Wolf Gap Weekend
Mike, Jonathan, Vin, John, Jen and I went to Wolf Gap for Memorial Day weekend for some camping and moutnain biking. We decided on Wolf Gap after our plans for Jim Thorpe fell through and Davis and Slaty Fork were vetoed by group members. John sent around some new ideas, and Mike and I had been backpacking to Wolf Gap and Big Schloss over Easter weekend, so we were somewhat familiar with the area. When Mike and I had been there, the visibility had been about 15 feet due to fog, so we figured it would be like going to a new place entirely. We remembered the 4 miles of the trail we had done was a bit rocky, and would probably require some hike-a-bike, but nothing too severe.
Vin left DC at 5 am on Friday to find a place to camp. He had called during the day to say that we were staying at the Wolf Gap campground. We arrived there by about 7, and set up camp.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set out to do what I thought was a 12 mile loop, down route 675 to fire road 92 to Stony Creek Trail, a short bit on the Big Blue Trail and back to camp on the Mill Mountain Trail.
The road part was fine, a good warm up. From camp, 657 is a fairly steep and curvy downhill. Then 92 was rolling up and down. But it was all a good 2 miles longer than I had estimated. Stony Creek was really nice for the first 3-4 miles. It went up, but fairly gradually. There were a few wet spots, but nothing too bad. Until it started raining. I didn't mind too much. As long as we were moving I stayed warm enough. We were riding up along the side of the creek, so a few places overlooked little waterfalls and such.
Then we hit the switchback. After that the trail got much narrower, steeper and rockier. I started walking a fair bit of it, but figured we weren't too far from the top. After about a mile, I caught up with Mike and Jonathan at the PATC cabin where we waited for the rest of the group, ate some Luna bars, and relaxed a bit. There were a bunch of backpackers up there too.
After everyone caught up and rested, we headed off again on the Big Blue Trail. We continued going up a bit, but the rocks had toned down some. Then we turned onto the Mill Mountain Trail for the trip home. There was still a bit of an incline, but nothing too hard. Then finally we reached the top of Mill Mountain, and what looked like a jeep road across the top. It was pretty flat and smooth and quite pretty. We passed the area that Mike and I had camped a couple months earlier, and the trail was quite rocky again. We continued across the ridgeline, a combination of hiking and biking for me, with all the rocks. Mike got a flat tire, which, since he was running Stans, was a little more complicated than it would have been for anyone else. He did have one tube, and put that on. He had punctured the tread on one of the many rocks. A couple miles later, he slashed the sidewall of his front tire. He was out of tubes now, so I gave him one of mine.
Another mile later and finally we hit the real down hill-- a mile in which we lost about 1000 feet of elevation that we had climbed up that morning.
At the bottom of the hill was camp where we all collapsed. The total trip was 16 miles.
John, Jen and Jonathan decided to take a trip into town for a few things, and headed out after we changed into civvies. They were gone a long time because on the way back they were delayed by an accident. Mike, Vin and I had been hearing sirens, but we thought it was someone playing around. It turns out that just outside the campground, 2 vehicles hit head on on a curve on 675, and 4 ambulances, at least 2 fire trucks and cops from at least 3 jurisdictions came to the scene. Since it was barely a two lane road, no other traffic was getting by this.
After that, it seemed like it would be a fairly typical camping night, food, fire and beer. But then the wind suddenly picked up. It was short-lived, but we all huddled under the ez-ups, which thankfully did not blow over in the wind and rain.
And now I let too much time pass to really put in a detailed description of the rest of the trip. The short: Mike, John, Jonathan and I did another ride on Sunday. We rode down 675 to 789, then rode up, up and more up on fire roads. We kept going up for about 6 miles or so to the ridge where we turned onto a trail Here we went up some more and hit unridable (by me anyway) rocks for about a mile or two. Then we had some nice mt top meadow, then a screaming downhill. We were on an old Virginia state championship race course, and all I could think across the ridge was that at least a few riders must have died trying to race this course.
After the screaming downhill, we did a nice, fairly easy two mile loop and then hit fire roads again back to camp. All the time we knew we had to climb that hill on 675 and that was going to be a killer--2 miles of pretty steep grade with no breaks. In the end, we had done about 22 miles of hard riding. I felt exhausted, but really good at the same time. We relaxed a bit, then went down to town for ice cream, had dinner by the fire and slept hard. The next morning, Mike, Jonathan and I hiked to to the top of Big Schloss, which was quite beautiful, and then headed back to the city.