East Bound and Down: Boone, North Carolina

Nov 30, 2017
by Brice Shirbach  



Views: 8,431    Faves: 13    Comments: 2


Pisgah National Forest is a massive swath of land, contained entirely within the state of North Carolina. It is comprised of over 500,000 acres of mountainous terrain, with a higher concentration of mile-high peaks than anywhere else east of the Rockies. The forest certainly covers a large territory, and within its boundaries, you'll find nearly 50,000 acres of old growth forest, who knows how many waterfalls, peace, quiet, and of course, thousands of miles of mind-blowing trails. None of this is news of course, as this place has been explored numerous times, and the adventures that come from within forest boundaries have been shared around the world via a host of various media formats. One of the very first East Bound and Down stories came from the southern edge of this forest in Brevard.

Now I'd like to take you on a trip to the opposite end of these enchanted woods. Just beyond the northern edge of the forest lies Boone, North Carolina. Boone is a small town with a mid-sized university, Appalachian State. The community of 18,000 serves as the seat for Watauga County, and is the economic centerpiece for North Carolina's "high country", which is the region furthest north and west in the state, and features some of its highest peaks. The college provides Boone with much of its cultural energy, and throughout the town you'll find several craft coffee roasters, breweries, a surprisingly diverse array of dining options, and plenty of foot and bicycle traffic throughout.

The town is cradled beautifully by the mountains, with Boone resting 3,300 feet above sea level, and a few of the surrounding peaks and ridgelines reaching upwards of 6,000 feet or more. Two of North Carolina's more well-known ski resorts are just west of town, with Beech offering up lift-served mountain biking as well. Along the eastern edge of the city limits you'll find Rocky Knob Park, and to the north is Howard's Knob Park, a municipal park perched about 1,000 feet above downtown. South of Boone is the gateway to Pisgah. Outside of US Route 421 from the east, there are no real prolonged highways that provide travelers with rapid access to the area, and as a result, this part of Pisgah is about as wild and dense as it gets. It's a stunner to be sure, and has long lived in the shadows of its more well known PNF brethren such as Brevard and Asheville, but after a week in town, it supplanted all other corners of North Carolina, for me personally, as the preeminent place for riding bikes in the woods.

While this "version" of Pisgah may very well be my favorite, I suppose I should point something out before we get into this. Yes, Pisgah is a very, very big part of Boone's charm, but the reality of this place is that you don't need to step foot into the national forest to find some genuinely amazing trails you can spend days on. In fact, you don't even need to leave town for that.

East Bound amp Down Boone North Carolina
Boone is about as perfectly nestled into the ancient Appalachian landscape as you can get.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
A relatively small, mountain community in western North Carolina, Boone still surprises with a vibrance fed by the university in town.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
If you drive into town from the east, one of the first roads you'll pass is Mountain Bike Way. No, really.

I had been on the road for about 8 hours when a text came in and suggested I meet a group of riders at the Rocky Knob parking lot. Rocky Knob is Boone's bike park, sitting a mile and a half east of downtown off of highway 421. The summit elevation tops out at 4,000 feet, and the trails drop 800 feet down to the parking lot, across from which you'll find what might be one of the most scenic pump tracks anywhere in North America. There are 9+ miles of trail spread across 185 acres of mountainside property, along with 4 skills areas, the aforementioned pumptrack, a picnic pavilion, and a playground. Oh, and there are more trails coming. Lots more.

As I pulled into the lot off of Mountain Bike Way, I was greeted with the smiling and eager faces of many riders, among them my point person during the months leading up to this trip, Kristian Jackson. Any weariness from the long haul evaporated as I fell into line during our first climb up, and subsequent trip down the mountain. During my week in town, I would not only learn just how apropos the name Rocky Knob is for this place, but would grow quite fond of the trails that weave their way down the western aspect of the hillside, and would also develop a strong appreciation for what this park means to the community, and just how much work went into its development. Boone's is a story about a town's reliance on its natural resources; once in the form of extrication and currently in the form of exploration, and Rocky Knob is a shining example of exactly that.

"I was hired in 2009 to serve as the outdoor recreation planner for the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority." Eric Woolridge says during an amazing breakfast at Melanie's in downtown. "The TDA is funded through the occupancy tax, the 'bed tax', and their funding can only be spent, from a legislative standpoint, in two ways. Two-thirds of their dollars go towards marketing and administrating tourism promotion of the region. The other third of those dollars can be spent on capital-related tourist infrastructure projects. They hired me to come in and manage that third of their budget, which represents between $300,000 and $400,000 that can be spent on tourism-related capital infrastructure projects per year."

Eric was hired to serve as a planner responsible for the development of tourism-based projects, and also as someone charged with the management of the TDA budget, and to pursue grant money in order to multiply those resources. The board of directors wanted to make the Boone area consistently recognized as one of the top ten outdoor recreation destinations in America, which meant that they had to leverage every single bit of resource available. Eric began meeting with people in his community, and eventually put together the "Boone Area Outdoor Recreation Plan." Through his research and the development of the recreation plan, it became clear to those involved that mountain biking was the big gap in Boone's resources.

They had an established network of equestrian trails, great hiking trails, river access, world-class climbing, and great fishing. Boone's roads are well maintained, and there has been a long-established community of road cyclists, but mountain biking was virtually non-existent in and around town. While Boone was certainly keen to continue the growth of the various outdoor recreational opportunities that they have long held near and dear, mountain biking was very clearly the priority for the area moving forward.

