Tim at the Bike Garage mentioned he was riding out on McGowen Rd a few weeks ago, he came back covered with mud, but happy. So I decided we had to try riding McGowan, which runs a serpentine path along the east side of Lake Monroe. After several runs along Birdie Galyon and Friendship Roads, I’ve realize my recumbent works fine offroad, I can’t exactly bunny hop over logs, but the Rans rides fine on gravel or dirt logging roads. So I am hoping to explore all the roads in Monroe County this year, dead ends, gravel, dirt or even paved,
I plotted out an “easy” circle of McGowen to Gilmore Ridge, to TC Steele, then back along the valley on Kent Rd, about 11 miles for the loop. As Jojo had to work, we got a bit a of a late start, we took his truck to McGowen Rd. rather than ride the 8 or 9 miles. We found a parking lot at the bird watching station, and unloaded our bikes. We headed out on the gravel road, heading south along the Salt Creek valley, the wetlands here are a protected bird sanctuary, mostly geese and some ducks on this day. We had to “portage” around 100 foot section of flooded road, and carried our bikes up the hillside around the water. We saw some kayakers in the channel, and talked to them while they pulled out and headed home.
We rode on, passed the ranger’s house, and then climbed a little onto the ridge. There was the same “Seasonal Access only” sign that I found on Earl Young Rd., and you can see they mean right at the start. We rode along the rough gravel, which is significantly more effort than riding on smooth asphalt, go figure. Three times we wove back into the woods and went down and up to cross a hollow, and then back along the ridge with beautiful view of the lake through the woods.
We came to the last hollow and knew that this was the big climb, about 250 feet of rise before it levels out at 860 ft. amsl, the bottom is at 605. Once you come around the first curve, the road drops about 2 feet in the left rut, all that was left is exposed stone, half road, half creekbed. Then it got steeper! I know the guys at Bike Garage have climbed this hill, but I know it will never happen for me, I was lucky to push my overloaded cruiser up the hill, I felt my achilles tendon stretching and stretching.
We got to Gilmore Ridge, and the cooling wind that came from the south west felt good after the long climb. Gilmore Ridge felt like a highway, easy riding with its packed down gravel, and we made good time to TC Steele Road, which was paved and in a moment were were at the park, chowing down some energy food at the picnic tables.
The sun was getting low, and the wind was making us cold, so we got on the road and turned on Kent Road and made a quick run back to McGowen and the truck. We rode along Salt Creek and when we got back to the truck, I took a few shots of the sunset while the geese and ducks said goodnight to each other.
Weather was great, sunny and about 40 degrees. We saw the usual buzzards, but heard no other birds. Two turkeys crossed the road in front of us, but otherwise the wildlife was hiding from the cold.