26 March, 2008

Southern Escape Day 3 and 4

Tuesday called for rest, and I just rolled around town a bit around lunch, and then we all went to the Admiral for dinner. Bruce and I decided that Wednesday would be the day to head out to Ocoee and check gearing for the Cohutta race in April. We woke up at 6, packed a few days worth of clothes, nutrition and bikes into the car and were headed west on 74 shortly after 7. After an uneventful drive, we reached the vast expanses of the National White Water Center parkling lot. The plan was to pre ride most of the Cohutta 65 to get some ideas towards gearing and bike set up, following someone else’s GPS route so we didn’t have to haul the map out with us. They had missed some single track near the beginning and at the end, so we had a 54 mile route ahead of us, cursed with an even larger percentage of gravel roads than planned. The single track starts a few miles east of the OWWC, which translates to a few miles up hill. The first fifteen or so miles of our route click off quick, spinning through roller coaster singletrack leading all the way back down hill to the parking area. Somewhere in that picture is a real live bobcat. We cut a left over a bridge and start a singletrack climb that eventually dumps us onto our gravel road. Other than a few views into the valley, the next 40 miles all look the same; gravel roads either pitched to the horizon, or descending loosely into switchbacks. Around the 30 mile mark we rolled into a prescribed burn where the NFS was burning the road line with a liquid torch (think napalm filled watering can). The ranger pointed out another line of smoke on a high ridge to the south, and explained that they were burning these “pressure points” in preparation for a larger burn of the interior later. This would be done by a helicopter launching ping pong ball sized capsules of chemicals that ignite 30 seconds after being activated by the launcher. They land in the middle of the forest, combust, and the fire burns its way to the pressure points. On the prevention front, this helps thin out the deadwood and low canopy fuels that would make a naturally occurring fire harder to control. From a life history perspective, this allows the NFS to manage the age of the trees in the forest, and encourage diversity by initiating the life cycle’s of those plants that require a little flame to get things. It was an educational, necessary day, but not really all that exciting. Similar in all ways to this write up. Can’t wait to double the mileage in three weeks, with a much tweaked bike build up.

Stats: 53.99 miles, 4:42:49 ride time, 8,142 feet climbed, 11.5 avg.

Map: Click Here

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