Sunday, June 27, 2010

Like being underwater on another planet

I just walked in from yet another excellent day of riding my bike in the Pisgah National Forest. Mike B. and Jody F. rallied at my house at 7ish and we were on the bikes at North Mills River campground at 8:24 headed for 1206->Laurel Mountain->Pilot Connector->Pilot->*walk*M2C->BRP->Big Creek->Reservoir Rd->Lower Trace->Fisherman's. One of the classics.
The pace up 1206 was a bit over my head and I needed a significant cooldown/breather/snack at Yellow Gap but once the dude on the motorcycle showed up and started talking our ears off it was time to hit the singletrack. Mike and Jody's pace slowed just enough once we hit the dirt that I kept them in sight for the entire trip to the meeting log. Jody had a spectacular unscheduled dismount while attempting one of the lower tech moves but he walked away unscathed.

His bike, on the other hand, did receive a few brand new badges of courage. Have I mentioned before how much I enjoy Laurel Mountain trail? Yes? Well then let's just say today's climb was much like the others.

I was singing along with the music in one ear and laughing not only at Devenda Banhart's ridiculous lyrics but at how rediculously fun Laurel is.

There was even more wind damage up at the top from this past week's thunderstorms and the open woods is providing ample opportunity for all sorts of thorns and the like to take over the trail. It's getting pretty overgrown right now. Oh, we stopped and used Mike's superduper badass GPS and identified the gaps along the way. Meeting Log=Rich Gap. Cairns=Sassafrass. Sassafrass=Good Enough.

This was the first true Summer ride of the year and it felt like it. Highs in the low 90's with 80% humidity were what we dealt with but luckily the sun stayed hidden for most of the day. At Turkey Spring Gap I was dripping with sweat while we took another long cooldown/breather/snack and Jody commented on the scene: 'I.... I feel like I'm underwater.... or on another planet.'
Up Pilot was next and I took the lead for the first time of the day.

We pushed up and over while soaking in the views and stopped at the Pisgah Inn spigots for water refills and head soakings. Down the steps to the parkway and down to the Little Pisgah Ridge tunnel followed

and I took the lead hiking in the Big Creek trail. The access trail to Big Creek is so overgrown right now that it's hardly followable. I've never seen it like that. Every step forward put my foot out of sight. I started to think about Clay's blog and how he has been seeing snakes just about every time he goes out and I just about freaked the funk out. I would push my bike into the underbrush, listen for sudden movements of that spine tingling thickathickathicka of a rattler, then move forward. By the time we made it to where we could ride again my nerves were frazzled. I took the lead for the descent though and made the best of it. There were trees down around every third turn and the trees and underbrush were so full and lush that it made for the toughest descent of Big Creek that I can remember. As Mike noted, there was no way to anticipate what was around the next corner, it was a ride of reaction, every move a reaction to what was in front of you RIGHT NOW.

Excellent. It was also like riding Big Creek for the first time again. I kept Mike off my tail far enough that I feel great about that descent. We were fairly ahead of Jody, which is a feat in itself, but he was admittedly 'unable to get his mind on the trail'. At a pace like that it's no surprise we were off the ridge and headed down the creek in no time. I kinda lost my mojo down on the creek and let the guys get pretty far ahead of me at one point but that was just fine with me, we were still making good time. Big Creek is just about the most beautiful trail one can be on at this time of year, too.

The water felt excellent at every crossing. Next was the climb out from the reservoir, which went by very quickly once we passed the couple with the polar bear.... (actually she had a pair of St.Bernard's). We were running from thunderstorms as we hit the Trace parking lot so we didn't stop there. Lower Trace is in rough shape right now and I had to hop off the back once to avoid going over the bars. Across the river to Fisherman's then a well deserved dip in North Mills River finished the day. Well, what really finished the day was the local color at the bridge as we left (we saw The Queen Bee)... but anyway... we were back at the notminivan in great time and able to meet everyone's curfews.
Thanks for coming out guys for a great day of classic Pisgah Rangin'.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


'What the hell was that?'

Jody F arrived at my house at exactly the time I had told him to. Unfortunately, I wasn't near ready to go but fortunately Jody is just about as chill as one can be. Two cups of coffee, a brake pad change, some hangin' with the baby, and an hour later we were on the road undecided about our ultimate route for the day.
We hopped into his notminivan and were immediately in stop and go traffic on the interstate. The decision was quickly made to change all the plans and to head over to Trace via Bent Creek and get out of the traffic right away. ...->BCGR->5000->Spencer->Trace->Wash Creek->5000->BCGR->...

Just over 15 miles, 3400' of climbing, Just under 3 hours out.

We then climbed back up past the notminivan and all the way to the parkway. When we finally got to the tunnel I saw a familiar face, none other than Eric S. of Cane Creek/Hawley/Bicycles East(?) fame waiting for Hoffencharders to arrive for their presidential fitness test. I know, that doesn't make a lot of since to most of the people that read this but, it makes complete since to a few people, and that's all I'll say about that.
Did I mention it was HOT and HUMID? No? Well it was hot and humid by Asheville standards. I was having excessive sweats and chills at the same time during the climb. The descent to Spencer was a welcome cooldown.Up 5000b to Spencer was next and Jody put the hammer down. Once we passed through the steep field (where I was able to stay on) it took everything I had to hold Jody in sight. Erinna and I had gone out the night before with Zoe to the Downtown after Five live band/party... was I feeling that? No.... why is my breath feeling soooo hot? uuuugh... It was hot.... and I was parched. I hope that was it because man, Jody just pulled away on that climb. We regrouped at the gap, regrouped at the top of the littlehellclimb, and I took the lead for the first descent. Trace Ridge is in phenomenal shape right now and we traded places, back and forth, all the way down to the parking lot. That was one of the quickest descents of Trace I've done in quite a while. While I was leading I got into a full two wheel drift! Thanks Jody! I could hear your bike's chain slappin' behind me and I knew I had to keep it pegged. I took the lead again for lower trace->wash creek and made it to 5000 feeling like I wasn't looking forward to the monster of a climb ahead. Jody hung back with me, pushing me the entire. way. just. hard. enough. that we made it back to the gap in great time. The high speed descent down BCGR to the notminivan was next and after a quick breather we decided One more climb finished the day, back up almost all the way to the parkway.
Thanks for coming out Jody!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Birthday Ride!

