DALTON, Ga. -- With the snow and frigid temperatures last Thursday, most area residents bundled up and stayed indoors. But several Dalton-area mountain bikers went on a ride -- at night, no less.
"They had lights," said Conrad Fernandez, like them a member of the Northwest Georgia Chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association. "Several went to Raisin Wood and did probably two laps of a trail."
The Raisin Wood Mountain Bike Park, at the edge of Dalton, is one of two main focal areas for off-road cyclists in the Carpet Capital. Named for Saul Raisin, the young Dalton resident whose promising pro cycling career was cut short by an accident, it comprises half of a 200-acre landfill section and includes four loop trails, and the SORBA chapter is adding more.
A memorandum of understanding from the city of Dalton allows bicycle and running enthusiasts the park's use for 25 years.
"We're not just getting bicyclists. A local high school track team is using it for practice as well," Fernandez said.
Area mountain bikers also like the Pinhoti Trail. That's a 324.6-mile path from the southwestern edge of the Talladega National Forest at Sylacauga, Ala., to the Benton MacKaye Trail, a link to the famed Appalachian Trail, at its northeastern end. With 171.2 miles in Alabama and 153.4 in Georgia, the Pinhoti is the longest trail in each state.
Only hikers are allowed on the Alabama part, but the Georgia portion is open to equestrian, bicycling and foot traffic. Although it remains primarily remote, the Pinhoti actually extends along busy Walnut Avenue in Dalton.
SORBA's Northwest Georgia chapter includes about 50 Dalton residents, Fernandez said, among its hundreds of members.
The chapter represents the counties of Whitfield, Walker, Dade, Catoosa, Murray, Gordon, Bartow, Floyd, Chattooga and Polk. The organization maintains Raisin Wood.
Fernandez, a software writer for the Shaw carpet firm, also is on the board of directors of the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Alliance, which provides trail guides, access information, trail updates and wildflower identification.
For more information
Pinhoti Trail System from Alabama to Georgia: www.pinhotitrailalliance.org
International Mountain Bicycling Association: www.imba.com
Southern Off-Road Mountain Bicyle Association: www.sorba.org
"Our organization has been buying up land for conservation," he said. "Our conservation fund usually buys the acreage and sells it back to the (U.S.) Forest Service."
The SORBA cycling schedule for 2010 includes the sixth annual Gap Time Snake Series on the first Saturdays of the first three months of the year. A total of $3,900 in prize money will be distributed to the top five male and female riders in the money class after the final race on March 6.
SORBA partnered last year with the International Mountain Biking Association, which means up to 4,000 more members now being informed about outdoor recreational travel in this area.
The emphasis is heavy on bike touring, racing, fellowship and, of course, preservation. Rocks, roots and logs that might be a deterrent to street cyclists enhance the challenge for off-road bikers.