6.17.2009,12:13 PM
Tennessee: Getting Whiggy With It
A mile or so after Bald River Falls, the paved road veers south to the right, gravel to the north. We took the 'high road'.

The gravel forest road becomes North River Road and, as the name implies, follows the river for some distance. Only a slim line of trees separate the river and the road. Eventually the road turns away from the river and meanders deeper into the forest and mountains.

A grader's blade had ditched the left side of the road. Rains here have washed leaves and silt into the ditches, flooding roads; in some areas washing away edges and gouging ruts. Like any forest road, they need spring maintenance. A smudged swath of leaves, rocks and debris covered most of the road; riding on it was like going through an obstacle course. A slippery one.

Except for a poorly attempted come-back to riding off-road in Big Bend last winter, this was the first time since the ankle injury/surgery I've been back off-road in over a year. I soon discovered I had to relearn most everything and overcome that "Ohmigod!!!" (family-friendly expletive) lizard-brain factor. I had a few pucker moments on that section, and a few later on the next two days. But they decreased as technique skills and confidence slowly crept back. My biggest hurdle now is maneuvering corners. Realize that all corners here -well, almost all- are either on inclines or declines. Some are sharp 90-360 degree. We've been doing a lot of switchbacks and hairpin turns, many quite steep. It's getting better.

We left the gravel road and wandered into the 'Yellow Sea', as I call it. That's what shows up on my GPS (Garmin 60csx). That little black triangle wandering around in a sea of yellow with no lines. I have expected to hear a little voice, "This does not compute." The gravel road became a two-track as it switched up and up the mountainside to Whigg Meadow.

Finally we made it, I could breathe.

Whigg Meadow is a mountain 'bald'. What is that? A 'bald spot' tops many of these mountains: shallow soil, few trees, green grass, ledge outcrops. The soil is too shallow for trees to take hold and stand against the wind, rain and snow, so many of these mountains are topped by a 'bald' meadow. Hence, many 'XXXX Balds' are on the maps of this area.

When we were here October of '07, the views were outstanding; sections of the Cherohala Skyway were easily seen. But not this time. The air was hazy. Couldn't see the distance as before. Nor does this 'bald' provide a 360-degree view like the others we visited after wards, but here's a perspective:

It was very different from when we were here in October. Green, green, everywhere. Even found azaleas in flower.

And butterflies.

The hiking trail that accesses Whigg meadow is on 275-mile long Benton MacKaye Trail. The BM Trail is part of the 4,000-mile Eastern Continental Trail (extends from New Brunswick to Florida) and serves as an alternate hiking trail to the Appalacian Trail. Whigg Meadow is a favorite of avid birders; many species can be found here. Both times I've been at Whigg Meadow, I have not seen another person. It has been like our own little hideaway.

After a relaxing reprieve, we geared back up and rode down the mountain, back to North River Rd. and headed north again.

To be Continued....... (cabins, roads and rivers)

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posted by Macrobe
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