Monday, December 1, 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As Promised

I took Duma out and back up Laurel Mtn. after work today. I wasn’t at all feeling in touch with the trail but it was nice and warm and we got to enjoy an amazing sunset on the climb followed by a beautiful night sky with the crescent moon hanging every so gingerly amongst the trees. I’ll admit that it is a little spooky to be out in Pisgah at night by yourself. I have ridden Laurel Mountain many times and know it well but at night it can play tricks on you. With The Most Horrible Thing Ever just weeks away my training plan is to try and get in one solo Pisgah night ride a week but I don’t expect much to come of it because I’ve never been good at sticking to plans. Does it count as solo if I take my dog?

I was spun out the entire ride and couldn’t get anywhere near enough torque to make any of the technical moves so I think I need to put a smaller cog back on the bike. The knee felt okay but is still lingering. Even if it is healed by race day I’ve already lost all the fitness I had a few months ago at the Double Dare.

Bring it on.

Posted by clay at 00:53:46 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Feliz Navidad

I spent the holiday lounging around the beach, reading books, looking for sharks’ teeth, drinking beer.

When we got home some exploring was in order so we headed over to the Green River Game Lands again. I let Duma off easy and carried all of our gear so he got to run around without a pack. Here he is snacking on a stick:

I got a new tripod that I was itching to try out so I scrambled down to Stairstep Falls and after wrapping the legs of the tripod around a tree branch I took this pic:

Here is the wreath I made this year:

After work Pisgah night ride tomorrow with the Pinche Perro.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pisgah in the Rain

Took the dog for an after work Christmas Eve Pisgah loop - Pilot Cove/Slate Rock. Rainy and windy but not cold at all. We had the forest to ourselves!


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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Solstice

When I woke this morning my thermometer showed that it was 8 degrees outside. The coldest day of the season so far and a fitting start to the first full day of winter. As usual I’m working on top of a mountain right now so when I started working at 8am I have a feeling it was colder than 8 out. Add in the wind and it was downright frigid. It is hard to get motivated to work in such conditions and my mind kept wandering to the Most Horrible Thing Ever. If I want to be prepared for the event I need to be prepared for it to be very cold so I sucked it up and shivered out the day. I’m not sure how much work I got done or how good of a job I did but I stuck it out all day.

I managed to get in another mountain bike ride this weekend without inflaming my knee much more. A group of us met at the ranger station Saturday morning and as per my request headed straight up Black Mountain trail. My route for the day would be:

Black Mtn. > Buckwheat Knob > Bennett Gap > Pressley Gap > Maxwell Cove Rd. > Black Mtn.

I love Black Mtn. It is my favorite trail and I think every ride should start by going straight up and over the top. Of course not everyone feels the same so I had to use the excuse of my knee and some peer pressure to get things to go my way. I do think that singletrack climbing is better for my knee right now because when it gets steep I just get off and walk but if I was on gravel I’d be standing and grinding the whole way up. And once crest the top of Clawhammer Mtn. most of the elevation has been gained with only a few knobs along the way. Here are Dennis and Zach wondering which way to the nearest beer store:


In addition to outstanding views the ridge line route has some great technical singletrack. Here is Jonathon on some of the nasty stuff up top on Black:


When we got down off Bennett the plan was to head up Maxwell and come down Black to avoid the highway but I wanted to try and avoid gravel climbs so I opted to push up Pressley Cove instead. At the end of the Double Dare we were thinking about pushing our bikes up Pressley Cove to get the checkpoint at the gap and then riding down Maxwell to the finish. We still had an hour of time left but were beat and decided not to take the gamble. If we would have tried it we were going to have a mandatory turn around time when we turned around no matter how close to the checkpoint we thought we were. I was guessing we could make it but that was just a guess and on Saturday I learned just how long it takes to push Pressley: forty minutes. Could we have done it? Probably not.

Sunday was the Solstice so I had to get outside and play in Pisgah once again but this time with the dog and without the bike. We opted for our old faithful, Bad Fork, and it didn’t disappoint. Over the summer we were going out and back to the Parkway consistently in under 50 minutes. Yesterday it took us twice that. It is amazing what a few months will do!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Narrows

Five full days in a row is just too much for a person to work so once again I found myself spending Friday afternoon playing in the woods with my dog. Nothing gets a weekend started off better than an adventure with a friend and today’s trip to the Green River Gorge didn’t disappoint.

The Green River Gorge is a place I have wondered about since I used to drive up to the mountains from Charlotte to ride. Interstate 26 dips right over the gorge and I used to gaze out over the remote and rugged landscape and wonder what it was like down in the gorge and wonder if there was a way to get down to explore it. Those questions were answered with a trip to the library and a copy of Hiking the Carolina Mountains.

These game lands are very much the domain of hunters and even though rifle season for deer has closed here the woods were still crawling with hunters and I was once again very glad we were both sporting blaze orange. We headed straight down the Pulliam Trail for the Narrows. I figured that is what it was all about so I might as well go there first and explore the other trails on future trips. The trail headed down steeply and the scenery was very lush and green for the last week of fall. Before long the Narrows were peeking through the trees and I knew we would be getting close to the steep trail down to the river.


