This route is largely inspired by the "Assault on Currahee Mountain" race that's put on by Chain Buster Racing. They dub this route as a bucket-list type of ride, and I can't disagree.
To get started on this route you'll want to park somewhere along the north shore of Lake Russel. You'll pass several gas stations, fast food restaurants, and grocery stores before you head down Lake Russel Rd. So be sure to fuel up and take care of whatever else before heading down, there's not much near the starting point.
You open this route up with a brutal two mile climb that will leave you gasping for air. Enjoy the descent and get ready to punish yourself with the multitude of climbs awaiting you. Make sure to find time to take in the views and forest while you're cursing yourself for trekking out into the woods for the ride.
A few more ups and downs will happen and around the 8.7 mile marker you'll find yourself up against a giant downed tree. Jump off the bike, pick it up, and hike-a-bike around it... just on the other side you'll find yourself on a rutty unmaintained forest service road.
Eventually you'll find yourself on some single track which includes a relaxing pedal through pine needles, a river crossing, a rut/root filled techy climb, and more chill pedaling. This is a pretty sweet part of the ride and given the lay of the land, you could probably find more single track to loop into this route if you'd like.
Shortly after the single track you'll find yourself back on the gravel, or maybe it's better described as really packed sand/leaves/rocks.
Now that you're back on the gravel, settle into the saddle and get ready for the next three miles of climbing. At first it's a gradual climb that gets more and more brutal as you pedal. If the leaves are off the trees you'll see Currahee Mountain, your destination for this climb. At the top, you'll be rewarded with awesome views, stupid graffiti, and hopefully whatever snack you brought.
Bombing the climb you just made will feel great. Unfortunately, that feeling will only last about 2 minutes. The next 9 miles are filled with hills. You'll climb one, shred down it, and rinse/repeat. It's a good mixture of rutted jeep track and packed sand. Throw in leaves, with a little rain and you'll be sliding all over the place.
At the end of those 9 miles you have two options. Continue climbing by taking a right or stay straight to head back to the car. If you opt for more climbing you'll throw pedal over pedal for another 3 miles before eventually reaching Welcome Home Cemetery and the only mile of pavement on the entire route. Either option ends the route on a two mile descent and you next to your ticket to salvation.
Sure, at several points during the route you'll be questioning how you spend your spare time... but you'll be so glad you did and you'll do it again.