Sunday, February 26, 2017

Brevard Binge

When your travel agent sends you pics of deluxe accommodations nestled deep in mountainous woodlands, along with a set of routes that quite literally knock your socks and shoes off with amazing riding- squirrel mode hits hard.  Go tubs dumped, gear sorted, grocer hit, loose ends tied, etc..., and it was all roads to rendezvous for four days of the unknown.  Plus, the weather looked spot on.

So what's this unknown business?  For one, I'd not been to North Carolina to ride, and two, we wanted to try something new (to us)- Bikepack-ish in, day ride unloaded, bikepack-ish out.  Here's how it went down.


As usual, it took me right up to the last second to pull the plug, however the plan had simmered for months previously- Four days in Brevard with four day rides, two motels and one camp.

You know it's gonna be a magical something when the Subilucious kicks out a palindrome en-route.

Day 1: The Best of DuPont

After split driving down, snagging a motel part way to stave off the rumble-stripping, we were on the bikes early for a full day of riding in the DuPont State Forest.  Wow, these trails were bomber, perfect for rolling the hardtail on the smooth swoopy singletrack with just enough climbing and tech to keep you distracted from the sightseeing.

Knife at the Gun Fight.

Cedar Rock.

Rock Bridge Portage.

Day 2: Squirrel Hammer

Today was the onslaught of the crux of the trip.  Starting out with a 7-1/4 mile 1,700' roadie climb up Clawhammer Road, we dumped our gear at the Buckhorn Gap shelter and proceeded to crank out a loop consisting of Squirrel Gap, Mullinax Trail, Bradley Creek, Yellow Gap Road, Wolf Ford Road and South Mills River Road.  Tons of amazingly rough riding, and enough climbing for it to take us ~6-1/2 hours to go 25 miles and 3500' up.  What the heck is up with that?  Well, when the route follows a 'road' that follows a creek that it crosses many times without bridges...  hilarity ensues.

Roadie to the top.
Gear stash time.

Springs' A-comin'.
One of the many lessons of patience.

Getting over feeling frustrated yet?

Surely by now?

Day 3: Black Butter

The highlight of the day had to be not having to take our shoes and socks off and wade through cold slippery rock strewn creeks.  However, I'd be ahead of myself if I didn't mention the deluxe accommodations of the shelter, starry moonlit nighttime skies and good times around the campfire the previous evening.  Starting the day off with a warming breakfast hike-a-bike up Black Mountain, we bombed down to the car, dumped gear and proceeded to bust out a ten mile roadie climb to link up Cove Creek and Daniel Ridge.  One final climb and it was all downhill on the Butter Gap trail to the car.  Overnighter day-ride mission complete.

Black (Diamond) Mountain, both up and down.
Atop Black Mountain.

Unloaded and ready to get our day ride on.

Rock Climbing Central.
Land of the Waterfalls. (turn sideways)

Day 4: Trace Ridge

Packed up early and freezing our butts off on yet another six mile, 1700' climb, Trace Ridge was rocky rooty drop-off mayhem all the way down the mountain.  And just to cap it off, we had to take our socks and shoes off and wade through a creek less than 1/2 of a mile from the car.  Hahahahaha.

And Done.


So if there's a moral to the story, it's this- it's best to have a travel agent who has a quest for adventure in their spirit.  That way when you're laughing hysterically at the absurdity of whatever comes floating down the creek, you know it's an experience you could never have otherwise.  Thanks again Eric and Jill, excellent times!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Sheltowee Trace NRT

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On the way to / from TNGA...

Eric: 'We should through ride the Sheltowee, looks like it's pretty much been a fail so far.'
Me: 'I'm down.'

Eric, after a few days on the trail: 'I hope you took the whole week off...'

Funny how skipping the details, especially when there are few details to be found, is the appropriate fuel for the good idea of a fun bike ride.  And in the spirit of adventure and keeping the octane high, I'll also be a bit terse on the tell and let the pictures do the show.  The scenery, remoteness and solitude was amazing- the riding, equally more so.  The dragging, pushing, lifting, carrying, scrambling, scraping, bushwhacking, two-manning up ladders...  Yea.  That's what makes the good times.  And in retrospect, maybe a little bit of what we were looking for, we just didn't fully grasp it in the moment(s).


- 'Riding' is a misnomer for many reasons, have in mind that your bike will be a rolling pack mule every day on this route.  One that you're going to have to kick in the rear every couple of minutes to get up some impossibly steep bumpy grade while navigating semi-off trail through a brush-whacking thicket of briars.

- Non-potable water is plentiful in most areas, however food resupply required going off route most times.  The stores around the Cumberland River/Lake area are seasonal.  We had several service spots turn up zilch, sending us rolling along on fumes.  It took us three days to make the first resupply, which was luckily a Kroger.  With a pre-filter screen and scoop cup, you could certainly run only tabs/drops for killing off the non-potable water bugs.

- Most of the trail proceeds through dry counties of Kentucky- pack your own libations.  Aside from Morehead, there was only one other store we passed selling alcohol, near the Red River Gorge.  And we failed to procure.?.?

- Stans, lots and lots of Stans.  And thick sidewall tires.  The trails are uber rough and gnarly, knobs ripped off your tires, titanium frame gouging and carbon frame impact cracking from rocks gnarly.  The briars on the northern section were thick and plentiful- aside from tire issues, any soft shell clothing will get trashed with holes, snags and tears.  Gaiters?

- I can't say I'd recommend through riding this route, however there are plenty of sweet sections which are link-able by roads.  Leave a comment or contact me otherwise for advisement if you wish to do so.


- Main Site
- USFS Site
- Mike's Bike and Hike (an omen?) is a good resource for shuttling and other trail condition information.

Route Map/Profile:


372.9 miles - 76,866' of climbing


So this was Eric's DeJong's idea.  He did all the planning, scouting, setting up the shuttle, etc.  I trained, waffled and was finally all in about a week from from departure.  The weather looked perfect.  Starting out with two nights / three days worth of food and the idea of picking up some tasty treats along the way, the plan was to make it to Morehead and do a fuel up for the final push to the car, which is about 27-ish miles away- so as to crank out the route in 4-5 days-ish.  Hahahahahahahahahahaha.  Seriously.

Day 1

Northern Terminus

Southern Terminus

Cross bridge spanning rocky crag...

Lift bike over head and push it up said rocky crag...

Pull yourself up via rope...

Motor on.

Yep, trail goes that way.


Day 2

Day 3

Day 4


Day 5

Crossing over I-75.

Halfway point before they added on the TN section.

Matthew 'Not the Hurricane' Togger, you can read his through hike adventure here:

Day 6
The photos are out of order, we started out riding through the Red River Gorge and then back onto the trail.

Day 7

Take heed to 'More Difficult', you can see the rocks hidden by the fallen leaves.

No bikes on forest roads...  Yet moto / ATV tracks?


In Morehead, behind the first alcohol advertisement plastered gas station, we sit like a couple of winos with paper bags over our bottles staring down the final 27-ish miles to the car, waffling if we should get a motel and a case of beer and ride in in the morning.  At 5:16 pm, we rolled out.  At 11:18 pm, each with a knock yourself a bit silly gnarly crash on the rocks in the dark, we arrived at the car.  Typical speed on a typical day on the Sheltowee Trace, turtles and all.