Breakin' The Law
A funky weather pattern this weekend caused a slight change in plans, so my retirement would have to wait one day. Instead of finishing off Pisgah on Saturday, I decided to ride a section of trail that I knew would be cold and wet -- but since the day was going to be warm, I figured that was preferable to being cold and wet on Sunday. Ha -- famous last words.
So Saturday was a fun one: NMR > 1206 > Laurel > Pilot > 1206 > Bradley Creek > Laurel Creek > Squirrel > Cantrell > SMR > Mullinax > Squirrel (almost to the gap, flip) > Laurel Creek > Bradley > 5015 > 1206 > NMR
But, I broke the law. As it turns out, Laurel and Pilot are closed for the next few weeks for a prescribed burn in the area -- not immediately in the area, but more in the general vicinity. I felt bad, but it was also the best ascent/descent I've done out there yet -- good thing, since I don't know when I'll be able to get back over there. And I wasn't the only one breaking the law -- I ran into Yuri at the top of Mullinax, who reported horses on Squirrel -- crap. Literally. And big holes in the brand-new tread. I chased after them for a bit, but was already way over on time, so I flipped and headed home.
(Remember this? I'll add No. 11: There are no short detours in Pisgah.)
On to the Next One
I remember when I bought my first Trails Illustrated 780 Map -- the Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest -- the lady at REI smiled and told me I'd have a lot of fun highlighting each trail as I ticked it off, until I worked my way through everything. Yeah, right, I thought -- this place was huge, full of big, scary trails; it would be years before I rode everything.
But then I started riding. And dreaming. And scheming. And staring at my 780 before I went to bed at night.
And on Sunday, I finished Pisgah.
Hatchery > 475B > 225 > 5045 > Seniard Ridge (hike) > Parkway > 816 > Ivestor Gap > Graveyard Fields > End of Pisgah > Graveyard Fields > Ivestor Gap > Flat Laurel Creek > 215 > Indian Creek > 475 > 471 > 471D > Butter Gap > Cat Gap > Hatchery
I wasn't out to break any records, but this route had plenty of climbing, topping out at about 5500 ft. from a start of about 2400 ft. and featuring some pretty unique things, even for Pisgah. It also had the last three trails I'd not ridden: Ivestor/Graveyard and Flat Laurel Creek, so of course I had to do it! I also managed the best descent I've done yet off of Butter, even after Saturday's big detour and several hours in the saddle on Sunday ...
One neat thing about this ride is that John Rock is a reference point throughout. Starting at the Hatchery, the Rock towers over you, and this time of year you can see it through the trees at various points. This is while ascending 475B.
Just in case you missed it, I hiked. Nearly 1000 ft. vertical. With a bike. In bike shoes. And it was fun.
Graveyard Fields as seen from the Parkway. The hike-only trails there in the bowl look pretty neat; but I'm headed higher -- to the mountain off to the left in this photo.
Climb a little bit, make the right turn toward Black Balsam parking lot, look back, and what do you see? Yup, you guessed it!
OK, now we're getting somewhere. Ivestor Gap and Graveyard Fields are two old roadbeds, full of granite, sand and water. It's like riding in Phoenix or Reno, except wet -- really wet. And you're 3000 ft. higher than the basin. Remember how I didn't want to be cold and wet? Yeah. Imagine clouds moving in, rolling across the mountaintops, and water everywhere. Anyway, Ivestor takes you over to the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness, where bikes aren't allowed.
The End of Pisgah. I call it this because the bike-legal part of Graveyard Fields ends at an intersection with hiking-only trails, making Ivestor > Graveyard the only true out-and-back in the Pisgah Ranger District. Everything else can be looped in some way, either via singletrack or fire road or pavement. So this is The End.
The sign marking The End of Pisgah. I went with Ghetto Cannondale on this ride -- the Siren needs a bit of love after a nasty, wet Snake, and I've got bigger, non-racey tires on the hardtail, the better for the rocky trails.
That was it for photos, except for this waterfall on Flat Laurel Creek. Flat Laurel was way too much fun to slow down and take photos as I screamed my way from the parking lot to 215. And then it was up and over the Pisgah Ridge and flying back down -- my Kendas were humming. And I wasn't about to stop and take a photo of all the dogs on Indian Creek, and Butter is, well, Butter, so ...
So that's it. I have ridden everything in the Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest. My 780 map is full of highlights. I've still got a few trails over in the Grandfather District to explore, and you know, now that I think about it, there are only a few PRD trails I've only ridden just once ...