"I started scanning land and opportunities to put together a mountain biking project of some sort," Eric continued. "and discovered that the county owned over 140 acres adjacent to the county landfill, which is no longer in operation. It's actually a transfer station now. They put a cap on that landfill and this whole mountain that's next to it that the county had purchased before it was shut down, in order to push that whole mountain over on top of the trash, and eventually flatten that mountain. That mountain, Rocky Knob, has direct access on Highway 421, which is a scenic by-way, that comes into the town of Boone.

"The county had started to look at that property for economic development purposes but realized that the grading cost associated with that was going to be astronomical, just because of the geography and all of the rock that's there. At the same time, there was a major landowner that passed away in the county. The landowner held properties all over the area, and one of the tracks was a 45-acre property that was the access between Highway 421 and the 140-acre landfill. That is where you now see the entrance to Rocky Knob. That's part of that lower 40 acres. That property came up for sale, and we started formulating this idea. We went to the county commission and said, 'You guys can't utilize this for traditional economic development purposes. How about us pursuing a mountain bike park, here in this particular area?' The TDA had bankrolled funds and probably had over a million dollars. When I came into the TDA, they already had bankrolled all this money, saving funds. I had a pretty nice budget when I got there to get something going. The county agreed for us to pursue that project."

Eric's work proved to be a bit of economic-political-wizardry, as he was essentially implementing the plan while still raising funds for it. Had they waited for the recreation plan to be fully completed before pursuing Rocky Knob, the bike park would never have happened in all likelihood. Eric admits to feeling repercussions from the effort even today, as some in the area are under the misguided impression that their tax dollars funded the project, when in reality it was purely grant money, or occupancy taxes, which can only be spent on tourism-related capital infrastructure projects. In spite of the apprehensions of a select few, Rocky Knob Bike Park is a bonafide masterpiece. Scores of volunteers, led by Kristian Jackson, along with 3 different professional trail building outfits including local legend "Moto" Mike Thomas' company Terra Tek Trails, have all worked together to develop the previously "unusable" landfill tract into a beautifully functional playground for families and their bikes.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Short of a helicopter or drone, this is probably the only way to get a bird's eye view of "Black Forest", a stunning and accurately rated black diamond trail from top to bottom.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
The collective that was on hand to welcome me to Boone on my first day in town.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Welcome to one of the most scenic pump tracks you'll find anywhere.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Kristian Jackson soaking up every second of daylight available on the pumptrack.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
If you don't empty the tank riding the trails at Rocky Knob, a few laps around this will do the trick.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Without a strong sense of volunteerism, places like Rocky Knob Bike Park wouldn't be possible.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
"Moto" Mike Thomas works hard to deliver some of the best trails in the country, and certainly can't be blamed for ensuring a bit of quality control from time to time.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Mike leads Kristian and I through a switchback towards the midsection of the brand new "Black Forest" trail.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
The "Black Forest" trail utilizes virtually every conceivable form of trail design for advanced riders; including rhythm sections, slow and chunky tech, and steep lines down rock faces.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
"PB&J" has offered riders the opportunity to hit some small to medium jumps between deeply pocketed berms for a few years now, and there are plans to ramp up the size of these jumps while building a new beginner flow trail elsewhere.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Caroline and Will met at a dual slalom race while attending Appalachian State in 2009, and recently celebrated 2 years of marriage!

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Rocky Knob is just a piece of the pie in Boone.

Boone's draw extends well beyond Rocky Knob. Beech Mountain, 20 minutes west of Boone, is the 10th highest incorporated town in the United States, and the highest of any east of the Rocky Mountains. The town's namesake mountain resort is home to a lift-served bike park, which has played host to several Pro GRT's in recent years and also holds an all-season trail network adjacent to the bike park called the Emerald Outback, which allows for access to brilliant, mile-high backcountry in and around Beech.

In addition to the bike park and its adjacent backcountry access, Pisgah's northernmost reaches lie along the southern border of town as well, and while the esteemed National Forest has received plenty of attention in years past, much of this section has gone unheralded due in large part to the legality of many of its trails. But anytime Wilson Creek is mentioned among Pisgah residents and riders in the well-known regions to the south of Boone, a reverential hush ensues, and a whispered praise that seems to toe the line of folklore follows. When riders from places as amazing as Brevard or Asheville have to mute their excitement over a place, you take notice, and I was certainly eager to see for myself what this fervent hush was all about.

I took my first trip into Wilson Creek riding shotgun in Mike Thomas' Honda Element, and listened intently as he explained the grey areas that have developed with some of the favorite trails among locals, which to be fair, is not anomalous to Boone and Wilson Creek. He also described the pocket of warm air that rests in the bowl of the Blue Ridge Mountains that make up the Grandfather District in these here parts. That warm airmass allows for incredible riding year-round, with many of the higher elevation trails experiencing freeze-thaw cycles, or regular snow during the winter months. I discovered for myself that, in addition to what appears to be a world-class winter riding zone, that Wilson Creek might be the best bit of Pisgah riding I've ever experienced. There's just so much brilliant terrain here, and the rallying cry from the local riding contingent seems to signal that it's poised to get even better.

