One of the benchmarks of my youth (okay, my early 40's) was riding the 14.6 "big loop" (officially known as Trail 301) at Fort Mountain State Park in northern Georgia. Actually, I had never ridden the entire loop in one day, but instead tended to take a shortcut by pushing my bike up the impossibly steep Trail 302 to get back to the campground. The 301 Loop is one of the rougher mountain bike trails around; in fact, on my first ride around it, I had declared the downhill section below the Firetower (where the trail goes pretty much straight downhill on loose dirt and rock along a powerline cut) to be "not rideable." On my second attempt, as Jerry Patten and I were struggling to walk our bikes down the slope, we were amazed to be passed by a couple of high-tech riders using newfangled hydraulic disc brakes.
A decade or so had gone by, the trails had surely weathered, and I was now riding a most excellent full suspension Gary Fisher 29er with (you guessed it) hydraulic brakes. How would I fare? I set out at 10:30 AM this past Saturday to find out, leaving the campground and proceeding up the paved road past the dam about a half mile until the 301 crossed. Right away, I hit rocks and a steep climb. Jeepers! I rode the downhill successfully, but my forearms were aching from riding those brakes.
I made almost halfway around to the point of the mountain before hitting the first hill that I absolutely could not ride up. Too steep and slippery! So much for a "clean" ride, but it didn't matter, because after I continued on past the 302 shortcut, intending to make the full loop, I started encountering (1) more impossible steep and rocky hills and (2) stinging nettle that forced me to walk so I could use the bike wheels to open a path in front of me. A decade ago, before we had experienced real mountain bike trails, we could put up with this stuff, but the lure of riding eroded double-track has faded. There are no doubt humans who could make the loop without pushing, but they will either be Olympic material or honest to God cyborgs.
Lots of pushing later, I arrived back in the campground drenched in sweat (despite fairly cool temperatures) after 3 hours and forty minutes. I was pretty much exhausted.
I took Sunday and Monday off but yesterday (Tuesday) I got up and ran my usual 3.5 mile route to White Oak Park and back in just under 29 minutes without ever breathing hard. It rained on me a bit, but not enough to get me wet.
Jeepers, I'm done with the 301.
Although I have had a personal website for over a decade now (see www.stationr.org), I have resisted the urge to blog--but what Internet hipster doesn't blog these days? Ha! So here I am.
I am a principal in the computer repair company PC Liferaft (www.pcliferaft.com) and currently working diligently to publish my guide to the trails of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee (www.hikelookout.org, currently under construction).