Monday, August 23, 2010

Unicoi Mountain Biking

an adventure is incovenience rightly considered

The Cherokee National Forest is made up of over 640,000 acres. So a person could spend a lifetime exploring the trails within these mountains.
I was most familiar with the Coker Creek portion from driving through it to get to the Ocoee. And I only did that a few times during the road closure on Highway 64 (in the Ocoee gorge.)
The mention of trail in that area was always curious to me. And Brian did a fine job combing the map for a section worth exploring.
Last Sunday, me and Brian set off for Coker Creek with a trail map and a vision of pristine singletrack. What we found was some incredible singletrack followed by some un-rideable trail. The combination of the two made for one big adventure.
We parked at a picnic area along Hwy 68 and headed up forest road 311. We picked up Trail#79/ FS#82 and rode it out-and-back to Unicoi Gap. The trails were amazing. Great bench work along the top of a ridge with a few steep shoots.
We descended all the way back to Hwy 68 and kept going on the other side. We were thrilled-out and followed that trail all the way down to the river. We saw a sign that said 5 miles to Hwy 68, were the car was parked. I had a feeling that we had wandered into the hardest part of the ride, and I was right.
The trail quickly became impassable and climbing back out of there was not an appealing option. So we kept pushing through until we spotted some train tracks on the other side of the river, and decided to give it a go.
The water was low, but it was nearly 200 yards across. We hopped from boulder to boulder and handed bikes across rapids. It was the hardest part of the day, and filled with the same uncertainty as we started the ride with. I was wearing down and running out of water and I love these moments.
We were in a remote part of the mountains and struggling to get across the river to make it onto the train tracks. The question of making it out before dark was only looming around the bend. The tracks were brutal, and we had further to go than we realized. We walked and rode and suffered.
We made it back with plenty of time before dark and sat by the river with a post ride beer or two. But I was wiped out. Too much fun! Next time I want to check out Buck Bald.

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