Another gem laid out by the USFS, although it appears this trail was built pre half-rule, and there are some problem sections where the trail is now a stream and needs to be debermed and healed with some grade reversals. I suppose at 75? years old springs finding a trail in very low grade hilly/mountainous area is to be expected.
It looks like horses use this trail a lot, and some motorcycles, although the latter us not permitted. Nonetheless, the tread is pretty much bulletproof- mostly fine/medium-fine native soil/crushed gravel. Some sections have been refurbished recently, and rerouted as well. Really fun.
I arrived after an inch of rain, so I walked the trail to make sure it was OK to travel. After inspecting it I decided to wait a day. I organized what had become a mess of a car, and set up camp, which was in the car.
While setting up camp two separate locals came to ride. I asked about conditions and told them I walked it (only a 1/2 mile on each end), but they seemed unconcerned because “it’s pretty much solid rock.” I considered joining, but both were only doing half of the loop I intended. After they finished they came by the camp to report that it was wet in a few spots, but it was still OK to ride.
I have not ridden at 630 AM in a long time. I wore warm clothes and gloves, but not warm enough. The first hour my fingertips hurt, and stopping to try to warm them did little after a few seconds on the bike– “wind stopper” gloves my ass. After an hour my fingertips finally started to feel OK, but it took at least two before I no longer felt like I was riding on knubs/peg-legs. In spite of the discomfort, the trail was so nice for the first half of the clockwise loop that I didn’t really care about the cold. By the end of the ride I was shedding clothes.
There were a few tame rock gardens, and numerous roots. It’s very smooth compared to the root-rock-hell that is Pennsylvania. There were a few great descents, and for the most part no steep climbs. I’m guessing the Forest Service stayed within their 10% range as usual.
I can’t remember another trail system with so many creek crossings. Two went over my bottom bracket, the rest were below. Most of them were armored, and all were rideable. I was happy to have disk, and not rim, brakes because I think my rims got wet shortly after they had time to dry.
One of the locals told me to watch for a double creek-crossing at 20 miles because there is a right turn that “a lot of people miss.” Several times I second guessed his 20 mile estimate as I crossed two streams within a relatively short time. However, it was three crossings, not two, and it was right after the third at 20 miles that I passed the turn to ride down an out-of-character backwoods hunting/forestry/moonshine road that got really swampy. I knew something was wrong as it’s rare for the FS to route trails into swamps so I turned around and found the contour routing I expected.
The trail is well marked, but there were a few points of confusion, and perhaps new trails that were not shown on the map I had. There was one short double-track section and several road crossings, but managed to ride it without following a GPS route, although I carried one to record my travel, and broke out the map on my phone several times.
I realized why the locals rode the first half, because the last half is not nearly as good. It needs some work. There are a few nice sections, but nothing like the first half. At some point the locals turn off and take a fire road almost straight back to the trailhead.
I think I’d still do the full loop again, and from the looks of the repairs on the first half I do expect the second half to be fixed if a TRACS survey prompted the other fixes.
It was nice to be able to camp at the trailhead. Each site had a fire pit, a flat spot, and a picnic table. There was a composting toilet as well. Be warned that I saw what looked like poison oak throughout the campsite area. It was just starting to leaf out.