Tuesday, June 5

Earning my Weed Patch

The Enduro™ was canceled.  The EMS crews that Eric "PMBAR Honcho" had booked for safety purposes had plenty of other E in the area to MS.  So.  Much.  Rain.

So those of us that didn't wanna spend our weekend demanding refunds from Eric (it's rescheduled for August) did what we could to find something better to do.

A last minute plan was thrown together, and it looked like Jim, Kürdt, Gwen and I were headed off to explore the recently opened Weed Patch Trail (and Buffalo Creek).  I was warned that there might be a lot of trees and limbs down, so we all agreed that we'd pack tools and a pleasant Helpy Helperson attitude.  I mighta spent too much time at The Spoke Easy after work on Friday, and just mebbe when I woke up the next day, perhaps I was hoping Jim wouldn't show up, and I could go back to bed.

At 7:50 AM, he rolled up in front of my house.

Meh.  This better be good.

At 10:00 AM on the dot we all got there, despite the detour around a washed-out road.  Loaded up and headed out, starting at the top of the balloon on Buffalo Creek (far right) towards the out-and-back string that it Weed Patch.

Almost as soon as we got on Weed Patch, there were two big downed trees, much bigger than our tools could deal with.  Meh.  Could be a long day.

We start up the switchbacks.  There's... like thousands of them.  At certain points, I could look back and see everyone negotiating their own section, one tier per person.

At one point, I'm behind Kürdt on a super steep left hand hairpin.

"Who built this switchback?  The hubris!"

Eventually, we get to the first landmark, Trout Creek.  Kürdt rolled this most dangerous piece of trail into the creek crossing.

Note the man on the sign getting broke off.

We considered our water options here.  No one was smart enough to take a photo of the trail map at the kiosk.  Seemed too soon in the ride to filter, but mebbe too far away on the return trip to make sense.  Whatever.

Push on to Grey Rock.  It's 12:45 PM or so.  That took some time.  Eat things.  Check out the view... waterfall waaaaaaay in the distance.  A giant rock face looking right as us.  Kürdt surmises that we must be looking at our final destination all the way across the valley... and much higher than where we're sitting.

We press on and at some random creek crossing, Gwen decided it was time to turn back.  She mentioned something about the distance we'd traveled and the elevation we'd gained thus far.  It's been a "loaded" ride.  Jim and I Steripen a bottle of water out of a creek and continue on, whilst Kürdt joins Gwen for the trip back.  Being alone out here on a mountain bike is probably a no bueno.  We might be the only people out here today... all day.

From here, Jim and I put our heads down and accept the sadness, relieved that sometimes the trail goes down but also keeping in the back of our minds that eventually we'll have to go back up.  Move forward... sweating... not drinking my creek water.  Only if I have to.  I wonder if we're mebbe being stupid by continuing on, but I don't wanna ask Jim.  He doesn't understand "stupid."

"Stupid" is disregarding the advice I was given to not underestimate the difficulty of this twenty mile (and change) ride.  Two water bottles and some beef jerky.  Prolly not enough.

Eventually, we pass Flapjack Rock, stupidly miss the spur to Tunnel Trail (AKA Hiker's Hole), and we get to the end at Eagle Rock.

We scramble around for a bit...

eat some more food, consider our only option (go back), and do just that.

Through the massive rock piles (thanks, Shrimper!) near the top, and then we manage to find the Tunnel Trail and hike it real quick.

Such impressive work making all those stone stairs in the middle of nowhere, sadly not fully appreciated in our semi-wasted state.  Back down the trail, get to the sad (but expected) steep switchback up portions of the return trip... I'm alone.

Wait for Jim.

Wait some more...


Go back from whence I came.

Find Jim with his bike upside down in the trail.  Flat.  In the massive rock gardens.  Imagine that.

Plug the hole, roll a bit more... look back.

No Jim.

Once more, go back from whence I came.

Another flat.  Time to take stock.  I have one CO2 after the last repair and a 27.5" tube.  Jim has 1.5 CO2s and two 29" tubes.  I ask Jim to toss me a tube so I can inflate it with my mouth while he unseats the tire.

"Jim, is your rim drilled for Schrader valves for some odd reason?"


Make that, "Jim has one tube."

Toss in the tube, take our CO2/tube stock down to just one remaining of each, head back down the mountain... towards the black clouds and rumble of thunder.

Jim's slowing down from our pace on the way out, and when I stop to wait for him, I wonder if he's actually tired or if he's stalling just so we can get stuck in a thunderstorm on top of a mountain.  He wouldn't admit it if I ask, so I don't bother.

Eventually, we get up over the ridge to descend (mostly) back down to Buffalo Creek.  I'm down to just my creek water bottle, but I've vowed to not drink it unless it's an emergency.  So many things floating in there, others sunk to the bottom.

It's obvious that it rained on this side of the mountain, so Jim's flats actually saved us from a proper soaking.  Hitting the other side of the balloon on Buffalo Creek, we head down (mostly) until I run up on a guy doing trail work.  He asks me about overall conditions and also tells me that they're gonna close the trails for a few days.

"Don't worry.  I won't be coming back here any time soon."

Back at the parking lot, they've put up barricades since we got there this morning.  The lower Buffalo Creek trail is closed, but... burrito?  How else were we getting outta the woods?

Anyways, this is a one of a kind trail in our area.  I liken it to the North Fork Trail in WV (without the hours of shuttling).   The kinda trail you're gonna want to do at least once a year, even if it's just for the views.  It's 360° at the tippy top and simply insane....

Oh, and while the whole ride is quite arduous (Gwen ended up with 2800 ft elevation gain in 12 miles, so yeah), the trail is incredibly well built.  On most of Weed Patch, you could hardly tell that they'd been hit with two weeks of deluge.  We were expecting all these downed trees, but as Jim pointed out to me, the Lake Lure fire a couple years ago had really cleaned up the "widow makers."  We only had to do a minimal amount of trail clearing to get through.

That said, at our leisurely and somewhat mechanical-addled pace, we were out for over six hours... on a twenty mile ride.

You need to go do this... but pack smart(er than me), and you'll be duly rewarded for your (intense) efforts.


Can't Climb said...

Nice review. How many e-bike charging stations are along the trail route??

dicky said...

Hydroelectric dams at all creek crossings are in the master plan.