Loaded and ready to roll.
The plan was to head about two hours south to Douthat State Park. We had done some recon work when planing the trip and learned of a network of trails at this Virginia State Park. It looked like a good option for a second place to ride, though not as back country. The lady we talked to at the Shenandoah Bicycle Company confirmed our idea to visit Douthat.
Nice scenery on the drive south.
The back road drive took us out of the George Washington National Forest and into the state park. We found a site in the campground and set things up. It was immediately obvious we were not in a secluded, low use campground like the last couple nights.
Welcome to the state park information station.
Print your own trail map here.
After some lunch we geared up for a big ride. We left our campground at the north end of the park and set off for the Ross Camp Trail. The trail wasn't obvious and we ended up climbing steeply uphill on a road past some state park cabins. It took some effort to get to the top of the ridge.
Onto the trail.
The Mountain Side Trail and then Brushy Hollow Trail took us south the length of the park. It was a different trail here than the past couple days. Not as rocky but more small, gravel-like rocks. One thing was clear; you either ride up or down here.
Our first big view of the ride. Looking south.
Yeah, we were feeling it on the long uphill.
In an amazing display of confusion, fatigue, or both we completely missed the overlook. We even back tracked a bit and still didn't find it. Strange. Instead of getting frustrated we continued onto the Middle Mountain Trail to head north.
Seems pretty simple according to the sign,
not sure how we missed it.
The northern end of the trail network includes the Salt Stump Trail. We thought we were on our way back to the campground. Maybe one particularly confusing trail intersection was all it took, but we ended up on some double track. Oh well, it should eventually get us back to the campground, we thought.
My favorite picture of the entire trip. Maybe you had
to be there, but I found this hilarious. Count the signs.
We rode and rode and really began to wonder if the double track would lead us to a dead end. That seemed doubtful. Eventually a gravel road greeted us. But which way to go now? Thankfully a barking dog clued us into a residence and a friendly local pointed the way back to the state park. We were a good distance back into the National Forest at this point. Fortunately we had been eating well throughout the ride and were still energetic with good spirits on the road ride back to camp.
Not as secluded as it looks from this angle.
Back at camp the fun really began. Perhaps our calorie depleted state is to blame but we were amused to no end by watching our camping neighbors in the campground. From the closest neighbor who hosed down her own tent and picnic table full of gear by accidentally blasting the water spigot, to the younger couple who incessantly played frisbee games, we just watched.
As we reclined and ate dinner we observed a camping mother make 700+ trips in and out of their camper with one more thing to retrieve and setup. At another campsite a couple of adult brothers carried a downed tree trunk from the woods on their shoulders and then spent an hour trying to chop it into firewood size pieces with a machete. They got one piece cut off.
The other mountain bikers, directly across from us, got back from their ride and hit the showers. Normal enough. Walking through the campground in flip flops and undies, however, not so normal. Maybe their Mercedes car wasn't the only Euro import.
We turned in for the night as the mother across the way was stringing up her fourth or fifth set of Christmas lights around their camp site. I'm not sure she ever went to bed, I think she did self imposed "camp work" all night.
Ear plugs required tonight.