Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fat Tire Freak Out

        Our son and his girlfriend are the most active people I know. When they surf mountain-sized waves or catapult through the air behind weight boards, I settle for living vicariously but recently they introduced me to one of the Lowcountry’s best new adrenaline pumping adventures, the new bike trail near Wannamaker Park in Goose Creek.  Opened in May 2012, the trail is one the area’s best destination for off-road bicycling. 
            It’s a little hard to find since it is not in Wannamaker Park at all but a mile away off of Westview Blvd. on the Berkeley County line. Once you find the trail though it is pretty well marked.   Brad Phillips who designed and helped build the trail described it as being suitable for beginners but built for experienced riders.  It seems to me that the beginners would have to be reckless ten year olds (with lots of parent-supplied safety equipment) or cautious adults.  It’s really a trail for seasoned riders who relish squeezing between trees and bucking along the bumpy contours.

       On my first visit it took awhile to relax and gain momentum.  You need to move fast enough to ride over the many berms and avoid the tree limbs on the narrow trail.  Branches seemed to be reaching out to snag my handlebars.  But once I overcame my trepidation and started going a little faster, I developed a rhythm.  I kept visualizing playing Bach on the piano as I rode, trying to keep a steady pace, concentrating every second and using my best coordination.  Riding over the inclines, it’s important to have your feet parallel to the ground at the crest of the little hills so the pedals don’t catch the ground and topple the bike.  Being the Lowcountry, the trail is otherwise flat but winds in loopy curves.  There are still a lot of roots to transverse since this is a new trail and I was glad to have my trusty Schwinn with shock absorbers.  Along the eight miles there are frequent opportunities to exit early and then there is “The Ridge”. 

            Na├»ve and unaware since this was my first trip there, I gamely rode up the embankment to check it out but soon realized it was beyond me.  Riders have said it’s like “riding on a dragon’s back” with a series of extreme rises and potholes.  Its trickiest feature is nicknamed “The Toilet Bowl” for its steep sudden inclines and descents that require riding fast to overcome.  The half-mile “Ridge” is the result of dirt left behind during the excavation of the canal that sits beside it.  Ready for me to fall into, I imagined.  Reluctantly, I walked my bike along.  Of course, my son and his girlfriend thought the ridge was the best part! 

            On my second visit Wayne Miller was finishing his ride as I arrived.  “It’s awfully muddy in there today,” he warned.  “Lots of deer though.” Wayne prefers biking in Marrington Plantation where you can build up quite a lot of speed and not be as vigilant about obstacles.  I encountered the mud right away. Big swampy potholes pock marked the trail and sucked on my shoes as I walked my bike past each one.  Flooded expanses covered acres of the forest but the trail was mostly passable.  I tried to capture the elusive “flow” that experienced riders talk about this trail possessing: a rhythmical pace as each move leads to the next over the rises and dips.  But I was distracted by the purple wisteria blossoms that had floated down to dot the trail, their sinuous vines that snaked towards the blue sky and the springtime bird calls in the otherwise silent forest.

            Before it gets too hot and buggy, go check out this new close-by thrill ride.  Or put this article in your “Future Adventures File”.  You have a “Future Adventures File” don’t you? We have all got to give huge credit to the volunteers from Low Country Fat Tire Freaks who spent thousands of hours working in cooperation with Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission to build this trail from scratch and create the berms and twists that make the ride exciting.  They’ve created quite a joyride for us. 


If You Go:

Directions and a short video:  be aware that the directions include a turn at St. James Ave. where the sign says Hwy 176 instead.