Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bear Creek/Pinhoti

So, last week I decided I needed to climb in the mountains, all day, until my fitness returns. To that end, the frere and I got all over some Bear Creek/Pinhoti today.

He was busy all morning, so we met at the Starbucks on Atlanta Road around noon and grabbed some Five-Guys on the way out of town. I had discovered that I only had 1 pack of Cliff Blocks in my car too, so I ran next door to some health-food place to grab some more. On the way out, I saw a confusing sign. Literally everything about it was confusing. There was a lady in a lotus position, with a young boy lying next to her. The boy had a pleasant smile on his face and a lit candle sticking out of his ear. The candle had a cone on it, presumably to keep wax from burning holes in his face. What?! I don't remember exactly what the sign said, but apparently this is a thing: ear candling. Never heard of it. Can't imagine what it would do. If you google it, you get people claiming it cures everything and doctors telling you it should never be done. The final bit of confusion came from the words of the sign that I can remember. They read: "...providing alternatives to a healthy lifestyle." WHAT?! Ohhh... they must mean "providing alternatives FOR a healthy lifestyle." Took me a few seconds to figure it out though. I almost took a photo of the sign but it was right there at the cash register, and it seemed like that would be awkward.

On the road, I took three bites of my burger and realized it had ketchup on it. I have only one pet peeve that I know of: I can't stand when food is wrong. Turned out it was John's burger though, and they'd just mislabeled it. A correct burger existed. Peeve averted. I consumed the burger cautiously though, eating only about half of it, as climbing in the Cohuttas while digesting meat is not recommended.

We parked at Mulberry Gap.

Mulberry Gap

I looked around for signs of life at the dining hall, but it was totally dark. In fact, the place was more vacant than I've ever seen it. I guess I've really never been there except for some organized ride or other event though, so I guess that kind of made sense. While we were getting ready, some guys with matching kits rode up the hill behind us. Turned out they were in town from Alabama for the weekend. They'd ridden Bear Creek, P1 and P2.

We had a more ambitious plan. Our plan involved climbing FS68, dropping in on Bear Creek, then hitting P1, P2 and P3, taking the road down off of and around the back of Fort Mountain, and CCC camp road back to Mulberry Gap.

That was the plan.

We even brought lights, in case it got dark.

All went well at first.

We spun a lap around the trail on the Mulberry Gap property, and then had a fairly easy time of FS68.


Some guys stopped and asked us for directions to the game check station and we tried to direct them to it. Unfortunately, I was a bit confused about where we were. I remembered it being past all the houses, on the right, but I thought we'd already passed all the houses. They knew that it was on Old CCC Camp Road but didn't know where that was, exactly. After misdirecting them once, I realized that the road we were on was actually part of Old CCC Camp Road, and that we hadn't passed all of the houses yet. So, I flagging them down and redirected them. They ended up pulling into the game check station right as we passed it. Everybody cheered and we were glad not to have sent them on a wilder goose chase than we already had.

We turned onto Bear Creek below the overlook, and the gate was actually open. I guess it's open during organized hunts. You could actually drive down upper bear creek right now if you so chose.

Bear Creek

And that was it for the photos. For the rest of the day we were either moving too fast or I was struggling too hard to take any more.

Tearing down Bear Creek was as fun as I remembered. Since breaking all those ribs though, my mind had built up this idea that water bars are 4 times taller than they actually are. They seemed like they ought to be the same size as the whoops that I'd crashed on. Of course, they are not. They're like 6 or 8 inches tall. A foot, max. After rolling tentatively over the first few, I was relieved, and I rode the rest as I always have.

I did drop one of my water bottles three times though. I have this shitty plastic cage up front, and I really need to replace it. I even have a cage to replace it with, I just keep forgetting about it until I drop a bottle out of it.

We passed a few hikers, and a dog.

The creeks were all high and John remarked that the poplar seemed like it had gotten noticeably bigger than when we first saw it. I guess technically it had gotten bigger. 15 growth rings bigger, to be precise. I wonder what that translates to in inches. Two, three, maybe? I doubt we'd notice that though.

I felt good on Pinhoti 1, but reaching into my pocket for Cliff Blocks, I realized that I'd left the ones I'd bought earlier in the car. It was an awful, sinking feeling. I had more than enough to get back to the car though, and it was only about 1/4 mile out of the way, so maybe we could make a slight detour...

At the end of P1, we ran into a hunter heading back to his truck. He hadn't seen a thing all day. We hadn't either. It's like the deer know when deer season is. I see every kind of wild animal during the rest of the year. I see deer every time I ride in places they can't be hunted too. They know. I'm telling you.

I felt like garbage climbing P2. The downhill was fun, but I had no legs. The tail end, after the last little climb just beat me to pieces too. I swear I must have been bottoming out my fork, but it wasn't just that, my feet were getting hammered too. Good, god. I wasn't alone either, John mentioned the same thing. I'm not sure why it seemed so rough, but it was really, really rough.

My pathetic legs began cramping as we rode toward P3. I don't think we'd ridden even 20 miles yet. Pathetic!

John wasn't feeling well either, it seemed, and his fork was giving him all kinds of trouble, so we called it a day. My 38 year old former self was rolling in its grave.

But, it is what it is. I didn't have another 20 miles in me. I had to back off to keep from cramping on the way up to Mulberry Gap proper.

So that was it. 20 miles or so. I guess it's a start. I just need to do more and more and more of that until I'm strong again.

Backing out of our parking spot, I managed to hit the roots of a tree with my tailpipe and cut enough of it off to completely clog the pipe. Me and John had to dig the debris out with a stick.

I ran by the barn too, to see who was around. The guys from Alabama were kicking back and watching Alabama vs. Florida. It was already the second quarter, but the score was like 0 to 2 or 0 to 3. Really low score for being that late in the game, against Alabama. I'm not sure how it turned out, but so far it looked pretty good for Florida.

Ginny was working in the kitchen and we talked for a long time. It was so good to see her. It's been a while since I've been up there, and a lot has changed. The barn is closed in and it has a floor now. The kitchen is bigger. The old dining hall has been converted into a large cabin (which was why nobody was around earlier) and they just do all the meals and get-togethers in the barn now. Weddings too, apparently. They'd gotten to where they were going through so many chickens that they couldn't keep them on the property any more, but there are as many dogs as ever, and a few cats now too, one of which thinks it's a dog. Diane was out of town, so were Andrew and Kate, so I didn't see any of them, but hopefully I'll catch them next time we're up that way.

I hope that's soon. I need the miles, badly. So badly.

Right now I need rest though. Not as badly, but still, badly enough.

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