Monday, April 11, 2016

Laurel Lake overnight

Some a few of us regulars go together for a two-day extravaganza of mixed-terrain foolishness on the opening of week of my spring break. The plan, and one must always consider the plan- not the reality that we always cut shit short- was to do a very mixed kinda road/singletrack/hikeabike/gravel kinda day on Saturday, a full day but one that kept the mileage reasonable, and then add on Sunday inspecting the well-reviewed Laurel Lake singletrack system.

Saturday's route began at Bee Rock Campground, where Patrick and I had visited before, and included a chill 4-mile warmup before we dove into singletrack. Unfortunately, the group had problems staying together pretty early on. We were introduced to our "theme" of the day.

Patrick and Timothy on the one-mile-ish climb out of Bee Rock.

Patrick and David further on up the road.

The off-roading commenced as we dove down a portion of the Sheltowee into Cane Creek WMA, again an area PJ and I explored back in the summer. With a little more confidence and fresher legs, I through myself with abandon and really enjoyed the sketchy descent, even clearing the man-made wood bridge that the others (pussies) chose to walk. I was early.

Smartly choosing dry in the chilly conditions.

Standard sketchy rock garden. None of us cleared. Pussies.

The area is rife with waterfalls, of which we stopped and snapped a couple.

Towards the base of the descent we were passed (while waiting for someone, cough cough) by two very capable ladies from the Rogue Racing outfit of Cincy. They were very capable on a descent that the rest of us sort of chunked. Humbling.

At this point they turned back uphill to go find the groomed action along Laurel Lake while we went west on #trail401 (don't quote me), we were found a mix of hike-a-bike and rideable trail. One of the Rogue girls had complained of too much "hiking in Sidis", which I scoffed at as being soft. She was right.

Yahoo Falls. A nice hike. A less-than-nice bike push.

As stated, the trail opened up into more rideable conditions.

Dammit where are the pretty little purple flowers I took a picture of behind the Jones?!?

Someone walked a lot.

After an interesting blend of riding and hike-a-bike, we found a nutty descent which eventually led us to our turn north for more of the same. I was having a pretty good time, while others in our party either a) fell in creeks or b) walked>biked. To say it lacked rhythm is to say that Stalin lacked empathy. 

While not extolling the virtues of modern flow trail, it didn't hurt that this portion of #401, aka the trail with the white diamond aka the trail along the river, provided very nice views.

Plenty of Rockcastle River attractiveness.

Seek-and-Find. How many bikes do you see?

We found things rough going, but along this section a pair of motos were working their way south along the same trail. Honestly I don't know if they're actually allowed, but they were there. Their part in the story surfaces just down the road.

This innocuous pic is here for a reason. Embiggen (I/Grant talk) and take a closer look.

OK. We were already a bit tired and taking much longer than we should have been, but that's the story of our rides. All that being said, April '16 DBNF got much more fucking crazy here. I've used my mad skills to screen shot a map of Cane Creek WMA and the nice trail we were on. The yellow star indicates where we got lost as fuck. It does not good to rehash the fact other than that we spent an hour plus clambering and debating how we were going to scale cliffs with our bikes, trudging up dangerous slopes, Dave avoided being impaled by wooden spikes, and generally fucking ourselves. It was just dumb. Oh, we followed some moto tracks too. They had to have been more fucked than we, as the notion of hauling their bikes up or down some of those slopes was just unacceptable. Eventually we saw a nice, fit couple we had seen earlier and conferred on the general direction of things. Patrick had been on the trail an hour earlier buuuuuut....

Nice view amid fuckery.

The trail is listed as the "narrows", and so the trail ended up being the steepest shit imaginable with bikes. At some point Timothy and Patrick up ahead were looking for white diamonds to no avail. In the end, though, the trail was found and multiple hours later we were back on track.

At the top, we conferred and hatched a plan. A couple of us went forward to camp to secure transportation. The other two did their forward progress towards camp. And we met together eventually. It was a memory. Jesus.

A totally screwed ride being the given, camp ended up really nice. Yes, it was chilly, but the wind died down and we dined on both our own fare and some jambalaya that Timothy had concocted. Along with the refreshing beverages, camp was solidly chill at some point. Later in the evening three of us visited the bridge and took in a very nice starry sky until the clouds rolled in. My camp sleep was typically brutal; at 1am for some reason (later found out to be an un-closed tab) my sleeping pad was flat as a board. I finished the night in the passenger seat of Dave's vehicle. -8 camper points there.

Sunday's plan was to ride the "flowy" singletrack of Laurel Lake. One in our party had had enough and decided to sit things out. The remaining three found a rather easy, yes, flowy portion of singletrack along the lack punctuated by short, quick power climbs after crossing dry creek beds. The path was well-maintained and even along the more populated portions there was a very light layer of pea gravel of some sort to minimize erosion. Someone yet again crashed into a streambed, truncating his trip by some miles as he returned via the road. Our morning ride ended up being about 10 miles total, as we missed the most southern leg at a road crossing we didn't cross. I consider Laurel Lake to be a very good "girlfriend/boyfriend" trail for those getting into riding trails. It was mellow and probably appropriate after our Saturday fiasco.

You know, a week and change later,  I would enthusiastically say it was better than sitting on the couch.

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: