Highland Trilogy, pt 3.

man. that was a solid 4hrs sleep. 6:30, bleary eyed, blink blink, doesn't look too bad out. typical dank damp humid morning, everything covered in dewishness. Get the water boiling, let the coffee steep while heating up more for the oats. Break out the map, pour over the details.

How far to here, to there, what if the rack breaks there, backtrack and bail? Or push to the next road and drop the kit, then solo to the car? Or it might make it through...doubtful. From the top of the road, looks like maybe 15 to Reddish, how big of a setback to literally drag an anchor across all of that? Next safety spot is 250, then it's a decent 25ish (30?) mile effort from there to the car. Or maybe the zip tie bandaids will hold.....well, only one way to find out. Take a qwik food inventory, realize there is water via the filter at the base of TearJacket, so fluids won't be a problem. Calories? hmmm...3 packs of PopTarts, big PayDay, 1 pack of Bloks, raisin danish thing, single vending pack of Figs, (2) spaceman meals if I wanna take the time, 1 can of Coke. Looks like a day's worth, easily if I cook. Pack it all up hopefully one last time, breath deep get rolling 8:30.

Steady 45ish minutes climbing up 33, snapshots, then roll thru dog poop at the trailhead. How's that for a start to the day? Ominous, eh? Luckily it's somewhat aged, and I saw it before one go 'round. So got sorta lucky, tire picked pretty clean w/ a stick. Couple more trailside snap shots and rolling that tight Shenandoah benched love. Settled in quick, listening for rack feedback, so definitely a restrained pace thru the rough at first. Quickly off the bike on the ups, not much snap in the legs to get those last couple pedal strokes before the pitch relaxes. Rocks are also a bit slippy in the morning dew, riding delicately. Reach High Knob, take it in, then push on, expecting more of the same-ish on over to Bother Knob.

Wrong. This is definitely a portion of path less travelled. Nettles, micro briars, green briars, those briary purpleish things...all the favorites for ripping into shins and snagging shoulders were present. All of those early benched in skree challenges were overflowing w/ greenery, hiding the loose jigsaw rocks from view. Anytime the line got tight in these northish facing hollers, lookout for stingtown, it was unavoidable. It was slow going. On the bike, trying to make time, sorta on the limit and found an off camber fern camoflaged spine that inspired the front end to follow a fresh trajectory. Nice shot the shin during the step off, stumble down the trail save. Bike made quite the interesting crack sound when it hit, I wonder what broke?

Drag the bike back up onto the trail, give it the once over, check the ties. Bit of extra play there, give an extra tug w/ the pliers, make 'em tight, everything else in order. Check the shin and vow to not cross that line again today. Makes for a lot of down walking, lots of stumbling thru slimey rocks and nettles and ferns. Not entirely slum though, definitely some breathing room out on the benched shoulders. Those signature SMT outside left hand sweeper micro vistas. Catch a glimpse and forget about the exact here and now, and breath in the all of the here and now. Then push on.

Finally reach something that feels like elevation gained and a familiar feeling high knob ridgline. Into more lush greenery, thru shoulder high fields of flowers and some occasionally tight young growth. More of that ying and yang shit. Stop to fix a front flat. Yeah things were going so well the front decided to start hissing during one of the strolling sections of high meadow flower skipping. Find a tree, and a log to sit on, throw in a tube, eventually attract an immense number of flies, who take to feeding on the freshly opened and bleeding shins. It was interesting to watch...I was in one of those places. Blink blink, make sure to eat, take in a drink then push on, just keep it together and eventually I'll reach the DeathStar turnoff. Eventually I'll be on familiar territory, eventually I'll be on trail that I know has been ridden recently, that should be somewhat open, eventually. Then a host of colorful ribbons in trees appears and I'm able to pedal consistently, interesting to backtrack trail from le Tour, thankful for the trail clearing efforts.

Drop out onto fireroad, turn around and flip the bird to that ordeal, glad to be done with that. Looking at the clock is depressing, push on to Reddish. Where are the crossroads, oh, here we are. Now where is the fucking split already? oh, here we are again. Man these sections seem longer than normal and I'm way behind schedule, buffer to not finish in the dark has all but ticked away. Once it's dark out, it's dark out, and it is fabled Reddish...would be bad juju to not summit on the bicycle, so finish it and take it all in. 3 o'clock on a Monday, got the place to myself, chat with the wind. Eat a snack, pull on the jacket and drop down the climb from the hundo. Filter water and steel the mind for one more effort up TearJacket to the Autobahn. 3.5 miles according to Nat'l Geo, I hike at 2ish, this is gonna take a while, especially with an increasingly blown left achilles. Seems the effort to get to Bother Knob has taken it's toll.

