Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Beast

Pictures aren't working on Blogger again. So if you want to see the pics that Eric took look here.

I am naming the ride we did yesterday after my favorite roller coaster because it was a beast!

Eric, Dave, Ian and I all gathered for a weekday ride in Pisgah. The day was shaping up to be as beautiful as a day can be. The morning air was chilly but not cool as we mounted our steeds headed out for a day in the woods.

Eric had this devilish grin kicking when I pulled up as the last to arrive. He was thinking that a nice four hour warm-up would be a great way to start my idea of a five hour ride. That’s only nine hours so I said “Hell yes that sounds like a good idea.”

Our projected route:

1206 ---> 5018 ---> Horse Cove ---> Squirrel Gap ---> Laurel ---> Bradley Creek ---> 5015 ---> 1206 ---> Pilot Rock ---> Mtns to Sea ---> Parkway ---> Big Creek ---> Reservoir Rd ---> 5000

WOW! Those are big aspirations. . .

I was down for the ride because Eric has extensive knowledge of Pisgah and I was going to see some roads and trails I had never seen before. We started off just chatting about things that bikers chat about in the woods and taking it easy. Once we made it to 5018 Ian and I took off up the climb to warm up a little. Eric was planning on completing this ride even though he had put in 30 miles the day before. So he was letting the legs warm up slowly. I caught up with Ian on the climb just as the road came to a clearing. It looked like a fantastic place for a rest so we chilled out for a minute to let Dave and Eric catch up. The view was fantastic and Eric was quickly explaining what peaks were what. It was good to know that someone else had explained this to him. You would have to be very knowledgeable and a great Topographic map reader to decipher the peaks from each other.

From here we continued on to the top of 5018 to Horse Cove trail. I had never ridden Horse Cove before and was looking forward to it.

Eric led the way down the first decent with me making chase and then Ian and Dave. Eric showed his skills on the rigid single speed smoking me on the downhill. Dave had said that this downhill was technical. He was right. A rock at the top of the downhill kicked my back wheel into the air and I rode my second fantastic nose wheelie of the week. It was almost enough to pitch me over the bars but with a little luck I got the back wheel back on the ground and immediately slipped behind the seat with my butt dragging on the tire. I came to a smooth stop while Ian passed me.

Toward the end of Horse Cove, there was a good technical section where Eric was waiting with his camera. Ian was walking the section and I wasn’t about to let Eric down since he took the time to get the camera out. I slowly passed Ian walking and then saw that my next two moves would be to negotiate some huge boulders. My front wheel slipped out on the first one and that was the end of my attempt.

We came to the Squirrel Gap intersection and Eric led the way again. This trail is fantastic. There were some ups and downs and then eventually it turned into a crazy technical ascent. I lost my rhythm big time on the climb and had trouble finding it again. Finally I caught up to Eric and Ian who were waiting for Dave and me.

I took the lead on the Squirrel descent because I had to have redemption over the ascent that I royally screwed up. I was in the lead with Eric making chase this time. I didn’t want to slow him down because his is like the road runner on technical sections just flying over everything. I was feeling great and really pushing my limits on some real technical drops and root sections. There were a bunch of times where my eyes would quickly scan the ground for the best line and then I was off, completely focused on the task at hand, which was not falling into the abyss.

Eventually we completed squirrel and headed down Laurel toward the wet creek crossings of Bradley. I watched as Eric and Ian tried to negotiate a dry crossing. I knew that we had the long climb of 5015 next and I could use a wash so I just tromped trough the water.

I shed a layer of clothes and we made the climb up 5015. The views up this road are great. The only exciting factor was when I came up on two hunters and one quickly turned his head toward me. However, since they had shotguns, they should have only been shooting at small game. Bow is the only allowable big game weapon at this point.

At the top of 5015 we were back to within 3 miles of the car. Eric talked with a Bow hunter about where he had been and where we had been. They both traded some knowledge of the area since they had different perspectives.

Our warm-up (Thank you Eric) was done. Dave said he was done and headed back toward the car. I don’t blame him.

The rest of us pushed up to Pilot Rock via 1206. We figured Pilot was the quickest route to the top of the Parkway even though we would have to push 95% of the trail. When we arrived to the trailhead Eric said something about calves turning to baseballs. I gave him some electrolytes and reminded him that this was his idea after all. We started the push.

Let me explain that a hike in cycling shoes up a big rock with a bunch of little rocks on top is no walk in the park with your Reef Sandals on. This trail is a steep push for two and a half miles. I heard Eric calling us. He was done. We bid our adieus and now there were two. Ian made some mumbling comments about going down too. I wouldn’t let it happen, I could taste Big Creek and I didn’t need to be doing it alone.

We walked right by some of the best views in the forest. There wasn’t much time or strength to admire it at this point so we just pushed on.

I heard something coming down the trail and then I saw a hiker. He immediately said “Where am I.” I already knew what had happened without knowing the story. We were pretty close to the Pisgah Inn and he was a lost hiker. He asked if the Inn was down the hill. If I hadn’t been so tired I would have bust out laughing. He was going to descend 2000 feet and say to himself “gosh I don’t remember walking up this . . . “

I quickly explained that if he would like to follow us we were headed back to the Inn. I didn’t figure it would be hard for him to keep up since we were already 30+ miles into the ride. I asked him if he had a map. He said “no” as I figured. I said it was a good place to get lost and die of hypothermia since I had noticed icicles forming in the dirt.

Maybe I am wrong here but let’s analyze this. He had walked from the Inn on the Mtns to Sea trail made a right onto Pilot, walked passed the intersection of Thompson Creek and past the intersection of Laurel Connector and he thought he was headed back to his car. Without hesitation I can say that Ian and I saved this man’s life. If we didn’t save his life we definitely saved him from a long night of misery and cold.

We made it to the Inn and refilled our water while basking in the sun and the day’s activities. We headed down the Parkway making for Big Creek. While pedaling through the tunnel we saw a seven foot icicle hanging from the wall.

Now we were on Big Creek and preparing to descend 2000 feet in two miles. I was not fast anymore. I was holding on for the hope that I could drink Eric’s beer that he had left in my cooler. He said it was the price he had to pay for bailing.

We made it down Big Creek with no incidents and I even cleaned some technical sections on the way down. We made it to the bottom crossed all the creek crossings and made our final few miles back to the car.

All in all we traveled approximately 45 miles and a ton of climbing. I am not sure how much but it had to be around 10,000 feet. We popped some beers (Thanks Eric!) and then packed up and headed home.
The Beast!

1 comment:

Dave said...

Impressed!!! I knew there was no way I could handle the rest of that yesterday, and I knew there were not many other bail points.

My 'wimp-out' route covered 27 miles in 3hr50min (ride time). You had to be close to the 45-50 miles.