Eastbound Days 3 and 4- Unicoi Gap and Back

Not long after I took those pretty photos Friday morning, a couple of hikers (Kyle and Bart) showed up at the hostel (after hitching rides from the Appalachian Trail a few miles away). They’d parked their car at Unicoi Gap and been shuttled to the Southern end of the AT and had planned on hiking back to the car. However, when the snow and ice came through, their progress had slowed, and they weren’t going to make it back to their car in time for Bart to catch his flight home on Sunday.

Then I got the call- Eddie and Namrita (the Southern Cross race promoters) had tried to go to the race venue (Camp Wahsega) and were unable to because of the ice on the roads. They were going to have to postpone the race.

By then, it was a little after noon. I decided that I’d stick around the hostel for another night and head to Chattanooga for some “normal” CX racing Saturday morning since the Big One was called off. That evening, bored with sitting around the hostel watching CSI reruns, Bart, Kyle, and myself decided to head to town for dinner. I found out that they’d called a taxi service to pick them up in the morning and drive them to their car about 45 minutes up the road… to the tune of eighty bucks! Always up for a little adventure, I offered to drive them up there for the low, low cost of dinner and a tank of gas.

The scenery out to Unicoi was gorgeous! At the parking area, the trees on the hillside were still frozen in snow and ice, and the sunlight coming through them was amazing.




Kyle, Bart, and their car
Kyle, Bart, and their car

After dropping them off, I headed back to Chattanooga. Along the way, I drove past Brasstown Bald, site of many an exciting race finish during Tour of Georgia. Eventually, I made it to Booker T. Washington State park- just in time to change and head out for a quick lap around the MTB trails to loosen up my legs after a couple of days of doing nothing. Luckily, the race promoter had reserved the bunkhouses at the park for anyone who wanted to stay there, so I had some dinner & bedded down.

Today (Sunday), I’m hoping to finish my road trip off with a decent CX race.

Good Morning…

Looks like we got around 2 inches yesterday/last night. The roads are pretty covered, so I’m sticking around the hostel for a while (especially since the driveway here is really steep, really slick, and has a ravine on the other side of the road…

Back porch of the hostel
Back porch of the hostel
The chickens have a heat lamp in their coop, but they're huddled together outside
The chickens have a heat lamp in their coop, but they're huddled together outside
The toaster's first snow
The toaster's first snow


The driveway- if you look close, you can see where I inadvertantly slid a few times walking down
The driveway- if you look close, you can see where I inadvertantly slid a few times walking down


Eastbound- Days 1 & 2

I’m currently tucked away in the Dahlonega Hiker Hostel watching the snow fall. So, here’s my trip so far…

Yesterday, I left Memphis around 8:00 and drove to Chattanooga. With snow in the forecast, I didn’t want to be making the 5.5 hour trip to Dahlonega for Southern Cross in failing weather. I had just enough time to make an afternoon lap around the Raccoon Mountain trails. After “roughing it” on Syllamo trails, the groomed singletrack up there was pretty enjoyable. The rock gardens on the expert trails were especially cute. Here are some random shots from the ride:




After my ride, I headed out to a friend’s house in Hixson to crash on their futon for the night. This morning, I packed up & headed South to meet up & preride some of the race course. After checking in to the hostel, I headed to Camp Wahsega to meet the O’Deas.

As Namrita & I started out, a few flurries were floating around. By the time we were about 6 miles up the initial climb of the course, there was a solid layer of snow on the gravel. It was awesome to ride in, but we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to drive out from the camp once we were finished, so we reluctantly turned around and headed back.






Luckily, we made it back before the snow made the gravel roads slick or stuck to the paved roads. I picked up a pizza at a local place in downtown Dahlonega then headed back to the Hiker Hostel. This place is really, really awesome. Here are some photos, including the chickens, front porch, the three dogs that live here, and a wall of thank-you note photos of hikers at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail…











Just a quick update before I hit the road…

SouthernX is this weekend!!! It’s back again, and it’s longer and much colder. I’m leaving today so I can make stops along the way & enjoy some local trail riding. Just like last year, I’m heading back to Chattanooga on Sunday to get my *ss kicked by Kim F. at Cross-a-nooga.

