Tennesee: Can't Get There From Here
We had all planned to ride the Dragon on Thursday: Ed, Janet, and Tom with Cathy. Me... I needed some Elzi Time alone. So I took the high road. The morning after the storms the entire area blanketed in fog. The air was so humid it was almost misting. Jack advised everyone to stay off the Cherohala Skyway; it would be swamped in fog which makes for some treacherous navigation. The Skyway snakes along a ridge at several thousand feet; many times it is in the clouds. So when Janet arrived at camp, the Dragon riders chose a route north of Tellico to enter the Dragon from the north and avoid the Skyway. It was also a more direct route. Me... I rode the Skyway. I agreed to meet them at an intersection north of Robbinsville, NC, and east of the southern-most end of the Dragon. They seemed to think they would be there before me. But that proved wrong. I left on the Sherpa while they were dilly-dallying around the camp site. Taking the back way through town, I stopped at parking lot to put my ear plugs in; I had forgotten that I was not riding dirt today. (I don't wear them riding off-road) Then I headed east on the Skyway. Only a few miles on the road, the mists began to drift in and out from the tall trees. Normally at this time of the day bikes are going both ways on the Skyway. Not today. As I rode on, scattered mists turned into dense fog. And still no sign of any other riders or drivers. I had it all to myself. Riding the Skyway in the fog required acute concentration and conservative speeds. I didn't mind. I was in the mood for an easy-paced ride anyway. At a few thousand feet I was now getting chilled from the moisture-laden air. A pull-out offered a chance to stop and don my rain jacket. I wore my regular motocross pants rather than the mesh pants today, so between those and the big Monster Boots (aka motocross boots), my lower body was relatively warm. The fog was too thick to afford any views from the mountains side. Still no signs of anyone else on the Skyway. Now with the rain jacket providing me warmth, I grinned ear to ear and crawled through the fog. The summit (5300 feet) was packed in with fog; I just meandered along at a conservative speed and kept going. The descent showed that the fog and mist was breaking up, even some spotty sunny spots here and there. I pulled in another viewpoint for a break to see two sport bikes. The two riders were laying on a cement picnic table in all their gear: helmets, gloves, everything. They were taking a break and waiting for the fog to lift a bit more. I warned them that the summit was swamped in with fog but it should start to thin out soon. Pulled out the camera to take a shot. A small section of the Skyway can be seen in the far upper right. Descending down the ridge, the skies cleared and the air got warm; steamy warm. Now more bikes were riding up the Skyway. No longer did I have it all to myself. I pulled off into Thunder Mountain, a small store and gas stop, where KLRs can be rented, too. After peeling off the rain jacket (much to my relief), I went in for a pit stop. Outside I drank some water and stretched some cramped back muscles. Then checked the map for Hwy 143 in Robbinsville. I soon discovered you can't get there from here.
To be continued: Lost and Flat Tire Mountain