This Sunday I had to help out with the toddlers and Friend’s Meeting, so Jojo and I took off just after 1pm. Last week was a killer tough ride, so we wanted to take it easier today. However, the heavy cloud cover was moving quickly from the west, and we were ready to get wet. We met at Bloomingfoods East and rode down 446, chasing the clouds the whole way, at least the wind was at our backs.
We rode down Pine Grove Road, which we still a bit flooded at the bottom of the hill, but we pedaled right through and continued to the boat ramp. There were were just a couple of trucks with trailers, and no one in sight. It was windy and cloudy, but warm, so we quickly shed our clothes and put on swim suits and jumped in the water.
As the water was high, there were trees and rocks that we were able to use for diving into the water, which felt warm in contrast to the 15 mph wind. We goofed around for about half an hour, then got out and dried off, it got sunnier and sunnier as the wind blew the clouds to the west.
We headed back up Pine Grove Road, and with the wind in our faces, we did not even break a sweat over the 1.4 miles of climb, which goes from 550 ft. amsl to 825 at the ridgetop, 275 feet of climb, yet it is made bearable in that it comes in stages. The first big climb is about 125 feet, it then flattens out before rising again in several stages. We stopped to peruse the coal train along the Polly Grimshaw Trail, and then headed home.
The ride was only 20 miles, and after the longer rides through the forest we’ve been doing, this was easy riding, a quick day at the beach.
Tim and I went out about 3:30 pm my favorite loop Lake Monroe. It was sunny all morning, but by the time we left, there were dark clouds and thunder. We followed the bike route south from the YMCA to Jackson Creek School, then east on Rhorer Rd. We were right on the edge of the dark clouds, which were headed southeast. We felt some sprinkles, but the clouds were moving faster that us, and we did not really get wet.
When the lake is not so high, I ride along Rohorer Road, and then turn south on Harrell Rd. to Stipp at Handy Road, this adds two miles to the loop, and the ride down Stipp Rd. is great, no brakes needed. It also pushes the loop to 21 miles, so when possible it is the preferred route
But the lake is still 14 feet above the normal pool level, and there is no getting through, the bridge over Moore’s Creek on Stipp Rd. is in under water.
On Moore’s Creek we passed one of the great barns in the county, and then went on past Schwartz Ridge Road to see the flooded road. We went back to Schwartz Ridge Rd. and headed up, but before I could even get my camera out for a shot, Tim was near the top and pedaling hard. I arrived a few minutes later, I usually make it all the way without a stop, but not at the pace Tim set. He said he had to push to keep going, I have much lower gears that allow me to travel about 3 mph going uphill.
We rode back to town by first riding south to Knight’s Ridge Road at Pine Grove, and then back north to town. Knight’s Ridge wind back and forth on either side of SR 446, and although it is about .4 mile longer, the ride is much quieter and relaxing. We rode the Polly Grimshaw Trail back west to town and benefit dinner at Nick’s for the Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.
Today I somehow convinced myself (and Jojo) that we could make through from SR 46 north to SR 45 along Scarce o’ Fat Ridge. We’ve ridden the notoriously tough gravel along McGowen Road in February, and I had slogged up Dubois Ridge Road and rode the high ridge along Tulip Trace Trail and Bear Wallow Hill, all rough rides. But I’ve discovered that I can ride for miles on gravel; it is certainly more work and slower traveling, but in the middle of the forest I don’t mind.
I could see from Google Earth that there was gravel all the way to Lanam Ridge Road, from the north it is called Tulip Tree Road, from the south it is Scarce o’ Fat. But it appeared to go through and I could see several trails (not gravel), that intersected the road. Here’s a shot of what I saw on G.E., this is with out the roads layer, so what you see is what you get.
As it was Sunday morning, we decided to ride straight on SR 46 to Belmont, this is the quickest way to get to Brown county. The road is smooth and has a foot or two along the side that allows cars to pass without crossing the yellow center line or knock us over. And Sunday morning is quiet on the highway, so it was a great speedy ride, we stopped but once to view flood Friendship Road
There is a road, I am calling it Scarce o’ Fat, that runs up to the ridge from SR 46 just east of Belmont, and it ends in a parking area at the top of the ridge. From there the road is gravel and grass along the ridgetop, big heavy grave, apparently meant for horses and wheelchairs (yes, the south end of Scarce o’ Fat is Handicap Hunters Area 3). We saw that bikes were banned, and assumed they meant riding them, so we got off and started walking. We knew there could be hikers and horse riders on the trail, and did not want spook the horses or the hikers by riding roughshod through the forest.
But Scare o’ Fat runs 7 miles through deep forest, and it just took a mile or so to realize we were alone, even the birds were quiet at midday, and the forest was ours. We coasted down the inclines, and started pedaling on the flat portions. I doubt we broke 5 mph, the gravel was so bumpy we had to stay slow just to be comfortable. By the time we got to Lanam Ridge Road, we were really happy to see paved road again.
I took some pictures of summer mushrooms, the wet weather has brought them out early, while the forest wildflowers seemed to be gone. We ate some lunch about a third of the way through, then got going again. I think we spent about three hours in the forest, so I think we averaged about 5mph! And it was a tough 5mph, riding the gravel and dirt was quite an effort. We rode the ten miles back to town, and we didn’t even take the Mt. Gilead cutoff, the 200 foot climb just felt like too much after the forest, so we pedaled steadily to town
I got home and showered and slept a little before I could get going again, and the next day I felt like a blackboard that had been erased, and then thoroughly washed down, a blank slate.
