“Slush day” doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, but it was, surprisingly so.
Last weekend we got 2 feet of snow. This past weekend, temperatures jumped into the 50s.
We weren’t too sure how conditions would be for riding, if there would just be deep slush everywhere that would make for a miserable, sloggy passage. But we weren’t just going to sit at home and wonder; we were going to find out either way.
We had a couple guys from Akron, OH staying with us for the weekend. They were using our place as base camp to go ride and snowboard. They were pretty stoked to get on some rented fatbikes from the shop and get the guided tour from the locals.
We met at Greenwood, but this time, headed up and over Stone Mountain on Barrville Road, then made a left on Flat Road Trail, which was nicely packed by snowmobiles. Barrville was melted just enough to provide some traction on the icy parts, but the descent was still a little sketchy.
I’d never done Flat Road in this direction—the only times I’d been on it were for Frozen Fat, and we always came the other way. The name is not very descriptive, as it is more undulating than flat, and it seems like there is somehow more uphill than downhill in both directions.
But that used to bother me much more than it does now. I really don’t mind climbing.
At the end of the gated section of road, we had a choice to make. Continue down the gravel road, or jump on the trail. I was pretty skeptical of the trail at first, as I thought there would still be a foot of snow on it, which was now quickly turning to heavy slush. But it turned out that it was only covered by a few inches, and while it was harder to pedal through, it wasn’t impossible. It was actually a ton of fun.
I love breaking tracks in the snow. We all took turns in the front to get the experience, and actually, in these snow conditions, it was often easier to break trail in the front than try to follow the line of everyone else.
Trying to ride in the tracks of those ahead is like riding a perpetual skinny. Get off the line just a little and you find your bike tires squirming, trying to figure out how to deal with the boundary between the packed track and loose snow on either side. Attention and balance are crucial.
Sass-xx was, as always, a blast. The gradual downhill through a mix of forests, clearings, and stream crossings is a favorite ride in any season or condition. I used to not be such a fan of riding it in the other direction (uphill) because it is so damn good in the downhill direction. But, just like Flat Road, it’s growing on me.
We decided to head up the more direct Sand Hole Ridge Trail instead of Deer Tick, and it’s a good thing we did. By this time, the slush was getting more and more slippery, and climbing in the stuff was getting increasingly difficult.
The sun was so warm. My sleeves were rolled up. I took my gloves off.
At the intersection of Beautiful Trail, we ran into Ryan and the dogs. He told us the rest of the trail along the ridge, as well as Chicken Peter, were very rideable. Sweet. There were only a few parts on Chicken Peter that required dismount.
Then it was time to climb Kettle.
Kettle Road from Coopers Gap to Rag Hollow Road is a long, steep grind. I’ve only done it a handful of times, probably because something in my subconscious tells me to avoid it whenever possible. Last time I had ridden it was about two years ago though, and luckily, I’m stronger than I was back then. This time around, I didn’t think it was so bad.
As I said, I kinda like climbing. Sure, when I’m doing it, I can’t wait for the top of the hill. But getting to the top of a hill is so satisfying. I’m not a fast descender, and I don’t care much for flying down hills as fast as I can. It’s fun, but it doesn’t give me that same satisfaction as making it to the end of a grueling climb.
We took in the vista, pedaled the last few hundred yards to the very top of the mountain, and made our way down the other side. The wet road flung dirt and slush in our faces. We hopped on Sassafras Trail to descend back down to the park, which was even more wet than the road in places.
By the time we got back to the vehicles, we were pretty soggy. At least it was the end of the ride.
When this day started out, I definitely didn’t expect conditions to be this good. I figured everything would be too deep and slushy to hit any singletrack, and I thought the gravel roads would be icy and harder to ride than they were. Don’t just sit inside and wonder. Get out there. You might be surprised.