It’s always a party when I go to Blacksburg, VA in the Spring. In it’s ninth year, a group of friends meet at my college roommates (Chad) place in Jefferson National Forest. Huge rides, great people and lots of laughs for days. It’s always that, guaranteed. Each year has it’s own memories and things that stand out… this year was pretty special. We definitely won the party.
First stop – Carvins Cove, Roanoke, VA. Wait… it’s Thursday am, I’ve already ridden Patapsco Valley State Park (PVSP) on Monday, Tues and Wed. Putting in like 15mi each day, if you know me at all, you know my love affair with that place. Ok, Carvins. I rode here last year and loved it, but really had no idea where we were going; lost, we wandered, made some wrong turns but could tell the place was pretty awesome.
This year the entire group decided to meet here and kick off this Spring Classic. Folks that knew where they were going and could actually read a map, kind of. This is the first twist… I pull into the lot at Carvins and see all the regular idiots, new bikes, etc, taking it in. And then someone sticks out, I know the face, the stance… but it doesn’t belong here. Out loud, “is that my brother?”. See, Dave (brother) and I always do this trip, every year and we always invite B (brother). But it’s far, kids, schedules, it’s a big trip and he’s never been. But there he was, minus the beard. Chad and my family pulled off the surprise… same story, thirty years later.
Carvins Cove rips. 17 miles of flowing, killer singletrack all day, we found it all. If you want to go bigger you can add in the big fire road climbs, tack on more loops. We caught a few crazy lightning storms in the mountains, a douse of rain, made it even more amazing. The folks in Roanoke are doing amazing job leading the way with building sustainable trails around a water reservoir. And they may have built one of the best technical trails I’ve ever ridden in the Rattlin’ Run. Go here, now… we’re off to Blacksburg.
I love Blacksburg and Jefferson National. I say it every year, the elevation, technical, the downhills, you feel like you’re going out into it, the depth. There’s a very distinct difference in riding parks, reservoirs, local trail and National Forest. You can feel the difference of wandering into that scale… and not to diminish those other destinations but places like Jefferson and where we’re headed next are special. It’s big and it’ll make you stop and really look around. Take some inventory. Blacksburg was perfect, as expected. The riding was huge Friday and Saturday, trails in great condition. All these guys bring something to the table and I love them all. To see them ride better than last year, the new bikes, the hilarity, the food (Cheffe)… it’s all good and that just doesn’t happen when you rodeo 14 people. Sunday was a day off, needed. And we were headed to finish this trip off… Southern Traverse.
Riding the Southern Traverse was on my list. I had ridden some of this part of the VA mountains in the SM100, which was a fail for me last year, so I was anxious to get back. We pull in Sunday to the Stokesville Lodge run by Chris Scott and Shenandoah Mountain Touring. When you pull into an A frame window covered lodge, passing the Trek trailer on the driveway and up to nothing but bikes on racks you know you’re getting into something good.
If you have any interest in going on a Mountain Bike trip with your friends this is the place to go, hands down. I’ve been to Sedona, Downieville, KT and lots of other places and granted, I have an affinity for the east coast but this place is good. The lodge is fully set up, beautiful actually. I think it could sleep 15, at least, comfortably. The views are amazing, the place is totally appointed, Chris is a super nice guy… and you’re in George Washington Natl’ forest.
Riding the Southern Traverse is no small task. 36 miles of National Forest, exposure, fire road climbs, absolutely huge, full smile screaming downhills. The geography is constantly changing from the beginning climbing up the fire road to getting onto the spine and the ever changing rock gardens as you climb up to the highest elevation. Pinning it on the downhills through pine and leaves and maybe 5 inch wide singletrack makes this a must do on your mountain bike bucket list. I was lucky enough to do this with such a great group. Sixteen of us set out on this… well, fifteen but New Steve showed up while we were pulling in. Lucky for him. Everyone rode so strong and had such a great day.
The highlight for me were the rolling hills back in. About nine miles of dirt road, road and insanely beautiful views. We broke a crank, flatted 3 times, suffered, saw a River Monster, ran an ambulance and a tow truck, took mid ride naps and everyone finished. It wasn’t a race but we definitely won the party.
Next up… less partying – some racing.