10.22.2007,10:41 AM
Rivers and Falling Water

Woke up, got out of bed, drag a comb across my head......."

Last night I had bad helmet hair; this morning I had bad sleeping bag hair. And no brush. Generally a pragmatist and minimalist, I didn't pack a brush; 'Wash and Wear' is my motto. Disheveled and sporting a discolored swollen eye I looked like I crawled out from under a big rock. And felt like it, too.


"Found my way downstairs and had a cup......"

I joined the crew gathered around the coffee machine with my usual grunts and a cold washcloth pressed against my left eye. I think I ate some breakfast; I don't even remember. Until the magic polyphenols in the coffee juice crosses the blood-brain barrier and enters the cerebrospinal fluid, washing over my cerebral cortex, the zombie bearing my appearance rules.

After a few cups of coffee and the central nervous system functioning, I donned riding gear again; this time preparing for a day of off-road riding: elbow pads under the jersey, bike shorts under the MX pants, thin socks on feet stuffed into barely fitting MX boots. I learned on this trip how functional and protective those boots are. But they could be a bit longer, or my finger-like toes a bit shorter.

Pulling the off-road helmet on, I attempted to adjust the florescent Scott riding goggles over my prescription Wiley sunglasses. The combination felt all wrong; I knew it would require getting used to. Knowing from prior experience the other day that the goggles would have deflected mutant bees that insisted on impaling themselves into my skin, I shrugged off the discomfort and submitted to wearing the combination. I got used to them quicker than I anticipated, along with the routine of pulling the goggled down around the helmet nosepiece when I needed unimpaired vision.

But I still looked like a nuked radioactive frog.


While my brain slowly arose from zombie state, Ed checked the chains and oil on both bikes. The Sherpa's chain was a bit loose, which accounted for the infrequent high-pitched rattling I 'thought' I heard during yesterday's ride. Hard to hear anything but screaming wind when going at any speed on the Sherpa because the headlight housing directs the wind right at the soccer ball sitting on my shoulders.

Riding the now familiar route into Tellico Plains we both gassed up and were ready to roll. In fact, I was eager to get off the well-traveled roads and onto the less-traveled path. Starting along the Skyway once more, we found forest road 210, also known as the River Road, and veered down a stretch of narrow tarmac along the Tellico River. Deep in the shade of the mountainside on the left, we followed the river on the right.

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We stopped a few times for photo ops. By that time I was quite annoyed at the camera's out-of-focused viewfinder. Because I can't use the viewfinder when wearing glasses, I had adjusted the viewfinder focus specifically to my myopic eyes. For some reason it became maladjusted and I was literally shooting photos blind. And I couldn't for the life of me remember how to adjust it, nor did the manual reveal a clue. So I did a lot of bracketing shots.


FR 210 was a length of old and new tarmac; narrow, winding and sweet in the shadows of the mountain ridges just north of us. I could see the sun climbing the horizon but the coolness of the river and shadows kept us comfortable. Although I was expecting the tarmac to end at any time, the road and scenery were so enjoyable I didn't mind that it was recently paved. Soon we came upon a bridge with motorcycles and cars parked beyond.


An old bridge, revealing its age by the weathered and discolored concrete, the algae and lichens lurking here and there, spanned a section of the Bald River just below where it and the Tellico river converge. An unassuming river, barely 125 feet wide, its crowning glory was the tiered falls on one side and the small pools with eddies created by outcrops of rock on the other side. Most of the Bald River Falls was hidden in the shadows of the trees and cliffs along its sides, but the tops of the trees were aglow with the rising sun which also reflected in a few of the churning water and the mist rising from a deep pool mid-falls.


The falls appeared different in light and texture from every angle and my index finger went nuts on the camera's shutter release. Each exposure revealed different views of the falls and I tried to capture as many as I could.



I soon realized the weather was warming and I was getting warmer, too. While most visitors to the falls turned around and traced the road back to the Skyway, we continued east.


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posted by Macrobe
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