Didn’t think I was gonna ride today. Got off work at 1:30am after 15 brutal hours – the last half of the night was exteriors in brrrr temps. I fell asleep while watching Shark Tank reruns. I think I was half asleep wanting to turn the tv off, but got it in my brain that I’d knocked the remote on the floor. I was too lazy to snatch the remote, so infomercial noise danced in and out of my dreams all night. At 7am, the room above me was clanging and banging, so I woke up. The tv remote was next to me. My phone was on the floor. Ahhh. Turned off the tv. Peace in my head. But my brain was awake now. What to do? What else do I do? Ride bikes.
A quick weather check, and two bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios later, I had trail directions scribbled on a napkin and a few different maps saved as images on my iPhone. A couple Cave Man bars , Miss Vickie’s BBQ chips, and a jug of water accompanied me to the car. Snap. Cold. 32 degrees. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I live in Mammoth and ride bikes in the snow as a habit. But it’s still cold, ok!
I got driving directions to the trailhead via the Singletracks app. –sidenote: I use the Singletracks and MTB Project/IMBA app a ton these days. Makes getting to the trailhead so much easier. — Next thing I knew, I was on my way. Destination: Bull and Jake Mountain – another IMBA Epic, and known to be one of the best areas of riding in all of Georgia.
Arrived at the Jake Trailhead. I was warned about this area being hard to navigate for newbies. At the trailhead, there was a large map that I hadn’t come across on the interwebs. It was a new FS map, with color coded loops – kind of a mix of the FS map and equestrian club map I downloaded. I took a picture of it and I’m including it here, as it’s the best I’ve found for the area.
There’s a lot of trails, and connecting fire roads in the area. Not everything is well-signed. Yes, it can be confusing or downright daunting for a visitor. It’s no fun to get on a ride and spend more time staring at maps and questioning every intersection and trail merger. So, I decided to follow the “Dirty Thirty” route I found online. This is very similar to the original IMBA Epic ride – but is a few miles longer, and includes more singletrack and elevation gain (approx. 29 miles and 4,300′ gain). This route was designed by peeps that ride these trails often for an annual group ride. They tout it as the “best” way to ride Bull Jake. After today, I concur. I felt like it was the perfect way to experience the area, and there are bailout options if it becomes too much for ya. Just the Jake portion is a great ride on its own. ** At this time of year, there’s a lot of hunting going on – they recommend wearing “orange blaze”. I figured my fluorescent green bike was good enough 🙂
I’m including links at the bottom to the Strava page for the Dirty Thirty Route, as well as the IMBA Epic description. Between those, you should be able to sketch out the route on the Forest Service Map.
To help you out further, this is the route in a nutshell… or on a napkin – it’s what I wrote down and put in my pocket – served me well. Did not get lost. Although I did need to resort to my spidey senses on a few occassions:
- Start: Jake Parking Lot > 223H Jake Mountain Trail > cross Jones Creek (take off shoes/socks) > stay on 223H Beaver Pond Trail > 223Q > 223N / Black Branch > after BB loop, keep climbing right up fire road > eventually hit 223P / No-Tell Trail > merges with 223K, veer right toward 223L > stay on 223L > get on 223E / Jones Creek Dam Trail > 223D / Bull Mountain Cutoff Trail > left on 223A just after crossing Lance Creek > veer right on 223B / Bare Hare / Saddle Back Trail (reach highest point of ride) > 223 / Bull Mountain > right to Bull Mountain Parking > 223F / Bull Mtn Connector back to your car at Jake Parking
The ride is basically two loops – one of Jake Mountain, and one of Bull Mountain. It’s kind of like a bow tie. There is a ton of great singletrack, with one creek crossing (Jones Creek) that involved taking off shoes and socks. Mind you, it was 35 degrees air temp so this wasn’t pleasant as my feet began to go numb upon submersion. Once my feet were back in my Darn Tough socks getting back to toasty, the riding was sweet. Enough climbing to keep it challenging, and enough descending to keep it rewarding. The “Bare Hare / 223B / Saddle Back” climb was probably the toughest as it’s late in the ride and takes you to the highest elevation of the day. Also, it’ slippery at this time of year because of all the leaves, so tough to keep traction out of the saddle. You’re then rewarded with the last descent down Bull Mountain Trail which starts off as doubletrack but turns into some wicked singletrack after you pass the 223C / Whoop-De-Doos turnoff. For me, the highlights were Jake Mountain Trail and Black Branch, but the whole ride was simply a treat.
Worthy of being on any bucket list, and stoked to check it off mine!!