As mountain bikers we all have an arch nemesis – something that keeps beating us. It might be a steep technical climb, a man-made stunt, or a rock garden you just can’t seem to clean.
My current MTB nemesis is a local route known as the Thurmond Epic. It combines the Bartram Trail, Keg Creek trail, and two trails inside Mistletoe State Park: the Rock Dam and Cliatt Creek Nature Loop. It’s about 67 miles long, and 58 of those miles are singletrack. As of this writing, no one has ever ridden the entire route – even though I’ve tried twice.
Attempt 1 – The Scorcher
My first attempt was with a group of friends in June and was not a smart idea. A recent wind storm had left over 20 downed trees on Keg Creek, and temperatures that day went up into the high 90’s. The heat was just too much for any of us to handle. We made it 37 miles to the Mistletoe park office before calling it a day. We all vowed to try again once the weather cooled off.
Attempt 2 – Long Way Alone
I made a second try in December and none of my usual riding buddies were able to go, so I went solo. The first 30 miles were fun and good until I was on the singletrack that leads into the back side of the Rock Dam trail where the track suddenly seemed to disappear. It’s a very rarely ridden trail with pink flagging to mark the way but suddenly there was no more flagging, and the heavy leaf cover gave me no chance to see the trail on the ground. I got off the bike and walked around for nearly 20 minutes trying to find the trail, or some flagging, but had no luck. I was about to give up and turn around, but then I noticed a blue blaze on a tree on the other side of a creek. Ah ha! The Rock Dam trail has blue blazes!
I did some bushwhacking across the creek and continued on the Rock Dam trail. Everything was going well until I crashed hard and unexpectedly in an off-camber corner. I slammed my thigh into some roots and tweaked my knee a bit. I sat there for a while, then finally got up and continued on. I had to walk all the climbs, my knee was really hurting, and my single speed didn’t let me gear down to spin easily.
I finally made it to the park office 5 hours after starting the ride. I was done, my knee was killing me, and I still had 25+ miles of singletrack left to ride. I decided to take the road back instead. Fifteen boring (and cold) miles later I arrived back at my car, 6.5 hours after leaving that morning. I had 53 miles under my tires which is not a bad day - but I was disappointed. The Thurmond Epic had beaten me again. I’m definitely not giving up and I’ll be back to try it again – but next time I’m bringing some friends. My latest attempt proved that it’s a long ride by yourself.
So what’s been giving you trouble on the trail lately? Tell us about it in the comments section below.