The plan this weekend was to take the Coffeeneuring Challenge on the road. The local mountain bike club (Pensacola Off Road Cyclists – PORC) was hosting a camp and ride weekend up in the Blackwater River State Forest. The forest is around 211,000 acres of mostly pine trees and black water creeks. There are several impounded lakes that offer fishing and camping and there are miles of quiet paved back roads and even more red clay/sand/gravel roads and the occasional mountain bike trail. Cycling has become quite popular which the forestry department loves as it’s low impact, it gets people using the forest, and doesn’t cost them anything. The camp and ride promised to be a nice social gathering with a little bit of riding and some generous portions of food. I however chose to do a little more riding and also introduce Paul, one of the coffeeneurers from my previous rides, to bike camping.
Paul is retired and has taken up cycling to keep from getting sedentary. I got him interested in bike camping earlier in the year and hooked him up with Adventure Cycling and CGOAB. He’s all in; all new equipment was purchased and this was the weekend to try it out. The goal was to leave Friday around noon from the trail head in Milton and ride the 27 miles through the state forest to Bear Lake Campground.
We would spend the night and he would return back to town the next morning and I would stay for the weekend and do the club stuff and ride back Sunday morning. The weather promised to be interesting with a little rain forecast for Friday night and cold front coming in Saturday. We set out around 2:00 on the Blackwater River Heritage Trail which is an old rail bed converted to a paved recreational trail that heads north out of town to withing spitting distance of the forest.
We worked our way north and east through the forest arriving at the Bear Lake campground around 4:30.
It had been pleasantly overcast all day and around 70 degrees however the rain was predicted to arrive after midnight. We got set up and fixed dinner and hung out with a few of the bike club members that were staying the whole weekend. I finally crawled in the tent around 10. It started raining around 12:30 and it came down hard for several hours with thunder and lightning, totaling about 3 inches (this according to the people that left their drinking cups out all night). Paul made it through his first night of bike camping successfully and both our tents worked well but my panniers did not. I left them on the bike because they are supposed to be waterproof but they each had about an inch of water in them so some of my food and all my coffee filters got soaked (yeah, it helps if you read the instructions on the panniers which I did when I got home). Still I managed to crank out a decent cup of coffee in the morning and I tried toasting the water out of my soggy pb&j sandwiches which worked ok though they were a little charred.
Paul packed up and left early to ride the north wind back to town. I did a soggy hike around the lake, showered, fixed some lunch and took a much deserved nap while the next band of rain blew through. Around dark, it was time to eat and everyone stood around shivering and eating pulled pork sandwiches and chili and banana pudding. There was a night ride scheduled and several brave souls bundled up to ride the cold wet 6 miles around the lake. I took this as an opportunity to put on all my warm weather gear and crawl into my sleeping bag. After a toasty quiet night I woke up to clear skies and temps in the upper 30s. I fixed another coffee and snacked on some of my remaining dry food.
There was another ride scheduled for 7:30 but it was a 60 miler which is a bit out of my league. The burly men (there were no women that I saw) were resplendent in there winter kits and carbon bikes ready to get some red clay mud on them.
I took my coffee and went for a hike over to Krul Lake, about 2 miles away.
The bike club was supposed to serve breakfast but by the time I got back all the waffles were gone. The wind was really cranking out of the north at this point so I packed up my bike, said my goodbyes and pretty much coasted the 32 miles back to the car.
I did stop at about 20 miles at the state park by the Blackwater River and made a cup of coffee and read my book in the sunshine.
The last couple of miles into Milton is on Highway 90 and a portion of the old brick road has been restored for a bike path.
I got back to town around 2:00 and hit the new brew pub where I had a flight of some stouts, a porter, and an IPA along with some sweet potato fries.