Here's a photo showing where the trail dumps out through a wash. There were several of these sections.
Here's a shot showing the entrance to the loop that I did. It's a jeep trail strewn with fist sized rocks and in places the rock was piled deeply. This made the bike skittish as the rocks shifted and slid around as I rolled over them.
Okay, I've got more, but Blogger is working goofy today, showing my uploads in html instead of the actual images, so I'll post some more pics another time. Suffice it to say that the majority of the trail was like the pictures shown with healthy doses of technical ravine crossings, switchbacks with crazy exposures, and lots of climbing. Of course, I see on the trail map only now that the section I rode was the most technical of the whole system! Doh! I guess I dove in head first.
The bike I used was the Dos Niner and I was sure glad I took that one out there! The added cush in the rear was obviously nice on the rocks, but I also feel that it gained me more traction on the sketchy climbs by keeping the tire in contact with the ground better and keeping the nose of the saddle from getting rammed into my nether regions as I was hovering just above the nose of the saddle, grinding out the steep climbs.
Speaking of traction, the Michelin AT XC tires were grabbing every bit of it. I thought for sure I was going to tear off some knobs, since the tire would slip a bit sometimes, and then grab ahold of the rock. Afterwards, I noticed only one knob that was cracked at it's base. Pretty good durability, I'd say! The one problem was that this tire wasn't wide enough to really help me perform in a more controlled way. I think a Nevegal, or a Rampage would have made for a better experience on this trail. I wish Michelin would consider doing the AT XC 29"er in a 2.3- 2.5" width, like they do in the 26"er line. It would be a fantastic tire in that rocky, loose terrain at Franklin Mountain State Park.
Well, all in all it was a great experience. Even though I hit the worst, most difficult trail section, I learned a lot, and got a great effort in. Plus, I was once again riding a mountain bike on a real mountain. Not that riding other places is bad, or anything. It's just that when you actually are on a mountain with your bike, it seems....."more right", I guess. It's how it was meant to be, in a way. Hmmm......I sure hope I don't offend someone's take on off roading here, that's not my intention. I guess it's just how I see the sport.
It's as if you were running around calling yourself a "mountain climber" while you were working the climbing wall in the gym. As opposed to being out on a "real" mountain doing the same thing. Okay, maybe I'm weird this way, but riding out on a mountain is a validation of what I do. I feel like I can say, "I mountain bike" with some legitimacy, that's all. Your mileage may vary. That's okay with me.