Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy trails near Deep Creek Lake, MD

Last weekend, we made it a long weekend, and we rode 5 days in a row in Western Maryland. Thus, this is also a long blog entry. The good, bad and ugly.

The great: Davis, WV race loop.

A mere hour from Deep Creek is the West Virginia State Championships race loop - 18 miles give or take of pristine single track on private land with a trail head pretty much in the town. We stopped by Blackwater Bikes and asked the skinny guy, Van, where his favorite riding is nearby. He sent us away with a free map, lots of notes about where the colored blazes change, and awesome beta about how to make it through the area they are currently logging. He also sent us to Hypno Coffee - we liked it enough to buy a freshly roasted pound of espresso blend. At the trailhead, we contemplated whether to take the dogs or leave 'em in the car - it was low 60s, but totally remote with the possibility of a shorter loop if they got tired, so we decided to bring 'em along.

Really great riding - true single track, seriously well built for bikes. With all the instruction about where to go, we only mis-navigated once, winding up traversing a quarter mile or so of bog cleared for pimpeline access. Like occasionally sink up to your rear hub bog. Yuck. It connected back to the main trail, though, so we were all good. From dry singletrack through grassy meadows to the 'famous' moon rock section (think large rock slabs with pits, pockets, and gorges the width of a tire - I walked a bit), switchbacked climbing on loam, and a kick your arms into submission rock garden laden downhill, this loop had it all. Loved it. We'll be back. I didn't have to holler "Honey, we dropped the dogs!" until about Mile 16. It was great to have the furry monsters along. Allie found the bogs much more fun than I did...

The pretty frickin' good: Margraff Plantation Trails, Accident, MD.

At Deep Creek, we visited the 'bike shop', which also sells kayaks, waterskis, snowboards and all things sport related for a recreational mountain lake. And a few bikes. The guys there sent us to Margraff, which I had read about online and wanted to try. "A bit overgrown" was the warning. Really, it was actually only overgrown if you go the wrong way into the bramble bushes, walking your bike ahead of you to stay skinny, emerging with itchy scratchies all over. This loop, which is only 7 miles, absolutely rocked. I noted to Shea that it really felt like we spent a lot of time going downhill but not much going uphill. That's a testament to how well laid out the uphills must be. I wish they ran a race there.

My notes on Margraff: directions online were a bit confusing. Turn left at the sign that says "Margraff Plantation" and park in the lot there. Directly behind the car is the easiest singletrack to find. Turn right the first intersection and ride the loop counter clockwise. There are a few places here where it's good to keep sharp eyes out for white blazes on the trees - for instance (in order as I remember them) climb a hill, come out in a meadow with a gas well, and grab the trail behind the gas well on the left. Get back to the main set of intersections where the trail forms a figure 8 and stay right. After climbing on singletrack, cross the gravel road and look left at the edge of where it (might be) mowed for the trail, which is an awesome loamy section with a pretty fun log pile that is bigger than I normally ride, but I got it. Fun! Shea even found some jumps.

Just after those, instead of dropping further down the hill to the right (into the brambles), stay left and emerge in a field. Cross the dirt road, stay left of that gas well and near the tree line to find the single track hidden in the weeds. Another fun downhill and a climb to the car for a refill of the water bottles and another lap. Unless you have the dogs with you - apparently fat city dogs do not become fast trail dogs overnight.

The not-as-good: Green Ridge Park, Flintstone, MD.

The MD state champs were held here many years ago and the guidebook suggested it was on the 12 mile loop that's 'impossible to get lost on'. That was mostly true except for one spot where local kids might've stolen the sign - we eventually figured out to cross the road and start up the road where I spotted a single mtn bike sign in the woods on the left less than a hundred or so yards from where we hit the road in the first place. Anyway, I wanted to like this place. It's like 3 miles off of Interstate 68 on the way home. But the uphills were aplenty and downhills mostly on doubletrack without much technical or twisty fun. A bit rocky, sure, and eventually we came upon a few really nicely built bridges that seemed a bit out of place - super well-maintained parts among a bunch of washed up old fire roads. Sort of unsatisfying.

The really so-not-worth it: Adventure Sports Center, McHenry, MD (above Wisp).

Newer trails - a hand-drawn map at the trailhead should've been our first clue. Mostly used as a place to teach climbing, there is one small singletrack loop (think 1-2 miles, max) with a fun little downhill, but not much else.

The also not-worth-it: New Germany State Park, Grantsville, MD.

Beautiful park for camping, hiking with family, and swimming/fishing in the reservoir. No dogs allowed. Only a few miles of narrow trail, probably lots of flat, untechnical double track based on the map.

Fun times in the mountains...

No comments:

Post a Comment