Long Branch.

421962I put up some crazy numbers last week, and even crossed over 44 million steps (and it only took me 18 days to add another million steps to my totals). This may have been my best week ever; I’m not sure, and I’m not really motivated enough to dig through all my stats to see. Nonetheless, great numbers. I’m not sure I can keep up this pace for long, but if I can, I might just hit my 50 million step goal by June. We’ll see.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Ironically, my worst numbers day was Sunday, but that was by far the most challenging overall day for me, in the form of a mountain bike ride on Lookout Mountain. I decided to knock out another major section of 5 Points; specifically, 5 Points to the Nickajack Trailhead via the appropriately-named Long Branch Trail. Only 21.5 miles round-trip, but it was brutal. Just brutal. I started at 5 Points at sunup, under cold, damp and gray weather, and took the Peace Can Trail into the woods to the northernmost end of the Cloudland Connector Trail. This is the same trail I took last weekend, but headed north by northeast (sorry, Cary Grant) this time. Crossed the highway, and picked up the Long Branch Trail. Now, I’m not a real “hardcore” mountain biker, but I am skilled – still, this trail was challenging. 500 feet in elevation shift, crossing Long Branch Creek back and forth several times (so, wet feet) – just super-tough, especially in the less-than-favorable conditions. A little sunshine would have helped take the chill off – it was about 40 degrees – but I was layered up nicely, so I never really got too cold.
one of several bridges crossing Long Branch - click for larger

one of several bridges crossing Long Branch (that’s a horse crossing on the left) – click for larger

Anyway, after the long trip on Long Branch, I exited the end of the “official” 5 Points/Cloudland Connector section, and continued north on the highway to Rock Creek Road. No real reason; this was just the route I planned. From there, back across the highway to Mt. Olive Road and south on Vulcan Road, looping around back to the highway. I kinda thought once I was back on the highway, it would just be a breezy 4 or 5 miles back to the trailhead. Not true. About 2 miles of this route was uphill – tough uphill. When you’re driving, you don’t really think about/appreciate how steep roads can be; when you’re pedaling, it becomes painfully clear. Still, no choice but to do it, and do it I did. All told, about 10 miles on the trails, and 11.5 miles on the road. A good ride, and probably my last in this area. There are still trails at 5 Points, but these are primarily short mountain biking trails; no more long routes like this one.

Because I’m (clearly) fascinated by maps, I’ve composited the 3 recent bike rides in this area onto one satellite-imagery map. There’s this ride, as well as last weekend’s Cloudland Canyon ride, and the Lula Lake ride I took back in November. This is just the southern end of Lookout Mountain; I’ve done lots of exploring on the northern end, in the form of bike rides and hiking – this is all visible on the Master Adventure Map.

click for larger

click for larger

So, what’s next? I don’t really know. There’s still a lot of ground to cover (on foot) at Savage Gulf, and I’d like to do a highway bike ride up in the Foster Falls area. And, as warmer weather (hopefully) rapidly approaches, I plan on taking as many motorbike trips as possible. Life is friggin’ short, and it’s getting shorter every second. Got to get out there and live it.

Link:
Long Branch Trail Photo Album on Facebook