Ryan and I made it down to Mohican first thing in the morning and got in a nice ride. It was a little chilly when we started but we warmed up quickly. I always enjoy an early morning ride with the light and trees in the woods.
With some Pisgah National Forest riding under our belts we decided to turn our attention to Dupont State Forest today. Equipped with some trail suggestions from Brian at the Bike Farm we drove about 30 minutes to the Buck Forest parking lot.
Bikes ready to go.
Part of the enjoyment in being on a guys bike trip is to not have a schedule and the ability to take our time as we care. So, we setup our camp chairs behind the car in the parking lot and took our good ol' time eating some food and getting ready to ride. As we were hanging out, a vehicle pulled in and it was the couple from out west we had met the day before. It was a little unexpected to see them again.
Eventually we rolled out and rode Corn Mill Shoals Trail to do a clockwise loop of Burnt Mountain. It was a good little climb up and a fast ride down! We then rode the Little River Trail to Cedar Rock Trail and got our first taste of Dupont slick rock.
A cairn to show the way.
Slick rock riding is typically thought to be out west, in Moab, UT for example, but Dupont is one place in the eastern US where you can ride slick rock trails. Despite the name, slick rock offers lots of traction and allows you to ride up steeper than normal gradients. The slick rock trails we rode were not particularly steep but it was a fun experience.
We spent some time taking pictures and eating atop Big Rock. The views were nice but seemed distant due to the large, flat area atop this mountain. A few other mountain bikers passed by as well as some hikers. A group of about five young boys mountain biking with a couple adults came riding up as we were headed down the Big Rock Trail. It was good to see some young blood cranking it up.
An expansive summit.
Within a few minutes we rounded a corner and found an impressive view to the north. Hey, we are on vacation with no schedule so we stopped again for some pictures.
The ride back down to Corn Mill Shoals was a fast one. There was plenty of downhill excitement with corners and drops. It was quite fun and we headed back to the car having enjoyed our first several trails of the day.
One of the Dupont locals.
Once again we setup camp chairs behind our car in the parking lot and relaxed while eating. We studied the map and made a plan for an afternoon ride to see the airstrip as well Bridal Veil Falls. Back out Corn Mill Shoals and then we rode the Shoal Trail and Laurel Ridge Trail to work our way over to Airstrip.
Check out the Klein!
There was an interesting water crossing along the way. We came to a crowd of ten to twelve people at the crossing. Some were going one way and some the other, but everybody was walking and not riding across the stream. Turns out the rocky bottom was very slippery with signs warning to dismount.
Slickrock is indeed slick when under water and slimey.
There is an interesting history to the park. Its name comes from the DuPont corporation and the area was once a getaway for employees, complete with an airstrip for flying in / out. Obviously it's now a state park bu the airstrip is still there. We rode right down the middle of it with arms held horizontally, air plane style.
A nice view to the northwest at the end of Airstrip.
Distant mountains beneath the clouds.
The Briery Fork Trail dropped us down from the airstrip with several big berms and switchbacks. We descended in a hurry and rode over to Bridal Veil Falls.
Bridal Veil Falls
It didn't seem like there was match water falling at the water fall. It was impressive to see the expanse of rock from below, but we had to ride up it. Good thing we did as there were several pitches to the falls.
Some interesting bowls and puddles.
At one point it seemed like a storm was going to blow in but it never became more serious than a few sprinkles. At the top most point of the falls was a nice spillover. We walked around the side and behind the water. A head rinsing was refreshing with the cold water.
The top falls.
For the second time today we rode Corn Mill Shoals back to car. The stream crossing was in play again on the ride back. It had been a great day of riding at Dupont.
In Brevard we stopped at Sycamore Cycles to check things out and got a good tip for a Mexican restuarant for dinner. I ordered some sort of sampler and ended up with what seemed like two dinners. This worked out well to replenish some calories spent today.
