In the Saddle: Best laid plans
Trips I plan rarely turn out well. Actually, in most cases “plan” is too strong a word. I forget spray skirts, tent poles and mittens. I underestimate distances. I lose maps. I pack too little food.Such it was for a weekend of mountain biking a few years ago in the North Carolina Smokies. But I take only half the blame for this one.I’d heard about this place called the Eastern Slickrock Trail or something like that, where the trail was all rock, in Dupont State Forest outside Brevard, N.C. So I suggested my old friend Scott meet me there on his move from Florida to St. Louis.I’d gotten a bike about a year before and had since been spinning around flat but fun parts of South Carolina, and he’d been pedaling in even more mountainless Florida.As usual, I had done no research and assumed we’d find the Eastern Slickrock when we got to the park. We found some dull forest service roads that led to dull private roads that were closed.The next day we bought a map of Pisgah National Forest, where we planned to camp, and locked the bikes in Scott’s trailer so they’d stay dry and safe.In the morning we poured over the trail map, which was marked like the ones at ski areas with blacks, blues and greens. I suggested we head straight for a black. Scott, a more experienced biker, shot me a look and said we should do a blue. I grudgingly agreed.We went to get the bikes and discovered the key was inside the locked trailer. After a trip to the hardware store I learned how to hacksaw a Masterlock.When we got on the trail, we struggled on those blues. To the point where we had to walk up most of the climbs.That night, as we were gong to sleep, the howl of what could only have been a wounded banshee pierced our camp. We both shot straight up and then out of the tent. We heard it again, closer. Then again, even closer.Then a weathered old hunting hound wandered into view and made the sound again, just as a weathered old pickup truck slowly cruised by our camp – a few local guys hunting from their car on a road less than 5 yards from our tent.We were no longer afraid of the banshee, but scared to death of getting capped in our sleep. Turns out, we never heard a shot.It wasn’t the best trip. But there was some good biking, some lessons learned and there were no fatalities. And I made it home that night in time for a friend’s going-away party in which my eardrum was punctured by a sucker-punch from an angry, drunk redneck.