Topic: Road Rides - Ride Pics - Southern Cross Route

TimH - Oct 15, 2017 - 12:40 AM
Post subject: Ride Pics - Southern Cross Route
The Southern Cross is a gravel race held every March in the area between Elijay and Suches in the hills beyond Amicola Falls State Park. The actual race is 55 miles but many ride the slightly shorter forest service road gravel sectors as a loop from the Jake Mountain trailhead.

Photos below were taken by myself during an aborted solo attempt 10/7 and a successful completion of the loop solo on 10/14. Ride with GPS says 44.2 miles but my GPS said 47.67 miles. Either way, it is a difficult but beautiful gravel ride and I highly recommend it.

The race does the loop anti-clockwise but I did it clockwise. Direction is significant as the climb up Winding Stair Gap Rd. in the clockwise direction features multiple sections of sustained 12% grade and loose surfaces. Don't unclip! Those doing the route anti-clockwise are in for a very fast and extremely rough descent. Either direction is downright sadistic but the consensus at the trailhead was that most would rather climb Winding Stair Gap Rd than descend.

The trailhead has a porta-potty provided by an equestrian club which maintains the nearby horse trails. A short section of pavement takes the rider from the Jake Mountain trailhead west on Nimblewill Church Rd to the start of the gravel loop.

Wild Muscadine grapes growing on the side of the road near the start.

Mile 2.5. Winding Stair Gap Rd is to the left.

The aborted attempt on 10/7 climbed into the clouds and with the clouds came fog, then rain and then mud. Photos don't do justice to the grade or surface. Miles 5 to 7.5 are brutal even with good weather and MTB gearing. I saw several mountain bikers walking and confess to the same at one point.

Mile 9.5 passes near the summit of Springer Mountain. The southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail is 0.6 miles to the south.

This bridge spans Chester Creek and is actually part of the Appalachian Trail near where it crosses Three Forks Rd/Forest Service Rd 58. The long climb up Three Forks Rd parallels the Creek for close to six miles. The forest is thick with Rhododendron and many waterfalls and rapids are visible as one rides. This climb is the highlight of the ride.

White blaze. Bikes are not allowed on the AT so I walked the bike out of respect and then only for the photo.

The leaves were turning on north facing slopes and I dove through clouds of them on some of the fast descents. There must have been lots of rain this past week as many creeks were flowing.

This ride is 10/10 and I can't wait to go back when the leaves really turn.

rlaz - Oct 16, 2017 - 06:50 PM
Post subject: RE: Ride Pics - Southern Cross Route
I used to go camping up in that area and we'd take the car up Winding Stair and I always thought I needed to bring my mountain bike up there and ride it once but I never did. Beast of a climb. Friends of mine recently did it and said it was harder than Hogpen. Glad you did it for me! I guess I need to get my old mountain bike rideable again and try it sometime. Thanks for the post and photos.

Do happen to have a RWGPS file for it?

TimH - Oct 16, 2017 - 07:40 PM
Post subject:
@rlaz, here you go.

One of the segments on the route is called "High House Mountain Descent".

It drops 1115 ft in 4.9 miles which is -4% average grade. I did it in 21:18 @ 14.0 MPH and thought I was rolling pretty well.

A guy named George Hincapie did it in 10:52 @ 27.5 MPH. Shocked

rlaz - Oct 16, 2017 - 09:49 PM
Post subject:
Oops, I must of been too busy looking at the photos to notice that you included the route in your first post also. Thanks again!

Jiml - Nov 01, 2017 - 08:14 PM
Post subject:

I have done Southern Cross the last two years. The course goes clockwise up Winding Stair as you did it. However, in dry years, like this year, they add in 5 miles of single track on Bull Mountain. You divert off of Winding Stair about a third of the way up, do the single track with significant climbing, and link back to the continuation of the WS climb. I have opted to ride my hard tail MTB instead of my gravel bike as trying to ride down the mountains fast on the gravel bike hurts and in dangerous.

I have a second home in Blue Ridge and ride the North section of the loop a lot. I have some other roads I pair it with that are about 50/50 pavement/gravel to get a 40 or so mile ride in. Let me know if you want to join me sometime.
TimH - Nov 02, 2017 - 01:09 AM
Post subject:
Thanks for the invite and information Jim. I'd love to go and was thinking about the weekend of Nov 18/19.

Can't imagine them adding singletrack with climbing before the steep sections of Winding Stair. Shocked
Jiml - Nov 06, 2017 - 03:35 PM
Post subject:
Tim, Not sure we will be up there the 18/19th. It depends and where we decide to be for Thanksgiving.
TimH - Nov 07, 2017 - 01:13 AM
Post subject:
Thanks Jim.

My gravel bike is out of service anyway. I've been having chain skip issues and brought the wheel to Richard at in Cumming this morning.

Bad freewheel, crunchy bearings, all on a six month old American Classic wheel with only 1200 miles on it.

AC is sending parts under warranty for Richard to rebuild. Not sure when it will be done.
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