Kentucky DS Ride
by Terry Nestrick
I have composed a ride report for a Williamsburg, KY DS ride completed 28 to 30DEC06 by Terry Nestrick
[Toxic], Dan Djokovic [Indy] and Neal O’Brien [2big4akdx] … we basically rode a variety of roads, 2 trackers, trails, streams, mud holes, hills and valleys in the Daniel Boone National Forest west of Williamsburg, KY which is located at KY exit 11 of I-75, approximately 11 miles north of the KY / TN border. The link given below provides an interactive map of the area which can be expanded to illustrate the variety of roads and trails available in the forest area to the west of Williamsburg, KY … basically we mapped out an area of interest for each of three days riding on Indy’s Garmin 60CSx so as to provide an 85 to 110 mile ride, then we took off exploring … as is common with such rides, many routes proved to be dead ends, others started well and became impassable, some simply were not there any more, others were totally new and very exciting … but in the end, our goal of seeking a winter reprieve in the form of adventure riding was completely fulfilled. The weather was outstanding all three days … sunny, temperatures ranging from low the 40s to almost 60 … we needed cooler weather gear for an early morning start and could delayer throughout the day … even pavement sections were quite comfortable in the early AM with a decent pair of thermal gloves … we carried a reasonable assortment of gear to include tire repair implements, common tools and an extra air filter to cover the potential of swamping a bike in one of the many water crossings encountered in this area. Even though this is the low water time of year for KY, we still found streams that were much too deep to safely cross. Tire repair gear is a must as glass and metal fragments are quite common in the forest areas and also in many of the residential areas one must pass through on the way into or out of the forest … in fact, in our last trip to KY over Thanksgiving, Indy got a rear flat by something that produced a very clean cut through the center of his tire and tube [Teraflex tire with Bridgestone Ultra Heavy Duty tube] … we had better luck this time though, no flats! Each of our bikes is capable of at least 100 miles on a full tank of fuel for the expected type of riding … in some cases, depending on where our ride took us, gas stations were not available so appropriate planning was necessary … only the KDX-200 [2.9 gallon tank] came close to exhausting its fuel supply after a 96 mile ride on day two of the adventure … under these riding conditions, it appears that the 3.5 gallon tanks on both the WR-450 and the KTM 300 XC-W could easily provide greater than 125 miles range.
For those who might be interested, we opted to get a room at the local Super 8 Motel just off the freeway in Williamsburg … at a total cost of $50 per night split between the three of us it offered a perfect base from which to ride each day and provided a hot shower and clean bed each night with a complimentary Continental Breakfast each morning to boot! Amazingly, Williamsburg has virtually every brand of fast food known to man available in walking distance from the Motel … however, only one “sit down” type restaurant, of the Mexican persuasion … luckily, it is quite good and reasonably priced … located right next door to the Super 8 as well! One other point, there is a nice Quarter Wash [actually Dollar-and-a-Quarter Wash is more accurate] just over the freeway to the west on 92 … right on the way home each day … because of the negative characteristics of multiple coatings of dried-on clay, we stopped each evening and lightened up the bikes by several pounds with a quick spray wash followed by a good chain lubrication with Digilube … definitely raises the spirits to see your faithful steed emerge from the mud each evening and greet you each morning with a twinkle in her fenders; but now I’m waxing a bit too poetic for many I’m sure …
Indy [Dan Djokovic] is an expert at planning and conducting such adventure rides by combining his innate sense of direction with an ability to assess aerial photos available on line as further delineated by overlaying roadways and trails which are also available on line. Combining these items with some GPS tracks and ride descriptions posted on the Adventure Rider site he managed to keep us moving regardless of what the terrain had to offer. In fact, if one did not know him, you would swear he lives down there or has ridden down there many times before … not likely though since he is actually a Canadian whose ancestral lineage in my scientific opinion can be traced back to an extinct breed of homing pigeons! Indy preserved the details of our actual tracks and kept notes on his Garmin regarding many of our planned routes … if anyone is interested in such information, you can contact him at: <mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org. We are devoting a series of several 3 to 4 day rides over the next couple of winters to attempt the compilation of a series of GPS routes in the Daniel Boone National Forest which will provide reasonably exciting DS rides without having to suffer some of the complications associated with tough terrain and dead ends encountered when basically riding blind as we did in this particular case.
