I wish I could come up with a better name for this post, but it's just not forthcoming. On Sunday I skipped out on Take a Kid Mountain Biking (I thought it would be canceled due to rain, alright?! I want to help the children, truly!) and did the 'Heartbreak' ride for the first time with a group of some locals and some of Aaron's friends that were visiting. We went through a residential area, up Rattlesnake (technical fire road, very steep), then Old Toll (technical fire road, less steep), then down Heartbreak (looong section along some ridges and down the mountain you just climbed) and back up and out on Old Mill, a gravel road. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Mmm, yes and no.
I wish I had some stats to throw your way, but I don't care to look them up so trust me when I say that there was a fair bit of climbing. From what I gather, Rattlesnake was built as a way for Model Ts to get up the mountain. How they did it, I don't know. Currently it's very rocky 'technical climbing' on a kind of narrow, steep, ill-kept fire road. From a technical standpoint, I think I could climb all of it, but from the fitness point of view?... At one point I realized Rattlesnake had just convinced me to put the front derailleur on my bike.
I currently run a 1x9, and while I could push my gear up this road, I couldn't do it for long and had to get off and hike in a few spots. Certainly, part of that's lacking the fitness, but the other part is oh-my-gawd-i-will-never-be-THAT-fit. So excuse me while I dig around in my bike box and try to find my granny gear. Ugh, I just bet that's going to mean a new cassette because of the new chain, and let's replace that rear derailleur while we're down there and Goodbye, money.
Here's the group after Rattlesnake, possibly a little ways up Old Toll.
I also roped almost everyone into a group photo at the overlook. Force of habit from years of family vacations!
One kind of neat thing to note is that as we climb, there's less and less green on the trees and shrubs. As evidence, this is further up on Old Toll.
I liked Old Toll because it was challenging but totally rideable at my fitness level. It took strength to keep getting up and over the rocks, but the grade and pace didn't tire me out too much. After a while you DO get tired of getting your butt pounded by your saddle, though. The rocks do not let up.
I wish I would have taken more photos of the terrain, but my camera was kind of hard to get out, and as you can see it was a big group. I didn't want to hold people up too much.
At this overlook on Old Toll, Aaron's pointing out the peaks we've still got to hit and the ridges we'll be riding along.
When we dropped down into Heartbreak, I took up the rear because I'm not terribly confident in descending. I'm glad I did, too, because I stopped a few times to shake things out (tight calves, tight forearms and hands from my death grip on the bars). I took advantage of the little breaks to take a few photos, too. (I'm not sure how long the descent was, but I'm going to take a stab and say 45 minutes?)
Along this section, Mountain Laurel was blooming. (There were also a few wild, orange colored azaleas up there, too.)
Down at the bottom of Heartbreak, Aaron speeds over a section.
I wound up riding it, too, but with less speed and more swearing. Here's a better picture of the trail.
After that, we were just left with the climb back out on the gravel road. It was kind of nice to relax and roll some kinks out. The climbing wasn't too strenuous.
Aaron's friend Pete, from Vermont
Dave, a handful of trouble that a lot of you will recognize
It was around then that my camera started to die. After about 5 hours of riding, I was ready to keel over with it :) I jest, it wasn't that bad, but the next day I did wake up feeling just a little bit like I had gotten run over by a truck. So, it was a good ride!