Every year the weekend before Thanksgiving is shotgun deer season in IL. The places that are deserted all year long become major hunting hotspots in the Shawnee. Just about anywhere you can park a camper or pitch a deluxe Wal-Mart tent will become someone’s home for the weekend and anything in the woods not wearing orange is fair game. Needless to say we stay out of the forest during deer season.
It’s become tradition for us to go Southeast to Ellijay Georgia and ride the Pinhoti trail for the weekend. On the way down we usually hit up a few more spots and make a week out of it. This year the boys left on Tuesday and started the adventure in Monteagle TN. I had to miss that first ride and went down by myself and caught up with them at Five Points near Cloudland Canyon just south of Chattanooga. Five Points had some fantastic riding,, super flowy mountain bike trails that were built for fun. Five Points had great signage and facilities with well over 20 miles of trails, none of it very hard or technical, but several super fun jump and berm type trails.
The next day it was down to Layfette Georgia for Dry Creek This area offered a mix of fairly ordinary trails and very fantastic trails. The Northern end of the 20 mile trail system had some challenging climbs, but nothing very long, the Southern end was in a pine forest that had been logged in the past which opened up some cool views, it also was just much more fun to ride.
After Dry Creek we trucked over to Mullberry Gap for accommodations. Mulberry Gap is very close to the Pinhoti trail and Bear Creek Trails and bills itself as a Mountain Bike Get-A-Way. The Gap has cabins, hot tubs, camping, a great dining hall and excellent meals. Me and Eli always camp which is an interesting experience, considering it usually gets below freezing overnight and my Wal-Mart sleeping Bag isn’t really up to the challenge. This year Eli and I discovered using our mini camp stoves as heaters in our tents which I’m sure isn’t safe but felt really good.
On Friday we rode Bear Greek and Pinhoti 1 and 2, which was about 20 miles and lots of climbing. I had the forethought to put some gears on the SIR 9 in the way of bolting on my Alfine Wheel. It has been working pretty well most of the trip and having gear really made the climbing much more enjoyable. I had never really felt like I was even pushing myself until we were on the Pinhoti 2. I was chasing Barry ,who’d been riding off the front all day and just scorching the trails, when fatigue just fell on me like a Piano. Eli had to throw an elbow and get me out of the way so he could go for the Strava record on the P2 downhill. I was totally cooked and couldn’t respond as he rode away. The P2 downhill was like riding jackhammer on the Rigid Sir 9 and I rode it at a snails pace, you don’t want to make a mistake and bounce off the trail here.
On Saturday we had a short day and rode the P3, which is about 4 miles of climbing then turn around and bomb back down. I was pretty much cooked from the start line and was just going through the motions, wish I would have felt good because this is an amazing stretch of trail, SWITCHBACK, SWITCHBACK, SWITCHBACK, as some might say. After the ride I said goodbye and jetted home for wonderful Southern Illinois, while the guys enjoyed a day of recovery at the Gap.
My riding this year has been a lot less intense then in the last few years, especially when it comes to mileage. I’m just not riding as consistently as I have been and 3 days of riding in a row was enough to fire up my legs with some massive soreness. Luckily the last minute decision to go with the internal geared Alfine didn’t result in a catastrophic failure. The wheel held up fine for the 4 rides, if only the rider would have been as reliable.
Looking forward to next year’s trip.