From Trace Ridge parking lot->Lower Trace->North
Ridge->Never Ending Road->Fletcher Creek->Reservoir
Road->back to the Jeep.
What's this all about? Well the mtbr nc forum has a picture game going where you find this guy where the last rider stashed him, take him on a ride, take a photo where you stash him next, then report back where he is now. Simple.
Well, yesterday I picked up the gnome at the swinging bridge over North Mills River and we went for a ride. I had no real plan of action for once I had him on my back though. How about a few loops around the North Mills River area then? Perfect. First was North Mills->Yellow Gap->5051. A great warm-up. I then took Fisherman's, crossed the river (saw a family I would run into three or four times for the first time), then climbed Lower Trace to Wash Creek.
At the first big horse-hole on Wash I saw 4 hourses parked right in the trail. I stopped then called forward 'Hello?' and these two steadied the beasts as I walked by. I got a heart-felt 'Thank You' for knowing how to deal with horses in the woods then we struck up a conversation. I had just met the head of the local equestrian trail club, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Tom Thomas:
He was very keen to the idea that equestrians and cyclists stay out of a pissing match. 'If we start closing trails to horses, or to bikes, we all lose.' No truer words have been spoken Tom. Thanks for taking a moment to talk. (I should have had them pose with the gnome...)Next was 5001->Bear Branch.
I love the Bear Branch loop and don't do it often enough. The climb slowing ascends through an old pine stand and the descent is a fast, wide, and ummm..... FAST! The Stage Race had obviously been routed through making it exceptionally fast, too. I got to the bottom, saw the family again, then turned onto 5000 heading to Spencer.
Even with the 3-5 pound concrete buddy on my back I cleaned ALL of Spencer for the first time in forever. I tried to find someplace along the way to drop him off but no place seemed right so Trace was next. Trace is in HORRIBLE shape at the top and I almost went down hard when, at high speed, I couldn't get out of a runoff rut. Well, I pulled it off and flew all the way to the parking lot.
I saw the family again (I should have taken a photo with then and the gnome at this point), stopped by the Jeep for some food and drink, then was headed up the Never Ending Road to Fletcher. I cannot recall the last time I climbed NER and it took MUCH longer than I had expected to get to Spencer/Fletcher.
At the top I tried again to find a suitable home for Samford the Gnome but was unsuccessful. Fletcher was next and is in the best shape I've ever seen it. The brand new trail work has made it super fast and flowy almost like a back-woods Greenslick!
When I got to the Spencer/Fletcher/Middle Fork intersection I knew it was time to drop the gnome. My next stop was to be the Jeep so he had to find a new home. Just past the intersection I noticed a beautiful fern field that was turning bright gold. About 25 feet off the trail I saw this unique stump and decided it was a perfect place for him to hang out until the next person takes him on an adventure.
There were small birds chirping and flying in all directions, squirrels darting about, chipmunks sprinting, and all sorts of other Disney-like woodland creatures doing their thing. Samford is in good company at his new residence. Thanks for getting out Samford! Great ride! Oh yeah, next was the short but annoying climb, the vastly improved high-speed rocket ride to the reservoir road, and the climb back to the Jeep. The droid malfunctioned so I don't have mileage/altitude stats but I'm guessing about 20 miles. A fun day in the woods for sure!