Saturday, February 20, 2016


Woohoo! I'm really getting this backlog knocked out. This one I remember reasonably well, I think.

It snowed in Atlanta for a few hours during the week prior to the 23rd of January, and the mountains got quite a bit, it turned out. Billy was actually going to be in town that weekend, so we coordinated to put in a couple of ice-and-snow miles.

We met at my place fairly early and I was all "So, what kind of experience do you have driving in the snow and ice." and he was all "Oh, I've been working up in Canada for a month, so that's just about all I do." (or something to that effect) and so I was satisfied to let him do the driving. But then when we got on Big Creek Road and encountered unexpected, and extended patches of ice and snow, he was more like "Hmmm, I didn't realize it, but I guess in Canada, they get so much snow that they're prepared for it, and driving in the snow there is really not." We survived the trip in though, and there was only one time where I was like "...probably want to slow down going into this curve."

We parked near the Fellowship Church...

Fellowship Church

...and it's associated Fellowship Cemetery.

Fellowship Cemetery

And began climbing Noontootla Creek Road right away.

Me and Billy Climbing

I had the good gloves on. I did wish that I had my old even-more-comfortable fleece-lined bib, but I wasn't uncomfortable.

We climbed and climbed, and as we had started bright and early, the temperatures climbed with us. All the way up the road, there was a steady rain of little bits of ice and snow, falling out of the trees. Whenever a sunbeam hit the road, you could really see how steady it was.

Noontootla Creek Road

The road was frozen solid. The trees were flocked.

Flocked Trees

A few inches covered the ground in the woods. The creek was high and roaring.

It was just right. Just what I'd hoped for.

At Winding Stair Gap, I noticed the Blue Ridge WMA sign was missing.

Winding Stair Gap

Did they finally take it down for real? For like 6 years or more I've heard that it's no longer a WMA, but signs to the contrary have persisted for all that time.

I got a bit ahead of Billy at the top, near the gap, so I had an opportunity to capture his struggle.

Billy Climbing up to WSG

So is this conflict man against nature, or is it really man against self? My high school English teacher would ask.

At Winding Stair we hung a left and rode along the ridge up there. The sun was out, so there were patches of light and shadow, and the consistency of the ice and snow varied greatly. At one point, there was a spot where water was running across the road, and there was a gap in the ice about a foot across. Billy either didn't see it or didn't think it was dangerous, and had a Clif Bar or something in his hand when he ran into it. He hit the ground faster than you'd think gravity could pull him down.

It was amazing to watch. He wasn't injured per-se, but did manage to cut his face on jagged bits of ice, I imagine.

Billys Crushed Face

He didn't notice it at all. Apparently it didn't hurt. Eventually when I told him, he asked what part of his beard the cut was in, which seemed a funny way to ask the question. It was actually even funnier too, because he managed to cut himself in the one spot where there was no beard.

I leant him my technology mirror to check it out and he seemed pretty impressed.

Then he crashed like 2 more times between there and Hightower Gap. Goodness man! It was all because of the inconsistency in the ice. It would be super solid and grippy, then become slippery, then get soft, and then become slush, all in 100 feet. All you have to do is catch a spot you didn't predict and bam, you're down. Fortunately, it's not like crashing on gravel. It crunches a bit, and you slide a bit. He was uninjured in his subsequent falls as well. I don't think he even got wet.

On our descent off of Hightower, he was substantially more cautious and managed not to crash again for the rest of the ride.

We ran into a surprising number of people for the conditions. There was a family at Puncheon Gap, sledding down the road that leads up to Hawk Mountain. People were fishing, of all things, in Rock Creek. A few people were camping. A few were just out driving around.

It was a good bit colder on Rock Creek Road, and the steady spray from the road didn't help. I teetered on uncomfortable for most of the run along that road. When we got back into the woods toward the north end of the loop and it got even colder, I was actually more comfortable. The snow and ice were a lot less damp, and we welcomed the climbing.

Old Rock Creek Road

I was a little concerned about how high this creek would be.

Creek Crossing

Turned out it was fine, but at the time, I wasn't looking forward to either wet shoes or walking through it barefoot.

Near the Benton MacKaye we ran into some dogs. In the snow, I didn't hear their feet as they approached. I just suddenly had a pair of dogs pacing me, one on either side. They were friendly dogs. No barking. No attacking. I turned back to see if I could figure out where they came from, and discovered their owners back at the BMK, not even 50 feet away, but out-of-sight because of the curve in the road.

When we got back on Doublehead Gap road for the final run back to the car, it was probably in the 40's in the sun.

Laurel Creek Valley

Most of the snow had melted in the cemetery when we got back to the car.

Some ladies drove by, backed up, and asked use for directions to Long Creek Falls. It was funny though, the one lady started with: "Do you know where you are?" To which I immediately thought: "You're in the jungle baby, you're gonna die...." but had the presence of mind not to answer with. Yes, I knew where I was. Yes, they were in the right place. Yes, they were still going in the right direction. It occurred to me though. Noontootla is like 15 miles off of Hwy 52. It's way back up in there, and Long Creek is probably another 4 or 5 miles up Noontootala Creek. All of that stuff is super familiar to me, but I imagine to the average sightseer, it seems really, really remote.

We had fun driving back up over Doublehead Gap proper. It was still icy on the lee side of the gap. We made it though, and so I guess that was the last bit of the Adventure.

It was great to get to ride with Billy. He travels so much these days that I don't get to see him as much as I'd like. It doesn't look likely to snow again this year either, so I was really glad to have been able to get the ride in. I'd have liked to get in some snow hiking too, but, sadly, it's looking like I'm going to have to wait a while for that.

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