First Day Hike

I dragged the family to one of the First Day Hikes at Pocahontas State Park.  We did the Beaver Lake hike with a pretty good sized group of other First Day Hikers.

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In all honesty, I would prefer to have done it with just the family, but the guide was great and it was cool to learn about Beaver habitat and behavior.

I’d definitely recommend a First Day Hike though, especially if you are new to the park or are interested in learning more about the park and its inhabitants.

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Happy New Year!  No go outside and play.

 

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Christmas Day Ride

With about four inches of rain over the last few days, riding trails was out of the question, but T and I set out for a little suburban exploration.  Our route was a nice mix of off-road and pavement.  Everything off-road was a soggy mess, and T wore his good shoes, so he was treading lightly.

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We left the neighborhood and travelled along a footpath on Old Hundred Rd. until we reached Kelly Green Lane, which led us to Clover Hill H.S.  We spent some time playing on the curbs and ramps enjoying the artificial features provided.

We eventually wandered down along Genito Rd where some more soggy bushwhacking took place before heading toward the homestead.   It was a fun ride and I look forward to future exploration when it is a little drier and T is wearing appropriate footwear!

 

 

 

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North Mountain Trail

The Setup

Recently, the crew and I embarked on our fifth annual DID (Douthat in December).  I’ll have more on the later, but for now I am going to focus on the the Monday following.

By Sunday night, it was just MS and me at the cabin.  On Monday morning, we headed over to the Longdale Furnace area to scratch the North Mountain Trail off our list.

Logistics

From I-64, take Exit 35 onto Longdale Furnace Rd. heading west.  Keep an eye out for Route 770/Collierstown Rd, which comes up quickly on your left.  Follow 770 for about a mile until you reach a small pull off / parking area on the right.

There is road that continues on the other side of the parking lot.  For the route described here, that is where you will return.  Get on your bike and go back out to 770 and take a right.  Start climbing.

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After about a 3 mile grunt, you will come to an intersection of sorts with towers up above you.  Take a hard right and climb a short distance to another small pull-off / parking area.  As the road starts to drop again, the North Mountain trailhead is on your right.

The North Mountain Trail

It starts off tight and rocky.  Almost immediately you will be provided great views of the valley to the east along with Lake Robertson.

There is a slow, steady climb along the ridge for a few miles and eventually you level off with gradual ups and downs typical of a ridgeline ride. There are still plenty of opportunities to take in views, check out rock formations, and just simply enjoy the remoteness of the trail.

The standout feature of this trail is Pete’s Cave — a large, rocky area with steps up to a large crevasse — which sits toward the end of the ridge at one of the highest points of the loop.

See that picture below?  Yup, that’s where the trail goes.  Climbing and pulling yourself through while pushing/carrying your bike is quite a departure from most trails you’ll ride and makes this a truly memorable route.

 

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After reaching the top, take in another great view to the right along with lots of rock formations to explore.

Back on the trail, there is more up and down and narrow (overgrown) sections before a steep pitch up followed by another drop down to a sign that reads “Longdale” to the right.

In theory, you can also go left, but finding the trail on this day would have been a challenge.  Fortunately, even during this time of year and with all the leaf coverage, we did not have issues staying on course.

The initial descent is rocky, narrow, leaf covered bench cut with a few off-camber sections thrown in for good measure.  In other words, pay attention and have fun!

Eventually the descent takes you deep down into the hollow and it’s like a whole other world from the ridgeline above.  This section is also benchcut, fast, and a back-country hoot.  Just watch out for the locals and don’t fall into the ravine.

After 4 or 5 creek crossings at the bottom, you will come to another intersection.  Take a right at the sign that reads “To FDR 334” and it will take you back to your vehicle.

Summary

This route is only about 12 miles, but it is a solid 12 miles of remote, backcountry bliss with no bailout points except for jumping off a cliff.  Make sure you are prepared, and go scratch this one off of your own list.

