Tanasi trail ride report

Two Sundays ago I had to go up to Cleveland TN in order to be at a meeting early on Monday morning.  With Leslie and the kids out of town, it made for the perfect excuse to take my mountain bike and get in a ride on Sunday afternoon.  I hit the road leaving Birmingham a little later than I planned, and didn’t have my mind made up where exactly I was going to ride until I got to the Chattanooga area.  If rain was looking likely, or if I felt like I would run out of time, my backup plan was to hit up Raccoon Mountain.  If not, I had hoped to make it either to the Tanasi or Chilhowee trails, both near the Ocoee River.  I decided to ride Tanasi since I missed out on getting entry into this year’s Big Frog 65.

I pulled to the parking lot at the Ocoee Whitewater Center and the weather was relatively pleasant and not too hot.  Still very humid, but that’s to be expected in the southeast during the summer.

I started by riding the Brushy Creek trail in the opposite direction from the Big Frog (i.e. I rode it in the direction of upstream on the Ocoee).  Once the trail emptied ended and emptied out at a paved road I turned around and backtracked the way I came.  This proved to be a good warmup of around 4.5 to 5 miles, with plenty of rocky and rooty areas to get the legs fired up.

Then I crossed the suspension bridge and began the long singletrack climb up to the mountain.  I’ve only ridden these trails during Big Frog, and usually am hitting them after I’ve already ridden for well over an hour at race pace.  This time I got to tackle the climbing on fresh legs and it really made a difference.  I passed several other riders on the way up, eventually asking one of them for their advice on which trail routes to take.  My plan was to ride as much of the Big Frog trails as possible, without adding in all of the ridiculously long gravel road climbs that occur during the race.

After getting some directions I continued my way up the mountain.  Honestly, even though I always marvel at how much climbing we do during Big Frog, I was still surprised at how much ascending I was doing on the singletrack on this ride.  My intended finishing trail was the Thunder Rock Express, which is a long and super fun downhill trail that leads back to the highway along the river.  Somehow I missed a turn and ended up on one of the ceaseless gravel roads just climbing and climbing and climbing.  Actually, I was rather enjoying the workout and was wishing we had such good training grounds in Birmingham.

Once at the top of the mountain it started to rain, forcing me to make the decision to head back down to the river side.  I found a gravel road that led downhill and make the correct assumption that it would take me where I needed to go.  After a fast and fun 3-mile downhill run, it dumped me out near the TVA station at the bottom of the Thunder Rock Express trail that I had hoped to ride.  By the time I made it downhill the rain had almost completely stopped.  I was hoping to add some more mileage by riding the highway shoulder out to some additional trails that the Big Frog begins on (some really sweet trails), but with all of the summer whitewater rafting traffic I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of getting run over.  So, I reluctantly called it a day.  But, it was a ton of fun and definitely a trail destination I need to make a point of hitting more often.  All told it was only around 17 miles of muddy trail riding and gravel riding, but with a total elevation gain of over 3300 feet.  I can’t wait to get back up there.

 

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