Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Great Smokey Mountain National Experience

Well, we're in Appalacia. Being in the mountains again is better then I thought it would be. I've been feeling much stronger as a cyclist and the steep climbs aren't giving me too much trouble. I am not sure if any of you might remember me writting about climbing the mountain passes in the west. I found them to be very challenging. It seems to be so much a mental thing. I now know I can take the hills, that alhtough it may be hard, I can do it. With this knowledge comes the self confidence to get through them in a steady and dignified way. No more hissy fits on the side of the road, which is nice for both myself and Ira.

I was shocked by how easy I could climg the hills.

We got into the Smokey Mountain National Park last Thursday right as the temperatures were starting to drop. We hiked 8 miles on Friday along a babbling creek and enjoyed the wildflowers along the way.

It was starting to get pretty cold and each day we tried to stay active to keep warm but the temps kept droping. On Saturday, we decided to ride up to Newfound Gap (they call passes gaps out here) to the Tennessee and North Carolina Border where you can pick up the Appalacian Trail. We rode the 15 mile climb (rises about 3000 ft.) up to the gap in good time and good spirits. We are becoming such good mountain climbers!

Not only can I climb a mountain competently now, but I can take a picture of myself climbing it and be smiling, sort of.

Upon getting to the gap, we locked the bikes up and got ready to climb the Appalcian trail. I've always been interested in hiking the whole trail, being a "through" hiker", so I was exicited to hike part of the trail at least. 6 miles down, 2169 to go!

Saturday was about 50 degrees. We kept warm riding up to the Gap, but we realized we were gonna freeze our butts off coming down so I brought all my rain gear in an attmept to make myself as windproof as possible. It was a pretty amazing descent in that we were going approx. 45 mph and it was snowing. So here I come blasting down the road, with all my rain gear on, a bandana on my head covering my ears and a bandana over my face. I couldn't wear my sunglasses because they kept fogging up, so I had to be constantly blinking to keep the snow from piercing my eyes. When we ride down a pass, since we are going so fast, I get in the center of the lane to keep cars from cutting me off. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, my adrenaline was pumping like mad. It was one of the most insane descents we had, just because of the weather conditions as well as the road being much steeper in areas then the roads out west.

Saturday night it started to get really cold. So we tucked into our tent as soon as dinner was over to get out of the wind chill and into our sleeping bags. Our bags are rated down to 20 degrees and it been about that the past couple of nights. I had been sleeping burrowed down in my bag with the cord around the opening pulled so tight it was only the size of my fist. Ira woke up around 3 and got up to go use the bathroom. He woke me up spouting explatives and I asked him what was going on, he told me there was a couple inches of snow on the ground.

The next morning, we were so cold, we decided to head into town and get a motel room (our third one for the whole trip). We found out it had gotten down to 14 degrees the night before. Man, we were cold!

So we hunkered down in the motel. We spent Easter laying in bed watch TV.

We said when we got to Austin, we had left the snow behind for the year, but I guess this was not to be so. Snow is really cold, but it can be very pretty.

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