Mountain biking is one of my passions and I cannot get enough of it. Considering Pisgah National Forest, home to world class mountain biking, is my backyard I would feel guilty if I was not taking advantage of the diverse forest and trails that are so convenient for me to access.
I ride my bike year round but autumn is certainly a special time to be pedaling. This past fall of 2016 was unique. Western North Carolina experienced a record drought and we did not receive a drop of rain from August through early December. The drought brought on unusual wildfires. Although the particular areas where I do most of my mountain biking were not affected by fire they were affected by smoke. Every day was different and the amount of smoke would depend on which way the wind was blowing on that particular day. Either way, whether drought or smoke, I was going to be riding my bike as much as possible.
From September through November I made a special attempt to photograph my experiences on my bike with my Canon G9. My G9 is nothing special by todays technological capabilities. It's a simple to use "point and shoot," that I purchased in 2008. For many years this camera was all that I had. It makes a great kick around camera and can still capture a moment. I hope you enjoy these images and a couple of stories to go along with my adventures.
The leaves begin to change around mid-september and usually September is a drier month that allow for perfect riding conditions.
I love and prefer early morning rides in Pisgah and am often the first car at the trailhead. It's a neat feeling for me knowing that I have the entire forest to myself.
Peak week for colors in this area is usually around Halloween and the colors in the forest are spectacular!
On this particular chilly November morning I met up with a friend around 7 a.m. We started at the campground of the North Mill's River Recreation area. Our journey on this morning would eventually take us down the Spencer Gap Trail which is one of my favorite trails that Pisgah has to offer. However, in order to access Spencer Gap a difficult and steep climb that includes both gravel forest road and single track must be conquered. Typically Pisgah is known for long uphills and long downhills and Spencer Gap is no exception. A gravel forest service road must be climbed for four miles before the uphill turns to a steep single track that is rocky and loaded with roots. Rocks and roots are also two obstacles that can seemingly "jump out at you" without warning on the trails. As we were about two miles into our initial ascent on gravel we entered into a beautiful and colorful section of forest. My friend and I were riding side by side enjoying conversation when we both looked up the road at the same time and saw two big and beautiful black bears about 75 yards ahead. The bears were not collared and were walking side by side. They initially did not see us. When the bears got half way across they looked down the road and made eye contact with us. One of the bears immediately rushed off into the forest. The other stopped in its tracks and gave us a stern look. After a 30 second stare down it slowly finished crossing the road where there was a tall tree. The bear stood up and dug his two front paws into the tree. As it dug his paws into the tree it lightly growled at us. We stood there in awe. I had my G9 in my pocket and reached for it hopeful for a picture. As I reached into my pocket the bear took off toward its mate and slowly wandered into the forest. We watched as the bears disappear into the colorful woods. Their shiny black coats mixed in with red, orange and yellow fall colors and created a splendid sight. My friend and I looked at each other and eventually hugged as we realized that we had just experienced something special. I did not capture a picture with my camera but the vision of those bears will always be in my head and I think that is more important.
On this particular November evening in Bent Creek the smoke from the wildfires was horrible. We had been experiencing smoke inhalation for weeks and it was starting to affect me. My eyes and throat constantly burned. However, the trails called so I felt obliged to ride. I often end my rides in Bent Creek near Lake Powhatan and I love to walk out onto the fishing pier to check out the beautiful view. While I was admiring the sun setting and the unique colors in the sky that the smoke was responsible for I noticed something swimming in the water. At first I thought it was a snake but I quickly remembered that it was November and the lake would be too cold for a snake. I looked closer and realized that it was a river otter. I had stood on that pier dozens of times and had never seen a river otter before so I was pleasantly surprised. I watched the otter swim through the beautiful orange light that the sun was casting on the lake. The otter got closer to the pier and looked up to find me taking pictures of it with my G9. He rolled onto its back and struck a quick pose for me and dove straight down. It came up for air about 30 feet ahead. I was able to grab a few pictures of the otter while watching him dive and come up for air every few seconds. This otter was full of personality!
As always than you for checking out my blog. It's much appreciated and I hope to meet you on the trails one day!