Trail work this weekend: Saturday at Rosaryville for construction of a new technical features loop. Sunday, May 20th, at the Frederick Watershed (meet at Hamburg) and Patapsco State Park (meet at the Avalon pavilions), take your choice. All start at 9am, full details here.
A couple of weeks ago, by some small miracle, I was able to get down to Patapsco for the Wednesday night ride. I've hardly ridden there since I've moved and I'm not sure if I have made the Wednesday night ride since that time (maybe I slipped down once). It's kind of weird when, a place I used to ride 3 - 4 times a weeks for years and years, becomes no more than an occasional visit. It's good though, as I have ridden so many miles on those trails that I would many times start to get bored or a bit stir crazy to ride other places. No one would ever like to hear me make those complaints, "Oh, to have the problem of riding Patapsco too much" they would say. So now I've got a new set of trails to ride over and over and attempt to get bored with and going back to Avalon is like opening a nice gift on your birthday.
So the Wednesday night ride had an unusual turn out, 10 or 11 total and all rocking the uni-cog. Regulars and unregulars were in attendance. Not sure what was in the air since they only had 2 or 3 riders the previous week, but it was a good crew on this night. The boys graciously handed me back my rider leader baton for the night and we dropped in to the hard, dusty trails. The run in is fast and fun and I remember every line like I had ridden things yesterday. Coming from the rocks of my new adopted home trails, Patapsco feels like rolling on asphalt. I keep our pace steady but not redlined and we do a sort of reverse loop by crossing the river and hitting the Howard County side first before crossing again and climbing the dam trail that is a brute and usually done as a downhill. We slice and dice the Baltimore County side and pop out near dusk with some healthy miles under our belts. For a big group everyone was riding well and there wasn't much time needed to regroup, all in all it was great to be back riding with the boys.
This past Saturday I was slated to head down to northern VA (kind of like it's own little country) to hit up a WUSS single speed rally. The plan was to ride the Cross County Trail end-to-end, approximately 40 miles with a stop in the middle for food and beer. I had other plans surrounding this that were going to mesh well the night before that would put me down that way for the early start. When those other plans fell apart coupled with a call from Jay looking to do the Tour de Patapsco I started to reconsider.
The TdP is a ride that stretches from Avalon to McKeldin and back through the Patapsco Valley and consists of mostly dirt. It's a ride that we have been doing every year since we were able to work out the route, but you need to watch the weather and strike while the iron is hot. Some sections stay notoriously wet unless you have extended good weather. Sometimes the window to do the ride only opens once a year, so with that in mind I revised my plan and decide we needed to hit it. Felt a bit guilty, I like riding with those NOVA boys and it sounded like a good time. On the other hand I felt the need to log a ride that was a bit more punishing and had been already thinking about the TdP. My guilt went away when I found out John-O tried to sell me a false bill of goods: those kids did some type of out and back ride and didn't do the whole CCT. Still sounded like a good time with the post ride BBQ and stories of multiple face plants. Maybe I'll catch it the next time they try for the full monty.
It was last minute but I sent out feelers to a couple of people who haven't done the TdP route before and Kevin and Mike joined Jay and I to put our group at 4. I found this seems to be the max number to get this done in a reasonable amount of time. The ride consists of well established singletrack, unmaintained trail, trail that has virtually vanished, bushwhacking in a few spots, some bits of fire road, riding chunky rock railroad right-of-ways and some pieces of pavement to connect the two main mountain bike areas of Patapsco State Park, the Avalon and McKeldin sections. There are virtually no bailouts, a couple of places to restock water and no food stops. It's an adventure that takes more work than most people suspect and I love every minute of it.
We started out early and make good time through the sweet singletrack of Avalon but once off of the beaten path the pace slows because of the terrain. It's amazing how much faster you can go on well worn singletrack than on barely used trail or trail that has been pulverized by horse hooves. Spring rains have started things growing and some of the recent storms have dropped quite a few trees on the unmaintained trails, but overall things were in good shape. One flat tire forced a stop. Further out in what I call "horse country" the Patapsco trail crew has been working on some new trail reroutes as part of a project called the "thru trail". Their goal is to eventually link together Avalon and McKeldin just like we are doing, but with better trail in the spots that are lacking. So far, so good on the phase one stuff which should be completed near the end of the month.
As we neared the mid-way point Mike busted a strap on his shoe. His ride wasn't going as well as he hoped and this made him ready to pull the plug but we convinced him to at least hit the halfway point. A water crossing that was up to our shorts put us in the McKeldin area and back on better trail. A few miles and we hit the halfway where we restocked water and took a break to eat. Mike pulled out at this point, but I told him "no worries", only a few have earned this merit badge. Many have done the one way route but only a handful have made the round trip. We remounted and prepared for one of the best descents in this part of the park. Legs were stiff from the rest but they needed to loosen up quick because once we were at river level we had another deep water crossing and then it was climb, climb, climb. The return trip always seems to go faster, mostly because I think the harder bushwhacking sections are on the way out. We kept the pace steady, hit some new trail, repeated some trail we hit on the way back and quickly made it back to water stop #2.
When we finally got back to Avalon we entered on the Howard County side, opposite of where we were in the morning. Once into the main part of the park we got ready to tackle the Ridge Trail. A few good climbs in there that normally aren't an issue but I was wondering how they would feel today with 40+ miles in my legs already. I was feeling surprisingly good and the hills were less painful than expected. From there is was back across the river and one final climb back to the car. Stats at the end were around 48 miles and 7100+ ft. of climbing. The GPS track is here but it's botched a little on the return trip between Rt. 70 and Rt. 40 (that straight line should follow the squiggly line on the way out) and the elevation numbers haven't been corrected. A good way to spend the day in the saddle, recommended for anyone who wants to get their adventure on. I didn't bring a camera this time, but you can see some shots along the route from previous expeditions here and here.