Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Alec Branch Cove (again, again)

Even though I'd somehow managed not to find the old road I was looking for on the 4th, I was not planning on going back up to look for it the next weekend, the weekend of the 11th.

I had put in 100+ mid-week road miles for the previous 2 weeks, and I felt really strong on the bike. Strong enough to crush the pedals for 4 hours. I really wanted to do a long ride from Mulberry Gap, maybe out to Dennis Mill and back around on CCC Camp Road, or something.

Friday night though, I developed a sniffle and a bit of a cough, and Saturday morning it rained.


Strenuous mountain biking was out of the picture. But, maybe some light hiking would be ok.


Back up to Alec Branch Cove.

For some reason, the gate on FS58E was actually open when I passed by. I'd only seen this once before, in 16+ years of going up there, so I drove up the road to see if the next road was also open. Maybe some FS folks were back in there and it was just a temporary thing. The next road was closed, but on the way back I ran into a ranger who said it would be open all day unless the weather got worse.


So, instead of having to hike a mile and a half to get to where I wanted to start, I was able to drive directly to the spot!

Parked at Alec Mountain Gap

All right!

"The Spot" was a little gap between Alec and John Dick Mountains.

According to the old map, Old Angel Drive should lead up to that gap and then run along the ridge to modern FS58E. I'd failed to find it from below, but coming from above, it ought to be really obvious, right?

Well, that was the idea, at least.

There was a bit of a trail leading away from the road, at the gap, and it looked like the Rangers from Camp Merrill liked to use it, sometimes.

Glow Stick

The trail also appeared to form part of the WMA boundary.

WMA Boundary

Right away, I saw 2 old roads leading down from the gap. Either could be the one I wanted, but rather than follow them right away, I kept following the trail I was on, right up to the top of Alec Mountain, and down a spur to the south. Eventually the trail started looking more like a "people have gone this way before" than a "people generally go this way" and I turned back, but I suspect that the Rangers crawl all over that mountain, and I may be back up there someday to see what else is up there.

So, as it was last time, it would be confusing, at best, to try to describe exactly what I did, but basically, I followed one of the trails down from the gap and made a half dozen little circles exploring all of the various side trails and reroutes.

It's a spiders web back in there. It appears that there was an original route and several reroutes, all of which were eventually abandoned. Then, sometime later there was a logging operation which improved some of the old roads and completely rerouted others. Then it was also abandoned.

Most of the trails were pretty wide open though. I was really surprised how little overgrowth there was.

Most of the Trails Today

The whole cove is kind of like that. Most of the trails back in there have a bit of deadfall on them, but relatively little overgrowth, except where they run right up along the creeks.

At one point, I ended up in the now familiar bottom lands near Jerry Angel's place. I made sure to stay on the NF side of the well-marked boundary though.

FS Boundary

On the way out, I also discovered a couple of cases of the blanks that the Rangers use.


It's funny, I've found spent rounds, and spent clips, and empty ammo cans, but I'd never found any unspent rounds before. It struck me as odd that they'd carry them around in little cardboard boxes though, instead of already loaded up clips or piled into ammo cans.

When I got back to the truck, I was 100% confident that I'd been on every single possible old road that could have been part of that route I'd been trying to follow. I'd have to crunch the data to be sure exactly which set of them matched the route on the map, but I was sure I hadn't missed any part of it, this time.

I'd have to wait a few days though.

That night I developed quite a headache, and a fever...


Which didn't diminish by even 1 degree for the next 5 days.

It was The Flu. "O gripe", em Português.

And, it was freakin' terrible. I don't remember ever sustaining a fever for that long. Maybe I did when I was a kid, but I don't remember it. This time it made me imagine that a person's mind has some kind of error correction built into it. Something analogous that triggers a re-transmit of the thought if the brain thinks maybe it didn't propagate correctly, because that was the worst hell of this particular fever - the repetitive thoughts. Good God! I've noticed before that whenever I have a fever and manage to sleep, my dreams are repetitive and frustrating, and the sleep is lousy as a result. This time, I barely slept for 5 days, but my waking thoughts were just as repetitive as those dreams can be. I'd think about something mundane, like getting a glass of water, and I swear, I'd have the same thought 100 times, automatically, over and over, even after getting up to get the glass of water, and I couldn't stop it. It was maddening.

Fortunately it stopped happening as soon as my fever broke. Unfortunately, that was like 5 days later!

It was horrible.

The horror!

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