Alongside Eric Woolridge and Kristian Jackson, Paul Stahlschmidt was an integral force in both the formation of the Boone Area Cyclists, and of Rocky Knob Bike Park. Paul is an adjunct instructor and an advisor at App State, and is currently the Vice President of SORBA's executive board of directors, with fellow EB&D alumn Brian Hall as the acting President. Paul and I were enjoying some of North Carolina's best BBQ at Ethan Anderson's Pedalin' Pig along with a large contingent of local riders, when he provided me with a history of the Wilson Creek Pisgah experience, and also shared some really exciting developments for the very near future.

"Boone has Rocky Knob, which is off the hook," Paul says excitedly between sips and bites. "Down the road we had Wilkesboro, with close to 50 miles of trail around there. We had a lot of riding locally, it's just that specifically in the Wilson Creek region, we were really lacking, and it wasn't for lack of opportunity. Pisgah has had a National Forest plan developing for some time, and we needed to be a strong voice and get involved with that right away."

"Knowing what we've got here, we have to do some planning. We'd love to keep everything as old school as the way it's always been, but it's inevitable that people are going to be riding in this district of Pisgah, so we want to take all the bike legal trails that we've got and make sure that they've got a voice. We want to sure the forest service knows that we are going to take care of this forest. And if there's something that needs to be repaired or addressed... that they wanna reroute or that they wanna close down, or whatever, then we can step in and say, 'No, we can probably come to a better solution together than just closing down a trail because it's got a ditch, or because it's putting sediment in the creek.' We know that we can come up with something together, and not kill these trails."

Oftentimes, working on solutions in Pisgah means going through the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA process, which means that in order to reroute a trail, an environmental assessment must first be completed. Fortunately for Wilson Creek riders, there are a host of professional trail builders in their ranks, and consequently are able to work through NEPA in ways many other communities simply can't. They're able to give the proverbial "thumbs up" to initiate the planning process, even if it involves an environmental assessment, in order to "get it on the calendar, 'cause we've got plenty of places we can work until that goes through."

With Paul's leadership, the National Forest Service applied for and were rewarded a $100,000 RTP (Recreational Trails Program) Grant, in cooperation with SORBA, meaning the Forest Service are the fiscal agents and hold a lot of clout with various funding agencies, while the mountain bikers get to steer the ship.

"That's huge with the land managers," Paul continues. "When they see that we want to work with the equestrians, and we want to work with the old hikers, but we have the trail building experience. That's the thing that they have started to see is that mountain bikers are the most passionate (user group), they have the most experienced volunteers, and they have professional trail builders that are in their ranks. So, they trust us when we say, 'Look, that needs to change," or 'This is the vision we have for a trail concept.' There are a lot of gray trails that could potentially be legal if we could go in and actually do some work on them, and make 'em cool. Because if they're not in a wilderness area or anything like that, you can actually conduct the NEPA process on it, get it through the system, and they can maybe say, 'Yeah, you guys can take some ownership of that trail. Tell us what you're going to do and what your concept ultimately is. We trust you because you guys know what you're doing.'

"Just like Rocky Knob, it can't be done without local leadership, and it can't be done without some kind of strong organization to help give you some clout. And that's kind of what we were talking about earlier when you were talking about the stuff you've got going on where you live. What I have really learned is that you can't do it without locals who are motivated, and who really want to make shit happen."

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Beech Mountain is the highest incorporated town east of the Rocky Mountains at 5,506 feet above sea level and plays an important role for mountain bikers in the region.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
These are some of the largest mountains you'll find on the east coast, and offer up many days of backcountry and purpose-built opportunities aboard the bike.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
The Pisgah surrounding Boone has all of the classic PNF fun you could hope for without the pomp and circumstance. The unassuming nature of the mountain bike community here is a big part of the allure.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Precipitous is one of many adjectives for this place.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Dive deep into the trenches or a pile of leaves.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
A ride in this part of Pisgah requires a stop at Bruce Gray's Grocery and Provisions store.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Riding in Pisgah can often mean shouldering the bike to stay on the trail.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC

Bingo. As brilliant as this place is when the rubber meets the dirt, it's the drive and attitude of this community that I find to be the most impressive part of the Boone equation. One of the not-so-uncommon behavioral archetypes that seems to come from mountain bike destinations is this sense of local frustration with visitors to their trails. It's an understandable pattern, to be sure, but one that's easy to grow weary of after enough time, as it's a bit presumptuous and seems to speak to an often overblown sense of self-importance. Boone is of such a quality that it could have easily fallen victim to some of those same trappings, but they present themselves in just the opposite manner, and that's due in no small part to the example set forth by Kristian Jackson.

Kristian is the connective tissue, so to speak, of the Boone mountain bike community. No matter who it is I'm speaking with, Kristian's name comes up in some form or fashion during the conversation, and while he is more than hesitant to take any credit for what they have in the area, the truth is that without him, the passionate and active volunteer base so heavily leaned on wouldn't be possible.

Born in Illinois, Kristian and his family moved to Raleigh when he was 16. While he admits that it was a challenging transition for him at the time, getting a mountain bike and going under the wings of some riders in the area was really helpful. He would eventually find his way to the mountains, and decided that he would make it a point to never leave them, which led to his eventual move to Brevard in order to work at the Outward Bound school in 2000. By 2005, Kristian and his wife had built a house in Boone, and began building their family.

