(click HD for better resolution)
Next up: Dark Hollow and beyond…
(click HD for better resolution)
Next up: Dark Hollow and beyond…
It’s been a week since we returned from Allegrippis, and I hadn’t ridden since. I received an invite to head out to Douthat for the day. I was on the fence, but fell toward the mountains. We lucked out with the weather. Drove out in drizzle and drove back in rain, but the rain held off at Douthat and conditions were pretty dry. Mountain biking gods smiling down I guess.
If you are just tuning in, check out Day 1 here.
On Friday, with the whole gang in tow, we basically did the same route as Thursday with the exception of Red Legs instead of Grippis. And after the pack got separated a bit, some of the group did Sleek Dog and some did Switch again, but we all met back up at Doe/Fawn. We chose to take Fawn, which has more climbing than Doe and puts you on Buck further out resulting in some additional climbing back up to the intersection of Doe and Buck.
Back at the parking lot, about half the group was ready to call it a day, and the other half of us decided to check out the trails to the SW of the parking area.
Through our observations and discussions with the locals, it didn’t seem like there was much love for Stony Run and beyond. I don’t believe we had seen a single rider go to or come from that side of the parking lot. No one really suggested that side either, and when we inquired, the responses made it out to be a technical no man’s land. Well, we are neither the best riders in the world, nor the brightest, so there was only one thing to do: go see for ourselves.
Stony Run started off fast and flowy much like its sister trails that we had already enjoyed immensely, but eventually we came upon rocky terrain. In fact, compared to the other side, there were lots and lots of rocks, but nothing so technical or grueliing to keep people away. It was actually quite a nice mix.
With that said, things started to, um, go downhill. First, we had our first crash of the day. KP lost a fight with a large rocky trail impediment and was thrown into a hedge of thorns. The ol’ one-two punch! But he’s a trooper, brushed himself off quickly, and got back in the ring.
We made our way to the parking area on Seven Points Rd, checked out the map, discussed the pros and cons of dropping into the ominous sounding Dark Hollow and decided we’d come this far — why stop now?
Moments later, a mechanical issue that we couldn’t remedy on the trail stopped our forward progress for the day. Two of us headed back to the main parking area via Stony Trail, picked up the vehicle, and swung around to pick up the other two riders at the Seven Points Rd parking area.
Back at the cabin, the bike was fixed, the wounds were bandaged, beer was swilled, food was eaten, and stuff was burned. A fitting end to a wonderful day. And there was still a whole day of riding left…see you tomorrow Dark Hollow.
Last weekend, a group of eight of us descended upon the Raystown Lake area in Pennsylvania. Our original plans were to ride the Allegrippis Trails, as well as journey northward to check out the trails at Rothrock State Park (not to be confused with Rothrock State Forest).
Four of us arrived about mid-day on Thursday and unloaded our gear at the Drooly Bear cabin, which we called home for the long weekend. The cabin is tucked in somewhere along Trough State Park and has a quiet, remote feel to it. It’s about 30 minutes to the Allegrippis trailhead, but once you figure out how to get there, it’s a nice drive through the mountains, rural farms, and one small town. I would recommend the cabin to anyone going to the area.
We arrived at the nearly empty trailhead parking lot on Baker’s Hollow Road Thursday afternoon and followed a route that had been recommended. It went a little something like this: Buck to Allie to Grippis to Ridge to Ray’s Revenge to Sidewinder to the bottom section of Osprey to Hydro Loop. After that we followed Eagle to Switch to Doe to Buck back to the trailhead parking. Did you get all that? If not, follow along on the map.
The “vista” noted on the map at the end of the Ridge trail is worth a stop. You get there pretty fast following the route outlined above though as most of the trail up to that point is a fast, rolling descent. Likewise, Ray’s Revenge to Sidewinder to the bridge shown on Sidewinder is a rollicking good descent, but once you cross the bridge it’s a climb up to Osprey, with a short downhill section toward the end before reaching the Hydro Loop.
The Hydro Loop is a hoot in either direction. It was recommended to take it counter-clockwise, and I agree it is the most fun direction for my particular tastes. It descends in either direction to the lake’s edge and if you aren’t in a big hurry it is another great place to hop off the bike and take in the view (or to take a dip). Climbing out counter-clockwise is a shorter, steeper climb and climbing out clockwise is a longer mellower climb. Over the course of three days, this loop was ridden several times by our group.
