Jackrabbit over Memorial Day weekend

Over Memorial day weekend some friends and me did a Mt biking – camping trip (back) to Jackrabbit campground in Hayesville, NC. This is such a great location to ride and camp at due to it also being directly on lake Chatuge.

Apollo is dog gone tired.

Ride report: Friday was Noon Dog loop out 2 Saba beach – unfortunately for Apollo I took a wrong turn and we ended up doing an extra 2 miles before actually getting to the beach – this had him tuckered out for the rest of the weekend! Friday afternoon the Faster group went out for all trails, followed by a lake swim.

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Friday evening there was some discrepancies about who’s campsite was where, and who had reservations and at what location (luckily we were not at all involved in any of this). The park rangers showed up and went about attempting to get things sorted out – luckily for our ‘camp neighbors’ it all got sorted out and they did not need to re-pack and move to a different campsite because they spent about 3 hours setting up their campsite. Yeah, they had a BUNCH of stuff – but hey, they are out camping w/ their kids and they were really cool about us having our dogs – so everyone was happy.

Saturday was ‘no drop’ on all trails, lunch, Faster group (all trails), lake swim, dinner & some folks went out for a night ride. (some folks didn’t tell other folks to bring their night lights).

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Sunday was Kid’s day – Dale brought up his 2 boys and we rode at their pace. 1 of whom had the most awesome crash that I may have ever witnessed. Coming off the blue loop there is a double hump, he rode the first 1 well, but the 2nd 1 threw him – somehow, he appeared to be off the bike landing hand first, which turned into a cartwheel, then flopped onto the ground – the whole time the bike soloed away from him for about 30 yards into the woods before stopping – it was the craziest dis-mount I had ever seen! He wanted to be upset about it, but we were all patting him on the back & cheering so much I think he ended up taking some pride in it.

We followed that ride up with another lake swim, then afternoon ‘no drop’ ride.
Sunday afternoon several people went back to Greenville for the USPro race – although I really wanted to go, I had been there the past 2 years, and since the campsite was all set-up ‘sleep-in & recover’ on Monday morning with out all the driving sounded a little more appealing.

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Monday morning my friend Carey packed up early and headed home, so I decided to go out and explore the surrounding area some more.

I headed out to check out a friends cabin that is in the area. I originally drove directly past it. Came to the end of the road and turned around and came back. The directions were go South on the road – green gate, before the bridge. So, I saw a gate, but it looked very unused, so I kept driving, and ended up going over the bridge before realizing that must have been the gate. I hiked in through the tall grass a little nervous due to the fact that there isn’t an address, so I wasn’t really sure if this was the correct cabin or not.

old cabin

I’m not sure how old the cabin is, but it was definitely rustic in nature. I was nervous when I walked across the deck. Each of the boards looked like they could give way at any time.
The nice thing about the cabin was that it was just up from a pretty good size creek. It looks like you could at least walk down to the creek and cool off if you wanted too – not that you could do laps or anything, but at least soak a little bit.

I ended up going for a walk with Apollo since we were on a quiet road. We went past the bridge and up the hill – Apollo was running from shade tree to shade tree now due to the sun. We were stopped under 1 of the big trees beside the road when I noticed a Solar panel in the pasture. This was the 2nd time on this trip that I had seen what appeared to be a field of solar panels.

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After I got back home, I did a little research into these solar panels in Hayesville, NC. I came across Green States Energy website which talked about 2 different projects in the Hayesville area – so I’m sure that I saw one of these 2 projects, but I can’t tell for certain which one…. although I would guess it was Hindsman, since the one I saw from the road was on a slight hill – unfortunately didn’t get a chance to get a picture of that one.

Waterfall near Unicoi.

On the way back from Jackrabbit I decided to stop along the way at the top of Unicoi gap and reheat some lunch. After eating, I took Apollo for another short hike and hiked back to a waterfall that I had been too before – I particularly like this waterfall because it has a man-made ‘basin’ near the base of it that fills with water and has a little run-off.

cycling app strava and mytracks review

Strava vs. MyTracks Droid apps for tracking your cycling.
UPDATED:

I liked MyTracks for a long time, but to me it seemed to use too much of my battery (more on this later). MyTracks was very useful as I was learning some new Mt biking trails in North Georgia. I found that I could take it off ‘satellite’ put it on ‘map’ mode it would download my location much faster.

climbing Cherohala skyway

But as the summer cycling season was starting to reach it’s peak and I was doing group road rides, I found Strava and started trying it out. I really started enjoying it’s features.

