Mountain Lake Lodge to Williamsville VA through Thomas Jefferson and George Washington National Forests

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June 30th 2020
Published: July 19th 2020
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The run up through Jefferson National Forest to Covington is recognized as one of the more challenging sections of the route. It is a day of continuous gravel, deep in the national forest, tracking the ridges towards the NE. Very tough if wet. The route planners have it down as one day's run. I wanted to complete it in half a day, and then do half of the following day's run, up to Williamsville VA. Getting there would put me in Highland County, and allow me to sleep in comfort and for free in our cabin just south of Monterey. So, it had to be done. The first of the classic sections is Tub Run Road, high in the mountains West of Blacksburg. Maybe 15 miles long, it is a never ending set of badly maintained mud and gravel switchbacks. If its dry, its doable. When wet, its a lot more work. I was lucky. I rolled through on my own, and came out feeling good. The second challenge is Red Brush Road, 10 miles more of the same. Coming out of that felt wonderful, and I stopped for lunch before hitting I 64 and Covington.

Deep in the forest north of Warm Springs I crossed them. The first and only husband and wife team I have seen in on the trail. Matching grey all weather riding gear, latest KTM adventure bikes, radio communication sets, which they had to turn down to talk to me... Been on the MABDR since Harrisburg PA. Interested in conditions further south. Didn't report any trouble behind them, but then no-one ever does, for fear of seeming a sissy. I did report on one nasty deep unmarked trench across the road on the Tub Run, which could bend a wheel if you hit it wrong. Guess I am the incompetent one.

Getting over Interstate 64 was complicated. North of Covington the forest road changes. It becomes a valley route, tracking a stream rather than following a ridge contour. There are long, well maintained straight flat stretches. A beautiful stream ran alongside. I traveled faster, with a much more relaxed feeling, crossing VA Route 39 (the main road East out of Bath County) by mid afternoon. I was now in the George Washington National Forest, which seems much more open. It looks like it has been logged much more recently and extensively than the Jefferson.
The start to the Tub Run road in Jefferson National ForestThe start to the Tub Run road in Jefferson National ForestThe start to the Tub Run road in Jefferson National Forest

One of the classic sections of this BDR.
I made it to Williamsville by evening and turned off the MABDR onto the familiar road North to McDowell. This is one of my favorite roads in Highland County. It runs through an area known locally as the Gorge, where the Bullpasture River cuts through the ridge. The scenes of stream and rock cliff in the failing light forced a photo stop. Night in Monterey was OK, though my cooking left much to be desired.

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