Saturday, July 26, 2014

Big Sinking Creek and the trail that wasn't

Our plan had been hatched some weeks ago, a 3-day extravaganza of mixed-terrain madness deep in the DBNF, an area Patrick and I had toured the previous two years. Based on our experiences, instead of loading in the bikes, we would base ourselves at LagoLinda and do day rides from there, giving us the ability to car camp- Much Easier- and to explore a bit more while minimizing distances.

Patrick and I had originally hatched the car-based plot, and Timothy and Dave jumped in. Due to that annoyance that is Life, Patrick bowed out and Dave was teetering just days prior, as his neck had flared up. Ultimately I goaded him into coming and we made our way Friday morning for the first day Ride-camp-Ride-camp-Ride was to be the plan, with the longest day on the middle Saturday.

Our plans were further affected after hearing that our weekend was to be a RRGCC work weekend again. It had moved from the August date Patrick and I encountered the previous two years to our very same. They were following us! Point is, instead of riding first and ambling to the campsite we went directly there to reserve a spot before the climbers descended. Once set up, we did our shorter ride first, directly from camp, which would leave us plenty of meal time.

The short day ride was a casual 25 miles with a little loop thrown in in the middle and as mystery connection up to road 1036 through a disputed corridor of the Sheltowee Trace trail. Disputed corridors always make for good cycling.

**I would like to point out here that I did not take my camera nor my phone on D1, so all pics are borrowed from my compatriots.

We encountered New Virginia Rd. and it's fun, gravelly, sandstone strewn path until it careened down a ridiculous descent with lots of mid-10%. The brake pads were already on notice. At the bottom began a fun adventure facilitated by a loop I found on rwgps posted by Chris. He's got a couple fun blogs, but this was from the exact area we needed to explore, essentially a series of random oil company service roads deep in the KY wilderness. Although this is a nicy, tidy finite loop, it seemed that every half mile there was yet another road or path going off in a new direction. More, more, more. One take-a-away from this experience was the near limitless amount of exploration to be done.

Aside the cobwebs, this was an awfully entertaining loop.

Random guardrail ghost deep into nothingness.

This is the road. Yes. I'll explain "big sinking creek" in a moment, but this suffices as the roadbed. Glad it didn't rain too much.

KY rockhouse. This is where we lunched/picnicked, overlooking such beauty. Great moment.

This is your answer for the "sinking" mystery. It's called sinking creek because, in fact, the water mostly flows under the streambead and occasionally pokes its head out. We're still mystified at this man-made construction at the mouth of it, but our route basically took us *above* the creek. Except in heavy rain, I assume. then it would have been interesting. 

At the end of our BSC loop things got a bit more interesting. We headed uphill walking across a line of heavy rock until I noticed that our track was going off track; we were on the lowest stretches of New Virginia Rd. We turned and gingerly descended the rock garden to find ourselves in yet another creek bend with an even larger rockhouse. Stranger still were the remnants of a bridge which had fallen into disuse who knows how many years previous. It was all sort of mysterious, soothing, peculiar, and adventurous. We *were* on a portion of the Sheltowee Trace at this point, so Timothy's gps had it as a trail. We were deep in the boondocks we had an old bridge and established recreation trail at our digital fingertips.  

We followed the "road"  to find another rock garden and portage. At some point, yet again, the track was leaving our track, so we descended and followed the secondary path, the one along Timothy's trail. What we found was a stream bed, not a faux sinking, rideable stream bed, but a really chunky, ornery stream bed that hard sort of challenging to walk on, much less portaging bikes. With no beter options we hiked the bikes up the stream bed waiting for our escape. It was a walk, a long wait.

A mile or more of this and we call it adventure.

I was in the lead and sang "Hallelujah!" when I saw the remnants of a green thing off to the right, the remains of a trail/road, which meant the departure from our rocky Hell. My thin-soled shoes had my feet sore, Timothy had fallen on a wrist and knee, and Dave's gimpy shoulders were bound to give way eventually. It was time. We inched up the road, passed some oil pump workers who seemed quite bemused at our sight and eventually found the intersection of 1036, a nice gravel run which Patrick and I had previously trod the previous summer.

