Into the Woods
What is the perfect weekend getaway? A road trip with good friends? Epic mountain biking? Unplugging and connecting with nature against a stunning backdrop of fall colors? Delicious food? Yes. That. All of it.
With that as our goal, we left behind the hustle and bustle of greater Nashville for the picturesque mountains surrounding Mulberry Gap. Mulberry Gap is a mountain bike get away nestled into the Appalachian Mountains of Northwest Georgia. With easy access to IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) Epic trails, it is ideally located for the off-road biking enthusiast to experience some of the best mountain bike trails in the Southeastern United States. Trails include the Pinhoti, Bear Creek, Mountaintown Creek, Windy Gap and Milma trails. If gravel or adventure riding is more your thing, you will miles scenic forest service roads which connect trail options. All of this can be ridden out of the retreat’s driveway.
In addition, they have everything to make it easy to focus on your adventure. For lodging, you can choose from a heated cabin or a tent campsite. They offer onsite bike repairs, guided tours and shuttle services so you can save your legs for the downhill. They have a bathhouse with hot showers, a hot tub to soak away your aches, a gift shop where you can get firewood and beverages and to top it off, some of the best food you have ever eaten. The home cooked family style meals are a tasty bonus (melt in your mouth smoked brisket anyone?). Disclaimer: there may be more raving about food ahead.
We rolled into Mulberry Gap on Friday evening just in time for dinner. The main course was some of the best pulled pork I have ever tasted. It really set the tone for all the awesomeness that was ahead. From there we decided to take in a short night ride. We rode right out of the driveway of the retreat and proceeded to climb up a forest service road. The payoff was miles of singletrack that trended all the way back down to our home for the weekend.
Autumn Mountain Foliage
Riding in a tunnel of light is a fun way to experience mountain biking and it’s a great way to continue riding as the days grow short in the late fall and into the spring. In this case, the darkness also concealed the beauty we were surrounded by. The light of the next day would reveal the splendor of fall in the mountains.
The morning brought an amazing breakfast and alluring fall colors. After a quick consult with the guides at Mulberry Gap we decided on the ride for the day. We prepared our bikes and loaded them up along with everything we needed for the day ahead. Well….almost everything.
As we entered the nearest town, I realized I forgot my socks (a small but vital piece of riding gear). Luckily for us there was a cool little bike shop in the town we were passing through. Stopping at a local bike shop is always a treat for me so this was more of a happy accident. Sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. We got to talk about bikes and riding with the shop staff. Local shop employees are a wealth of local riding knowledge. Spending time at the local bike shop often reveals helpful nuggets of information. So, after procuring valuable local intel (and socks) we continued on our way.
This ride, as rides in the mountains often do, found us climbing a forest service road up to singletrack. The ride offered us miles of flowy and fun singletrack that meandered through bright colored forests. As we climbed, descended and crossed mountain streams time was busy flying by. Before we knew it our riding time had quickly run out and we had to hustle back to the trailhead and load up our bikes.
We found ourselves racing back to Mulberry Gap as dinner is not a meal to be missed. After dinner we shared war stories of the day over a chocolate stout and tried our luck racing tiny bikes through the dining hall. It was quite a site to see fully grown men ride these things but sometimes you have to let yourself be a kid; it helps keep you young.
The morning brought more amazing food and time at the bike wash station cleaning the bikes we had fun mucking up the day before. Once the bikes were clean and happy, we took a moment to slow down and take in the sun, the colors and the fresh mountain air one more time before heading back.
On the way home, we stopped to ride at Raccoon Mountain in Chattanooga, TN. This trail system has a bit of everything. Sections of flow trails, some tight twisty singletrack as well as rocky and technical downhills and climbs. The trail also has some of the best overlooks I’ve ever seen. There is a mountain top view where you can see the whole town of Chattanooga which I found especially unique. From there we hopped in the car one last time and charted a course home.
Despite all the fun we had, the most important thing to me remains relationships. Building relationships in this technological age can be difficult. It’s easy to get sucked in to our mobile devices. They put access to so many great things right in the palm of our hand. Sometimes this causes us to lose focus on the world that exists outside of our personal space. That’s why getting outdoors and unplugging is such a great exercise. Life is all about relationships and there is something about being out in nature that helps relationships grow.
Still being a relative newcomer to the Nashville area, this was a chance to get to know some of my new buddies. Spending a weekend outdoors provided the perfect opportunity to galvanize those friendships. We conquered the gnar together and helped each other off the ground as necessary. The outdoors adventure built deeper and meaningful bonds. It was an experience we won’t soon forget.
What could be better than spending the weekend with your buddies in the forested mountains of Northwest Georgia? That in itself is a pretty darn good thing, but the addition of Mulberry Gap makes it even better. It takes the outdoors experience and adds excellent accessibility to miles of off-road bike trails and marvelous food (did I mention the food). The outdoors weekend away has never been so inviting. So grab some buddies and get outside. Adventure is calling your name.