Friday, October 17, 2008

More photos: Fontana Lake and the North Carolina mountains in October

More photos from my 5 day trip to Fontana Lake and dual sport cycling in the NC mountains.

(click on photos to enlarge)

The first photo was taken on my way home at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Since I'll be writing an article about this trip in Adventure Motorcycle, I brought along a tripod to take the compulsory 'ride photos' of myself on the bike.

These next 3 photos are taken at high elevation, well over 5000'. The amazingly red colored ground cover is blueberry bush. They create such a heavenly color to these mountain peaks and meadows.

The first 2 cycle pics are at Cheoah Bald in the Nantahala National Forest. The Appalachian Trail crosses this peak. Of course, I did not ride the bike on the AT (sacrilegious and illegal!) but just to the end of a forest service trail that took me to the peak. I admit some of these trails were gated but the network of ATV and hunting trails made it easy to bypass the gates. I certainly wouldn't do this in the GSMNP, but the National Forest was open for hunting and many gates were open. Monday was the first day of bear season, glad I was wearing red!

The third cycle photo was taken northeast of Cullowhee, NC where I rode dozens of miles to the high country west of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I actually rode to and onto the Parkway but did so unwittingly on a brief portion of the Land to Sea hiking trail (oops).

BTW... my bike, the lightweight air-cooled sleek and quiet 2001 Kawasaki Super Sherpa 250 performed beautifully. Not only did it take an occasional beating on the trail, but it took me dozens of highway miles at 70 mph to get to these awesome places... as well as to work the day I returned home. Kawasaki discontinued this bike in the US in 2003 but has now reissued it in it's original design for 2009. (I guess they realized what a mistake it was to pull this wonderful bike from the market).

The next two photos are of the shoreline at Fontana. Not quite at peak color, but an occasional splash of color made it nice. You can see how low the lake is. Fontana routinely varies 50 feet a year, really a drop in the bucket for such a deep lake. The water depth is often over 100' just a stones throw from shore and over 200' in the channel. No worries for hitting rocks. These 2 lake photos are from Eagle Creek at the west end of the lake where I spent the first night.

The most remarkable thing you first notice about being on this lake is the near total silence. You can hear waves lightly washing ashore a mile away.

The next two trail photos are also from the Nantahala Forest. A forest road just south of Fontana that winds 15 miles into the mountains and, like many such trails, simply ends. This trail is on Deep Gap Mountain. There were wild mountain grapes along the trail and some really healthy looking bear scat. That's one thing I don't have to worry about while riding - bear. Bear obviously would fear the sound of a bike and it's impossible to surprise them, even with the relative quietness of this particular bike.

These next photos show the progression of morning from predawn fog, to the crack of dawn, foggy morning daylight, sunrise, the lifting of the fog and a windy morning that brought whitecaps and spray.

The weather was unbelievably good. Near 80 during the day at lake elevation, and 50's at night. It was considerably cooler at higher elevations.

This trip reminded me how great it is to live on the boat. I started and ended every day with a quick dip in the lake (which was a chilly 70 degrees) then a brief hot shower and dry off in front of the propane heater. That followed by a hot cup of tea in the morning and dinner at night. In the evenings, I watched a few movies on DVD, did my taxes, and learned a new guitar piece. Mornings were relaxed and slow. I never made it to the dock to start my ride much before noon. I enjoyed cruising slowly up the lake while playing guitar and drinking tea, waiting for the fog to rise which sometimes didn't happen until 10 am or later. Other boaters were very very few. 100% of them were fisherman or bear hunters. I think I saw only 2 or 3 boats before noon on Saturday morning while covering 10+ miles of lake.

Truly a paradise few get to see, and I hope it stays this way.

I was encouraged that this route through Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN is far quicker than the way I used to go through Maryville and on that crazy winding mountain road that cyclists call "the Tail of the Dragon". I made it home from dock to door in 4 hrs and 15 min. The Ford Expedition towed that boat at 75 mph down the highway, and 60 mph up Monteagle mountain, no problem. The front mounted motorcycle carrier was an idea I had in a dream. I found they made a front mounted receiver hitch specifically for my truck where I attached the cycle carrier with auxilliary headlights. Visibility is no problem. The bike remains secure as it is locked to the carrier. The setup works well and I hope to do this trip again.

These last photos are of the trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway. I love this trail, a carpet of red and gold leaves.

I'm looking forward to the fall colors to come to Middle TN. I know some really special places I want to photograph in the glory of fall colors. Summer is my favorite season but fall is great too.


Glenda said...

Those are beautiful pictures. Living in Southern California, I really miss the fall colors.

Do you know what those bright red bushes are in the second and third photos?

William said...

Blueberry bushes

Donald Rung said...

Looks spectacular. Apparently 90% of the shoreline is undeveloped? The dam is apparently pretty impressive, too.