Back at camp we setup our folding cots in lounge chair configuration and relaxed until after dark. The insects were again surrounding us in full symphony, but I had no problem falling asleep tonight.
Good morning wet campground, from inside a dry tent! That's a good way to wake up this morning.
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.
It was late afternoon and the Labor Day forest visitors joined us in heading back to town. We sat in no moving and slow moving traffic heading to Brevard. Hunger and the GPS led us to the Oskar Blues Brewery for food and drink, the one in North Carolina not the one in Colorado.
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!
In a last minute kind of way Ryan and I made plans for Labor Day weekend road trip to mountain bike and camp. We had been considering a trip all year but never put a date on the calendar. Thankfully our family and work schedules cooperated to make a trip come together... but where to go?
The Pisgah National Forest area has been on our radar for some time. I did some riding in this area of western North Carolina several years ago and have wanted to go back ever since. With the ability to get away for multiple days we decided to go for it and head ~8.5 hours south.
Riding at Bent Creek!
Saturday morning and time to head out! We loaded up the CX9 and left Ryan's house at 06:30. With the rear seats down there was plenty of space for all our camping gear. The bikes followed along on the hitch rack. Thankfully, the weather forecast looked good for the next five days, and we made good time driving beneath sunny skies.
A couple days prior to leaving I checked the public campgrounds in the Pisgah area and found they were all booked full, certainly due to Labor Day weekend. Fortunately I had heard about Bike Farm Pisgah and their web site indicated they had open car camping sites. Perfect! I booked a site online.
We made it to Asheville about 15:00 and decided to stop at Bent Creek Experimental Forest for an afternoon ride before heading to camp. The Rice Pinnaccle parking lot was nearly full as we geared up and rolled out. I wanted to ride the Green's Lick downhill again, so we worked our way up Wolf Branch and Ledford trails to the ridge on the northern side of the area. Sustained climbing and warm temperatures tested our legs that had been sitting in a car all day.
Look out below!
Before long we were at the top of Green's Lick and ready for the downhill. Just as I rememberd, it was fast and fun! Lots of twists, curves, and jumps came at high speed. We ripped it as best we could and reached the bottom with big grins.
Knowing there was still camp to find and setup, we headed back to the car but were lured off the road for more singletrack. We rode service road 479E, blew past the turn onto Deer Lake Lodge, and ended up coming back down Wolf Branch. Somewhere along the way a trail runner told us of a bear she had just seen. We rode along scanning the woods but didn't see any bear, not today.
Back at the car we talked to a couple locals who seemed surprised to hear we woke up this morning in Ohio. They asked about our plans for the rest of our trip and gave us strong recommendations to rent a couple "dual squish" bikes for Pisgah. "Those hard tails are weapons here, but you are gonna need some 6-6 dual squish in Pisgah."
It was only about 30 minutes to drive from Bent Creek to Bike Farm Pisgah. We spotted the sign on the west side of 280 and slowly drove up the private drive. After filling out a waiver at the gate, we drove up and up a steep gravel road and were delivered to a clearing where a guide greeted us.
Brian from the Bike Farm explained the setup, pointing out the outdoor shower stall, water spigot, and directed us further up the hill to our car camping site. He was very friendly and said to let him know if we had any questions about where to ride.
Car camping site #4.
Upon reaching our camp area, literally right next to the gravel drive, we were initially unsure about the not-so-level area. Turns out my blindly picking car camping site 4 on the web site resulted in the least flat of the six sites. They also had deck camping sites, for sure flat, but it would have been a little more work hauling our stuff down a sorta steep trail from where the car would be parked. We settled in to our site and found it to be fine.
There was a likelihood of rain overnight. Better at night than during the day, and the forecast for the next several days was clear. We brought the canopy on this trip, it had been left behind on previous trips due to not enough vehicle room to haul it, and decided to set the tent under the canopy.
