As I write this, we’ve enjoyed our final breakfast of this Maiden Voyage. It’s Friday May 15, the day we drive back to Meadows of Dan.
The sky is overcast but the weather people are not predicting rain. It is quite cool (low 50s) and there’s a steady breeze. The splendid fire we built last night burned all but a 3-inch long, 2-inch diameter end of one of the last logs we added.
The squirrels are carrying enormous nuts in their mouths along the wood-rail fences, the crows are quietly moving around in the trees, and the geese have long ago taken off from the lake.
Yesterday, we loafed about for much of the morning and decided at about noon that it might be warm enough to take a bicycling dawdle around the paved roads of the park. Jack had asked about a path on the map marked Cumberland Multi-Use Trail, and the person in the office said it was most appropriate for horses and mountain bikes.
We tootled over to the beach area, and passed the mouth of the CMT (Cumberland Multi-Use Trail), and heck, it didn’t look so bad. So we thought we’d have a go.
This led us straight into “A Situation,” as Nick Fox used to say. For about 3 miles of rough but good going, all was well (rocky, pocky surface, some big downed branches, some wash-out, but dry). It was certainly a better path than the one called a Rail Trail back in N.H. with the name Cheshire.
But then the road narrowed, and we were unsure of how to read the post with blazes and directional signs marking the way (it looked as if it had been manually re-set after having been knocked down somehow). Near the post, a tree had fallen across the path and we saw the remains of a sign on it: unreadable because the tree was lying on top of the sign. Maybe it said No Trespassing — maybe it was a Forest Service sign.
The leaves and twigs and branches got deep for a while, but we soldiered on, passing by a branch trail that looked quite “technical.” When we arrived at an old clear cut growing saplings, briars, and high weeds, we reversed to the cutoff trail.
Where turning back and retracing our route might have been the better part of valor, we decided the prospect of a little “cross training” (walking) was better than retracing, so we plodded forward down this side trail that we were unable to even identify at some places. Riding where possible, we dismounted frequently to go around logs, rocks, sticky wet spots, and one deep water crossing that offered exactly enough mid-stream rocks for us to keep our feet dry — only just.
It was a long, steep, push-our-bikes uphill slog to rise from that channel, but we again mounted and scrabbled our way along some more, again, frequently dismounting and walking. Had to pick up and portage our bikes over a widely-sprayed tangle of downed trees.
And here’s where we found loads and vines and leaves of poison oak and ivy crowding the path with tremendous enthusiasm. Both Jack and I are terribly allergic to PI and often break out in itchy rashes just from looking at the stuff.
About a mile later, we found what we believe to be a fire road, still marked CMT with blazes and signs. The path was wide, but not in great shape. We were not, however, complaining at this point. No PI, no mud/water, no hidden tree trunks.
But lots of deer and horse flies. Most of these, we were able to out-ride their territories. Next came paved roads and we were on the opposite side of the lake, where the cabins are located. We rode along those loops to see the cabins (much like those at Occoneechee State Park, where we’ve stayed several times in the past), then crossed the lake’s dam and climbed back to our humble abode.
Straight away, grabbed up our stuff for a shower, so maybe we got some of the PI oil off before it could do its lovely thang to our skin.
“Oh, sure,” said Jack. “We’re only going for a short ride. We don’t need more than one water bottle.”
“Did you bring the map?” asked Lee.
“Naw. We’ll just stay on the paved roads and we’ll be fine.”
We discovered, when we did re-acquaint ourselves with the map, that we had circumnavigated Bear Creek Lake, without having seen any of it at all until we crossed the dam, about 500 yards from our campsite. Our Cyclemeters registered an 8 mile trip and very low average speed. We were simply glad that neither we nor our bikes broke any parts.
Speaking of which, those bikes really performed admirably in “A Situation” that they are not specifically built to endure. I was mightily impressed with, and like my new bike (Trek’s Cross-Rip LTD) more and more every time I ride it. Jack’s is a Specialized Tricross. Great bikes. Both have wider tires on at the moment for our Rail Trail adventures. Perfect.
Another afternoon, yesterday, of lounging and not doing all that much, and Jack fixed a wonderful Final Dinner of tuna steak shish-kabobs on the grill, with cous-cous and a quite nice bottle of Marlboro Region Sauvignon Blanc.
Looking forward to seeing Pat McNamara and the puppies later today, but we’re not racing to stow and hitch and go. But soon, we will mark this voyage as complete. It’s been great fun.