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Tennessee Dualsporting

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by SScratch, Aug 12, 2005.

  1. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,641
    Location:
    Nashville
    In an effort to put together a dualsport ride for the RA Rally to be held in Shelbyville, Tn October 6-9, I managed to take a couple days off and head down to Tims Ford State Park near Winchester where I set up camp last Sunday night. The park was nearly empty except for this young couple that shared my site for the next two days. They were quiet enough but kept giving me that look like DAM does when he wants you to beer him.
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    Monday morning after a potful of coffee I stowed my gear and hit the road to Cowan where the map showed a 4wd trail heading out of town.
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    The trailhead was owned by the railroad and was now closed to the public so I headed up the road to Sewanee to find another way into this vast area of uninhabited and mountainous terrain that is criss-crossed with forest roads. There was a short, light rain that made the delightfully curvy run up the hill from Cowan to Sewanee a little slick. Near the top I had to wait for a wrecker to extract a car from the hillside off the road.
    At the top of the hill I was happy to find the old railroad grade road was not posted closed. I dove in and immediately started pounding my way over the very rocky grade.
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    After a couple of miles I ran across the current railroad just as it enters the Cowan Tunnel.
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    Not too much further down the trail I got a flat front tire. [​IMG]
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    It was only flat on the bottom but that's the side I usually ride on so I found a rock to prop up the bike and went about changing the tube. Just as I was finishing up, these two good ol' boys come riding up on their quads to see what I was up to.
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    The trail they came out of was posted closed but they said they owned a cabin up there somewhere. Maybe they did and maybe they didn't, but they were very curious as to why I was out there. I explained that the road I was on was not posted closed but they assured me that it was. After a little discussion they were convinced I was not a revenuer nor a scout for an advancing horde of Yourapein settlers so they went back to whatever it was they were up to.
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    I followed them out and ended up back in Cowan at the trailhead owned by the railroad that I had first tried that morning.
    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,641
    Location:
    Nashville
    I raced back up the hill to Sewanee on that wonderfully curvy 41A then headed south on 56 to find another trailhead back into the hills. I poked my nose into every dirt road or trail on both the east and west sides of 56 all the way down to Alabama and beyond.
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    On each occasion at some point down these roads there would be a locked gate with a no trespassing sign. It seems that all of this land is leased by hunting clubs and they are very protective of their territory. It is my understanding that these roads are public but that does not keep them from claiming otherwise. As the locals tell it, the 4wd clubs were not sticking to the trails and were tearing up the hillsides. The hunt clubs then started gating and locking all the land, prohibiting even the landowners that held the leases from gaining access. Now there is a three-way feud between the 4wd clubs, the hunt clubs, and the landowners. It would involve a lawsuit to get them opened back up now. There will be a lot of terminated leases in the future so maybe this will be open again some day.
    #2
  3. JohnTM

    JohnTM Who's my daddy? Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2001
    Oddometer:
    29,259
    Location:
    Cornersville, TN
    :lurk
    #3
  4. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,641
    Location:
    Nashville
    I finally ended up at the end of this valley in Alabama with no way out except back to Tennessee.
    [​IMG]
    Following 56 north all the way back to Sewanee I really opened it up and let her rip because it really is a nice section of curvy asphalt and I had spent the entire trip down poking along looking for trailheads. I did stop at Natural Bridge to take a few pics since it was on the way.
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    I also found these two spiders doing what spiders do.
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    This is a springhouse I spied behind a barn along the road.
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    Once back in Sewanee I cruised through the campus of the University of the South. Founded by the Episcopalians and modeled after Oxford, it sports some very interesting achitecture with its sandstone buildings.
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    Sewanee is perched on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau and has some nice views of the valley and the town of Cowan down below.
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    This crucifix sits at the edge of one of the lookouts and is easily visible from many miles away down in the valley.
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    I checked out another 4wd road that went down the hill from Sewanee but was again thwarted by the inevitable locked gate. It was now 3:00 pm and I still had not eaten yet so I headed back to Cowan yet again to find a restaurant since the one in Sewanee was closed with a "Gone Fishin" sign in the window.
    The only thing open in Cowan was Pancho's Mexican Restaurant, so I strolled in and ordered up a big sample plate and a Negra Modelo. The place was very clean and the service excellent but the food left a little to be desired. That didn't matter 'cuz I was hoooooongry so I woofed it down and hollered for more. After a few minutes the cold beer caused the grease in my full stomach to coagulate and sent me into a time-warping stupor. When I came back around I left a twenty on the table and stepped back out into the hazy sunshine.
    I contemplated heading back to camp but decided to check out one more trail that wasn't too far out of my way. While enroute I came across this historic monument:
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    I stopped in for a visit then proceeded out some back roads where I came across yet another monument to man's technological progress.
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    #4
  5. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,641
    Location:
    Nashville
    I found the road I was looking for and should have taken the hint that this would be much more difficult than what I had encountered up to this point.
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    To get some perspective, that little ledge about a third of the way down in that picture was knee-high to me.

