Today's ride is why I ride: to go long, to escape the ordinary, to explore new trail, to laugh my a$$ off, and to share it with someone who appreciates it as much as I.
Zeke and I started off this morning riding the North River forest service road to Whigg Meadow: a climb of 4000 feet in 17 miles. From there we backtracked down the mountain a bit and turned onto the Sycamore Creek Trail (#163), recommended to us by Stuart, owner of Tellico Plains bakery. With Stuart having met his wife on a trail in Crested Butte, we thought we ought to check this trail out. And he makes delicious blueberry danishes!
Talk about a ridiculously sweet, technical rocky descent! Stumpy ate it up (2700 feet in 7 miles) and was asking for more! Kinda made Wilderness 101 and Shenandoah 1oo look tame. Most was rideable. A few sections, especially the creek crossings, were a little treacherous, as hikers had stacked rocks right through the best lines.
The singletrack ended at the fish hatchery. From there we rode pavement back down to the turnoff to North River road. We rode 1 mile and then turned off onto doubletrack. This appeared to follow a powerline through the wilderness. After climbing a couple miles, I came across a "Carly find." It was a bleached top of a turtle shell. As Carly is always curious as to what "cool" things I see on the trail, I decided to take this back; but on the way back since I thought this was an out and back. So I put it in the middle of the trail.
After one particularly steep "Brasstown Bald" climb, we started some insanely steep descending. Zeke was in front. We quickly came upon a series of ledges, each step dropping down 18-24 inches. Then time seemed to slow down ... as Zeke not only "endo'd" but while going over the bars he also twisted to the left, hit a downed tree, which was parallel to the trail. He then proceded to roll over the tree, bike still attached, and ended up like a turtle on its back, with his bike on top, still clipped in. Before he started to slide down the embankment, he managed to grab the downed tree with his left hand. All the while, I was trying to slow down and NOT follow in his footsteps.
I dismounted and then proceded to lean over the downed tree and grab his bike. Of course, at this point, knowing he was o.k., I laughed and laughed and laughed. You know, the kind of laugh that makes your abs hurt and tears come to your eyes! Thank goodness his 2-9'er is light or I might not have been able to lift it up over the tree. Most 60 year olds would not have been able to climb back on and finish the descent ... they would have to be air-lifted out and then scheduled to have hip replacement surgery. But not Zeke, the energizer bunny! I could have kicked myself for forgetting my camera on today's ride!
Once we arrived at the bottom of the descent, there was a series of "La Ruta-like" mud puddles to ride through. I let Zeke take the lead (I'm no dummy!) and since he did not disappear, I then rode through them. We climbed a little more and then this double-track eventually dumped us out onto the Cherohala Skyway. And then I realized this was the trail that Kim Moore and I saw while we were driving to Tsali last week. Kim said that Zeke and I ought to check that one out. Well, Kim, we did, and it was AWESOME!
From there we rode the skyway a bit, then took a shortcut back down to the Tellico River. We cruised back up FSR 210, watched some kayakers paddle over a 20 foot waterfall, and then arrived back at our trucks. Uh, oh! I forgot the turtle shell. Zeke and I made a mad 5 mile dash back up to where I had left it, picked it up, stuffed it in my shorts (yeah, I looked 5 months pregnant.), and cruised the 5 miles back down to our trucks.
What an epic day!