The 'Hole and Diesel Ride
The Pisgah MTB Adventure lives up to its name. It was definitely an adventure. A race? well that's not what it's all about when your are finishing at eleven o'clock at night after 14 hours on the bike. It was all about going big into some previously unknown mountains and making it out playing by the rules.
I learned a lot and made some hind sighted (as well as instantly apparent) mistakes during my first orienteering style race and Andy's biggest ride ever, but don't regret a single one.
I was told up front “not to forget who you have for a teammate" from a proud sport class rider that was stepping up to go big. Andy might make the going slower, but relying on my navigational skills to get around a course - well that's a sidebar that many others could tell. Andy really came through with a big bag of goodies and unnerving dedication of completing the mission.
Checkpoints are revealed at the start and a plan to box four of the need checkpoints in a counter-clockwise direction is decided as we head up the 2000ft climb of Black Mountain. Buckhorn Gap checkpoint is knocked out well under two hours. All is good.
We proceed south for the Turkey Spring checkpoint and after about three miles of ridge realize that it lies to the north. The map is checked and a new route plotted through the Pink Beds, a flat high mountain valley that remind me of a tame Canaan Valley. There is a choice of a probable faster forest road or a trail through the low marsh, that to me is a no brainer – take the trail! Pink Beds trail is a short hoot that really brightened the spirits. All rights and lefts are made to the big climb UP Pilot Rock. The 1600 foot hike a bike gave us our first look at some front runners going the blatantly apparent better direction – riding down the steep trail. Looked like team Bio Wheels rolling together in tight formation up in front. Not far back Garth Prosser rides ahead of his teammate on the downhill. It is not known how many checkpoints they had, or where they where going at this time. High at 4800 feet we get our passport stamped, two down and two to go.
We have lunch around two o’clock before the ten mile downhill off Laurel Mountain. At this point we have covered 20 miles in about five hours. Teams pass us in both directions that include Matt Lee and Jeremiah Bishop. We stop for a quick chat with Eric and Marshall next and they give in vain advice for the next checkpoint at North Mills River. It is all down hill to the North Mills River Campground, but the checkpoint is a couple hundred yards upriver and turns out only assessable up and over a too big hill and about three miles. We backtrack up a mile and do an out and back on the harder option of two approved routes. This puts us in North Mills River at least six times. Most of the teams checking in this late this far out are dropping out for a return “off limit” on pavement. We plod on.
Back up the Laurel Mountain for the trek to our final checkpoint at Turkey Pen. Looks like a gated road option or the trail down Bradley Creek Trail. We meet team 27, a couple from Virginia that is heading for Turkey pen via the forest upper road. We take the low trail through the creek. Through the near boys deep water at least ten times. The iodine tables are put to use for filling up water bottles. I think it’s a blast running the creek. Andy is a bit more reserved. Pea Gap takes us out of the water and to the final checkpoint around 7:15. The spirit soars. Now just cross Turkey Pen trail to the finish down off Black Mountain.
We head up Turkey Pen for the brutal ridgeline trail that includes the super steep Sharpy Mountain head wall that uses the last bit of energy as well as daylight. Andy’s got the beam to get us both through. We catch back up to team 27 that is hiking and riding along due to the fact that one bike has no brakes. This is a big mental boost to know that we are not alone in the dark, no physical help just something else to think about other than when the hour plus traverse would end. The last intersection is back on the Black Mountain trail and familiar turf as we coast and bounce down to the finish.
A late crew of five waits at the finish and rounds up some sandwiches and warm soup. We pass on the still tapped kegs left over from the post ride festivities that we missed out on. Still a couple more miles ahead to ride back to the tents to put a big day and some to tired, happy bodies to rest.
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