Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The “Wood-man’s” and my foray into the low country of S.C. is a thing of the past. I’m back home and eager to climb something. I didn’t realize how much I would miss climbing until I was cycling around the island this past weekend.

Yesterday, “Big Ben” and I were the sole participants in our standing Tuesday ride. We’ve moved up the start time to 4:30 p.m. due to the shortening daylight hours. It was also the last chance I’ll have to ride this month so I was certain that I didn’t want to miss it.

We started out at my office in Waynesville and headed east on a loop that we’ve been riding regularly. Our starting temperature was notably cooler today being around 63 degrees when we started. A windbreaker was definitely in order as we warmed up.This route gets us out of the end-of-workday traffic fairly quickly and onto to some good rural roads. About the time the legs get warmed up, we start a climb up and over Poison Cove Gap and an elevation gain of 200’ from 2800’ to 3001’. 

Dropping down from the Poison Cove Gap to Stamey Cover road, we picked up speed as we lost approximately 356’ in elevation. The cooler winds became “biting winds” as  we descended near 35 mph. From this intersection, we had a relatively flat roll, along with some folks in a hurry to get somewhere, into Clyde proper. We had good timing and caught the green of the traffic light as we crossed over Broad St. to get to Hyder Mountain Road.

This 2 mile run is mostly flat with a couple of rollers along the Pigeon River as it makes its way toward Tennessee. The river doesn’t carry its former stench from the paper mill upstream in Canton anymore and is a very pleasant path to take from Clyde to Lake Junaluska. We arrived at the bridge where the road crossed over the Pigeon with plenty of fall sunlight lighting our way. Here in Western North Carolina, the leaves are in the earliest stages of transitioning to their annual show of colors. At this point, we stopped and took a photo of “Big Ben” for his listing on the BICYCLEHAYWOODNC website.

BigBen2(“Big Ben” Hill on a sunny afternoon)

We were at a cross-roads. We could proceed south and west, as is our norm, and follow the farm road back to NC 209 or we could turn north and climb Hyder Mountain Road. “Big Ben”, the “Wood-man” and others climb this steep mountain road with some frequency. I’ve been over it on a Harley… This has been one more of my goals to conquer this riding season so we headed up the mountain. I promised “Big Ben” I would go as far as I could make it. I warned him that if it was too much for me, I’d just turn around and meet him out on NC 209 when he looped back.

I was in for a very pleasant surprise. With my heart ONLY reaching 173 bpm, we crested the top at Fincher’s Chapel and I had knocked off one more of my mountain top climbs for the year. The climb goes from 2500’ at the river to 2833’ at Fincher’s Chapel .85 mile away, which is only a 7.92% average grade for the full distance. The initial climb is less than that with the final 1/8th mile significantly higher in grade percent.

We stopped at the top to enjoy the view and let my heart rate drop back to something approaching normalcy. I’m not really sure “Big Ben” ever broke a sweat. We also grabbed some more images looking north from the top of Hyder Mountain.












Without focusing on the two world class male models in the images, you can clearly see that we had a great day for a ride! I had the chance to show off my snazzy new ASU cycling jersey. No, that is NOT Arizona State University but rather Appalachian State University in beautiful Boone, NC.

Our ride continued as we dropped off the mountain, intersected with US 209 on the north side of I-40 and paced ourselves back to town for a total of about 22 miles. Our timing was good as the sun was just setting and the air temperatures dropping below 60 degrees. You may follow this ride on MapMyRide by CLICKING HERE!

All in all, it was an excellent wind down from work and I was able to enjoy topping another mountain. This summer I’ve managed to top Coleman Mountain, Water Rock Knob, and now Hyder Mountain. I’ve made the first approach to Rush Fork so I’m guessing the final push over Rush Fork is on my horizon. Time will tell…

Until later,

- Zeke

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