Let's get to some business before we get down to the business of riding
The George Washington National Forest in Virginia offers almost 1 million acres of land that has nearly all of it open to mountain biking. That could change soon as some prime areas are being proposed for Wilderness designation. Lots of trails could be lost to bikers if this happens. Make your voice heard. This is some of the best riding on the east coast. Check out the latest issue of BIKE magazine to see what I'm talking about. Or do a web search on "Southern Traverse" (an IMBA epic) or "Shenandoah Mountain 100". There are other designations to protect the land that allow mountain biking. Wilderness does not.
Get your comments in ASAP regardless of if you can attend the meetings. Contact info below, more info here.
Maps were poured over, I laid out a route and emails were traded between Nick, Camp and myself concerning logistics (it would need to be a shuttle) and what direction (north to south or south to north?) should be taken. Timing was another issue. I was chomping at the bit to do this but I couldn't pull it off alone, the southern Michaux portion was unfamiliar to me. Many attempts were made to line it all up and make it happen but the stars just weren't lining up.
Finally last week, as the fall biking calendar continued to fill up I noticed the chance of this ride happening this year burning up faster than a joint put to Hunter S. Thompson's lips. This weekend looked to be the only option open with enough day light. Emails were shot off to a few people who I thought could do it. I threatened to make a solo attempt if no one else wanted to join me. I figured I could bumble my way through the stuff I didn't know if necessary. With a busy life and located far to the south, I knew a last minute trip would be out of the picture for Nick so I reluctantly left him off the list rather than let him know what he was going to miss. I felt bad, he came up with idea and I wanted him on the initial trip, but it was this date or nothing.
Hurricane storms dumped many inches of rain on us Saturday but with an unusually dry summer combined with the rocky trails of the route we decided our odds were good that Sunday would shape up to be fine. My wife generously offered to drop us off at the start, about 10 miles east of Chambersburg, PA. From there we were on our own to get back to Frederick, MD. Darius and Jay were my riding partners who stepped up to the plate for the full Monte. Larry and a crew of locals met us at the start and helped guide us through the Michaux piece. Lots of sweet singletrack climbing to start off. Down some blazing fast downhills where Larry sliced a tire and had to boot (note: only mechanical on the whole trip). Sweet Old Forge riding and a nice surprise as we hit Larry's stash of Dale's Pale Ales chillin' in a stream. Refueled by mid-morning beer and joined by Travis we, unknown to me, diverge from our intended route and start climbing Sucker Punch. Newly cut, soft and loamy, it lived up to it's name and put a sting in your legs and dug into our time. Of course, I still didn't know this. At the time I thought we were on our way to Mackey Run, another trail I had not done but was relying on the locals to lead us to. Mackey was still up ahead and lived up to the hype I had heard. Similar to a local trail that goes by the name Iceberg, it is a slow speed, super technical, rock crawling traverse of a spiny ridge that requires lots of power moves and lots of skill. Oh yeah, and lots of energy. We had parted from Larry's group prior to this in our quest to recapture some time lost on Sucker Punch. Travis lead us through Mackey and bid us good luck as we hopped on a forest road and rolled towards the MD state line and our only resupply point, a gas station convenience store.
Exiting Michaux put us on a 15 mile stretch of roads, about half that were dirt and/or gravel. Buck Lantz is a beautiful, loose gravel road with views of the farms and valleys of Emmittsburg. It's fast and fun. It's followed by a tough climb up Manahan, first paved then gumball sized stone and ragged surfaces. It passes near Camp David and singletrack that is unfortunately off limits (the state Wildlands mentioned earlier). So instead of skinny trail we spin the legs out on some tarmac, hit another decent climb, then rip the dirt descent of Tower Road and arrive at our next section of trail in the Frederick Watershed. After a quick hike-a-bike we down a few more Dale's that were frozen this morning but warm now and proceed to rail the tail of the Salamander trail. Rocks, rocks and more rocks as we twist and turn our way through the Shed savoring each trail that points down and grinding out the ones that point up. We pass James (ridelugged.com), Mel and Mark who are out on their own ride. Quick conversation but it's getting late and we get moving on. Grind up Buck Flats to Hamburg Road. Darius runs out of water and bums some off a generous rider who is finishing up his own ride. From there we jump on Blue and make a beeline for Gambrill, grabbing the upper Yellow extension and then traversing the western ride for a fast and furious finish. Get in a tuck and drop off the ridge on pavement at 45 mph on knobby 29er tires. Yeah, that feels good. Spin back to town, plop down on the back porch and crack a beer many miles south from where we started in the morning. Two GPS tracks were cobbled together to put the total mileage at somewhere between 52 - 54 miles with 7000+ ft. of climbing. Good day in saddle and we are already looking at ways to improve the route and start further north for more mileage.