Every Holiday I get in UPS from now on, I intend to use it to travel or adventure… The more time that passes, the more I realize how beautiful the planet is and how little I know it… not even 3 months had gone by from when I started working for UPS when Thanksgiving was approaching… but since it was my first year at UPS I wasn’t supposed to receive any vacations until 6 months had gone by. So I told Jess to pack her bags because we had to take advantage of these 2 off days I was getting off in order to get away from those hectic city Miami vibes. Just two weeks before our trip Jess’ grandparents decided to visit all the way from Cali, Colombia and Jess cancelled on me. Lucky enough she is the best girlfriend in the world and understood perfectly that I needed to go and take advantage of those two off days from work.
I tried convincing my training friends, but as usual only @alex_marquis18 came along because of the short notice… Just to give you guys a little heads up, it was such an incredible experience that I am planning (along with Jess and anyone else who’s down) on making Mulberry a Thanksgiving tradition from now on.
The trip started at around midnight when we left Miami… It was supposed to be a 10 hour drive, but we had to stop around 4am to take a nap at a rest stop. We woke up a couple hours later and drove to a Waffle House to fuel up for the rest of the trip. Said and done, we fueled up, played some number close to 100 episodes of MBR and a couple more of The Forward podcast and drove straight to Mulberry Gap in Georgia, and let me tell you… what a beautiful and peaceful place this is… “like humanity never existed”. Entering the Elijah area was just breathtaking, the change in colors of the leaves, cold weather and just mountains with as many different kind of yellows, greens and browns you can imagine were just amazing.
Check in process was pretty smooth and the property is beyond beautiful… to be honest, it was way way more fancy and luxurious than what we expected. It has somewhere around 6 cabins which can fit from 2 to 8 riders/campers and approximately 10 camping spots, two hot tubs, showers with hot water, a main dinning room, a small bike park and the lobby has a small convenience shop with chips, beers and some riding apparel. There is also an option of paying for breakfast and dinner (delicious home made food), which I honestly recommend doing.
The Riding at Mulberry
Day #1: Coming from Venezuela and having had the opportunity of riding in several places in the world such as The Alps, Pisgah in NC, California, Colorado and Morroc I was kind of skeptic about what type of riding and elevation we would get at Mulberry. To my positive surprise, the terrain was epic!!! Not only did we have descent climbs with descent elevations, but we had technical terrain as well. We started riding the same day we got there, which was Thursday at around 2:00pm and we ended up doing P1, but through the wrong way, meaning we that we climbed the descend which was amazing. On our way up we were arguing about whether or not this was the right way, but by judging the corners and turns we realized we were climbing the descend…. Came down Bear Creek trail all the way down to where some cows and bulls…. and were able to find our way back to camp because of our Garmin GPS navigation “back to start point” option.
Got back to camp for dinner at around 6:30pm and let me tell you something… I don’t know if when I come back I will be coming back because of the riding or because of the food…. The food at Mulberry is just amazing… Supposedly 99% of reservations are booked with breakfast and dinner together. Anywho….. we went back to our camping site and talked a little about art, paintings, pictures, the constellations and stars (Alex had a app by the name of: Sky Guide where you can see “live” what star you are looking at along with its story and some other interesting fact) and lastly I told Alex some stories about my Surf Trip to Morocco some years ago (which I will write another future post about it), and went to bed. Cold as f@#$% was that night, sincerely I would suggest that if you ever go during Thanksgiving, to either book a cabin or bring a 4 season tent…. One of our closest friends came last year around the same dates and had to spend the night in the bathroom because of the heating inside it.
Day #2: Woke up at around 7:15 am and went to the dinner to get some vanilla coffee…. Breakfast again, was amazing…. some waffles, sausages, scrambled eggs along with that canned meat where the perfect fuel for our day long ride.
Rideable Trails near by Mulberry Gap:
- Bear Creek
- Pinhoti 1+2+
- Three Forks
- Windy Gap
Today we manage to ride the way it was supposed to be ridden P1 and it was really flowy and smooth, although tons of leaves in the single tracks made it hard to look out for turns, still the riding was just amazing. One of the things we enjoyed the most, is the fact that you are basically on your own…. notice that during our 6 hours riding we only came across not more than 6 other riders!! We debated on whether or not climbing P3 top at the end of the day, but Alex was kind of tired, and we didn’t want to push it, since on the following day we would be putting in many more miles for the Scavenger Hunt Mulberry Gap had put together for the locals and guests.
Once back at camp, we decided to buy some craft beers at the convenience store and headed to the Hot Tub to relax the muscles…. So worth it!!! again, the cold weather, season, changes in colors of trees and leaves following were make a perfect scenario. We met a chick ***who runs Liv Cycling marketing for the US and ended up talking for around an hour about cycling adventures in the hot tub, but we had to call it to an end to go and have dinner which in this case was pulled pork which was AMAZING!
