The weekend started early, with Nolan pinging me Wednesday morning asking about an afternoon ride. I didn't want to jinx it, but I was secretly hoping, and as it turned out, I was able to sneak out a bit early ...
From Fisherman's: 1206 > 5000 > Spencer Gap > Spencer Branch > NER > Fletcher Creek > lower Spencer > Reservoir Road > 5000 > 1206.
This was the first time Nolan had been on lower Spencer, and I was just happy to ride. I'm not a big fan of that section -- seems like every time I ride it, I begin riding like a small child and find myself lying on the side of the trail, up to my waist in muck. This time went alright, with just one small dab on the descent from Trace, and a few down low.
Each of us had a couple of hours in the morning before Thanksgiving celebrations, so I met up with Nolan and Greg for another tour of Mills River. I rode solo up from Fisherman's, they dropped down from BC Gap, and we headed out Spencer Gap together. Good thing, too -- I was having a really, really hard time that morning, and being able to get lost in the woods kept my mind off things.
From Fisherman's: 1206 > 5000 (solo), then > Spencer Gap > Spencer Branch > NER > Middle Fork > Fletcher Creek > Reservoir Road > Lower Trace > Wash Creek > then (solo) 5000 > 1206.
Oh, and it was cold. Numbingly cold. Like, 29 degrees at Fisherman's cold. Thankfully it was warmer up high, and the breeze felt nice -- though the mis-step into Fletcher Creek didn't.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with a coworker of Kim's, and it was nice. Bittersweet. They have a big-ish family, and their college-aged sons brought friends -- it was nice to get lost in a crowd, and fun to watch Kate be all grown up with strangers. My goodness, she's getting to be a big girl.
Greg and I agreed we wanted to sleep in; we didn't want to be cold. And I wanted to hit Bennett at some point.
From the Ranger Station: 276 > 477 > Buckhorn Gap Tr > Clawhammer Road > Black > Club Gap > 477 > Bennett > 477 > 276 > North Slope
That was the first time I've dropped Black Mtn Trail/Rich Mountain down Club Gap (not going over Buckwheat) -- it was a blast. Oh, did I mention that Greg was on his singlespeed? Dang. And I wasn't wearing any warmers -- it was awesome.
By this point, I was clearly coming down with the sickness, but with another 60-plus-degree day on tap, I figured I could stick it out for one more. Greg suggested Squirrel, and we agreed on another midday start -- noon meant Fisherman's, 1 p.m. meant Yellow Gap. Wouldn't you know, we got to climb ...
From Fisherman's: 1206 > 5015 > Bradley - Laurel > Squirrel Gap > SMR > 476 > 1206
This was the first time I've ridden down from Horse Cove to Wolf Ford since it was machined. I've ridden up it a few times now, but have always avoided the down -- before the work, it was kind of stupid, with nasty mud bogs and sketchy narrowtrack. Now, though, it was fun -- from end to end, Squirrel is more rideable but it's not easy -- you have to pay attention or you will find yourself in some big trouble. I did wish for some grippier rubber on the way down, you can fly through that section if you can stick the landing ...
Along the way, Greg and I got to talking about 'cross, and I realized that I could have been in Coralville, and have been on several occasions. But deep down, I also knew the truth: I'd rather be out exploring Pisgah than freezing my butt off in a one-hour race, covered in mud and muck in some field in Iowa. It'll probably come around again, but for right now, this is what I'll focus on, thankyouverymuch ...
Sunday was completely up in the air. I wasn't going to go, as by now the entire family had succumbed to illness. Kim couldn't speak, Daniel was coughing in a scary way, and I was burning up -- only Kate, who was a day or two ahead of us (having already been sick), was doing OK. But it was again in the mid-60s, and Kim kicked me out of the house at midday for just a couple of hours.
From the Hatchery: 475 > Davidson > Cove Creek > 225 > Daniel Ridge > 475 > 471 > 471D > Butter Gap > Cat Gap
I took it slow, I took it easy, but I nailed it. I never pushed myself on the pedal sections, so it took longer than I expected, but I also hit the downhills better than I ever have -- only four dabs on the *entire* ride. I think that's some sort of record for me.
All in all, a good way to kind of forget about things, while still remembering -- there's something about recalling the good times, while you're pedaling through the woods all alone, that makes it all seem OK. Not easy, but at least not as painful.