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Archive for the 'Love' Category

10. The Appalachian Trail to Siler Bald

Monday, September 10th, 2007

We woke up Monday morning to find ourselves in a log cabin in the mountains. What a way to wake up! We took a few minutes to get up, and explored our surroundings.

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The front of the cabin (and my bicycle)

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The view from the gazebo in the back yard

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Inside the cabin

One thing Sarah and I wanted to do on our vacation was hike part of the Appalachian Trail. One of the hikes in the Franklin, NC area we had found took the Appalachian Trail up to Siler Bald (not to be confused with Siler’s Bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park), so we decided to do this hike. First, we stopped for breakfast at the Sunset Restaurant. We were probably the only ones under 50, and the place had a blue and yellow color scheme that was rather interesting and had Bible verses in the menu.

We enjoyed driving back into Franklin and seeing all the scenery we had missed in the darkness of night on our way to the cabin. We were surrounded by mountains and farms nestled into the mountains. This was an interesting area, because it was away from tourism; for the people who lived here, the mountains were just an everyday part of their lives. It was a very different way to experience the mountains.

We were also impressed with Franklin, it’s a very small town, but still has a fair number of restaurants and businesses, and the downtown area has an very quaint feel, with some shops with art by local artists and numerous other small, local businesses.  There were many signed bicycle routes through and around town. We didn’t take time to explore Franklin at this time, though, as we were anxious to hike up to Siler Bald.

Our map of Macon County proved useful once again, as the directions to the trailhead were a little unclear. Thanks to the map, we found it without too much difficulty.

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The trailhead was at this picnic area / White blaze indicating the Appalachian Trail

The hike was about two miles uphill, but it was very gradual climbing, for the most part. The trail surface wasn’t as rugged as the one at South Mountains State Park, but still had a lot of character.

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Creek crossing on the AT

It was warm, but not hot, especially compared to Charlotte. As we climbed, we noticed more and more of a breeze, and you could get a sense of the elevation through the trees, although you couldn’t see much at this point. Eventually, we reached a clearing and saw Siler Bald looming over us. This was the steep part of the climb, but the higher you went, the better the views. It was exhilarating, and very cool to be able to see further, since it was, you know, bald.image_37857132007826195147
Siler Bald looms before us

I went a little bit ahead of Sarah and got some shots of her hiking toward me. I think they turned out pretty cool, having her in the shots gives them more of a sense of scale.

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Sarah climbs Siler Bald

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We thought we were going to get rained on, as some dark clouds were overhead, and we even felt a few drops — but we were lucky. The clouds blew over without raining on us.

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It was a long way up …

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But it was also well worth the effort

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Weird split tree on top of Siler Bald

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View from the top
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Sarah on Siler Bald

The trip down was significantly easier, even though I like to claim that the trip down is harder than the trip up. Usually, that’s not the case — unless it’s extremely steep. It was great to hike on the AT and see Siler Bald. We didn’t see or hear any other people there. I was amazed that we had such an incredible mountain all to ourselves.

We contemplated going to nearby Wayah Bald, but decided against it. Someday, we’ll go back and check that out. Supposedly, there’s a lookout tower there, with unique views of its own.

Getting away

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Sarah and I leave tonight for our vacation to the Smokies and North Carolina. We’ve been planning this for some time, and it’s hard to believe it’s finally happening. This will be my first paid vacation ever, and you can bet that I’ll take an occasional moment while standing on top of a mountain to remind myself, “I’m getting paid for this!”

We really need this. Neither of us has had a real vacation in … well, really, since we were kids. It’s about time. I can’t wait to scale up the rock face of a mountain, or plunge into whitewater rapids, or sit in a gazebo overlooking the mountains and stare into Sarah’s eyes until I forget the mountains are even there. To go mountain biking in some real mountains. To get lost on some shitty gravel road that my car wasn’t built to drive on in the first place. To find out how long it takes to boil water at 6,000 feet.

We’ll take thousands of photos, and while we won’t be able to blog while we’re gone, but instead, we’ll try our hand at putting pen to paper and actually writing. My handwriting is awful, and I can type faster than I can write, but I’m hoping that that tactile connection will have its own charms, and the fact that we can write anywhere we go is appealing. I normally don’t even try to write unless I’m sitting at a computer, and let me tell you, I won’t miss sitting at a computer. It’ll be difficult to transcribe our thoughts when we return, but a worthwhile endeavor.

I was going to go into detail about our plans, but it doesn’t really matter what our plans are. The point is, we’ll be getting away from our jobs, school, family, friends … everyone we know, for a time. It will be just us, and it’ll be our world.

It’s HOT; running some errands

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Well, we were pretty lucky last month and it wasn’t too hot. Unfortunately, we’re paying now, as it’s been in the 90s and humid. I think I’m getting acclimated fairly well, really, but I’ve always had a lot more trouble dealing with heat than with cold. I overheat easily, and heat tends to leave me feeling crummy.

However, the riding I’ve been doing helps me deal with heat better. The more I am out in the heat anyway, the better I’m able to handle it. That doesn’t mean I’m comfortable, but it does get a little easier. Still, it is harder to be motivated to ride when it’s hot outside.

I had some fun yesterday running some errands after work for Sarah’s birthday. I had tried to get her a gift the day before, but failed, so I had to do it at the absolute last minute. First, I went to J.L. Waters and got Sarah some trekking poles. I wanted to get her something that’d be useful for our upcoming vacation.

Some guy was checking out my bike when I came out of J.L. Waters. I started getting ready to go, figuring he’d either say something or go away, but he did neither. He just stared at my bike. I think he was intrigued by the Brooks saddle and the rack/pannier setup.

I put the poles in my Banjo Brothers waterproof pannier, with the ends sticking up, and strapped them down the best I could with the built-in strap. This is the first time I’ve had a problem with these panniers — I was unable to pull the strap as tight as I wanted. The buckle came undone if I pulled it too tight. I got it to hold, but I was a little worried about it. Still, a $40 waterproof pannier is bound to have some weakness, and this is one that’ll be easy to deal with if I just get some extra straps for those times when I want to carry more stuff.

After that, I attempted to go to a florist, but found instead a Sprint store. I should have known this, as I’ve actually been to that Sprint store before, but I was hoping they were simply near each other. Apparently, the florist either moved or went out of business a few years ago. Instead, I went to Marsh (a grocery store) and locked my bike there. I took the trekking poles in with me so nobody could steal them, and got some flowers. The florist put a plastic bag over the tops of the flowers so I wouldn’t damage them on my ride home. She was very helpful and accommodating. I had more trouble with the strap on my pannier as I put first the trekking poles, and then the flowers in there and tried to strap them down.

It was a pretty neat feeling riding home with a gift and some flowers for Sarah. I got some smiles as I passed pedestrians who saw the flowers sticking out of my pannier. It felt old-fashioned, in a charming way, to be carrying these things I had chosen home to my honey on my bicycle. I actually thought about carrying the flowers in one hand, and maybe I should have. I would’ve been able to literally smell the flowers on my way home. Still, I grinned proudly that I had these flowers and someone wonderful to whom to give them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to wrap things, and my pannier became a grab bag when I got home. Sarah was very cool about my lack of preparedness. I think she could see that I really was trying, and I felt bad that I hadn’t been more prepared. Still, I vowed to do better next year.

The whole outing also has me wanting to run more errands on my bicycle!

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