On the spur of the moment I took off for Kerr Scott Dam in N. Wilkesboro to ride Dark Mountain trail. Only the third time I've ridden there, so I swung by the visitor center and picked up a map. The trails are very ridable, but the trail starts with a long climb. You then turn a corner and there's a worse climb, so I start off tired.
Fortunately the trails are marked, and the map is pretty good. Trail 5 is the most difficult, and longest, section. It kicked my butt the first time and I skipped it last time, but I decided to so for it today. Guess I needed to prove that I am improving, if only incrementally. Trail five has some really fast descents, one in particular goes right into a 180' turn, which can be bad if you aren't paying attention, or your brakes don't work. Fortunately my breaks were working as there was a girl stopped right at the turn, and her husband just around the turn. I talked to them for a second, and she said she could only do right-turns, which was pretty funny. I passed them, and told them I'd see them again when they passed as I was walking up the hills.
I actually didn't have to walk very much, though I did stop and catch my breath a few times. Section 5 didn't whip me like the first time though. After I made it back to the 'core' trail I studied my map and figured I had enough energy to ride sections 7, 8, and 9, which were easy and moderate, and then ride up the core rode and take trail 1 down to the parking lot. I rode 7 and 8, missing the shortcut back to the core rode. I didn't plan to take that, but I was confused when I came to the intersection of 8 and 9. That required me to sit down and rest and study the map. I finally figured out where I was, with a reasonable degree of certainty. It turns out I was right (I think the same thing happened the last time I rode there).
I rode 9, which reminded me of Tsali some. While I was stopped for yet another rest the couple I'd passed earlier caught up with me. I jumped in behind them, and told me we were almost at the top of the last hill anyway, which was great. We were soon back to the core road, and I followed them along it, as they said they were headed back to the parking lot. They actually road back to section 10, but I followed them after checking the map, and seeing that it ran into 1. We had a few minutes to talk at one point. They live in Boone, but just moved here from Georgia. He'd ridden in the 24-hour race recently. His 5-man team (I didn't get their names, but they both rode pretty Specialized bikes) completed 35 laps and came in third, just six minutes after the second-place team.
We made it back to the parking lot and went out separate ways. I stopped by the visitor centor to change out of my bike shorts and then hit BK for supper and headed home. That was definitely my best ride up there ever. I'll have to hit it again this summer.