Push on and dig deep for inspiration, begin to rate this beast. "Well, at least it's not as bad as.." Right now, it's getting difficult to finish that phrase....this thing is making me go deep. Conditions just slumy enough to really dampen the late afternoon mood, just keep moving forward, it gets better, it will get better, it has to. Finally reach the Wilderness Junction and taste a bit of the reward, the wheel caressing green carpet and gentle flowing pitch that is the Autobahn. So smoove, so flow, so gooooood that the miles finaly feel like they're ticking away.

The Breastworks comes much too soon, but not soon enough, it's 5 o'clock. Ate the last pop tarts on Reddish, too close/too late to cook, So, crack the coke and dig for the remaining PayDay, half now, half later. Then sort thru the pack one last time and GYAWD DAMN!!!! a hidden pack of Bloks, w/ caffiene! HALLELUYU!!!, that'll get me home. Now, how long is this standard portion of the SMT? 20 miles? 3hrs, 4hrs? finish by 9? maybe. That's a good number to have in the head. Take some tourista snapshots then get rolling and settle into the increasingly gimped hike a bike pace until the actual veering left hike a bike is behind me. Finally, elevation to play with and not too soon.

Cherish every moment of loamy love, half racing the sun, half making the most of it, still a bit to go before burning those last couple survival matches. Not inspired by the tint of the sky though. Sure, sunset is coming, but it's not that late...pit. pat. pitter pat. WTF? rain? you're kidding me? right? Dump out into the 10.5mile intersection, 6:45 and the rain really begins. steady. And chilly. Eat half of the last half of the Payday, pull out the rain jacket, weather proof the Ergon, stash the camera deep inside and make one last push. Couple token pedal strokes, but pretty much hiking immediately again, expected cuz I know this section pretty well, the rain is a nice distraction for the mind, helps ignore the gimped left leg, focus on other misery. Through the door and back on top, enjoy again the contouring ribbon as the rain slowly eases and a muted pink blob sunset is revealed on a signature left hand shoulder sweep, perfect. Power up the light, damn, that's kinda weak. Spend too much time looking for spare batteries...ohh, the camera case...brrr.

Beam up and try to recognize this trail in the dark. Damn, it's a whole new world out here, this'll be neat. Look for landmarks in the darkeness, familiar shapes, trail minutae, challenges. 9pm, finally hit the Jerkemtight rest stop, stomach grumbling, finish the Payday. Downhill to the car right? maybe, getting chilled, GPS batteries just died, not digging for the map, I know the trail I'm fine. Boy, things are different at night. The always familiar, isn't always so. Rain soaked and drooped leaves make open trail seem overgrown and rarely ridden. Underpowered lighting make for good spectating, reflective leaf undersides glowing white, but not so much for making time on the trail. Landmarks at normal speed come so quick, judgement is questioned about making the correct turn at this snail's pace. No, this has to be it, doesn't matter, I'm not backtracking, get to the bottom, figure it out. Even after passing South Sister, doubt creeps in. Where's the bottom? my feet are getting numbish, chilled and wet since 7, what time is it now? who knows? batteries....finally hit the trailhead, ok, I was right. Turn right into the fog. Can't see shit, what should be 20+ tuck to the car is a 5mph crawl with constant left to right scanning for the shoulders thru the 2 bike length visible soup. Descended below the vapor barrier and very anti climacticly park the bike next to the CR-V, 10pm. 13.5hrs, 60ish mile. I'm done.

and yeah, that shit held.

Highland Trilogy, pt 2b

Ok, so I'm sitting on a bike with zip ties holding down 2 out of 4 connection points on the rack, I'm about as far from my car/home base as I can be, and it's gonna be dark-ish soon. I need to evaluate options. Big picture, does this prevent me from finishing the loop? well, that's not really immediately important. First, can I get down off this mtn with my shit intact? Only one way to answer that and daylight's burning, so best get moving. Baby steps at first, then I do manage to find some smiles and whoops along the way and make the most of it with regular dropout directed glances and an alert ear. Pop out at the trailhead about 7ish, thankful for the angelic halfway water that helped me through and now searching directly for something to filter into the bottles and bag. The creek that's on the map, across the road, has dismal low flow, hmmm. Checked inventory, tried to recollect the distance to more substantial flow, walked in a circle and then went down hill to the Potomac.

