120 Trails in 18 Days- A Southeastern MTB Epic

The actual trip included about 122 trails or trail segments on about 23 different trail “systems” in 18 days of riding. It took 22 days in all. The extra 4 days were rain and travel days. All said and done it was about 352 miles of trail, but some of that mileage was dirt and gravel roads and troads (roads labeled as trails). The elevation gain for those 350 miles was about 39,000 feet. Day 19 (and part of  21) were shuttle days, but I still climbed 4200 feet on day 19. The road route, as well as the trails, are shown in the map below. The trail tracks depicted are the tracks or ground I covered (not necessarily all the trails at a system).

I spent well over 90 hours driving the entire circuit.

  • Fuel: ~$425 (~4230 mi)
  • Lodging 21 nights: 2 hotel nights, 7 camping, 12 Walmart lots: $265 (includes a few park passes)
  • Showers: $12 each (2x) = $24
  • Misc supplies and bike repairs = $180
  • Mega Cavern: $25
  • Other food: ? (usually about 380/month for me, and this month most of it went to Walmart, not my neighborhood grocer)
  • TOTAL: $919 +food and other

I left New York on the 19th of February, and returned 22 days later on March 12th:

  • Day 1 travel day to Indiana
  • Days 2-16, 18, 19, 21 riding (sometimes coupled with driving to the next location)
  • Day 17 and 20 rain days
  • Day 22 travel day home

My ambitious plans were to repeat this theme 24+ times: drive, ride, eat, sleep… The rhythm got cut to 22. Other than a few wrong turns on the trails, some trails that turned out to be roads, and ascents that should have been descents, the trip was great! My luck on the rain and freeze-thaw front this time of year was even better.

I selected trails based on ratings from singletracks.com, mtb projects, mtbr.com, from magazine articles that I dogeared over the years (dirt rag, mountain bike action, bike, and the IMBA Trail News…), and from conversations with other riders and trail builders. I realized the ratings, articles, and opinions weren’t necessarily how I would feel, but knew I would find out nonetheless based on some general consensus of what was “good.” I also chatted up some locals on my tour as it unfolded and rearranged some plans, leading to places I hadn’t heard of, and some that I knew of but decided against originally.

The trip above^ is tabulated below.  Zoom in to see trail tracks and info.

In the 21 nights I needed a place to sleep, 2 were in hotels, the rest were at campsites and the parking lots of Walmart (if they allowed overnight stays). Walmart probably saved me about $1,000. The All Stays app and Google map searches helped a great deal here as I modified sleeping arrangements on the go, sometimes a day in advance. I showered at two Pilot/Flying J truck stops, which were not nearly as bad as I expected. They were actually very nice. In lieu of showering for two nights, I opted to use baby wipes, which wasn’t at all bad. Of course the weather was cool to perfect most of trip so I didn’t seem to sweat that badly. I also had one really cold rinse in an Ocoee tributary.
 
This trip doesn’t cover “all” the southeast has to offer, but did hit a lot of the more “popular” trails. I did another trip a few years ago that included four Epics.

Brown County was high on my list as I’ve been skunked by rain on two other trips where I tried to include it as a stop. I will need to go back again at some point to hit the new Hobbs Hollow Flow trail. Mega Cavern was also high up on my list…because who doesn’t want to ride 8 acres of rollers, berms, and jumps in cave? Other than that, Bentonville (AR), Knoxville (TN), and Blankets Creeks (GA) were on my must-do list. Bentonville was a model town when it comes to trails, and so is Knoxville. Regretfully I didn’t get to do much in Knoxville because of rain, but I know for certain I want to return given what I did get to see. Bentonville also deserves a return visit.

The only real disappointment I had was in the Chattahoochee National Forest near the Cohutta Wilderness and Mulberry Gap. It was much too wide and included way too many roads (albeit dirt, and gravel). The return on climbing investment was low. I would not call the  trails, troads, and roads “high value.” The back country feel was fleeting, and the number of stream crossings bordered on and surpassed fun and novel to becoming an annoyance. I may go back again, but I certainly have no desire whatsoever to repeat what I did, even the famed Bear Creek and Mountain town trails, which while they were OK, were no SART or San Juan or Nobel Canyon etc.

