TET plus ADV hospitality!
Garth and I were at it again the last week of April into May. Last year's TET ride was a great time and we wanted, make that needed, some more!
Having done sections 9,8 and 7 last time, we had seen most of what the TET has to offer from Duncannon PA to Atkins, VA. Our plan was to start with a repeat of section 7 from Douthat State Park to Hungry Mother State Park followed by sections 6 and 5. Both Douthat and Hungry Mother are beautiful campgrounds in VA but one of them is hard to say without the missing word.:D
As usual we had researched a campground for each night and planned about 175 to 200 miles of riding each day. Unfortunately, the weatherman didn't get the memo.
That picture shows the weather on Sunday which was supposed to be day one of riding but I'm getting ahead of the story so let me back track a little.
We trailered from CT down to Douthat Saturday in sunny, warm weather. It was about a ten hour drive. We were fortunate to get a great site directly across from the lake. The fireplace had a grate suitable for cooking the not so good steaks that we bought at a nearby Kroger store. The air was cool enough to keep the bugs away and we chowed down. It's kind of a crappy picture but it is comensurate with the quality of our steaks.
We already knew rain was likely for Sunday but Monday was looking to be kind of sucky too. Riding in the rain sucks. Riding in mud and dealing with swollen streams can be good, to a point. I had done some damage to my back just prior to the trip and wanted nothing to do with lifting up dumped bikes so...
Discretion is the better part of valor.
A new plan was hatched. Sunday morning we decided to keep trailering south to get beyond the weather. The new mission would be sections 6, 5 and 4, or was that 5, 4 and 3?
Who the hell knows? We just started driving with the intention of finding a dry place to ride.
This turned out to be our best decision of the trip and I'm now glad that the rain changed our plans.
Of course, a mission of this importance requires sustenance so we stopped a the restaurant in Douthat for a very private breakfast. It was us, a waitress and hopefully a cook.
They're adding on a nice deck to accommodate the crowd:
As we headed down I-81 it occurred to me that the rain might have some value since I had not cleaned my bike since last fall's NNEAT trip to Maine. I also learned that some guys aren't shy about putting their girlfriends in their place:
We were hoping for Hungry Mother but the rain kept coming so the Hot Springs Resort and Campground (NC) became our goal. Grath did the driving while I did the cyphering. The website says they've got $50 cabins! :D But the dude on the phone says they're booked but we can have an $80 one.:huh
Well it was any port in a storm and sleeping in a tent after all the rain seemed to invite displeasure.
Does the river really get that high?
Checking in was interesting. The office resort office was full of odiferous girlie products that the soakees use while soaking. Since we had just driven six hours in the rain we had no interest in partaking and only needed a key to the cabin. I lost at least 25 macho points waiting in line there.
After hauling most of our crap up the stairs into our cabin we headed off to find some eats. Hot Springs is a tourist village, train stop and Applacian Trail hiker haven. This diversity made for some good people watching.
We found a restaurant near the tracks and had a good meal. It was way better than the Krappy Kroger steaks the night before.
I have no pertinent picture for this post but don't wish to disappoint so here's a Kawasaki green bug:
All night I could hear the roaring river that was close enough to have me analyzing the flood worthiness of our cabin.
Monday morning the sun returned. We loaded up, geared up and got ready to go. Me:
At this point we were more than ready to go. I had my typical huge pile of stuff strapped to the bike and needed only to mount the steed to start the trip. I stepped on the peg, swung my leg over and...
I fell over on the other side. Yep, mile 0.0 and I'm already on the friggin' ground.:norton
No pics, not even a consolation green bug, but it was my only get off for the week and I'm good with that.
The guy at the cabin guard shack told us we needed to see Max's Patch whatever the hell that was. He couldn't describe it other than to say all the riders go up and see it. So we did:
It's a big round bald spot that likely has great views...if you're willing to hoof it up the trail loop. We were not and Garth went farther than I did:
Once underway it wasn't long before we entered the forest. Which forest I can't recall. I was just following the green tracks on my Garmin and Garth was following me. I like following tracks when the correct way to go is obvious. I find it to be less fun when the track shows us going straight but the road splits. Zooming out to see the right way works but can be tedious when you're bouncing along squinting.
We came across this:
The logs were on the upper fork in the road. Were there only one, I'd be advocating a log jump but fortunately there were two. I expected a long work around but in a few minutes it became obvious that the correct route didn't involve the tree laden hill.
This day brought variety. As we climbed and descended through the forest we were treated to several phases of spring. Higher up, the trees were only budding. At lower elevations the bright greens looked cartoon like as seen through my sunglasses.
The TET is not really a route for going somewhere. It's more about eeking every bit of dirt, curve and scenery out of the miles traveled.
We came to a four way intersection in the middle of nowhere and it was clear that our route was gated. We considered going around the gate but our inner chickens won out.
On the twenty minute work around we encountered a big sherrif's SUV. Actually both were big, the sherrif and his SUV. That made us feel better about not gate crashing. I thought it to be odd that the sherrif kept looking back as we idled past him. Just as we rounded the next blind corner a pickup truck appeared towing a HUGE camper.
The blind corners in the forest make things interesting. They are barely wide enough for a bike and a car to pass and that assumes the car is keeping to the right. There is typically a cliff available if you prefer not to become a hood ornament but I reason that it's better for the rescue squad if you take the hit.
Riding so many miles without seeing another vehicle causes one to lose vigilance. Seeing a huge camper come around a blind corner returns your focus quickly.
We eventually came to another four way intersection where the road and our green gps line rejoined. Just as I was about to declare myself a master navigator Garth says "Weren't we just here?"
Yup, 20 minutes to circumnavigate a hollow for nothing. But this time there was a Park Ranger pickup truck across the road and the gate was now open. He said our bikes looked like fun. His attitude was refreshing. CT and MA are pretty anti dirt bike. Interaction with officials can be less enjoyable there.
The ranger said that he was assigned to hold back traffic (yeah, "traffic") until 2 o'clock. There was a road crew up on the hill correcting a recent washout. We spoke for a few minutes waiting for the all clear signal on his radio. He has been a ranger in CA and MO and was new to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park which was apparently where we were. Until he mentioned that, we had no clue which forest we were in. It had trees, dirt and switch backs. We really didn't need a sign.
We followed the ranger a few miles up the hill where we found a back up of traffic on the other side of the construction. It looked as if this forest road in the middle of the GSMNP is used for daily commuting by some. Once past the traffic jam we descended through an area of major-mega-movie-mogul type mansions. There were gates and some impressive stone work with waterfalls and plantings. I'm not sure who lives there but I'm available for adoption!
Here's a typical view along our route:
The green line took us across a large rolling meadow with cattle bars and a sign warning us not to mess with their livestock. The horses seemed to range freely on both sides of the road. They looked majestic enough for frame-able photos but it was getting late so we kept going.
The route then took us to a sign saying "Your GPS is WRONG! Road Not Passable"
It was a back door way up to this ski area:
I didn't know there were ski areas that far south. I suspect the economics are tough for that.
As I tried to keep on track I kept missing a turn and had to back track. After three itterations of this I could tell Garth was getting sick of my navigational floundering. We had just passed an entrance for the Blue Ridge Parkway and I offered it as an alternative. The BRP goes south, right? We were going south so it should be good, right?
We got on it at Maggie Valley and rode many miles, generally east to get off on 215 south where we found ourselves far from the route. The BRP is famous for good reason. We'd never heard of 215 but it deserves some fame as well! It was all very scenic but this view gave me pause:
An example of the views:
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