Bling! Spy a stellar white pvc pipe sticking out of the hillside right below a little stone hut. DING DING DING!!!! SPRING! Saw some fellas fishing, inquired about it, they knew nothing, definitely weren't locals, DC diplomats I'm guessing...then a big ole' pick em truck rolled by. It had a 'friendly local' vibe to it, so I waved 'em down as they hit the bridge..."Hey, do ya'll know if that spring is fit to drink?"

"ah yeah!....that's gooood water, yep, help yerself to it."
Thank you.

"Be safe."
you betchya.

Awesome. now for the options. I have reserve calories on board for at least 3-4hrs. I have fresh stock of water. I do have to do something about the lack of chammy lube if I'm gonna do more pedaling and find some music. Also need to think some more, so roll back up to trailhead for a bit of quiet. OK. Rack is gimpy, it may or may not survive the SMT assault. It did make it down the lower Gnarl though, so it should survive the next road portion to Brandywine. I think it's about 30ish to Brandywine from here. At Brandywine I can make the call. I can maybe ditch the rack & gear and solo assault the SMT, then swing back up w/ the car and pick up the gear stash afterwards, or bail on the route and spin road to the car if the zip ties give it up between here and there. Either way, it looks like I need to push to Brandywine, tonight. Fuck.

Why the need to push on? Because if I bail now, I bail on the ride, period. If I bivy now, along the Smokehole, I'm too far out to get it all done in a day. Bivying now, means needing to bivy up on the SMT somewhere, which was the original plan, but right now, I don't know if this rack and my gear will make it past Brandywine, so by getting there, I leave the door open to finish the route. Right now I just don't know enough about the repair in order to say, yeah, I can reach 250 as planned if I sleep here...So, I need to get to Brandywine, and I don't have much choice, cuz there aren't many off the path bivy options once I hit 220. So, mental up, plug in some Radiohead and venture into the dark Smokehole night. The 30ish in my mind is at least 3hrs pedaling based on observed averages so far, that's 11pm without stopping, if my 30 is accurate. And I'm gonna need to stop, Franklin is probably the last chance to refuel for the SMT.

So, plan is set, 8pm, begin to roll south. Rollers between the trailhead and Smokehole proper were super slum in a unique fashion. The little helmet light lacks confidence for really bringing the speed into those switchback hollows, so much wasted mo. But, wow, no traffic, at all, use it all for a looooong spell of darkness. Tehn near Eagle Rock, sitting along the shoulder eating the last of my Combos....car slows down.

"Ya awright?"
"Ya need anything?"
oh, wait, how far to Franklin?
"10.2 mile. Just up over Spencer Heell there, then 220."
10.2 from here? or from where I hit 220?

k, thanks.
"be safe."
oh yeah.
"probably safer on the road now anyways..."

yeah, 9:30-10ish on a Sunday in bumfuck WV is pretty much garunteed low traffic volume, got that going for me. Finish my snack, cue up another fresh batch of tunes and get back on it. Up over SpencerHill and on down to 220. See a couple cars, mostly opposing direction, the Upper Tract soda machines were mesmerizing UFO like objects glowing up the road in space, I was going to an interesting place. That was 50cent worth of caffeinated sugar love that I won't soon forget. Gathered my nerve, made friends with a moth, then rolled back out into the darkness. I hit Franklin at 11:30ish. Turns out it's 30miles to Franklin, not 30 to Brandywine. How fucking far is Brandywine? Hope there's a Gazateer I can fondle in this gas station. The 'kitchen' is closed so it's prewrapped sandwiches from the mini fridge, bland turkey wrap looks filling, cue that up with a Frap and try to decipher the Gazateer I pulled from the rack. Where? here? there? how far? topo..hmmmm. doesn't look too bad....ask the locals.

"well, yer ina pretty hard spot right now, motels close early, bears......'bout 2:30 they start commutin' over the mtn to Harrisonburg, might wanna be off the road by then..."

that's the plan. how far to Brandywine?

"ohhh, 'bout 10-15minutes....
er! but that's by car."

well, how fast do you drive?

"oh, the speed limit. 50-55"


"oh, not really, well, bit of an incline, but just up to the State Troopers.
nothin' like that durn Shenandoah Mtn though."


"safe travels, watch fer bears."

oh yeah, thanks.

