TNGA bike packing race, somewhere in north GA

Mark

Day 4 of riding the Trans North GA bike packing race, it’s 290 miles in and I’m off course. I’m on a 350 mile mountain
bike race with 56,000 ft of climbing (that’s higher than Everest). I’m riding through the lush green southern Appalachian
wilderness, up gravel forest service roads, through streams and rivers all linked together with a little bit of pavement.
I’m beyond tired, and with the ability to only carry enough food for 24 hrs, well let’s say I’m a little hungry and tapping
into every resource my body will allow just to make it to my next stop where I can fuel up to keep going. I am in the
middle of nowhere, oh and did I mention it’s hot, oh yeah, hot as hell ‘cause it’s August in Georgia.

My GPS is still telling me I’m on coarse and running parallel with the trail but I’m beginning to have my doubts. I should
have seen the marker for the Pinhoti trail single track cut off by now. I keep going up the, note the ‘up’, dusty, dry forest
service road and I notice that next to the ravine on my left there’s trash and some old furniture that’s been dumped.
Like someone is somehow hoping it will fall further down the ravine and disappear like water off the edge of a rock.
Instead it’s become an expanding mass of old rusting metal amid rotting trash heaving out of bags that have been
opened and spread along the ravine in among the dense trees and summer foliage. I can make out the mountains as
they peek through the canopy. A movement among some pallets and trash bags catches my eye. There’s a medium size
dog the color of warm butter and as he moves I realize he’s a walking skeleton. He is so thin I wonder how he still has the strength to keep moving. It’s a sight that stops me dead on my bike. I rummage through my food bag and come up with some peanut butter and bread that I must have crammed in a side pocket and forgotten. The dog won’t come near me and wanders off into the trees below disappearing from view. I leave my small offering by the
dump in hopes he’ll circle back. I note the GPS coordinates so I can locate the spot again. It’s now apparent I have
definitely missed my marker and with no trail to follow, I’m going to have to bushwhack my way straight up, note the
‘up’, and carry my bike through the thick southern summer brush hoping I can connect with the trail as it switches back up top…

I’m going to finish this race and when I do, I’m coming back to find that dog…