Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Un Oso

What happens when? That is what I used to always ask myself. What happens when Duma sees a hiker? What happens when Duma sees a biker? What happens when Duma sees a horse? I was worried about what would happen if something else happened and was scared to let Duma off leash to really run. Now that we have been together for almost a year I’ve started to let him roam more and more and tonight we answered the question of what happens when Duma sees a bear.

Wednesdays are all about Dupont but today felt a little different and after watching the snow fall all day yesterday all I could think about was Pisgah. Throughout the day I could see the snow covered peaks and decided I would skip the Drinking Club and take Duma out and back up Laurel Mtn. instead. I was hoping to see some snow but driving up 191 the sun was bright and I knew what might have been on Laurel’s sunny south slopes was sure to be long gone. Snow or no snow - what could be better than being able to hit Laurel after work?

I drove up to Yellow Gap for the first time in a long time and started from there. The climb up was good and we passed a couple of riders on their way down without incident. I’ve been trying to get Duma in shape and he was looking good all the way up.


It was as we approached Sassafrass Gap that we encountered the bear. I’d been trying to decide where we were going turn around and was sort of day dreaming my way across the trail when I came around a bend and saw Duma squared off with a large black bear. They were no more than twenty feet apart and looked ready to fight. Before I was even able to register what was happening the bear reared up on his hind legs and lunged at Duma. Duma stood his ground and did a little counter attack to the left, closing the gap even more. They were now less than ten feet apart.

This was bad. That much I knew. We were many miles up the trail, it was seven at night, the sun was setting and my dog was getting ready to fight a bear. So I started yelling, jumping up and down, whistling, throughing stuff and was able to get the bear to break his death stare with Duma and look at me. Duma used it as his chance to make a lunge at the bear and was able to get the bear to retreat up the hill a few yards. I took off down the trail still yelling and calling Duma. But he wouldn’t retreat and kept on the offensive until finally the bear took off over the ridge.

I’ve seen bears before but have never seen one be the slightest bit aggressive. I saw this bear do a full on running two legged attack. His claws were out, he was growling and I was scared beyond belief. My dog proved he is muy macho and after that the ride was pure gravy. Sweet fall singletrack.

I’m gonna buy some bear bells at lunch tomorrow.

Posted by clay at 01:54:12 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Turning leaves in the Fall

For the first time since the Double Dare I felt like riding a bicycle and headed out for a little seasonal Pisgah route late this afternoon. My plan was to hit Bennett and Butter starting from the Coontree picnic area (a great place to start a ride imo: nice bathrooms, water, safe). And things got started just fine after the long spin down 276.


Bennett was sweet as always and though I didn’t feel like attempting any of the technical moves I was feeling good and enjoying just riding my bicycle in the woods on a nice fall day. No rush, little sweat. I passed a few groups of riders and hikers and before I knew it was back down Coontree.


Once I hit the pavement I noticed a bad sound coming from my bike so I turned my ipod up but the noise persisted. And then before I even took the turn onto Davidson River I noticed that my left knee was hurting pretty bad and I was suddenly preoccupied with my bike and my body and not really have tons of fun like I should have been. When I saw 5095 on the left I took it and headed for Longbranch.


I don’t ride Longbranch often but don’t know why because it is a sweet little trail! Suddenly I was having fun again - all it took was a little singletrack! Cat Gap was what I had gone out looking for and it felt good to ride her for the first time in many months. Minutes later I’m back at the truck and dreaming of next weekend.


Posted by clay at 23:38:12 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday Night Drinking Club

Last night it was business as usual - Dupont after work. I decided to finally relent and took Duma out for his first social ride. I was nervous but he deserved it! The usual suspects were there - David Cook, Broussard, Dennis Kuntz and Jonathon plus a couple more dogs. Just days after the Double Dare and we were all still feeling the buzz and though there was talk of actually riding my plan was to do a short loop with Duma and then stand around the parking lot drinking beer.

Duma couldn’t have been anymore excited and I wasn’t able to keep him leashed all the way to the start of Reasonover and he took off like a bandit after Shade and Buddy who were up to no good as usual. I was a little worried and held back trying to make sure he made his way back to the trail. The next thing I know Jonathon is laying in the middle of the trail with his bike askew. He said he was avoiding Duma and didn’t know what happened but his wheel was tacod and he had hit the ground hard. From what I gather Duma was running back up the trail to look for me and Jonathon was bombing down and that was that. Um, yeah, I feel really bad. So, 25 yards into the ride and Tomato was done.

