Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CAMPING AND CYCLING IN THE HGH COUNTRY

During our recent “Hide but Do Not Seek” sojourn to the mountains, the Navigator and I enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of being camped at a little over 5,000’ elevation in our favorite National Park Service campground. We were blessed with beautiful mornings, followed by lazy afternoons, which were punctuated by late afternoon storms full of rain, thunder, and lightening. The storms provided great reading a napping time. The storms also passed nicely away allowing for us to enjoy cooking and eating outside around our campfire.

Cycling is never far from my consciousness and, even thought I didn’t cart any bikes with us this trip, I had some opportunity to chat with cyclists we met during our all too brief stay on the mountain…

As other campers arrived, many of them had multitudes of bikes attached to their vehicles and campers. These ranged in size from sub 20'” children's’ bikes with plastic wheels up to and including some nice mountain bikes for moms and dads. One particular set of campers enjoyed full family outings along the parkway.

On Saturday, I caught sight of a roadie heading by the entrance to the campground in full kit. At the time, I was sitting around enjoying some “french pressed” coffee and a John Grisham book, Playing for Pizza,  that I’ve missed reading. When the cyclist circled back into the campground whilst apologizing to a family for having scared off some deer eating along the roadside, I forced myself up to go have a chat with him and see where the conversation took me. (I was also feeling a little guilty for not having my own riding tale to post and thought this would assuage some of my guilt…)

The rider, Dave Garrett, was from nearby Cherokee, NC on the Qualla Boundary. A very friendly fellow, we struck up a conversation quickly as he shared that he was enjoying road biking for a change from his usual mountain biking. I took the opportunity to inquire if he had heard of the Blue Ridge Breakaway and was pleased to learn that not only had he heard of it but he was training for the Century ride!

Dave Garrett on the Parkway

(Dave Garrett taking a breather!)

Dave had started at the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway and had ascended to the spur that goes out to Heintooga near Soco Gap, which is the scenic road between Maggie Valley, NC and the Qualla Boundary. At this point, by my reckoning using Google Earth, Dave had ascended 3300’ in elevation. Given the in and out nature of the Blue Ridge Parkway as it traverses mountain coves, I don’t find a good way to guesstimate his mileage other than to get it in the 20 to 25 mile range at this point of his ride. I enjoyed talking with him about his upcoming training and participation in the BRB on August 20th.

Always something interesting…

Around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, a Dodge Dakota pulling a U-Haul pulled into the campgrounds. The Dodge had New Jersey license plates. The 5 young men in the vehicle lucked out and managed to snare what is arguably the best campsite in the campground. They proceeded to unpack the U-Haul by unloading cooler after cooler and two folding tables set up end to end. On the tables, was a fifth of what appeared to be George Dickle and a fifth of what I’m thinking may have been Jim Beam. If not, that “Kool-Aid” was mighty dark in color.

Now, I think any rational person observing this would agree that the scenario might seem to indicate a good night’s sleep was not in the offing for the campground. However, the Ranger in charge, who runs a no-nonsense campground, made what he refers to as his “preemptive” welcoming speech.

He welcomed the young men and announced that he expected all of them to be 21 years of age or older if they were going to be sampling that bottle of liquor that kept trying to mysteriously move out of his sight. He also informed them of the “quiet hours” and assured them he would enforce them. After the young men acknowledged his welcoming address, the Ranger continued on his rounds.

Shortly, the loop returned him to their campsite where he noticed all of them standing around a tarp laying on the ground. They looked puzzled so he inquired what the issue was that had them standing around looking at the ground. One of them finally spoke up and reported, “well, Sir, we seem to have left the tent in New Jersey…”

Without cracking a smile, the Ranger advised them they could travel 30 miles one way to pick up another if need be. Shortly thereafter, three of the five young me headed out leaving two behind to secure the “supplies”. Not more than 10 minutes had passed before the afternoon storm drenched the area including the two remaining young men. It was almost 9:00 p.m. before the other three returned to camp. It was less than 10 minutes when the cry went out from their campsite, “Well, F#!K YOU!” It was less than 10 more minutes than the Ranger was making a revisit to the site… It got very, very quiet after that…

 

Ranger Jack!

(Ranger extraordinaire!)

As I say, we have a Ranger in charge at our favorite campground…

The Cherokee Riders from the nearby Qualla Boundary are moving along on their trip retracing the Trail of Tears. Don’t forget to follow their progress!

Until later,

- Zeke

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