Monday, July 14, 2008

Sometimes All It Takes is A Cracked Wrist

When I first moved into my Cabin out in Travelers Rest I was interested in finding a nice route from the house to Dupont. Well after one venture north of highway 11, I never went back and remained a state away from my goal.

As I cannot ride a mountain bike right now I have hooked the Undead Drunken Monkey up with some road slicks and a stout 34 X 15 (not so stout by roadie standards.)

This past Friday I ventured up into North Carolina on the newly converted all terrain Monkey to understand how long it would take me to navigate to Dupont from the house. It was the first time I had ever seen the Watershed and it was hot but quite nice. After that quick jaunt along with some coordination with David George I figured I could best this beast in less than three hours.

First off let me state this FACT before I re-count what was but not necessarily is. Road Riding is in no way comparable to mountain biking.

Now after my jaunt on Friday I knew I needed some adjustments to the Monkey. I put my round grips back on and wrapped them with bar tape for added comfort on my wrist. I also threw on some bar ends for enhanced climbing capabilities.

I was to meet David George at his house at 8:00 so we could make the trail workday at Airstrip by 9:30. So I was up and out the door by 6:00am Saturday morning. I had made it across Highway 11 and 25 before the sun cast its rays on me. The climb up the watershed never got as steep as I had expected and I was able to ride all the way to Bob’s Creek without walking. I made it to DG’s house on Bob’s Creek in a little less than two hours and we made the ride to Dupont pretty quickly. Mission accomplished.

The workday was great because I didn’t have to do much with the wrist being slightly de-commissioned. Thanks to everyone who came out Airstrip is going to be more fun than ever. We need lots of tires on the new tread so go ride it!!

Sunday was one of the best days I have had in the woods in a long time. I took the dogs out to a busy Jone’s Gap State Park. Busy meaning that there were more than twenty cars in the parking lot. However, I know Jone’s Gap pretty well and I knew that most people would be on one of two trails. That is the great thing about this park because most trails are WAY above most visitors heads as this park connects Caesar’s Head Park which is a couple thousand feet higher!

I had it in my head that we were going to walk the long route around Rim of The Gap almost to Caesar’s Head and back down Jone’s Gap Trail. This is a long ambitious hike that I have only attempted and completed once this past winter.

The beginning of the hike had me remembering the Tequila and beers from Saturday night but I pushed on with the dogs and me panting hard. It was beyond humid and I prayed the skies would open up and give us some relief.

We passed the first connector trail (bailout) and I had it in my head that we were really going the distance but I knew that the John Sloan connector was still looming up ahead if we needed to bail out. As we came up on and passed John Sloan I was ready to go the distance but 40 yards further Shade realized that we were still walking away from the car (yes he really knows the park that well) and laid down on the trail. I tried coaxing him but he was only going in one direction, down.

I realized that he was probably quite warm and the cool rain that was hitting us didn’t help him much so I reluctantly turned around to head down to the connector. Shade jumped right up at this proposition and was happy to lead us going down the connector.

I ran into the only other hikers all day when I hit Pinnacle Mountain trail. I was quite surprised to see anyone and I had already turned all of my social skills off and was focused on the woods when I was greeted:

Random Hiker: “Hey there, how’s it going?”
Me “Oh hey, oh you have a dog too.” (I was immediately holding Buddy back as he is over-ambitious with greeting new dogs)
RH: “How far is it to the connector trail?”
Me: “It is very close.”
RH: “You came in the other direction. Are you headed back to Jone’s Gap?”
Me “Umm yeah.”
RH: “So the quickest way back is to walk to the connector and then down?”
Me “Yeah, well I am going to get going”
RH: “So how long to the connector?”
Me as I walk away “Less than five minutes.”

Buddy was yanking on the leash trying to get at this fellow’s dog as he believe all dogs should be his chew toy and playmate so I didn’t take the time that I probably should have to answer this fellow’s questions.

As I hiked further down I came upon his wife and she looked pissed and later as I hiked I wondered if they might have needed water or food or more consultation on where to go. I always assume that people know what they are getting themselves into and as I walked even further away from them I realized they were coming up on the only un-signed turn that I know of in the park. There are still blazes and an obvious trail intersection but not an informative map like most intersections in Jone’s Gap. If they missed this turn, they would find themselves on Pinnacle Mountain that ends waaaaay up 276 and looks extremely steep according to the topo lines. I have yet to hike Pinnacle Mountain to its completion in Caesar’s head. I hope these two made it out of the park ok.

It was a pleasant hike to the overlook on Pinnacle Mountain as the rain and clouds stayed around with no thunder or lightening to speak of. I tethered the boys up at the precarious overlook and we all ate, drank, rested and napped. It was so enjoyable I could have stayed all day long. I had my compass so I busied myself with studying the terrain and guessing where the major features of the park were such as Hospital Rock, Rainbow Falls and where the trails meandered amongst the trees. All the while, clouds would blow over bringing light rain and then they would shoot across the valley headed into North Carolina. This combined with the bird’s of prey that were hovering over us and in the valley made for a majestic view.

I will update this post with some pictures from the overlook soon.

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