In the middle of the night I awoke to the sound of approaching rain in the forest. Wait for it... rain drops smacking the canopy came next. Last I remember using the canopy in the rain was on a past bike trip and I recall the seams were not water tight. Wait for it... water drops smacking the fly of the tent came next. That's as low as the water came in our sleeping quarters, so all good for us.
Camping on the corner.
Our bikes stayed mostly dry leaned against a picnic table, covered with a blue tarp. After some breakfast we pulled the tarp and did some bike maintenance to prepare for today's riding.
Last night we talked to Brian, the Bike Farm Pisgah guide, about how necessary a "dual squish" bike is in Pisgah. After asking about our riding experience, he concluded we should give our hard tails a try. We could always rent full suspension bikes for subsequent rides if need be.
Getting them ready to roll.
Back down the steep gravel driveway and we headed south to Brevard. A turn west onto 276 took us into Pisgah National Forest. Just like our mountain bike guidebook said, it's a sudden shock to go from the shopping plazas of Brevard to the expansive wilderness of the forest.
About five miles into the forest we turned onto a forest service road and continued past a fish hatchery another several miles to a parking area for the Daniel Ridge Trail. There were a dozen or so cars in the lot as we geared up to ride a loop.
As we crossed a bridge, stayed left, and started onto the trail it was easy to spot multiple tents and camp setups along the river. I'm guessing many of the cars in the parking lot were people primitive camping on the holiday weekend. It looked like there were many suitable spots.
Starting the up on Daniel Ridge Trail.
About a mile in we reached the start of the uphill. Wow, the fun begins! It was pretty steep, rooty, and rocky. I took several tries to clean the opening section but was only able to go so far before getting stumped. We would ride as much as we could before getting hung up. I remember one prominent two foot tall rock ledge during the uphill that was not rideable. For a third of a mile we were sucking wind while trying to ride it.
Just past the intersection with Farlow Gap.
The trail topped out at an intersection with Farlow Gap and we turned right. Along this section of trail we encountered several riders coming towards us, including a teenage girl with her dad. She was hitting it pretty hard as we gave her the right away on a short downhill!
It was still rocky but very rideable for another mile. We stopped at a crossing with a logging road, just before a good downhill, and spotted two riders coming up. Hmmm, that makes five people going the opposite way as us.
The two riders stopped to chat. They were a husband and wife from out west on a several week road trip to the east. We enjoyed their descriptions of places to ride in Colorado and Utah, and we took note of a couple destinations should a trip west ever workout for us.
Waterfall with limited water.
Next up, some downhill for the next 3/4 mile. There were a few surprises but it was all fast and rideable. Sure, suspension out back could have allowed more reckless attacking on the downhill, but we still got the job done on our bikes.
The guidebook said to listen to the left for a waterfall at the bottom of the downhill. Not much waterfall sound today as the water was sparse, but we stopped anyhow to check it out.
Someone has been playing in the creek.
Back at the parking lot we were greeted by twice as many cars as when we left. We did seize the opportunity to move our car from a sunny to shaded spot and enjoyed tailgate snacking. Many families were out for the day to hike to the waterfall or play in the stream. We consulted the guidebook for our next adventure and found Butter Gap to be a good option.
From the parking lot we rode west on gravel forest service road 475 and began to climb. It was uphill but not too steep. A few miles later we turned left onto FSR 471 and continued uphill another couple miles. With no other cars or people around and nothing but the forest in all directions it was feeling remote.
Eventually we came upon a parking pulloff with a couple vehicles and made our left turn into the woods. Passing a gate and heading uphill it narrowed down to a trail. At a 7-way intersection we turned onto Butter Gap Trail and locked in some downhill smiles.
Rhododendron tunnel on Buter Gap.
A well-marked intersection appeared and we consulted the map. It looked like we had two options to get back to our start. Suddenly a couple of hikers appeared from down trail. We learned from them the Butter Gap trail from this point north was not open to bikes this time of year. This new found information made our decision obvious and we turned left onto Long Branch Trail.
Long Branch had some interesting terrain complete with drainage gully climbing and a stream crossing or two. We rode it back to FS475 and tucked in to fly down hill on the gravel road. It was a blur going down and we were back to the car in a hurry.
Stream crossing complete with
log bridge and hand rail.
Welcome to Oskar Blues.
Oskar Blues is quite involved in the bike world, especially in Pisgah. Their Reeb Ranch is another option for camping and lodging in nearby Hendersonville. We didn't get to go on a brewery tour, but we walked into the facility to pickup our beer and spotted a full lineup of bikes next to the brew tanks.
Flight of beer in a plank and a burger.
Full of Chuburgers and beer we returned to the Bike Farm for the night. The outdoor shower once again cranked out some really hot water. Then we visited with Bike Farm guide Brian and discussed options for riding at Dupont State Forest tomorrow.
We told of our riding today and learned the Daniel Ridge Loop is typically ridden the opposite direction as we had done. Well that explains why everyone else was coming towards us. Apparently the challenging uphill we did is a much enjoyed downhill. Even so, we had our fun!