Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall is Here

Last posting, I told about not being out riding much.  I have tried to rectify that situation.  I got out on a couple of recent Saturdays, and the colors of the trees were really coming out.  Tourists were also coming out -- in droves.

So, even though I enjoy seeing the pretty scenery, I also have to be constantly on the lookout for slow and stopped vehicles.  They are all seeking to prolong every viewing angle of each tree, it seems.  Now I am not exactly complaining, understand, since everyone has his right to the view, but it can be somewhat frustrating if you prefer to go at a faster clip, and it is occasionally dangerous as well.  The lady in the Volvo stopped in the lane, and the guy in a pickup only half-way off the road, both in curvy sections and heavy traffic, were highlights of the frustrating part. 

I have, on occasion, suggested to other riders to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak, when in tourist traffic or during the winter months when the mountain roads might be treacherous, instead of trying to rush about at top speed.  That is easy advice for me to give, since I mostly go slower than they do anyway. 

Lately, however, some of the other riders near here who post in on-line forums, say they have resigned themselves to becoming a bit more patient when in these situations -- to just relax and go at the slower pace.

Saturday 1 -- Caesar's Head and Dupont Forest

Well, October 22 is one of those days.  After working until the middle of the day, I set out toward Caesar's Head State Park, and to Dupont Forest, a ways beyond there.

This map shows the whole route. 

View Larger Map

I ride the gently curving roads to the base of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, then take twisty road, US-276, up the hill.  It is very busy -- almost bumper-to-bumper -- today.  I pass a few cars on the double-laned uphill sections, but cannot get ahead of enough of them to gain much speed, so I smell the roses instead, so to speak.

The pavement on this road is deteriorating in places, so some care is necessary, but the almost steady uphill and the fairly good sight distances make this road enjoyable to ride.  (Downhill here is not as much fun for the reasons I have written about previously, but I notice that I am less anxious about the descent that I will face later in the day than I once would have been.) 

As soon as the pack of cars -- with me in the middle -- reaches Caesar's Head (at Pushpin B), we find the parking lot to be nearly full.  I nevertheless find a place, and walk the short distance to the overlook.

This is a shot of the lake visible in front of Table Rock.  .

The colors at the lower elevations are not yet as well developed as up here, more than two thousand feet higher.

This is a glimpse of both the nearby foliage and that far below me.

The air is particularly clear today, so the view is quite good.  Remember that these mountains have always had a naturally-produced bluish haze over them -- not man-made pollution as we tend to think these days.  I tarry for a few minutes to gawk at the scenery from here before I continue onward.

The next stop is to be Symmes Chapel, also known as Pretty Place (at Pushpin C), a covered, but open-sided chapel on the YMCA Camp Greenville property.  The view is usually breathtaking, but today there is an unusually steady stream of cars going in. I eventually come upon the reason for this: There is an apparently steady stream of weddings taking place here on this fine fall day.  When that is the case, they don't want a bunch of other traffic interfering, especially someone on a motorcycle. So, I can't go all the way in to see the chapel today. 

Here is a picture from Pretty Place I took way back in August of 2008. 

The haze was heavy that day.

Here is a picture taken from here by a friend last November. 
Photo courtesy of Fred
It is indeed a pretty place. 

I settle for a quick stop for refreshment near a camp athletic field, then head back out the access road. I turn toward the north again, and stop at Dupont State Forest. This is a great place for hiking, fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, motorcycling, and bicycling (road and mountain). There are gravel roads for the dualsportsters, too, but the trails are off limits to all motorized vehicles.

I pick out Cascade Lake Road, to go a little ways on. It is gravel, and fairly well groomed. It skirts Cascade Lake, but I don't go that far today because I am limited on time.  I find this little cascade right next to the road, near Pushpin D on the map, though.

There is a large dam further on. The writer of the Life at 60 (mph) blog has a posting about kayaking on Cascade Lake, and there is a picture of the dam from both the lake side and from below.  I'll go there, and beyond, another time, perhaps. 

I turn around and head out of the forest toward Brevard North Carolina, a few miles north, at Pushpin E.   I stop at the Chamber of Commerce, where they have a huge selection of literature about the area, and a group of always-helpful volunteers.  ...and a bathroom for those with full bladders (thank goodness).

The makeshift zipper pull on my suit is behaving today, by the way. 

I motor through town and turn right at the junction of US-276 with US-64.  There are usually war protesters -- possibly left over from the Vietnam era -- on this corner, but there are none today for some reason.  The center of town is busy, as there are many little shops open, selling all manner of crafts and other merchandise and services.  Brevard is famous for the Brevard Music Center Festival, and for a species of white ground squirrel.

Where US-276 turns to the left and continues to higher elevations, including passing Looking Glass Falls and the Cradle of Forestry, I instead turn right, following US-64.  This is easy riding, and after a couple more right turns, I am back in Dupont Forest.  I pass through, hit 276, and head southward toward home.

The downhill twisties are slow because of traffic, just like on the way up.  I don't get much practice slowing to the right speed for tight turns, but there is one instance where a little braking at lean angle was necessary because of a backup of people buying apple cider from a roadside stand.  This stand is not in a good place, as it creates the potential for slow and stopped vehicles where there is only limited sight distance. 

Well, it was a nice day to be out.  I have ridden only 134 miles, and endured a lot of traffic, but the trees were pretty, and that made it worthwhile. 

