Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mountain Biking in Dupont State Forest - Single Track, Waterfalls, and Enders, oh my!

Kevin with mountain bike in Dupont State Forest, North CarolinaScore!

In late October I was invited to join a group that was going to mountain bike in Dupont State Forest, which is near Brevard North Carolina. We never did see any of the famous Brevard white squirrels. Dupont has incredible single track trails, water falls, and slick rock trails. To top it off, the fall colors would be near peak.

The original plan was to go Friday through Sunday. However, rain was in the forecast for Friday, so the trip was shifted out a day. Most of us had tent sites together at a the Black Forest Campground, which is just outside the park. Brian and his family (which consisted of his wife Jillian and 2 1/2 year old twins Iris and Trevor), stayed in a trailer that you can rent at the campground. The trailer was a much better option for the kids. The entire group consisted of Brian and his family, James and Lynna, Sandi and Amy, Chuck and myself.

I was riding up with Chuck, whom I have also kayaked with numerous times. While on our way up to the mountains, we got to see a Winnebago that was on fire. The entire front was engulfed in flames and no firetrucks had arrived on the scene yet.

I asked Chuck about a restaurant called Asiana Grand and where they are located in Asheville. It's a a favorite kayaker stop since it's a huge Chinese buffet that includes sushi at dinner. If you go before 3, you get the lunch rate and can eat sushi when it comes out at 3. Chuck thought we could stop there on the way home Monday, assuming we burned enough calories riding. Later that night James mentioned that HE would like to stop at Asiana Grand on Monday.

When we got near Asheville, it started to pour down rain. When we got onto I-26, traffic was slowed to a crawl due to accidents being cleared from the road. The rain was coming down about 1" per hour, much more than was forecast.

We stopped in Brevard for dinner at restaurant called the Square Root. The restaurant's interior is incredible. The bar is a plank from a tree, sanded and finished, bark and all. The floor consisted of 4" x 4" posts that had slices cut off to form tiles. They also had good beer on draft (local brew called Pisgah Pale Ale, which you apparently can't get in bottles) and great food. I had a fancy version of a cheese steak sandwich (London Broil was used) and freshly made sweet potato chips. The rain continued to pour down, so I was very thankful for the rain jacket I recently purchased.

Cabin at Black Forest CampgroundWe drove up the mountain roads through thick fog and rain to the campground. We decided that setting up tents in the downpour and then camping in the rain was just silly. We asked if they had any cabins left. "Why, yes we do. We offered one that was available all three nights to members of your party, but they declined and took one that was only available tonight. They planned to tent camp the other two nights." SCORE for us!

The rain continued throughout the night, then quickly stopped. Only a small amount of rain was forecast, but four INCHES fell. In the morning, some of the people in tents said they had to bail out quite a bit of water from the bottom of their tent.

Going Head Over Heels - Not a Slick Move

Saturday morning at 6 am we were awakened by the sound of kids yelling and screaming in the campground. It wasn't even light yet, so they were also waving flashlights around as well. This went on for hours. Even the cabin's walls couldn't totally block out the din.

The campground offers a pancake breakfast Saturdays and Sundays, which costs $6 for adults. You got all the pancakes you wanted, sausage, coffee, juice, fruit, etc.

The lady making the pancakes would always give out pancakes in stacks of three. Chuck and I only wanted two each. "Oh, no, you can't do that. Otherwise that would waste pancakes". Ok...three it is. We love carbs after all.

A little later Sandi and Amy came to our table, and they each had TWO pancakes?! HUH?

We figured out the plan for the day and headed out. Brian would do things with his family in the morning and would join us for cycling after lunch.

Our first trip was an out and back ride to Hooker Falls. With all of the rain the night before, the river was at a really high level. We all wished we had brought our kayaks, and we passed two guys on the trail carrying kayaks.

Hooker Falls, Dupont State Forest, NCAfter viewing Hooker Falls, we went on towards Triple Falls. Cyclists and horses have to take a different trail here than hikers and his particular trail was not well maintained. It was eroded and had lots of horse hockey. Over the weekend we saw a large number of horses. Everyone was polite and yielded on the trail, but too bad there can't be a pooper scooper rule for horses (or at least move it off the trail). It's not fun to ride through all of that, especially for the people behind you when you can't avoid hitting it.

Triple Falls was amazing sight, especially since it had so much water from all of the rain. Chuck told me that people have run parts of the falls in a kayak, which I think is insane.
We then headed to the covered bridge that is above Triple Falls. From the bridge you can see how swiftly the water is flowing just before it goes over the falls. You can hear the falls, but you can't see them from the bridge.

We then went on more trails and continued to climb. We did a nice downhill ride back to the parking lot where we would have lunch and Brian would join us.

After lunch we rode more trails, which included more climbing. But the payback was wonderful. We came down a trail that was an amazing long downhill where you can go really fast. At the end, everyone was all smiles. "Whoo hoo! THAT'S why we do all that climbing".