Kristian's modesty is very clear when I asked him about his role in Boone. For someone, who by all other accounts, has been a pivotal figure for the mountain bike scene in North Carolina's high country, he doesn't seem to want to acknowledge his own impact on the riding here.

"How would you describe your role here?" I asked him.

"Wow," he told me at first. "I never really thought about that. I guess with Rocky Knob it's been trying to motivate people to want to get involved in trails, to want to care about trails. I try to build and grow the community to be more than any one of us think it probably can be. I don't really see myself having a role in it, just trying to do my part."

"Okay, so what is your 'part'?"

"When the Rocky Knob started, I saw an opportunity to bring some of my knowledge to the trail building, and community engagement together and help out a bit. I certainly didn't ask to be trail boss, but I was kinda nominated to lead the charge by the Boone Area Cyclists, which was an honor for me. To be given business cards that say, 'Trail Boss' was kind of wild. To have the community trust me with leading the charge was a real privilege, and so I needed to bring it. We have an amazing community, and my role just needed to be to help everybody find their voice in mountain biking within the community."

Having lived in both Brevard and in Boone, I was curious to hear his thoughts on some of the key differences between the two parts of Western North Carolina, and also how they might compliment one another.

"Both Boone and Brevard have been magnates for outdoor recreation for generations," Kristian tells me. "Both communities are working to position themselves as travel-worthy destinations. A new report out by the Outdoor Alliance cites a $115 million annual economic impact to western NC due to climbing, paddling, and mountain biking. Brevard is the known hot-spot and one of the ways it is different from Boone is that it is beginning to attract young professionals to live there. This is an important sign for robust economies. We have more of a brain-drain in Boone. It's hard for young couples to move here unless they're connected to App State.

"I think the real question is how can both communities help each other ensure high quality, sustainable riding? We need to look to clubs like Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition as examples. Their club is actually building trails in the GWNF. We're beginning to see this Pisgah Area Sorba and the Alliance. But much more work needs to be done, and more people need to get involved. It's no fun going to county commissioner meetings and USFS Forest Management Plan meetings but we simply can't wait for someone to give us trails, and we shouldn't be satisfied living off of the scraps that fall off the meeting room table."

There's no chest thumping with Kristian, or any of the others here, and to say that I found this attitude refreshing would be a gross understatement. These guys have a lot on their plate when it comes to the work ahead of them in both Pisgah, and on Rocky Knob, but that doesn't stop anyone from taking a moment to sing some praises of their neighbors to the north in Virginia, or to the south in the more well-known sections of Western North Carolina. Peace of mind can do a lot for a community, and with people like Kristian Jackson helping lead by example, it's a mindset that we could all stand to adopt for ourselves.

"A trail is symbolically where humans and the environment connect," he tells me as we finish our beers during my last night in town. "And you're connecting through recreation. That's a direct and tangible connection with nature. Now add a mountain bike to that, ride up or down the mountain, and you are directly interacting with every force of nature, right? Or a lot of force of nature. That's a really cool thing to me. The riding experience, and being in the zone on the bike is a very real connection. At the same time, as a trail builder, if you understand that connection, then you understand how to create rhythm and flow, it transforms that experience into an art of self-expression.

“A well-built jump, and a well-trained rider, they're gonna express themselves in a way that's totally their own, right? The trail builders are expressing themselves. The volunteers are expressing themselves. To me, that's what causes people to wanna get involved. Everyone realizes that what they say, and what they do matters on the trail. Whether you're responsible for 100 feet of trail, or 10 feet of trail, if you put everything you had into it, you can walk away feeling great. It's 10 feet? Whatever. This is gonna be here for a very long time. People are going ride it and enjoy it for years to come. That's been my journey."

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
East Bound amp Down Boone NC
At the end of the day, it's just bikes, and bikes should always leave you smiling.

East Bound amp Down Boone NC

East Bound amp Down Boone NC
Pisgah National Forest is huge, and home to many amazing mountain bike communities, and Boone might just be the best of it all.

99 Comments

  • + 24
 Boone is a bike trail sharing community-
Back in the day you could bomb the backside of Howard's Knob, hit up globe/china creek, yanceys ridge etc and we even had a series of trails up behind the old broyhill inn. And whenever you found someone else on the trail. You stopped. Talked and made a friend. And now at rocky Knob. It's still the same. There is a humble, kind vibe that has been the sweet spirit of Boone that lingers there still.
  • + 14
 I know rating systems will vary between areas, but double black, really? I think its really important we adhere to existing standards the best we can. When people visit other areas and think they can ride double blacks they are going to be in for a rude awakening.

Nice trail though looks like fun, stoked to see people incorporating technical features in a trail. Too many boring flat machine cut nonsense out there.
  • + 1
 @whatyousaid: I haven't ridden the new trail at RK since I haven't been there since daylight saving time started, but it wasn't open as of November. from what you can see of the new trail in comparison to the others at the park it's definitely a double black, but yes, not a double black like the Retallack trails...
  • + 13
 @whatyousaid: I think the those ratings are based on regional standards. A trail gets a rating of Blue, Black, Green or whatever based on how it compares to other trails in the area. At least that's my understanding. Thats why Double Blacks here in NC (whether on ski slopes or trails) would be Blue or even Green trails out West or Canada.

