Bricks & Bikepacking: Mulberry Gap
Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Getaway is the MTB hub of north Georgia, a requisite stop on the TNGA bikepacking route, and a basecamp for adventure. Photos, a Q&A with the owners, and a reflection on the 2015 TNGA race…
Mulberry Gap is a unique, family-owned, mountain bike basecamp nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest in northwest Georgia, the state’s designated “Mountain Bike Capital”. Folks visit Mulberry Gap from all over to ride the Pinhoti Trail, an incredible trail system that offers some of the best Appalachian riding in the southeast. In addition to cabins, camping, and a community barn set on a beautiful terraced plot of land in the forest, MGMBG offers home-cooked meals and a camp store with bike goods and a nice craft beer selection. It’s all about pre-ride breakfast, through-ride refuel, and the post-ride experience.
Bikepackers might know of Mulberry Gap by way of the Trans North Georgia bikepacking race. The retreat is on route at about the 215 mile mark and is a perfect place to pause for a home-cooked meal, a cold beer, and a warm bed. And trust me, if you made it that far, you damn well deserve it.
Mulberry Gap also offers a growing collection of guided multi-day tours including the ‘Cohutta Bikepacking 101’ that leaves right from their door. On this introductory tour, a night at Mulberry is followed by breakfast, a nice climb through the scenic Cohutta Wilderness area, and a section of the Pinhoti trail. The second night is at Jacks River Fields Campground for dinner and a discussion on bikepacking setups, equipment, training/nutrition, and a Q/A. The second day of riding loops back to Mulberry Gap for the perfect ending: hot tubs and cold beer. Sounds like a great trip for a beginner looking for a means to start, or anyone interested in a beautiful bikepacking trip with good folks, food, and a nice post-ride experience. Here’s a GPX they sent of day 1 of the route:
Kate and Andrew Gates, two of the four family members that run the show at Mulberry Gap, are active volunteers for the TNGA race. Each year they spend countless hours shuttling, cooking, helping, and documenting the event. We had the chance to ask Kate and Andrew a few questions about Mulberry Gap, bikepacking, and the TNGA. Here’s what they had to say:
How did Mulberry Gap become a bike specific lodge and getaway?
Mulberry Gap started as a bed and breakfast for all outdoor enthusiasts. We weren’t mountain bikers when we bought the property in 2006 from a family and had the vision of starting a business in the woods. Because of our amenities and services available; home cooked meals, hot showers and comfortable cabins with an AC or Heater along with hot tubs and our proximity to the trailheads, mountain bikers kept showing up at our doorstep. They experienced what Mulberry Gap had to offer and went home to tell all of their friends. Our market truly choose us! Andrew finally got a bike about 2 years into our existence and we changed the name from Mulberry Gap Bunkhouse Inn & Camping to Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way in 2009. We loved the mountain bike family as much as they loved us..and so it began! It was a perfect match and we couldn’t ask for a more laid back, friendly and honest clientele.
How is bikepacking a part of Mulberry Gap?
Dave Muse started the Trans North Georgia (TNGA) back in 2009 after almost 10 years of scouting trails and backroads to connect the state of Georgia from the South Carolina line to the Alabama border. We sit right off the Pinhoti Trail System so it made sense for us to be an integral part of the event. It started small, before bikepacking really hit the mainstream. Over the years, the event and the sport has grown and we have accommodated its needs by offering out Cohutta Backcountry 101 and 201 Bikepacking multi day tours (see specifics below).
It seems like a conflict of interest to promote bikepacking when your primary business is lodging; what are your thoughts behind this?
We are not primarily a lodging business but also an outfitting and guide service as well. We have been in the bikepacking scene on the East Coast since it’s inception as we’ve been the base camp and neutral support for the TNGA from the beginning. The fact that the route passes by our front door has peaked the interest of our customers and has even inspired us to dive deeper into the sport. We find the sport so inspiring that Andrew and Kate are contemplating a Tour Divide run. Many of our customers have stated that they want to ride the TNGA but they want help getting into the sport and we have the perfect training ground in our backyard with miles of singletrack and a hundred miles of gravel circling the Cohutta Wilderness where they can get their backcountry chops before they tackle a route like the TNGA or the Colorado Trail.