Spend 9 of my last 10 in cash on ride food, 3 packs of PopTarts, king size PayDay, breakfast pastry thing, fig newtons.

The 'incline' she spoke of was a steady 8mph tempo climb, for 8miles. A long hour of tempo pedaling thru the darkness, the well goes deep, deeper than I thought. Just put your mind to it. Fight the urge to aero tuck down the blurry descent and hit downtown Brandywine proper in the post 1am Sunday night, passing up on the Ruritan picnic tables, pushing on. Hit the M&J Mart, check the hours, 5am opening, will keep that in mind, depends how far it is to camp. Spend my last dollar and get a can of coke from another neon lit machine. This one's for tomorrow. Roll from town and start heading up the hill. Look longingly for the Rec Area out along this mind numbingly straight piece of road, apparently, the well goes even deeper, and it gets really quiet down there. End up almost riding past the entrance in a daze, whut, is that it? blink blink, looks differnet, wonder why...pull in, grab a picnic table campsite in the woodsy fog of 1:45am, in the bag by 2. Bike is still intact, 97ish miles covered on the day, 18hrs out in it. Will make decisions in the morning, at least now, I have options..



this fella has a fixy viddy
making the rounds.
he's got skillz, brakeless.
not fixed. damn.

Brakeless Two / Chris Akrigg from chris akrigg on Vimeo.


Highland Trilogy, pt 2a

yawnnnnnn. damn I slept well, solid 8hrs of dreamland. Hit the snooze, not in the mood to wander out into the damp chill fog. Where's the sun? come on, burn this shit off. Knowing Seneca is 'just down the hill,' do a qwik press of coffee to wash down the pop tarts, no oats today. Did sleep in a bit, and the typical hourish breaking of camp saw me rolling lazy at 7:45. But that's ok, right? All I gotta do today is ride the Gnarly, then spin down thru the Smokehole and find a camp spot before dark. Gnarly is 20ish mile, should be a 4-5hr traverse w/ a couple snack breaks. Figure to grab a qwik hearty breakfast from the store in Seneca, big fat bagel sandwich or something, along with a sandwich to go and be on the Gnarly 11ish. Eat lunch along the trail, off the mtn 5-6ish, eat a hot meal, then a relaxing spin into the sunset. Easy enough right?

Right. Get moving, and as usual, another 1/4 mile of trail woulda found me an even sweeter campspot, w/ prebuilt stone chairs, now I know. Get rolling down the hill, think I hear an odd rattle..shit, I never gave the bike that once over that I wanted to. Trip across Huckleberry should've seated everything by now, pull the wrench and touch all the bolts. Then I hear that hisssssssss again. damn rear tire. musta nicked it oh so slightly rolling the gravel path out to the sitting' bench on Spruce, heard the first hisss then. Been hoping the Stan's would take, but these little pinholes open up every time the tire really flexes. Keeps sealing with the shake n spin ritual, but it's starting to get old, let's just get to Seneca, it's going on 9ish.

Really start rolling that uber sweet lower Allegheny descent, and just before the final pitch, get that soft knobby collapsing squish carving thru a corner. fuck. This thing just won't cooperate. Start to count the number of times I've hit this thing with the pump and say fuck it, time to take the time to put in a tube. This is doing nothing for covering ground today. Repair done, dropping the final pitch into the base campsite is anticlimactic, just get me to Seneca. Hit the pavement and relieved to finally hit town at 10ish, take in the small scene in a daze and see an oasis of a sign: "Coffee shop. Breakfast served."

Park bike, stroll in and am greeted by one of the most angelic, wholesome, beautiful smiles that I've ever seen, boy she was cute. I try to adjust to society and manage to order a french toast, w/ fruit w/ syrup, switching from the confused Belgium waffle first choice. And as the small world turns, I bump into WG TonyB. Turn's out that he and the Seneca climbing guide dude opened up this little oasis last year. Always so neat to see ski buds away from the ski scene. Little bit of catch up, then restock at the general store while breakfast is cooking, turkey sub to go for sure this time.
Chow down on the french toast, god that was good, shoulda had seconds. And starting getting sucked into the relaxed, chill WV vibe. No hurries, no worries, I've got allll day to get thru the Gnarly, and then a day and a half-ish to roll the SMT. Plenty of time right? Bag another 80today, then 60 and a 20-30ish to finish. Freshly restocked with full water bottles, 150oz total, and a 16oz Coke to help wash down the sub, another 6ish hrs worth of ride snacks and finally hit the road, 11am sharp. Slummy spin out 33 until I got my head straight and adjusted to the heat of the day. If only I'd gotten up earlier, if only I'd checked my bike before breaking camp, put the tube in sooner, if, if, if...just pedal, play the cards you're dealt. Swing into a little last chance thrift shop/homestyle cooking establishment for a splash of water.