Either way no matter where you hail from you are going to have a good time here in WNC. Just make sure to spend all your money at local bike shops, breweries, and locally owned businesses... Thanks!
  • + 12
 @whatyousaid: double black is pretty accurate for much of the Wilsons Creek area. Very old technical steep trails eroded over a century with no maintenance. Physically very demanding to get to. And there’s a high probability of getting lost in a very remote area. It’s good to let people know what they are in for, but it’s even better to just advise them they wouldn’t like it.
  • + 20
 This isn't a slam against you guys or your trail, but there is a deeper underlying issue here and its kinda a pet peeve of mine... and thats trail grade inflation. I think its detrimental to the growth of mountain biking.

What bothers me is that the advanced riders are always the ones going to get the shaft when the grades of trails are inflated. yeah its all great for beginner riders and their egos.... but when advanced riders show up and see theres a double black its a bummer when its more like a blue.

Ive been to areas where theres a jump trail rated black because its the only jump trail, and it sucks...I dont care if theres only one jump trail with 5ft tables - that doesn't make it a black....frickin rate it green and next year build a 15 ft table and rate it blue, then the following year build a 30ft table and rate it black, then build a pro line w 50-60ft tables etc...

You are only selling yourselves short in terms of building better trails and becoming better riders. If people traveled more and rode real green, blue, black, double black, pro line trails .....every trail network across the US would be WAAAAAYYYYY Better !!!

Why do trails always need to be dumbed down relative to what already exists?

This isnt just aimed at you guys, I think trail builders across the board can do a better job of getting the ratings right and when you do that it'll produce better and more interesting trails for all levels of riders.
  • + 9
 @bradwalton: I would hate to see Wilson's made too user friendly. There's something special about exploring unsigned trials. I think I first met you Brad when you worked at Magic and I came in talking about pushing up Beacon because I didn't know where the hell I was going, and next to nothing was signed back then. Pedaling, pushing, sliding down silly steeps riddled with wet off camber roots, and getting lost will always be Wilson's to me. Too bad so many rely on trail apps rather than just getting after it with the willingness to spend the night in the woods if the shi! hits the fan.

Advising people they might not like Wilson's is good advice. I remember riders from charlotte, and even the Southern Pisgah say Wilson's trails weren't even bike trails. Tech isn't for everyone, and that's a good thing.
  • - 2
 @whatyousaid: We should just stop using trail ratings then. Put up signs that say "Ride at your own risk" and let it go. That's what I would do. Hell. I've had people tell me the green trail I built should be rated as a blue. We should have internationally certified trail inspectors rate them for us...
  • + 3
 the only place this has hit me by surprise so far in my travels, was visiting Sun Peaks in BC. i figured i'd ease into the day on a blue, and it caught me off guard foreal. not to mention it was muddy as shit, i was like wtf is wrong with me and why is this trail so nuts? locals i met though confirmed to me that everything at Sun Peaks is pretty much labelled a level easier than it would be at most other places. So a black somewhere else would be a blue there, and so on. I'd say more or less than a black over here on the east coast has been comparable to a black in Laguna Beach or Utah or Silver Star, BC or riding in like Revelstoke/Nelson (with the exception of theirs having a bunch more large features than people build over here)... but Sun peaks was like, holy shit haha. and then teenagers doing backflips on downhill bikes in front of me didn't help either.
  • + 8
 @whatyousaid: if you think building trails will make riders better, you should try riding trails that are not built. Your riding area is a park compared to the rugged wild of Wilson’s Creek. Stick with what you think is ‘advanced’.
  • + 1
 @whatyousaid:

I would say most of the pisgah trails are rated correctly. I agree with some of the stuff in rocky knob and beech being a little higher then it should.
  • + 7
 @bradwalton: Totally agree... Wilson trails are old, remote, and very technical. I would say the average rider would not enjoy riding there. 20 mile days with up to 5000' of climbing is normal and the trails are anything but flow. I've taken riders from other parts of the East Coast there and they are never going back haha... its just raw.

But if thats what you're into great... Just be prepared to get lost, run out of water, get stung by bees, wade numerous creeks, and possibly have to spend the night in the forest.
  • + 1
 @whatyousaid: You nailed it!! My local trail organization classifies our trails in relation to this area. So they are WAY overrated and almost comical when people show up from other areas. (live in Winter Park CO area)
  • + 2
 @Pisgah85: I agree, most ratings are inherently regional. That's just the way it goes, because most weekend warriors researching a trail system aren't wondering "how does this compare to Whistler?" They're wondering "can I handle this on my hardtail with my intermediate skills?"

