Big adventure

A couple posts ago I mentioned the looong rides I did while the family was at the beach. I did a quick write up of the first ride, Black Mountain, but left out the REALLY big one, my overnight "adventure" ride. I have a complete fascination with races like the Tour Divide Race. No support, just you and the bike for 16+ hours per day, eat a bit, crawl into a bivy sack and then wake up and do it all over again. Read about a typical day for Great Divide racer here.

Sound fun? Not really, but what it does have is adventure which, for the most part, has really been sucked out of modern life. I was heel bent on heading out to roam around some big mountains, suffer and if I got lost, it would be icing on the cake.

In theory my route was simple and there was really no hope of getting lost, but I knew it would provide a bit of suffering. I added the adventure part by throwing in my typical poor planning.

A rainy forecast made me decide start my ride a day early. There were a few problems with this new plan. I was at work, it was 2:00 pm and I still had to run home, gather my stuff, get the dog, drive to Oak Ridge, drop the dog off at the in-laws and then start pedaling. By the time I knocked all of this out, I was finally unloading my bike and rolling from my car at 5:00 pm (poor planning example #1). One of the last things I remember when locking my car was looking at my light set and thinking "Nah, surely I won't need 'em. I have at least 3 and half hours of daylight left" (poor planning example #2).

I rode down West Outer Drive wide open, standing up on the climbs knowing that I had very little time to spare. Outer Drive led to the descent down Key Springs Road and then through the back roads leading to Dutch Valley. From there it was onto Walden Ridge Road for the first gravel climb of the evening. Cresting the top I passed the old gated road that leads to the now closed Walden Ridge trails.

Heading up the bottom of Walden Ridge Road before it turns to gravel.

The gate at the gap cresting Walden Ridge.

The decent down the back side of Walden led directly into the longest climb of the day. 3+ miles up Mt. Larry. The "top" of Mt. Larry only meant turning onto a much steeper gravel road into the Coal Creek Mining Area. I was glad to be turning off the asphalt, but knew that I had better keep the pace high, it was getting late fast and I still had a lot of riding left. I settled into a hard pace up the climb when my rear tire blew out. Damn. The repair wouldn't take long but it would use what little cushion I might have for making camp by dark.

The climb up Mt. Larry is steep!

Turning onto Coal Creek property.

After a couple miles of steep rollers (and an Elk sighting) I made the coal seam which meant I could throw it in the big ring and really get a move on. I flew across Windrock and I started to feel pretty good about my race with the sunset.

View from the coal seam road.

I made it across Windrock very quickly was rewarded with the cool, shaded and super fast descent down the back side of Windrock. The trail had eroded quite a bit since the winter which made it much less gravel, more dirt and lots of small rocks and ruts. Unfortunately, the fun didn't last very long and I was back on Hwy 116 rolling towards the last climb of the day. The low sun made me anxious to pick up the pace which led to twinges of leg cramps. I slowed waaaay down, but the cramps came anyway. I did a pretty good job of fending them off, but eventually I had to dismount and walk them out.

After a couple miles of alternating between walking and soft pedaling, I finally crested Graves Gap where the dirt road urns off to head into Frozen Head State Forest. I was elated. I still had good light and the only thing between me and the campground was six miles of downhill, right?

Well, that's where the poor planning thing really messed me up. I have looked at Tom Dunnigan's map of Frozen Head map (hand drawn, no topo lines) no less than a hundred times and always assumed
the connection between 116 and the six mile downhill was a fairly flat and short deal. I was very wrong. The road was pretty steep and seemed to climb forever. I kept cresting the next rise only to see the road continue upward. My earlier elation turned to frustration and from there quickly went to concern. The cramping had gotten REALLY bad, I was out of water, I kept questioning if I was on the right road and the sun was leaving me.

I waited till things turned black and stopped to dig out a small flashlight I had tucked away. I was still climbing, so holding the light was easy. Once I finally crested the top (after two miles of climbing!) and started down the rocky downhill, my light system wasn't so easy to manage. My speed was reduced to a crawl and what should have taken 10 minutes probably took close to an hour.

I rolled into the campground at about 10:15 and grabbed the first camp site I passed. I had originally intended to pass through the camp ground and look for a back country site, but at this hour I just wanted to set up camp, clean up and try to get some food in me. My system was kinda whacked out from the effort and I had to force dinner down. Not long after that I crashed into the tent.

Waking up kinda ended the adventure for me. All that lay ahead of me was a crappy road ride on the shoulder of the highway and I was tired, dehydrated and didn't eat enough the night before. After choking down some breakfast, I packed up my gear and ht the road.

Snapped a few pics of camp before rolling out.

The ride home was just as boring as I thought it might be. It was also longer and harder then I thought it would be. My GPS died before completing the loop, but I ended up with close to 80 miles and LOTS of climbing. I mean lots.

Next time I'll schedule things a bit better, take better food, leave more time for relaxing and find a riding partner. Still a good time and I learned a bit about myself.

Link to interactive version of map.


thomas said...

awesome! sounds fun.

Pimpcane said...

That sounds like an interesting trip. I have become more and more interested in doing a short tour of late and hopefully one of these days I will find the time.