"Nope, nothing bottled or like that.."
Can you top me off?

"Oh yeah! You'll love this water, comes from deeeep in the ground."
Sweet, that's even better, thank you sir.

There were bikes hanging
on the outside of the building.
they may have been for sale.

Hit the top of 33 and enter the NorthFork 'bout 1ish, rest stop at the hang glider launch, steady gunnin' thru to there. Again, riding like shit into the woods, oh...that's right, tire pressure. psst, psssssst, psst. suwheeeeet. Now immediately drawn into the beauty of this trail. The memory that's burned from each traverse of this ridge is of the finale', the namesake gnarl. But the hidden heart is this flowing green carpet. Punctuated with a bit of the rocky lumps to keep you honest, but boy does this thing flowwwww.

2pm, reach the hang glider launch and take a lunch break. It's hot, it's humid, it's time to get nekid. Let the UV's cleanse the chammy and air things out. ahhhhhhh, awesome breaktime until the trail conditioned Coke fizzes all over everything, and I mean everything, upon opening, dumbass. Well, that was good for a laugh. Kit back up, saunter down to the steed and hit the trail once more, refreshed. Next goal, the fireroad halfway point. Immediately sucked back into more flowy love. Then disappointment suddenly appears. Oh, this is that always forgotten hike a bike. Well, if it's often forgotten, that must mean one thing, that the payoff is worth it and wipes out the memory. One foot in front the other, no friends on a powder day, get it done.

Over the top and rolling into the halfway, taking inventory, checking fluids. What time is it, how far out am I? hmmm, it's gonna be tight, especially with this heat.. Just keep moving forward, and woohooo god damn?!?!? what's this??? A trail angel of some sort left a jug of water out here. A fresh, still sealed gallon of drinking water stashed along the trail. hmmm, moral dilemma. Do I, don't I, do I don't I? Who? why? definitely somebody else, so who? why? would they mind? would they if in my shoes? hmmm. fuck it. Crack the seal, pour a bottle's worth, wish I had a sharpie to leave a thank you...Thank you anonymous water jug leaver behinder!

Cherish the unexpected spirit reboot, hit the trail steady gunnin', looking for another possible forgotten hike a bike, or was that the one? Roll, roll, roll, terrain looks famliar, trail is keeping me on my toes, making steady enough pace. Should be down off the mtn 5:30-6ish no problem. Then filter some water, cook dinner, and spin up the road to a camp spot, Big Bend possibly? Trail rolls steady, feeling groovey, make the right that I sometimes miss at the protected habitat and sneak along that tight boundary line. Hear an oddish rattle, take the time to touch the wrench to the rack bolts, make sure everything is snug before this descent. Seems good so push on, follow the bambi path into a bit of an opening and eye up a barkless log w/ rubber laid on it. There's the line. Portage over and immediatley into tight alternate bambi path, that gets tighter...Fuck. I do this every fucking time I come here, god damnit. Back track, fore track, back track, fuck, up over that rocky ledge, back down it. damnit. back to that log, shit, there it is, missed that hard right, damn log distracted me again...

Get rolling, up to cruising speed and not two blinks later, what the hell is that noise? rattle, rattlerattle, rattle tattle rattle. Brakesssssssss. dismount, grab rack, shake. fuck. A mounting bolt sheared. Well, was expecting this someday, just not now, but if not now then when? this is the Gnarly afterall. No problemo, just more lost time, I have spare bolts. But shit, how do I get that stub out? didn't think about that... {advanced touring lesson, run your rack bolts long, leave an 1/8" or so protruding thru the eyelet. Will give you something to grab onto and turn w/ the pliers when they shear off flush.} So the spare bolts are sorta worthless, but these zipties are worth about a million buck right now. Had a plan for this, one, two, three, that should hold, hopefully. Leaves me three as back up, plus parachute chord for desperation repair.

Get it rolling again, with a bit of gingerlyness for sure. Low risk, able to shut it down early no surprises descending. When, maybe 3minutes down the trail, another rattle rattlerattle manifests, same, but different this time. Look down, zip ties still intact, other bolt is intact, wtf? gawddamnit. Now the opposing seatstay bandclamp let loose, assymetric loading I 'spose. Well, I know I didn't pack one of those. Two more zipties to the rescue. Down to just one left in stock.