At a high level, though, the relevant regions are basically "BC or not-BC." Even in the Western US, most blues and blacks are pretty tame. So most riders should just understand that if they go to Canada (and maybe a few other places) they'll need to make an appropriate mental adjustment and start with greens or blues.
  • + 2
 @bradwalton: Yes I think building "technical" and "advanced" trails can improve riders skills....and yes "not built" adventure riding can too.
  • + 2
 This! All my family still lives in Boone and lives along the greenway they donated years ago. What a giving, friendly group of people in Boone!
  • + 3
 @Pisgah85: Can confirm. Rode Wilson's last year, with help from a local. The guy I rode with would probably never go back, but I had a blast. That area is gnarly, burly and whatever other adjectives you want to toss at it. It was a moody overcast day, but it felt totally different than down near Brevard. Like, if we fell off one of the cliffs not only would no one find you, but I doubt they'd even try searching.
  • + 4
 Frontside knob was the best along with the Winklers creek trails. So many good times
  • + 1
 @whatyousaid: Couldn't upvote this enough...well f*cking said dude.
  • + 3
 @Pisgah85 is right. Trail ratings are meant to be regional and in relation to what's in the region. No need to get all Squampton @whatyousaid
  • + 1
 @whatyousaid: EXACTLY what I was thinking. Living in FL they rate trails similar (and probably even worse - ie: blues rated as blacks)
  • + 1
 @Pisgah85: all the reasons I love it!
  • + 3
 @whatyousaid: Keep in mind that the trail is a lot steeper than it looks. Plus they didn't show all of it. The trail featured in the video is rated double black because it is in relation to the other trails at Rocky Knob. That's how trail rating systems work at ski resorts and bike parks here. KJ and crew have done an awesome job. They have literally created something out of nothing. When I was a kid in the 90's and 2000's we didn't have anywhere to ride except the forest. The local ski resorts had a couple DH and super d races annually but no parks like today. I am thankful for everyone's hard work here in the High Country.
  • + 1
 @preach -- Remember Canyons out in Blowing Rock? And Yancy's was classic -- and a dip at Huntfish Falls...
  • + 2
 @bradwalton: Wild Willy speaks the truth! Dude I must have watched the old Spectrum Tech Wear vid a million times lol.
  • + 1
 @ajBoogaloo: I got legit cussed out by an old man the one and only time I attempted to ride over at canyons.....annnnnnnd then they closed it. Go figure.
Same thing at the top of the globe/china creek... the close by residents hated the bikers
  • + 2
 @preach: There was so much illegal trail building goin on at Canyons it got a little out of control... Black Forest is actually really similar to sections of Canyons. Honestly the top 2/3 of Canyons was super rad but the bottom was just a traverse to get back to Globe.

Did you ever go through the boulders to get to China Creek? Was easier to stay stealthy rather than hopping that guy's yard.
  • + 1
 @Sugarbrad: yessir over there across from sandy flats baptist church by the “rest area”.
Heck we used to session a little bmx area behind Recess snowboard but I think there is a house there now. Everything changes
  • + 2
 @leelau: I agree on the regional standards. I have never ridden in NC but from the video it did seem like a real stretch calling that a Double Black. But of course that is based on Northshore/Sea to Sky/Sunshine Coast standards. Often riding a double black results in me having to change my underpants afterwards. This trail would not result in even minor staining.

The other thing to consider is the difference in dirt, weather and terrain. Before moving to the Coast I was allergic to riding in the rain. Now I ride the same gnarly stuff rain or shine.

That being said it looked like a a lot of fun. All the videos featuring the Southeastern American bike scene/communites make me want to visit. They look like good people having a good time.
  • + 2
 @rebel12: "The other thing to consider is the difference in dirt, weather and terrain. Before moving to the Coast I was allergic to riding in the rain. Now I ride the same gnarly stuff rain or shine. "

THIS was how i felt last year doing my BC trip. unseasonable rains in the interior i guess in 2016 in the dead middle of summer, and half of my trip was wet or damp riding except Kamloops and Silver Star. muddy at Sun Peaks, Revelstoke, Nelson, and it was pretty sloppy at Retallack Lodge when they said it was normally never that way at that time of year, and i was pretty out of my element. i've done some snowy DH a few times just messing around, and some slop from time to time on a trail bike at a slow work-out pace... but generally in the Mid-Atlantic, its hot as shit in the riding months and everything dries out fast when it rains, or its freeze/thaw in the winter and I try to be respectful of the trail building. or if it thunderstorms, you sit it out for a day and the next day its hero dirt. there's not really a need to be a wet weather ripper. i just felt like i couldn't get comfortable... stiff riding, slow hesitant riding on the brakes, which of course just cakes up more mud to your tires and makes it worse than just letting go. its probably a good skill to start developing more.
  • + 1
 @Sweatypants: I really do think it's an essential skill. I would not have said that 7 years ago. I avoid certain trails in horrible weather as to not destroy the efforts of builders. Here on the Coast there really is no off season if you are okay with getting wet. I have grown to enjoy the slippery roots.
  • + 25
 Nothing to see here in Wilson Creek. Go back to Brevard hippies!
  • + 6
 I agree it sucks. So easy to get lost and the climbs aren't worth the decents...
  • + 2
 @naadams2: yes people should stay away!
  • + 15
 WIlson's on Pinkbike......wow. Game over.
  • + 2
 I think we're just getting started... just need a few more quarters.
  • + 3
 Why is that? We're happy to share the on-the-map, bike-legal trails of the Grandfather District. It's no secret. Plus, everyone in this article are the people who are advocating for these same trails. We have been making huge strides with the FS, getting permission to contract out maintenance projects on our own, guiding the forest service on future trail plans, advocating for MORE LEGAL MILEAGE in our district, and working with them to get some of the gray area trails realigned off of private properties so we can get them on the inventory list and on maps. What have you done?
  • + 1
 @motomike138 I’m all for more trail. I would build trail every week and advocate for more just like you if I was getting paid too. Keep up the good work.
  • + 10
 Not sure if anybody is aware of this, but in 2 days there is a discussion about making MTB and equestrian users pay to access Pisgah...

