Race Loop … Racing Darkness
The Lake Murray State Park had listed the Race Loop as a difficult three mile trail on the north end of the lake. I knew I could easily handle the course. My big challenge was going to be a race against darkness!
I had spent the morning with Cindy (my wife), George (my brother), and Cindy (my sister-in-law) on a shopping trip in Ardmore and the early afternoon visiting the Tucker Tower on the south end of the lake. We returned to our campsite in Cedar Cove around 5:00 pm.
At 5:15 I announced I would be going north of the campground to ride. I had not been on my bike for a couple of days … and the Race Loop was calling me. I pulled out of the Cedar Cove Campground at 5:30 pm. I knew about three miles of pedaling would bring me to the beginning of the Race Loop.
I caught the Anadarche Trail just outside the campground and headed north. Riding the Anadarche was just like traveling through a thick wilderness in the middle of nowhere, except for when a vehicle passed down Highway 77S. Few cars used the highway, but when one did, I was reminded the Anadarche never strayed more than a couple hundred yards east of the road.
While traveling north I came across a couple of interesting items. One was a bridge constructed by an Eagle Scout named Andy Alexander. Now, over the years I have passed many benches, kiosks, birdhouses, signs, and various other projects created by scouts. But this bridge was at least fifty feet long with a raised portion built into the middle! Thank you Andy!
While on the Anadarche I also came across a rustic, old cabin or line shack, a small biker’s teeter – totter, and a lot of challenging, rocky trail.
Race Loop … the Beginning
I reached the beginning of the Race Loop at about 6:15 and I could see the sun was still shining through the trees on the horizon. I knew the Race Loop was listed at 3 miles and was the only trail in the area rated as a black diamond. I had just done 3.3 miles which had taken me about 45 minutes. After finishing the Race Loop I figured I would take the highway back to camp. My GPS told me the sunset would be at 6:35 that day. I knew I would have light for about a half hour after sunset. I had not brought a light for the ride. Could I make it back to camp before dark? I thought so.
I took off down the Race Loop, which started out smooth with large radius turns. “This was going to be easy,” I thought. But less than a quarter mile into the run I lost the trail! The trail had been quite clear all the way until it came to meet a dirt road. But then the Race Loop never picked up on the other side. I rode up and down the dirt road but could find no trace of the trail. I finally decided to backtrack.
By using my Trailforks app and doing a little bushwhacking I eventually got back on the trail.
Down By the Lake
Once back on the trail the Race Loop headed down toward Murray Lake and the vegetation grew denser. At one point I managed to get a clear photo of the lake.
The trail then climbed back onto the hillside to the west, and dropped back down to the lake. This cycle repeated a total of four times before climbing permanently back onto the hillside. By the fourth visit to the shoreline I found myself riding in near total darkness.
As I climbed I encountered less vegetation and more light. But by the time I found the Anadarche Trail I had to use the light on my cell phone to read the signs.
I followed the Andarche Trail slowly shining my cell phone ahead of me. Occasionally I would hear a car passing by on the highway and I knew I would soon be finding a spur trail from the Andarche Trail to the highway … for I remembered seeing a couple earlier on the way north.
Leaving the Andarche Trail
While walking along and using my phone for light a car passed on the road so close I swore I could hear people talking inside. Shortly thereafter (at 7:07) Cindy sent me a text asking if I was almost back. I immediately returned the text saying, “Getting there. I am okay and heading your way.”
At that point I decided to do a little bushwhacking to get to the highway instead of waiting to find a spur trail.
After pushing through thirty yards of thick bushes and vines and passing under some tall trees I climbed a six foot high bank and was happy to roll my bike onto pavement.
Riding the Highway … in the Dark
The night was quite dark but the white lines marking the shoulders of the highway clearly stood out as I zoomed south toward the campground. I knew I would have to totally leave the pavement if a vehicle came up from behind but never encountered a single soul while on the road.
Before turning onto the campground road I stopped and took a photo facing south down the road to show how little light was available.
At 7:37 I cruised into our camp at Cedar Cove and found a worried wife. Cindy had sent me another text at 7:30 and I had not responded (I had not heard the notice since I was winging down the highway at top speed).
Was the Race Loop fun? Yes. And I wish I could have done the last part at full speed in good light.
Should I have started earlier or taken a headlight with me? Yes.
Would I ever try something like that again? Yeah, probably.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 48 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for this ride … just click on the box below.
Would you like to try this ride? You can copy my GPX file from the Strava Link below.