When riding DSRF's Burnt Mountain Trail the next few days, hum a few bars of "Happy Birthday" as you approach the steep west side of the loop--that segment turns twenty Sunday, August 18th!
Before there was a Dupont State Recreational Forest, the property was part of the 14,000+ acres owned by E I Dupont Co and surrounding their X-Ray film production plant. (The remains of that plant, mostly concrete slabs and asphalt pads, are on the 450 acres still shown as private property in the center of DSRF. The site is seasonally visible from overlooks at the end of the airstrip, or from the quarried area on Joanna Road, or from Bridal Overlook Trail.) The entire 14,000+ acre corporate property was open to plant employees, our families and friends for hunting, fishing, camping, and other recreation. Old logging roads, etc, on the property were used by MTBs, horses, ATVs, 4x4s, hikers, and motorcycles. What is now the east side of the Burnt Mountain Trail loop was an old logging road that paralleled Little River, then climbed to the top of Burnt Mountain and ended there. A group of E I Dupont employees often made the climb (then called "Sweat Hog Ridge"), then turned around and bombed back down the hill.
During a Sunday, 15 Aug '93, MTB ride, a group of riders found an overgrown logging skidder path that dropped to the north from the top of Sweat Hog Ridge. We bushwhacked the skidder trail and discovered that it connected with another property road and would make a great loop if cleared. We got permission to clear the route from E I Dupont's local property manager, and returned Wednesday, 18 August '93, with saws, etc, and a crew of seven MTBers to open the old corridor... That crew (and where they are now) included Joe Roark (Tennessee), Charlie Ballentine (NC), Dawn Packard (NC?), Evan Ramsey (Colorado), Hallie Owen (Idaho), Hyland Fisher (California), and Chuck Ramsey (Pisgah Forest). When we finished clearing the route, we had just enough daylight left to ride the loop now called Burnt Mountain Trail...
Burnt Mountain Trail (nee Sweat Hog Ridge) has changed a lot in its twenty years of use. Most of us were riding rigid bikes (with 7-speed clusters and BioPace chainrings!) when we cleared the route, and the new descent was a smooth but fast drop. Soon employees were riding the loop on horses, ATVs, and motorcycles, and the west side of the loop began to change through erosion. In recent years the east side of the loop has seen great improvement in the form of a 'road-to-trail' conversion done by Trail Dynamics, and the west side of the loop has been stabilized via reroutes and 'Appalachian armoring' completed by Pisgah Area SORBA and other volunteers. The trail is now fun in both directions--if you're after the big drops, ride it clockwise. If you're going to walk the armored section anyway, consider climbing it and treating yourself to a descent that rivals Ridgeline and Jim Branch Trails.
Regardless of how you ride Burnt Mountain Trail, take time to wish it Happy Birthday (and many happy returns of the day) this week!
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