After that I just tried to keep my eye on Shade and keep Duma out of the way. The woods were nice but I wasn’t feeling it at all and was happy to go slow. Cook went on and Zach, Dennis and myself did about 4 miles before calling it a night and heading for the beer.

Duma had fun!

Posted by clay at 23:07:43 | Permalink | No Comments »

Double Dare Day Two

Day 2:

5:30 am comes early and I woke to the sound of cow bells clanking and was wondering what I was doing. What is it about these races that keeps me coming back for more? The previous night had ended in a shivering miserable mess and there I was getting ready to do it all over again. Why? I wished I had an excuse to quit but couldn’t think of anything reasonable so I had no choice but to drag my weary self out of the tent and back into the cold. A few potatoes and some fruit and I was as ready as I could be.

The time trial was the expected Pilot Mtn. Rd. climb but it was more an exercise in early morning survival than a time trial for many of us on the road. As we approached Glouchester Gap Brad and Matt blew by us and I begged Toby not to try and keep up with them. When we got to the gap Robert, Shawn and Jon were there and shortly after Peter caught up. Us singlespeeders were off the bikes and walking long stretches from the start of Pilot Mtn. Rd. and shortly after a few of the gearies started having to relent and walk as well. We all kept the same pace at got to the gate at the same time and Errina was there waiting to tell us we had to continue on and hike up Shuck Ridge on the Art Loeb and then head over to the mandatory CP - Ivestor Gap. No big deal, we had already gone this far, why not climb a few more thousand feet?

At some point the darkness gave way to sunshine and it seemed like there might be hope to the day. The previous night’s Squirrel Gap craziness was a distant memory and I was happy to be pushing my bike up to Ivestor. Brad and Matt were right there with us and I was beginning to think that maybe Saturday had been really hard indeed. We all took it in stride and used the hike as a chance to chat some. My feet hurt bad and I was wishing I had taken the time the night before to take the toe spikes off my shiny new shoes but wishing wasn’t going to do me any good so I opted for pretending they weren’t bothering me. After awhile we made it to the parkway:


A little painful paved climbing and then a rocky, frozen trip across Ivestor and we made it to the CP were Mike Brown was waiting with beers, passports, and a slingshot.


We were hurting bad. It had been a hell of a climb and the last thing I wanted to consider was more climbing or more hiking or more biking. I wanted down off the mountain and back to my tent, my truck, my bed. I missed my dog and wanted to be sitting in a chair someplace warm throwing him a stick. I took a quick look at the passport and asked Toby how he was feeling. He was hurting too and it was clear our race was over. Neither of us wanted to go up anymore. We would take the most direct and least painful route back and pick up two more cp’s along the way. It would require a rolling 10 mile parkway descent, a little gravel climb and a short but sweet stretch of singletrack and we would be done with the race in a few hours.

We decided Toby would shoot the slingshot for the special test and while he played unsuccessfully with it I drank beer and reconsidered our plan. Shawn and Jon were talking about going for it. Robert was calling it a day as well. Brad and Matt and Peter all came and went. Beth and Ian couldn’t quite decide what to do. I studied my watch for awhile - I couldn’t make sense of time. I knew we had some but wasn’t surely sure how much or how long it would last. I tried doing some basic math and still wasn’t quite convinced but when Toby came back defeated from the slingshot I suggest that we reconsider and drop 215 to Summey and then continue on to get more cp’s. Toby was game and and with that in mind we headed off slowly for the next cp on Flat Laurel:


After that there isn’t a lot to report. Just going through the motions. A fast descent down 215. A painfull gravel climb. More pain on Kissee. And then we were at Farlow again. This time it was good for a cp:


Coming down Farlow Justin and Bruce passed us in a nice display of technical riding skill and before we knew it we were at Daniel and cp#6 for the day:


It was on the way into the Hatchery that I realized we might be able to get 8 cp’s. It would be painful and would take everthing we had and we still might not be able to make it. My feet were done and John Rock, though only 45 minutes out of the way, was out of the question. We would get Coontree and then see how much time we had left. I don’t think I have ever pushed as slow as I did on my way up Coontree. I was taking ant sized steps and wasn’t surprised when these two blury images appeared over my shoulder:


When we hit the gap we decided that we would settle for 16.5 cps and call it a day and before we knew it we were back at camp with a beer in hand and another Double Dare was over.