From Hydro, we took Eagle to Switch. I think Eagle had some climbing at the beginning and the end, but there is also a wicked fun section where the tread turns red and swoops and hollers above the lake before turning more inland to hook up with Switch. Switch definitely gains some of the altitude back in only about a half mile and takes you up to Susquehannock Rd and the trailhead for Doe & Fawn.
We decided to take Doe and, ironically, the two riders in front spotted a fairly large buck. Doe is fun, but pretty mellow with some flowy sections and one rock garden until it dumps you out on Buck. From there, you are only moments away from the trailhead parking lot.
That route clocked in at about 15 miles. With the late start, we called it a day on the trails, and drove into Huntingdon to pick up some supplies before returning to the cabin to eat and await the rest of our guests.
Stay tuned. Lots to come…
A couple of weeks ago, my buddy MS and I went on a short bike packing excursion. We set up base camp at the Todd Lake Recreation Area, which is a quaint little Forest Service campground with drinking water and nice facilities.
Todd Lake Recreation Area (base camp) –> SW on North River Rd. (95) –> N on Flat Run Trail (505)–> W on Leading Ridge Rd (95A) –> NW North River Rd (95) –> N on North River Trail (539) –> N on 427 (and maybe 85) to Reddish Knob. We descended Timber Ridge (431) to Wolf Ridge (378) to Tillman Rd. to 95 and back to Todd Lake.
Flat Run is a pretty easy trail and as the name suggests has very little elevation change. It was the most overgrown trail that we rode though and there even seemed to be places where hikers had piled up sticks/limbs perhaps in an effort to deter bikers (?). There were a few downed trees to get around/under/through as well.
North River Trail is a really fun trail and was relatively clear. It’s generally uphill going south to north. The southern end is pretty mellow on the climbing though with nothing too steep. As you near the northern end, things gets steeper and gnarlier. While we enjoyed the south to north direction, this trail would be a hoot going north to south. It also crosses the North River about a dozen times, so be aware in colder weather or when the water is high. We were able to ride or walk across all the crossings without getting our feet wet.
Timber Ridge descends quickly from the road below Reddish Knob and soon encounters a mega-rock garden. After that, the ridge line trail descends and ascends so you never feel like there is a lot of elevation loss.
Wolf Ridge – once you hook up to this trail it’s a downhill party except for a few short, rocky climbs to keep you honest. Toward the bottom before you reach Tillman Rd, SVBC has modified the straight drop into a wonderful bermy, swoopy good time (Thanks!). I’m sure all of the recent participants of the SM100 know what I mean.
Reddish Knob is one of the highest points in Virginia, rising 4,397 feet. No other peak rises higher to the northeast before New York’s Adirondacks. The views are pretty amazing. Unfortunately, the fact that there is a paved road to the top with a small paved parking lot and guardrails takes something away from it for me. It’s definitely worth a visit though.
After absorbing the views and taking a short break, we departed Reddish Knob and began the descent down Timber Ridge. Around 7PM we discovered what appeared to be a dried up pond bed on the north side of the trail. We set off on foot to take a closer look. I half expected it to be marshy or very soggy at the least, but it was dry. It was a sign — time to set up camp, which we did pretty quickly, followed by some grub and our one cold beer each. The fire was struggling a bit, but by that time I was spent and went to sleep. It was about 8 o’clock.
I awoke with the sun to chilly temps, retrieved the bear bag, and got the coffee going. After a quick breakfast and breaking down camp, we were back on the trail by 8:15.
MS had a bit of a mechanical Saturday afternoon when he bent his derailleur around the back side of his frame. He managed to mangle it back into place enough to continue riding. Sunday morning though, the saga continued when he completely obliterated it. Not good. But after some trial and error, he successfully converted the Blur into a singlespeed. We pedaled on. He was just pedaling a little harder.
After several miles of some really fun downhill on Wolf Ridge trail, we eventually exited onto Tillman Rd. From there is was a few miles of gravel road followed by about 3 miles of a pretty steep paved climb back to Todd Lake. All in all, it was a great route and a great time. I look forward to getting back out to explore more of the wonderful George Washington National Forest.
Here is some video from Day 1. I’ll see about getting some Day 2 footage up soon.
Spent some time recently playing around at Powhite Park with my Contour Roam camera.