Now the head trip really begins.

Highland Trilogy, pt 1.

What I've always loved about bicycles is the freedom. They're a gateway to an infinite number of journeys. Every ride can, and almost always does, take you someplace special. At first, it was the freedom to explore beyond where you could reach on foot. See what's on the other side of the creek. Ride over to that cute girls house. Check out the dirt jumps on the other side of town. Then ride out to another cute girl's house. She's down in the Brogue, 25ish round trip on 74 from old D'town on that Kent ten speed, got used to traffic pretty quick. Before that it was day trips w/ Fatboi, me on the bmx, him borrowing the ten speeder. Load up the rucksacks, put down some miles, flip off some cars, just out exploring the landscape for the day.

I was always sorta drawn to the grizzled road tourer type rider, the greybeards who either don't hold 'jobs' or have managed to retire into the lifestyle...what a great way to see the countryside! But those panniers, trailers, orange flags and all that gear and general bike dorkiness....just looked, well, slow, inefficient, burdened. So, that scene never really grabbed me. Got hooked on the racin', obviously. Roadiness was fun in colledge days, young arrogant punk breakaway crit racer or team workhorse on the road days. That was an intense fun, but the mountain biking, every race was an adventure! Always learning, always seeing new sights, getting intimate with the mountains. Not sterile homoginized hotel room sharing city racing, but out in it. Sleeping on the ground, out in the weather, campfires, learning the patterns of the environment....blah blah blah, twenty years go by...

And so, here we are today, taking it all in, all of it, and combining it into one hudge bike whore experience. Well, minus the crit racin', although that is handy for steeling the nerves against tight drivers, assholes. Yeah..here we are today. On the backside of a sorta impromptu into the deep end self support tour. I got thru it, obviously. Swung into SBC on the way home yesterday, decompressed, shot the shit w/ Kyle. "Was it fun?" he eventually asked.

I delayed in my answer, had to actually think about it. I mean, yeah, of course it was fun. Sort of, I guess. It was rewarding. Very rewarding to finish the fucking thing, and there were many many many good times along the way. But overall, fun? Let's say that right now, I wouldn't recommend this as something to go out and do and expect to have a rippin' good time of blasting single track all day with your best buds. It's not that kind of fun. It's fun in the payoffs, the pieces and portions of trail that allow the miles to float by underneath your magic carpet ride. And you get a good bit of that each day, but you work like hell to earn it, like a fucking dog.

That said, threw this plan together kinda quick by my standards. Had the vacation to burn, had the opportunity, hoped I still had the legs, picked up some fresh gadgetry with bigger pictures in mind, time to pull it all together. Decided on the VA/WV terrain for familiarity. Have done each of the major portions previously as solid one day classiques, a few times each for Spruce and the Gnarly. The SMT, it's been awhile since I'd been on some sections. So, put the plan in motion, blogged the progress and departed for Rocktown Friday after work. Hit up Carp's garage workshop for last minute bench vise access, got the 20t broken loose off the Jabber wheel, swapped out the 19t. Gonna pay this route some respect and put the 'big mtn' gear on, 32:20.

Relaxing bite to eat and happy hour cocktails w/ the Carpong family and Mumbles & Misty, then drive further south to the SDS Cowpasture lunchspot. 1am, time to sleep, 5am, time to wake. snooze, snooze, snooze...finally rolling 6:45am. Saturday morning, the excuse was to avoid spinning foggy witching hour 6am roads w/ just the red blinky, wait for some fer sure daylight before hungover Bubba comes wide around the blind corner... Roll across the bridge, boot up the GPS....shit, knew I forgot something. Didn't doublecheck, didn't load the GPS route tracks into the gizmo, so no cue to follow. Could be a problem, but I pretty much have the route memorized from all the tinkering, and I have a Nat'lGeo map of the SMT for the only grey areas in the mental data base. I'll be fine.

Head north, follow sweet country mtn roads. Rt 678 is a nice tempo spin climb up thru a shallow gap, then valley road cruisin' thru history up to 250. First hurdle heads up and up over Jack's Mtn then on to Monterey. Reset the GPS elevation on the summit of Jacks, suspected it was reading low, turns out by about 1000ft. Took a longer than anticipated break in Monterey, first at Ernie's to replenish the three hours of ride fuel, then across the street to look at an actual map. Coordinate memory w/ map w/ GPS markers and work on connecting the dots. Head north on 220.

