Downhill season over? Is your local bike park either locked up and currently getting ready for some white pow? Well, that's not exactly the case in Western North Carolina. That's right, that's not the business concept for the folks at Bailey Mountain Bike Park. They promise to be open year-round. We spent two weekends in late June as they were just opening the park. Fast forward to today… gone is the summer heat, gone are the green leaves, but what remains are OPEN trails! So there is no need for the dust to build on the DH bike over the next few months, just get to planning that trip to North Carolina with a stop in Mars Hill.
Defining the Word History - What's in Mars Hill? That would be Mars Hill University. The school has been in service for one hundred and fifty-nine years, that's right I said 159 years, well minus two years of closure as a result of the American Civil War...and yes (again), I said Civil War. It was first founded in 1856 under the name of the French Broad Baptist Institute changing names in 1859 to Mars Hill College. Just recently in 2013, "College" was dropped in its name and replaced by "University."
They Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore - The building you see above is Robinson Memorial Infirmary, built in 1935 in memorandum of Dr. Willard Filmore Robinson. The Infirmary is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is one of several of the oldest buildings remaining today on campus. There's just something too damn cool about old construction and vintage architecture.
Some factoids about Mars Hill University: • There are 1400+ students, which is almost equal to the population of 1,700ish people residing year-round in the city of Mars Hill. • It's primarily a Liberal Arts Institution. The most popular majors are in the fields of education, natural sciences, and music; the university is known for its excellent departments in music and other fine arts. • Their mascot is the Lion, Mountain Lion to be exact. • The "Bailey Mountain Cloggers," the university's dance team, have won 21 national championships in clogging. • In May 2011, the cycling team won the USA Cycling Collegiate Division II national championship. In 2012, they finished in second place. In May 2015, the Mars Hill cycling team finished the season ranked in first place nationally among Division II teams.
The Time Capsule - Too cool not to sure... While walking around downtown, just across the University on Main Street, we were approached and asked if we wanted to take a look inside the Mars Hill Radio Theater. It was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend, as it's remained pretty much untouched since the 1950s, complete with a functional late 1930s Peerless High-Intensity Projector and even a roll of 50 cent movie tickets laying around. Very cool preservation of American history.
Peak-a-Boo, I See You - That blur of a peak you see in the background is our destination, that's Bailey Mountain. Off we go, let's get to the good stuff. Be there in just five minutes.
Welcome! - In recent years Western North Carolina, specifically the areas within a fifty-mile radius of the city of Asheville, has increasingly become more and more of a mountain bike destination. Names like Dupont, Pisgah, Bent Creek, Wilson's Creek, Tsali, Black Mountain, Cane Creek, Industry Nine, DeFeet, Ohlins, Christopher Herndon, Neko Mulally (a Brevard transplant), The Shaw Brothers (Luca and Walker), etc., etc., etc., have each contributed in some way to WNC's newly found popularity. But for years (mainly from the locals), there's been that same nagging question, "What about a bike Park?" Your answer, that would be Bailey Mountain Bike Park. Thanks to Guy and Jennifer Miller, and a few other key team players, the locals can shut up and those planning a trip the South East have all the reasoning they need to load up the big bike.
Ya Dig? - Though we were there in late June, digging actually started in April of this year after Guy and Jennifer Miller purchased one side of a mountain just outside of the city limits of Mars Hill, NC. Things actually are moving very fast and follow @BaileyMTBpark on Pinkbike and Trailforks as new trails and on-site services open up.
On the future of Bailey Mountain Bike Park:
Our goal is to have 15-20 trail segments in place by next summer. The process on building trails and improving on what we have will be ongoing. Check in office to break ground in early fall. This facility will be used for check in, rentals, service and more. The lower level will have showers and restrooms. Goal is year 3. Our shuttle service is doing really well and we have room to increase it substantially over the next year or two before we move toward installing a lift. Hope to have at least "camp site" camping ready by fall leaf season. Camping cabins as well, a bit later. All camping and camping cabins should be done and in place before the 1st of the year. Yes we will offer both Ladies ride events, clinics, kid sessions, camps, coaching and a host of gravity, enduro and other special events.- Guy Miller, Owner Bailey Mtn Bike Park
Patrick's Our Man - If he can't do it, no one can. Patrick Tait, over the three weekends we were there, was planted in this very seat each day doing what he does best. Dig boy, Dig!
Wanna Lend a Hand? - Why, yes you can. Though only a few of the many planned trails are open, work continues day in and day out, weekdays and yes, even weekends. If you want to help out and earn "points" in exchange for complementary ride passes, contact Bailey Mountain Bike Park via E-mail. Zach Miller (pictured) does, well what he doesn't do best! (Kidding!)
Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs - Drop, Gap, Jump...YUM, all the things we love to see in the works. As mentioned, we were at the park in late June. No doubt things have progressed and the signs have been hung.
The Coolest Shuttle Vehicle on the Planet - Without Googling it, does anyone know what LMTV stands for? While the park owners work out the plans for and rustle up the cash for a lift (yep, it's in the future plan), they resorted to military surplus to purchase the pictured. You won't find a better shuttle vehicle than your late 1990s M1078 Stewart Stevenson LMTV transport.
PFC Kruse and Sgt Baker - Well, not exactly. Though at some point Private First Class Kruse did chauffeur Sargent Baker around in this beast, they've been replaced by Park Owner Guy Miller (driving) and somewhat local volunteer when he's there, Scott Kane (passenger). Scott spent the day learning the ropes and making sure he had those tight switchbacks up the gravel shuttle road all figured out.
On being "open year-round":
Once all (trail) construction is complete our intention is to be open 6 days a week year-round and we will make any adjustments based on demand during winter. Occasionally weather may prevent the park from operating. This may be due to rain, snow, ice, lightening or other naturally occurring weather systems. It is our intention to ensure that travel to the park and use of the park is safe for not only our guests but also our staff. We will monitor all weather reporting services at our disposal to make an informed decision as early as possible to prevent any travel or use within the park in the event of weather circumstances. We will post information on our website whenever possible in advance of severe weather systems and travel advisories should they be issued by the national Weather Service.- Guy Miller, Owner Bailey Mtn Bike Park
Use the Force Luke - You can go right (Black Diamond) or you can go left (Blue), we'll get to the black stuff later with Graeme Pitts. Michael Kane, GROM Racing, goes left and picks up "Skywalker." a little drop you can ride to the rider's left or if you are wearing your big boy pants, go rider's right and turn that drop into a gapped double, of which Michael pulls off so eloquently.
Those Names Though - We've been told that the trail name generator for Bailey Mountain is the inside of Zach Miller's brain where he's pulling favs from his past and childhood memories. (That's a scary thought). You can see the theme(s) from the image embedded two spots above. Anyone else share similar memories?
Berm-Au-Jus - For those somewhat similar with the east coast, the upper parts of the blue trails on Bailey Mountain are best described when compared to Snowshoe's Missing Link or Powerline. Probably leaning more toward Missing Link, as Powerline somewhat close, but doesn't have the elevation change. Better yet, just come ride it yourself and form your own opinion.
Old School Schultd - Fred Schultd is local-yocal to the area and is one of Asheville's "Old Schoolers". Well known by many, with colorful history associated with various bike shops in Asheville in the 90s and working at Industry Nine for a while. He might be Old School, but that's not keeping him down. As seen by the above pic, he's not showing any signs of slowing down and still shreds.
The Split Personality - Go left - Dr. Jekyll, Go right - Mr. Hyde. Each has equal levels of evil to offer.
We would like to be involved with any East Coast Series that approaches us with an opportunity. In addition, our intention is to produce our own seasonal series as well (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) with a set amount of races in each season. Our goal is to seek sanctioning with the USAC as the race series develops. We don't have any formal sponsors yet although we are in communication with some of the local breweries and manufacturers. We are open to any quality endemic and non-endemic sponsors for races and for the park overall. We encourage any interested company to contact us!- Guy Miller, Owner Bailey Mtn Bike Park
Jumps, Jumps, and More Jumps - Can you see the common thread here? Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde define the flow and keep it coming at you. Loads and loads of fun. Michael Kane of GROM Racing making it look easy.
That Ain't No Dog - As we walked down the trail with Michael Kane, we stumbled on this. Nope, definitely not a dog, it was fresh and was about 7 or 8 inches long.
The Ride-A-Long: Skywalker to Mr. Hyde to Salvador's Revenge Seen the pics, now ride along - Courtesy of Justin Mitchell
The Tacoed Wheel - Typically that's not a phrase a rider likes to hear. Not in this case. After you make a few runs, The Tacoed Wheel has your refueling station covered. All fresh, all the time and most importantly, affordable too!
The Guard Dog - Lilly says, "Don't you be eying my kibbles!"
The Fuel - Michael "Hak" Hakala prepares from The Tacoed Wheel (right) and serves the Mexican themed grub. All fresh and served how you want it.
Two Birds, One Stone - The Tacoed Wheel has two meanings, Fuel and a Fix. Not only can you get great fresh food, but if you have a mechanical, the truck is setup for whatever service you need and packed full of spare parts you might require. Greg Clemmer doing a fresh brake bleed.