www.transylvaniatimes.com/story/2017/11/27/news/mountain-bikers-could-face-user-fees-pisgah-forest-nc/34735.html
  • + 4
 Just saw this on FB as well. Kind of an altogether different story, but this stood out to me from the story: "The proposal comes after further budget cuts and increased outcry from other forest users, such as sportsmen, who already pay for access." I don't think there's an issue inherently with assessing a fee for park users, as long as it's all encompassing, and not relegated to bikes, horses, and fishermen. I think that mountain bikers more often than not function head and shoulders above other user groups as stewards for the trail, which would make so specific an assessment especially insulting.
  • + 4
 @briceshirbach: Agreed, there is no free lunch and these areas require massive continuous maintenance and misuse enforcement. As taxpayers, we all indirectly pay to support our local, state, and national parks whether we use them or not. I'm glad as a direct user to pay what is typically a ridiculously modest fee for my direct personal use of the resource. In turn, I expect the fees are used responsibly to support the resource.
  • + 1
 @JWadd: I'm with you, with major emphasis on "I expect the fees are used responsibly to support the resource." If the fees go into the National Forest "general fund", then I have some serious concerns. Charging a fee without a clear plan for what it will do to support the forest would be a major problem.
  • + 13
 Wilson's Sucks
  • + 11
 Brice is killing it with this content. Well done, sir.
  • + 3
 This piece made the place come alive for me as a reader
  • + 6
 A prime example of mountain bikers doing much more than talking or dreaming. This is a well organised passionate group of people engaging with the community and the land managers. The result is well built trails that are accepted and appreciated by the all out door rereational users. I may be up north a few thousand miles still i feel these are my extended family of brothers and sisters making the world a better place. mountain bikers unite.
  • + 4
 You should have connected with the Lees-McRae cycling team and Banner Elk community. The trails on campus were about doubled this past year and are still growing, right in the shadow of Beech. Super under-appreciated spot in that area, since the team does all the maintenance so that anyone can ride rain or shine. Lots of rocks and roots, very steep and technical rock garden, bits of Pisgah-esque tech and flow. I'll make a point of it to get the trails up on Trailforks next time I'm up there so people know where to park/ride.
  • + 1
 I've been wanting to check these out but didn't know if they were "Off limits" for non-students?
  • + 2
 @preach: I've been told by several folks that they are open to the public, but can be difficult to navigate.
  • + 1
 @dumbrozer
might want to check with Tim, Phil and PJ before you do that. Just as a courtesy.
  • + 1
 You know those trails and have worked on them countless hours so if you were to upload them I am sure they would be cool with it.
  • + 4
 Fantastic story! I have the incredible opportunity to have classes taught by Kristian and his passion for mountain biking got me back in to it after almost a 12 year gap. He brings that same passion to Dirty Thursday’s (trail building nights at RK) and never hesitates to answer any questions a movie rider / trail builder, like myself, might have. I was also able to meet Bryce when he came to speak to our class about his work and his East Bound & Down series and you could tell that the few hours he had spent in town had already made a dramatic impact on him. This is largely due to the love for mountain biking here and I’m glad that he got to experience that first hand and share our little slice of heaven with the rest of the world.
  • + 4
 I've been going to Boone and Blowing Rock since I was 7 or 8 (my parents went to ASU), I have been going back often since and it's been so awesome seeing it grow and change, along with the growing mountain biking community there. There has always been a riding community there, I remember going into Magic Cycles in the late 90s after eating at Mellow Mushroom across the street (when they were there) and oogling the bikes, but I do remember then it was hard to find places to ride, especially if you weren't super familiar with the area or knew a bunch of locals.

Seeing how much Beech has changed in the last year since they contracted Elevated, watching Rocky Knob grow into an awesome park, and seeing more folks explore Wilsons thanks to tech that makes it easier to navigate, has been really awesome. I'm stoked to see what they do in the coming years.
  • + 4
 Mellow Mushroom
Cheerwine
Good East Coast Trails

ALMOST makes me wanna move back east...But Utah has In&Out and powder skiing...what a dilemma
  • + 3
 @Connerv6: haha, I moved here from utah, now I'll be moving to AZ for southwest riding!
  • + 1
 If you don't need snow and want to save on housing, the southeast aint a bad place to be. Me personally, I could care less about snow, but it's the humidity of the south that kills me. (I'm in northern Arizona now, but came from Pennsylvania). That and the lack of jobs in high-elevation Appalachia. Chattanooga looks great, but it doesn't have the access to trails that Asheville, Boone or Brevard does. Knoxville is cool, but it's more hills than mountains. Alabama in the Coosa Valley would be cool, but no real employment centers there. It isn't until you get into the snow belt and closer the Mason Dixon that you've got bigger cities with real mountains.
  • + 1
 @PHeller: 100% agree
  • + 6
 Sick! And I love seeing all the NC gear on the bikes. CC coils, CC helm fork, I9 wheels, all the goods.
  • + 2
 Nice work @briceshirbach - I lived in Boone for a few years and all the places you featured are great. Wilson's for the rugged, backcountry like experience and not for the tame of heart. Rocky Knob for all around local goodness - people like Kristian and Moto, and a bunch of other locals, have made that place rad. It's a great thing for the bike community there. And then Beech for when you are feeling like riding lifts.