It begins to rain leaving Monterey, swell. Pedal north for a bit, then find the left up along Dry Run, east branch. Turns into a steady climb that gets steadier, watch the data, watch the clock. What's this thing top out on the map?how high am I right now?how much vert is that?how much vert is Meeshow? ok, 30ish more minutes of this, just pedal, then eat. Pedal, then eat. Reach the summity saddle, and look the west. hmmm, is that Spruce up over there? must be, wonder how far that is? 5, 10? 20?? Fun swooping mtn road descent, then more creek spinnin' and a bit of route finding frustration. GPS topo shows a road or something sneaking up into the SpruceKnob area, following the property boundry. But it's not here. No road, no gate, no trailhead. Shit. There's a faint bench up there above this road in the woods, but it sure doesn't look travelled, at all. Well, I'm off the Nat'l Geo map, time to fiddle with the leetle GPS screen, looking for nearby options..time to go against the grain and head south I guess. Heading north to Judy Gap isn't an option, for aesthetic reasons.

Head south on 28, towards Sawmill Branch. Find a sweet little store/grill/icecream stand shortly before the right turn to Spruce, make mental note for future excursions. Stopped in to verify directions, shoulda grabbed a big old sub to go, but didn't. Had it in my head, thanks Carp, that Seneca was reachable in a day, which it is, but daylight was burning. So, I got somewhat coherent Appalachia drawl verifying that my hunch was correct, and continued on towards Sawmill Branch. Find signage, turn right as now planned, next sign says 17miles to SpruceKnob, neat. Had estimated this at 55-60 to the top, it's gonna be a nice round 70, now I know. Find the climbing mood as the rain relents and get to it. Shortly after, the asphalt finally gives! I'm on dirt!!! Granted it's fireroad, but it ain't knobby wirrwirrwirr slum anymore, it's crunchy. Nice loooong 2.5 hrs later, and I'm atop the highest point in WV. Yeah baby! Relax, consider eating a hot meal, look at the clock, 3:30ish. Snack up instead and decide to keep rolling after celebrating the moment.
Drop into Huckleberry, and find the day's sweet reward. Couple fumbles then realize I'm still running road pressure in the tires. Pssst, psssst, pssssssssssst, ahhhh, much better. Pick my way across, choosing battles and getting it where I can, bike rides great loaded, but that rack is mechanically affixed. And that shit can break. Roll steady across the rocks and roots and reach the iconic sprucey campsite, dinner time. Break out the cook kit, turkey tettrazini meal in a bag, then repack and roll thru the evening light into the meadows and on down to the swim hole. Hit the base of the hike a bike and push on up to the Allegheny. Race the sunset until the legs complain just enough when a fire ring appears right along the trail. This looks flat enough, let's build a fire and get some sleep. Allegheny descent will be much nicer in the morning light. Would rather hit it then instead of slumming down it in the minimally lit darkness.78ish covered, didn't quite reach Seneca, which I'm estimating is another 10ish, which could be another 1.5 hours, which is 9:15pm arrivee, which is matches I'd rather not burn on day one. Begin to regret not getting an earlier start, or futzing around in Monterey, or route finding along 28, or, or ,or...relax, you'll get thru this. Good night's sleep, hit it early, restock in Seneca, hit Gnarly earlier rather than later and still have a buffer for the SMT. Relax, breath, tend the little fire and drift into lullaby land.


home safe.

was intimidated from the start,
rightfully so. gizmotic stats,
loose highlights, more later..

day 1:
78mile (70 of it road/pave' to Spruce)
6:45am-7:45pm, 8k of climbing. 3hrs
chill spin to Monterey, then rain for 2ish
hours until the final climb up to Spruce.
$$$$pruceberries were harvested, camp
over on the Allegheny, after that damn
swim hole hike a bike. Build a small fire.

day 2:
7:45 am depart, 2am arrivee', 95+mile.
highlights: Allegheny wake up, brunch
in Seneca following a pesky early morning
flat. Hot climb up 33, Gnarl was bigtime
payoff. Broken rack bolt dropping off the
spine tested the ziptie repair theory.
Follow that directly with a broken band
clamp, ziptie repair #2. Exit the Gnarl
8pm. Find a spring, into the fading light
Smokehole, make Franklin 11:30pm, push
on to picnic table camp in Brandywine, 2am.
18hrs out in it, 10kish climbing.

day 3:
8:30 depart. 60miles covered, 7k climbed,
back at the car 10pm. SMT from HighKnob
to DeathStar turnoff and hiking up TearJacket
were character builders for sure. Autobahn
and SMT to 10.5mile intersection were well
worth the price of admission, as always. Then
it got chilly and rained, from 6:45pm until the
subtle muted sunset around 8ish. Car wash
city down Jerkemtight, I really like my new
rain jacket, that was a looooong hour. Found
the limits of the little EOS light for sure, fog
didn't help much. Warmed up in the car,
drank some beer, ate some food, slept.