Updates to follow!

Training Camp ’09- Days 5 and 6

Yes, this is a combo post- yesterday I rode, packed, and skeedadled out of Mountain View so I could get back home to Memphis before bedtime, and had a bunch of stuff to do once I got home, so I didn’t feel like updating.

The sunrise/blue moonset was a really nice way to start the day:


The ride was just a simple loop in the National Forest. I started out at Blanchard Springs on my MTB and headed up the mountain to Green Mountain Road. From there, I rode up a while then dropped back in to Gunnar Pool . It’s a gorgeous campground with a small lake, dam, and waterfall, but I didn’t hang around for photos because it was pretty dang cold. You’ll just have to take my word for it ;)

From there, I turned around & climbed back up to Green Mountain, tracked east, then headed south on Sandy Flat, which drops down quickly to a creek crossing then climbs again back to Green Mountain road. The entire loop was less than 30 miles and took about 2.5 hours. Each of the 3 climbs was between 500 and 600 ft of elevation gain, and I rode the rolling sections between climbs at a decent tempo, so I was happy to get back to the decent back to Blanchard.

Once I was back, I figured I’d take some photos of Sylamore Creek…



Today, Ryan and I day-tripped the Columbia #1 cyclocross race. It was cold and reletively uneventful. Kim Bishop showed up and gave me a run for my money. My legs were wondering WTF I was doing. Not only did I put in nearly 20 hours worth of riding/hiking this week (my TSB is -38 right now for all you Training Peaks geeks), I haven’t done any CX-type efforts since the Outdoors race several weeks ago. Needless to say, I wasn’t really thinking about the usual cat 3 boy-beatdown that I liked to administer earlier in the season.

Tomorrow is supposed to be even colder, so we’ll probably venture out to the WRT for a couple of hours on the mountain bikes.

Random thought of the evening: Barleywine tastes like neither barley nor wine. Discuss.

Training Camp ’09- Day 4

The weather has been as damp as possible without actually raining, so the trails are staying soggy. I loaded a 50ish mile route into my Garmin and headed out on the Gravel Killer.

Everything was good until I got up the longest climb on Roasting Ear Road (no idea why it’s called that!) I heard a dog barking and saw on in a pen. Luckily, my instincts told me not to let my guard down. I picked up my pace immediately before I caught sight of a large, tan pitbull charging out of the yard of the house. CRAP! I floored it and made it past the next house just fast enough for the two large, shaggy dogs to join the chase with the pit. This was the first of seven dog chases.

Here’s a map of my ride- I put a red dot on the approximate places where I encountered loose dogs.


The dogs weren’t the only unpleasent thing on the route. The gravel road south of Highway 66 was freshly graded. In theory, this sounds good, but in actuality, the grading process turns over new rocks and loosens the dirt, so it’s thick to get through and really, really rough. The eastern part of 66 heading in to Mt. View acted like a traffic funnel, too. As I was turning off into downtown Mt. View, a guy in a truck yelled at me and gave me the finger. So much for Southern hospitality! After getting out of Mountain View, the rest of the ride was pretty nice.

Like my other rides this week, I was feeling good even through the last few miles. I’m a little surprised since I haven’t been training quite as much as I wanted to during the fall. Hopefully the “slow start” will mean that I’m not feeling burnt out before the end of the season next year.

Training Camp- Day 3

Last night, even though the radar showed solid blue for several hours, this is what I woke up to this morning…


I figured I’d take today to head out on the Bald Scrappy Loop (orange trail) and start working on the 4.5 mile section that I adopted (and hike the remaining 3 miles following that). The hardest part of adopting a section of trail is maintaining the corridor- a 3 foot perimeter around the singletrack. It involves cutting any small trees, overhanging branches, and underbrush. It was obvious that most of the trail hadn’t had such care in a while. So, I slowly made my way down the trail with a handsaw, stopping to cut something back or off every 10-50 feet. It took me 4.5 hours (giving me a total hiking time just short of 6 hours).