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been very wet in the RVA lately. I’ve been longing for some quality time with my bike, so last night I washed it. In the rain.
See ya on the trails soon. I hope.
As I contemplate the possibility of editing more video from the Braley Experiment, I will share some info and pics from our ride last night, which included some new trail. Well, new to me.
Part of our ride followed a portion of the Richmond Slave trail, which chronicles the history of the trade of enslaved Africans dating back to the 18th century. We parked at Belle Isle and headed east to the Mayo Bridge linking up with the Slave Trail at marker #10 on this brochure.
This is where we encountered numerous police, fire, and rescue vehicles and personnel, as well as the local news. As we crossed the bridge, I overheard a harrowing statement from one of the rescue personnel that “we are definitely in recovery mode now”. Dang. We later learned that a teenager was swept down the river from up near Belle Isle and was last seen near the Mayo Bridge. As of this posting, I do not believe the body has been recovered.
We followed the Slave Trail back to the beginning of the trail at the Manchester Docks (Ancarrow’s Landing), which is marker #1 on the map linked above. We then crossed through Ancarrow Landing, which was also full of fire and rescue, and found a connecting trail that continued south. I am not sure the official status of these trails, but I believe they are referred to as the “Pirate Trails” by many of the locals. I will let you draw your own conlusions. Eventually, it loops back on itself and sends you back out to Ancarrrow’s Landing.
Fast forwarding to Belle Isle, JB and I grabbed a snack while MS played around in the Skills Park. After recharging, we completed a clockwise loop of the main JRPS loop. The total ride clocked in at about 16 miles, and the heat index had me choking for breath on a few of the climbs on Buttermilk Heights. At the conclusion of the ride, we headed to Legend Brewing for a couple of beers and some grub.
While it is easy to get lost in yet another ride with your buds, one should take advantage of moments like these to learn more about what shaped the areas we ride in and live in. The Slave Trail is a literal sliver of history which commemorates an ugly but very significant part of Richmond’s and America’s history.
Learn more about the Slave Trail here, or better yet, get out there and experience it for yourself.
At this point, details are getting a little fuzzy. However, I can tell you that we decided descending Dowell’s Draft was the primary mission for Monday. We ate breakfast, drank some coffee, and broke down camp before we rode out to the entrance of Braley Pond and took a left on SR 715. The road starts off paved and is relatively flat as you roll through old farm land and pass a few homes and hunting lodges.
Eventually, state maintenance ends, the road turns to gravel, and then it starts to steepen. There’s a pretty good climb up to where the road intersects with FS Trail 716 (Wild Oak). Taking 716 to the left would lead you to the east side of the Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness Area. Going south upon reaching FS 496 would take you back down to Bald Knob (see more about that here). Perhaps some other day. Our mission had us taking 716 to the right (east).
The fact that we pushed our bikes onto the trail kind of set the tone for the first part of our ride. Dowell’s Draft was only a short distance away, but it involved some serious climbing. There are two access points for Dowell’s Draft. Upon reaching the first one, we decided to keep going with the intention of continuing along Hankey Mountain toward Lookout Mountain and then backtracking to Dowell’s.
The distance between the two Dowell’s access points is very close on the map, but it turned out to be some of the steepest trail I have ever pushed my bike up. And not only was it steep, but it was loose and rocky. We finally reached the 2nd Dowell’s access, and decided to take a break. It was an awesome area with a fire ring (probably the third or fourth we had seen on this route) and tall green grass covering the ground.
We ate some lunch, checked emails and messages (one of the few spots with service), and enjoyed brilliant conversation. At one point, a lone deer crossed the path ahead of us and then wandered down to lower elevations.
We scrapped the idea of continuing toward Lookout Mountain and after refueling and recharging, we geared up and started our descent. For the record, I owe MS a descent back down the loose, rocky, steep gnarl one day. I think I’ll take a full face helmet for that mission. I’m pretty sure that MS was pleased with the Dowell’s Draft descent though. Chris Scott of Shenandoah Mountain Touring and organizer of the SM100 describes it as, “…surfing sidehill for five miles”. I couldn’t agree more.
Along the way we stirred up some turkeys, and we had to stop several times to rest the arms and legs and wipe the shizeatin’ grin off of our faces. The last section before connecting with fire road 449 served up several whoops that allowed for some awesomely fast downhill air. I have to admit, rolling out onto the fire road was a bit of a buzzkill, but I am so glad we had the experience.