Posted by clay at 12:04:05 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Double Dare Day One


It is five pm on Sunday afternoon and Toby and myself have just reached Coontree Gap - our 16th checkpoint of the weekend. We still have over an hour left to race and Pressley Gap is temptingly close. The only problem is my legs are shot. Anytime it looks like a trail or road might be on even the slightest of an uphill pitch I get off my bike and walk so climbing Maxwell Cove is not an option. We could hike up Pressley Cove trail, at just over a mile it is short and leads right to the checkpoint, except my feet are killing me. Every step is excruciatingly painful. We have been hiking all weekend and for some obscure and senseless reason I decided this race was a good time to break in a new pair of shoes that might be too small. I’m grinding my teeth and wondering if I could crawl fast enough up the trail to hit the checkpoint and still make it back in time. The answer I know is yes but Brad Kee and Matt Fusco just passed us and said they were done and were headed for the beer. That sounds like a good idea to me as well and we quickly follow them back to camp and my third Double Dare is over with 16.5 checkpoints over 22 and a half hours.

Day 1:

The first day of the race started with a time trial to the Gauging Station at the end of Wolf Ford Rd. It was up to each team to decide the best route to get there and after a few deliberations Toby and myself decided on taking the most direct route – Clawhammer Rd. Singlespeeds are all about efficiency and in a race like the Double Dare efficiency often means taking the most direct route and that is what we would do throughout the weekend.

We pulled into the time trial in good shape and quickly took a look at the passport. As expected the checkpoints were all on the east side of 276. We devised a quick strategy of hitting the Pink Beds and then systematically heading for the rest of them in a counter clockwise direction. On the way to the Pink Beds we decided to reverse our route and go clockwise starting with a hike-a-bike up Pilot Rock. From there we would continue hiking on up to Mt. Pisgah and then descend the parkway down into the Mills River area. This was keeping with our spirit of efficiency as we would be hiking instead of doing long road spins. Pilot Rock as expected was almost all hike-a-bike but it was sunny and nice out so we made the most out of it by chatting as we pushed up and taking in the views as they came:


By the time we made it to Turkey Spring Gap the weather had changed to cloudy and cold with a strong wind blowing. This was our second checkpoint and our first time seeing other racers since leaving the Gauging station. Two teams, Robert (racing solo and on a singlespeed) and Shawn and Jon had just gotten there after climbing 276 to the parkway and then descending Pilot Rock down to the checkpoint. We would spend much of the next 24 hours following and being followed by these two teams. I snapped a quick picture and we were off for more hiking.


There were ominous black clouds hanging over Mt. Pisgah and when we got to the bottom of the trail to the top I was surprised by how many bikes were there. It is a short but tough hike up the top and if you were getting the Turkey Spring checkpoint there was really no reason no to get this one. We ran the bottom stretch and at the top I asked a hiker to snap our picture but she inadvertently took a movie of us instead. I managed to get a quick shot of the clouds before we headed down:


On the way down I asked Robert where they were headed next (he had latched on to Jon and Shawn) and he said they were going down Big Creek. I asked why they weren’t hitting Bent Creek and he said they thought it was out of the way but they might reconsider. We headed on down the parkway into a blistering cold headwind with a never ending stream of leaf peepers passing us which made the many tunnels a little nerve racking. I knew it was all downhill and the cold pain would be worth it. If we had stuck with our original route we would have been climbing this section of the parkway in the dark and that would have been much more painful. We hit the Bent Creek CP and quickly headed down the forest road to the Hendersonville Reservoir CP. When we got there Robert, Shawn and Jon were just getting in from Big Creek. They were surprised we made it there in the same time with an additional CP. In a race like this local knowledge is worth a lot and I was confident that we had picked the best singlespeed route. We did the quick out and back up Middle Fork for CP #6:


We pulled into the Mills River Campground to mount up our lights and for water but couldn’t get the pump to work. An overly prepared couple camped next to the pump quickly produced several fresh gallons of water that they were happy to share with us. They were surprised we were getting ready for five hours of riding after already having been on the bikes all day and were glad they were brought more water than they needed.

