Monday, July 20, 2015

Go Big Limestone or Go Home

I did not notice the heat as I drove my trusty fat steed through the narrow corridor of green.  My teeth were only gritted because I was trying to smile and pick a line through the rocky trail at the same time.  I risked a glance over my shoulder between patches of bone-white limestone.  My minion was still back there somewhere, huffing and puffing, running sweep to our two man ride.

It was a great weekend for mountain biking in Eastern Kentucky.  Not to say that it was enjoyable riding conditions anywhere in the known universe here in the depths of July Hell.  No, I was involved in some pretty incredible networking and conversing about the future and culture of mountain biking in this corner of Appalachia. 

This past weekend was the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew trail building school in Morehead.  Friday was the land manager/stakeholder presentation.  Lately, between the London Trail Town celebration and this trail building school I've been able to talk directly with some new USFS personnel and the outlook is fantastic.

Not that kind of safety meeting

We actually built some trail!
Eagle Lake, Morehead

Learning to use a clinometer
I took my, nephew Ty with me on Saturday.  After the morning classroom session we all headed out to MSU's Eagle Lake where we worked on a short section of easy trail.  We had a great time and learned a lot.  After we wrapped up Ty and I ran over to Big Limestone with our bikes.  I had promised him we'd ride before heading home. 

I wanted to take him out the Sheltowee along the ridge north of the lake.  We drove out Clack, turned on the road and drove out to the first singletrack reroute.  In short order we were pedaling through the lush jungle.  Ty took a tumble within sight of the car.  He dropped off a narrow bench and ended up at the bottom of a bank.  I had to chuckle, but he was fine.

Jeaph, Mitchum and I rode that segment last fall.  We got back on the gravel and rode further.  A new sign showed yet another reroute.  Ty was reluctant but I can't pass up a new trail.  The second diversion was the best singletrack we rode all day.  It had a nice interesting climb up from the doubletrack and then a fun techy section through some rocks.  We both enjoyed riding over the slickrock-esque natural limestone tread.

We left the segment for the the gravel again, but shortly found another diversion on the opposite side.  And so we began "the fingers" along the ridge.  The finger trails are actually a separate trail from the Sheltowee.  The Trace sticks with the doubletrack and the new singletrack is trail #109 (Limestone Bike Trail).  I was eating it up while Ty was close to losing his lunch.  The new trails are still rough with tech cruxes from time to time.  It was hot as a Kentucky house in July with no AC (I know this first hand) and while the boy loves to ride and rides often he's not used to that kind of trail.

He soldiered on, but I could tell Ty had burned all of his matches.  He was done.  I kept reassuring him we were almost back to the doubletrack and could jet back to the car.

And we kept winding through the woods...

We only rode five and a half miles. It didn't seem like very much for me, but I had to keep reminding myself that the man-boy (twelve passing for sixteen) wasn't used to riding so far in such heat. We really should have opted not to ride. It was just too dang hot. Summer is in full force these days. Hot, humid, and relentless.

Whupped, and happy to see the car!
So we rode. The new trails on Big Limestone are a work in progress. Ty had a good time, but I did promise him a better experience next time. I had a blast, but then again, if its a new trail I can't pass it up and I'm going to be stoked no matter what kind of trail it is.

On Friday after the presentation I rode out of town on the advice of a local. I rode North Wilson to its end and then began an odd climb up out of the neighborhood. It was a stout climb—old school mtbing for sure—and gained the ridge and the old Sheltowee alignment. Then I plowed east on the ridge looking for the trail back down via Eagle Lake (where we had the outdoor portion of the class on Saturday) but somewhere in the sky above Morehead I took the wrong ridge. 

A long time went by and after a couple of hike-a-bikes and less than a couple of Sheltowee blazes I checked Google Maps. I was off course. So I backtracked and made my way down the new Sheltowee into town. Its brutal. I had to hike-a-bike some downhill. It was miserable, but I was happy to be on new trails.

That was really the theme of the weekend: new trails. Things are looking up in the Daniel Boone.

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