Kellie took off on the Silver Comet Trail about midway along the 61-mile rail trail that extends from the suburbs of Atlanta to the Alabama state line. Coots Lake trailhead, at mile 33, is right off of Route 278 just before Rockmart and just after the long climb at Brushy Mountain Tunnel (convenient, huh?). Here the trail runs through a lightly wooded area where small homes and pastures could be seen through the trees.
The trail itself is wide and exceptionally well-maintained. Its surface – concrete segments – seems like something other trail authorities should consider rather than asphalt. There were virtually NO root heaves along the entire trail. Amazing! This and the varied landscape made it a great pleasure to ride despite the frequent hills at this end of the trail. These were kind of a surprise for a rail trail and the persistent headwind made it a slow ride but a good workout.
Jim had a bad cold and was unable to do this ride but Kellie’s lack of a riding buddy was only felt when a very large, unattended dog was spotted wandering along the trail. Another couple – two of only about five other riders Kellie passed during the entire 30-mile ride – fortuitously appeared to form a “safety-in-numbers” strategy to get past the dog. (Somewhere a review had warned of unattended pit bulls and feral dogs along the trail, so while she was atypically wary, no other animals appeared.)
What she did pass was lots of variety (which she far prefers to “Zen trails”). There were shady woodlands, farmland and cow pastures with big red barns; a small, but well-attended church; a creek with large white herons; and a multi-sports field where a crowd gathered to watch a women’s softball game. And there were several signs along that trail threatening a $1000 fine and 30 days in prison for riding a motorized vehicle on the trail. There didn’t seem to be an exception for e-bikes, but a local biker claimed there wasn’t a lot of enforcement of this rule.
There were many creek crossings and a cemetery through which the trail rolled within about 100 yards of an active railway. For a very brief moment, Kellie attempted to race against the train that chugged past her, but alas, its chug proved more powerful than her own.
She met up with Jim in Cedartown at an old train depot that had been turned into a welcome center (but was closed on Sundays). After a short water break, she got back on the trail, pedaling past a picturesque creek before climbing out of town onto a short stretch parallelling the highway.
It was 9.5 more miles to the Alabama border and the start of the 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail. Interestingly, there is a time change at the border (Alabama is in the Central Time Zone), so keep that in mind if you’re meeting anyone there.
The only real downside to the Silver Comet Trail (and the Chief Ladiga) was #NoBeerNear. The closest brewery was in Gadsden, AL, about 40 miles from the end of the Silver Comet. Billed as the largest craft brewery in Georgia, Back Forty Beer Co., which also has a Birmingham location, turned out to be a great find. Here’s how they explain their name:
“Back Forty Beer Company’s name is inspired by an old agricultural term referring to the 40 acres of land situated furthest from the barn. The back 40 acres are historically the most challenging land to maintain and are often overlooked due to their remote location. Likewise, Alabama is widely seen as the wasteland for craft beer in America. With mass produced light beer being the drink of choice for many Southerners, the craft beer market here has been largely ignored. However, if you dig a little deeper into the story of the back 40 you will see that because the soil is rarely used, it’s very fertile and is actually capable of producing a tremendous yield. And just like the farm, the Deep South’s craft beer culture is fertile and primed for harvest.”
Kellie’s favorite was the Cranberry Marzan, which included pecan among its many flavors. It was pleasantly tart, medium-bodied but full-flavored. Jim enjoyed the Stout Happens, a very coffee-flavored stout with a long finish and more carbonation than Guinness. He also liked the Devil’s Staircase hazy IPA and the Peace and Progress west coast IPA, which he described as having strong hops and a crisp finish.
If you’ve ridden the Silver Comet or the Chief Ladiga, please share your experience below.