Yellow Gap Rd. from the campground is a good solid climb that I do often but with my legs already feeling the pain of the race I was secretly wondering if I was going to able to stay on the bike for all of it. Because my main light will only burn for 3.5 hours I headed up in the dark which gave a whole new feeling to the road. As we approached Yellow Gap I could see some flashing leds and when we got there Steve and Karlos from Florida were studying the map and passport. Steve was talking about dropping down Yellow Gap and then climbing up to the parkway for more checkpoints. It was already almost 8pm and that sounded rather ambitious to me. They had some sort of amplified radio and some song about magic mushrooms was playing and that sounded pretty good to me as I knew we were about to take a night pass through one of Pisgah’s most remote and enchanted trails – Squirrel Gap.

Down at the Bradley Fields checkpoint Carlos and Jack’s steak dinner was just about ready when we pulled in. Toby told them they were about to get really busy as several teams had just been up at Yellow Gap. We faced a special test of hitting a target twice with a bb gun from 25 paces or shotgunning three beers. The chances of hitting the target were zero so we went with the beers. You would think that I would have shotgunned a beer before but this was a first for me and I had to get directions from Jack and still managed to screw it up. Toby cut his lip so I quickly grabbed the third one and downed it. After that it was off up Laurel Creek and across Squirrel to the Cantrell checkpoint. I had put on my ipod and at first it seemed to be working properly as the Talking Heads “Naive Melody” was the first song that came on…. This must be the place… But after that every song that came on was the wrong song and was starting to make me nauseas. Combined with two warm beers and I felt down right bad and still had to somehow make it across Squirrel Gap. I’ve ridden it several times recently and know it well and knew it was going to be a challenge but also knew that it was very much doable and as long as we kept moving there was no reason we couldn’t make it back before the cut off . I felt like absolute crap and had hit my first major lowpoint of the race. It was over nine hours into the race and I had already managed to push myself to my absolute physical and mental limits. If there was anyway I could have bailed at that point I would have. But I had no choice other to ride my bicycle or curl up in a ball on the side of the trail so I kept moving. With a maximum burn time of 3.5 hours on my light I knew it was going to die at some point before we made it back. I was hoping that it would last until we got to Wolf Ford and figured after that I would just use Toby’s light. Then just past Horse Cove his lights went out. So I gave him my led and we kept moving. We made it to Wolf Ford and as we were working our way up South Mills my light died and we were both stuck with many miles to go and nothing but little AAA leds to get us there. The climbing was fine in the dark but Clawhammer was down right scary and the fact that it was freezing out wasn’t helping. We were creeping down the road and didn’t have a whole lot of time left but in the end somehow made it back to White Pines after being out for 11:49 and got 9.5 checkpoints in the process.

I was very cold and was thankful to see that Terri had come back. She heated up some food for us and helped me get into dry and warm clothes. If it wasn’t for her I would have just crawled into my sleeping bag the way I was! I managed to make my way to the fire and had a single beer while shoveling some food down but quickly retreated to my tent and got to sleep if you want to call it that just after 1am.

Posted by clay at 23:08:59 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Monday, October 20, 2008

Double Dare ‘08

My third Double Dare is over. My legs and feet are in tatters and I can barely walk. My left hand is still numb. Here is Toby at CP#16:

Race report to come.

Posted by clay at 22:17:39 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Monday, October 13, 2008

Variations of a theme

All the days and weeks are starting to blur into one. Work work work and play play play and it is hard for me to remember when is when anymore. Dogs and bikes and beer and a girl. A mountain road or a trail - someplace I’ve never been or somewhere I go all the time. It doesn’t matter; it is all the same anyway.

Friday. When was Friday? It seems like such an impossibly long time ago… There was work and then after work it was back on the road bike for a fast Jump Off Rock loop. Nothing to report, just going through the motions, trying to avoid the rain, wondering why I didn’t bring a rain jacket, listening to Phish cranked up loud on the ipod.

Saturday comes and we are riding Turkey Pen right outside of Dennis’s door. Jody, Zach, Dennis and myself headed off midmorning for a fun loop. For the third time recently I did Vineyard > Riverside > Squirrel and it has just gotten better every time. The morning rain left Squirrel a little sketchy and with the Double Dare just a week away not getting hurt was on a few of our minds. We all managed to clean the mudhole between Cantrell and Horse Cove that PAS fixed up a few weeks ago. It used to be a dismount but we all rolled through it without a problem - nice work!

