... if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
So I'll say this: This weekend was awesome. Unbelievable. Darn-near perfect.
It started with this:
... and ended with this:
... and in between was a whole lotta' reasons to love the fact that we live in the mountains of Western North Carolina now.
As you may have gathered from my posts last week, things were kind of rough. One minute I'm doing fine; the next, something triggers a thought and I'm off in pityland. It's not pretty, but it is helping me work through where I'm at, I suppose. And it's something I need to face.
Wednesday was probably the worst, and that night I was just done. I curled up in bed at about 7:30 and let myself just drift. I was wiped.
But then a funny thing happened on Thursday: I rode my bike. Twice. I rode it at lunch, and then the weather broke enough that I could ride it home too. And it was fantastic. All of a sudden, things were looking up. I was back in the game. I felt good -- mentally and physically -- for the first time since New Year's.
The sunshine continued on Friday, and I got confirmation from Greg that he was in for a big boy loop on Saturday. A big big boy loop that would include the one trail that I hadn't hit yet. Was I ready? Hell no. Was I excited for it? Oh, yeah.
NMR > 5000 > BCG > 5000 > 1206 > Laurel Mtn > Parkway > Big Creek > Reservoir Road > 5000
Funny thing is, it didn't start off that well. I thought I was climbing sort of slow as I made my way up to Bent Creek Gap to meet Greg, and I started wallowing a bit. I've always been prone to depression, and it's so easy to slip into ... honestly, if I had been alone, I would have turned around and gone home.
But then I met up with Greg, and we had a long descent back to NMR, and then a long climb to Yellow Gap, and things just ... got better. We talked about everything and nothing, and I felt better. Better than better, actually -- I felt good. I appreciated that Greg wasn't crushing his single gear, and by the time we crested and were on our way to Laurel, I was into it in a big way. let's see what we've got!
As expected, Laurel was in good shape, what with its rocky tread and south face. It's a long climb, sure, but we were at Sassafras before I knew it, and the time in the weight room paid off in a fairly easy ascent of the "staircase." Good Enough Gap was certainly good enough, and then we were into the sketchiest part of the day, as we hike-a-biked the north-facing end of the trail as it connected to the Parkway. Slip-sliding through snow and ice, a couple-hundred-foot drop off to our right, it took all our concentration to make it through what's a tough section even in the dry. But then we made it, and the view of Little Bald Mountain was there to greet us ...
The view from Buck Spring Gap (first picture in this post, thanks to Greg for both images) was amazing, folded mountains stretching forever, from horizon to horizon. I was finally this close to Mount Pisgah, another adventure for another day. And as I'm reading Cold Mountain right now, it was fun to be able to see it first-hand from an amazing viewpoint.
After a few minutes in the wind, it was time to ride. A few short minutes freezing our way down the pavement and through the tunnels on the Parkway, and then we were turning right onto our big objective of the day: Big Creek. It was the last unchecked box on my must-do list, and Saturday was the perfect chance to grab another notch ...
Now, you all know I love my Siren. But seeing as how I'm still unclogging it from the adventure at Snake Creek Gap, and seeing as how the top of Big Creek might as well be a downhill run, the work Ibis got the call. And oh. my. gawd.
Now, a year in Pisgah has taught me a few things. But there is still a lot to learn -- a lot -- and I'm rather humble when it comes to my ability to ride downhill. In fact, I would say I'm a downright ninny. But for the first time in my life, I'm starting to feel like I've got a few skills to match the motor, and Saturday was a chance to give 'em a try ...
I made one promise to Kim when we moved here: I wouldn't buy armor. I wouldn't ride trails in such a way that I would need an exoskeleton to protect my bones. After Saturday, I'm beginning to rethink that. I was riding way over my pay grade, executing moves I've only ever seen in movies. I mean, riding a nose-wheelie around a downhill swichback hanging over a 200-foot drop? Um, yeah ... the skidmark in my shorts was longer than the skidmark on the trail. But I cleaned it. And it felt good.
The river crossings were cold, really cold, but with an air temperature approaching 60 on a fine February day, the frigid mountain stream was nothing to worry about. Greg and I rode out the pedal section, being a bit careful on the no-tread, off-camber root boles that have taken over the trail but otherwise railing the coves and hammering through the false-flat downhills. We were right near 5 hours when we hit the reservoir, so rather than pushing up to Trace via the Creeks, we opted to ride out the gravel and head home. What an awesome, head-clearing way to start the weekend.
Sunday was slated to be another full day in the woods -- Stephen had organized a weekend work crew building trails at a local middle school, and though early in the week I had begged off, it promised to be a fun family affair and a chance to get Kate exposed to the "give-back" side of hiking and riding. So we loaded up the family early and headed north, where Todd had been leading the charge behind a machine and a full 1/4-mile of trail had sprung up overnight.
We spent the next few hours clearing roots, moving rocks and cutting backslope, and while there was a little fear that the Dingo would eat my baby, we all just had fun and got it done. I know I've mentioned it before, how awesome the community here is, but it bears saying it again: The folks here are awesome. Stephen, Rhonda and Jubal; Nolan and Clark; Greg; Todd and Heather; the two Tracys; Amy; and a host of other folks I didn't even get to meet all came together and in a few hours of work on a beautiful weekend created a resource that will benefit the entire Erwin community. And I'm proud to say we were a part of it, and proud that I get to show my little girl how important it is to give back. Volunteerism runs deep in my family, and without my Mom here to show her the way, it's up to me to guide Kate along that path.
I had to duck out a bit early for a work meeting ... and by "meeting," I mean a semi-mandatory meeting of a group of work folks out on the trail. Whereas conditions in Mills River were pretty great on Saturday, Bent Creek was another story on Sunday, and while we did our best to be responsible, we saw more than our share of folks who thought keeping it high and dry was more trouble than it's worth. And it was crowded, as in, solid parked cars from the first parking lot to the third along the road, where it was gated to prevent more erosion. BC isn't my first choice of riding destinations anyway, but we made the most of it, and how bad can a work meeting be when it involves beautiful climbs and hair-raising descents ... all on a February day with no armwarmers and no legwarmers?!
Then I was on my way home, where Kim had fired up the Weber and was grilling hot dogs and squash. We had a nice family dinner, and then it was time for Kate's treat -- roasted marshmallows! We opened up the grill, and mommy held her while Kate got her treat nice and toasty ... and no, she wasn't wearing pants ...
And that, that, was a nice way to end what really was a picture-perfect weekend.