Montgomery County: The Urban Epic

After nearly 4000 miles of making excellent highway time, we met Pennsylvania’s late summer rains head-on whilst en route to Washington DC. Falling as though the streams and grasses were owed a great debt, the rains rendered the PA Turnpike a slow-moving river of taillights — streaks of red blurred across the windshield from wipers that couldn’t quite sweep fast enough. The intended destination was the MoCo Epic — a fantastic network of singletrack located just outside the shadow of our nation’s Capitol building. We decided to make a weekend on this IMBA Epic — first doing some routine trail maintenance with the local IMBA chapter MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts), before checking out a slice of the 65 miles of trail that we’d heard nothing but great things about.

Staging for our workday on the Seneca Ridge Trail began at the grounds of an old gun club. Upon piles of clay pigeon fragments and spent shells, we sorted out the rakes, McLeods and Pulaski tools before filing into the woods, in the opposite direction of the abandoned husks of the shooting towers. Much of the day’s work would be focused on drainage and erosion control, so all the implements we’d need could be carried in with ease.

One of the most impressive aspects of the MoCo system of trail is the sheer local variety that it winds through. From cutting across rolling corn and soybean fields to heavily wooded areas tucked between housing developments, a distinct sense of isolation is always present, despite the fact that over 100,000 people live within the outermost boundaries of the trail. As a rather unique aside, it’s worth noting that MORE was able to secure permissions for use of the farmland because those parcels are owned by the government and leased out to their respective land managers (ie: in this case, the farmers).

MORE’s marquee ride event is the fully supported MoCo Epic — a unique “dirt ‘fondo” held every year in October with up to 65 miles of trail made available to its participants. The aim of our workday was to repair a number of sections of the trail that were accumulating standing water and taking damage from the high volumes of traffic that the area consistently enjoys.

And speaking of traffic, every few minutes a small group of riders would approach and call out a cheerful “thank you!” as they buzzed pass. It got us thinking — riding great trail is always easy to enjoy, but appreciating what goes into not only its planning and construction, but regular upkeep is the part that takes some effort. Luckily, trail work is as contagious as it is rewarding, and a hell of a lot of fun with the right people. It’s been a huge inspiration and a privilege to have spent as much time as we have this summer with groups like MORE — witnessing passionate stewards and mountain bikers pushing sweat and cleaving earth to proudly ensure their home trails are always worth the drive — regardless of whether that journey is four, or four thousand miles.

True to form, hard work on the trail necessitates a cookout with appropriate refreshments — like this delicious Oberon, a perennial favorite of ours recently procured not far from its home in Northern Michigan.

Sunday’s arrival brought another day of perfect weather, beckoning us to the Schaeffer Farm trailhead for twenty or so fast, rolling miles along the same Seneca Ridge mountain bike Trail we’d just spent the previous day repairing. A quick post-ride hobo shower and a short drive later, we found ourselves at Pennsylvania Avenue where we swapped out the knobbies for a pair of skinny tires. DC is best enjoyed by bike — the perfect means to take in the sights and reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans and forefathers that could make an epic journey like this even possible. [zp]

This coast-to-coast jaunt from San Francisco to Washington DC is only just the beginning of our story, so make sure to stay abreast on where we’ll be sending the Sprinter next by following us on Twitter or liking our Facebook page. We’ll see you down the road.