***Stop — Notice that this is one, if not the one thing I like the most about Mountain Biking or Trail running…. is or are THE PEOPLE…. the people in the ultra/mtb community are just WAYYYY more down to earth, way cooler, way more chilling, less cocky and less show off than the people from Road Cycling and Triathlons… I’m not saying that every now and then you do find a road cyclist/triathlete who is really cool and gnarly and down to earth, but it’s not the common..So for you to get an idea of the prototypes… Basically if you get a flat tire on the road, people will probably just go by and ask if your Ok just for asking, but either way if you say you are ok or you are not ok it will be the same thing, cause they will not stop. In the case of triathletes, they are the most cocky and pretentious individuals you will ever meet… always bragging about their times, races, bicycles and ALWAYS finding an excuse about the races they didn’t do well on (I include myself in that last part about excuses). Instead, we have the Mountain Bikers, which will basically stop, change your tire if they have to, and will even invite you to get a beer on their tab at the end of the ride… So even though I do enjoy the road ride and competitive triathlon race, hands down if I could stick to a sport, it would be MTB or trail running.
Getting back to the story… during dinner we met Anna + Charlie and Dany + his girlfriend from Tampa, where again we chatted for hours about our MTB experiences and races. You can also find 5 clown bicycles which we tried racing on them, but we weren’t hammered enough to make it a real thing… Finished eating and drinking beers with them and decided to head down to our camping site and dedicated around an hour to talking about “sociology of adventure”…. a class Alex had taken during his bachelors which was just super entertaining…. (because of his class I even ended up buying and reading the book “Endurance”, where basically the Jimmy Chin/Conrad/Renan of old days travels with a crew of 60 men to the Adriatic Ocean and are stuck in the sheets of ice for over 2 years).
Day #3: For our last day riding we wanted to cover at least 30 miles… So we decided at the last minute to join the Scavenger Hunt with my friend from high school who was visiting from Atlanta “Carlucci”. It was nice seeing and catching up with him after so much…. We decided to ride with Anna and Charlie, since Charlie already knew the area and the trails, we figured we could use his experience on this trails to collect as many checkpoints as possible in order to win sweet swag and bike accessories from dope cycling brands.
We decided to start by climbing one of the toughest climbs of the area which was P3, which also had one of the most points for a checkpoint and then we planned to get the easiest and most popular ones. Once we started climbing we noticed we had a couple riders in front of us (which probably had the same strategy as we did)… Charlie and I took the lead climbing, but just a few hundred yards before making it to the top my back wheel hub broke….. (Second time… first time was in our Oregon Bikepacking trip). So I knew this was it for my scavenger hunt… we decided (Carlucci, Alex and myself) to head back to camp and call it a day…. On our descend which I was able to spin down with my broken hub… but only until I also had a flat. I decided to definitely give up on my bike and ran down trying to cut distance to cover by just running down the mountain and not running through the trail…. to add more spice to it while on my way down the mountain I came across some plants full of thorns which destroyed my right leg. After all this, I had to walk a mile back to Mulberry where Alex and I had a couple of beers with Carlucci. He then left back to ATL and Alex and I decided to at least pursue one checkpoint to see if we were lucky enough to win one prize. Alex on his bicycle, myself running…. we headed towards P2 with only 2 hours left for the time limit for the lottery…. we pushed as much as we could, and during the climbing sections I could gain some distance on Alex, but when it came time of the single tracks downhill sections there was no way of keeping up with Alex. Finally we met at the bottom of P2 and headed back towards Mulberry for the raffle when suddenly Hanna and Charlie passed us.
Back at Mulberry I entered my only ticket for the raffle in order to win or to play my chances to winning a Singletracks trucker hat, which I eventually won!! Hard work and perseverance pays off!!!!!!!!
Take out: It turns out Hanna had been living in her van for over 8 months by this time, and actually had met Charlie just a couple weeks before riding bikes in Pisgah, NC. They hit it off together since then, and now I believe they are together in Hawaii for the holidays,.... great story, great people! We ended up that night with Mary-J, Charlie and Hanna in their dope van and their dogs, playing the "Questions which could change your life Game". By asking each other deep questions we got to know each other a little better and had some interesting conversations and for the first time in my life I actually felt jealous about something or someone.... this was how truly free Hannah really was. I don't know why I felt like this... but just asking her what her plans where for the near future and listening to her answer "I don't know... maybe Tennessee, Chattanooga to get some more riding or maybe this place..... felt just so free...! Im not saying I think it will be easy to live in your van with your dog for 8 months.... Im just saying to have that feeling of freedom or liberty of doing whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it must feel amazing. Just take a second to realize how attached you are to your job, family, school or social life..... you/we are basically slaves of the way of living now a days society proposes.. and this really sucks! Just imagine a world where you could actually do whatever you feel like doing whenever you feel like doing it.... thats how I felt Hannah was!! Thumbs up to Hannah!