Strava can be Fun. You input some data about you and your bike (from which it will estimate your wattage). Then record your ride via GPS, once you finish and save the ride, it quickly uploads. Then it will show you how you did on various climbs on a social network – Strava.com, compared to others in your area that have done the same rides or climbs – whether or not you are following them.

This can be Fun, challenging and give you new goals to push yourself for. Get a PR or even best some of the riders in your area. I have to admit, I did a couple rides this summer with no other intention than bettering my time on a couple climbs during a group ride.

But suddenly this weekend a glaring difference was found and now, I am mixed between the two apps and will keep both on my phone – but for totally different reasons!

Strava2

I made my way to an area of Mt biking trails that I had never been before. So while I was getting prepped, I did my usual of turning on Strava, and my dog Apollo and I hit the trails…. only Apollo was tired from a fun dog day on the farm. I though we would knock out 5-6 miles, like we usually do – he barely made it 2.

Suddenly I was in the middle of unknown area of trails, and needed to get back to the car along the shortest route possible. I went back to the Strava app, but all it would show me was our ride time and our pace. I attempted to figure the best possible route and forged onward. Apollo was getting more tired, we stopped again & I re-evaluated. And then suddenly I remembered MyTracks.

my_tracks_android

The reason that I went back to MyTracks is that during the ride, it will give you a map of where you are & a red line indicating where you have been. This makes it much easier which direction you are going on the map, and figure out which way you need to go. Both apps allow you to view where you have been on a map from a computer, but only MyTracks allows you to view that map while you are riding.

Although I do like both apps, I now really feel that they both have a separate purpose that (for now) neither can fulfill.

MyTracks is Great if you are exploring or you realize you are lost & attempting to get back to where you started.

Strava is Great to compare and keep up with how you are doing along a route, against yourself or others.
With Strava you can review the map after the ride.

Bonus Tip: Strava and I think MyTracks can both be turned on for a minute to ensure satellite connection then, you can put your phone into airplane mode to save battery!

See my previous post about MyTracks

While recording using MyTracks, you can:

1. See location / progress on a map
2. Monitor real-time statistics: time, distance, speed, elevation
3. Create waypoints
4. Create statistics waypoints (splits tracks into subtracks)

UPDATE:
Thanks to the comment below, I have successfully uploaded .gpx files from MyTracks onto my computer, then uploaded them onto Strava.com.
Although this is more of a pain due to the extra steps, it is good work-around.

My Tracks GPS Droid App review

Today I got out for a Mountain bike spin with my dog Apollo. We headed out for a ride around Chicopee woods before the storm hit the Atlanta area.

The great thing about taking Apollo Mt biking is that we both get exercise for the day. I can do a loop with him, then head back out for a bigger loop by myself. After riding/running both of us are more relaxed. In fact 1 of my favorites sayings is “A tired dog is a good dog!”. And I guess that goes for all dogs, ha!

Tired trail dog

I have a strong like for maps! I can go over maps before going somewhere & after getting back. I guess maybe it is a orientation thing, from when I used to explore as a kid?

Anyway, here is the GPS from the Droid app ‘My Tracks’. I recently downloaded it & have been using a couple times now to orient myself with it. So far, I really like the app, however, it does eat up the battery.

The cool side is I can still post up to different websites that I may want to update.
The downside is that although it is on my phone, the elevation does not show up on the websites that I post to.


View 2011-02-28 Mt Bike in a larger map

I really like the look and set-up of the Garmin website that you can post your data too. The summaries for the stats of a ride are much clearer & more information is offered.
I did finally find that if you click the ‘end’ link, it will pop-up a summary for you – which is best viewed in Google Chrome.

I do like the price of ‘My Track’ better – FREE. Since I don’t see the need to dish out over $300 on the Garmin (that I would want, if I got 1) then this free app will do just fine for now.

