Sunday brought a cold lazy morning and watching the Paris-Nice prologue streaming online. We went to Raisin Wood, Dalton's local mountain bike park. It's named for Saul Raisin, a local of Dalton's and former member of pro UCI team Crédit Agricole. That was a very fun place to ride. My legs weren't quite ready for the climbing but am glad I did. Definitely helped work out the buildup of lactic acid from Snake Creek. This is another park that alternates direction depending upon day of the week. Runners are to travel opposite direction as mountain bikers. Seems to make sense. There were some trail runners out. The two I saw were blazing fast!
I can't imagine riding this one on a SS. After riding it was time to head to our next destination, Mulberry Gap.
It had snowed on Saturday and when we got to the FS road it had cones and a sign that said Road Closed. We turned around to make our way from the other side of Ft. Mountain, but I was able to reach them via Facebook and they said the road was clear and open to their location. So we turned back around and drove past the barricade and on to MG. It is such a wonderful place to stay. I can't say enough good stuff about it. This was my home for 5 days. The cabin has two separate rooms with separate entrances. (others have a door between for families, etc) and bunkbeds. Another cabin has more open floorplan with queen sized bed. There is a hot tub that sits outside beside the creek. From conversations we had with Dianne and Ginny, they stayed fairly booked Spring through Autumn.
Breakfast and dinner are included with each night's stay. They also do their best to accommodate special dietary needs/requests. This was a nice treat being diary free, gluten free and one that only eats fish and eggs but no other meat. The dining/living room has a wood stove in the center, which makes for cozy conversations with new friends.
Monday morning we had a fresh layer of snow and it was still snowing through breakfast. Breakfast was oatmeal, scrambled eggs, sliced bananas and strawberries. It was nice to not be in a hurry to get someplace. Once we got our gear together and loaded in the van, we drove to the Bear Creek trailhead. The higher elevations had deeper snow than we had at MG. The plan was to ride Bear Creek trail, Pinhoti 1 and 2 then drive back up to get the van. Bear Creek was beautiful and the creek was full of rushing water. B2 riding Bear Creek
This is my riding buddy shooting video as he rides down the trail. Not a simple task! Makes me want to buy a video cam to shoot new places and trails. There was plenty of climbing and had to cross creek a couple times. The climbing definitely warms you up! The descents were fun and I tried to not be a big scaredy cat. Because there had been snowmelt there were definitely some wet sloppy places full of leaves. I still don't like the feeling of my rear wheel fishtailing, so I braked more than I probably should. All in good time, right? ;) I rode 13.5 miles with 1,600 ft of climbing over 2.5 hours. When we got back to MG my riding partner wanted to continue to ride. So he grabbed some food and proceeded to climb back the way we came to the van. He was all in for another 2.5 hours, 14 miles and 2,900 ft of climbing. Some day I hope I have the fitness to ride that much in one day, climb like that and be able to catch air too.
Monday night after dinner we built a fire behind the cabin. A new friend Will joined us and we visited and kept the fire stoked for several hours.
Three days in the saddle is about my limit these days, so I took Tuesday off. It was a rainy day, that turned into a deluge at one point. I stayed in the community building, read and kept the stove going. I also watched a small stream materialize through the room. Once the rain eased the inside stream dried up quickly enough.
Thursday we drove to Bull Mountain. Another IMBA epic, as is the Pinhoti. After checking out the trail maps and elevations I decided to ride Jake Mountain. It seemed a bit less climbing. I also wanted to ride solo and not worry about slowing anyone down. I had fun. I met a man and woman walking their horses fairly early on. I got off my bike and waited for them to pass. They were very nice. So not too much further I'm riding along and starting to go downhill and see a creek crossing. Boy, did I misjudge that one! It was deep and wide and cold. I rode it and got completely soaked up to my mid thighs and of course my entire backside. I was grateful that the average temp for my ride was 60F. So much warmer than what we had ridden so far. The trails were fun and had a lot of nice fun fast flow. Still, it took me 2.5 hours to ride 11 miles and climb almost 1,500 ft. I got turned around as I approached the parking area and rode towards Bull Mtn for a good half mile or so. Thank goodness for garmin. Haha, directionally challenged people should be very careful riding solo on new trails. I quickly shed my wet clothes and draped them over the hood of the van. Got into nice dry clothes and sat in the warm sunshine and waited. The closest town is Dahlonega, GA. It has a nice city square with a round-about in the center and some cobbled streets. The local "brewery" was an italian place that didn't have much gluten-free options so we went across the street to the Porter House. Excellent choice for dinner after a nice day riding in the mountains.
Friday morning we had another tasty breakfast, packed the vehicles and said good-bye to Mulberry Gap. I will definitely go back and visit again. We drove to Ellijay, GA which is the closest town to MG. Had read about a mtb trail there so we found it and rode. This was a short and easy ride to spin out the legs from day before. Another challenging place for me and I can't imagine riding it on SS. :-)
Drove into Chattanooga and checked into The Crash Pad, a very cool hostel with superbunks, clean showers and free eggs and coffee in the community kitchen for breakfast. I already have my reservations for Racoon Mtn!
Went to Booker T and pre-rode the course. Well I rode the outer most loop. My riding buddy went out again with the promoters as they finalized marking the course. After sleeping very well all week and the first night at the hostel, I had a very short night sleep on Saturday and did not race on Sunday. It's probably a good thing, though wish it had turned out different. A good race for him in the Cat 1 race.
I must say this was one of the best week's holiday I've had in a long time. So relaxed, lots of riding, delicious food and great company. I enjoy going places and riding new trails. It was nice to go to a trail with someone, but be able to ride your own way with no pressure to keep up or feel like you are holding others back. It was nice to ride together the days we did, too. Good friends and good riding are something I will always cherish.