Day State City/county Name/#trails I hit My mi/ poss. mi Elev gain Maps, and other links
1 x On the road       Trip map (above) as traveled with my trail tracks, lodging, etc.
2r Indiana Brown county Brown County Epic/5 23.15 2357 /2400 39.19087,-86.218199 East Rd, Nashville, IN 47448 HoosierMBA; IMBA info; mtbproject info
3 Kentucky Louisville- west point Fort Duffield/5 5.31 1011 37.99169,-85.945443 Honeysuckle KYMBA; mtbproject info
3 Kentucky Louisville Waverly/1 7.16 824 38.128511,-85.831492 KYMBA; Runner’s World info; mtbproject info
3 Kentucky Louisville Mega Cavern 8 Acres Of fun 1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville, KY 40213
3 Kentucky Cub Run Brier Creek- Nolin Lake State Park/5 7.75 545 37.297529,-86.212486 KYMBA; mtbproject info
4 Kentucky Owensboro Ben Hawes- Rudy Mine/2 10.45 810 37.785618,-87.202492 Overstreet KYMBA; mtbproject info
5r Missouri Highlandville Two Rivers MTB Park/9 15.33 2002 West loop: mtbproject info South loop: mtbproject 5055 2 Rivers Rd, Highlandville, MO 65669
6r Arkansas Bentonville Blowing Springs and Back 40 Loop/8 18.55 1776 36.475368,-94.2424 Trail Forks info; mtbproject info; vid
7r Arkansas Bentonville Coler/4 9.35 1180  NWA Trailblazers pre-ride waiver
7r Arkansas Bentonville Slaughter Pen/6 11.56 1103 36.375714,-94.207501 mtbproject info; vid
8 Arkansas Ozark National Forest Upper Buffalo Creek/9 19.63 2942  IMBA Epic info; mtbproject info
9r Arkansas Ouachita National Forest Ouachita Vista Shuttle Epic/1 27.72 3228 34.546117,-93.480853 mtbproject info
10r Alabama Pelham Oak Mtn/1 7.35 562 33.32269,-86.76183 Rattlesnake Ridge Trail, Pelham, AL 35124 BUMP; mtbproject info
11 Georgia Gainesville Chicopee Woods/6 17.24 2051 34.248095,-83.835831 Elachee Drive, Gainesville, GA 30504 NEGASORBA; mtbproject info
12r Georgia   Rope Mill/5 10.31 1035 trailforks info; mtbproject info
12 Georgia Holly Springs Blankets Creek/6 13.74 1419 34.160904,-84.540793 vid; SORBAWoodstock; mtbproject info
13 Georgia Johns Mountain Dry Creek/5 23.8 2121  trailforks info; mtbproject info
14 Georgia Ascalon 5 Points/14 19.0 1316 mtbproject info; trail forks info
14r Georgia Ascalon Ascalon/3 9.8 900 34.83731,-85.43893 mtbproject info
15 Tennessee Chattanooga Raccoon/8 25.8 2893  mtbproject info
16 Tennessee Chattanooga Enterprise South/3 9.3 618  trail forks info;
17  x  rain pause        
18r Tennessee Dalton Raisin Woods/7 7 734  info
19x Georgia Chattahoochee National Forest Bear Creek, Pinhoti 1/2 19 2560  Mulberry Gap area: mtbprojects info
19x Georgia Chattahoochee National Forest Mountaintown, Pinhoti 0/2 20 1703  ^same
20  x  rain pause        
21r  Tennessee Loyston Point Recreational Area  Loyston/2  14.81  1308 mtb project info
21  Tennessee Sharps Ridge Memorial Park  Sharps Ridge/3  3.73  395 trail forks info
22  x  On the road        

^r means I would or will return, and x I will not. This of course depends on travel plans, but this decision considers how far I live from some of these areas and that there is so much more to check out if in the area again.

One trail visit in Oak Mountain Park (Pelham, AL) was strictly to record some data. I’m not sure if it will elicit the same vibe I got the first time I rode it, but if it does, I would love to recreate it somewhere one day. A dream I have is to one day build the trail equivalent of this, this, or this.

Pics

I slacked on pictures this trip (on some trails anyway). I was trying to enjoy the ride more than stop for pics, but some places elicited more photos for whatever reason. I have a lot of photos of signage and trail structures because I like having samples of that geeky tail build stuff, and looking at a slab of dirt rarely does that slab any justice. There are also a lot of weather system screen shots because I was trying to plan my trip around a few storms. I totally lucked out until the last few days.