Some previous video of the Chicopee trail…. why do I always put the crashes at the end of the videos?

Any suggestions for a similar/better app to Garmin for a Droid, please let me know!

Pisgah vs. Tsali trails

Wonder what it would be like to ride some of the fabled epic trails of the south east?! These are 2 of some of the most epic riding in North Carolina, yet each is so different in style and scope that they would probably appeal to different types of riders.

TSALI is a smaller network of trail system that is awesomely fast, flow. There is very little that slows you down too much. The trails are quite well taken care of and groomed. There are races there often. And although you may find several spots of mud puddles of various depths – which you figure out how deep they are after going through them – the drainage of the trails in general is quite good, especially the right and left loop.
There are several overlooks that contain stunning views of the lake and the Great Smokey mountains.

The trails are Fast! For the most part you can run a 32/20 and probably walk only a couple of short stiff climbs. On a geared 2Niner I use the middle ring for all except the same climbs. Some sections of these trails are just too Fun, ripping it downhill and around corners of the lake is a blast!
For Tsali I usually take 2 bottles, a gel flask, clif bar (that I usually don’t eat) and a patch kit.

Camping is onsite and you can ride all the trails straight out of the campsite – BUT you may need the campsite or hotel if you want to ride all the trails. Tsali trails are basically a 4 leaf clover, with half the trails open to Mt bikers and the other half for horseback use, and the days alternate. This past weekend we got to ride Thompson and Mouse loops on Saturday, then ride Left and Right loops on Sunday.

PISGAH is a much larger network of trails. You can come across any number of things while in Pisgah. Downed trees are not uncommon. Drop offs are not that uncommon either. Pisgah is where I saw the longest rock garden that I had ever seen – well over 100 yards, all at a downhill angle that would give you a forearm pump that would make a rock climber be jealous.

Caution is to be used in Pisgah!!! Navigating and maps are a must unless you are very familiar with the area. We had mapped out a route that we figured would be a good 5-6 hour ride, we did about half of it due to not being sure where we were at and hiking rather than being able to cycle up some climbs.

There are several places to camp in Pisgah, from the Davidson full RV campground, the group sites w/ only rest rooms & tent sites (my choice), to just a tent site.

For Pisgah I usually take 2 big bottles, camel back, 2 gel flasks, 3 clif bars, patch kit, 2-3 tubes, and I would take a filter if I had one or iodine tablets. Don’t expect to get much cell service. I have verizon and usually get service most places – not Pisgah.

As crazy as Pisgah can be I have some incredibly epic rides there. Some downhills and stream crossings the likes of that I have never seen before in the south east. Some of the uphills will make hike-a-bike challenging. Some stream crossings you will have to get off and walk across. You may think you are some place on the map that does not exist – probably because I don’t think all the trails are actually on the maps. There must be sections of trails up there that only the locals know about – there is just so much forest there that they have Mt bike stage races.

Summary:
If you want a simple and well groomed trail that is just a blast to ride, it is Tsali hands down! The trails are well marked, only a handful of intersections. Only a few times that you may have to walk or step over downed trees. There are some great sections of trails to catch speed and some jumps, whoops to increase the fun.

If you are looking for a more complex trail system that challenges you to navigate, riding technically, longer hours of ride time, and throw anything at you, including an epic adventure, then Pisgah is for you!

12 Hours of Yargo, Mt bike race report

Although we were a Murray down, we persevered….. You see last year the 3 Murray brothers and myself raced the 12 hours of Yargo. We went to have fun, hang out & ride hard. We were battling it out for what we thought was first place, but because of a timing mis-hap (an unrecorded lap) we actually battled it out for 2nd place. This year, unfortunately 1 of the Murray’s needed to skip this year race, so David came on board. Even though they weren’t racing, Ryan and RT still came out on course to cheer us on!! What a great crowd that shows up to these events!

