Over 2,500 Feet of Vertical Regret: Mountain Biking Lake Placid's Little Whiteface - Page 3

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The only way to reach the singletrack from Cloudsplitter is via a teeth-rattling access road covered in loose, grapefruit-sized gravel that had me riding my brakes and tensing for an inevitable washout. Happily the rough terrain is a short-lived, necessary evil; the access road fed into what was to be a countless series of dizzying singletrack switchbacks carved into large stretches of pine trees between ski runs.

We started on the Empire Schuss (#26 by the map), which ORDA had recently treated with a fresh layer of packed pine mulch to add some much-appreciated cushion. Huge drops, 90-degree turns, and massive root jumps. I was frozen in my saddle many times, convinced I couldn't make it without dismounting, until Mike hit a clean line and sailed right through, showing me the way.

Mike referred to the second stretch of singletrack as "Adirondacks Slickrock," another section carved into the woods between two ski runs that wove around the support posts for the dormant ski lifts, shifting from dense tree cover onto large granite rock faces with one- and two-foot drops that had both of us hooting with unabashed, child-like glee.

"I can't help it," Mike confessed when I asked to stop for a water break. "I'm 42 years old, but out here, I'm a kid again."

His adolescent spirit was reinforced by his continued proclamation that "this next section is my favorite on this entire mountain." After spending the better part of an hour criss-crossing the mountain, zipping across streams and past waterfalls, dropping off granite lips and bunny-hopping over a gnarled mess of roots, flying alongside pine trees by a gurgling creek, pausing now and then to breath in the staggering views of the Adirondacks Valley, I understood his inability to single out one section as the definitive best run on Whiteface. Yes, the points where we broke from tree cover and had to traverse across another sketchy patch of loose gravel were bone-jarring and downright frightening, but the entire experience exceeded every expectation, whether I was successfully navigating my way through a particularly meaty rock garden, zipping recklessly along a shaded section of singletrack or over a massive granite rock face—even when I was caught in a surreal, slow-motion summersault, my front tire planted against a root and the back of my bike perilously rising until gravity won and I had to bail, my bike rolling behind me with a cringe-inducing, mechanical shudder. Suddenly the mountain in mountain biking seemed apt.

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