Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Asheville: Where Trails are Named and Maps are Numbered
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With the Tour De France occasionally locking up on the internet TV in the workshop, I handed the mechanic at Backcountry Outdoors $11.95 for my DuPont State Forest Map. Guess the price has gone up since it was declared an official IMBA Epic mountain bike ride. It’s been a long time, maybe 3 years, since I’ve been to Asheville and Brevard, long enough for Backcountry Outdoors to change their sign and beautifully organize their sales floor, but I don’t recall ever paying for a map of North Carolina’s DuPont State Forest. I almost thought they were free, grabbed one and walked out. Wait. Is that a price tag? It is. Seriously, I probably have three sweat soaked blurred DuPont Maps in a folder at home marked “Asheville-DON’T FORGET TO TAKE THESE MAPS STUPID,” which of course I forgot. It was a last minute decision. It sort of went like this. My wife asked, “Wanna go to Asheville over the 4th sweetie pie?” In my deep sexy Barry White voice I replied, “Fo shizzle my Nizzle!”
Immediately I started planning. Yeah right. This is my wife and I we’re talking about. Most of our ride times end in “ish.” Like 8 in the morning-ish, or more likely 10:30-ish. We like to wing it. Still, knowing we’d get in Saturday Afternoon and leave Monday afternoon, we did make some loose plans to make the most of Asheville, the unicycle and dirty bearded guy capitol of the world. We’d ride near the hotel somewhere on Saturday and go out for dinner somewhere afterward. With fireworks somewhere in Asheville sometime Sunday night, we planned to ride mountain bikes at DuPont sometime during the day. On Monday morning we’d do whatever ride we didn’t do on Saturday, either mountain bike at Bent Creek or do a road ride somewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
At the hotel computer, I printed off a black and white copy of the color map of Bent Creek. Whoever wrote the Bent Creek Map must have been the same survey engineer that created the DuPont State Forest Map. While accurate and up to date with closed areas (the trail passing under Bridal Veil at DuPont is now closed to bikes), they are not very user friendly on the bike. The trails on the map are marked with numbers. The trails on the dirt are marked with names on wooden signposts, no numbers. So, if you’re not a rocket scientist, and say a dufus with a Bachelors degree in Broadcasting, you’ll find yourself looking like a cave man in the space shuttle at every trail intersection if you don’t pre-plan your route and or ride with someone who works at the aerospace division at GE.
I thought I was being a genius with the Bent Creek map. I wrote out a crib sheet of trail numbers, put it in a sandwich baggie and stuffed it under my shorts leg. It read: Hardtimes Trailhead, Lt 664, cross road, 666, Rt 660, Lt Road, Rt 150…etc. Brilliant! I could read the sheet through the white leg panels of my new shorts. It didn’t help. In real life, there are no numbers on the signposts at either Bent Creek or DuPont. So, rather than having a flowing steady ride, I found myself getting the map out of my Hydrapak Morro at every other intersection or face the certain doom of taking my wife down something gnarly. Eventually, I just stuck the map in my shorts leg. That way I could read it, check the number/name key and look a few turns ahead while riding easy sections. We ended up riding Deer Lake, Wolf Branch, Ledford, Ingles Field Gap, Little Hickory, Sidehill and Explorer in 2-ish hours. Regardless of the map hiccups, it was as beautiful as I remembered. We snapped a photo of my wife’s Litespeed Pisgah in Pisgah and headed out for big noodles at Doc Chey’s.
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