    Not too far down the trail I started heading down hill.
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    Most of it was rocky, but some of it was just rutted dirt.
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    The further I went down the hill, the rockier it got and the drop-offs got higher. This one is about waist high on me.
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    I finally came to an intersection that was not on my map. This actually happened a lot throughout the day so I used my compass a lot. I decided to take the road heading west since that was the direction to the nearest pavement and I had serious doubts as to whether I could climb back out the way I had come in. This road came to a fork, so I took it. At the bottom of the hill I was turned back by the vertical section on the far side of this dry creek.
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    I proceeded to take the other fork which dead-ended into a hunting camp along this same creekbed. Back to the original intersection and on to the next road. This one also forked, leading to two different dead ends. So, back to the intersection and on to my last option other than the very dangerous hillclimb back out the way I came in. I really didn't think I could climb that without getting hurt or breaking something on the bike.
    This road proved to be extremely rough but at least it didn't dead end. It basically followed the dry creekbed in the above photo and for some masochistic reason kept crossing the durn thing from one side to the other over all these boulders. I really gave my skid plate and engine guard a thorough workout, and was glad I had the optional skid plate attachment on my Holtam centerstand protecting my rear shock linkage. A couple of times I got hung up in the rocks and had to get off and push while spinning the wheel and slipping the clutch, all the while slipping on the slick algae and mud left behind from the rains and tripping over the rocks. I was really working up a sweat and quickly losing my strength.
    I forced my way through this for a couple of miles and was losing daylight fast as it was approaching 8:00 pm. I was on a trail that wasn't on the map and going south when I wanted to go west. As luck and Murphy would have it, the trail abandoned the creek and headed straight up the hillside. It was easily just as bad as the hill I had originally come in on but seeing no other option as to a way out I just grabbed a fistful of throttle and determination, got up on the pegs and shot up the hill. The wild ride ended as I hit a rock and went vertically airborn, the windscreen coming up and hitting the face of my helmet, then coming down on the side of a rut and bouncing off a tree before I came to a rest. I was completely winded.
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    I snapped this shot over my shoulder as I rolled violently back down the hill sans the leaden 650. [​IMG]
    I huffed and I puffed and I picked the bike up. Twice. I decided to park it and walk up the hill to see (1) if I was close to the top, (2) if it got any easier, and (3) if it might actually get me out of this place. Negative on all three counts.
    I started taking inventory of my assets in preparation for spending the night right there because there was no way I could ride that stuff in the dark. Shoot, I couldn't even ride it in daylight.
    Let's see, I have a rain suit, a first aid kit, a map and compass, tools, a pistol with 18 rounds and a bottle of Jack (for medicinal purposes, of course) so I'm really not too bad off. I also had my Anonymous book which would make a good firestarter if I couldn't get anyone within shouting distance to show up with coffee and conversation. These hills are full of rattlesnakes so the pistol and Jack may come in quite handy, as long as I don't get drunk and shoot myself. I'm also not hurt (yet) and quite surprisingly the bike has come through all this unscathed. Not even a broken blinker.
    I ride back down the hill to a clearing along side the dry creekbed and decide to use the last few minutes of daylight to find some firewood. I also needed to find some water since I was completely out and had a powerful thirst. My clothes were completely soaked with sweat and I was exhausted.
    #5
  6. mlaotn

    mlaotn Slow Rider

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2002
    Oddometer:
    800
    Location:
    Eastern Chaingolia
    :lurk
    #6
  7. Snuffy