The Dirty Spokes 12 hours of Yargo is a Mountain bike race on a 11.7 mile mainly single-track trail in Winder, GA. This course has open sections where you can get a lot of speed, some sections where you pick up momentum down a hill only to do a hairpin turn and go back up that hill. Many climbs are steep, but short however, 2 of climbs that are steady and longer. A couple of the downhills have some whoops and the race included 1 of the horse show drop-ins. If you have enough speed you can jump out of the horse-shoe, but you have to do it at an angle b/c once you are out of the horse-shoe, the trail turns left almost immediately. Lots of technical sections where you need to throw the bike around turns to avoid the trees and in a couple cases are bouncing off of them. Most lap times for the course were low 50 to 60+ minutes.

We all met up and camped at Fort Yargo the night before the race. ‘Jet-Pak’ Ed was out of the camp site early and got us a pop-up next to Fresh Bike service, on the front row of all the action! As always the start was a little hectic with so many 6 and 12 hour solo riders, and multiple teams, the line for the parade lap before heading into the trail wrapped around the parking area and the 4 wheeler pace vehicle had to slow for the last of the riders.

Our team clicked off the early laps, and waited anxiously to see where we were at against the other competition. A difference that we lacked this year was that we didn’t pay as much attention to when the last person was leaving – although this didn’t actually hurt the team, it didn’t make things easier. Usually we keep an eye on when a person leaves for their lap, and gauge when they will be coming back to the transition area. This year everyone seemed to get ready as soon as their relay person was heading out. This gave us about 55 minutes to get things together, get dressed, get warmed-up.

At the campsite I stayed hydrated with NUUN and tried to keep steadily eating food to keep the energy levels up. Two turkey subs from Firehouse were devoured, and I even tried some of the fine pickles offered by Addictive Cycles, anything to avoid cramping.

As the day went along, each time check came in showing that we were in the lead, and then each lap the pressure built – stay consistent – don’t cramp – don’t get a flat & worst of all – don’t Crash! The consistent part requires speed, especially for me, since I was not the fastest rider on the team. I get bogged down on some of the uphills, but I have to conserve the Heart Rate and pedal over them. The sections of fast, twisty single track is where I need to stay moving, and this requires full concentration. Whipping the bike left, right, right, left gets crazy with the tress directly in the edge of the trail. Too much speed and a missed-timed turn means sudden handlebar stoppage and rider ejection!

Lady luck was in our camp this day and as the laps ticked by we seemed to consistently put time into our opponents and at the end of the day team Sprocket Rockets relayed for 140.4 miles in 12 hours. We finished a lap ahead of our competitors and Won First Place! I was fortunate to have a great team, and once again, I had an out standing birthday weekend camping and racing at Fort Yargo!!

Unfortunately, due to finishing the race at 11pm, we didn’t get any pictures of our finishing podium. Full results are linked from the Dirty Spokes site here .

Mt biking Stanley Gap

A friend of mine had to take a trip up to North Georgia and it gave us the perfect opportunity to ride on some Awesome trails that are only 90 minutes North West of Atlanta in BlueRidge, GA. After a relaxing morning we had the car loaded up w/ 4 dogs and 2 Mt. bikes, and cruised up 575, onto 515 past Ellijay into BlueRidge.

After settling the dogs down, they were taken on a guided hike w/ a lake visit. We hopped on the Mt bikes and off we rode onto the lake Blue-ridge connector trail out onto Aska Rd. headed for a long beautiful sunny day in the saddle. The views of the landscape, pastures, and Mountains are incredible in this part of Georgia. The temperature was amazing. I felt warm while climbing, but chilled from the breeze as soon as we would stop.

Soon we were climbing back country trails heading to the trail head of Stanley Gap. There has been quite a bit of great trail work in this area, and although it is still back country riding, most of it is quite ride-able. Many sections reminded me of the riding in Pisgah National Forest. There are several climbs that are challenging and make the Granny gear a necessity for most riders. The downhills are wicked fast, and there were a couple of sections that I was lucky to stay upright getting through them. It is easy to carry so much speed that you get into a technical section a little too fast!

A video (with Music) from the ride there last year:

Next up we started part of the Flat Creek loop. Coming down the rocky descent along a stream just adds to the amazing scenery that you will miss b/c you are too focused on the next upcoming water barrier that you can jump!