We ended up back at the vehicles. The women all went back to camp while the guys went to a different parking lot to access the slick rock trails.

Now we were on very wet trails and had to ride through a lot of large puddles and through a lot of mud (with some horse hockey thrown in). Then we reached the slick rock section of the trail, which initially goes right up the mountain. You have to keep going because if you stop, you'll likely have to push your bike. I didn't know what to expect, so I ended up pushing in a few spots. In the slick rock sections, the trails are marked with stacks of stones called cairns.
We all admired the view from the top and started heading down the mountain. My brakes were wet and weren't gripping very well. I was following Brian and kept pumping my brakes to slow down. Brian slowed and perhaps had stopped. I slammed on the brakes, which locked up. I went flying over the handle bars yelling "Oh ***K". Thud, I hit the rock and landed on my left hip (which now sports a huge nasty bruise). Brian stopped to see if I needed help. I unclipped myself from the bike, sat on the rock for a minute, saw nothing was broken, got up, and pushed my bike down the rest of the steep rocky parts of the trail.

Meanwhile, a guy on a SINGLE SPEED bike was going up this trail, his dog running along side. Right behind him a woman was carrying her bike up the mountain.

We got to the parking lot, loaded up the gear, and headed back to camp.

At camp, Chuck and I hosed off our muddy bikes. Chuck, Amy, Sandi, and I were the Saturday cooking team, so we had to start prepping for dinner. Janyne had prepared ahead of time Carolina Chicken: boneless, skinless chicken in a marinade consisting of vinegar, yellow mustard, spices. etc. All I had to do is throw the chicken on the grill for 8-10 minutes per side (I can handle that). She also baked banana nut bread and butterscotch blondies. I planned to bring two pounds of chicken, but decided to bring three. It's a good thing I did since it was a huge hit: all but one piece was consumed and everyone wanted the recipe. Chuck provided corn on the cob and Sandi and Amy contributed mashed potatoes.

Sunday morning started out quite chilly, but quiet. At 8:30 am it was 39 degrees. Chuck and I were again happy to have the cabin even though we didn't bother with the "heater" the campground provided for the cabin. The heater is essentially an electric toaster with a fan. It has three settings: off, low, high, but NO thermostat. I could see that if we turned it on, we'd roast. The sleeping bags were sufficient.

Carrying bikes across stream in Dupont State Forest NCSunday's ride started with a couple of miles of fairly constant climbing. We then came to a stream that you can normally ride across. However, all the rain rose the water level too high so we had to carry our bikes across.

For some reason I fell down in the sucking mud several different times. I also had some trouble on some of the steep climbs, especially if they were really muddy, rocky, or rooty. James said that he should get one of those clickers you use to count with to count my slips, and it would "need double digits". So every time I slipped, he would shout "CLICK". I would even shout click myself if I toppled, which got repeated up the line along with laughs.

Bridal Veil FallsAfter a great downhill ride, we came to Bridal Veil Falls. At lower levels you can walk up the waterfall and go behind some of the water. We all took a break and admired the water.

Going downhill meant we had to go back up to reach the parking lot where Brian was waiting to join us.

With Brian added to the group, we went a different way back to Bridal Veil Falls. At this point, the women in the group decided to head back to the cars and to camp. We would ride a bit more. Turns out I was out of gas. The ride back was mostly uphill and it was quite steep in spots. My heart rate went crazy on each of the steep climbs and I was sucking wind, so I pushed my bike in a few spots. I need to work on sprints that spike my heart rate, especially after riding for quite a few miles.

After making it back to the parking lot, we loaded up the bikes and headed to camp.

It wasn't our night to cook, so Chuck and I could relax after hosing off the bikes. That night we had great chili, hot dogs, and berry cobbler for dinner.

Slick Rock Redux
Monday we packed up camp and planned to do a short ride before hitting the road. Chuck and I were happy to not have to take down tents, especially if they were wet.

The plan was to do the slick rock again (oh, goody), BUT take an easier route down the mountain (yea!).

The ride up was actually a lot muddier and sloppier than it was on Saturday since a lot of cyclists had been out over the weekend.

When we hit the slick rock section, I was going along fine in my granny gear until I slipped my chain. However, since I knew what to expect this time, I rode most all of the trail to the top. I only pushed my bike in a couple of places.

We all admired the view from the top, then headed on down. The route down was a lot nicer than the one we took on Saturday. I had NO clicks on Monday, thank you.

We loaded up the gear and headed home.

Chuck and I decided NOT to stop at Asiana Grand. It just wasn't worth the calories. Instead I learned about a great Mexican place (another kayaker hangout) in Morganton. It's El Paso, exit 105 on I-40.

It was a great weekend and I was happy to be invited along. I was told that I was always welcome to join their trips since I "provided excellent food AND entertainment".
Amy, Sandi. Kevin, Lynna, James at Bridal Veil Falls
Click here for more photos from the trip.

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