The rain Saturday night was measured in inches, heavy volumes dumped from the sky most of the night but stopped by Sunday morning. Some riders were hurting more than others from Saturday night's beer fueled festivities. Coffee, big breakfast and amazingly we were packed and out of the lodge by the 10am checkout. With wet, muddy trails at Douthat riding was out, groups split to head north towards home, our group of 6 headed north towards Stokesville, VA, home of the SM100 and smack in the middle of hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails. Heading out early would allow us to get camp established before any more rain moved in and snag a ride as well if the weather held out.
Todd Lake campground is our destination which will give us camp showers and a nice swimming lake nearby. We restock food, beer and ice on our way to camp. When we arrive we find the gate closed and a sign saying gypsy moth spraying is taking place. Time to revise our plan. Primitive camping is down the road at the North River camp ground. We grab a huge site on the opposite side of the river from any other campers and spread out. Cost: $5 per night. No showers but there is a deluxe pit toilet which is as good as it is going to get. After camp is set up Chris, Jon, Jason and I ride from camp to the top of Lookout Mountain. Lots of climbing, top out, turn around and fly back down. I scare up 2 wild turkeys on the descent. Then Chris and I have a fun, fast 2x race down the final forest road descent back to camp. Campfire dinner and cold evening as the temps dip into the low 30s.
Monday we head out to do the IMBA epic ride know as the Southern Traverse. The ride starts by climbing about 4 miles of dirt forest road up to the Shenandoah Mountain Trail (SMT). From there it ridge riding, rolling but mostly climbing, for the next few miles. Great bench cut trail in places, remote, beautiful views and great forest. Baler loses a chain ring bolt about 8 miles in and folds his chain ring bad. We spend over an hour beating it back into shape and trying to get it's Biopace shape back towards round so it can actually be bolted back to the crank. Amazingly it gets done, but not without a lot of effort. Baler is forced to retreat on his sketchy equipment and the rest of us soldier forward, we've got a lot more ground to cover. The riding is great, at times buff singletrack other times challenging rock gardens on the side of the ride with nice penalties if you make the wrong move. The trail alternates traversing the top of the ridge and then tacking back and forth on both sides of the ridge just below the peak, wrapping around the ridges and opening up to spectacular views of Virginia and West Virginia. The camera battery has unfortunately died early in the ride so no pictures of this part. Not that I wanted to stop and pull it out anyway, it was too much fun just keeping the pedal rhythm going. The downhill finish goes on for miles. Excellent stuff. From here it's a long road ride back on quiet country roads. We stop at the "Deerfield Mall" for quick refueling before finishing the tarmac portion. It's getting late and we are halfway to Staunton so we head into town to grab a real meal and some beer. Our waitress correctly guesses we've been camping based on our smell. I think she was angling for a good tip when she told us it was because we smelled like a campfire...
We roll into Harrisonburg Tuesday morning to get Baler's bike situation fixed and do laundry. On the trip back to camp we hit a sweet ride that involves climbing Skidmore, up to Chestnut Ridge and then down Grooms Ridge. Spring is blooming, the little used trail is grass covered in places. Lots of climbing but the ultimate reward of great views and miles of downhill riding that is at times buff and other times technical is worth the effort. Arms tired from the descent but smiles all around. Another good day on the trail. Back to camp, food and beer and get ready for another day on the trails.
Next: Part III
More Sonic Youth... //
Wednesday - June 3, 2009
Follow up to the Sonic Youth videos below, Sonic Youth interviews with Kim and Lee.
Douthat State park is like the creamy center of an eclair of trails, with the pastry being the monster sized George Washington National Forest that surrounds it. It's all tasty, but Douthat is smooth and flowing. With 40 miles of trails and more outside the park proper, there is plenty of good riding to go around in that single location. Camping, cabins/lodges and a lake cap it off. Most of us started arriving Friday afternoon at Creasy Lodge, a huge wooden structure with rooms full of bunk beds and a big kitchen and living area. With 15 of us and bike gear, we needed room to spread out. The keg of Clipper City Loose Cannon arrived early but the cold box to dispense it was held up as some riders stopped on the way down to hit a ride in Big Schloss. Luckily we had reserve beer to get started with.
A bunch of us suit up for a warm up ride to get the trip started. Out the back door and up Beards Gap. Lots of climbing, 180 degree switchbacks, tight bench cut trail. Intersect with Brushy Hollow and I tell the group the climbing is almost done. Whoops, only half-way, been a while since I've done this trail. No matter, it's good stuff and there are nice views at the top before ripping down for a few miles of sweet pay off. Fast trail, hot corners, tight trail tread, stay on your toes, keep the senses sharp and you will be rewarded well.
Back at base camp the rest have arrived, lots of food being lined up, grill fired up, keg gets tapped, beers are flowing, LED night frisbee and a late hour before most of us hit the sack.
Saturday morning, a few souls hurting from last night but most are OK. Breakfast duty handled by many. Pack lots of food and water for a ride circumnavigating the park. Five mile climb to start. Regroup at a trail intersection at mile one to give instructions, then bite off the next piece all at once. John, Jason and I slowly go off the front and trade pulls the whole way up. Hit the Tuscarora Overlook with great views of the valley below. Nice ridge top riding after this, a welcome change from the climbing. Drop off the ridge to fast, sketchy bench cut at times, tight switchbacks drop us to the middle of the park on newly cut rollers, then another big climb to the opposite ridge. A light rain starts at the top as we wait for the pack to regroup, then the rain moves out and we move on. More nice ridge top riding, descend to Brushy/Beards intersection, climb Brushy to the top again. Rip down in the lead with JFM on my wheel most of the way. Fast, fast, fast as the storm knocks on our back door. Railing turns full on, watch the sketchiness on the kitty litter covered hard pack, drive it into the high side on the turns and get nearly horizontal. The rain moves in and we continue moving down, trying to beat the bulk of it in a race to the bottom. Riders on the Storm. Get to the lower section before it opens up, the section where the trail straightens and all the speed you've built up can really be unleashed. Wet roots criss-crossing the trail, you hope the high speed carries you over instead of bringing you down hard. Glance back, no one behind me, rain is pouring now, just want to ride it out and get back. Heavy downpour, glasses streaked, no where to go but home, still enjoying the final bits of gravity. Wet roots, wet rocks, water spray, time to finish the day. Wait for a couple of riders at the bottom, then high tail it back to the lodge on the hardtop spinning 52 gear inches like a hamster in the heavy rain. Rain fades as we arrive back at base and get dry clothes, cold beer and grill up some hot food. Good day in the saddle.
Clear skies for a bit and some of us head to the cold creek for a swim, then back for more food, beer, bike maintenance. Big grill feast, lots of good cooks. Keg gets kicked by 9pm by the party goes late as we work on finishing off the large volumes of back up beer. A few close calls but no major injuries or damage to the place. Big storms rage most of the night bringing inches of rain and drowning hopes of solid trail in the AM.