Sunday, August 07, 2005

Bust-a-nutten

"You're fired," Stoner tells me as we ride/limp into the Signal Knob parking lot. Rewind about 5 hours and we, Butch, Charles, Stoner, and myself are in good spirits heading out from the same parking lot for an Elizabeth Furnace epic. Stoner, Butch, and I are all riding Monkeys. Charles was on an old-skool Serrota with day-glo paint and pedal clips. In solidarity with our singlespeed addiction, Charles promises not to shift. Cool. We have it all planned out. We would climb the fireroad to Woodstock tower, ride the Massanutten trail to Signal Knob, and come down on the Bear Wallow trail to end the loop. None of us were familiar with the trail system, but we had a map. Jason and Charles, who both had never been to "the Furnace" were relying on Butch and I to navigate the route. That was the fatal flaw in the plan.

The ride started of well enough. Fireroad climb to singletrack to more fireroad, and then a sign pointing the way towards Woodstock tower, just like the map said. "I can't believe people get intimidated by this place," Butch says as we find all the appropriate landmarks, "it's so easy to get around." Ten minutes later and we're lost. From midway up the mountain, we had taken a wrong left turn that sent us all the way to the foothills. We have to climb back up. Not so bad since it's all smooth fireroad, but taxing nevertheless. A minor inconvenience compared to what was to come (but more on that later).

The Massanutten trail from Woodstock tower heading east is quite simply some of the best riding I've seen. Miles of twisty, rocky ridgetop, East Coast goodness. Butch and I take turns in the pole position using our faces to clear the morning spider webs. More than once I feel one of those critters crawling on my lip. A quick slurp, and spit usually gets rid of the unwanted passenger. After about 5 miles we take a rocky white-knuckle descent back to the fireroad. Here we run into Dieter and Sean who I met at the MORE camping trip to Stokesville. We chat for a bit while Charles fixes a flat and then we're off again.

At this point Charles is running low on water and decides to head back to the cars, leaving just Butch, Stoner, and myself to tackle the climb up to Signal Knob. Ironically, about a hundred yards up the road we spot a pipe gushing water from the side of the mountain. I'm a bit worried because there appears to be some kind of "outhouse" uphill from the pipe. With just a bit of hesitation, Butch is slurping away at the pipe. "Tastes good," he says. That's enough convincing for me. I step in and drink. The water is cold and refreshing, and it tastes good like Butch said. We fill up our bottles and head out, knowing that any moment we all might be curled up on the side of the trail with stomach cramps.

The climb up to Signal Knob is pretty easy except for the last mile or so, which is pure hell if you try to actually ride it. I rode as far as I could, but in the end I had to assume the singlespeed climbing position: hands on the bars, feet on the ground, leaning forward to walk with the bike, head hung in shame.

We regroup at the summit and plan our descent. According to the map, we should take the yellow trail to the white trail to Bear Wallow. Not able to find a yellow trail we take an orange trail instead which leads into a mile of gradually uphill continuous rock garden. As we trudge on, the rocks get bigger. At some point we get off the bikes and push them through what seemed like miles of boulder fields. The long carving downhill back to the cars that is Bear Wallow never materialized. Instead, we are in hike-a-bike hell scraping brake rotors, cranks, frames, ankles, and knees on granite rocks with no end in sight.

We force ourselves to ride through stretches of it simply because we're tired of walking. After a while, we see hikers who said they just passed a sign that said 1.7 miles to Buzzard Rock Overlook. After all our careful planning to avoid this trail, we were we smack in the middle of it. Nothing to do but push on. Luckily, about a mile or two from the cars, the trail eases up again and we gratefully bomb down what little downhill is left.

"JoeP, you're FIRED!" reads the first email from Stoner the next day. I laugh as I survey the arrays of cris-crossed cuts on both arms and legs from where the thornbushes had overgrown the trail. Can't wait to do it again.

3 Comments:

Blogger butch said...

the horror... the horror... I haven't stopped recounting every section of this ride. Things like what went wrong? And how did we miss Bear Wallow?...is all I can think about.
So when do you guys want to do it again?

10:53 AM

 
Blogger rickyd said...

Every friggin' time I lead a ride through the Furnace, I get lost. Now I know not to let you and Butch lead either!

10:33 PM

 
Blogger Ellasdaddy-o said...

Joe P. Long time my friend. Glad to see you're keeping it real, can't believe you're crazy enough to do the Furnace on a SS... you are a nut. Joe R. and I had a similar experience there (more than once as I recall)... all the cool kids do it. Miss you guys, wish I were still up there!

~B

12:20 PM

 

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