I decided to go big this Sunday, and was concerned when I woke up and it was raining. Thankful for the rain but half expecting to be riding on the rollers in the shed this afternoon.
Fortunately for me, the rain let up. We came home from church and I got my things together and headed out.
The plan was to ride from home, to the Parkway, through Bent Creek, up Bent Creek Gap, and then see how much time I had.
I got going with short sleeves, and shorts with knee warmers. It was a little bit chilly but not too bad. The parkway is great for a warm up before getting on Hardtimes trail at the NC Arboretum. Going up Hardtimes, I decided that I would take my time and not push it. I took a left on South Ridge rd and the another left on Bent Creek Gap Rd. Things were going well and I was feeling good. After climbing up to the Parkway I took off down Wash Creek Rd. The choice now was to go down Trace Ridge, which I have done before, of go explore past Mills River into Pisgah, possibly up to Yellow Gap and maybe even Laurel Mt if I have time. I chose the latter, and decided that if I was at Yellow gap and the Laurel Mt trail head by 3 pm, I would go up Laurel Mt.
I rode up and over Yellow Gap, saying a prayer for the family of the woman who was murdered here recently, and hoping that they find out who did it, and catch them soon. I arrived at Laurel Mt trail head at 3:14 pm. There was a guy there getting his downhill bike ready so we chatted for a couple of minutes about the trail. This was my first ride on the trail. It is 7.4 miles long, with a couple of hike-a-bike sections. I decided that, even walking some of it, I should be able to make it in two hours. I took off up a little steep section. There are five little trails that suddenly branch out from the clearing. I had to yell back at the downhiller to ask which way to go. Once I got on the right track, I picked up a slow but steady pace. Up, up, up. This trail is far away from traffic, people and vehicle. While some parts of the trail were covered in leaves, other parts had absolutely no leaves. Some really great views, some really cool rock formations, one forming a cave over the trail. I could camp here if I had to.
Up, up, up. Pushing several sections that maybe I did not have to, but I wanted to make it on my own. Not push too hard and have to be rescued. About 2 miles from the top, I ran into Paul, a guy that I had pitted next to at the 12 hrs of Tsali last year. I'm glad, because he was able to point me in the right direction at one point where there was a trail that was not on the map!!
I finally make it to the top of Laurel Mt trail. This means that I have a half a mile hike to the Parkway. Riding on this trail is illegal. I finally get to the Mt Pisgah parking lot. It is 5:15 pm. The sun will set in 2 minutes, leaving me with about 30 minutes of light. I call Rhonda and ask her to meet me on the Parkway. I did plan ahead and bring my headlamp, which I attached to my handlebars, so I could make it through the tunnels without hitting the wall.
After 30 minutes of mostly downhill, Rhonda and Jubal find me. I put the bike on the rack, jump in the car, and head home for some homemade pizza.
10.5 mph avg, 45.83 miles, 4h 21 m riding time. Good day in the woods, and a new trail under my belt.