Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Breaks

Several days ago when I was coming down from the Blue Ridge Parkway, I had a fun but harrowing descent into the town of Vesuvius. The steep road was narrow and winding forcing me to ride hard on the brakes. I stopped twice to let my brakes cool so they wouldn't fall apart. Yesterday I had to do that same sort of ride in reverse and it was much less fun. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Friday was a light day, I biked twenty-eight miles into Damascus. I had a one-hour climb through Mt. Rogers and a several mile coast into town. I was in Damascus by 12:30 pm and spent the rest of the day walking around town and exploring the Trail Days festival.

Trail Days is basically a big party for the hikers on the AT and those who wish they were. There are also vendors hawking the latest and lightest gear and seminars on various hiking-related topics. Unlike the Transamerica Trail, groups that monitor the AT seem to have a pretty solid count of how many start the AT and how many actually finish. Only about 120 to 140 hikers make it all the way to Maine each year, which is about 10% of the number who start it. Despite the small number, I ended up talking with a suspiciously high number of folks who had hiked the whole thing at some time in the past. I hung out most of the day with Alex, a PhD student at the University of Florida, who had just arrived in town and was planning to hike the AT for about two weeks. That night we went to a new documentary on the Continental Divide Trail. What a challenge that is – hiking over 3000 miles in six months over some tough terrain. Back at the tent city where we stayed, there was a large bonfire where some drunkards came dangerously close to self-immolation.

After an easy day on Friday, I had my toughest ride so far on Saturday. I rode from Damascus on the VA/TN border to Breaks Interstate Park on the VA/KY border. I had a number of tough climbs including the climb out of Hayters Gap, mentioned above. The last fifteen miles of the ride provided an unwelcome series of shorter but steep climbs.

The reward for making it through the day was that I caught up to a number of other riders. A group of seven riders on an Adventure Cycling tour were camped at the park, as was another solo rider, Jon. They told me that there was at least one other couple staying in the area as well. Unfortunately, as I arrived late yesterday and want to push on today, I'm not going to be able to enjoy Breaks but it's a beautiful park with large rock formations rising from the Russell Fork. Supposedly, the river provides challenging white water rafting.

1 comment:

Greg T. said...

So, thems the breaks?