Monday, August 15, 2016

Big Sinking History Lesson

I feel like I've forgotten how to love riding my bike.  I don't pine to be on it like I once did.  What is logically strange about this is that I aggressively daydream about building mountain bike trails so I'll eventually have a place to ride, but I don't think about riding as much as getting the darn trails built.

I've not ridden more than fifty miles this year on the road bike.  I keep meaning to but keep notting to. When I do take the mountain bike out I do my token rides and return it to the Bike Cave with four or five or six more miles tacked on.  Then I might go a week without riding.

I need to HTFU. I need to ride.

Sunday afternoon promised to be hot, humid, and potentially stormy.  What better time to head into the oil fields to crank over mudholes, rocky roads, and creekbeds?  That's right, I did my return penance in Big Sinking.

If you've been following me for the past year you'll know those trails I've been trying to get built are mostly in Flat Hollow and Bald Rock.  Flat Hollow is a tributary of Bald Rock and Bald Rock is a fork of Big Sinking.  Big Sinking then flows into Miller Creek which is s major tributary of the Kentucky River above Ravenna.

Now that the hydrogeography lesson is over...

Big Sinking sinks.  That means that right now there is a great four mile loop that begins near the mouth of Bald Rock that utilizes sections of the dry creekbed.  That loop was the site of my first intentional mountain bike ride many years ago.  I loved it so much I dragged Dave down there to do it.  Now, Dave had ridden at Capitol View even then, and rode frequently at Cave Run.  In fact, as we were riding Big Sinking he kept encouraging me to go visit Buckskin at Cave Run.  Which I eventually did.

The loop begins at the arrow and then travels counterclockwise first paralleling the creek on the north side and then returning on FR 226
© Copyright 2016 outrageGIS mapping

I've ridden all over the Big Sinking Oil Field.  That was my earliest mtb haunt.  It's fitting that I'm working on trails in Bald Rock.  And I see loads of potential for trails throughout the Big Sinking drainage.  And much of it is National Forest.  Kentucky could become a mountain biking destination if Big Sinking's potential were only fractionally realized.

Anyway, I drove out to Fixer.  Another aside--I would much prefer to ride from home to ride my mountain bike, but it's forty or so miles round trip out to where I rode yesterday. An. Ny. Way!

I drove out/down to Fixer and parked just downstream of the mouth of Bald Rock.  As I rolled into the valley I noticed the creek was low.  That was a good sign.

In short order I pedaled west, bearing right instead of crossing the creek (which is where I would return to close the loop) and entered the woods along an old pathway of memory.

The ride didn't disappoint.  It was exactly as I'd remembered it.  Very little had changed.  The first half of the loop is technical more than anything.  Of course I'm a much better mountain biker than I was a decade ago when I first rode down in Big Sinking.  I only had to carry the bike around two mudholes and I walked through a big fallen tree that was just too much to try and power through.

Oh, and the Sheltowee climb...

When I conned Dave into riding the loop ages ago we came to the steep and rocky climb up New Virginia Road from the creek which is also where the loop meets and runs with the Sheltowee Trace.  The road ascends a limestone ledge and it's not loose so much as just bare, steep rock.

I remember Dave gave the crux a couple of goes while I simply walked the Cannonball and watched him flail. But then he talked about other guys he knew that would have been able to get up that, "like a boulder problem," which resonated with me because at the time he and I were active in developing moderate bouldering around the Red.  That statement about better cyclists being able to get up what looked impossible to me flipped a switch in my brain.  It was between that moment and a burning re-entry descent of Pot Hollow that I was inspired to pursue mountain biking.  Before that I simply used the mountain bike as a means to expedite my explorations.  After that I began to love the bike on its own merits.

Oh, I also discovered some incredible boulders yesterday.

I finished up the loop strong on FR 226 with a detour up FR 2048 which climbs hard up to a rolling contouring road below towering cliffs. I pushed to the end of the road hoping it would descend into Hauk Branch and loop back on FR 226.  That would have been too good.  I still think there is a connection and will explore a little more next time I go ride Big Sinking.

I returned to the Geep hot and muddy, but not too worse for wear.  My main goal for the day had been to get in some moderate climbing and hopefully clean the crux on New Virginia.  While I got to the stopper move and rode everything after I think I still need to work on my chops before I'll be able to clean that beast.  But I rode more solidly than I have in a long time.  I climbed a lot of short and steep and steep and loose stuff without too much brain damage or muscle fatigue.  I felt like I'm on my way back to my desired fitness level.  I felt like maybe my training has begun.

For what?  

We'll see.

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