Mother’s Day Challenge
I did not have a traditional Mother’s Day this year that is for sure but, despite the fact that I did not get to be with my mom or see my daughter, I had a great time. John asked me yesterday what I wanted to do this weekend and I told him to think of something. After 20 years I should know that this is a very dangerous request. I was ready for the challenge.
He came up with something alright…. mountain biking. Now, I have not been on a bike for at least 10 years… the last time was when Katheryn was younger and she flew over her handle bars and gashed her knee so bad we had to go to the emergency room. It was ugly.
He told me where we were going; the Tsali Recreation Area that is near Nantahala National Forest and The Great Smoky Mountains…. so, as usual, I HAD to get online and do some homework. There are four trails, only two are open to cyclists on Sunday so I read about those. Unfortunately what I interpreted only left me a bit anxious. There is the Left Loop and the Right Loop. The Left Loop had descriptions of “8″ single track trail where one small move will leave you plummeting in the lake below”. That sounds scary. AHHHH. The Right Loop sounded a bit less dramatic. Although many of the posters described the Left Loop as their favorite, many also said that the Right Loop was more suited to beginners. Sign me up – the Right Loop it is. However, all that said, John really wanted to do both loops – “it’s only 22 miles”, he said, ” you can run 20 miles”. right. Let’s get through the first loop first. In the unlikely event I am not scratched and bruised and completely worn out after the first 11 miles I will consider it.
After a breakfast of my Green Monster and steel cut oats, PLUS two biscuits from Shoney’s (we stopped for breakfast and that is all wanted) we made our way to the trail. I was outfitted in what John calls his “monkey butt” shorts ( one of his many Johnisms – they are padded biking shorts and yes, they are his. He will most likely never be able to wear them again since I am sure I stretched them out!), my trail shoes, tee shirt, helmet, Garmin and Camelback.
I am smiling at this point but very nervous, crazy, I know… I think my heart rate was 100 just standing still awaiting the unknown.
John was kind enough to wait for me often and that allowed him to set up and get some pretty good pictures! I felt bad that he wasn’t really getting a good workout, but I liked having the trip documented! He is so amazingly fit that I do not think he ever even broke a sweat! He was flying up the hills and DOWN the hills, which is most likely the hardest part! I was scared to death. He tried giving me several pointers that I tried to incorporate, but I am just not strong enough. Apparently going over rough patches you should lean forward with your butt off the seat and “float” over the bumps. haha
He yelled for me to SMILE…
Seriously, this was so steep and rocky! I could not keep myself upright on the bike so I decided to walk down, which is no easy feat, either!
Another action shot. I look so professional!
Shortly after this was taken the trail once again became narrow with lots of brush, including thorns, and a drop off on one side. In an effort not to drop off the side I plowed into a thorn bush and now have wounds. I am not quite sure how they got on the inside of my arm. It is as if the branch reached out and grabbed me!
We had been following the main Right Loop trail for about 6 miles when we came to an intersection. We could keep following the Right Loop or we could go straight and see what Windy Point was all about…. naturally we went towards Windy Point. It was the scenic highlight of the day and certainly worth the extra 2+ miles out and back to the main trail. I say “2+” because I am not quite sure. At the stop we made to photograph my bleeding arm I stopped my Garmin and forgot to start it again until we took the extra side route and started a bit again. Too bad. I hate it when I do that!
Naturally, the pictures do not do it justice.
This is me posing on the edge of a huge drop-off. I like to call it a cliff, but John said I exaggerate…
Clearly, only someone with no fear at all would strike such a pose…. this is a classic John pose that is a requirement for all trips!
Some random shots of John… I wish I could have gotten some action shots of him riding, but I was too worried about staying on the bike.
Here he looks like he wants to run down the hill and jump in the water!
After a brief break admiring the scenery we were back on the bikes to get back to the main trail. We came to a turn that certainly lead us back to the main trail, right? It did, but not without some heartache. This “trail” was a bit under-used and therefore, over-grown. Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures, by my left leg is now scratched like crazy from trying to hang on to what little bit of earth there was. The trail was very narrow and I was only focused on staying on it, no matter what. That meant hugging the side of the trail with brush so closely that I was often in the bushes. I spent most of the time with my left foot on the ground just holding myself up.
We soon got back into the woods only to find several downed trees that we had to negotiate. Some were half-halfheartedly cut through…
Out in the open again enjoying the scenery (really, not so much… I didn’t do a whole lot of looking around at this point.) I might look like I am just out for a casual ride but I am completely focused. John had me go ahead while he peed. I was not enjoying myself too much at this point. Again, sudden drop-offs abound.
Soon we were back in the safety of the forest. Usually the trail was a bit wider in the woods and I could gain some speed. I actually was cruising pretty good until an obstacle ( pronounced the “O Brother” way ob – STAK -ul).
Yes, in the vain effort to continue to be photographed I lifted the bike myself. I would like to think that if I didn’t want so much to be in pictures that John WOULD have carried the bike over three trees for me. Wishful thinking:)
I made it! Look, I am smiling! ( I was TOLD to smile at this point! I obeyed, as usual).
Next is me going over a random bridge. There were a couple of creek crossings without bridges. I would like to say they were fun, but anyone who knows me KNOWS that I LOVE creek crossings (sarcasm). Those were not photographed because for at least one of them John was dutifully instructing me on the best way to get across. Seriously, we are talking 1-2″ of water. Oh well.
Anyway… here is the bridge shot… right before the bridge there was an ominous sign that said “CAUTION BRIDGE AHEAD”. I was a wreck! I thought for sure that the bridge was going to be some old rotten log that I had to cross (my worst nightmare!). Instead, it was a beautifully constructed bridge. I suppose that if you came upon it too quickly you COULD smash through the rails and crash into the creek, but I was not at risk for that!
After this there were a few miles of old logging road (a.k.a nice WIDE, happy, trail). There were a few cyclists going in the opposite direction. They were just getting started as we were finishing up. THANK GOD! If I had to worry about other people running into me in addition to all of the other things I had to worry about I surely would not have made it. Needless to say, after 13 miles of trail riding I was NOT willing to go any longer. The other 9 miles would have to wait for another day. My legs were tired and I was done. If the Right Loop was suitable for beginners I would hate to see what the Left Loop offered! It is the Left Loop that advertised steep drop-offs… no thank you!
After cooling down we headed back. We stopped at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for a wonderful lunch by the river.
I had a lovely vegan burger (no picture because, REALLY, vegan burger are not that photogenic!).
I had commented to John that they day would be perfect if only I could have an iced latte… but there were no Starbucks in sight. However, the waitress told us where a coffee shop was, but it was out of the way. Lo and Behold… On our way home John takes a significant detour to go to the coffee shop. It was indeed the BEST iced Latte I have ever had in my life. It was delicious.
Despite all of the drama on the trail I had a fantastic day. I was fun and I got a great workout. I burned 2200 or so calories and have a tale to tell.
We are now safely at home where we lounged. I am sore. My butt hurts even though I had fancy padded shorts. My arms hurt from being too tense on the brakes. I can’t WAIT to see what I will feel like in the morning. In the meantime, I will enjoy my last cocktail from the small bottle of Woodford Reserve that I bought myself. Happy Mother’s Day!
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