Kerry Werner: Rockstar Trail to Rockstar Gravel Part 3

A Double Header Bikepacking Trip of Epic Proportions

I dropped onto a bit of pavement then traversed gravel to the crux of the route, the Dragon’s Back. This section of single track is 13 miles of tight rope ridge line with untold undulations, steep and unforgiving. Luckily, I had ridden the whole thing before – just not with 50 lbs of gear. I tried to focus on the trail, but my mind drifted to food. It had been nearly 24 hours since resupplying in Covington. I hadn’t bonked yet on this trip, but I was down to my last pop tart! 

The slog up the to the ridge was the worst stretch of the whole journey! One mile of steep, loose, gravel then 1 mile of steep single track. But Once on top I was immediately greeted with a 360º view of the Catawba Valley and other things don’t seem to be as important. 

I grunted my way through the first 4 miles then the effort seemed to ease and I started passing progression markers, other trails that drop off the ridge as you work your way through it. Ticking off miles and getting ever closer to 311 and the Catawba General Store. 

I made it through in just over 2 hours, relieved, I ripped the last 1.5 miles of brutish rock down to HWY 311 and refueled at the gas station. I knew I was going to knock this thing out now!

I pounded pavement over to Carvin’s Cove, a popular trail system just north of Roanoke that Emily and I had ridden plenty of times before. I popped into another gas station after Carvins and inhaled a fried apply pie, knowing the next time I’d rest and eat I’d be in my own back yard. 

I ripped through town with a sick and gracious tail wind all the way to Mill Mountain, though I did stop at the pump track in Wasena for a quick hot lap. 

This part was silly, I was less than 3 miles from my home and I had to jump off the bike path to hit the “in Town” trail system on Mill Mountain. I was determined to knock this loop out to a “T”. I made it this far, what was a couple more miles, right?

I climbed up wood thrush, up riser, and boom - I made it! It wasn’t quite dark yet and the weather was chilly, 48ºF and cloudy. No one was up there so I had it all to myself, which was a perfect way to cap off the last bit of trail. 

I dropped down off of Mill and started sailing to my door on paved bike paths, the end in sight. Cell service now abundant, I called Em and was told there were hot enchiladas waiting for me! My wife was waiting with warm food, and my beagle Shermy Wormy at her side. Life is good!

I finished that last day with 90 miles, 9.5 hrs of ride time, 13k of vert, and 6,000 calories burned… I was elated to be done. A bucket-list item, checked off. 

Beyond the pure physicality of the riding, overcoming the mental challenge was what mattered most. I’d never done a multi-day adventure on my own and I wasn’t sure how I would handle the lonely nights at camp with nothing but my thoughts to accompany me. I still think it’s more fun to bikepack with friends I resolved that moving forward, I wouldn’t pass up an adventure just because no one else come play with me. Now, I had to unpack, swap bikes from my Kona Hei Hei to my Kona Libre (MTB to Gravel), repack, and bust it back to Harrisonburg. This time with friends, on a parallel route and a smoother terrain. My truck was still up there and I’ll be damned if I was going to drive another car up to get it!