Sunday, September 4, 2011


Now that my bike rides are a little less frequent, I really need to make each one count. I checked off a box on that grand list of 'rides you should do' by joining Barry and his brother in Pisgah National Forest on Saturday. The plan, dating back a few weeks, was for me to roll up Saturday morning and hit Avery Creek, Cove Creek, and Daniel Ridge with said Brothers Stevenson. Well, when Barry goes to Pisgah, his usually technophobic self goes into full caveman mode so altering or even refining plans was dicey. All that is said with a smile, as he did try to call me during a 'trip into town' on Friday night.

Fast-forward to Saturday and after oversleeping by about an hour (we have a six week old, remember?) I got moving. Barry's ever-kind wife Lisa intercepted my Facebook message to him about my travel plans, and swiftly forwarded directions to his planned campsite. Note to Barry: this is possible with a cell phone manufactured at some point after the Bronze Age.

Sweeping into Pisgah just this side of Brevard, I missed Barry and Co. by exactly the amount of time I'd overslept. That wasn't confirmed until I spoke to Barry later (see below), but I did make a thorough search of the area by wandering through several folks' campsites looking for my crew. Luckily, most campers were dressed and getting on with their morning coffee. I decided to head out on my own and get some miles in. My fears about being completely remote (in case of a crash) were unfounded, as several hikers and other riders were out and about. Nonetheless, I started slowly.

...and really there is no other way, if you decide to tackle Daniel Ridge in the clockwise direction. The smooth gravel track slowly disintegrated into a boulder/root section that goes uphill by what might be a tributary of the Davidson River (?). Within 100 ft of making the hard right uphill turn at the collapsed stone bridge, I had the distinct feeling that I was riding in a direction opposite of the original builder's intent. Upon later reflection, I think I was just being a wuss. I passed several other riders who were clearly having a blast bombing the downhill. I was having a slightly different kind of fun in my little world of hike-a-bike, but I did manage to ride several sections before reaching the top. Here, I faced a decision: go left to Farlow Gap or keep right and finish Daniel Ridge. I heard Barry's voice in the back of my head, and something in there reminded me that Farlow Gap is super technical. Being alone and not really excited about the prospect of splinting a smashed collar bone with melted gummy bears and a wheel spoke if something went south helped me make my decision...

So Daniel Ridge it was. Once along the ridgetop, all the misery of getting up there faded away and I was revived. Shouting "yo bear!" around blind corners and through mountain laurel tunnels, I dropped 500 feet or so in no time. There is such a mix of environments on this little loop: a rocky ridge, lush hardwoods, small open fields and soupy low spots with log bridges...I never knew what might be around the next corner, which was frightening and wonderful. I finished the first loop in just about an hour, so I rolled up Government Rd. (475) for a bit then decided I had time to redo Daniel Ridge in the opposite direction.

Scorching down 475 to the parking lot, I retraced my steps and made my way up Daniel Ridge in a counter-clockwise direction. I hit it a little harder this time, thinking it'd be nice to actually feel a little sore later. I got my wish on the downhill back to the parking lot as a rock the size of a softball, kicked up by my sliding tires, careened off my left shin. It was one of those moments where at first it wasn't so bad, then rapidly got worse to the point of thinking "did I just do some serious damage?" Thankfully no, and it's really not a mtn bike ride without a wound of some kind, right? Still hurts, for the record.

Once at the parking lot again, I was just about to pack up when I saw a familiar sight: the blacked-out CLM kit coming up the road. Barry was with his brother Brad and friend Billy. I had a pretty tight schedule at this point, but we decided to hit the Ridge one more time, and on the double. Funny how much faster you go when riding with someone else, and how much more intent I was on clearing sections that I would've walked earlier in the day...

Beer and gummy bears consumed, I made tracks for home. Pisgah really is special; just driving past the old CCC stone structures gives you a sense of the importance of this place. I felt a bit small piloting my mtn bike across a corner of Pisgah's domain, and that's the way it should be.