|March 20, 1944 |
From the daily diary kept by S.Sgt. G.C. Watts, while stationed in Italy during WWII… “P-38 downed by flack in the battery up on he Adriatic Sea-side on a Spit-Fire field. Mobile unit goes after it. M/Sgt. Seaver and I are going up North tomorrow (Mobile unit No 2 in Southern Italy).”
(Fargo at the East Little Fork Trailhead)
Yesterday, while out enjoying mild summer in springtime here in Western North Carolina, I was treated to an unexpected trip down memory lane. We’ve seemingly skipped winter this year as we’ve enjoyed mostly mild temperatures and no more than a dusting of snowfall at my home in southern Haywood County. We’re already experiencing daytime temperatures in the mid to upper 70’s under blue skies with fluffy white clouds. Yesterday was yet another day in a stretch of several very, very nice days. As my riding time has been suffering thus far this year, it was the perfect day to…get outside and enjoy some fresh air and get some miles into my legs.
I rushed home after my last appointment and checked my Salsa Fargo over with a quick pre-ride checklist, loaded up on a little personal fuel, and started an easy spin up Lake Logan Road from Bethel Grocery Store (BGO) at the intersection of US 276 and Lake Logan Road. BGO is a local small business whose owners pleasantly allow cyclists to use their parking lot as starting/ending spots for local rides.
I was hoping that my timing was good in that I would miss the after school traffic and be ahead of end of work day traffic as I made my way up the two lane road toward Lake Logan. As it turns out, my timing was impeccable as I shared the road with a minimum number of vehicles including only one large school bus.
My plan was to pedal up Little East Fork to see how the spring flowers were doing on that stretch of mountain road. The Little East Fork was flowing quite forcefully as run-off from the last two nights of rain was finding its way down the mountain. The Yellow Belles were out in full force and the Bradford Pears were just beginning to show their green leaf tips peeking through the abundant white flowers as the trees awoke from their winter slumber.
Unfortunately, untold amounts of litter were also showing their multiple colors as I pedaled along the roadway. Large cardboard boxes bent and breaking down in the weeds were noticeable as were the ever present plastic bags from local stores. Empty beer cans, household detritus, and junk took away from the beautiful mountain scenes.
At one point, I noted where someone appeared to have sliced off the top of a hill with a bulldozer and failed to put up protective netting to stop erosion. The resulting “magma of dirt” had washed down the hillside and up to the road. My bet is the mud over washed the road and ran into the Little East Fork at some point during our recent rains.
Still, even these unsightly messes didn’t fully take away from the beauty of the day. As I wound my way toward the 3400’ elevation and the end of the paved road, I fully enjoyed the compact double drive train on my Fargo. I certainly have some cobwebs to work out after a mostly lazy winter season.
At the end of the paved road and a place I would normally turn around, I was still filling pretty good and not ready for the day to end so I decided to ride on to Camp Daniel Boone, the local Boy Scout camp. My unexpected trip down memory lane really started at this point.
I have great memories of my days in Scouting and especially of the summer weeks spent in camp at Daniel Boone. These weeks helped to create and foster my lifelong enjoyment of camping and being outdoors. I’ve returned to Daniel Boone only once or twice since those days so it was quite interesting to me to see how the camp has changed.
(Ledbetter Lodge at Camp Daniel Boone)
The packed gravel road took me over a short incline before dropping me into a view of a currently drained Lake Allen, a reservoir of some of the coldest water into which I’ve ever dipped a toe. It appears the lake may be undergoing some dredging at the moment but the images of canoeing on a full lake are still quite vivid for me.
I recall the night I was honored to be “tapped” into the Scout’s Order of the Arrow. All of the scouts and their visiting family members were gathered around the large campfire enjoying the evening’s activities. Near the end of the night, senior camp staff dressed in American Indian dress emerged out of the darkness near the edge of the lake. They approached individual scouts surrounding the campfire and tapped them on the shoulder. I was lucky enough to be one such person.
This light tap on the shoulder began a 3 day personal journey of service and quiet contemplation. We weren’t allowed to speak – an effort that I had extreme difficulty following. But, before the service aspect worked, we were taken back across the lake in the canoes and deposited at separate sites around a lodge. We were instructed to remain quiet until we were called.
Next came, a hike into the forest where we were assigned a site to make our individual camp for the overnight period. I recall thinking I was alone on the mountain and had only myself to rely upon should something happen. It was a great life experience for me.
After being gathered the next day by camp staff, our period of service began and our group built a stone walkway leading from the main camp to the campfire site. (I looked for it yesterday but couldn’t spot it and I imagine that all these years later, it has been dug up and replaced.) I learned a lot that weekend including that I probably wouldn’t make a very good monk dedicated to silence. In fact, the only time I’ve ever been totally unable to speak was on the occasion of my marriage to the Navigator. She comes through quite clear on the recording of our marriage vows while I, well, let’s just say there isn’t any demonstrable evidence that I was present… At the end of the 3 days, I was inducted into the Tsali Lodge of the Order of the Arrow, an event I still obviously recall quite fondly. My scouting days were nearing an end as high school and, yes, girls, were calling but the lessons learned on that mountain have stayed with me way past my time on the gridirons, basketball courts, and diamonds.
(Main Road through Camp Daniel Boone)
(A currently drained Lake Allen)
The sun was beginning to slide behind the surrounding mountains and I could feel the air temperatures beginning to drop so I knew it was time to bring to a close this short visit to my youth. The ride to Camp Daniel Boone had been all climb since leaving Bethel Grocery Store and I knew that the reward of an easy descent awaited me. I had one more planned stop to make on the way home.
On the climb up the road I spotted something in the road ahead of me. As I approached the spot, I discovered this poor fellow…
(Gone to an eternal sleep)
Unfortunately, he (or was it a she?) had failed to negotiate a crossing of the road and was now laid out in the blind side of a curve on the downhill side of the road. While a 4 wheeled vehicle would have had no difficulty crossing over the recently deceased groundhog, a cyclist, be they motorcyclist or bicyclist, could potentially take a nasty spill if they unexpectedly hit the carcass. I dismounted Fargo and moved the remains out of the roadway.
The remainder of the ride home was pleasant and an easy spin. I was rewarded with curious looks from domesticated farm animals, a large crow perched on a farm fence, and a flock of turkeys grazing in a field. Their “Tom” was in full plumage either sending out warning signals to some perceived threat or perhaps attempting to woo some young hen to his side.
This ride encompassed 18 miles out and back with a little over 800’ feet of climb across 6 miles. The memories brought back to me, however, encompassed many years and many dreams… I hope you have a similarly great ride soon!