Some adventures seem to take forever to get rolling and this was one of those. Most of my friends who have had adventures with me know that it is always a good idea to keep a head lamp or flashlight handy when starting off. I seem to have the ability to have everything dialed in and still need to go through more details before beginning which often gives a late start after the sun has set. We had decided to start our adventure at the Boojum Brewing Company in down town Waynesville but unfortunately they were undergoing a remodel. After a few bobbles with getting the bikes and gear dialed in we almost made it out of town before I realized that I had left my gloves back at Mini.
We were off on another adventure this time from Waynesville to Hot Springs but due to our late start we would be spending tonight at the closest possible camp site. It was almost 8pm already and as Dale, Shona and I cruised out of Waynesville the local country boys hooped and hollered and even through out some firecrackers at us. Part of me got annoyed with the antics but as former country boy who once would have done the same i just smiled and kept pedaling. The first gas station we came across was at the junction we were taking away from civilization. The parking lot was packed with pick up trucks and locals gathering all giving us the look like the aliens had just landed. Since we didn't get to snag any brews from Boojum I grabbed Shona and I a can of New Belgium for the campsite later.
The new few hours were a long slog up a windy mountain road in the dark. I remember looking up and thinking to myself "I hope that twinkle way off in the distance is a star and not someones porch light. It was definitely someones lite and there were also a the soothing sounds of hunting dogs loosing their minds as we slowly pedaled by. Luckily all of the dogs were all confined but it didn't seem to make any of us feel at ease as they ran next to us howling in the dark. Once we reached the Smoky Mountain National Forest there were no more houses and no more dogs. Just a few miles left of gravel climbing before the long decent in to Cataloochee were we would set up camp for the night. Since everything is closed for the season we took advantage of the vacant group camping site which had several great spots for tents and bear boxes to store our food for the night. We cracked open our beer and sealed day one with a cheers. Dale had grabbed the wrong can at the gas station and this night he would be drinking a Bahama Mama.
Today is Padres birthday. Its almost been a year since he as passed but he continues to live on with me and he will be with me for every mile and every adventure. Im glad we chose this route for his birthday because of his love of the Cataloochee area. Love you Padre. Today we will be putting in around 45mi as we transition from the Smokies to Pisgah and even some of the Cherokee. It is an overcast morning that we will be vigil of today in anticipation of the rain that has been forecast. Everyones energy seems to have been restored after a proper rest last night as we grind gravel over mountains and crossing under Interstate 40 to continue our adventure into Harmon's Den where we would climb along side Cold Springs until the road ended into Max Patch. Fun fact: Harmon's Den was named after an old mountain man name Harmon who went up in the mountain to life in a rock cave.
We managed to make it up and over Max Patch without getting we but then as we were approaching the last 10ish miles of the day the rain came. It poured on us the rest of our ride into Hot Springs where were we rolled strait to the Spring Creek Tavern. After 7 hrs of eating bars and gels it was time for a good warm meal and another round of brews. Next stop before camp was to grab a few supplies from Bluff Mountain Outfitters where we discovered that they have an awesome propane heater that we swarmed around to help our still unthawed hands and feet. It was hard to leave the heat but at least the rain had stopped as we headed to check in for a camp site and Shona reserved a hot tub for later that night. The camp ground was a quarter of the way full most of which were rafters and kayakers. I needed to add some more miles in for my training so Dale and I unloaded the bikes, set up camp, then took back off towards Paint Rock in the dark. The mostly flat rolling pedal to the trail head flew by but as we started to climb Dales legs were starting to get to their max pedaling potential for the day. Pedaling turned to pushing the rest of the way up the mountain before turning around and flying down the mountain. The climb is always worth the down hill in WNC.
Shona was hanging out at the Iron Horse Station when we got back to town. Adventures learn where to charge their device, warm up and if lucky have a brew all in one place. There was live acoustic guitar being played by a fellow in the front of the restaurant while we took a few min to rehydrate and warm up. This is the moment that it hit me how much I was anticipating my sleeping bag. Once I laid down there was no moving me so Shona took off the the hot tub solo as dale and I passed out in our tents.
The original plan was to do an out and back from Waynesville-Hot Springs-Waynesville but we decided to finish the ride back to Asheville then shuttle to pick up the Mini in Waynesville. I wanted to take up the Hot Springs to Asheville route with a till twist. Our route back would include some single track down the Stackhouse Trail then a ride on the rail road(yes its and active rail) then gravel grind back to pavement into Marshall where we stopped for a quick break to check out Mad Co Brewing. Looking forward to coming back here in the summer for a mid ride brew and hang on the patio. 20 more rolling miles along the French Broad River brought us home after our 130 mile adventure.