Basic Area Map of Williamsburg, KY:
Live Search Maps
Indy: [2004?] WR-450
Neal: 1996 KDX-200
Toxic: 2006 KTM 300 XC-W
Photo 1 … This is our first day’s ride … Neal won’t arrive until tomorrow so Indy and I are out testing the waters [+ clay = mud] to the west and south of Williamsburg, KY … that’s him going up the hill, not incredibly steep but far worse than this photo makes it look. We headed into the forest and began following roads and trails which pointed us in a southerly direction as we were planning lunch in Jellico, TN. Naturally, Indy who is an expert rider has a knack for picking the muddiest, steepest, slimiest trails he can find … here we are climbing up a mountain side on what is labeled a KY road … just before this shot I barely made it up a deep mud infested switchback only to become entangled in a 3″ plastic hose draped across the roadway over the top of a muddy section … all to the absolute amazement of Indy who always offers such sage advice as: “Why did you take the hardest line?” … or: “Never stop before clearing an obstacle!” … all the while I am struggling to get free of whatever situation I have managed to cause by my less than optimum riding skills. We ran into three hunters at this point, it is about 1100 hrs … they were riding a large utility ATV up to the top of the mountain to go bow hunting for deer.
Photo 2 … The smile shown here on Indy’s face usually appears just before the trail goes totally into the crapper … we have already been climbing several hundred feet to this point on a road that went from quite muddy to nice gravel … then, in the distance, you can see the rather interesting route to the top. We explored a short trail off to the left before this hill … it was a grassy 2T that led directly into a swamp after a few hundred yards … all just part of the adventure! We left our new hunter friends behind at this point … their ATV would have had problems climbing this hill.
Photo 3 … Trail at the top of our first mountain climb … sort of a cross between a single track ATV trail and a dirt 2T … although it’s difficult to see in this picture, the trail drops off of this mountain, goes through several switchbacks, then climbs up the next mountain centered in the frame. As long as we were at higher elevations the trails were quite dry … usually hard clay with large rocks present in the surface … the rocks occasionally formed the entire surface of the trail and gave me plenty of practice climbing and descending rocky stair steps and rock-filled erosion ruts. This area was relatively easy riding and quite fun … the greatest hazard was spending too much time looking at the scenery … more than once I nearly ran off the trail after becoming a bit too enamored with the real estate. This trail actually turned out to be a viable route as we later emerged on one of the many National Forest roadways and therefore didn’t have to backtrack through the particularly muddy climb previously described. Although not particularly evident in this shot, just off the side of the trail is an extremely steep incline … perhaps greater than 60 degrees slope most of the time and quite often, a sheer cliff … therefore staying on the trail is imperative to maintain one’s health!
Photo 4 … Here’s Indy blasting down one of the National Forest roadways … they are often a combination of pure gravel surface intermixed with sections of asphalt … we typically rode such areas at 25 to 30 mph … a nice comfortable speed to permit assessment of the scenery while still enjoying a bit of mechanical mayhem with the machinery.
Photo 5 … We ate lunch in Jellico, TN which is just over the TN border south of Williamsburg, KY. Jellico is actually outside the National Forest … here we are proceeding west out of Jellico and came across this ancient Jail … compared to some of the homes in the area, this old Jail is actually in pretty good shape.
Photo 6 … One of the typical National Forest roadways … this one is exceedingly well maintained despite being on a very steep, multiple switchback … the reason is quite simple, Indy is pointing at it … we are just inside the TN border and the adjacent KY county to the north is “dry” … yup, you guessed it … that’s the Rooster Scratch Bar and Grill just up ahead!
