About two weeks ago I was suffering from some serious bluegrass withdrawal. Hurricane Irma had managed to put a pretty significant damper on most of my plans for the Triumph Dragon Raid; that combined with things being nuts at the office, I felt well overdue for a trip down to the Gorge.
Being October, the days are unquestionably getting shorter; that however, also marks the beginning of hunting season. What does that have to do with riding? As it turns out, the double-track sections of Hatton Ridge Road, that my buddy Rick and I hit last November are only open during hunting season. After consulting the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF) website, I figured we might have a shot at hitting an adjacent forest service road just as it was opening for the season.
June Bug Road
About a mile and a half south from the head of Hatton Ridge Road is a set of gates for DBNF service roads #167 and #168. I found these roads from satellite views on Google Earth last fall when I was looking for additional trails to link together with Hatton Ridge and Spas Creek. Upon arriving in Frenchburg, back again, my buddy Rick and I wound up Indian Creek road in the hopes of finding open gates, even though we were technically a day early. As luck would have it, the east gate (#167) was actually open; I knew from the trail reports I’d found that this was the shorter of the two trails, but I was going to take what I could get.
The double-track was sparsely maintained. It looked like the forest service had recently dumped loose soil into all of the potholes in attempt to even out the road surface a little. Hoof prints in the before mentioned loose soil did however offer us early warning that we could potentially have an equestrian encounter on the trail at some point. Thus far, I’ve been pretty lucky, despite my run-ins with Amish buggies in Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky, I’ve done well not to run into folks on horseback out on the trail.
Our adventure was a little short lived as we happened upon a significantly large tree that had recently fallen and was blocking the trail a little over a mile in. It appeared that an ad-hoc bridle trail had been forged around, but considering that I had three sections of the DBBB planned, I figured it wasn’t worth the hassle scrambling up the a poorly forged path only to get stuck, or worse.
Pumpkin Hollow Road
Headed west back down Indian Creek road we turned south onto Pumpkin Hollow Road. I had elected to skip over Spas Creek Road with all of the recent rainfall, combined with the fact we still had a four-hour haul back home after all the “adventuring”. Not far into “The hollow”, we arrived at the steep elevation climb where I found myself stuck in both ruts back in April. The recent rains had turned that formerly rocky dirt into well-defined jeep ruts in the Kentucky clay. Fortunately, with the Karoo 3 on the back, Rosie’s quite the tractor, low seat height to boot, from there it was just a Scramble to the top.
After wrestling two pigs through the mud, it was time for a couple photos and sandwich. The front end of Pumpkin Hollow is unquestionably the hardest, and a completely different animal than my last encounter. I admit, paddling through the muck, I feel like the Scrambler stood up to the challenge more “gracefully” than the last go-round, albeit slower. The south slope back into the gorge however is a completely different story, once over the steep accent, it’s mostly downhill along the creek bed until you find pavement again near Slade.
Chop Chestnut Road
Crossing over Kentucky Highway 11, we headed south onto Cow Creek Road through the quarry (Natural Bridge Stone Company). As you near the quarry office, Cow Creek meets Chop Chestnut Road at a sharp right turn, hidden from view at a distance. After a long run up a well maintained gravel hill and past the cemetery, you pass several boulders blocking the old service road and finally onto rugged double track. Last time up on the ridgeline the sand hidden beneath the pine needles had a tendency to sneak up on me. This time around all that rain actually paid off, the front end didn’t get soft and “push” like it did back in April. On the other hand, the puddles proved to be some of the foulest grey water I’ve ever encountered. The “funk” baking on the pipes is a smell I won’t soon forget.
Again, considering this was a “down and back” day trip from Dayton, I elected to skip the still (partially) disputed Mountain Springs Road. I still want to tackle that section, but considering folks have mentioned various obstacles placed across the trail for thwart off-roaders, I’d just assume circumvent the fuss and spare myself the time of repairing a roadside flat. That decision led us down KY-1639 and 1036 to Fixer-Leeco Road.
Fixer-Leeco, and subsequently Fixer and Cave Fork Road, were very similar to my last experience. While the preceding two trail sections had evolved with weather and use, Fixer and Fixer-Leeco were resurfaced with fresh gravel in several spots, and were surprisingly dry considering the deep ruts we had just traversed on Pumpkin Hollow. What I found most surprising was the creek crossing from Fixer over to Cave Fork Road; back in April that was probably the deepest creek crossing I had done to date. Instead we found the water to be considerably low; I suspect as a result of a newly formed sandbar. Not sure if that was an effort made by county maintenance or just the patterns of Mother Nature.
From the last western trail on the DBBB it was time to head back north in a race against waning daylight. The dark clouds had already started to move in as we traversed the Fixer Road creek line, and the skies finally opened up as we got north of Owingsville. I’ve got big hopes of finishing the last three sections of the DBBB before year’s end, but time is running out, rapidly…