still around. George Bain was still the Forest Supervisor when I was active with them. I want to say there have been two new Supervisors since then, and I never met either of them... The guy I talked to said he had been putting up Gypsy Moth traps all over the place. I'd seen a few of those up above Helen years ago, and only recently learned what they were. We spent a few minutes pointing out different ridges and mountains and the Cohutta Overlook. For only being on the forest a few years, he'd really gotten to know it pretty well.

I met Andy at the Upper Bear Creek Lot. He'd seen the UFSF guy and didn't want to hang around the overlook. He was under the impressions that e-bikes aren't actually allowed anywhere in the forest. It occurred to me that I don't really know. I'm not sure what the rules really are. Street-legal vehicles are allowed on the roads. So, lots of motorcycles are allowed. ATV's and side-by-sides typically aren't, but I wonder if street-legal ones are. Is there such thing as a street-legal side-by-side? E-bikes are street legal. Are they, therefore, allowed on forest roads? I really don't know, and I'm too lazy to look it up. I know people ride them everywhere, and I doubt most people even think twice about it, kind of like the scooters on the sidewalks in Atlanta.

At any rate, we headed down Bear Creek, which was damp, as compared to the road. It had, apparently, rained earlier that day, but the roads had been dry. The trail wasn't "wet" per-se, but definitely "damp". You wouldn't want to ride too slowly across an angled root, for example.

He was like "Go on ahead, I think I can figure it out from here." But I was happy to stop and wait at intersections, if only to give me a chance to try to figure out why my chest was so uncomfortable, and see if taking a break helped.

The switchbacks were extra tricky in the damp, but I managed them. I sketched somewhere in there, but didn't have to walk anything.

My phone was barely cooperating with my wet fingers, but I did manage to get a single photo of my companion.


Just the one though. My phone was virtually useless.

We bombed Bear Creek. I tried to get a photo of the poplar, but it was hopeless. Somewhere in there, I sketched in one of the creek crossings and had to walk. Just in the wrong gear, it turned out.

I felt great going downhill, so heart rate is definitely a factor, but it's not the whole story. I felt reasonably OK climbing on P1, but the suffering eventually set in, triggered by no obvious thing. Throttling back didn't help. Sometimes it would go away on a short descent. Sometimes it wouldn't.

I considered taking Shakerag back to MGap, but then realized that I'd already instictively turned right to head up to P2, and I'm not going to turn around, I mean, come on.

Except for feeling terrible, I had an easy time of the climb. Like I think I climbed it reasonably fast. I felt like I was keeping a good cadence, and never had to just sit back and grind it out. Same for the grasstrack. Aside from feeling like I was suffering, I wasn't. I wasn't breathing hard. Like earlier, I could hear my heart, and it wasn't beating super fast. It was weird.

The P2 downhill was great. I realized I hadn't ridden that bike on it yet. This struck me as funny, as it was immediately after getting beaten to pieces on the tail end of P2 during the 2019 TNGA that I decided that I must, urgently, acquire a new bike, with specific improvements to make trails like P2 more comfortable to ride. Having done that, and now having tested it, I'm happy to report success. Despite feeling terrible, I apparently set various PR's during the ride, but my shifter started acting up about halfway down P2, and I was stuck with only my top 3 gears, so no PR's on P2, but it was a drastic improvement in comfort over the old bike.

I fiddled with my derailleur and shifter while waiting, but I couldn't get it to work. I was in 1 gear down from the top, and that was it. It was good enough to get me back to my car, but painfully slow for someone riding next to me, so I eventually sent Andy on his way.

I think I saw Jen driving out as I was riding in. I'm not 100% sure though. I did pass 2 riders struggling with that last kick over Mulberry Gap proper, one of whom was walking. That hill is always tough at the end of a long day.

Back a the Barn

Back at the barn, I just sat there for like 10 minutes, feeling like I'd just ridden ORAMM or something, until finally I didn't. At that point, I mosied over to the office. This time, I'd ponied up the extra dinero for a shower and dinner, and took full advantage of both. When you're filthy, a shower makes you feel like a new man. But, when you've been soaking in your own sweat for hours, and only filthy because random stuff has gotten stuck to the water that's just naturally trying to pour off of your body, the shower just makes you feel about the same as you have been feeling. Wet. Hot and wet. It's the towling off that makes you feel like a new man. Oh yeah. Towling off.

Dinner was brisket, if I remember correctly, and it was pretty good. It was the potatoes that I really remember though, and the bread. I guess I was hurting for carbs.

Me, Andy, and Kate did the jibber-jabber for like an hour, and it turns out Andy's a doctor. How crap I felt came up, and he encouraged my to get it checked out for real. I'd actually just gotten my insurance situation straigtened out the day before, and unless I felt miraculously better on the ride, planned on going in either the following day if the KP urgent care place was open on Sunday, or Monday if they weren't.

As I didn't feel miraculously better, I went in Sunday. I expected them to take an EKG, maybe an x-ray, and refer me to a cardiologist. Oh, no, no. If you mention "chest" to anyone at a medical facility, visibly distressed nurses hustle you into a bed, attach all manner of equipment to you, draw half your blood, run a million tests, and watch you overnight. Long story short... I'm not having some long drawn out heart attack, I haven't had a heart attack, my arteries aren't clogged, all my numbers look great, my xray looks normal except for old broken ribs... Nothing is immediately killing me. It's a mystery. It also doens't appear to be some obvious GI problem that seems like it's in my chest because GI problems sometimes do. No idea. While I was in the hospital, I mostly felt fine, and only felt like what I was there for a few times. Each time, it correlated with a sudden jump in BP, like from 118 to 149. But, I got a BP tester and took my BP over and over at home, and my blood pressure goes all over the place, and I couldn't correlate feeling the discomfort with anything. So weird. Anyway, I've got a follow-up tomorrow, and I'm sure there will be more.

A friend of mine diagnosed the source of the problem, quite confidently, as "birthdays".

Ha ha, very funny.

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