Photo 7 … It’s 1430 in the afternoon and the temperature is beginning to drop, especially in the valleys where you are in the shade. We are circling back to Williamsburg and are crossing one of the many streams in this area of the forest … luckily for me, Indy couldn’t find a trail that necessitated fording this creek, otherwise this photo might well have depicted something quite different … whenever entering water I usually picture two perfect rubber arcs protruding from the surface of still waters, perhaps the worst time one could imagine to have the rubber side up … only in the mind of a novice rider, eh?
Photo 8 … Many of the side roads leading into and out of the National Forest are asphalt similar to what is shown here. Actually I had a blast riding these smooth, lightly traveled, very curvy paved sections as I had not ridden on the road much prior to beginning DSing late this past summer. Per the suggestion of Indy, I equipped my KTM 300 XC-W with a Michelin Desert Front and a Michelin Baja Rear tire … aside from being nearly impossible to obtain this time of year, these tires appear to be working very well*** … they hook up nicely in virtually every situation I have encountered thus far [pavement, gravel, mud, rocks and sand] … and after approximately 750 miles the front is near virgin condition while the rear is just beginning to show a distinct, flat, center wear pattern on the knobs … they do not show any chunking or hair-line cracking of the knobs of either tire even though they have been subjected to high speed pavement running and considerable forays through rocky terrain. We stopped here for Indy to check our route back to the Motel on his Garmin.
[*** It is probably important to mention that because of my rather limited riding skills any assessment of tire performance mentioned herein should be taken with a large dose of salt or perhaps, alcohol … anytime I discover a brand that remains down more than up with respect to the rubber side, I tend to like and promote it.]
Photo 9 … Neal appears and the fearsome threesome is off for Day Two’s ride … Indy on the left, Neal in the center, Toxic on the right. It is 0930 hrs in the morning, there’s still a bit of nip in the air … and most importantly, the bikes are nice and clean … but not for long! Today we plan on riding due west across the breadth of the National Forest toward Stearns, KY to check out this relatively uninhabited area.
Photo 10 … That’s Indy … blasting through the first steam crossing of the day … this one is typical of the cement bottomed road crossings encountered throughout the National Forest … they are usually posted: “Do Not Enter Under High Water Conditions” … here the water level is about as low as it gets, only about a foot deep in the center. Turns out the biggest hazard on many of these cement crossings are places where the concrete has broken away leaving behind a web-work of rebar where sometimes the ends are protruding upward … the hole in the lower left of the photo is just such a spot.
Photo 11 … Many of the trails tend to follow ridges in higher elevations and, as shown here, streams and creeks in the valleys. I got a bit over zealous in photographing Mother Nature and almost didn’t show you any of the trail we were about to investigate … it is peaking out in the upper right hand corner of the frame … but wait, there’s more coming!
Photo 12 … Yup, you guessed it … Indy has succeeded again … first ‘adventure’ of the day … the wash job on the bike is trashed as we proceed down this rather messy looking trail that follows a small creek down the valley. We rode for quite some distance before the going became too arduous to consider fun any more[largely my opinion in this particular case] … then we backtracked through the whole mess a second time! From my novice perspective, what makes riding such trails as this one a form of gambling involves the high degree of variability associated with submerged surface composition … just when you begin to relax as most of the puddles are reasonably hard bottomed, you hit one that is pure, unadulterated, clay-based, slimy snot. Well, as you folks already know … and Indy is always reminding me: “Momentum’s your friend, unless you’re out of control” … perhaps, much like there is a very fine line between genius and madness?
Photo 13 … It is never too long before encountering another stream crossing … here we witness Indy demonstrating perfect riding technique for the foot deep water … good part is that you get rid of much of the mud you’re carrying after one of these! Most of the crossings are rock bottomed and therefore relatively easy to traverse … only the occasional larger stone causes any excitement. As mentioned previously, carrying an extra air filter and spark plug is prudent for such environs.