 

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Our Latest Adventure: Part III

On Friday, we woke with giddy anticipation to get over to Windham, but stopped at the Log Cabin Cafe for breakfast. It’s a great place to eat, but be sure to bring cash.

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Upon arriving at Windham, we were greeted almost immediately by the Santa Cruz tent just out front of the main entrance to the park. Syndicate!

Syndicate!

Syndicate!

We rode up to the top of the mountain on the lift, which was a lot of fun taking in the views and seeing some riders coming down the lower, more open sections of the course.

UCI World Cup DH -- to the right

UCI World Cup DH — to the right

At the top we wandered over to the starting point and began walking down the course. We quickly learned that while a lot of work goes into creating the course, bystanders and pedestrians are on their own. By the end of the weekend, foot trails were very well established, but there were several very steep and sketchy sections to traverse.

As we descended on foot, riders were coming down the course. We would stop at different points to watch. As I already knew, video and pictures can never portray how gnarly and steep some of these courses are. And it wasn’t long before we got a glimpse of Josh “Ratboy” Bryceland zipping by.

Ratboy dropping in

Ratboy dropping in

We made our way slowly to the bottom and got a real good feel for the course. All the while some of the best riders in the world were zipping by. There was a small crowd on hand, which was nice to allow us to get our bearings. The next day was going to bring out the crowds and the full-on festival atmosphere.

chunky

chunky

ominous

ominous

road gap

road gap

way gnarlier than it looks...and it looks gnarly

as gnarly as it looks, it’s way gnarlier…and steeper

boosting off the Phattest Lip

boosting off the Phattest Lip

making our way down the last section before Peaty's Plunge...MS claims it

making our way down the last section before Peaty’s Plunge…MS claims it

more wrenching on the V10's

more wrenching on the V10’s

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Our Latest Adventure: Part II

Wow, it looks like I have some catching up to do.  I guess I will start by finishing up our road trip to the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup in Windham, NY.  If you want to see Part 1, go here.

After some shut-eye, we woke to a lovely morning and I learned that my front tire was also flat.  A reminder of a fun and rocky ride the day before.  We had new trails to ride, so MS and I repaired our flats and we all ate quick breakfasts, broke down camp, and packed up.  During the process, I learned that a pair of shorts that I had only worn twice had gone missing from the clothes line overnight.  Darn raccoons.  I hope they enjoy them.

On the way out of Warwick, we hit up Larry’s Deli for a Taylor ham, egg and cheese on a hard roll.  It’s what the locals do, and I can see why.  Warwick is a real nice area, but it was time to go. We were on our way to the trails of Jungle Habitat just up the road in West Milford, NJ.

Jungle Habitat was a Warner Brothers-owned theme park that was open in the 70’s and is now home to some very interesting trails built around the remnants of the zoo/safari.  The parts we rode were challenging, rocky, and fun (for most of us).  You definitely earn your miles at Jungle Habitat.  At least with the route we took.  In looking at the trail map since my return, there is plenty more trail to explore.  I’d like to do that someday.

After lunch and a change of clothes, we departed Jungle Habitat and headed up to the Whip-O-Will campsite outside of Windham, NY.  On the way, we stopped at The Anchor in Kingston, NY.  Not sure I would want to spend a lot of time in Kingston, but I do recommend the Anchor.

Jungle Habitat trail map

Jungle Habitat trail map

Dumptruck trail.  Sounds promising.  And it was.

Dumptruck trail. Sounds promising. And it was.

MS getting his rock slab on

MS getting his rock slab on

the smile says it all

the smile says it all

umm, yup, that's the trail

umm, yup, that’s the trail

the Anchor is a great place to refuel

the Anchor is a great place to refuel

cheers!

cheers to the Catskills!

Thanks to everyone at JORBA for the great work they are doing in this beautiful part of the country. Up next – we finally lay eyes on our destination: Windham Mountain Bike Park.

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Our Latest Adventure: Part I

Some friends and I recently went on a road trip to the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup in Windham, NY.  Before we became spectators though, we made a few stops along the way.