    Snuffy Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,084
    Location:
    Tucson
    That's some nice trails your on.:lurk
    #7
  8. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,641
    Location:
    Nashville
    I parked the bike and started walking down the dry creek looking for water. I chuckled to myself remembering George Clooney in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" repeating over and over, "d*mn, we're in a tight spot". I was also remembering JedDoc's advice about what a man needs to do when he finds himself in a desolate place but I was feeding the biting insects enough as it was without getting naked.
    It was comforting to know that my flashlight was lying safe and sound in my nice comfy tent about 70 miles away. There was plenty of deadfall so firewood wouldn't be a problem. Around a bend in the creek I noticed a piece of sky between a couple of towering trees. This may seem insignificant unless you take into account I was stuck in a ravine with nothing but unclimbable hills all around except for what appeared to be this narrow pass.
    I ran back to the bike and suited up. I crossed the creek and headed for the pass until I found a small trail. The futher I followed the trail, the smoother and wider it got and eventually I even found water.
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    My first sign of civilization was an ancient cemetery. Now I knew I was in the clear. Wouldn't you know the first building I would come to would be a church, a sign of salvation.
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    A couple of dead end roads later I found myself at this fine piece of mercantile history.
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    Notice the slogan in the center of this sign?
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    I guess Alabamans don't want for much.
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    Even what little was there was unaccessible.
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    My Tennessee maps didn't speak Alabaman so I used my compass and my vast knowledge of geography to point myself north on the first paved road I could find. I stopped 4 different times on the way back to camp to buy Gatorades which were swilled in one big slurp each before I even left the sales counter.
    Back at camp I got the fire started, broke Brother Jack out of his hiding place in the tank bag, pulled up my trusty camp chair and wallowed in the comfort of my riches.
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    Life is good.
    #8
  9. eskimo

    eskimo gunga-galunga

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Oddometer:
    941
    Location:
    Arizona Riviera
    Cool tale :thumb Like Deliverance, except without canoes and, um, some other stuff.
    #9
  10. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,641
    Location:
    Nashville
    I wish I could take pictures that actually show how steep a hill is and give a more realistic 3d impression of the countour of a trail. The photos make it look like even a pussy could have ridden these trails.

    Maybe I should have brought one along. [​IMG]
    #10
  11. DC950

    DC950 Microadventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    Oddometer:
    3,530
    Location:
    Seattle and Las Cruces, NM
    this is what its all about. Excellent ride.

    Several times recently I was worried about getting into the predicament you were in. Glad you got out ok. Those trails look like a lot of fun (early in the morning that is).
    #11
  12. k7

    k7 Almost retired..tick..tick..

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,800
    Location:
    Aridzona
    You following Gaspipe around? From his recent report:

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    Good stuff!
    #12
  13. JohnTM

    JohnTM Who's my daddy? Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2001
    Oddometer:
    29,259
    Location:
    Cornersville, TN
    Oh, Steve can find a way to do that "other stuff" all by himself.





    :lol3


    Glad the day went well, Steevie!
    #13
  14. CruzCtrl

    CruzCtrl Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2004
    Oddometer:
    797
    Location:
    Santa Cruz
    Beautifull.. You got skills!! Wish it was that green in So Cal. Thank God for Jack and Salvation of course!! :thumb
    #14
  15. FarmerRick

    FarmerRick Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,307
    Location:
    Kirkland, TN
    Great report Steve!! (and thanks for the invite... Johnny TM did you get invited too??)


    Keep it up dude and we'll make you club impotentate!!

    :D
    #15
  16. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,641
    Location:
    Nashville
    Johnny disinvited me to Colorado and GCExaminer won't pay my mama the child support so bugger off.

    I hope Gaspipe didn't find that place the way I did. [​IMG]
    #16
  17. YOGOI

    YOGOI Prick

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2004
    Oddometer:
    3,851
    Location:
    Logan, Utah
    Nice job on the report, good photos and write-up.:thumb

    I'm feeling the need to go get lost in my mountains now. I get alot of slack from freinds for riding by myself in areas that may not see another person for days or weeks. and I have to agree that its not the smartest thing in the world, but some times it just has to be done, and while there home doing yard work, Ill be out doing somthing I love. Besides, you can die walk'n your doggy. Good on ya, and hope you have many more great adventures.
    #17
  18. gaspipe

    gaspipe Wandering Soul

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2004
    Oddometer:
    11,437
    Location:
    Pickwick Lake, Tennessippi
    Hey Sscratch!

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    I went up what I think is that same hill you were on :umph with the same bike, but the weekend before. We need to hook up for some rides!

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    Great ride report!
    #18
  19. rokklym

    rokklym one man wolfpack

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,529
    Location:
    Westby Wisconsin
    Wow, thats pretty crazy that 2 identical bike did the same thing a weekend apart!
    Hell of a ride report!:thumb

    Pretty crazy being down in an area you might not be able to get back out of and possibly having to spend the night in the boonies without much for supplies! Thats a true adventure, like Striking Viking says, Its not an adventure til things stop going as planned.

    Its too bad about the land situation down there.
    #19
  20. FarmerRick

    FarmerRick Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,307
    Location:
    Kirkland, TN
    I keep telling her it's not my child!!! I do have a bottle of some mexican elixir hanging around though... proly not as boot as JD.. guess I'll have to drink this myself, or do you need an R100GS/PD???
    #20