I look forward to continuing exploration of the GWNF and hope to one day piece together a multi-day bikepacking trip right in our own backyard.
Getting back to logistics, if you hang a right on 449 and follow it for a short distance, it spits you back out on 751. Take a left and roll back to Braley Pond on your right. The total loop was only about 10 miles, but you could easily add more mileage if you choose.
After starting down Dowell’s Draft I only took video, and hope to post some of it here soon. Stay tuned.
A group of us got together last weekend down near Roanoke for some trail riding and general tomfoolery. Sunday came all too soon and it was bittersweet. Everyone was gathering their belongings and getting ready to head back home, but MS and I had other plans. We were driving up to Braley Pond to set up camp and explore the GWNF a little bit.
Some info on the Braley Pond Day Use and Dispersed Camping Area:
Braley is a 4.5-acre impoundment constructed in 1965 by the U.S. Forest Service as a recreation pond. It was drained in 1989 to dredge the upper end. The fill was used to build a “fishing point.” Keeper-sized rainbow trout are stocked and largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish are thriving
Braley Pond Day Use Area is a very popular access to multiple trailheads including Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy this universally accessible area perfect for family picnics, or plan to stay overnight in the adjacent dispersed camping site.
We got to Staunton around lunch and stopped at Sheetz. Now y’all who’re without sin can cast the first stone…, but a Sheetz quesadilla hits the spot. We filled up the gas tank, took advantage of available cell service, chowed down, and listened to some entertaining voice mails that had accumulated on my phone.
Eventually, we shoved off toward Braley Pond, which was about another 20-30 minutes west on 250. We found it easy enough and upon a cursory inspection found only one camping spot occupied of maybe 6 total sites available. And by “occupied” I mean a band of gypsies had clearly set up a permanent residence there along with their kids and dogs. We found a nearly perfect spot on the opposite side of the camping area.
After settling in, setting up tents, etc., we geared up to take a ride. We had been planning to try this loop (clockwise), but with the late hour of the day upon us and not knowing what we would be getting into, we decided to head out what would have been the end of the loop. That way, we would know what was behind us in order to get back to camp.
We followed the pond-side trail around to the back side where there is a small bridge and a sign nearby for Johnson’s Draft. This fire road and after a short distance, there are signs for Johnson’s Draft which veers off to the right and circles back around to the campsite (at least according to the map). Continuing to follow the fire road will eventually lead you to singletrack that ascends off of the right side of the trail. The day we were there, the trail head sign was on the ground. If you make it to the gate, you’ve gone too far. However, if your plan is to get to Georgia Camp, you could continue on this fire road until it reaches 250, which would cut out some of the time you’d have to spend on 250.
Upon nearing “the top” we encountered a very cool area that we stopped to explore a bit. Finally starting up again, we rode only a couple hundred feet before encountering a sign that told us Bald Knob was a ¼ mile to the right and Bridge Hollow was a couple of miles to the left.
The dilemma was that the trail descended toward Bridge Hollow and we didn’t want to lose all of our elevation gain just to have to climb back up to return to camp. From where we stood, it was all down hill to get to camp, so we decided to continue up toward Bald Knob. We passed a small trail going to the right that was marked with a few rocks. I thought it must have cut back over where we had been. As we passed, MS looked over his shoulder and something caught his eye.
We circled back to investigate and found an awesome camp site complete with fire pit and “benches” made from cut logs. Oh, and a short walk to the edge of the Earth also disclosed one of the most amazing views. This, we decided, was Bald Knob, and as far as we were concerned was the end of the trail before heading back.
Taking a break, we soaked in the view, sat around the camp, and ate some food to refuel. Eventually we shoved off to enjoy the 2nd reward of our long climb: the descent. After taking close to two hours from when we left the campsite to reach the Knob, it took us only 22 minutes to descend to the fire road where we first jumped on the trail.
Back at camp, we refueled with beers and Mountain House, enjoyed the fire, and tried not to be carried off by the mosquitos. After a night cap, it was time for me to hit the sack. Snuggled in my tent, I fell asleep quickly with visions of wonderful mountains, excellent trails, fantastic views, and darn good company.
If you haven’t seen it already, check out the video here. There should be more to come (no promises)…