I finally put real keys in a door Friday night, actually Saturday morning, and found a wonderful present waiting for me at my rarely visited home. I heard one time that when you go on vacation, you should always order something online before you leave, so that when you are depressed about leaving wherever and returning home, you'll have something to cheer you up.
I live in the bizzaro world of that scenario, but its still nice to find boxes. Ergon had rushed me a new BC3 backpack to add to the arsenal of quickly accumulating multi-day weapons. Perfect timing as I was headed out for a group ride the next morning.
The original plan was to meet steady riding partner Ed, his friend Mark from ATL, female phenom Kylie, and Phil from Suspension Experts at White Pines. By the time we showed up, Kylie and Phil were nowhere to be found, but Adam, Chris, Chris, and Park were. So it was going to be a bigger ride than expected, especially when the original cast finally showed a few minutes later. Nine riders total and not a plan between them.
First some standing, then some pointing. Eventually a barrage of typical Pisgah style route descriptions was launched into the air. This to that to this, to drop this, to climb that, to this, drop this back the car. For a few minutes we were 9 riders with too many ideas, and then someone went north on Clawhammer and it was all settled.
Up Bennett Gap and up Buckwheat Knob to Club Gap. Drop ?Barnett Branch and some road to the Cradle of Forestry?, climbed Club Gap Trail back up to Club Gap and dropped Avery Creek back to Clawhammer and on to the car.
The Most Horrible Thing Ever 2008 was the first and only time I’ve gone up Bennett and Buckwheat to Club Gap. It was a march then, and it was still a hard push this time around. Fresh legs helped a bit, but we were a little too fresh two minutes from the parking lot. Bennett gets on top of you quick, lets up from time to time, and the undulates along the ridge to the Bennett Gap. It basically repeats itself as Buckwheat Knob all the way to Club Gap, at the Cross roads of Black Mountain trail, Avery Creek, Club Gap, and the last ridge of Buckwheat Knob.
Along the way we met a cast of characters going what will now always be referred to among our group as the “right way” on their lazy headtube and setback fork equipped monsters. Like two indigenous tribes yet unknown to each other, the groups pointed and discussed the equipment and route choice of the others, until a third group, the bearded bipeds showed up and we all felt better about our daily routines. The heavyset continued on their way down, and we continued on our way.
From the high point at Club Gap, the mystery trail, that I guess was Barnett Branch, led us down to the Forest Discovery Center. We could have ridden all the Pink Bed seasonals that are typically open through tax day, but due to the looming unibomber in Pisgah, the area is still closed as they do a prescribed burn to discover the buried munitions. Not worth poaching anything over there. After much discussion, and a false start up Club Gap followed by some questioning, we do in fact climb back up Club Gap, to the crossroads.
Rolling down Avery Creek was a lot of fun. It’s a little tech at the top, and I dove in headfirst. I did the same thing at the top of Heartbreak a few months back. Something about a lot of climbing leading up to a known dedicated decent gets everyone excited. I made it through unscathed and settled into a nice ridge drop. We crossed over some double track and regrouped after a flat. Then came the food. Cookies of every variety, tuna, and even a cold folded up pancake. Quite the spread for a remote section of forest. We saddled up and finished on Avery rather than cross over to Black Mountain. Group mentality favored the confirmed “swoopyness” of Avery over the big mountain style Black Mountain.
We regrouped at the cars, and let a couple people go to enjoy a few beers. I hadn’t been out in the woods for a month or so, and the hotel elliptical workouts had drove me to near insanity; so we extended it a little bit. Out to 276 and over to Davidson River Campground for a short loop on the North Slope Trail. NST offers a nice, climbable grade up to its high point. It took everything I had in the legs to clean the climb. Nothing overly technical, but at just a grade that I spent a good 10 minutes a pedal stroke shy of walking. Sticking with it hurt, but I made the top and the reward was an elongated descent, flat in spots, all twisty and a little technical at spots. I avoided a giant root hole that could have swallowed bike and rider as one, and as a crowning moment, didn’t avoid coming hot into a set up steps at the trails end. I heard Chris whoop behind me as he hit them right on my wheel, but we both made it through, had a laugh, and I crashed sideways into a rhodo for no discernable reason, and pedaled the road back to the cars.
Excellent ride on the first day of spring. Oscar worthy best ensemble cast of riders, one flat, no attitudes, and lots of smiles from the company of friends and the spirit of Pisgah.