Our first stop was Waywayanda State Park in Hewitt, NJ.  It is a beautiful locale sitting on the border of New York state.  We arrived, checked in, and made our way to one of only 3 or 4 campsites in the entire park.  This felt odd to us considering the large footprint of the park.

There were no other campers while we were there, but there was some foot traffic including a young black bear that walked by our camp while we were setting up.  He didn’t seem the least bit interested in us and went along as slowly and casuallly as he arrived.  That was the first of 4 bears that we saw over the next 24 hours.

After setting up camp and eating lunch, we set out to explore the trails for a few hours.  Here is a trail map of the park.  It’s an oddly concocted layout, but it doesn’t detract from the fun.  There is a great mix of fire roads and singletrack, most of it very rocky.  In fact, rocks pretty much became the theme for the next few days of riding.

JB’s in-laws live in nearby Warwick, NY, and his bro-in-law met us back at camp after work.  We went back out for a couple more hours and he showed us some additional treats the park had to offer, including the “land bridge” (actually, rock, surprise) and the Sitting Bear trail which was our rocky return along the lake.  One flat tire and one broken chain toward the end of our ride found a couple of us limping back to camp with the setting sun behind us.

If you are in the area or passing by, I highly recommend checking out what Waywayanda has to offer.  If memory serves, my favorite trails of the day included Pickle and Rattlesanke.

Enjoy some pics below and stay tuned for the next part of our adventure.  Next up: Jungle Habitat.

you should always wear your helmet in camp cuz you never know when you're gonna have to jam

you should always wear your helmet in camp cuz you never know when you’re gonna have to jam

one of the many bodies of water in the area

one of the many bodies of water in the area

the beginning of Pickle

the beginning of Pickle

more chunky Pickle

more chunky Pickle

Bear X-ing

Bear X-ing

I don't know why they call this Boulder Field

I don’t know why they call this Boulder Garden

MS scoping out the

MS scoping out the “land bridge”

setting sun on Waywayanda Lake

setting sun on Waywayanda Lake

MS had so much fun he spontaneously combusted

MS had so much fun he spontaneously combusted

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Burns Park, North Little Rock, AR

I was in Central AR recently and made my way out to Burns Park in North Little Rock.  It’s the third time I have hit up the trails there, so things are starting to become familiar.  It’s a fun little trail system that, if not for the rocks and occasional rooty bits, would be pretty mellow.  However, the tread keeps your attention and the hot and humid AR summers make it quite a work out.

The Burns Park Proper trails include a few different loops.  The longest is only 5 miles long, but you can easily piece together 10+ miles riding everything and the trails are bi-directional so you can double it if you choose.  You can also link up with the AR River Trail, Pfeifer Loop, and some other destinations along the river.  It’s a heck of a place to kill some time.

here we go

here we go

Burns Park rocks!

Burns Park rocks!

quick climb

quick climb

view of the Arkansas River

view of the Arkansas River

the Nevegals were right at home

the Nevegals were right at home

subtle treats

subtle treats

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Make Bad Decisions

I read an interesting article the other day.  It stressed that it is the highs and lows in life that we remember, not the mundane.  And it suggests that you allow yourself to make bad decisions every now and then to keep things lively.  The article is rooted in mountain biking, but the 3 tips set forth seem quite adaptable to other interests.

  1. Just Buy the Bike AlreadyI know for a fact that they won’t turn your power off until you miss four months of bills
  2. Choose Unrealistic GoalsShit talking and then backing it up with skills and fitness only means that you’re an a*shole, but there’s really nothing wrong with talking a big game and then failing spectacularly
  3. Set Aside your Health and Well-BeingI’d say that the most important thing you need to start doing is to stop caring. Not just about what others think about you, but about your general health and well-being. Your goal should be to come home just before your significant other dials up the local search and rescue 

Read the entire article here.

There are those that would describe this advice as irresponsible, but those people probably take things too seriously and I don’t have time to worry about them. Depending on your perspective though, you might agree that this article holds a lot of wisdom.  I know I do.

