Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Circumnavigation of Mt Mitchell

 I headed out for an overnight bikepacking trip.  The main goal was to camp on Mt Mitchell.  But I had all day to ride, so I decided to ride around the mountain range first,  on the western side.  I rode up the Parkway and down Ox Creek, the out and over the mountain through Reems Creek to Barnardsville.  I stopped at the little feed and seed store and was glad to find a fridge full of handmade foods and a Coke.  I sat and ate half before heading on up Hwy 197.
 I had driven a little ways up 197 a long time ago, but had never seen the whole thing.  I was excited to be exploring new ground and looking forward to pedaling all day.  Little did I know at this point that I would be pedaling well past sunset! 
 The pavement finally ended and I enjoy the sights and sounds of Pisgah from a different angle.  Less than a week after the Stage Race, I was feeling decent.  Not fast, but steady. 
 Up and over the top, down the other side and into Murchison.  This would have been a cool store long ago when it was open. 
 It was getting close to 3pm when I pedaled into Burnsville and, being hungry, I made the mistake of going to Mc Donald's.   I was craving a chocolate shake which was great, but the Big Mac was terrible.  I bought 2 apple pies for later which was a good decision.  Next time, I won't be getting a Big Mac. 

 Back onto 19E and headed over through Celo then onto the gravel road past Black Mountain Campground.   I learned something valuable.  I had hoped to get to the restaurant on Mt Mitchell for dinner.  It was around 4pm, and I barely had time to meet my goal.  But,  the staff at Black Mountain Campground informed me that it was supposed to start raining early in the morning.  The highest peak east of the Mississippi combined with early morning rain and 40 degree temps did not sound appealing at all. 

Upon gathering and considering all of the info,  I should have turned around, gone back to the golf course in Celo and grabbed a burger at the grill there.  Then spend the night at Black Mountain Campground. 
 Instead, I pedaled on,  up the gravel road to the parkway, then south towards the mountain.  I arrived at the gate at 7pm.  It would be another 2 miles to the restaurant.  I should be able to make it, but then doubts started hammering.  What if they closed early?  What if I got a flat and didn't get there in time?  What ifs?  I had some snack foods, but didn't want to spend the night hungry.

Then I considered riding home.  Only another 30 miles,  which would make 100 for the day.  I headed south,  the sun set and it was dark, except for the light of the moon.   The next hour and a half was spent riding alone through the darkness.  With only an occasional car passing.   Some times, I turned off my lights and rode by the light of the moon.  It was almost magical. 
 I arrived home at 9pm,  and enjoyed a warm night's sleep.   I have some unfinished business on the mountain, but that will have to wait for another day. 

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