236mile loop.
25k of climbing.
78 in 13
98 in 18
60 in 13.5

learned a lot. I'm hungry,
got a few pictures to
sort through.


food on board

3 meals in a bag.
3 packs oatmeal.
bag of Combos
sleeve of FigNewtons.
bag of Mike n Ike.
6 sleeves of Bloks.
handful of mini PayDays
Nuun Tabs.
probably a bag of cookies too.
2 packs of PopTarts

thinking to try to make it to
Seneca before resupply,
shouldn't need anything 'to go'
from Monterey. Then re-up in
Franklin for the final push.

peace out, back on Tuesday.

happy trails.


loaded, almost.

bag, bivy, cook kit, small frenchy press, wool top & socks in stuff sack. 6ish lbs.
thermarest on bars, 1lb.
frame bag with (2) tubes, pump, zip ties, multi tool, patch box of bits, spare pads, extra chain links, 10' parachute chord, tire boot, extra velcro, small first aid kit, small bottle of chain lube.
Stem bag: lip balm, eye drops, Advil.

bike as shown, 32ish lbs.

no water, no food, need to add flipflops and baggy shorts to the mix yet.

Ergon, 11ish lb w/ 100oz H2O (bike has room for another 55oz), no food. Water filter, soap, saline, chammy lube, tooth paste & brush, Skeletool, (4) AA batteries, (3) AAA batteries, 19t TomiCog (emergency exit)..need to add a T shirt, knee warmers, camp towel.

still working on the menu, stem bag will be filled with ride food, add some oatmeal and 3 or 4 meals in a bag, see how that rounds out...


pre game

route estimated, list made.

gear shuffled.

food not quite yet finalized...
four dinners + 3 oatmeals on the pile,
will add ride food, restock that day to
day...or run lighter and rely on timing
and take out ability when rolling thru
civilization...need to pack it all, consider
options, consider mindset.

still some thinking to do.


hopes dreams

1 beer
2 beer.

burnt, tired. last season,
felt the flame flicker.
then Breck came about.
a big stage to play on,
put on a show, use it
to set new benchmarks.
use it to get out there,
to feel small, reboot.

easy to feel small 12,000 feet
above where you normally
sleep. a cathedral of sorts.
intimidating, pretty sweet.

I felt burnt after chasing the
NUE last year, started looking
for that pasture to be put out
into. then found that CO
inspiration, but now, don't
see much of anything
organized to chase after.

sure, race/ride the regional
goto events, party down SMT
styley, defend the local turf.
but otherwise....

so I ordered bags, custom
touring bags from this guy.
this loop I'm planning, should
be the last w/ the rack, bags are
5 weeks out. mouse traced dot
connecting puts it at 215ish,
wknd shakedown was 35 est,
40 actual. so 250-260 is in
the back of my mind.

3 1/2 days?

sure, that sounds reasonable.

beer 3 goes pSHhhhhhhh,


holler poaching

went north, climbed out of a fog,
did a good piece of plateau & holler
ridin'. crazy geography when you
really look at it.

the ride, 58ish mile, took us 12 to
make it 'round the big lollipop, 6 to 6
including the 9mile commute on the
rail trail, so in the woods for a solid 40.
gizmo said 6k of climbing, maybe 25 of
that from the 18miles of railtrail.
lots of pitchiness, hikey, testing.

new water filter worked like butter,
gps is an interesting gizmo, bikes
were flawless. legs kept turning all
day long. should've had a bit better
food selection, got stuck on racer boy
calories selcetion. fell short in the
sandwich category. that jar of peanut
butter that's been in the camp box
for how long was finally opened, and
closed again pretty directly.. had
cookies though, coulda used more.

Jake saw a coyote, both of us chatted w/
a rattlesnake, some deer and lots of friendly
people out backpacking, good vibes all
around, sweetness.