The question had been “where do we go after Squirrel?” and I’d been saying South Mills River all along and when we got to Wolf Ford it was clear everybody was going along. South Mills is as flat of a trail as you will find in Pisgah. But it has enough rocks, roots, logs, and river crossings that it easily makes the short list of Pisgah’s most challenging trails. Farlow Gap, Pilot Rock, Turkey Pen Gap, Black Mountain, South Mills River. This was the order of the day:

Sunday’s to relax. And after a morning spent loafing around I loaded Duma up and went out for a little relaxed Pisgah exploration. After studying the map over my morning coffee I decided that we would head for the far west side and explore a little piece of wildlife rd:

After studying the map I decided there would be plenty of water along the way so I only carried one liter even though I had Duma wearing his new pack:
You’ll see I’ve outfitted it with a blaze orange vest as I’ve decided I don’t want him to be mistaken for something a little more tasty..

It was a nice walk and after two hours all the streams that should have been along the road had all been dried up so we turned around a mile or so short of the Art Loeb. Along the way we encountered an old timer out looking for rattlesnakes and a thousand other things.

Posted by clay at 03:31:26 | Permalink | No Comments »

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lucky Dog

After not riding all week I broke the spell and took Duma for his first ride since spring tonight. I got my new wheels mounted up and decided I need to test them out and also wanted to play with my dog so Duma got lucky and we headed out to Mills River. We headed up 5050 to Yellow Gap and then went down to the river where Duma got to splash and play around for a while.


Coming back up Yellow Gap Duma was still running strong and was in the front when he encountered a pair of hunters. He barked a few times but must have noticed they were carrying firearms as he let them pass without incident.

After the ride I realized I’d forgotten to pay attention to any of the mechanical stuff on my bike I might want to address before the Double Dare. I guess that means everything is okay!

Posted by clay at 02:08:56 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Monday, October 6, 2008

Coasting Along

Managed to get in three road rides this weekend of progressively longer lengths. Saturday’s ride had me climbing the steep side of Jeter Mtn. for the first time and that is a very hard mile and a half! Sunday morning coming down and there I am out playing in the cold fog. It was a fun little 55 mile route through the southwest part of Henderson County that had me going through Dupont State Forest. When I got to the Fawn Lake parking lot I remembered that some of Green River Rd. is gravel but it was the only logical way back so I went with it. I was home before noon and did the usual drop the bike and get the dog routine and headed off with Duma to pick Terri up for a late afternoon picnic at Max Patch in the French Broad district. Shortly after entering the forest we saw two bears - a first for Terri! As we drove past where they were Duma immediately picked up the pheromones and let us know he was going to protect us. The DMan has a new pack and this was his first outing with it. I was going to take it easy on him but in the end went ahead and loaded him down with all sorts of crap and he really didn’t seem to care.

Max Patch was glorious!

Posted by clay at 02:41:41 | Permalink | No Comments »

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Seasons change

Tuesday after work I came home and got ready to go on a road ride but Duma was looking sad and pitiful and I eventually caved in to his handsome good looks and threw him in the truck and headed to Bad Fork. It was already six thirty by the time we got there so I told him we had to go fast and off we went. I managed to run almost all of the climb and only stopped to walk when I got to the steep uphill pitch with all the waterbars. We quickly made it to the parkway and then quickly turned around and ran back down. Running down a steep trail isn’t easy and I managed to take my first spill while trail running. I must have hit a little root or something wrong because all of a sudden I was flying through the air and skidding across the ground. Sensing his chance for a little relief Duma quickly headed for the stream while I dusted myself off. I wasn’t hurt and ran off in an attempt to to beat Duma back to the truck. In the end we tied and did the 4 mile round trip out and back in 38 minutes!

Wednesday nights are all about Dupont and I headed for Fawn Lake as fast I could after work. I had worked hard all day at work and was feeling tired and hungry before we even started riding. Once we got going I was feeling even more lethargic and only wanted to slowly pedal around and look at the trees. I’ve been having a hard time seeing the line through the Little River crossing and managed to have to dab my way through on our way to Burnt Mtn. I did clean it on the return trip after dark and that was a little redeeming.

Tonight I was going to head out for a roadie but am feeling tired once again so I’m going to skip it. Oh well, maybe tomorrow!

Posted by clay at 22:46:53 | Permalink | No Comments »

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