Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I woke up close to midnite, the wind howling in over the ridge and into the valley.  It was dark but I could feel the trees being bent by the wind.  I had forgotten to check for widow makers so I crawled out of my sleeping bag and turned on the flashlight.  The air was filled with millions of particles of dust, pollen and debris. I did a double take, then checked for widow makers.

For just over one year now, I have been dreaming and scheming about bikepacking. I scoured the internet, talked to friends and,  worked extra jobs to earn the money to purchase the equipment.  I loaded the bike, unloaded the bike, reloaded the bike,  slept in the back yard, got frustrated, and got excited.  I got to do a coupled of paved road trips, both 2 nights, one camping and one cushy.  But I yearned for the day that I would load down my Siren and hit some dirt.  ( a couple of months ago, I had attempted a trip but aborted because the timing was not right).

The day finally came and the timing was right.  I left after dinner to maximize family time, planned to ride into the Pisgah National Forest, spend the night and return the next morning.  I headed out the BRP and down through the Arboretum, up Hardtimes Rd.  The main thing on my mind was where to sleep.  I really want to be able to stealth camp, just pull off somewhere in the woods and bed down, but whenever I lean that direction, the alarms in my head go off, telling me to go to a campground.  I'm not sure what is up with that, but it happens. 

As I crested Bent Creek Gap, I made the decision to head to N Mills River Campground.  Later, I would be glad that I made the decision.  I cruised down Wash Creek Rd, enjoying the scenery. Near the road that leads to Trace Ridge Parking, I ran into David Knupp and his friend Brian.  We pedaled together chatting about riding and life.   The air was humid and with a chance of strong storms into the campground.  It was getting dark as I completed the set up, of which I totally forgot to take a picture. 

After getting set up, I sat down for my second dinner around 9pm:  frozen bean and cheese burritos.  I brushed my teeth and settled under my tarp to listen to the night sounds before drifting off to sleep. 

Fast forward to midnite when I was startled awake by the howling wind.  The thunder and lightning were getting closer and there was an occasional spattering of rain drops.  I looked up into the trees, looking for the dead branches and tree tops but didn't see any.  I noticed that the trees surrounding my site were tulip poplars.  They were waving in the wind and knowing that they could easily snap, I formulated an escape plan and headed for the concrete bath house where I sat for 45 minutes to wait out the storm.
It turned out to be a good decision.   The storm was rough and the sky opened up, dumping buckets of rain as soon as I got to the bath house.  I sent an OK message on the Spot Tracker so that the wife would know that I was ok and settled in to watch the lightning.
And the rain, and listen to the sounds of a storm passing through the woods.  As I sat there thinking about my fears, I came to the realization that everything I do does not have to be epic.  A simple overnight trip like this, staying at a luxurious campground was fine with me.  I don't need to curl up under a tree in the middle of the woods, by myself to feel complete.  (it would be nice to add that skill to the repertoire, but not necessary).  It was a good realization, and as soon I was formulating a big route through Pisgah NF,  a 3-5 day route with options. 
After the storm passed, I headed back to the tarp, laid out my bedroll and crawled in. I heard the loud crack of a limb, seconds after about 100 yrds away I heard the loud thump of a large branch smash into the ground....then I drifted of to sleep.

I woke up and got moving around 6 am.  I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance and decided to pack up and head out before the rain rolled in if it was going to.  I enjoyed some coffee and a honey bun to get me going.  I was the first one up and out of the campground and virtually had the road to myself. 

Up and over Bent Creek Gap, and onto South Ridge rd, I decided to lengthen the trip and rode some of Explore and Pine Tree before heading up Hard Times rd where I got on the BRP and headed home.  

50 miles for an overnight trip, and I wanted to keep going.  I'm excited to get my first off road trip under my belt and look forward to many more.


Carey said...

Always make the most of a situation, and if it calls for an upgrade, then so be it ... it was probably meant to be. Man, would I love to join you on that 3-5 day jaunt. Keep me posted!

Yeti said...

Sounds like a dramatic first offroad bikepacking overnighter.