Carolina on My Bike 3/3

Post 1 – Post 2 – Post 3

As I sit at the live-edge wood slab table in cabin 64, I am greeted from the window by the blissful morning colors of the North Carolina forest. The sunlight casts a glow of yellows, oranges, and greens that help illuminate the room I’m in and leave me at peace. I am finally packed and waiting for the morning to pass so I can visit some breweries before heading to the Asheville airport. Today is a day of rest.

Yesterday was the third and final day of my trip to North Carolina on this Red Wolf Tours Seth’s Bike Hacks Group Mountain Bike Trip. Starting on day one, we all met and rode an easier but fun ride through Dupont State Forest. Day two was a lot heavier and saw us riding through the trails in and around Spencer Gap and Fletcher Creek. Today was a bit less formal as we rode multiple locations and ended the day with an interesting twist.

The Crew

Getting Our Ride On

To start, we all met here at the base cabin for a quick snack of egg casserole, fruit, and cinnamon rolls. All were delicious and set the group right for our day of endurance. After making some lunch sandwiches, we loaded up the cars and headed into the hills to start our adventure.

Our climb up to Pilot Rock was an exercise in pain and endurance. My legs were shot by the previous day’s 16+ mile ride with over 2000 feet of climbing up steep inclines and over rocky, rooty obstacles. Pilot Rock was an ascent that, to put mildly, hurt. I pedaled up as much of it as I could, but it got the better of me (and most of the group) at about 30% of the way up the climb. Steep trails were dotted with large, rooted step-ups and loose baby-head sized rocks. All of it was covered with a layer of golden leaves that hid the horror effectively. Every bump and slide was an unwelcome surprise.

I’m pretty sure that even the guides were pushing up these hills. They were formidable.
After an intense climb and a ride along the ridge top, we emerged onto Slate Rock; a slab of open granite with a clearing which granted us a vista of unparalleled beauty. A southwestern 160º view of the sweeping vistas as far away as the Blue Ridge Parkway was laid before us with shorter colored hills in the foreground. It was the perfect place to rest and relax in the morning sunshine.

This photo of Slate Rock is great, but it doesn’t come close to its real beauty.

The ride down from the rock was fun and fast. I was able to stay with the lead group and maintained good speed and control in spite of the fact that my arms and legs were showing wear from the previous two days of riding. We returned to the car and I immediately dove into my sandwich as we loaded the bikes up drove to our next objective.

The Avery Creek ride was a jaunt up another exceedingly steep trail called Club Gap. It came out at the top of the Avery Creek trail which dropped us back down a 2000 foot descent back to the main road where a few of the guides were patiently shuttling all the vehicles so that we wouldn’t need to climb back up to them (thanks again, guides!)

The Avery Creek downhill was fast and filled with killer tech. Quick drop-offs were everywhere and it was a lot of fun to hit the stone risers and jumps. There were two especially tricky gaps that absolutely scared last night’s dinner out of me. The first was a solid stone platform which dropped the rider over a deep pit and onto a good, reliable run-out. Both Seth and Mr. Tonka hit it with surprising ease and control. I was wanting to hit something like these on the trip, but I just wasn’t there yet (in my head) and the rest of my body had quit on me earlier that morning.

Seth contemplates his future.

The second jump was even more intimidating. It was hewn from the earth and formed a fantastic but scary drop down to the trail below. From my angle, it looked as if the trail banked to the left immediately after landing, but I was assured that it has a safer run-out than that. A few folks rode up to the edge and all quickly dismissed the idea of an attempt. It was just too sketchy and unknown. No one could figure out a good line to approach it, and sitting on the edge of the lip and looking down at the landing just made things worse.

The rest of the ride to the car was a little bit wet, but fun. We didn’t have all the vehicles back at the end point yet, so a few of us decided to ride back to town while the guides fetched them. Upon our return to The Hub, I was honored to buy Seth lunch at a food truck outside while we waited and got to talking. I learned a lot about him as a person and I must say that I am even more impressed by his openness, candid outlook, and generosity. He is a great fit in this wonderful town.

The food truck took an INSANE amount of time to get our fairly simple order to us (like over 30 minutes – whassup with that?!) and that cut into our afternoon time. Seth had mentioned that we could hit up the local bike park for a while (SUPER cool surprise!!!), but the day was quickly drawing to a close. We skipped a trip to his house to grab his dirt-jump bike and decided to hit the park with the machines we were riding at the time. My Bronson isn’t the perfect bike for riding dirt jumps, but it’ll do in a pinch.

The Reeb Ranch (I thought they were calling it “Rebranch” until we actually got there, it’s actually “beer” backwards) is a dirt jump park owned and operated by the great folks at Oskar Blues brewing. Oskar Blues is a local brewery that has some fantastic ales and lagers available all over the nation. Dale’s Pale Ale is a favorite, but I was especially fond of the “Can O Bliss” citrus IPA. I’ll be visiting them today before I fly home.

Reeb Ranch Jumps

Reeb Ranch has a collection of various dirt ramp lines ranging from simple mounds of dirt to some pretty aggressive gap jumps. I have little experience on these types of features, but I jumped in and tried to get as comfortable as my old, tired, awkward body would let me. It was a joy to ride down the drop-ins and fly up the senders with real momentum. I wasn’t pulling any manuals, but many others were as we were in good company with Mr. Tonka and Steady Spin joining in on the fun.

Our group rode the jumps well and many of us left with a lot more skill than we had when we arrived, paralleling the advancements of the entire weekend. At the end of the day, and after a few beers, we climbed into Seth’s truck and he returned us to our cabins.

A Great End to a Great Trip

I don’t really know how to sum up this weekend aside from saying that I loved every single minute of it. It was challenging, difficult, at times painful, and intimidating. The skilled guides and the fantastic event management made it a comfortable place for folks of all ages and abilities to gain skills and experience. Every single person is going home with another great weekend in the bag and a lot of fun stories to tell. There were no injuries, and a lot of smiles to go around.

Thanks again to Barrett and Jenna for hosting us and for making this an event to remember. I will return, and I may even drive out from California next time!
Happy trails!

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