I was on Lake Monroe on Sunday, far back in the islands area north of Pine Grove in Jojo’s canoe. As we quietly moved towards flooded woods, I realized we wereas heading right towards a beaver lodge.
It was Sunday morning, and so we rode the Polly Grimshaw trail east to SR. 46 and 446, and then headed straight out the highway towards Nashville. Normally we would turn down Kerr Creek Rd. and take that all the way to Getty’s Creek Rd. to avoid highway traffic, but on Sunday mornings the road is really quiet. The lanes are wide, and there are 2 feet of pavement to the right of the painted line. This makes it easy for cars to pass without crossing the double yellow line (which is against the law.)
We raced down the hill and were at Friendship Road in moments, the six miles from 446 were done 15 mph, with no effort. Friendship Rd. was still totally under water, though the lake was a bit lower. We headed farther east on 46 and pulled onto Kent Road, which was not flooded, and we went to McGowen Rd, and started down the gravel. But we did not get far, the water was too high for too far to think of getting around. I saw in the paper the next day a couple of folks got lost out here and had to be rescued by boat and helicopter.
We rode back to 46 and on to Brummett’s Creek, the highway was above the water by about six or eight feet, but the lake surrounded it on both sides. We were able to turn on Brummett’s and start north, with the corn fields to the west totally under water. We rode about half a mile and saw several groups of great blue heron, the only place I’ve seen more in one place is at Pine Grove in the fall.
We passed a biker going the other direction, he told us the road was covered with water, but that it was possible to get through. So we pulled off our socks, and Jojo pedaled all the way through, while I both walked and rode. The water was really cold but bearable, and felt very refreshing. We came to second flooding of the road, but it was shorter and shallower, and we had no problem getting through.
Brummett’s Creek Road is one of the most beautiful and peaceful valleys in the county, five miles of level valley farmland following the creek. It winds back and forth while heading north, with several other creeks entering from the Scarce o’ Fat and Birdie Galyon Ridges. The valley gradually narrows and the road climbs the ridge, which it follows for a mile and a half to SR 45 near Unionville. So it is about 6.5 miles of great riding, and worth the effort.
We rode the highway to Mount Gilead Rd, and took that back towards town where it intersects SR 45 again. It is faster and a bit shorter to travel on the highway, but the stress level is much higher. However the climb up Mt. Gilead is about 280, quite steep at times, and always a test of will. So although using the Mt Gilead is only .3 mile longer, the hill can add 10 minutes to the ride. But what the heck, if we didn’t have hills we wouldn’t be real hoosiers.
As I had some time constraints this weekend, we went on two shorter (25 mile) rides on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, and we ended up with at least 50 miles.
On Saturday we backtracked one of my favorite loops to the lake, first riding down 446 to Pine Grove, which was flooded, and we while we were playing in the water, Mike (from Roots) pulled up in his johnboat. He and his cousin had been in the back country, and ran across a lot of turtles and a big water snake. We headed back up to 446, this climb is a 280 foot rise in elevation, but it is a mile and a half long, with several flat sections which make things easier. We rode back north to Schwartz Ridge Road, and down the hill to Moore’s Pike Road, which was also flooded, the bridge has been under water for months. The lake is still just 3 feet below flood stage, it went to less than a foot in April. We got our feet wet for the fun of it, the water is still quite cold, but bearable, even envigorating (right before the numbness sets in.)
We took Moore’s Creek Rd. up to Rhorer Rd, then south to Fairfax/Church Road and west on over to Clear Creek trail. The trail was quite busy, but we stopped at the beaver dam, which is now mostly disassembled.
We took a new way back to town from the trailhead on Tapp. We normally swing over to Weimer, the use the back streets (West Rea Rd.) to get to hilly Allen St. But I had spotted a new route on Google Earth, and had scouted it out coming from the other direction, so we decided to try it.
The trick is to turn right out of the trail parking lot, and go just a couple hundred feet on Tapp, then turn left into one of the 2 lanes heading north. They both connect to the new Sunstone Drive, and thus to South Adams St. and Countryside Lane, which runs all the way to Rockport Road, and easy flat ride to Rogers St. This is much less stressful than Allen St., which is scary with no shoulder and the karsty hills.
Jojo was out of town, and so I headed out alone about 3pm and headed north on Old SR 37. Bean Blossom Creek at Dolan was still quite high, I could not see the bottom at all. I rode on, making good time, and turned on Anderson Rd, riding the easy 3-4 miles to Bean Blossom Rd., where last year we found a yellow lady slipper about this time in May.
I started up the hill, from 630 feet amsl in the valley to 920 feet amsl on the ridge, nearly 300 feet of climb. I usually climb slow but steady, still, I did not spot the somewhat rare yellow ladyslipper where it had been last year. At Forest Road turned right and headed northwest to the ranger station to fill my water bottle and to my surprise found a ladyslipper by the side of the road. I backtracked a few hundred yards to the Tulip Trace Trailhead, there were several cars parked, but no one was on the trail.
I rode the ridgetop eastward and a mile later, after passing a few houses, I was heading downhill. I was at the aptly named Low Gap Road, it peaks about 75 lower than the ridge on either side. I took a picture of a Dryad’s Saddle, and then headed up and east along the trail. I knew there were roads, or at least wide trails all the way to Bear Wallow Hill Road, I had seen them on Google Earth, even with the roadmap layer turned off. I was the only person on the path for most of the the four miles of forest and ridgetop pasture I passed through, though I did see a mom and 2 kids hunting for morels, I don’t know where they came from, there were no cars for miles around.
