Saturday, April 3, 2010

March 20 Royal Blue Dirt Bike Ride

It had been so long since I had ridden at Royal Blue (now know as The North Cumberland WMA, Royal Blue Unit) that I couldn’t remember exactly who it was with or when. On this ride one of my long time riding buddies who had been riding up here recently lead the way. There were three of us taking advantage of the first 70 degree day of the year, and what we did was run a big 55 mile loop, exploring trails we hadn’t been on in a while, and generally getting reacquainted with the place.

If you go to Royal Blue (I refuse to call it North Cumberland, it will always be Royal Blue to me) be sure to get your OHV permit/ or hunting and fishing license with a WMA small game permit, because you can be ticketed. If you’ve never had the pleasure of a TWRA ticket, trust me, you’re much better off buying the permit.

Here is the quick and dirty run down on the trails. The closer you are to the parking area, the more use the trails get (brilliant huh?). What you will find is either hard packed, fast trails, or really slippery muddy trails if they are close to any creeks. Big ATV’s and Side by Sides tend to “rut-up” the trails when the ground is soft, and TWRA has to fix this by running a small bulldozer over them. So what was a muddy trail last month, could be table top smooth now.

I was quite puzzled by the thought process that TWRA had used when building a few of the trails. For example there is one brand new trail, near the old La Follette reservoir, that turns and goes straight up the mountain. Let me clarify, its straight up with a few harsh switchbacks. I suspect they started the trail from the other end of the ridge, and when they got to the edge they just dropped off. This was a hard climb in perfect conditions as it is. After a few months of spring rains, and the resulting erosion, this trail will be an absolute bear to get up, or down. Overall they do a good job keeping the trails up, which can't be an easy thing to do, and thanks to them for doing it.

Only when you get further away from the parking areas do you find the better trails. The only catch is many of these are not on the most recent map you can buy. (Maybe that’s why they are the better trails.) Logging operations have also created some new trails/roads. To make it even more interesting, trail markers are hit or miss. Sometimes trails are marked, sometimes they aren’t. Thanks to the GPS we had we always sort of knew where we were, but maybe not which trail we were on. But honestly, that was part of the fun.

Depending on the trails you choose, creek crossings can come into play, and if has been raining, they can get interesting. (You’ll find out real quick how bad your boots leak!) What’s unique about Royal Blue is that you can be on a powder keg dry trail one minute, and a sloppy muddy trail the next. In 55 miles we saw it all.

If you live for single-track trails, you won’t find them here. But if you want to just get out and ride some distance and explore around it’s a great place to go. This is one of the few areas left where you can ride over 100 mile in day and never hit the same trail twice, and we are blessed to have it in our backyard.

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