The trail was very steep and Duma tried to get me to turn around a few times but I refused and slowly down we went. This was as technical of hiking as I have ever done and was thankful there were fixed ropes to help me down and couldn’t help but wonder what it was going to be like coming back. I silently hoped that we would be able to do it.

The trail just got steeper and steeper and eventually the bottom fell out and dropped you down at the river. The trail ended at a little cliff face with a very sketchy line down onto some rocks and Duma refuse to go any further. I left him on the bank and went down to take a few pictures of the Narrows.



On our way back up out of the gorge I realized that the trail was steeper than I thought and Duma was really struggling to find a good line out of the madness. I had the benefit of the fixed ropes and when we got to one of the most technical stretches he just couldn’t find a way up. We were perched precariously on a cliff face and I realized that we could be in trouble if he couldn’t make it up. The trail was so steep and so unforgiving that there was no way I could help him. He was going to have to do this on his own.


We both peered out over the river and knew that the only way out was up.


I took Duma’s pack and we did a very sketchy bushwhack through some rhododendrons that were clinging to the cliff face and eventually made our way back to the trail. It took everything we both had to get up out of that gorge.

The return trip up Pulliam Creek went much fast than I expected and we were quickly back at the truck with only this bridge between us:


But Duma wouldn’t cross it. Bridges aren’t his strong suit and he goes for the bushwhack whenever faced with the choice but in this case that wasn’t an option. Coming up out of the gorge had been tough and there is no doubt he was as scared as I was and this bridge was just too much. He wasn’t doing it. And he wasn’t jumping down onto the rocks either. And since there is no way I could risk carrying him across it I had no choice but to try and wait him out and coax him across. After five full minutes I was able to get him to jump down into the little brook with me and seconds later we were back at the truck. Another adventure come and gone!

Posted by clay at 23:21:35 | Permalink | No Comments »

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Drinking Club

The thing about the Drinking Club is someone is always there. Its like a good neighborhood bar where you know you will see a familiar face as soon as you walk through the door. So, when I found myself up early and itching to ride in the warm weather yesterday I didn’t think to contact anyone to see if they were riding. I took it for granted that at least Dennis would be there standing in the parking lot with a beer and hand and Jonathon would be there as well with a couple of mangy mutts in tow. Sure it has been raining for a week straight but I told myself Dupont drains well and left work early excited to ride.

I had a limited time frame so I parked at Lake Imaging and took the gravel roads over to Fawn Lake. I made a quick stop at the airstrip and took in the view of Pisgah:

I pulled into the Fawn Lake parking lot at 5:45 and was surprised to see that it was empty:

Oh, well, it was 60 degrees in December and I was riding a mountain bike. What could be better?

A quick taste of some singletrack had me realize that it was wet and the trails were sketchy. No big deal, a little more gravel road riding made for a fine evening!

There is still discomfort and inflammation in my knee but I’m still walking today and am glad to be back in the saddle again.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Back on the Train

Saturday I finally did it and after four weeks of riding I relented and went for a gold old mountain bike ride. Jonathon and Dennis were riding out of Mills River early in the morning but I took one look at my alarm and rolled over and didn’t make it to the campground until almost noon. My plan was to try and stay sitting as much as possible and not do any big climbs so I headed up Wash Creek Rd. for Trace Ridge.

The climb up to Spencer Gap is as gradual and gentle as they come and I was feeling pretty good. I stuck to the plan and took it easy when I hit the single track and walked both of the steep sections. Trace Ridge is one of the best descents in the forest and didn’t let me down. The recent rain had the trail in great shape and was loving every second of it! The lower section of Trace is still eroding heavily and the line has changed since the last time I road it so I found myself struggling to hold on a few times. After that I tried to ride across the river but it was very deep and halfway across I had to dismount and wade across.

When I got back to the bridge there was no sign of my friends so I headed up 1206 and took 5050 to Yellow Gap. The climb up 5050 had me remembering that my knee was bothering me and I tried my best to not push it but didn’t want to have to get off and walk on gravel so I ground it out. Yellow Gap is a sweet little trail that more people should ride. I suppose the only problem is that you have no choice but to cross the river no less than three times when you ride it (unless you go out and back). So that is how my last ride of fall ended - with me wading across a freezing river three times.

The crossings were almost waist deep in spots and by the time I would get halfway across I would be freezing and couldn’t feel my feet so walking was a real challenge. But all things end and before I knew it I was back at my truck and into dry clothes.

Sunday was a day of not much. But late in the day I did manage to get in a little hike with Duma. We parked at Bent Creek Gap and headed up the Shut In to the top of Ferrin Knob. It was a pleasant end to another long weekend and hiking the Shut In in its entirety is now on my To-Do List!

