Sunday, June 12, 2011

Yesterday I Hated [LOVED!] Pisgah

Pisgah is one of those places that can really run you through the ringer. If you ride here long enough, the forest will get the best of you on at least one occasion. A trail you ride and love one weekend will kick your ass the next. Sometimes you cuss the trails and seriously hate them, but at the same time you always love them, and it's that sick sort of masochism that keeps us coming back time and again.

Saturday's ride was one that ran me through the ringer. I had still never ridden Turkey Pen, so that was the plan. I got up with the sun, got dinner going in the crockpot, and headed out. I started from my usual spot on 477, and headed up Clawhammer. I could already tell that I really wasn't feeling it, but it was a beautiful morning, so up and up I went.


I slowly and steadily pedaled my way up Maxwell, and hung a left on Black at Pressley Gap. I rode the bottom part, but then it turned into a nice, steep hike-a-bike.


I made it to the intersection with Turkey Pen, and headed into the unknown. At first this trail was ok, and the hardest part about it was seeing the obstacles in the trail through the overgrowth. There were even some nice rhodo tunnels along the way.


Maybe I need to ride it more, but shortly after the above pic, Turkey Pen turned into my least favorite ride in Pisgah. The trail basically went straight up, and straight down. While the downhills were long and sometimes fun, there were sections that were just too steep and slick to ride, and the uphills were the same, you know, except the other way around. Lots of hiking on this trail, and by the time I hit the TP parking lot, I was already pretty tired.

I headed down to S. Mills River and refilled my water. It was a hot and humid day. I wanted to head up Mullinax (another trail I haven't ridden), and then ride Squirrel (large sections I hadn't ridden), but I knew that route was going to have to wait for another day. The new plan was going to be S. Mills, Cantrell, Horse Cove, and then Squirrel. As I started down S. Mills, Pisgah opened another can of whoop-ass in the form of the first thunderstorm of the day. The Lazer Cat and I took cover under a bunch of rhodos along the side of the trail, and waited it out.


Once the rain and thunder lightened up enough, I continued on to Cantrell, where I took a spill on the wet, slick rocks. When I hit Horse Cove, I knew I'd be in for a hike, and boy was I. It wouldn't have been that bad, but along came the second thunderstorm. The soil on this trail is red clay that is already mucked up from all of the horse use, and after the rain, there were sections I wasn't sure I'd be able to hike up.

I finally made it up to Squirrel, and I knew the hiking for the day was over. Squirrel was fun and slick and the roots almost slid me off the trail a few times, but I made it down to the river crossing with no real injuries, but lots of mud. Most of it was from one particularly deep puddle on Squirrel.



I then headed up S. Mills, which was pretty chopped up from horse use. This trail is also really sandy, and the wet sand just stuck to my tires, making them much heavier than normal. I hung a left at Buckhorn Gap, and cruised down Clawhammer to finish out the ride. The final mileage was 30ish, but it felt more like 60. It was just one of those rides.

Luckily, when I got home there were some icy cold recovery drinks waiting for me. The Highlands Oatmeal Porter works like a charm every time. And a few hours later I inhaled some crockpot turkey "carnitas."



  1. **WHAT** a route you did!! Sheesh!! I'll bet it did seem like 60 miles!

    I hiked the Turkey Pen Gap trail for the first time earlier this year. Carolina Mountain Club has nicknamed that hike the Turkey Pen Roller Coaster, because as you say, you are either going straight up or straight down!

  2. TP was the site, and cause, of one of my toughest days on a bike. That trail just owns you.

  3. I love TPG! Am I nuts? Seriously, though, we should head out sometime *down* Horse Cove, and I'd be happy to show you Mullinax > Squirrel!

  4. You are nuts, but you're also in much better shape than I am.

    Sounds good to me. I think I'll probably park at Yellow Gap or TP to hit the rest of Squirrel sometime soon. TP would allow for Mullinax, but there are a bunch of trails in that area I still need to check out.

  5. If you want to make it more interesting, ride TP the other way! :-D