Today I got out for an excellent solo ride:
From Kuykendall campground->471->471D->Butter Gap->Long Branch->5095->475->5048->Red Blaze connector->Cove Creek->225->475b->276->477->Club Gap->Black Mountain->Buckhorn Gap->S.Mills->476->1206->Pilot->Laurel->1206 to North Mills River Campground where Erinna and Zoe were waiting for me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

N. Mills with Big J and Kim

I got out yesterday for a great after-work ride: 1206->?->Yellow Gap trail->North Mills River trail->Lower Trace->Wash Creek->5000->Spencer->Trace->Fisherman's.
The cast: Big J., Kim S., and myself. We started with 1206 to the first gravel road on the right. J noted that it had been years since he'd been up there and Kim was amazed that there was riding up there at all, she had never seen that part of the forest. The climb went by quickly as Kim set the pace and J and I tried our best to hold on.

The descent on Yellow to N.Mills followed and I took the lead. Soft corners, slimy mud, high speeds, and spooked horses highlighted that trail. Like J, it had been years since I had been back there and I was amazed that it took so long to get there again. It looks like the trail is rarely used by cyclists. The surprise in the eyes of the equestrians and their steeds reinforced that feeling. I had to make an emergency off-the-back style stop as the lead horse in the group reared-up about 50 feet ahead of me.
N.Mills River trail crossed said river a couple of times (the first crossing was easily crotch deep) and right when J was asking 'where does this go again?' we were at the bottom of lower Trace. I dropped into my granny and took off up the climb. J and Kim both noted that they had never gone UP lower Trace and I think they were questioning my route choice but by the time we had hit Wash Creek I could see they were having a grand 'ole time with that beast of a technical climb. Wash Creek to 5000 followed and the climb up 5000 was, again,due to Kim being off the front, over in a flash. She is an animal. Left onto Spencer where Kim took off again but was soon waiting to see my line up the clayhill (she had already tried once). My line was no better but I had some sage advise: 'Hit it hard!' Which J did.... and Kim did..... without much success....
Kim hopped in front again and motored up through the steep field and onward towards Trace ridge. I would catch glimpses of her ahead and of J behind but other than that we basically were three solo riders making our way to the ridge. Actually, we regrouped once along the way and I thought I was going to pass out. ooh... aahh... sparkly floaty dancing lights in the sky.... It was turning into a f-a-s-t ride.... (as juxtaposition, here's a shot of a Trace Ridge resident we came across later):
Once we were at the very top I got out front and put the pedals down. I hit a great here-to-there launch on the first downhill section and that set the tone for the rest of the descent. We would regroup every so often to ensure everyone was OK and still got to the bottom in less than 10 minutes. With J following me I took some of the faster lines that I've found in a while. He mentioned that I was floating through the rough stuff and well, it felt like it. I was having a great day on the bike. Focused. Strong. Light. Add in a perfectly functioning machine and you have a recipe for HIGH SPEED descending. A quick reprise at the parking lot then Lower Trace was next. the three of us picked our way through the rough, nasty, steep, slick, rutted mess that is lower Trace all the way back to the river with great success, then crossed the river:
(beware: f -word content)

Big J crossing N. Mills River June 3, 2010 from pisgahproductions on Vimeo.

and were back at the vehicles moments later. What a great way to spend an afternoon. Thanks for getting me out there J! Great to meet you Kim!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In other news, baby Zoe learned how to roll over today!

I didn't have to go into work today so early in the morning I made a long list of things that I needed to do. Fix the attic fan, go to I9, mow the lawn, and go to the Ranger Station to finish up some PMBAR business was on the list. I got much of the list done early so I decided that a trip into Pisgah shouldn't be wasted. For the trip out to see the fine folks at the USFS I took the bike along. The day was warm and muggy, 80+ degrees with humidity at 110%. Thirty seconds into the ride (Black->Thrift->Grassy->Sycamore)

the humidity was too much for the air and the rain began. Erinna's advise rang in my ears during the warm-up: 'Don't let the rain stop you. You're just doing Thrift->Sycamore' and before I even finished Black the sun was peaking through. Down the hotwheels track then a left onto Grassy.... I think I see a new PMBAR start/finish route...Thrift is so much fun and it drops right back into the start/finish area.... hmmm... Anyway, Grassy was next and was a steeper climb than I had remembered, then Sycamore. I took the left/longer route and tried to remember the last time I had been out there. It had been a while. Sycamore is one of those trails that has seen it's fair share of use and there's good reason for it. What a descent! Everything you look for in a Pisgah downhill: Roots, rocks, quick turns, long fast straights, rhodo tunnels, creek crossings, opportunity for serious bodily harm... Yeah.... Pisgah. I popped out onto 276 at just under an hour, and was back at the Jeep moments after that. Thanks for pushing me to go ride Erinna! That felt great.