Posted by clay at 22:48:12 | Permalink | No Comments »

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Picking up the Pieces

Work is slow so I blew it off today and did a little shopping and stuff in the morning and this afternoon headed to Pisgah with Duma to check out a few trails I hadn’t hit yet. We got several inches of rain this week so I decided it was time to finally check out the Moore Cove waterfall. In the spring, summer and early fall the parking area is always full of cars and since it is such a short trail I’d never bothered to stop there before. The hike was short and muddy but the waterfall was nice. Even with all the rain we had this week there wasn’t a ton of water. I can only imagine what it must be like in the peak of the drought. Still Duma and myself had fun and it was nice to have the place to ourselves.


After that it was on up to 475B. I had been planning on stopping at the waterfall on Log Hollow but when I got to the gate it looked like it had just been logged and a quick check of the map had me thinking that I had seen the waterfall a few years ago when I got lost looking for Sienard Ridge so I continued on down the road to the North Face:


I’d never noticed the rock climber symbol on a forest sign before but then again I haven’t hiked too many trails that lead to rock climbing crags. It was another short hike and when I got to the face of the rock I took a nice spill as I was climbing up some roots. I’d forgotten it was cold out and didn’t realize that everything was covered in ice!

After the North Face we headed down the road a little bit more and hiked the Sunwall. True to it’s name it was sunny and quite warm and proved to be the perfect spot to take in the sunset.


A nice start to the weekend! Not much planned for the rest of the weekend. I’ve been tinkering with my mountain bike over the last couple of days and am itching to take it out for a little test ride tomorrow. My knee is still a little inflamed so I’m not sure how good of an idea it is and am not sure if I will or not… Maybe Trace Ridge or Bear Branch or maybe the dog will get lucky once again…

Posted by clay at 00:30:52 | Permalink | No Comments »

Monday, December 8, 2008

Shuttle Cocks

Leading up to today my knee had been feeling okay and it is looking like I might make it off the disabled list before the New Year. Of course running down Pilot Mtn. Rd. might not have been the best of ideas and probably set me back even more. As I type my knee is on ice and I’m trying to figure out just how bad it hurts. The last time I rode a bike it felt like my knee cap was bleeding with each pedal stroke and it doesn’t hurt that bad now so that is a good thing.

Before running down Pilot Mtn. Rd. there was a whole weekend so that is where I will start. Saturday morning and I was up early and out working in the cold building rain barrels while the dog ran in the yard. It was freezing and I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I wasn’t. After that we jumped in the truck and went out for a hike. Bad Fork is a fun trail but after hiking it all summer it has grown a little stale and has been replaced with the Art Loeb so that is where we headed.

Starting just inside the forest gate the bottom of the Art Loeb is one of the closest places for us to go and makes for a good out and back. We just hike up for half of whatever time frame we have and then turn around and hike down. Steady elevation gain, nice singletrack, good winter views, nothing but goodness. Duma had fun and met a friend on the way down. It was a two year old Husky/shepard mix and could give Buddy a run for his money!

After the dog was exercised it was off up to Asheville to pick up Terri and then off up the Leichester Hwy. to Sandy Hollar Farms where we would find and cut a Christmas tree for Terri. It was a lot of fun watching the families hunt around for a tree “as big as daddy” and taking in the scenery. We are really fortunate to live where we do!



I’ll admit it - I’m a Pisgah junkie. I can’t get enough. It doesn’t matter if I’m hiking, on my mountain bike, playing tourist looking at waterfalls, or camping under the stars I just can’t enough. I’m an addict. It is what I moved here for and there is nowhere else I would rather be. So of course what I wanted to do today was go for a hike. Except it is cold and I didn’t want to do anything crazy or be gone for a long time.

Something short. Something easy. What could that be? Pilot Mountain of course. Yes, I’m an idiot. If I’m reading the map right, and I’m probably not, starting from Glouchester gap the Art Loeb gains 1600′+ by the time it reaches the top of Pilot Mountain in just a mile or so. I wanted to get a good picture for a cheesy Christmas card and bought some Santa hats and figured Pilot Mtn was the only logical spot. Of course we could have driven to the end of the road and hiked up the short side but that seemed too short and I hate driving on gravel.

This was Terri’s steepest hike yet and she was a trooper as always, especially considering to Duma and myself it is old hat. When we got to the top I made some hot chocolate and we soaked up the cold views. For an added bonus the moon was out:


It was then that all the Shuttle Cocks came through. Anyone interested who hasn’t already can read about it on mtbr. I tried to put it behind me and get on with the photoshoot. It went smashingly, of course:


Notice the fresh thaw at our feet. Yep, those 3.5” or whatever tires the jackasses were riding were going to rip the trail to shreds. Way to go guys, you are bad ass!

We went down the backside and it was cold. Though we didn’t have far to go I’d had enough and broke out some chemical warmers for our hands. When we hit the gate at the top of Pilot Mtn Rd I decided I’d run back down to the truck and that is what I did. I gave Terri the pack and took off with the dog. I think the gravel was bothering his paws and I had to really keep on him to keep him moving fast. It hurt me as well and I’m feeling it now.

A little Papa’s and Beer later and another fall weekend has come and gone!

Posted by clay at 03:55:06 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The View from Work

Posted by clay at 12:23:43 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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