Echols Dorm: Brick Wall By Side Door
George Washington National Forest
To continue my exploration of GW National Forest (see my fall break trip to Great North Mountain), I want to go on a mountain bike camping trip while the weather’s still warm enough for ultralight travel.
We’ll leave Cville on Saturday morning (10/13), drive for a couple hours to the trailhead, and get ready to shred some of the state’s most incredible gnargnar. We’ll ride for 10-15 miles and set up camp, preferably at/near one of the PATC shelters on the Tuscarora trail to avoid carrying tents. The next day, we’ll finish up a loop or ride back the way we came and drive home.
I’m not entirely sure what our route will entail yet, but I’m thinking that Vance’s Cove (http://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/vances-cove-strasburg.html) would be a cool route to start from and maybe expand it by adding some additional loops off of the Tuscarora. In terms of the biking that will be done, you can expect:
-20-30 miles total (split over 2 days)
-Fireroads and flowy singletrack
-Medium to difficult rock gardens (you can always walk them)
-Logs and stream crossings
-A few sections of semi-technical downhill
-You must have at least some amount of mountain biking experience for this trip! I’m OK with taking beginners, but only if you’ve actually biked on trails before. You don’t need to be an expert rider, but at least comfortable riding on the O’Hill traills, and in good enough shape to be able to complete a 20-30 mile ride. If you’re not confident in your ability, send me an email.
-You must have either had prior backpacking experience or have had some sort of camping experience and be extremely enthusiastic about coming along. I’m not going to post an extensive gear list because you should have at least some idea of what you will need to bring. Email me if you have questions or are in need of gear advice.
-You must be OK with the possibility of suffering. I’ve only done this once before and it was kind of terrible. Granted, it was more of an experimental mountain bike mountaineering trip to Columbia Peak in the Cascades, I was carrying over 30 lbs of gear, and the trail we were on was less than ideal for biking, but I pushed through it until we were done. This is the sort of trip that could either be completely awesome or extremely miserable, but it won’t be easy to turn around in either case. That said, my plan for this trip is to try and maximize fun by minimizing the amount of gear we have to take. Here’s how:
1) We aren’t bringing tents. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find the PATC shelter I mentioned. However, the possibility exists that we’ll end up sleeping under the stars slash building survival shelters slash getting wet and being miserable and cold all night (if it rains). If a dangerous situation arises, we could have to ride out during the nighttime, which means we will need to bring night-biking or caving headlamps.
2) Don’t bring a sleeping pad if you think you can fall asleep without one. Or get an ultralight/ultracompact pad or an ultralight hammock. If you don’t bring a pad, though, you’ll probably want a zero degree bag (club has some).
3) We aren’t bringing stoves or cooking/eating equipment other than knives and maybe a plastic bowl per person if you can make it fit. We’ll either cook everything on a campfire, straight up cowboy style, or if for some reason we can’t start a fire, all of our food will be pre-cooked or edible raw (like precooked sausages, sandwiches, or raw veggies) so we don’t starve in any worst case scenario.
4) Only bring the shoes you’re biking in (bike shoes or sturdy tennis shoes or hiking shoes, full boots are not recommended). Maybe a super light pair of flipflops or camp shoes if you’re wearing bike shoes. Carrying boots in a pack while biking, though, sucks.
5) We’ll bring a little bit of bike repair stuff, but only the bare essentials to get a broken bike out of the woods.
6) Hopefully, all of the stuff that we DO need to bring will fit into extremely small packs with no metal framing. Ideally, everything would fit into a large camelbak or dayhiking pack (sleeping bags get pretty small with compression stuffsacks). Just remember that you need room for water (2 liters, we’ll bring purification tabs to get more). This would be the most comfortable way to go and a good way to ensure that we have TONS OF AWESOME GNAR-SHREDDING FUN!!!! Also, if you’re thinking about purchasing any ultralight gear, now’s the time to do it.
I’m setting the trip size to 3 people right now because that’s how many bikes I can fit on my car. However, if another driver signs up, I’ll increase it to between 6 and 8 depending on the ratio of experienced/inexperienced people that sign up. Get psyched!