I think we have to do this at least once a month, if you don’t push to your limits, you might not find where they are. Even worse, you might not realize that the limits are expandable, all that’s required is the will and courage to do so.
Jojo was in Terre Haute this weekend, so I decided to ride back to the Morgan Monroe forest, where the last time I had found my way along the Tulip Trace trail from Forest Rd. to Bear Wallow Hill Rd. I went through Cascades park and north on Old 37 to Anderson Road, then past the retired landfill and on to Bean Blossom Road. There is a great stand of cattails along Anderson Road, all parts of the plant are edible and nutritious. But these should be left alone, as they filter the leachate from the landfill, and must be full of heavy metals and other toxic compounds. The normally green farm fields in valley were untilled and brown, victims of the recent floods.
This 2 mile long blacktop rises from the Bean Blossom valley at 610 feet amsl, to end at Forest Road at 924 feet, all through uninhabited forest valley and ridge. Forest Road then goes north 1.5 miles to the ranger station, where to my surprise, the water which I needed was under boil order. So I started rationing what I had left, knowing that I would be in Needmore in a couple of hours.
I went to the Tuplip Trace trailhead, and rode east, it is gravel all along the ridge, with a couple of houses near Low Gap Rd. I then took the rutted dirt road up the ridge east and through the dense forest. I met two sets of hiker/campers on this part of the trail, and they all wanted to know if they were on the right path, and how far it was to the trailhead at Forest Road. I guess I looked like a local. Fact was, I was able to tell them how far they had to go, what the landmarks were, and even how high they had to climb from the gap to the ridge (about 80 feet). (Of course I’d been here earlier this year, and combed the area with Google Earth.)
The trail here is an old gravel road, but this eventually disappears as the trail turns south along the Possom Trot Ridge, which I hope to explore this year. I turned north along the main ridge, following a series of meadows which eventually connect to Bear Wallow Hill Road. I was able to remember where the track was from early spring, but the grasses had grown chest high, and no vehicle had been here for months. For some reason, I got no chiggers from the tall grass (or ticks in the forest), I guess I was traveling too fast for them to jump on!
Last time I got confused and rode north into Morgan county on Bear Wallow Hill Road, but this time I headed south on Bear Creek and rode the gravel road along the ridge before coming down to Bear Lake. I had heard this was a good spot to take a swim, but it was really muddy brown, and there were some fishermen there, it just did not look inviting.
So, I passed the lake and stopped at the bridge over Bear Creek. The water was cool and refreshing, and I found a painted turtle just hanging out on the bedrock under under the crystal clear water.
Total miles: 42, but it felt like more! I was fine after climbing Bean Blossom hill even though it was hot, but riding on gravel, dirt and grass requires more effort and time, and without water, I got dehydrated.
Nature notes: Painted turtle in Bear Creek. Daisies, chicory, and wild mint are fully in bloom, and all the spring flowers are gone.
Since the weather was predicted to be in the high 80’s, we loaded up our swim suits, tools, sunscreen, and food, and headed to the “beach”. This means just about any hillside that drops to a deep water shore of Lake Monroe, which is just about anywhere this year. The lake is still way high at over 552 feet above mean sea level (amsl). The normal pool level that the Army tries to maintain (in case of draught) is 536 amsl, and the lake overflows at 556 feet amsl.
We rode south on Harrell Rd., and found that our favorite spot was underwater, and our diving log could not be seen. We moved down the ridge to a spot at the edge of the water, and I jumped right in. After the shock of the cold water, my skin seemed to tighten up, and I swam until I was in the sunshine, and started to warm up. I came back in after a bit, and we had a bite to eat, and something to drink. Watching the water, Jojo spotted at snake swimming parallel to the shore, and then a turtle, I only saw them when he pointed them our. We both went back in the water and floated around for a while, swam a bit, and generally chilled out, it was brilliant day. The water was cold and warm depending on where you where, or what wave came through, and there were plenty. The only disturbing element was a water plane that buzzed the lake at low level, maybe he was just taking off, but it did not seem that way.
The ride ended up being just over 20 miles, not at all close to our normal 35-40 mile rides, but I was whipped when I got back, I guess the swimming and cool water could have had an effect, but just as likely was the hot weather. This was our first above 80 degree, sweaty riding, and I ended up extremely thirsty all evening. I think we will need to carry more water this summer just to keep hydrated. I hate buying water, maybe it is time to find a portable filtration system.
It was Saturday at the Market, and Jojo said Dean and Dee were having a party at their house at the very southern edge of Monroe county across the causeway, so we decided to ride our bikes out and back, a little over 40 miles total. We most often ride some sort of loop, but in this case it would have meant 3 big climbs (the Alps, the dam, and Ramp Creek), so especially after being at the party and playing frisbee and bocce ball, we decided on the easier route straight back on 446.
The sun was just dropping below the ridge as we set out, and we could see it again once we climbed the hill back onto the forest ridge south of Lake Monroe. We rode Chapel Hill back to 446 and then to the causeway in no time, this is easy biking. The ride out of the Salt Creek valley after crossing the causeway is long, it is never too steep. The run from the top of the hill to Pine Grove Road is the hardest as there is little room on the side of the road, and there are a number of small climbs that slow your down. From there it was easy riding on Knight’s Ridge Road, and we got home just after dark.