After dinner we studied our maps and guidebook for the area, making plans for our first Pisgah NF ride tomorrow. The sun began to set and it was dark in a hurry. Katydids, crickets, and I don't know what other kinds of insects were in full swing as we crashed for the night. I didn't hear them for long.
Ryan fights KT's camping can opener... eventually we ate some beans with our beef and rice.
With a wide open schedule Saturday and the rest of the family traveling I planned for adventure. First thought was to hit up a couple mountain bike trails I've never ridden, but the perpetually wet summer has put these trails out of commission. While eating a late breakfast I stumbled on the idea of riding the Funk Bottoms Gravel metric century route.
Mid-day start for a long ride.
I quickly gathered up bike gear, food, and drink. Of course the day I decide to do this route is hot and humid, perhaps the hottest of the year so far. Good thing there would be at least a couple options for mid-ride refueling in Killbuck and Glenmont.
Humble is a good way to go.
Out of the parking lot in Lakeville and straight up a hill then onto gravel. It was an appropriate start for the route. I planned to ride a steady pace and not push it unless needed. After all, I had however much time I needed today. I wanted to take some pictures and enjoy the ride.
Plenty of gravel and scenery along the way.
Oh, and blaring sun too.
Many of these roads I'd ridden before but never connecting together for 100km. I was making quite a few map checks and stopping at most intersections to verify the route. As I turned onto TR221 northeast of Glenmont I knew the fun ahead. A fast, fast gravel down hill and a big climb up TR251, a one lane gravel "road".
Refill and refuel at the drivethru window in Killbuck.
Coming into Killbuck I was nearly out of water, so a stop was needed. To prove to myself that I was not in a hurry, and because it sounded refreshing, I stopped for ice cream. Never done that mid ride that I can remember.
Leaving Killbuck I got turned around and made a couple laps up and down Main St. to get my bearings. As is often the case, it was really obvious once I figured it out. The gravel kept coming south of Killbuck with some winding, secluded country roads that would occasionally open up to big views of the valley.
Lots of green to be seen.
And then it got really interesting... heading west on TR324, at the most southern part of the route, I was looking for a right hand turn to head north. I spotted a driveway / access road but continued on in search of TR28.
Surely that's not the road.
I stopped for another map check and then a GPS map on my phone check. Yeah, that was the "road" I had passed. It wasn't much of a road, let's call it a trail. Narrow, rutted, and full of puddles. Fun ahead!
Are you sure this is the way?
Through the woods.
Now I understand.
About a mile later the trail opened up to a township road. I looked back and spotted a sign that made sense. A Jeep or ATV would be needed to traverse that section, or a cross bike can get the job done too.
Now it was all about riding north. Glenmont was the next stop where I stopped at the volunteer fire department and was thankful for a couple cold bottles of water. The gravel climb out of Glenmont was a good one. I think I've ridden all the paved ways out of Glenmont but this way was a good, uphill gravel grind.
Legs filling up with miles.
The heat and sun and effort was starting to catch up with me. Looking at the map I saw a strange loop instead of a straighter option north and I knew what that likely meant; some more climbing was coming. I stopped at a little bridge over a stream to eat a PB&J while looking up the gravel hill I was about climb.
In the homestretch but the hills kept coming!
By this time I felt like I was going really slow on the hills but I was still cranking as necessary and keeping it together on the gravel. In the last several miles my legs felt good and I was able to dial in some speed on the pavement.
I remember thinking this was the final uphill,
but I don't think it was.
One last map check and I thought I had the finish dialed. Except, I failed to pay attention to an intersection where I should have stayed left and I went right. By this time some cloud cover had rolled in and I didn't realize I was heading south instead of north, but three miles later I figured it out. Ouch, this was not the time in the ride I wanted to be adding bonus miles. I sucked down a GU and backtracked.
About 6-1/2 hours and 70 miles later I was back to the car. It was a great, challenging, and scenic route. Lots and lots of gravel. Good time!
A victory sneer... ready for some food and recovery.