RR- Post Flood Fair Hill



T

troutboy

Guest
Those of you who live on the east coast have surely heard about the
massive flooding, especially in New York and Pennsylvania. Those of
you on the west coast, well screw you and your predictably sunny summer
weather and bluebird-sky pictures of vast mountains (just kidding, of
course). Anyway, after what has been remarkable weather here in
Delaware this spring (except for race days and Delaware Trailspinners
events), we finally got what we deserve: the dreaded stationary front
and five days of heavy thunderstorms. That left the local rivers in
streams in full flood conditions and most local trails more like
swamps; however, because the thunderstorm cells were highly localized,
Fair Hill had somehow escaped the majority of the heavy rain. Reports
from my inside sources, who had gone dark recently to escape the
constant questions of "How are the trails ?" from lesser bikers,
told me the trails were damp, with some muddy spots that would require
hike-a-bike, but generally rideable without risking damage. But another
nasty thunderstorm rolled through late Wednesday night/early Thursday
morning and severe storms were predicted for Thursday afternoon.
Conversations with most of the regular Thursday crowd indicated they
were opting for road rides.

Well, the hell with those wimpy yellow bracelet-wearing, blood-doped
rider fans (for those of you who don't yet know, I suggest you
consult one of the Tour de France-like websites), I was going to brave
the dirt. Besides, I could not ride until after 1700 and the rain was
predicted to come about 1900. Two hours does not a long road ride
make.

So it was that I pulled into the North Appleton lot for Fair Hill, the
usual gathering point for the Thursday night Trailspinners ride and
rag-a-thon. The young guys rag on the old guys for being slow while
the old guys rag on the young guys for the constant crashing and
perpetual nagging injuries. God forbid someone should be having an off
night! All in good clean fun, though. We keep it mild and back off
when someone is really down, hurting badly, or has a valid excuse
("Sorry I'm a bit slow today guys, the wife and I had sex late last
night and I'm really knackered"). As I said, valid excuses.

By the time the appointed departure time rolls around, only Ben and I
are in the lot. Well, at least we'll leave on time for once. There
was no sign of the impending thunderstorms, clouds were not even
building, but we decided to stay pretty close to the lot for awhile and
see what developed.

Ben was riding his single-speed Fisher Rig, one of several choices for
him, and I was riding the usual Fisher hardtail, mostly because it's
the only bike I own. We took off down the cleverly named Barney's
Trail (named after the builder, Barney, who is also our secret trail
spy). Trails were tacky with a couple of muddy spots and it was
obvious we would not be at race pace tonight (but then, I'm never at
race pace). Just too iffy to go flying through a slick spot and lose
control. So we settled in at a nice pace of about 7.5 MPH.

Barney's Trail leads to Crappy Start (which was not, for us, the
start) and three things were apparent by the time we reached the gravel
road at the end of the Barney's/Crappy Start combo: 1) There were
many downed trees, big trees, that would require Barney and his chain
saw, 2) The small streams were back to low flow again and the stream
crossings did not seem to change much from the local rains (looks like
the trail crews are doing a good job on the crossings), and 3) There
would be no t-storms during our ride - there was still no cloud build
up.

With no storms in view, we headed away from the parking lot into the
"wilds" of Fair Hill. Horse Jump, oddly named because it is
nowhere near any of the myriad of horse jumps actually located within
Fair Hill, one of the lesser humpback bridges for which Fair Hill is
famous, and a connector to the gravel road along Big Elk Creek. The
Creek was still up slightly, but fairly clear and nowhere near the
level it had been last Tuesday right after one of the bigger downpours
of the rain event, as observed while driving by on the way home from
work. Mud marks on the vegetation and bridge abutments showed just how
high the water had been two days prior. Sometimes it sucks to be a
trout, especially if you're one of those farm raised, transported
wimpy trout they place into Big Elk Creek so locals, clad in their
lovely Orvis outfits with their Orvis rods, can stand side by side at
the best hole, throw some minnows, and land a lunker (just kidding
trout fisherman, I actually love the activity myself, just in a purer
sense).

We crossed the creek, headed up the Yellow Trail to Crackhead Bob where
more downed trees required some interesting maneuvering, and across the
double track into 5 (err, I mean n-1) bridges.

Still no sign of storms (and not much sign of other riders either), so
we cruised on the doubletrack to yet another humpback bridge and
followed the race course through the woods behind the stable area.
This is a wonderful piece of mostly downhill single track through woods
that has not been logged in a long time. Not virgin forest, mind you,
but trees well over 100 years old.

Along the asphalt road, past the stable area, over Route 273, and down
the gravel double track of the orange trail. Through the worst mud of
the day (yes, on the gravel doubletrack), then through some more woods
and I-95 (no, not the interstate with cars, the single track trail
named after it), continuing down the orange trail to Big Elk Creek
again and the sunken bridge. Again, the former water height was
obvious, as was a pretty large sand pile left in the wake of the flood.

It was getting late, so we took the doubletrack back to the gravel
road, then up the long hill to the cars. A fun ride, made much harder
by the conditions. That 16.5 miles felt like 20, at least, and the
speed was nothing to write home about, but at least we rode.

TS