At this point pictures become rare. Why, you ask? Rain, I answer. We rode the steady grades up 1036 until we hit pavement again, and with a general concern of a lack of brake pads, hurtled down the Cathedral Domain descent. We were facing a steady, light rain, one that became a bit more intense as we turned onto Old Landing Rd. This stretch provided up challenging uphills- no behemoths though- or for the first time, a bit of brisk, hypothermic-induced concern on the downhills. The 62F rains were having a chilling effect, but yet another quarter-mile climb did the trick of keeping us warm. We hit gravel again on our left turn onto Beech Timber, and I enjoyed that stretch immensely, even if tuckered from the day's adventure. Funnily, looking at the profile I don't really remember the 13% of Beech Timber exit climb; perhaps I walked. I don't know. We were quite close to camp and rode the last miles as easily as possible.

Once back, the idea of someone else preparing and serving us food was a delightful one, so we somewhat cleaned up and began our first camping night eating fresh burritos, fries, and beer at Red River Rockhouse, where we dawdled for a good while trying to outlast the rain.

It proved to be an interesting day. Very.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Turkey Foot or bust

Our morning began with rain, mist, a wet blanket mummifying all. That said, I believe it was Timothy that got the coffee water started and the breakfast of sausages and Pop-tarts set the stage for what would be very interesting day.  We drove and parked at Heidelberg to avoid the 2 miles of climbing Pat and I did last summer. My camera was jacked at this point, so I have no pictures of the lovely blue bridge, but Timothy took this one.

The roll out from Heidelberg was very chill, as was the turn onto Crestmont. Spencer's Ridge, though, provided us with a warm-up, a nasty grind of up to a mile with lots of pitches in the 10%s. I decided not to burn too many matches so walked a couple sections. I believe Timothy cleared it all. Spencer's Ridge was a rather sparsely populated area with plenty of forest and occasional homesteads. At some point it turned into our beloved gravel. At this point we had what we planned, a gravel ride in the KY foothills. Nice.

This is not Spencer's Ridge, but I like the pic so I'll open with it. Dave at speed soaking in some Vitamin G .

We found our potential turn at around 6 miles onto what may or may not be Rebel Ridge or Radar Ridge, a road that is sometimes listed on some media like Bing, but is not listed on common formats such as the KY pdf maps and Googlemaps. The following series of pics reflect that I wouldn't bring grandma's Buick up or down this road. The night of steady rain made this a slippery, sodden mess, one which none of us were quite prepared for as far as rubber goes.  "FAT BIKE!" became the rallying cry, as I wished for mine, oh, about 20 times down this road.

The opening.

The descent into muddy madness.

This was a common feature, where in the "road" descended/ascended with numerous striations of gullies interspersed. Our tires often couldn't grip the mud on the high side, but the deep side was loaded with rocks an such, so our tires couldn't really handle those either. Sometimes, we walked.

And sometimes we didn't. You may notice a puddle in the middle of the "high side". Well, as you can infer, Timothy met an inglorious interface with said puddle and performed a most dynamic endo. I wasn't too far behind him and caught the entire thing in my mind video. Boom! Splat! I lifted his bike off of him and bade him rest. Nothing was broken; that's all that mattered.

Rebel/Radar Ridge Rd. Sogn. Excellent machine given the conditions, but I did often call out my whimpering battle cry, "Fat Bike!".

As is often the case, pictures couldn't really capture the blessed disaster that was Rebel Ridge. We had found a "not road" and had conquered it after a night of steady rain. We turned south on pavement working our way toward Turkey Foot, but the scenery along the way proved pleasant as well, if a little bumpy. All our drivetrains were beginning to express a certain unhappiness with the RebelRadar Ridge adventure.

Nice country dog.

At the Turkey Foot brown sign, we turned right and almost immediately found a bombing gravel descent. Man, I *loved* that descent save little bit of washboard that almost bumped me off. We saw a few cars and eventually found the bottom where the nose said to hang a right and look for the picnic area. I asked a gentleman in his truck about picnic tables and he kindly motioned just down the road and we found the delight that is the Turkey Foot Recreation Area picnic area. It hugs War Fork, overlooking the creek with its limestone rock house and large stone stops down to the creek. All three of us at some point availed ourselves of a quick rinse in the creek and we set about making a warm lunch with the Esbit stoves. It couldn't have been any nicer (save water, of which there is none, officially. We didn't need to filter but could have). I spent a bit of time watching what I think was a Green Heron flying about the creek. We ate well and gathered our strength for the return. I *love* Turkey Foot.

