Friday, June 29, 2012

Same Route, Different Scenery

I have traveled a couple of routes that include lots of sweeping curves.  One of them was described in an earlier posting entitled "Sweepers, Galore."

Two Saturdays ago, I traveled one of the routes again, but with some new scenery thrown into the mix.  Read on.

Here is where I went:

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The first little bit is on easy roads, from Easley, through Pickens, and on to Walhalla.  I pass the Oconee Nuclear Station, halfway between Pickens and Walhalla, but don't stop today.  They usually have interesting exhibits, some permanent, about power generation and use, others temporary, usually some kind of artwork. The last time I stopped in, there was a large display of orchids grown by fanciers of that flower.  Doesn't sound like a he-man hobby, but what do I know?  Other times there have been photos (some by local photographer Patrick Welch), paintings, and crafts. By the way, this plant has generated more nuclear power than any other plant in the U.S. 

Beyond Walhalla, I start toward the northwest on SC-28, also known as Moonshiner 28.  This is the road that goes all the way to Tail of the Dragon if you want to go there.  I have not ridden there as yet, but maybe someday...  The number of interesting roads near home makes the fabled Tail less attractive to me.  It tends to be overrun with traffic, both bikes and cars. 

This little section of 28 is curvy, with mostly sweepers, but some pretty tight curves too.  I angle off to the right on SC-107.  This road, too, is mostly sweepers, but gets a little tight in places.  The road surface also has been repaired in many places with half-lane replacements that leave an edge trap in the center of the lane.  This is unnerving at times, especially in the turns.  The motley light and dark color of the pavement -- almost like a tar and chip job with some of the tar showing through -- makes it difficult to pick out any gravel on the surface. 

I am not a speed demon, so I don't run into any problems, though a few curves are taken near my comfort level.  Fortunately, there is nothing on the road to limit traction, so I come out OK.  I have tires with good grip -- Michelin Pilot Road 3 -- so I am sure the bike and its tires can handle almost anything I am likely to call upon it to do in the corners.  

As I tool along, I spot something glossy and black about twenty feet above me on the embankment on my right.  What could that be?

It is a bear!  I have never seen a bear in the wild, so this is a first.  I say, out loud to myself inside my helmet, "WOW!  Look at that!  That was a bear."  Brilliant observation, that, but it is out of the ordinary for a city boy to see an animal larger than a dog out loose.  By the way, I have not been talking to myself as much when riding lately, so this must be a real occasion! 

The bear is a sizable specimen, I'd say.  He is just standing there, looking down at the road.  Maybe waiting for a tasty morsel to come by.  As possible headlines in the local papers flash through my head, I look for a place to pull off the road and take his picture: 

"Motorcyclist Snapping Pictures Snapped Up by Black Bear,"
"Curious Biker Disappears During Day Trip, Chewed Up Leather Suit Found in Bear Den,"
           or, maybe
"Cowardly Rider Passes Right by Black Bear Peacefully Observing Mountain Highway." 
The last is closest to what I did.  Apparently black bears are quite afraid of humans, and will retreat if you stand your ground, but I wasn't going to find out.  There was no good place to stop anyway, [excuses, excuses, Bucky] so this picture from the 'net will have to do.

I recover from my fauna observing experience, and travel further, just beyond the Wigington Byway turnoff.  On the left at Pushpin "D" is the Sloan Bridge picnic area.  One feature of this place is the restroom, my immediate goal.

After that, I explore a little and find that the two picnic tables visible from the road are backed up by several more down toward a stream, the East Fork of the Chattooga River.   I venture down some steps into a glade surrounded by azaleas, I think they are.  I'll bet this is a pretty place when they are in bloom during spring. 
Looking up the steps. 
I walk as close to the water as I can, but it is quite overgrown.  The gurgling of the water makes for a restful sound while I am munching on some energy bars and swilling down my Gatorade. 

The sign at the parking area shows several trails for the hiker.  I meet a man and his son there who are going to camp overnight after a six-mile hike.  I hope Mr. Bear doesn't go that way. 

Interestingly, there are three waterfalls within a mile or so of this place.  You can read about them on the SCwaterfalls website.  I didn't walk to them since my riding boots are not very comfortable for that mode of travel, but the falls would make for a good part-day outing some time. 

I put on my helmet and gloves again and go the short distance back to the Wigington Byway.  This short road has the overlook onto Lake Jocassee that I have written about before, and it is just as scenic today as it has always been. I stop for a few minutes to take in the view.  Some elderly people eye me as if I am an alien.  I guess I have that effect on people.

Here is that picture of the alien -- er, of Bucky -- gazing off into the distant view of the lake, taken in July of 2009.

Once I hit SC-130, I turn left and, after a mile or so, enter the Whitewater Falls parking area.  I have been here many times since the first, back in February of 2008.  That was just five months after I started riding. I remember the excitement of having negotiated a somewhat curvy road to see a pretty sight. 

I hike up the paved path to the falls overlook.  It has been rainy lately, so the falls are full today, and there are quite a few people here today, enjoying the beauty of creation. 

I don't take the 154 steps down to the lower viewing platform, since there is the same number of steps to come back up, and I am a bit lazy today as far as exercise is concerned! 

I meet two Harley riders, each a long way from home.  One is from Pennsylvania, the other from Florida.  They bring their bikes to this area to enjoy the roads, sometimes for weeks at a stretch.  They are both retired, but are my age or younger.  I likely turn a shade of green as they speak, my envy showing.  One of them observes that I must be retired, too.  I am not sure whether that is a reflection of my ancient-looking countenance or what.  Anyway, I tell him that I am not retired, and may not be able to do so for a long time if our politicians keep on destroying our economy.  They agree that is the case. 

I mount up, and ride to the south on 130.  The sweeping curves are mostly clean and smooth, but a few have broken-up patches that throw the bike sideways a bit. I use SC-11 to get to SC-133 just after Keowee Toxaway State Park, which is another good place to stop for a rest break, which I do. 

Outside Pickens, I turn into the DMV and do some low speed tight turns for practice, then continue on home.

I have traveled 120 miles and I can't wait to tell my wife about the bear.

When I tell her, she is skeptical of my sighting.  I guess I'll have to go back and find that bear again so I can ask him to pose for my camera.

I really did see one....   Honest.  


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