So yeah, Sunday was my big ride in Pisgah. It was a planned group ride to pre-ride the course for the Jerdon Mountain Challenge, but plans changed a little bit. A lot of the group went up on Saturday, rode the Kitsuma side of the course, camped, and woke up the next day to ride the other side. I wanted to do it all in one shot, so the plan was for TomTom and I to start in town and ride it all from start to finish.
The only problem was that I didn’t really know exactly where I was going.
I talked to D-Wayne the day before, and he and Mike B decided to meet us up there (and hopefully help guide us along.) When we got to the museum in Old Fort, I found D-Wayne sleeping on a park bench. A few of our other friends rolled up and the plan was to ride to the picnic area at the bottom of Kitsuma to meet with the rest of the day trippers. The overnight crew rode from the campgrounds across the highway, and that group included Little Miss Sunshine.
She rode to the picnic area with us.
Somewhere along the way, we lost D-Wayne and Mike B. When we got to the picnic area, there was a giant group of people and they started splitting up. One group would do the Star Gap/Heartbreak/Jarrett Creek side (with two people even climbing up Curtis Creek), and the rest of us would do the whole course. Well, except for D-Wayne and Mike B, who I found out later did the pre ride for the upcoming Pisgah Enduro. Anyway, I somehow got roped into leading the group, which I found odd because I don’t really know the area that well.
I know Kitsuma though, so we took off up the Point Lookout Trail to the top of the mountain.
It’s a paved, five mile or so climb to the Kitsuma trailhead, and it’s not too steep. I was pushing pretty hard though, until I realized that my heart rate was up way too high and I should probably save my legs for later. At that point I slowed down to a respectable pace, and even stopped along the way to take a photo.
We got to the Kitsuma parking lot eventually (pretty quickly actually) and most of the group had already gone in while we waited for the last few people. We hit the switchbacks hard, pushing up the steep climbs to get to the top. Again I realized I should take it easy, so I walked a few of them to save my legs. Once we got closer to the top I found another prime photo spot.
After a little more climbing, we hit the first downhill. Having been there before I took off balls to the wall, and attempted a little jump. I came down sideways and started sliding off the trail, until some bushes spared me from certain death in the valley below. I didn’t really get hurt, but TomTom was right behind me and said it looked horrible. I think watching me wreck gave him a healthy fear of the trail, so we both took it kinda easy the rest of the way down.
Well, maybe I didn’t. Every once in a while I would let it go, until I realized that I probably shoudn’t go that fast. That stupid squishy fork gave me way too much confidence.
After a short while (and somehow passing almost everyone in our group on the downhill) we popped out into the parking lot at the picnic area. Some of our group had parked there, so they refilled bottles and we prepared to roll out again. This time is was a road section that was pretty boring.
Except for the geyser.
Our group was splitting up again, and in an effort to conserve my energy I fell back a bit so we wouldn’t lose the couple of people behind us. TomTom tried to stay between us so he could see where the people ahead were going and to make sure we followed. It sounded like a good plan, but it didn’t work for shit (not his fault.) At least I printed out a cue sheet of the course though.
I don’t know this side of the area very well, and although I have excellent map reading skills I wasn’t exactly sure where we were supposed to turn off the road and onto Star Gap. The guy in the back of the group motioned to us where we were supposed to turn, but the group ahead of us kept going. TomTom and I just kinda stopped there and waited, unsure of which was was correct. There were no signs, but the map had a spot where we were supposed to go in that wasn't taken by the group ahead of us (they passed it.) The whole reason I wanted to ride out there with a group was so we didn’t get lost, and now the two guys who don’t know shit about that area were left to fend for ourselves.
And then it started pouring rain. Lovely.
We decided to take a chance and head up the unmarked trail, and it went nowhere. We turned around, headed back down the road and took the other unmarked trail. We saw tire tracks, so at least we knew that someone had ridden there. Eventually it dead-ended at some train tracks.
And we had no fucking idea where to go. At least the rain stopped…for now.
I looked across the tracks and spotted a U.S. Forest Service trail marker, and it said “Heartbreak.” I finally knew where we were. We headed in, and a minute or so later we started seeing people from our group coming towards us. Did we miss something?
Turns out we were finally heading in the right direction. They asked, “Did you just now get here?”
Yeah, we did because we were waiting there like a couple of idiots. They told us that they were bailing on the ride to go get food. Apparently no one wanted to push their bikes up the tons of switchbacks in the rain, and we also heard that they couldn’t “train” in conditions like that.
I laughed my ass off about that the rest of the day.
They asked, “Are you still going?”
“Hell yeah”, I replied. TomTom and I came out there to ride, and we were gonna finish that shit no matter what. So, with the rest of the group hitting the road to go get some food, we rode on.
And then shit got real fun.