Monday, September 6, 2010



Part 1, A Perfect Day….

The first leg of our Saturday adventure was completed after having climbed from 2,678’ elevation at Bethel Grocery Store in  Bethel, NC to the intersection of NC 215 and the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) at 5,337’ elevation for a net gain of 2,659’ over 18 miles…


What goes up, must go down!

Ken’s inexplicable flat was fixed and there was a break in the motorcycle and auto traffic along the BRP, so we headed north riding from approximately mile marker 422. A short climb in elevation resulted in protests from my legs as apparently some part of my brain had sent the erroneous message to my legs that there would be no more climbing. Little did they know…

We were strung out in a pace line as the traffic moved around us steadily and frequently. The ratio of motorcycles to 4 wheeled cages (motorcycle parlance for enclosed vehicles) perhaps increased to 8 to 1. Numerous groups of riders were out on this great day. In fact, as the Navigator and I would discover later, the entire region appeared to be hosting a motorcycle rally over the Labor Day weekend.

Our merry band of self-powered cyclists continued the climb toward Devil’s Courthouse. The parking lot was overflowing as folks were making the hike to the 5462’ top. Our one and only tunnel on this leg of the trip came just yards after passing the hiking trail to the Courthouse. Going into the tunnel was an interesting experience as it was very easy to get disoriented trying to follow along the lines of the dark tunnel. One vehicle lit our way briefly until they decided it was important to pass us in the tunnel. This particular tunnel is relatively short with a very minor left handed curve in it so we were quickly able to literally see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

The climb crested while in the tunnel and we were on a very nice downhill run as we exited back into the sunshine. The road made for a an excellent descent and let my tired legs recovery somewhat. After passing mile marker 420, we came upon the most congested area of the day at Graveyard Fields. The Fields were the site of a major wildfire during my father’s childhood. 

We couldn’t get into the overlook due to the overabundance of vehicles. I didn’t really care to get into it anyway because we were still enjoying a great descent! We did make it to the next overlook and found some room to pull in and take a break plus get a picture or two.

The group looking north from the BRP(l-r, Ken, Wolfpen Andy, Jon, Climbing Jen, Zeke) 

While stopped at this overlook, we met a firefighter/cyclist from Rock Hill, SC, who was driving along the BRP with his spouse. (He graciously took the picture above.) We talked cycling with him for a few minutes and then spotted a lone cyclist making his way uphill going north to south. The fellow turned out to be an acquaintance of Ken’s.

Soon enough, our conversations had ended and we resumed our downhill descent past views of Looking Glass Rock (4493’ elevation). The excellent run downhill ended shortly and we were faced with another long ascent along the BRP. The sun was quite warm and I had a good sweat going as we geared down and made our way to yet another high point along the spine of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Another short break was in order at a crowded overlook as our group reunited again for the final few miles of our day’s ride along the BRP. This particular overlook presented views back toward Mt. Pisgah and the Pisgah Inn. A church group and a large family populated this overlook during the time we were regrouping and catching our breath.

A short break along the BRP!(Ken, Jenn, and Jon with Mt. Pisgah in the background) 

A very short descent from this overlook and a mild climb brought us to Wagon Road Gap (elevation 4535’) where our run along the BRP ended for this ride. We stopped briefly to put on windbreakers and to prepare for the 4 mile steep descent along poorly paved, narrow US 276.

Ken led the way carving out nice lines through the “S” curves as we negotiated the rough road surface at speeds that neared 30 mph at times. More than once, I struggled to remember to avoid braking while in the curves and to scrub off speed before getting into the curve. This was not a time time for sight seeing as a small error here could easily land you down the embankment or buried on the grill of an on-coming vehicle. Once into the rhythm, this was a fun descent that ended too abruptly for me.

The road opens up at the entrance to Looking Glass Falls hiking area. We came back together as a group and had a nice pace line going by the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground and the Cruso Community Center. The East Fork of the Pigeon was now our companion as we headed “home” to Bethel. A brief stop at a convenience store at Harley Creek was our final stop along the ride.

The remainder of the ride was spent sharing the pull as our pace line passed by Springfield Golf Course and numerous fields of tomatoes and peppers ready for the gloaming. In relatively short order, the East Fork of the Pigeon bore off to the north and we were soon again crossing the West Fork just above its confluence with the East Fork. Some 45 miles had been covered between the 18 mile climb up to the BRP, the roughly 9 mile transit of Parkway, and the 17 mile descent from Wagon Road Gap.

Tired and happy, we returned to the Bethel Middle School athletic field and our vehicles as the hundreds of parents and players were just getting underway with a day’s slate of football!

Was it a perfect day? Other than my slow start of the morning, I can’t think of a thing I would change. The weather certainly couldn’t have been better, the fellowship of the riders was outstanding, and another major goal for this season has now been checked off. Perfect day? I’d say it was darn near perfection…

Until later,

- Zeke


Anonymous said...

Hey Zeke,

Good job on completing the Cold Mountain Loop! It is a classic Haywood County Ride. Generally, when we do the loop we regroup at the first rock bridge and fill up the bottles from the spring there, regroup again at Beech Gap, and once again at the bottom of the downhill by Graveyard Fields. Pacelining through Cruso down 276 is pure cycling joy.
Lets get together & do the loop sometime.

David Tate

Unknown said...


We pretty much hit the same break points although we didn't fill up on water. The descent down past Graveyard Fields was a hoot! Tell Marcia I completed her BDay ride!

I'd love to do it again and would be happy to do it with you! I still feel the ride in my legs today... :)