Turkey Foot Sogn

All good things must come to an end, so we gathered ourselves for the return leg, unfortunately having to climb back out of the Turkey Foot area. I did manage to clear the climb but don't think I'll win any "achievements" for my effort. Dave visited a church on the main road where they kindly insisted he clean his bottles and then gave him bottled water and tried to give him a hamburger. We returned via the same route for a bit before turning onto what is listed as Wild Dog Creek Rd. or Forest Service Rd. On-line maps have this road in existence, but local KY pdfs do not, so again we dove into another "not road", our raison d'etre.

More nice dogs, more common, in fact, than the notorious terrible KY dogs of lore.

Sorry bud, no snacks.

This pic is somewhat meaningless except that this is supposed to be Wild Dog Creek or Bushy Trail. "Fact is, I don't see any road at all, Sir".

Wild Dog Creek Rd quickly became another wet, soupy mix of forest road, but it was rather flat and the puddles weren't as crazy. We made steady progress here, with me riding in front cleaning up everybody's cobwebs (Timothy had more of that duty the previous day). I though I had taken a pic but can't find it, but there was a single bike track for much of this road, both thrilling and disappointing to think that another cyclist had plowed our not-road within a day or two of us. WDCRd had 2 distinct sections; the pre-turn section was really nice with an interesting pasture break in the middle. I found another hermitage along this section. Great stuff, but deep, deep in the middle of nowhere.

Potential TWS Hermitage. You're invited. We'll ride bikes all day and go to sleep early due to the lack of electricity.

A bit after the pasture break things got more interesting. We met a 'Y' in the road with the truck tire traffic heading left. Our gps track pointed right, but right down a rocky, chunky downhill. Beholden to our technology, we turned right and entered the rather dubious section of WDCRd gone bad. It began to descend into the creek valley, but the surface worsened with each bend. What had been soft mud became steep, rocky ravines with the hint of road. There was a good reason the tracks went left, because only the most specialized vehicle could have taken this on. I rode what I could but eventually found conditions too precarious for me to risk bicycle or knee/elbow safety. We all walked a good portion of this. None-the-less, the creek left the hardwood, deciduous forest from above and we found a layer or mountain rhododendron, hemlock, and pine. It might have been unrideable, but it was pleasant terrain none-the-less.

Timothy with a nice clump of rhododendron and hemlock behind him.

Down off WDCRd, we found Earnestville Rd and the mostly flat run back to the cars. Early portions of Earnestville were quite chunky with big, flattish stones which made for quick riding. Once we crossed 587 we were back in territory I had seen the previous year. Alas, at some point the wheels sort of popped off. I bonked and Dave and I began discussing whether we were going to be able to ride the next day. The bikes wouldn't stop and sometimes wouldn't shift. They- and we- were thrashed and trashed after such a crazy day on the bike. I sort of limped into the parking lot, really glad to have had such a day on the bike, but really, pretty damn tired. I was tired enough to pack up and head home.

Smartly we decided to eat first and make decisions afterward. It had finally stopped raining, so we were able to cook our mix of brats, corn, macncheese, broccoli, berries, and beverages and casually ate things as they were ready. Aside the dampness it was quite pleasant and I decided to at least stay the night, hoping for no more rain.  We all bedded down in the tents a bit after 10, which is really early, but 40 miles of muddy chaos can do that.

Sunday morning we bade goodbye to the third scheduled ride. Our bicycles, and maybe bodies, weren't going to handle it. Trashed and trashed. My primary concern of camping the second night was the fear of another poor night's sleep. Instead I probably slept 11.00-7.30, which for me is a long night. We loaded and finished our trip with breakfast at Red River Rockhouse, me with the same delectable pancakes I had had the previous year. Simply excellent.

FS Bridgestone RB-1-DONATED

*Donated to a young bike-hungry friend. Good luck!* And to acquaint yourself with the Cult of the RB-1: