Another Shuffle has came and went, and as usual, I had a great time. I'd like to thank all who attended, both this year and in the past for coming out to enjoy the singletrack of Pocahontas County. I think this will be the last Shuffle, at least for a while. Time for a new location after four years, so stay tuned for news regarding Douthat, Canaan Valley, or other locales in the future.
This year I headed out to Tea Creek Tuesday afternoon and secured one of two remaining spots along the creek. While I was setting up I spied a young rider on a Scott 24" MTB. I knew from photos posted by his dad that this was Scott, so I introduced myself to him and soon met his father, OutdoorNut. We BS'd the afternoon away waiting for Chili to arrive. Chili had some automotive issues, but was only an hour or so behind his ETA. When he arrived I was overjoyed to see a keg of Mountain State Brewing's Seneca Indian Pale Ale on ice in the bed of his truck. That came out immediately. Chili turned his attention to the overstuffed contents of his truck and wondered aloud, "I wonder what I should unpack next?" My reply was automatic; "Uhm, the tap?!" And so another Shuffle as underway.
Wednesday brought the arrival of LowCel, Crashedandburned, and Hecklerboy. After overcoming some motivational issues, an informal out and back was leaving for Bannock Shoals. After having a completely new drivetrain installed just a week or so prior, I was leary when I had to start making barrel adjustments just as we started up Bannock. As we neared the top and I kept downshifting, the source became apparent, I had bent my last remaining derailleur hanger at the base of the climb. I was not a happy camper. Luckily, LowCel brought his Park Tools Derailleur Hanger Adjustment Guide tool and had everything running smoothly again the next morning. LowCel generously donated Wednesday's night steak dinner and jar after jar of his family's "Duck Brand" sauces, salsas, relishes, and other delicious treats. Thanks again, Low!
Thursday would our first big ride. Starting at Elk River Touring we set out to ride Prop's Run. The four mile climb and miles of fire roads afterwards seemed like a ride in itself, but we were just getting to the trail. For eleven-year-old Scott, this was certainly the biggest challenge of his cycling career, and he was definitely up for it. When we reached the trailhead, several folks decided to get the obligatory "picture of me by the trailhead sign". First in this little section I like to call "Portraits at Prop's" is Scott:
Followed by his dad, OutdoorNut:
Then it was Crashedandburned's turn:
And finally LowCel:
Others simply milled about:
While Hecklerboy decided this looked like a fine place for a nap:
Flying down upper Prop's I snapped these pics of OutdoorNut, Chili, and Scott:
Farther down Prop's the trail starts to find high sidelines to avoid eternally boggy areas, this one with a nasty root drop off::
Chili approaches with a huge grin on his face:
While OutdoorNut impressed us all with his ability to fly...at least for a second or two...
We finally arrived back at Elk River and collected LowCel and Crashedandburned from ERTC's bar, then headed back to camp. Chili once again showed why he is always voted "Most Valuable Shuffler" and donned his chef hat and whipped up an amazing trout dinner for all.
Friday morning arrived and we were into the thick of things. Gauley Mt to Bear Pen Ridge to Boundary to Bannock Shoals and a 5 mile brake burner back to camp. Sometime after turning onto Bear Pen we were met with a most pleasant scent and turned a corner to find the Philly contingency awaiting a mechanical to be repaired. Introductions and planning of the next day's ride followed. Once again we set out. Here, Chili screams down the Bear Pen descent approaching Tea Creek:
Later on, I snapped a rare pic of a sober Capt._Phun:
And then, there was Boundary Trail:
I haven't seen this much roots and rock since the Reggae Sunsplash '87, but it was ideal. The oddly nice weather...the beautiful forest...the killer lookouts. Here LowCel and Crashedandburned relax at the junction of Boundary and Saddle Loop:
After a quick bite it was time to set out on the final mile of Boundary towards Bannock Shoals:
That night's planned menu was mexican night, but some forgotten items by yours truly meant a trip into town, so once again Chili saved the day with an incredible meal of spaghetti and meatballs with garlic toast, of course.
That evening, our weather fortunes changed for the worse. Fierce windstorms, lighning and thunder. A large tree between our site and OutdoorNut's came crashing down just as the last shufflers stumbled for thier tents. The next morning while hearing the discussion, LowCel quipped, "I heard it, but I just figured it was davis falling over something in his drunken state. So, I just rolled over and went back to sleep." Thanks, buddy...good to know my friends have my back.
Saturday brought more of the weather so well known in these parts. We were about to take off on the most technically demanding trails in the area, and we were also about to be deluged. I knew it was coming, so the camera stayed in the tent. Gauley to Red Run. Change flat at trailhead. Left onto Red Run. Two or three good crashes got me to Right Fork, where the Philly contingency administered some much needed "trail aid" to me. Slogging along Right Fork in a complete downpour, as usual. Then the speech at the Tea Creek Mt Trail. Several of us bailed while the rest decided to spin up to the boulder field to have a look. They all decided to make the descent, and all lived to tell the tale. Back at camp, the waters were rising. Tents were moved. Other campers were heding the ranger's advice to evacuate before the bridge out of the campground was underwater. Our neighbors, some Prep School kids from Toronto and their chaperones, came over to inquire if we were planning on leaving. Our response? "Hell no! We're having wing night!!" Nothing like boiling peanut oil in a hurricane, but it was all good, and even the Canucks came over and had a few wings with us. Then, we had the plaesure to meet Matilda the Hun. She arrived afterdark with reinforcements of beer and wiskey. Ya just gotta love a girl like that, don't ya?
Jeremy- It was great to meet you and your friends. Hope Josh's ribs are feeling better.
LowCel- I didn't get to laugh at you getting flats (because I got them all) this year, but the view of you hitting that wet wooden bridge was worth the price of admission.
Chili- Once again, thanks buddy. We wouldn't think of doing this without you.
To everyone: Thank you for everything.