Monday, May 6, 2013

Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trail Trip.

My brother, Matt, drove up from his home in Florida and met me at The Rock Campground near Rockmart, Georgia for this one. The friendly folks at the campground informed us that we had heavy rain on the way and told us where we could pitch our tents on higher ground.  We also had the use of a large gazebo to stay dry. After getting set up and squared away, we rode our bikes down the Silver Comet to Rockmart and ate a giant and delicious pizza with meatballs, mushrooms, and tomatoes at Frankie's Italian Restaurant.


Matt at Frankie's

4/28 Smyrna to The Rock CG - 35.4 miles

Heavy rain came during the night. Our plan today was to shuttle to the start of The Silver Comet Trail in Smyrna, GA and ride back to the campground. As big "gluttons for punishment" as we may be, we didn't actually want to begin the ride in the rain, so we waited it out in Highland Station Shopping Center where we would leave the car parked. There is a 1 mile long connector trail here that takes you directly to the start of the trail at Mavell Road. And better yet, it's downhill!

Finally at 2 pm, it let up and we were ready to ride. We quickly rolled down the hill to the start of the Silver Comet. Shortly after hitting the trail, Matt discovered that he left his helmet in the car. I offered to wait while he went back for it, but alas, he declined.

Within 30 minutes, the rain started again. It increased with intensity as we rode west. The advantage of riding in such lousy conditions (if there was any at all) was this part of the trail would have been crowded with folks on a nice Sunday afternoon and, instead, was virtually empty. We saw one fellow pushing his bike and possibly one other rider. That was about it. Most people have better sense than to be out in bad weather. The disadvantage of riding through this section of trail during a monsoon was we could not appreciate riding over the 750 foot long Pumpkinvine Creek Trestle (mile 23) and through the Paulding Wildlife Management Area. This is some of the nicest section of trail on the Silver Comet, but we couldn't see it for the monsoon.

Matt in Brushy Mountain Tunnel


We stopped in the 800 foot long, three story high Brushy Mountain Tunnel (mile 30) to take a break and stretch our legs. The rain was thundering down the face of the tunnel as it was pouring off the mountain. The noise was truly ominous. It sounded as if a train was rumbling through the tunnel.  As we got closer to camp, lightning strikes crashed close by. A 100 foot tall oak tree completely blocked the trail near Coot's Lake (mile 33.5). We had to lift our bikes over the three or four large sections of main trunk.

In spite of the hurdles, dangers, and obstacles, we managed to return to camp in one piece.  We wasted no time getting nice hot showers to thaw our frigid hands and feet and changing into dry clothes. After shuttling the cars, we found a nice Mexican restaurant for dinner.

4/29 The Rock CG to Alabama State Line - 28.10 miles

We were able to dry out today. We lounged around camp in a lazy man's vacation mode, drinking coffee and eating bagels. We shuttled a car to the Alabama state line at Esom Hill and then drove back to the campground to start riding our bikes west.

The ride through Rockmart was nice, with a few hills alongside US 278. The trail turned flat again as we regained the railroad grade and followed the train tracks until we spotted the giant clay hill at the "supermax" Polk Co. Landfill. Here, at mile 46 things got hilly, like granny-gear-steep-hilly. The good thing about climbing is that you know that you eventually get to go downhill! We had fun screaming through the rollers for a few miles.

We stopped at the cool, old train depot at the Cedartown Welcome Center (mile 52) and filled up on water and took a break. We noticed that riding through both Rockmart and Cedartown, everyone seemed very courteous towards us as cyclists and stopped at road intersections and waved us through. We appreciated the hospitality.

Continuing west from town, the area once again became less populated and more rural. We saw turkeys, guineas, and squirrels. We had several dogs bark at us but never saw one on the trail. We finished the day at the end of the Silver Comet (mile 61.5) and the start of the Chief Ladiga at the State Line Gateway Park.

Matt mentioned a desire for catfish for supper so we made ourselves at home at Sidekicks Restaurant in Rockmart that evening. and ate a big plate of fried goodness. Back at camp, we gathered wet wood, made a pretty decent camp fire, and listened to the Braves on the radio before going to bed. Good stuff!

Gazebo at The Rock campground

The Silver Comet.

A Cedartown welcome

Cool bike tool and pump at the Cedartown Depot

Cedartown Depot

4/30 The Chief Ladiga Trail - 33.75 miles

We actually wanted to get a little earlier start on the trail today, but I neglected to have any real directions to the Chief Ladiga Trail trail head at Mike Tucker Memorial Park in Anniston. Needless to say, there were a few delays in finding the place and dropping off a car. Eventually, we made the shuttle and were back at the state line and ready to ride. 

The good thing about riding the Chief Ladiga Trail east to west is that it is generally downhill. If you ride west to east, you have the prevailing wind to your back, so maybe you can feel smug about that, too. Either way, it's paved and fairly smooth all the way. 

We were interested in checking out the Chief Ladiga Campground at mile 7, but when we got there it seemed to be closed. We stopped and talked to a couple from Jacksonville, AL who were out for a 50 mile ride. In the friendly little town of Piedmont, we stopped at the Eubanks Welcome Center (mile 13.6) and met Les, a 75 year old trail rider and volunteer. We chatted on the porch for a while and got good advice on a lunch spot in town. That turned out to be the Solid Rock Cafe where I had a delicious French dip sandwich.

Ten more miles down the road, we came to the quaint little college town of Jacksonville (mile 25). We stopped at the train depot to get water and talked to a  girl who was walking on the trail. She worked at a motel in Anniston and said that they routinely lodged cyclists. We saw numerous cyclists, joggers, and walkers on the entire length of the trail, and more so in Jacksonville. It seemed to be getting put to good use by the populace. Again in Alabama, like in Georgia, the drivers were very courteous to us in the small towns at road crossings. Traffic was never a problem.

We finished the ride at the southern terminus of the Chief Ladiga Trail at Michael Tucker Memorial Park (mile 32.5). 

Post ride, we managed to find a good little BBQ joint to stuff ourselves in. This was Bar-L-Bar-B-Que in Rockmart. They literally give us enough pork each for about 4 people. I did manage to persevere and eat it all, though. Oink!

Then we were back to camp for more Braves baseball on the radio and a nice campfire. All in all, it was an enjoyable visit with my brother and a relaxing little bike ride.  I'm ready to do it again.

Gateway park looking west

Gateway park looking east

Eubanks House Welcome Center in Piedmont

A good place to eat in Piedmont

A granddaddy snapping turtle

Matt and Hometown at the ride's end

From the website:
The Silver Comet Trail is located 13 miles northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. It's free of charge, and travels west through Cobb, Paulding, and Polk counties. This quiet, non-motorized, paved trail is for walkers, hikers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, horses, dog walkers, and is wheelchair accessible.

The Silver Comet Trail is 61.5 miles long, and starts at the Mavell Road Trailhead in Smyrna, Georgia. It ends at the Georgia/Alabama state line, near Cedartown and The Esom Hill Trailhead.

At the Georgia/Alabama state line, the Silver Comet connects to the 33-mile long Chief Ladiga Trail. Plans are underway to extend the Chief Ladiga an additional 7 miles. Both the Silver Comet Trail and Chief Ladiga are fully paved rail-trails built on abandoned railroad lines. The combined Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga trail length is estimated to be 94.5 paved miles from Smyrna, Georgia to Anniston, Alabama.