Last weekend I was down in the southern Appalachians. The first 5 days, I was there, I walked 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. It was glorious. The wildflowers were in abundance, and were prolific . There were times when I was backpacking, sometimes over 5,000 feet in elevation, while at the same time inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of woodland plants and trees. It was a healing experience.
After my backpacking segment, I stayed at my friend Mike’s mountainside cabin that I reported on in my previous post about my week down south.
One of the activities that Mike and I shared was a 14 mile mountain bike ride from the cabin through the Mt. Rogers Wilderness, where we pushed our bikes uphill toward the Grayson Highlands. Our ride then followed an abandoned railroad grade to the top of our ride, where we intersected the Appalachian Trail at a corral known as the Scales.
The other geographical feature of this area are the Balds, which are large mountaintops that are devoid of trees. here’s a panorama of a bald that I visited.
Riding bikes here was a unique experience. My friend Mike owns two Diamondback bikes. He rode a later model with a front suspension fork, and I chose a 1986 vintage Diamondback Apex for the day. I have an 1985 Apex at home, that I have converted to a road bike. On this ride, I was forced to remember why modern bikes often sport front AND rear suspensions. The ride up was not so bad, because it was a steady climb of 1600′. The ride down was a real suffer fest, due to the constant pounding of the front end on the numerous rocks and ruts that littered the trail. My forearm and wrists were toast.
The next day Mike, his wife Susan and I went uphill again, walking a new route. The real treat of the walk was encountering two black bears. Mike’s Blue Heeler Jackson had run ahead of us and treed them. The dog came right back to us when Mike called it, when we were able to watch this giant fat black bear drop like a stone down a tall tree with it’s little cub doing likewise on an adjacent tree.