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Archive for the 'Mixed Terrain' Category

A little exploration close to home

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

On Sunday, I wanted to ride, but didn’t feel up for going very far. So I went for a ride through our neighborhood, and down to Sherwood Oaks Park, the Jackson Creek Trail, and up and over the hill to Olcott Park. It wasn’t epic, but it was a fun romp, and I’m lucky to have scenes like these within minutes of my house.

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I got to test my studded tires in some tough conditions, including some spots where people had walked on the snowy trail, which later froze, resulting in thick, bumpy ice, on a hill.

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The tires worked shockingly well. I had no problems with this stuff.

After visiting the parks, I rode through a few neighborhoods, looking for shortcuts and hidden paths. I found a few. Nothing groundbreaking, but it was fun exploring. Then I rode home.

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I rode about eight miles, at a leisurely pace, but I enjoyed this limited time outdoors immensely.

Black Friday Mountain Biking — Sort of

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

I intended to do a lot of riding over Thanksgiving break. Sarah is out of town, so I figured I would get to ride a lot.

But, the weather was abysmal earlier in the week. I had Wednesday off, but it was in the 30s and raining all day. I considered riding, but cold rain is my least favorite condition to ride in. I’ll take snow over cold rain any day. So, I didn’t ride. I ended up doing contract work on my day off. And, working on my computer, trying to get it updated before I start school in January. Sad to spend the whole day working. Thanksgiving was a little warmer, in the 50s in fact, but it rained hard all day. So, I didn’t ride Thursday, either. I had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving with my family, preceded/followed by more work on my computer. Normally I enjoy working on computers, but this involved a lot of mundane tasks such as file transfers. No fun.

My friend Dave and I have a great Black Friday tradition: rather than going shopping like so many people, we head out to the woods for some mountain biking. Frequently, we seek out trails that are new to us. In the past we have ridden at Versailles State Park and in various areas of Hoosier National Forest. This year, we had planned to check out the trails in French Lick. We’ve heard they rival the Brown County State Park trails, and we were excited to find out for ourselves if they were really that great.

Unfortunately, it was in the 20s Thursday night. I say unfortunately because with all the rain we received, followed by the ground freezing, meant that the trails were an unrideable, muddy mess on Friday. Our plans were foiled!

Determined to ride, we came up with a new plan: riding on gravel roads in and and around Yellowwood State Forest. Dave suggested we explore some new roads off to the east of our usual riding area, so that is what we did. Our ride ended up being about 20 miles. Here’s a map of our route.

They are doing some strange work out at Yellowwood Lake. They have lowered the water level (again!) and are building a dam in the middle of the lake. Our theory is that this is going to help hold water in a marshy area that dries up in dry weather, but we will have to see what happens.

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I rode my 29er mountain bike. I had done some work on the brakes, which I managed to fix without breaking anything! For me, this is an impressive feat.

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Here is Dave’s awesome full-suspension Cannondale Prophet.

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It felt great to ride on some new gravel roads.

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The new roads only added about seven miles to our usual loop, but there were several significant climbs.

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A couple of sections were paved, but only briefly.

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We certainly could’ve used a beer about now. I was surprised to see that there is a Brewhouse out here. I didn’t know about the country club, either. Unfortunately the Brewhouse was not yet open.

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Back by the car, more evidence of the work they are doing at the lake.

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The giant pile of mud is all gunk they dredged out of the lake.

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So, our Black Friday Mountain Biking tradition lives on, albeit in a slightly different form. We are still itching to try the French Lick trails. Hopefully the trail conditions will improve and we can make it down there some weekend in the near future.

Big South Fork: Part 2 (Sunday)

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Note: This is part two of the Big South Fork camping trip. Read Part 1 here.

Sunday morning, we slept later than expected … past 8:00 am! I’m not a morning person, but I’m usually up earlier than that when camping. We got up, made breakfast and coffee, packed up our tents, and headed out for our second big ride of the weekend.

The route Tim had planned for this day was 60 miles. We thought it would be easier than Saturday’s route, though, because it had less climbing. There were a few factors we didn’t know about/didn’t take into consideration — extremely rugged road surfaces, and several flat miles meant the climbing was more concentrated we realized. As a result Sunday’s ride ended up being at least as difficult as Saturday’s, or perhaps even more difficult. Here is the route we rode.

Our ride started on the same 6-mile flat gravel road as before. This time, instead of getting onto the paved road from Saturday, we turned onto another gravel road. The route was surprisingly flat and deceptively easy for the first 15 miles or so. The road we were on followed a beautiful creek through a valley for quite a few miles, and we passed a horse farm or two. I think we were all very stiff from Saturday’s ride and sleeping on the ground. For me, at least, it took quite a while for my legs to loosen up.

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We saw another footbridge, this one had supports made of oil drums. Sketchy?

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At times, the trees formed a tunnel around us. The sunlight turned orange as it filtered through the leaves, and leaves fell and blew all around us as we rode. It was a beautiful scene.

