None of us are supposed to be here, on this trail, in this forest, riding our bikes. It’s a Wednesday and we’re all grown men; We’re supposed to be working, sitting at desks and contributing to the gross domestic product in our own, tiny ways. But to quote Risky Business, “sometimes you gotta say, ‘what the fu@$.’” So here it is, 2pm on a work day and we’re ankle deep in a creek crossing on our way to some newly designed singletrack deep in the heart of Pisgah National Forest instead of dealing with clients or deadlines or TPS reports. And it feels good.

We’re heading to Spencer Branch, a trail that drops off a ridge way above Mills River that was recently rerouted by the local bike club, Pisgah Area SORBA. Anytime you change a trail in Pisgah, you’re going to piss people off, but the truth is, for years, Spencer Branch was a rutted out mess that funneled mud directly into the watershed. With the new reroute, it’s a 1.5-mile long roller coaster full of high-walled berms, optional B-Line drops and surprisingly chunky rock gardens. You’d probably label it as a flow trail, and it’s certainly designed with speed in mind, but you have to be on your game to carry speed through Spencer—the boulder gardens and switchbacks demand precision. There is flow there, but only if you’re willing to take risks. In other words, Spencer is exactly what you’re looking for when you’re playing hooky—thrills. Danger. Excitement. You need a good reason to ditch an entire afternoon at the office, and a trail like Spencer is good enough for me.

We threw Spencer into the middle of a big ride that combined some cherry “old” Pisgah singletrack, like Fletcher Creek, which is also fast but with plenty of fall line and creek crossings, so we could juxtapose Old Pisgah with New Pisgah. So we could get a taste for where the forest has been and where the forest is going. From an environmental standpoint, you can’t argue with the work that Pisgah Area SORBA is doing. It’s making Pisgah’s trail system more sustainable, which is key if mountain bikers want to maintain access in the coming years. But you could also argue that the reroutes they’ve been tasked with are also making Pisgah’s trail system more diverse.

buddha hooky

At the end of the ride, we drink a couple of Hop Guns, an IPA from Florida-based Funky Buddha, and they were amazing, but honestly, any beer would’ve tasted sweet after that ride. Because everything is better when you’re playing hooky. By the time we finish our second beer, we’re already talking about playing hooky next week. Because sometimes you gotta say what the fu@$.