Ratings shmatings. It's all relative to the mountain and location like ski resorts. I personally never pay attention to that stuff. Since it is so variable you can't rely on that rating system to guide your decision as a mountain biker. Ride at your own risk and what's wrong with just riding the rainbow? Are green and blue trails below elite and advanced riders? Just have fun!
  • + 1
 Hahaha thanks, Erin! Never worth getting worked up over things like ratings when you’ve got rad trails to ride with rad people!
  • + 6
 Pisgah rules. Such a great place.
  • + 4
 This is such a great town to ride and stay in. Coming from the midwest, I was hoping a job would open there. I would leave in a heartbeat. Such a great cycling community
  • + 1
 Well slap me and call me sally. This place looks like it was tore from the pages of a story book. Never thought I would get envious of anyone on the east coast, but I'm drooling right now. Looks incredibly peaceful and relaxed.
  • + 5
 Wilson’s Creek is not worth the drive...tell everyone
  • + 4
 Wilson's Sucks
  • + 1
 @btalley: Charmin Brunch is WAY better.
  • + 3
 Looks like the emerald outback trails up at beech aren't really on trail forks... I guess I have something to do this weekend now.
  • + 2
 After reading this I walked into my room and said "Alexa Find Jobs in or near Boone, North Carolina and send them to my email"
  • + 2
 That's the problem. Pisgah suffers from a lack of job diversity. Boone, Brevard and Asheville all have pretty small job markets with pretty expensive housing. Chatty is better, but it's access to trails isn't as good. We need more parks and more trail surrounding our good job markets. Dare I say it, but the I think some places in the west do this better with bigger cities, more variety of jobs, cheaper housing, and in some cases trails right out the back door.
  • + 1
 @PHeller: Chatty has pretty good trail access. I’d say a couple hundred miles of single track within an hour drive of downtown.
  • + 2
 @BigballmcCall: To me, an hour's drive isn't good trail access. I've got a few hundred miles of single track out my back door. I also live 5 minutes from my office job and 15 minutes from downtown.
  • + 1
 That's the caveat... Work is scarce up here.
  • + 3
 How's are the weather and trails in late December? Pre X-mas road trip worthy?
  • + 4
 check raysweather.com and look at the boone forecast...it's really up and down. You never know if it'll be 4 ft of snow or 65 and sunny...
  • + 2
 @preach: Perfect. Thanks!!
  • + 1
 @preach: Got a bike shop recommendation - a place to get beta and grab a few munchies?
  • + 1
 @SpillWay: most def.
Magic Cycles in downtown Boone. Black cat burrito, Our Daily Bread, Melanie’s, proper, Boone saloon are all within 100 yards of it. And Farmers Ski shop is right behind it. Pretty good selection of gear there too. Blowing Rock is right up the road and there are a few more cool spots for food and drink there too. What the article couldn’t say because it was mostly about biking, is that you have some of the best most scenic hiking and all of the blueridge right there on the parkway outside of Boone too. My fam lives up there so we are there a lot
  • + 1
 @SpillWay: Headquarters Bike and Outdoor in Tynecastle. Especially if you need suspension or seat post work.
  • + 3
 Ahh... Boone in the 90's is where it all started for this NC native. Could've stayed in BFE for life!
  • + 3
 Glad to be back. Excellent write up, thanks for the exposure!
  • + 3
 Excellent write up Brice!
  • + 2
 It seems like this area is a boone to mountain biking. I'll see myself out....
  • + 2
 Nice piece! That pump track DOES look like a great location!
  • + 1
 Oh except trails were more goat path than pb&j. Anyone still hit the globe fully rigid?
  • + 1
 Last time I rode the globe I decided I could ride back up johns river Rd without a shuttle.... and I ate dust and cramped But a sweet trail
  • - 2
 There is a number of reasons for the frustration mountain bike destinations develop for visitors. It's neither presumptuous nor based on an overblown sense of self-importance, it's a matter of showing a little f*cking respect for the efforts that the locals have put into building a resource that CAN be lost due to actions of a few entitled #vanlife dickheads.
  • + 2
 Could you elaborate on this a bit more? Are people sleeping in vans risking trail closure? In my area, we've got lots of "social" trails on the mountain nearby. If anyone risks those areas being closed to biking, it's the locals who build unauthorized trail and the dudebro flatbrimmers who shuttle it all day without respect to hikers and other users. In most cases, the vanlife folks ride official sanctioned trails they can find on a map, it's the locals who ride and abuse "hidden trails".
  • + 3
 Love Rocky Knob!
  • + 1
 Loved Rocky knob, as did the wife. When is Warrior Creek trails EBD? That was another amazing place. Flow for days...
  • + 1
 Wilson’s sucks....go to Brevard and ride
  • + 1
 Cant wait for my down south bike trip. this just got me pumped.
  • + 1
 now I'm going here next weekend Smile
  • + 1
 Sorry for the typo, I meant novice* rider
  • + 2
 boone is amazing
  • + 1
 The place looks bitchen but I'll probably never make it so don't worry....
  • + 2
 Bewwwwneeeetown
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