Under Invasion - So cool not to share a pic of it again, this time in action with 15 fearless warriors ready to do battle.
The Good Stuff - The first half of the photos were all flow. Now we follow Graeme Pitts the other direction on the mountain. To the black diamond trails we go.
The Short Start - Welcome to the Jungle is short and sweet, only about 500 feet to whet your whistle as you make your way to Jumanji for 670 feet of descent over 2200 feet of trail.
On Other Stuff:
Our goal is to offer clinics, have camps in place by next summer or sooner. We would love to have a resident pro. We are discussing this with few people now. As we are going to be open year-round we also want to be able to accommodate top pros as a training venue in their off-season and will look to work with them during their time with us to host camps, clinics or for mentoring younger riders. Any pro's that wish to consider this...we encourage them to reach out to us.- Guy Miller, Owner Bailey Mtn Bike Park
Jumanji Is No Game - This is where the meat is. Jumanji has a bit of everything for your DH pleasure. Very steep, way off camber, rocks, etc. It was still somewhat under construction at the time we paid our visit, so it makes me wonder what does it have in store for us in the future? Under Construction or not, it did keep Graeme on his toes.
The Ride-A-Long: Welcome to the Jungle to Jumanji to Salvador's Revenge Seen the pics, now ride along - Courtesy of Patrick Alcisto
A Time to Chill - After a full day on the mountain, it's time to chill and enjoy a cold beverage. Dinner would be served at one of Mars Hill's local tasty spoons, Bascom's Bar-B-Que. Named after an actual local folk music legend, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, he made it his life's passion to preserve the Appalachian music of his era. They don't have a website, but you can find them on Facebook, along with their lineup of local musicians.
Good Friends, Good Fun - I don't have to explain to anyone how the Mountain Bike community is when it comes to the best of times with good friends. Some of us met Graeme Pitts for the first time this weekend, but no doubt those we all walk away with friends for life.
We Are The Millers - Zach Miller (left) and Guy Miller (Dad/right). Props to those whom stepped up and made dreams become a reality (with a bike park in the Asheville area).
The Verdict - Not being biased, but the FOOD WAS DAMN GOOD. Meat lovers, sure thing they have you covered. Veggie lovers (myself included), yep, they've got you covered as well. Not to mention their unique specialty sides were much tastier than your run of the mill usual fries and slaw. Watermelon salad, roasted corn on the cob, zucchini salad, etc. was on the side item menu. Mmm, Mmm Good!
Thanks to Graeme Pitts and Michael Kane / GROM Racing each for the opportunity and suffering through the countless "Push Up and Do It Again Please!" Thanks also to Guy and Jennifer Miller (those in charge) for the park access and hospitality.
Ready to Plan Your Trip? Well, Here's the Skinny on the Need to Knows:
Location and Contact Information: 1370 Bone Camp Rd, Marshall, NC 28753 - Map It GPS: 35.845168, -82.584944 Contact Bailey Mountain Bike Park via E-mail Or Call: 855-RIDE WNC or 855-743-3962
Bailey Mountain is located just five minutes west of the small town of Mars Hill, of which is thirty minutes north of Asheville, NC. The location is noted with the gray colored pin.
Where Do I Sign Up? Until the park has its "Grand Opening", the staff is asking that you please pre-register online for weekend riding. Purchase Ticket/Register HERE
Hours (as of Mid-August 2015): Saturday's 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sundays 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Where to Crash: • Comfort Inn Mars Hill - 5 miles away • There are numerous places in the general Asheville area - 25 miles away. A simple search will produce all the options you'll need for a shower and some shuteye.
Refueling: • Bascom’s Bar B Que - D-town Mars Hill • Little Creek Cafe - D-town Mars Hill • The Original Papa Nicks Pizza - D-town Mars Hill • Stackhouse - D-town Mars Hill • Bee’s Knees - D-town Mars Hill • The Wagon Wheel - D-town Mars Hill • Osaka - D-town Mars Hill • Hardee's - I-26 / Highway 213 • Subway - I-26 / Highway 213 • Waffle House - I-26 / Highway 213 • Ingles (Groceries) - I-26 / Highway 213
Other Stuff to Do: Lest ye not forget, there is TONS of other epic riding to be had within a one hour drive of Bailey Mountain. Load up that little bike and spend a couple of more days in the area. If you know or can befriend a local, there are lots of other secrets that will wet your whistle as well. • Bent Creek Trail System • Pisgah National Forest • Dupont State Forest