The inherent nature of trail clearing is both destructive and preservative at the same time. There’s also the beauty and solitude of the woods… it’s very zen-like.

Along the way, I took some photos of the icicles & whatnot…





My favorite part of the trail is the section along the top of Cedar Scrappy Mountain:




I dolled up Turbo’s already fabulous collar so that she’d look a little less like a deer or rhinestone-wearing coyote. She’s a wonderful trail companion- most of the time, she trots along a couple of steps behind me. I enjoy the company…


Training Camp ’09- Day 2

I set out today with the intention to ride a majority of the Syllamo’s Revenge course. I started out by leaving the trailhead and heading up Green Mountain to find Blanchard Road. After taking a couple of wrong turns onto logging roads, I finally got going in the right direction. I wanted to get a feel for the race start, so I actually rode past the yellow trail intersection to the Blanchard campground, turned around, and headed back up the ~3/4 mile climb. This essentially dumps you into the most rocky, technical section of the Jack’s Branch trail. I quickly realized that the ground under the rocks was still wet, which made the rock gardens much more treacherous than usual, because they were either slippery or would shift and slide as I rode over them. The sun-sheltered spots were icy. A couple of times, I fell downhill off of the trail and was only saved by grabbing on to nearby trees.

So, in the interest of NOT falling down a mountain, I changed my plan to ride the remainder of the yellow trail and the red trail. The red trail was full of wildlife- I had a herd of wild hogs run across the trail in front of me, almost ran over a squirrel, scared up a huge gang of turkeys, then finished it all off with some random whitetail deer. The awesome part of the ride is the fact that I felt as strong at mile 30 as I did at mile 3. Looks like this base training stuff is paying off!

Some photos from a scenic spot on the yellow…





It’s kinda weird to think that exactly a year ago, I was at the Metro training camp learning how to give Coryn Rivera a sprint leadout. Now I’m riding my MTB in preparation to hit the NUE series with guns blazing. I’m not surprised, though.

Training Camp ’09- Day 1

I’ve officially dubbed the next couple of weeks as my own personal Training Camp. The plan is to stay in Mountain View until Friday, then head home and race CX over the weekend, then drive out to North Georgia for some more riding before the SouthernX race on the 9th (and Cross-a-nooga on the 10th). Hopefully the only thing that will be similar to last year’s training camp will be that I come out of it a little tougher ;).

Yesterday, I woke up early and drove from Memphis with the sunrise.

Pit Stop!


Once I arrived, I loaded a 57 mile gravel grinder route into my new Garmin 705 and headed out. The first 3 miles was downhill, followed by ~7 miles of climbing up hwy14 up to Blanchard Springs.


I decended to Sylamore Creek, then found my way to Blanchard Road, which went straight up the mountain (20+% grade at some points) to intersect Green Mountain Road. From there, I headed north, planning on turning off onto another forest road a few miles away. However, once I got there, it was not quite what I expected…


You can’t tell by the photos, but the road bed is really rocky and covered in branches/debris. I figured that it wasn’t a wise adventure to take on alone with winter-limited daylight, so I turned around and headed back down Green Mountain Rd. to hwy 5, then back up the mountain to the cabin. It ended up being 30 miles. A really tough 30 miles. I think that I’ll try that route with my MTB next time.

Today, my plan is to ride most of the Syllamo’s Revenge race course. It may be my last chance to hit the trais before the weather goes foul tomorrow and sends me back to the road.

Turbo Dog

…got a new collar today. (BTW- she’s a Belgian Malinois- not a German Shepard)

I figured I needed to give her something to show my appreciation to her loyal guard-dog service since she will be keeping me company over in Mountain View for the next few days.