Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mountain Biking Vacation

The popularity of mountain biking has never been better. There are thousands of mountain bike shops around the country and they all have expert bikers to sponsor weekend competitions, which tend to be really fierce. You name the mountain and they will bike through it. There are millions of enthusiasts in this country alone going through the irregular tracks , trying out every slope and pushing themselves to the limit.

You’ve been going through the same trail every weekend. You practically know which pebble to go through. We all go to the trails to gain a better body through exercise, but we still want our exercises to be exciting. For a mountain biker, nothing beats the feeling of going through the beaten tracks in the middle of the mountain and not passing through them again. The thrill of going on those tricky rides just adds to the feeling of exhilaration. We all want to tell ourselves and our buddies “been there, done that” when we talk about trails and danger.

If you want to get the best mountain biking experience, why not bring your mountain bike with you and arrange for a mountain biking vacation? The North Georgia Mountains are a spectacular, stunning, and scenic choice for your mountain biking vacation. For days you can just spend your trip on your mountain bikes and enjoying The Villas at Coosawattee.

North Georgia’s mild climate makes mountain biking a year-round activity. From relaxing rides to serious singletrack, there are mountains of trails to explore. The three trails featured here are close to metro Atlanta and geared for beginners, though they are enjoyed by all levels of riders.

High above the aquamarine waters of Carter’s Lake near Ellijay lies a trail with more twists and turns than a murder mystery. The six-mile Ridgeway Bike Trail may be classified as “expert”, but with a little pedaling power, anyone with grit, gumption and good cycling skills can conquer it.

Trail information is posted at the Ridgeway Recreation Area boat ramp, a good place to park your vehicle and start your ride. The trail can also be accessed from several points along the main road. With more than 1,000 feet of elevation gain per lap, Ridgeway is an up and down roller coaster of a ride. Even experienced riders will find they sometimes have to walk their bike over a wall of short steps.

Severe descents, steep climbs, creek crossings and technical downhill sections make this ride fun yet challenging. Alternating between root-studded single-track and the dual tracks of an old logging road, the trail follows the contours of the low ridges and then dips down to skirt the shore of the lake. Allow 35 minutes to an hour to complete one loop. The trail is clearly marked by orange posts. Advanced (black) and intermediate (white) sections challenge any skill level.

If you are not comfortable riding down steep sections of rocky trail, look for a second beginner-friendly trail called Woodring Branch. Designed to be kinder and gentler than the rigorous Ridgeway, only about a quarter mile of this new trail is finished. Woodring Branch hugs the shoreline of Carter’s Lake and the tall trees give lend an air of openness.

The trails are rarely crowded, save for twice a year. SORBA hosts the Carter’s Lake Mountain Bike Classic each spring and fall as part of the Georgia Mountain Bike Series.

There are many other good places that can be easily accessed from Ellijay. The Eastern side of the Cohutta area is one of them. River Loop which is about 3.5 miles and the Red & White Loop 2.5 miles are two good trails which are close to town. They are about 5 miles east of Ellijay on GA 52. You can get information and a map of the trails from the Toccoca Ranger District. A great source of local knowledge is Recycled Cycles, Rt. Box 244, Ellijay, GA 30540, Ph. (706)635-BIKE.

Switching Gears

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Conduct a pre-ride inspection to make sure your tires have air, your seat is adjusted, etc. After the ride, always clean your bike and inspect it for any additional maintenance.
  • Be prepared. Avoid having to hike-a-bike and bring a tool kit that includes a patch kit, pump, spare tube, allen wrench, chain tool and spoke wrench. Multi-tools are pocket-sized and convenient.
  • Bring a first aid kit.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle. Better yet, buy a hydration
    pack to carry lots of water and keeps your hands free.
  • Don’t forget the food! Feed your soul with energy bars, especially on longer rides.
  • Pay attention to trail direction. Many trails are marked with directional arrows designating days or times for different trail users.
  • Follow the rules of the road. Ride on open trails only, control your bike, always yield the trail, never scare animals and plan ahead
  • Stay on track. Riding off trails can cause erosion.
  • Respect other trail users. Use a verbal warning when approaching pedestrians from behind, and yield the trail to horses.
  • Call ahead, when possible. Checking schedules and closures may save you a trip.
  • If you go alone, tell someone. Be self-sufficient by bringing basic tools and supplies. I even bring my cell phone.
  • Avoid riding at night. This can be dangerous, but can also be fun. Local clubs often schedule guided night rides.
  • Support the cause. Much of the trails you ride are built and maintained by local organizations. Throw in a dollar or two at trailheads that accept donations. Or, donate your time with trail-building projects.
  • If you don’t already belong to a mountain biking club, join

So don’t be stuck in the regular track in your neighborhood. If you have the time, better plan and go on a mountain bike vacation. You can never be closer to nature with this type of trip.

Be sure to take advantage of the rustic accommodations at The Villas at Coosawattee, which are perfect for a mountain biking vacation. Note that you would within walking distance of the Recreation Center by renting the Recreation Center Villas. Or if you want to bike around the resort's approximate 300 miles of road, stay anywhere in the resort-- The Water Tower Villas, Canoe Park Villas, or the Recreation Center Villas. If a small, quaint unit is more your style, check out the peaceful cabins in Canoe Park.

Directions: Carter’s Lake trails are eight miles west of Ellijay. Take I-75 North to I-575, which turns into GA Highway 515. Turn left onto GA Highway 382/76 at the Ridgeway Recreation Area entrance sign and follow the half-gravel, half-paved access road into the park.