Good home-cooked breakfast and dinner are part of the offerings of Mulberry Gap; what’s your favorite post-bikepacking meal that you offer?
Whether bikepacking or going out on a long ride, mountain bikers want good food! Everyone craves something a little different but I think our full spread dinners fill the void, satiate their appetites and prepare their body for the next days’ adventure. Fresh salads with romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, spring mix and arugula mixed in with an assortment of fresh toppings like tomatoes, carrots, cranberries, sweet bell peppers and feta cheese and homemade beer bread, we start you off just right. Then we get into the goods with 1-2 fresh vegetables, a starch such as sweet potatoes and beef brisket or pulled pork that’s been cooking all day. We always end with a delicious treat such as warm brownies and ice cream, peach cobbler or peanut butter pie. You just can’t go wrong with real food!
You guys are an active part of the TNGA event; What’s your favorite part about helping out with the event?
Just the other night, 8/29, Scott Sidener completed his yo-yo attempt of the route; just under 700 miles on a single speed fat bike! Kate was waiting at SC border to pick him up and they didn’t roll through into Mulberry Gap until 1:00am, just under 9 days from his original start. Late nights and early mornings are a common occurance for us throughout the week and sleep deprivation is just a reality of it all.
Between Andrew & Kate Gates and Brett Davidson, nearly 4,500 miles were driven, over 3,000 photos documented, they slept an average of 3.5 hours a day, drank 5 cups of coffee and ate just as much junk food as the racers. Everyone at Mulberry Gap, including the mamas, Diane Kepley and Ginni Taylor, are just as exhausted and mentally wiped as the riders but lack the saddle sores, lactic acid in our muscles and trench foot.
Why do we do it? Why are we so stoked about this event year after year? We freaking LOVE IT! It’s addicting. The hectic, fast pace dats, the multiple cross Georgia road trips and witnessing the riders as their journey unfolds through the highs and the lows. Being there at the finish, whether is 12:30pm or 3:30am is a proud moment for us as well. Even riding 2.5 hours home with you even though you smell like a skunkape – we crave your stories, we bask in your accomplishments and we applaud you for your efforts, finisher or not! Thank you for letting us be apart of this amazing event!
And, what was your favorite moment of the 2015 TNGA?
It’s so hard to pick. The stories of the riders’ experiences are always entertaining. This year, we were able to track the riders a bit more as we were documenting the event. Witnessing their struggles was humbling. We were always greeted with a smile as they were stoked to see someone on the trail and have a friendly face to talk to, even for just 30 seconds. It’s a whirlwind experience for us that comes and goes within 5-7 days.
How does your camp store cater to bikepackers?
CRAFT BEER! That’s all you need, right? We’ve got most of the basics one might need when rolling through in need of minor repairs and snacks. With advance notice, we can accommodate breakfast, lunch or dinner along with lodging (cabins or campsites) if you need something other than gas station food or some shut eye before your next big day.
Has the popularity of bikepacking and the TNGA changed the dynamic of Mulberry Gap?
Mountain biking is a sport we love; all angles of it. The TNGA event and bikepacking has added a new and exciting dynamic to our business and we enjoy being a part of the growing world of mountain biking.
Any upcoming programs, clinics, or events you’d like to mention?
Our 201 tour is for riders that have already done all of the research, have their bikes mostly set up and are chomping at the bit to get their journey started but lack the confidence to be out in the wilderness by themselves for days or weeks at a time. This tour allows those riders to dial in their gear, test their abilities, focus on their nutritional needs, learning how to properly maintain their bike and body while on the route. They’ll carry most if not all of their gear, food and water and be as self-sufficient as possible.
What’s your favorite trail in north Georgia?
How about Trail System? It’s hard to pick just one. The Pinhoti Trail System is right on our back yard and offers a wide variety of trail for multiple levels of riders. From fast and flowy, to roots, rocks, technical switchbacks, thigh-burning climbs and screaming downhills, everyone can find something they like. The trail starts north of us and continues all the way into Alabama, about 140 miles of mixed trail. The good stuff surrounding us is Pinhoti 0 – Pinhoti 5 and into Dennis Mill.