Friday, January 3, 2014

the white whale

Sitting in my truck at Wagon Road Gap I watched the sun rise over the mountains in my rear view mirror. In the mirror shades of red and orange swirled all around while in front of me the south face of Cold Mountain came alive in the bright clear morning light. As sat there I thought of the woods, their history, and what could have led to a train engine being left somewhere out there. It was the mystery train that had brought me out once again. However unlikely it might be, I could think of ways a train could get left: it could have wrecked on such a slope that it was unrecoverable, or it could have been so severely damaged that it was deemed not worth recovering, or could have just been left out there.

So, there I sat. Zak and Andy were coming in from the other side and were running late which gave me a chance to enjoy the sunrise from the warmth of my truck. Out on the parkway the world was bright and vivid in the morning light. Everything was psychedelacised and just exactly perfect.

I made the rendezvous and we headed down the trail to the train. The trail to the start of the bushwhack was shorter this time and ended abruptly at a river crossing. The rolled leaves on the rhododendron told me it was 26 degrees or colder out and the ice that covered the rocks told me it was slippery. After not being able to find a place to cross where I was guaranteed to keep my feet dry I calculated that my best bet was to cross barefoot instead of risking wet shoes for the rest of the day.  The others had waterproof boots so a little water wouldn't hurt but with my lightweight running shoes I had to suffer my way across. My feet immediately went numb and I had a hard time not slipping and falling in.

Another case of tragedy narrowly adverted.

We bushwhacked a thousand feet up a knob back up to the ridge we had been searching the week before. I was hoping to find some old rail grades on the way up but instead we found some very old trees and scattered pockets of old growth. Given the topography it wasn't surprising but didn't bode well for finding a train. Near the top of ridge Andy and I skirted the west side while Zak took the east. We found ourselves on top of some big rock cliff faces that I have often gazed up as I ride my bike along that section of parkway. The view as I gazed down from that vantage point was just as good.

Up on the ridge we encountered the same heavy brush that we had fought a week earlier. The weather was much better this time as we fought our way through the thicket. There were brief stretches of respite but for the most part it was just one long tangle of briars all the way to where we had turned around last time. We found plenty of coal, cables and other signs of trains but no trains. We were, however; rewarded with a view of one of the most hidden major waterfalls in Pisgah.

I've been to this waterfall before but did not post any pictures from that trip. I've never seen another picture of this waterfall. It isn't even mentioned in the Adam's book.

On the return trip we stopped at checked out the big rock Zak had found while Andy and I sat on top of the cliff. It was very big and full of lots of undercut cave like things. Very cool and worthy of exploration on its own but we were short on time and had to move on.

We headed down a different side of the knob than the one we had come up and once again found really old trees instead of evidence of logging.

Once back down at the river we were running short of time so we were not able to search any more of the area.

As we headed back up the trail I stopped to take a picture of the winter water and off in the distance I swear I caught a glimpse of a train sitting just off the trail...

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