Saturday 2 -- Tamassee and Some Twisty Gravel

"Where in the world is Tamassee?" you ask.  Well, right here in South Carolina, a little west of Salem, of course, not far from the road to Whitewater Falls. I have spotted some interesting roads on Google maps, so I laid out this route:

View Larger Map

The ride up SC-133 is easy, as is the stretch of SC-11, a good get-to-the-more-interesting-places road.  I turn right on SC-130, and cruse up this sweeping-curved route that I have taken many times before.  The road surface is mostly very good, so you are easily tempted to exceed the 45 mile per hour speed limit; to get that feeling of acceleration in the seat of your pants as you ride.

It doesn't seem to take any time at all and I arrive at the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Facility entrance.  I go to the end of the pavement there and stop at the overlook.

That is Lower Whitewater Falls at center, left, and a view of an arm of Lake Jocassee.

Another view of Lake Jocassee, taken from the same spot. 

And still another view of the lake. 

Sure is nice weather today. 

I gear up again and stop at the entrance to the Musterground Road on my way back to SC-130.  The Musterground gate is open, since it is hunting season, but I don't go further because I have another interesting road in mind for later.

I ride back to SC-130 and turn right.  It is only a short jaunt to the Whitewater Falls parking area.  The parking lot is almost full of leaf peepers who have come here on this fine fall day.  I trek up the path to the falls and snap a few pictures.

Here is a picture of a lad sitting and taking in the view of distant Lake Jocassee from the falls trail.
And a fine view it is today. 

I maneuver from the parking lot and turn right yet again and go for a few miles on NC-281 to Gorges State Park. This display of beauty stops me to snap a picture. 
Beautiful foliage (and pretty bike).
At Gorges, there is construction going on, so the best distance views are not available, but here is a glimpse of a nice section of the main park road.

There is good hiking in this park, and there is the gravel Chestnut Mountain Road that leaves from the furthest parking lot.  It links with Auger Hole Road, another gravel road, and is said to hook up to the Horsepasture Road.  This is definitely four wheel drive or off-road motorcycle territory, as the hills are steep, the gravel is loose, and the road rough.  (I know this because I tried a few hundred yards of it one day.)   

After I leave the park, I turn south, and enjoy the sweepers again on NC-281 and SC-130, until I reach SC-11.  A right for a short distance to find North Little River Road and turn right again.  I get to Pushpin D, then turn left onto Whitmire Church Road.  The Whitmire Methodist church is long gone, but this marker and the graveyard across the road indicate its location. 

Whitmire Church Road turns into Cherokee Lake Road, then I make a right on Jumping Branch Road. (The map above is far easier to understand than this mess of road descriptions.)  This skirts Lake Cherokee, a private lake. Don't think you can take a dip or launch your boat here.  There are forcefully-worded signs that forbid  it. 

Finally, I reach the road I have been looking for, Winding Stairs Road, veering off to the right from Jumping Branch.  Sure enough it is gravel.  You can't tell this from Google maps, or even very well in Google Earth, so you have to take a chance.  It looks passable, so I start along it. 

It is desolate.  There are no driveways or much of anything else along the way for the next four miles or so.  The grades are not challenging, so this is fairly easy riding for me on my street Ninja.  There are a few places of washboard, and loose gravel, but it is not bad enough to turn back.  Most of my molars remain intact, though slightly loosened by the rough spots in the road.  Maybe I should bring a football mouth guard with me for use in these situations. 

There are steep dropoffs in many places, and not a guardrail in sight.  It almost seems as though I am a thousand miles away from civilization.  The entire area is heavily wooded, so an accident here could remain undiscovered for a long time.  So Bucky's going to be extra careful through here. 

Part way along, there is a short bridge across a brook.  I park and take in the view. 

This place is set up as a campsite.  The brook toward the rear looks as though it might offer some good fishing. 

The fall colors here are beautiful.
God's paintbrush has surely been at work. 

The road ahead looks a little straighter.
And it is, but just as lonely, until I come out on SC-107.  There, I find that the road I have been riding is called Cheohee Road instead of Winding Stairs.  I think the latter describes it better.

Here is the gravel section by itself:

View Larger Map

SC-107 is a great road that connects Cashiers North Carolina toward the north with Walhalla South Carolina to the south.  Actually, it connects to SC-28 before you reach Walhalla in the southern direction.  Twenty-eight is called Moonshiner 28, because it was once a route used by moonshiners to deliver their goods.  It is a twisty-in-places road favored by motorcyclists, and it reaches all the way to the famous Tail of the Dragon. I'll have to go all that way some time. 

I follow 107 and 28 to Walhalla, then over to Westminster, and to SC-123 toward home.   The ride from Walhalla to home is about as boring as it can be.  The roads are straight, with almost no character.  But, it is the fastest way back, so I twist the throttle and get 'er done.

I have gone 162 miles today, and seen some great country and a few new roads.  I have had the opportunity to be utterly alone to enjoy a wild place, yet just a couple of miles off paved roads. 

Now, here are some pics of the fall color around the house. The maple tree comes first. 

This Burning Bush (Euonymus) looks like it is doing as its name states. 

Even though it looks like an evergreen, the Bald Cypress is turning brown and will lose its tiny leaves for winter. 

Pretty, but I don't know its name. 

The Magnolia keeps its leaves for the winter. 

The Chrysanthemum is in full bloom. 
And here is a great picture of Table Rock taken by a friend.
Courtesy of Fred



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