Photo 14 … Some trails were absolutely brutal! We opted out on trying this one … while it is difficult to assess the steepness of the incline in this photograph, take my word for it, this baby had all the makings of disaster written all over it! The erosion gully in the center was over 5 feet deep about half way up the off camber hillside … the erosion gully was sloped at greater than 60 degrees … the center was muddy clay mixed with rocks and then covered with leaves … yea, I can picture many of you folks right now … your tongue is hanging out, your palms are sweating, you’d give it a try … but patience my friends, we have a whole day ahead of us … its not nice to break your ride too early in the day!
Photo 15 … Indy [left] and Neal beneath a huge outcropping of sedimentary rock. Although all the leaves are now gone from the trees and the countryside is a bit washed out with regard to color, it does have one advantage … you can actually see more of the terrain. Indy has been down here in the summer and he tells me that when the trees are in full bloom, you can barely see any of the terrain such as this.
Photo 16 … Mile after mile of near perfect riding conditions … this is a T in the trail about half way up a mountainside that is actively being forested … the trail leading up to this point looked exceedingly fresh, was very rough, soft and muddy in spots … at one point we passed a foresting machine. As you can see, when it rains, it gets muddy very quickly … the conditions go from reasonably good traction to quite slippery because of the clay soil composition common to this area. The trail straight up the mountain in the foreground is my one failure … it is a series of switchbacks, each flight becoming steeper and more rocky until it finally emerges on the top where the road becomes ‘reasonable’ again … or so I am told by Indy and Neal, both of whom easily made the climb and profusely described it as: “GREAT FUN!” I simply ran out of momentum [and courage] about 80% up the hill … where I came to stop the hillside was so steep I couldn’t stand up … so, I slid off the back of the seat and held on to the bike for support … together we slid downward, first sideways, then finally in the forward direction … after three flights of bulldogging I managed to find a spot I could remount and restart my bike and ride the rest of the way back to this exact point.
Photo 17 … A great purview of the valley below … we are actually perched on the edge of a huge rock cliff and to my left, the trail runs directly up to, and if you’re not paying attention, off the edge … it was at least a 300 foot fall straight down!
Photo 18 … Early in the morning of Day 3 … today we head to the north and with intentions of following the Cumberland River west into the forest … we take a side adventure on a small single track leading off the main trail … it heads down a steep, rocky hillside and emerges in a hidden valley occluded by this gargantuan outcropping that Indy and Neal are posing beneath … but there are more secrets to unfold!
Photo 19 … The valley beyond the preceding outcropping is a box canyon serving up this delightful waterfall pouring into a perfectly formed, natural, reflection pool. All of this scenery is completely hidden from the main trail which skirts the valley on the ridge above the waterfall to the left. The temperature was at least 15 degrees cooler down in this natural depression which likely explains the many campsite remains in the area.
Photo 20 … Neal heading up another of the countless ATV trails … the pines add a great deal of color to the otherwise bland decor of the winter forest scene. As you might guess, there really isn’t much flat territory in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Many of these trails are dead ends but they still present a great deal of riding pleasure when you remember what MI can be like this time of year.
Photo 21 … I am posing within a giant cave leading into a rocky ledge alongside the trail. If you examine the upped edge of this ledge you can see that the soil layer is really quite thin … the vegetation and trees have developed a complex strategy of entanglement that enables them to cling to the mountainsides.
Photo 23 … Oops! Another side trail turns ugly … here we see Neal assessing my chances of surviving an attempted ride down this gully … again, photography tends to forego depth as these rocky steps are really quite steep and lead to something even worse … check out the next photo!
Photo 24 … Here is the bottom portion of the trail before it climbs the other side of the gully … Indy and Neal are explaining the complex line I will need to take in order to arrive at the bottom while still alive and in control of most of my appendages. As indicated by the photography … my closest approach to this trail was via the telephoto viewfinder on my camera … that’s why I am still here reporting this ride to you!
Photo 25 … The three amigos nearing the end of another perfect riding adventure. In the background is the mighty Cumberland River … the sound of several nearby rapids can be heard above the resounding silence of the surrounding National Forest … definitely calling us to return in the near future. We hope that these photos and accompanying dialog have provided you a “taste” of our adventure and together we now share some of these experiences that only DS riders can truly enjoy!