My buddy and I got out for a great mountain bike adventure this past weekend. We had our hearts set on riding some trails in the George Washington National Forest, so we took off from Harrisonburg at about 6:15 am.
We were headed to the North River Campground in the GWNF, which is a solid 45 min from the shop. It's just under 20 miles, but there are some slow and windy roads in the forest.
We parked at the bottom of the Hankey mountain road climb. This is a dirt road that eventually turns in to single track. It's a long climb, but totally worth it. You actually climb this twice in the local mountain bike endurance race, Shenandoah Mountain 100.
We used the climb to catch-up. Ben and I both have young kids, so there is plenty to talk about. In addition to family and work updates, there are always bike stories to swap. More often than not, I'm the one who's jealous of Ben's biking tales.
Once at the top, we were in the shade and looking forward to the rolling single track of Dowell's Draft. After a mile or so we stopped at an nice overlook to enjoy the view. Ben's birthday was earlier that week and to my surprise he had brought along some Shoofly pie. I'd never had a piece of Shoofly pie, but I can tell you now, that it is awesome! I think it is a safe bet that we are the only two people to ever have Shoofly pie at the Dowell's Draft Overlook.
After our fair share of pie we dropped back on the trail. Having recently undergone a bunch of trailwork and a light rain a few nights prior the trails were in unbelievable condition.
We ripped on towards a trail called Magic Moss that would eventually lead us to the newest reworked section of trail in the GWNF, Wild Oak. Magic Moss was a really cool trail; off camber in places and with plenty of rocks and roots. You eventually come to a T with the Wild Oak Trail. Head right and you'll go straight up the mountain, it's STEEP. Thankfully that wasn't our plan. We took a left and found the downhill portion of Wild Oak.
This new section was fast and designed to really flow. Needless to say I enjoyed it, like a lot. The single track also has a few features to test your skills. In the video above you can see Ben cross a long log that connects a big turn. He makes it look easy, it's not. (Thanks to the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition for all their hard work on this! - Learn more about the project and other projects on the club's website.)
The trail eventually ends and if I didn't have to be home for lunch I would have totally voted to ride back up the trail to do it all again. However, we had other plans. We took the gravel road back to where we parked. In our amazement the whole loop was only two hours, so we had some time to do a little more riding. We made a quick decision to ride the Lookout Loop.
We headed back up Hankey Mountain, a little faster than the first, as our legs were nice and warm. Lookout is a great trail with lots of rocks, ridge riding, fun descents, and the occasional punchy climb. We had roughly an hour and 45 minutes to do the trail, so we skipped the overlook, but I can assure you it was a beautiful view because the air was so clear that day.
The final section of Lookout before the swinging bridge is a rock garden on top of a rock garden, ha. Ben took it with no trouble on his big travel Santa Cruz Bronson and I actually rode it quite well on my smaller traveled Cannondale Habit. However at the very end I made a mistake and bottomed out the suspension a little too hard and created the first mechanical of the day.
After a quick assessment of the issue, we figured I was safe to ride back to the car and just deal with the bike when I got back to the shop. In no time we were back on the paved road riding back to our cars. On the road we ran into a friend from town, Bart C., as he was starting his ride. It was good to have his fresh legs give us confidence on the ride back to our cars, as we'd just finished roughly 25 miles on the trails.
Rolling back to our cars was a great feeling. I don't think there is any better way to start a nice weekend than with a big ride early in the morning. It wasn't even 11:15am and we'd covered a lot of ground and got some great exercise - and had fun doing it!
This is a must do ride, either part or in full. Here's a Strava link to see it for yourself.
Help us get more trails like this, DONATE to the club today!
Stop by the shop for more specifics, if you'd like.
PS, my bike is all good. Erik had it back to party mode in under 5 minutes. Good thing for great bike mechanics!