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We came across a spot in the creek that had a HUGE rock, and a rope swing. What fun!

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I forget what this green plant is, but Tim mentioned its name. In areas everything was overgrown with this green crawler.

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After a while, we turned onto a paved road, which remained relatively flat as well.

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We had a few moments of confusion with the route, but we eventually figured out where to go. Our road immediately went into a brutal climb, 1.5 miles and over 500 feet of elevation gain.

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The road continued with some major ups and downs. Now, this road was just amazing. A very narrow, one-lane road through the woods, sometimes winding its way along the edge of ravines. We saw very few signs of civilization along the road. This road was so remote and little-traveled that we were pondering why it even existed! Along the way, we saw more interesting rock formations. The climbing was brutal, but … what a beautiful road!

Here we are looking back on where we came from.

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After a while of this, we ended up on a gravel road. Not your typical gravel road, this one was quite rough with many large loose rocks. The riding was very rough and sketchy for many miles.

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We did see some rhododendron, which I am always a big fan of. I hadn’t seen any since I left Pennsylvania.

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Here are Tim and Dave on one of the rollers.

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Frankly, this road became a drag. It featured some rolling hills, some very tough climbs and descents,  and very little flat riding. At many points you could tell that you were close to a nice view, but couldn’t see through the trees. It got a bit frustrating. Also on this stretch of road, Tim got the only flat tire any of us would see the entire weekend.

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We did find this very cool rock face with a cave in it.

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There were some more really tough climbs. Eventually we started running out of water again. Argh! I brought 4 bottles, I think the other guys each brought 5. And yet, it wasn’t enough. I had brought my water filter with me, but there were no streams or water of any kind to filter from. We just had to keep going. I even walked a few hills, not because I couldn’t make it up them, but because I knew if I pushed it too hard without water, I’d be in bad shape.

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When we left Daniel Boone National Forest, I was hoping things would improve.

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We entered Tennessee.

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At this point, things *did* improve, at least somewhat. The road got smoother and had better flow to it. The climbs weren’t as steep. It was actually really beautiful and fun riding.

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Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enjoy it very much. We had simply been on this road for too long, with its pleasant-but-samey scenery, lack of water (or anything, really), etc. It would be pleasant on a normal day, but we needed a change.

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Eventually, we entered Pickett State Forest.

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And, after what seemed like forever, arrived the next road we would take, and it was paved!

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Riding on smooth pavement felt absolutely sublime, after all that gravel. And before long, we found water.

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My mood, and my riding, took an immediate turn for the better. Unfortunately Tim and David were both feeling sick by this time, but once rehydrated, I was feeling pretty good. I did my best to help them along. This paved road was a real stunner. Beautiful scenery, great downhills, doable (but challenging) climbs, and no traffic whatsoever. And like Saturday, the sky filled with clouds in the afternoon. It got cooler and less harsh on the eyes. Things were looking up, from my perspective.

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We entered Pickett State Park.

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Tim and David were struggling with the climbs. We just stuck together and after a while they, too, started feeling better again. In a way this started to feel like a century ride, or another long ride, where you hit a wall but ultimately get over it, feel better, and start enjoying the ride again. This ride wasn’t that long in terms of mileage, but it was in terms of time, and climbing.

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I couldn’t get enough of the sweeping descents, and climbs, on this road!

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The sky grew increasingly ominous, but no rain fell.

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We re-entered Big South Fork, and Kentucky.

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After a while — too soon if you ask me, I could have ridden on this beautiful paved road all day — we turned onto another gravel road, and stopped for another shot of the three Truckers.

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I was a little nervous about this gravel road. I knew we’d be on it for about eight miles. If it turned out to be as difficult as the earlier gravel roads, we might have a really hard time with it.

Fortunately, this road was not as rough as the earlier ones, and did not have any huge climbs. Just some moderate rolling hills, and some beautiful views. By this time it was getting a little dark so we switched our lights on.

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We went into a steep, loose, washboarded, rocky descent. I was having problems retaining enough traction. Finally, almost at the bottom of the hill, my front wheel washed out and I went down. I tried to do a leaping dismount, like I had on Saturday, but it didn’t work this time. Fortunately I was going quite slowly at the time and didn’t hit the ground too hard. I scraped my leg and landed funny on my hand, but no real injuries occurred. The worst of it is the scrape on my leg, which covers a sort of large area, but it’s not deep at all. I got back on the bike. It figures I’d wipe out in the last 7 miles of an epic weekend of riding!

Soon we were back on the road back our campground.

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We arrived safely back at the campground, loaded the bikes up, and Tim drove us back to Louisville. Once there I had to drive the two hours home. I didn’t get home until about 2:30 am. I’ve been tired and sore all week, but it’s certainly been worth it!

I’ve been thinking about these rides a lot the past couple of days. I had a great time, and it makes me long for more adventure!

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