We carried the Flat Creek trail all the way to Aska road. Luckily I had a guided tour of the area, but I still can’t help but feel that there is so much more in this area of Blueridge to explore, yet unfortunately we had to head back to the Atl, so after a well earned steak and potato dinner, we picked up the lake weary dogs and back onto 515 we cruised, sore, exhausted and thoroughly content after a day of lung and heart pumping Mt biking.

Georgia has some great Mt biking, but if you want some steep, some steady climbs and some sick downhills with a true feel of the Mountains, Flat Creek and Stanley Gap will not disappoint you. This is part of the reason that both trails are rated 4.5+ on MTBR.com trail review section. Enjoy!

Snow and Ice weekend

Snow and Ice this past weekend in Atlanta.  This being fairly rare means that many people raced, ahead of the storm, – to the stores to grab what little bread & milk that was left on the shelves.  Then to blockbuster/netflix to rent a half dozen movies to entertain themselves.

Atl Snow Days
Snow Day

As I went out for a mid-day hike on the local ‘rails to trails’ Silver Comet it appeared that not many people were willing to get out.  The only other footprints were of a couple local kids and a couple runners.  Too bad because the after math of the storm that rolled through made for a beautiful day.  Sure it was chilly out, but I was able to layer enough clothing that it didn’t seem bad at all.

Because of all the ice on the roads I decided against the ‘skinny tires on Ice’ routine.  Finally on Sunday I headed up to Sixes rd.  I was surprised by the number of people that I saw at the local Mt bike trails on Sunday!  I think that I saw as many young kids as adults out.  Maybe everyone was cooped up too long.  I rode with some other friends and no one was complaining of the cold.  It was a really great day out, even though the temps were below freezing.  The right gear can make the difference between enjoying the outdoors and avoiding it.

I actually broke out a pair of tights that I haven’t worn in many years.  I usually wear 2 pairs of bibs and 2 pairs of knee warmers.

I am a little disappointed that I have not had a chance to try out my new Neofleece combo scarf that I got at REI.  I justified getting this after the WBL ride & a below freezing ride on fixed gear ride on the Comet.

Apollo snowMonday I got out over to Kennesaw Mt. and did a hike/run of about 7+ miles.  This was good for Apollo also, the running pace is an endurance pace for him.  So he can get more mileage with out having to go nearly as fast as when I’m on the Mt bike.  Running is a great way to increase your dogs mileage and endurance for when you 2 do go Mt biking.

A Dogs day of Cycling

Yesterday after a great workout, I was pretty energized and knowing the the high on Saturday was going to be 43 – I grabbed the dog and headed up to Blankets creek. It had been raining last week, so I opted for the dog to carry the GroPro helmet cam – as a trial run (literally for him!)
While we were out, we saw another Mt bike dog on another section of trail. It’s good to see other cyclists getting their dogs out for some exercise, but it also made me realize that not all trail dogs are the same.

Apollo and me Mt biking
Apollo and me Mt biking

For example, lots of trail dogs run behind the cyclist. NOT Apollo, once he is pooped-out he runs behind me…..but before then he is usually beside my left leg. How he is able to maintain this with out being A) run over B) wacking into trees is mainly b/c he stays alert to what is going on and he listens to my commands.
So, when I’m taking a hard hairpin to the left, I will tell him “heel” just ahead of time. This will slow him down a little and let him know to pay more attention to what I’m doing and about to do, just as it would when riding with another person.

Cycling with your dog can be lots of fun for both of you, especially if you both stay in-tuned with each other!

Big Buck at White Tail Trail

Friday Amy and I headed out to Chicopee woods for some Mt biking. These trails are on the far Northeast from Atlanta & I live on the West side…. plus, a lot of Friday afternoon traffic which by leaving at 2:15 we thought we would be ahead of…? We finally made it too the trails at about 4, got the dogs out for a 3+ mile ride around 1 the Tortoise loop, then headed out to get in what we could before the 5:30 sunset.

We took a spin around the Red Tail loop & I saw about a 6 point buck along the backside of the loop! From there, we headed for the Outer loop. What a FUN ride!!
What is it about occasionally riding different trails that can be so much fun. I know the trail fairly well, but not like the local one’s that we ride so often.
Good Times & video coming soon!!

Here is the Video: