So... we finally got some good weather after weeks of snow and freezing temps. I could have dropped off of the Blue Wall to the south and enjoyed temps in the 60s, but decided to go high instead, heading for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Man, it felt good to be heading out for a long ride again after weeks of brief jaunts through the surrounding countryside between snow storms.
I cut up through Brevard and hit Hwy. 215 up to Balsam Grove. From there I cut across the mountain and dropped down into the valley of Wolf Lake and the Canada community in the Charlies Creek region.
Down low, the roads were in pretty good shape, but even on Hwy. 215, there was still plenty of ice and snow left in the shady corners, especially in the deep valley of the North Fork of the French Broad River. When I left 215 and started to climb over the ridge towards Wolf Lake, the biggest problem was the red mud that had washed out onto the road from some logging operations in the area. That stuff was slicker than the ice and nasty to boot.
Above, looking down at Wolf Lake from a high ridge.
Below, there was still lots of ice on the roads up in the Charlies Creek region. The snow wasn't so bad, but where it had been packed and then re-frozen, I had to be careful to hit it at just the right angle to keep the bike from swapping ends.
In some places on south-facing slopes, the snow was gone already, but on the north side of the higher ridges, there were still lots of 6 foot deep drifts lining the road.
You know how it is - you're riding along enjoying the day, and suddenly it hits you that you really, really need a pit stop. But there's that little issue of having 3 or 4 feet of snow piled up beside the road - where the heck will you leave the bike while you scurry off out of sight of the road? I found a likely spot high on Hwy. 215, not far south of the Parkway, where some ice-climbers had parked and sort of packed down the snow. Hurrah! I slipped and slid in from the road, parked in some mud and hauled it over to the treeline - ah, relief!
Then, as I started to circle out of the parking area, I managed to slip into some deep snow, doing a pretty impressive imitation of an ice-racer in the process. Then, it dug in - deep. I ended up having to get off and scuff out a narrow path with my boots to duckwalk the bike back to open ground, where I was able to slide out onto the highway again. Several Jeeps were parked there and the occupants really enjoyed the show, but I wonder how much they liked me splattering their windshields with mud as I exited the parking lot.
It's been a great winter for ice climbing in the mountains of western North Carolina. Deep snow and sub-freezing temps for weeks made for lots of frozen waterfalls and cliff faces along the Pisgah Ledge. Climbers like the climbs on Hwy. 215 because of the easy access and the 'fan clubs' that gather along the road to watch the show.
Crossing over to the north side of the Parkway, I dropped off the mountain, winding down along the Middle Prong of the Pigeon, with snow-covered 6,000 ft. peaks rising high above the road. In the photo below, Sam Knob is the high peak in the background. That's one of my favorite winter campsites, offering 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains from its 6,000 ft. peak. It sits on the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness area.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed because of heavy snowfall, but the access off of Hwy. 215 was lined with the cars of hikers and cross country skiers enjoying a day on the snow.
Below, Lake Logan off of Hwy. 215, just west of the Shining Rock Wilderness area.
I only saw 3 other bikes out on the roads today - that surprised me, considering the great weather. However, they may have had the good sense to go low to enjoy the warmer temps. I passed two Gold Wings as I rode down 276 from the Parkway towards Brevard, and earlier in the day, a sport bike passed by while I watched the ice climbers over on Hwy. 215. Tomorrow, I'll hook up with the crew for a ride down below the Wall in South Carolina, where it's supposed to be in the mid-60s - hurrah!
It's great to be back on the roads, but the salt is a real bummer. My bike was nearly white with the crap by the time I made it back home this evening. I'll have to hit the car wash after tomorrow's ride.