I related to several specific references in the article.

Last year, a group of us rode from Durango, CO to Moab, UT.  A lot of people asked us why we would do that.  Those are the people that should seriously take this article to heart.  Oh, and there is a faction of the same group that is seriously talking about attempting the Ride the Divide.  Yeah, that’s 2700 miles of off-road riding from Banff Canada to Antelope Wells, NM along the Continental Divide.  Why wouldn’t you want to do that?

Just riding mountain bikes requires you to put your well-being aside to some degree.  I’m sure we’d be hard-pressed to count the scrapes, bruises, and lingering scars we’ve received from this activity we love.  Heck, as I type this, my ribs are healing for the 2nd time in about 2 years, and I have a few buddies that have unset broken bones.  A couple of months ago, my man Lucaca hit a jump in Dupont State Forest that he had no business hitting, and he paid the price.  Guess what?  We were still talking about it last night!

Speaking of last night, against our better judgment (or in spite of it), a few of us loaded up the bikes and headed out to the trails between afternoon thunderstorms.  There is always a chance the trails are dry, right?  Well, they weren’t, and as we tooled around on the fire roads the skies opened up on us.  Sure, riding in the woods during a thunderstorm is not the smartest idea in the world, so we decided to stop for a beer and discuss our wayward decision.

are my shorts wet?

are my shorts wet?

it's only spitting

it’s only spitting

there is always time for beer

there is always time for beer

We’ve all committed to lines, hit drops, or put ourselves in situations that weren’t so smart.  It almost always works out.  Heh.  Oh, and we’ve also passed the Fireball around the circle a time or two.  What’s awesome is that I cannot think of any “regrettable mountain bike memories”.  They are all good and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

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Five For Five

I recently had the rare fortune of riding five days in a row.

  • Day 1 (Thur) was at Powhite Park with KR followed by grub and brews at Boka Grill and Growler.
  • Day 2 (Fri) was also at Powhite Park, but with a different crew:  DP, KP, & MS.  We followed that ride up with brown ales and Mexican food at Neuvo Mexico.
  • Day 3 (Sat) was a fun romp around the Lakeview Trails at Pocahontas State Park with MS.
  • Day 4 (Sun) was an awesome ride with mi familia exploring the multi-use trails at the Petersburg National Battlefield.
  • Day 5 (Mon) was a post-work solo ride at Pocahontas where I hit up the entire Morgan Trail System.

Monday was a beautiful start to an otherwise crappy looking week weather-wise, so I was pretty certain my run was going to come to an end.  I was surprised how quiet it was at the park.

Toward the end of the ride, I pulled off the side of the trail and took a seat up against a tree.  It was so peaceful.  I could have sat there much longer than I did.  With the sun dropping out of the sky, I begrudgingly moved on, but there was no hurry to get back to the truck.

As expected, it has been raining off and on today.  My son suggested I go for a ride around the block to keep my streak alive.  I may just do that.

phoenix

phoenix

cheers

cheers

Pocahontas "ridgeline"

Pocahontas “ridgeline”

overlook

overlook

mi familia

mi familia

now where is that Target?

now where is that Target?

lunch time silliness

lunch time silliness

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morel ravine

signs of Spring

signs of Spring

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First 2015 Trip to the Mountains

MS and I embarked on our first Spring outing to the mountains.  The plan was to camp at Braley Pond and ride out of camp to Chimney Hollow (489), up to Crawford Mountain (485), and on to the Elliot Knob lookout tower.  We weren’t sure exactly what we would do on day 2, but Sunday morning we decided to drive south to the Longdale Furnace area, climb SR 770 to North Mountain Trail and follow the serene ridgeline which is somewhat famous for its awesome views and Pete’s Cave.