I followed the edges of the wide pasture, which were unused except by the birds and deer, and eventually found my way to the hard gravel of Bear Wallow Road. I was happy to have gotten back to “civilization”, the gravel road was so smooth and wide compared to the forest road. I headed north down the hill, and ended up in the White River bottoms north of the forested hills. I took a left where Bear Wallow ends on Downey Road. I took Downey over to Low Gap, and headed back into the hills. I videoed C.F. Sheiffer’s sculpture garden as I headed gently up the valley, and before too long I was back at the top of Low Gap at Tulip Tree Trace.
This is a great ride downhill, quiet and peaceful all the way to Anderson Road. I then pedaled back to Old 37, up Firehouse hill, and home to cool brew.
All in all this was great ride. I rode at least 40 miles, climbed 4 big hills, spent about a third of my time deep in the forest, almost got lost, and did not bonk, even at the end. I doubt I averaged over 10 miles/hour, but I just don’t worry about that anymore, my joy comes from being outside and away from civilization for a while, and I only found 2 ticks when I finally got home.
Today we decided to go north on Bottom Road, a common route for cyclists as there is a long flat stretch of about 4 miles that you can really hammer the whole way. We often stop at the the Muscatatuck Wildlife refuge just past Lawson Rd., but today it was crowded, and we just rode further up Bottom Rd, and then turned left onto Woodall Rd., which winds around behind the reserve.
I found a great example of Polyporus squamosis, a shelf mushroom known as the Dryad’s Saddle, which I’ve identified in years past. We crossed a little plank bridge and explored a little on land which is part of the Sycamore Land Trust’s Bean Blossom Bottoms Nature Preserve. I noticed my friend Dawn Hewitt’s name on the dedication sign, she has been really helpful in helping me identify the birds I don’t quite know, including the snow goose we saw on the way back from the ride. I also got some photos of our native swamp buttercup
Ranunculus septentrionali, not as I first feared, the invasive creeping buttercup Ranunculus repens).
I didn’t have a map this trip, but Jojo was curious as to where Woodall Rd. went, and so we followed it along the valley floor to where it intersects with Woodland Rd. This quiet gravel road went west and up a quiet little valley to the ridge, then up and down until finally arriving on Mt. Tabor Rd.
On the way we found whitewater on the Bean Blossom, it is looking more and more like we will have to canoe it to the White River this year. We took Mt. Tabor north, it was way cool to ride down Mt. Tabor hill, I’ve come up a few times in summer and once on the Hilly Hundred, it’s a bear. So going the other way, and knowing we didn’t have another climb till we got back home was great. We turned right where Bottom Rd. tees into Mt. Tabor just east of the confluence of Jack’s Defeat and Bean Blossom Creek.
Bottom Road is really beautiful here where the Bean Blossom’s wide valley meanders towards the White River, and riding “upstream” was no problem. We came upon a shady flat land that held half an acre of bluebells and phlox, there was an amazing calming vibe in the blue forest floor.
We crossed the mile of gravel that got us back to Muskatatuck, and then rode the smooth bottoms all the way back to town. Total miles were about over 30, under 35, I don’t really know exactly has my speedometer has be acting wacky. All in all a great farmland ride.
It was a fine cool spring day as we rode east to SR 446, and headed south to Lake Monroe and the causeway. The water was still quite high, the geese seem to love it, they must be nesting there. The middle of the causeway is about 10 miles from the center of town, and so we climbed the hill and put on another 4 miles to get to our destination of Tower Ridge Rd before stopping. We’ve been looking for the quiet forest roads since realizing that gravel roads are not so bad, if you just slow down and accept the bumping.
Recent research has shown such small bouncing strengthens bones, they don’t know why, but it makes sense that your body is responding to the small repeated stresses. When going down steep gravel hills, I can put my feet down for balance, and it feels like the old electric foot massagers; knowing it is good for the bones, and fun too, makes is a blast.
We rode past the horseman’s camp, along the spines of the steep ridges, heading towards the fire tower. After our ride from town and four miles into the forest, we stopped at the Grubb Ridge Trailhead to each lunch. I found my first Jack-in-the-Pulpit right next to the log we were sitting on, and we listened to the birds. We thought we could walk our bikes along a trail to the fire tower, then ride back, so we headed out on the wide horse/hiking path. We figured if we were not riding our bikes, we would not be hurting the path, especially when compared to a horse.
But less than a quarter of a mile, we ran into a backpacker on a bike! He was riding out after camping out deeper in the forest. In the mile or so we hiked, we ran into 7 campers with full packs, and 4 of them were on bikes!
I’ve since found out that wheeled vehicles are banned from Wilderness areas. Horses and hikers are allowed, but no bikes. I guess this has to do with historical use, rather than pounds per square inch exerted on the paths. We also noticed that bikers rarely poop on the path, but the horses do!
After coming down from the ridge about 75 feet, we realized we were on the wrong path and headed to the peninsula where people camp rather than the fire tower. So we turned around and backtracked to the trailhead, and headed towards SR 446 on Tower Ridge Rd. We stopped for a few minutes at the lake across from the horse camp and watched a hawk and heard his mate calling from the nest, so we named it Two Hawks Lake.
The ride back we took it easy, but we both still had some legs after climbing out of the Salt Creek valley, it is about a 165 foot climb, and it curves back and forth. Cars accelerating up the hill don’t always see you till the last second, usually as we are traveling in the canyon-like upper half of the climb, where the shoulder is minimal. As usual we rode on old Knight’s Ridge Road, rather than 446 itself, which a bit shorter, but much noisier and nastier.
The whole ride was about 19 miles to Grubb Ridge from downtown, and about a mile hike/bike into the forest made a 40 mile ride, with about 20% on gravel or forest path. Flowers, butterflies and birds where everywhere, the cool ridgetop air carried the varied smells of the earth awaken under our feet, it does not get much better than this.