Monday, September 27, 2021

Cool Springs Park

I had reasonably decent plans for today, but as my plans are prone to do, they just didn't materialize. I couldn't get out of the house until almost 3PM, and that basically just left local, short trails on the menu. Fortunately, I'd recently discovered that many local, short trails have popped up around town in the past few years, and I randomly picked one - Cool Springs Park. It's technically in Gainesville, but it's really off of exit 17 just north of Cumming. All right, I know where that is, let's go!

First things first though - gas and food. I hadn't yet eaten lunch. I tried my local Waffle House, only to find that they were in to-go-only mode, as seems to happen fairly often there. The one on Atlanta Road was open though, not terribly busy, and was almost as good as the one down the street. My eggs were slightly runny, but not runny enough to send back.


The drive up was uneventful except that the changes to the I-285/Hwy-400 intersection are now in-effect, and everybody is confused as to what lane to be in. I survived that though, and the rest of the drive up was legitimately uneventful.

Way back, I lived off of exit 14, but I'd go up to exit 17 periodically. There are a couple of strip malls up there, and they always seem to have different shops in them. Today I noticed this Japanese restaurant:


Man, the names people can get away with.

The park was a little confusing to get to. You kind of have to curl around part of Lake Lanier and it feels like you're going in a circle. The loop does, however, eventually, deposit you at the park.

Cool Springs Park Sign

There was just about nobody else there when I arrived.

I say "just about" because there were 2 baseball fields, and a couple of folks playing in one of them. It didn't look like a team per-se, just a bunch of locals meeting up to play. We did a ton of that when I was a teenager. My Dad got us together to play softball nearly every weekend for years and years. My brothers, cousins, our friends, their friends, their friends families, random neighborhood kids... It was great. It seemed like that kind of game.

The trailhead was semi-confusing. There was this pavilion thing:

Cool Springs Park Trailhead

But there wasn't any sidewalk leading to it, and off the back side was a bit of a drop. Like if you were an inexperienced mountain biker, you might endo dropping off of it.

To add even more confusion, on the right side of the pavilion is that red "Trails closed for your safety" sign. Were the trails closed? I hadn't read anything online about that. It hadn't rained lately. There was no indication that the trails were closed other than the sign itself. There were tire tracks leading onto and off of them. Upon closer inspection, the sign was permanantly affixed. It couldn't easily be flipped from closed to open or anything. I eventually deduced that it and the sign below it "High School Mountain Bike Practice ... at these dates and times ..." must be together. I.e "Trails closed for your safety DURING High School Mountain Bike Practice ... at these dates and times ..."

The difference in color between the signs, and the lack of any "during" really threw me off.

I figured that was the correct interpretation, got dressed, and got onto the trail.

The first bit was a long pump track. Or, at least, it was ostensibly a pump track. It was more like a skills track. There were definitely sections you could pump, but there were also long sections between them that I lost too much speed in to pump over the next obstacle. There were 2 or 3 jumps that looked like they might have been pretty fun at one point, rain and lack of attention have worn the lips away. I did manage to clear one of them, but the others were more like hills to roll over than proper tabletops.

After a couple of laps on the pump track, I headed off into the woods. The trail was directional, and well marked.

Trail Signage

The trail cross-cut various old raodbeds, and it looked like they'd been used, historically, as a dumping ground. There were piles of household debris here and there, but the most interesting thing was this old VW hulk:

VW Hulk

Crammed down in that old roadbed.

The trail itself was pretty well constructed. It remineded me of the trails at Allatoona. Pretty fast, pretty twisty, kind-of rooty, a little rocky... Definitely a good trail for a high school MTB team to practice on. It had a bit of everything, but it wasn't murderously steep anywhere.

About halfway around there was a side trail: Jackrabbit Pass.

Jackrabbit Pass Trail Sign

That trail clearly got way less use than the rest of the system. It was rougher, there was more leaf and stick debris on it, and had more little kicks and techie bits than the main trail too.

This was the overall character of the main trail though:

Fox-RaceFace XC Trail

Slightly benched, lots of natural dips, good surface, but not manicured.

Most of the way around, there was another bit of notable debris.

Ford Tailgate

Looked like a perfectly good tailgate. I couldn't immediately see why it wasn't still in use.

I took the first lap easy to get my bearings, then pushed it a bit on the second lap to see how well the trail flowed. Again, it felt a lot like Allatoona. It was tight, but you could really move if you stayed off of the brakes. I also passed a guy and his two daughters on the second lap, which made me more confident that the trail was, in fact, open, and I might have interpreted the signs correctly.

The only real downside to the trail, and the park in general is something that someone mentioned online in a review. The guy online described it as having sort-of "industrial" feel to it. I didn't understand when I read that at first, but I understand now. The park, and the trail both definitely have an "all-business" feel to them. Nothing is especially scenic. The pump track is in a field of patchy grass, overgrown around the obstacles. It doesn't affect the ride, but its not pretty. Same thing around the ball fields. The fields themselves are really well maintained, but outside the fences, there's not really a lawn. It's just whatever grew back after it was initially graded. Or, at least, that's how it struck me, and that's how I remember it. When you first get on the trail, and towards the end too, the trees are short and dense. It's like it used to be clear-cut there, stuff started growing back, and it's early in the procession. Further back in the woods, its later in the procession, but it still has that "dirty jungle" feel to it. Like it had been clear-cut 20 years ago and still hasn't figured out what kind of forest it wants to be. Again, none of this affects ones ability to rip singletrack, or play softball, but if you're there to enjoy the forest, or the landscape architecture, you'll be disappointed.

Still, I got in some good miles, and it was plenty of fun to ride, so I'd give it at least 3 stars. Maybe even 3 and a half.

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