The short version is that we didn’t accomplish either mission.  If you want to know the longer version, read on.

looking back down Chimney Hollow

looking back down Chimney Hollow

As usual, we stayed up too late Friday night and before I knew it midnight had struck.  Knowing that would make for an early morning, I hit the hay pronto.  And then I slept in.  I haven’t slept ‘til 8:30 in I don’t know how long, but it was cold outside and I was nice and cozy.  I finally rose, faced the cold outside air, and got the coffee brewing.  Shortly thereafter, we were eating Mountain House biscuits and gravy (not too shabby, but not really enough for 2 guys about to climb mountains).

By the time we left camp on our bikes, it was nearly 11AM.  On the map, there is a trail that goes from the southern end of Dowell’s Draft (650) over to US 250 directly across from the Chimney Hollow trailhead.  We went to check it out to avoid any bit of driving on 250, but couldn’t find it.  So, back down Braley Pond Rd. we went to hang a left on US 250 and take the short paved jaunt up to the trailhead.

looking across to Shenandoah Mountain

looking across to Shenandoah Mountain

For probably less than a mile, the trail slogs along the creek and passes through it several times.   The morning air was still quite cool, so I did dismount and hop across one or two to avoid the possibility of wet feet.  They are all very crossable, which was surprising with how much snow and rain there has been in the last couple of months.

Once you have been drawn into a false sense of security, the trail suddenly narrows and starts climbing up and away from the creek very aggressively.  We quickly learned that the combination of not riding much recently and aggressive, narrow, bench cut trail that climbs incessantly is not a good combo.  MS was a beast, as usual, but after climbing for a while, he stopped and said he was shaking.  We took a break, had a snack and some fluids, and basked in the mountain side sunlight.  We commented that we could easily have sat there for the rest of the afternoon.

 

a rare downhill moment on the climb up

a rare downhill moment on the climb up

Soon we were climbing again with the penalty for error becoming more and more severe.  And then Chimney Hollow threw in some gnarly rock gardens for good measure.  Bottom line – Chimney Hollow ain’t no joke.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome, but I don’t recommend it if you are as out of shape as we were.

We made it to the top and MS immediately shed his gear and lay down in the leaves.  It was warm and sunny and a perfect place to take a break.  Or a bona fide siesta.  More than an hour passed before we got back on the bikes.  We had decided that we were going to go back down the way we came, so we were in no hurry and decided to be “bored” for a little while.  And MS even caught a few Z’s.  We would have to save Elliot Knob for another day.

rocky goodness toward the top

rocky goodness toward the top

trail sign

you are here

Before descending Chimney Hollow, we followed the trail south along the ridge for a little while just for giggles.   The Chimney Hollow descent was incredible.  The top portion was serious rocky gnar.  Cruising through sections of loose rock and hearing the rock clank and feeling them move underneath added even more drama and excitement.  Truth be told, I had to pull up a couple of times to regroup.

Once things smoothed out, MS took the lead and, well, I barely saw him after that.  According to his GPS, he maxed out at over 26 MPH, which is absolutely insane.  You will have to take my word for it.  Or go see for yourself.

 

Syndicate!

Syndicate!

siesta view

siesta view

Leaving the trailhead and looking across US250, we saw the south end of the trail we were looking for earlier that day, but we decided to cruise up the pavement and get back to camp.  Not long after, MS informed me he was pretty sure he was getting sick.  That might explain his feeling weak and run down.

chunky

chunky

screamin' fast when going down

screamin’ fast when going down

Somehow the campfire discussion turned to pizza, and I reminded MS that the market down in West Augusta had Hunt Brothers takeout pizza.  He decided, eating pizza around the fire would be awesome and hopped in the truck to make it happen.  Unfortunately, his battery was dead.  Now, Braley Pond isn’t the most desolate place in the world, but there were no other campers and no cell service.  There were still a few cars over in the day use area, so he headed over and found a guy to give him a jump start.

roughing it

roughing it

Once the truck was running, he was off for pizza.  And he was right.  It was damn good and I stuffed myself.  We hit the sack a little earlier with visions of Longdale Furnace.  More on that in part 2…

 

 

 

 

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