Friday night, with a beer and a map of George Washington National Forest in hand, I was ready for some serious mountain biking planning. I spread my waterproof, tear resistant map out on the floor, as it was bigger than any of our tables, had some beer and did some studying. I studied the map for almost an entire beer. After my extensive analysis, I decided that John and I would do the route that we had already decided on before I bought my map.
Our last trip to Elizabeth Furnace started out well. However, we apparently took the wrong trail, ending the ride in “scree and unridable misfortune,” according to the book I bought after we returned. So we were making another attempt. Again, the beginning started out well. We even checked out a few extra trails and fire roads, that went nowhere at all of interest. Finally, tired and ready to be finished, we arrived at the turn we were supposed to take last time. My trusty map labeled this section as “moderate.” The trail we took last time was labeled as “difficult” and according to my interpretation of the map legend, while you are technically allowed to ride the trail, it isn’t exactly recommended. So I felt pretty good about “moderate.”
I was soon cursing the map creator. The trail quickly started heading up a very steep and extremely rocky hill. There wasn’t even ground between the rocks, just rocks, and rocks, and even bigger rocks. Many bordering on the classification of “boulder.” The uphill may have been ok on its own (but probably not), and the rocks may have been ok on their own, (but probably not), but the combination was impossible. I would have to become no less than 100 times better and completely perfect rider to make it up that hill. I would have to quit my job, move into one of the nearby back country campsites in the forest, and attempt that hill everyday to even have a chance of making up without stopping. And the map creator labeled it as “moderate.”
After we finally made it to the top of the ridge, the trail slowly became more rideable. But at this point we were starting hour four of being out on the trails, my legs were tired before we even started, and things that should have been appropriately challenging, were unnecessarily intimidating. So it was still a slow and difficult trip down, but at least I rode most of it.
We finally made it back to the campsite, where the showers were closed and not functioning and the only running water was one hand pump by the entrance. Somehow, I think I was expecting that. No part of Elizabeth Furnace seems to be for an easy day. The trails are crazy rugged, the fire roads are long steep climbs, and the camping is really camping. But luckily, there was a 7-11 not too far away, and of course, they had plenty of beer.