 

More thoughts on certain trails

Day Name/#trails I hit Random Thoughts and Memories
1   long drive
2r Brown County Epic/5 3 rd time is a charm. Some of the rock features over roots at trees were more annoying than fun. Good flow. Wish there were a few more big descents. Cool frogs. Damn that is a narrow steep bench. Shit. This trip is going to be awesome. Great signage.  
3 Fort Duffield/5 my ass hurts. that looks sketchy…damn that’s cool. How did they approval for that? sweet little park
3 Waverly/1 waves on wheels. One super sweet section (actually more, but one stands out). That old guys is a straight out racist f*ck (told me he saw two “black” people in car, they don’t belong here, and “if they would have gotten out their car it would have been towed for sure.” wtf?)
3 Mega Cavern Is it me or are some of these jumps off? And off the hook. I’m pedaling way more than I want to, or should have to. Damn I’m glad I didn’t break any bones. That kinda hurts.
3 Brier Creek- Nolin Lake State Park/5 I can’t believe I am going to ride this now, but I have to. Are there any places to sleep in Sweeden?
4 Ben Hawes- Rudy Mine/2 My legs hurt. “This place might get sold and shut down?” Are you kidding? That sucks, sorry…You can get a ticket if the trails are closed due to rain.
5r Two Rivers MTB Park/9 I can stop listening to nine pound hammer now that I’m not in Kentucky anymore. If I had to turn around now the trip was worth it. Don’t turn around now.
6r Blowing Springs and Back 40 Loop/8 Beer while I wait for my bike repair, sweet (Thanks GPP Bella Vista). Nice RV Park. This is like nothing I imagined, yet exactly what I imagine for cities throughout the country– planned. Pushing the limits of risk. Cement pump track…glad I brought my skateboard. What could I do to move here?
7r Coler/4 Oh snap!
7r Slaughter Pen/6 DH trail in a city park, nice. Sewer plant trails…I can’t breathe.
8 Upper Buffalo Creek/9 I think all my tools and a headlamp are in order. Damn that’s a wide stream crossing, is this a “river? Oh crap that was fun. Nice layout decision. Why do I feel so alone. Is that a big cat track? Enough with the crossings already.
9r Ouachita Vista Shuttle Epic/1 $75 for a shuttle pick up, nah, I’ll do it my damn self. That was a waste of potential energy. The trail has “vista” in name only cuz I have yet to see even one decent peek-a-boo tree view in 20 miles.
10r Oak Mountain 🙂
11 Chicopee Woods/6 I hope it doesn’t rain before I finish. “You look like yer’ living in that thing…Thanks for the offer man, but I have to move on” (someone offered to let me crash in their driveway for the night). Do I really have to ring this bell?
12r Rope Mill/5 just enough to hang myself. Damn I wish I lived nearby.
12 Blankets Creek/6 Van Michael is Vantastic. That kid is killing it, Holler.
13 Dry Creek/5 Finally, I’m out of the “city” scene. I’ can’t believe I’m the only here. This looks like all horse parking…I’m glad no one is here. Do I have to cross that? “If yer’ gonna cross that boy let me go to my truck first so I can get my camera and film it.”
14 5 Points/14 Worth more than 5 points. She’s pretty.
14r Ascalon/3 I am so glad I decided to ride this side too. Hell yeah.
15 Raccoon/8 How come no one is here (it’s early and Sunday)? The bathrooms are not open?! WTF, hike a bike. Is it me or did I go the wrong direction for half of this stuff? Holy shit I’m lucky (broke my derailleur cable on the last descent to the car). This makes the northeast look smooth.
16 Enterprise South/3 Did Volkswagen kick down any money for these trails. I love fast flow. I’d love to trail run here.
17    I have to get this van ready for my lady…and take a shower.
18r Raisin Woods/7 How do you get lost in a pocket park with two maps and a gps unit? I think I missed one trail.  
19x Bear Creek, Pinhoti 1/2 Trail? This shit is wide. Don’t believe the hype.
19x Mountaintown, Pinhoti 0/2 Oh crap that was a fun section. It’s over already? Get me out of here. Is the trail really going to cross that again? Why? Escape, and don’t come back.
20   Do they call this campground Thunder because the water is so loud?
21r Loyston/2 I’m going to do this section again, but cheat with a road climb. Raystown 2.0, Tennessee style.
21 Sharps Ridge/3 That’s steep. A half pipe! Oh yeah! I have to start thinking about driving back now, bummer. Can I stay just one more day? Is that cop gonna…nah, I’m in a minivan. OK, we are on our way back, hotel tonight?
22   pizza

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