for the second year in a row now my first "big ride" of the year has been out near wolf gap (just west of woodstock). last year we did mill mountain & big schloss before heading down to harrisonburg for a GWNF user meeting. yesterday darren organized a ride to do the liberty furnace loop that's listed on the MORE website.
unlike last year's ride where we started at the top of the ridge, this ride started at the bottom and began with a long and fairly steep climb up the eastern side of the ridge. laurel run trail was loose & steep enough to make the going slow and a bit tedious at times -- 45 minutes for 3 miles of trail -- but soon enough we're at the top and make a turn onto SR 691 heading north along the ridge. we were only on the road for a few minutes before we turned off onto long mountain trail and we're heading down the western side of the ridge, first on a wide grassy double track and then on narrower and narrower rocky singletrack benched into a steep sideslope.
after a couple miles of fun, covered way to quickly, we're down in the valley on the western side of the ridge looking around for the trail back up. the climb up the western side of the ridge was much less technical than the eastern side, and shorter, but it made up for both in terms of shear steepness. a quick stop at a nice scenic overlook (i have pictures but can't post them now, since i don't have the special usb cable for my camera with me) then a little more climbing at we're back on SR 691 at the top of the ridge. a little more climbing on 691 and we're back at the top of the first climb, but this time we're headed south along the ridge on north mountain trail.
north mountain trail was a blast. after a short downhill we climb to the top of a small knob and then start a mile of super rocky ridgetop singletrack. i had a couple of bobbles and at least one almost-endo along here. another scenic spot -- this time with almost 360-degree views -- and up over the odd knob or 2 (or 3 or 4) and through a couple of intersections -- despite the constant ribbing, darren did a great job navigating -- and we're on falls ridge trail and heading downhill along the ridge. this section was a ripper: smooth, fast, and twisty, just my kind of trail. after a couple of miles (that flew by in a blur) we start switchbacking down the side of the ridge and the trail gets rockier and loose in sections and then all too soon we're back on laurel run road spinning our way back to the cars.
we were out for 4 hours, and were moving most of that time. i was definitely feeling a little out of condition on the climbs (where i summarily dropped by almost everyone with painful regularity) and a couple of times got worried that i was bonk in the middle of the technical section and fall off the side of the ridge only but this was a great ride. the downhill at the end was one of the most fun i've ever done. it was colder we'd than expected and the temperature difference (and wind) and the top of the ridges made it hard to keep a balance between staying cool on the climbs and warm on the ridge & downhills.