Monday, August 16, 2021

Noontootla Figure-8

A couple of weeks back, I tried, again, to hit some non-system trails in the greater Blue Ridge WMA area, but again, just couldn't escape the weather. It rained a bit on the way up, but I didn't totally abandon the effort because by the time I got on Camp Wahsega Road, it looked like it hadn't yet rained there at all. Maybe I'd get lucky.

I parked at the Mt. Zion church across from Camp Merrill and took off up towards Cooper Gap pretty quickly. There were a bunch of other cars in the lot, and even more parked along either side of the road, so I figured I might run into to some folks as the day wore on.

Turned out yes. About 1/3rd of the way up to Cooper Gap, I was met by a dozen or more riders coming down on a variety of bikes, spread out by a minute or so each. In addition to them, I got passed by several vehicles heading up, and several more coming down.

It was a busy day in the mountains.

I'd felt comparatively good the previous time I'd been out there. Not fantastic, but a great deal better than any ride I'd done in July. I hoped to have another day like the last one, and as I hung a left at Cooper Gap, it was looking like I might. I felt like I'd expect to feel after climbing that particular climb. No suffering. Maybe a little fast, even.

There were 6 or 8 cars parked at Cooper Gap too, and some folks getting a camp fire going in one of the AT camp sites there.

FS42 was super dry.


Again, it looked like it hadn't rained there at all.

There was, surprisingly, nobody parked at the old quarry.

Cooper Gap Quarry

As I headed west, the road got damper, and here and there you could tell that it had rained earlier in the day, but looking up in the woods, it looked pretty dry. Like, it would have been fine to ride Horse Gap or Ace of Spades. Somewhere in there, I passed, and exchanged pleasantries with a couple who appeared to have hiked out on the AT, jogged over to the road, and were now hiking back. Somewhere past them, it got a good bit wetter, and the wind was blowing water out of the trees all over me. I could never tell if it was actually raining or if it was just tree drips, but I got pretty well soaked on the way over to Mauldin Gap.

Then it cleared up a bit.

At Puncheon Gap, there was leaf litter on the ground.

Poplar Litter at Puncheon Gap

Poplar seems to turn yellow before anything else, and I always keep an eye out for the first Poplar leaves to fall. Those were the first I'd noticed this year. I declare that it's officially fall! Or, at least, at Puncheon Gap it is.

It actually rained a bit between Puncheon and Winding Stair Gaps, but then stopped and was even pretty dry at Winding Stair. There were a ton of people there too. Like 10 cars and a tow truck. I couldn't tell who the tow truck was going to tow, but I did notice that it was a truck from Grizzle Towing. Grizzle is a name I've seen in and around Dahlonega for 20 years. The Old Grizzle Store is at the corner of Nimblewill and Hwy 52. On Memorial and Veterans' Days, there are many Grizzles on the crosses that they put out all through town. If I got stuck at Winding Stair, and the tow truck that came to rescue me had the name Grizzle on the side of it, I'd feel pretty reassured.

Many of the cars that I saw throughout the day seemed out of place. For example, there was this BMW in a camp site at WSG.

BMW at Winding Stair Gap

Later, I got passed by two Mercedes Benzes and an Audi on Noontootla Creek Road. And not like SUVs. They were all luxury/sport cars. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Just past Winding Stair it had recently poured. I could even hear distant thunder. I checked the Ball Mountain Ridge approach trail and it was wet with a slip layer. It wouldn't have been impossible to ride, but I didn't want to spend my opportunity on those conditions, and it would only be better for the trail to get fewer passes. So, I put it off.


And it turned out that it was probably wise that I did, because it sprinkled on me off-and-on as I rode up over Springer Mountain, and the thunder behind me just grew louder the entire time.

I didn't set a PR coming down off of Buzzard Roost, but I'll bet that I came close. This bike is feels totally comfortable at terminal velocity in these mountains. I love it!

I hung a right at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church...

Mt Pleasant Baptitst Church

...and continued past the Bill Bailey place.

Cloudy Bill Bailey

I had, so far, not experienced the slightest bit of cardiac discomfort. I'd felt strong all day. Good lungs. Good legs. Good heart. I wasn't just sitting on hoping to recover on the downhills. I was actually on the gas, most of the time. I felt so good that I was able to really enjoy the ride. Not just the movement, but the trees, and the rocks, and even the weather. Just being out in it. It's amazing how much more you can appreciate all of that when your body feels good.

I may have mentioned this before at some point, but in the summer, when it's sunny, the dense leaves cast dark shadows. When it's rainy, it's just generally dark. So, in either case, when you come up over a hill, those bright white churches really beam. Photos don't really do it justice.



Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church

It looks a little drab in the photo, but that's just a foggy lens and automatic digital color balance. In real life, it's striking.

I hung a right on Noontootla Creek Road, and struggled to get my phone to work well enough to get a photo of anything during the climb. The creek was raging, and really looked awesome, but it was actively raining most of the time, and there was just no way to get the touch screen to respond.

As I mentioned before, I got passed by multiple out-of-place-looking vehicles on the way up.

I didn't see any wildlife to speak of. No deer. No snakes. Very few birds even. That's been a bit of a trend this summer. Not much wildlife.

Again, I felt great climbing, I even felt strong through the kicks at the top. At Winding Stair, it was somehow totally dry. So patchy.

I set another PR coming down off of Winding Stair. I don't think I even touched the brakes until the first turn after PR Gap. There were some hikers at PR Gap, actually. I saw lots of hikers up there that day, I guess.

I crushed it over Little Bitch Gap with no trouble at all. There was some event going on at Camp Wahsega and it made me nostalgic for those first couple of Fools Golds. I finally started getting a little weary climbing from Camp Wahsega to where I was parked, but somehow still managed a PR on that section, even after sitting up.



Mt Zion

And that was it.

I felt DECIDEDLY better on that ride than I had for over a month. My best guess is that I had some kind of illness, the only notable symptom of which was that I'd feel like that specific kind of crap at times. Perhaps because blood vessels wouldn't dilate as much as they otherwise would under various circumstances. Maybe? It seems like that's the kind of thing your body might do when its under attack, basically to make you rest. I don't know for sure though. Maybe Kirk would know...

At any rate, I packed it up, grabbed more delicious dinner at Ray's in Dawsonville, and noticed this funny sign in the bathroom.

Urinal Sign

Heh, yeah. Boys.

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