Sunday, April 20, 2014

SEARCH FOR MAX PATCH


The Great Pyrenees was supposed to be guarding his flock but instead, acted like he hadn't seen me in years.  What a pup! 
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And then there was this little guy:
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No, I had never met either of them but it's funny how roads cross occasionally. 

I was on the road mid morning heading for the town of Del Rio where I could turn onto Round Mountain Road and follow it to Max Patch, a famous bald that the Appalachian Trail passes over.  Round Mountain Road turned into gravel about a mile down the highway where it started to gain elevation at a surprising rate.  Oh well - I have the bike for this so might as well enjoy the ride.
The French Broad River is a raging bull up here in the mountains as it forces it's way through deep canyons and through and around house size boulders earning it the reputation as one of the most wild, vicious and challenging rivers in the East.  Yes, it's the same river that flows into Douglas Dam, only it's tamed down a lot by the time it reaches civilization;  just like everything else does.
A hen turkey stumbled out of the tall grass and fumbled out onto the road.  She was dragging her right leg behind her and hopping with her left.  It was a heart breaking thing to watch.  It hurts my heart to see wild animals in pain and this turkey is seriously injured.  Her anguish won't last very long as nature will handle it.
I had to stop at the old post office in Del Rio for the customary picture.  I've got about ten pictures of this old place.  I just can't resist stopping.
I passed some really old buildings and then the gravel road appeared and I was in for an all morning gravel road ride.

The road is maintained wonderfully with a fairly new coat of gravel.  I haven't passed a car, and wouldn't until I got on the Ashville side of Max Patch, two hours from now. This gravel road climbed aggressively and was very curvy.





As usual, I did very little research about where I was going today.  All I had to go with was Round Mountain Road out of Del Rio.  That's all I needed.  You see, I've always contended that motorcycling is best when the ride is not structured or planned.  I've always simply stuffed the front wheel in the general direction and let myself follow.  One notices the oddities and strange and interesting side notes that always accompany a bike ride.  I always loathed careful planning when motorcycle travelling.  All the years I've motored out to Montana, Wyoming, Washington State, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and all the other places - over a million motorcycle miles - I've never once made a call to any hotel to arrange a room.  Not once.  I find it interesting that the few people I ride with continually pull out I pods or some other space gear to keep tabs on one thing or another or to confirm the room will be available between 5 and 7 PM.  What if I'm not ready to stop riding at 5 PM?  It doesn't matter I guess. I've been there and done the motorcycle travelling routine all my life when it wasn't popular, so I guess the new and current motorcycle class of people can find there own way in the activity.  Anyway, I was on the right road but not sure at all where I was located on it.  Love it.  I just putted up and down the mountains in a carefree way, taking in the sights and trying to remember the name of birds that I heard singing.
I have a habit of stopping at every little trickle of water I come to that falls down a mountain side.  This little stream was ice cold and I mean "ice" cold.  It had to be a spring fed rivulet.  I wondered if there were any brook trout in it high above.  I bet there are.
 I know that tree lovers take a lot of flack from the rest of the world but I can understand where their hearts are.  Their problem is the method of operation and not the subject of concern.  There was an entire mountainside here covered with tall, large diameter poplar trees.  These are magnificent trees.  I know they will be toothpicks in a week.  See below.  Those poplars are what these guys are after..

 What a mess they make!  I also noticed some very pretty creeks that were running down through treeless, muddy mountainsides carrying the brown color of runoff to points below.  That's the sad thing about logging.  The trees are pivotal to the health of everything else on the mountain including the water.  The hardwoods will be replaced with pines of various species.  Pines will never replace hardwoods.  Pines are used to replace the hardwoods because they grow faster and can be cut sooner.  It's all about the money.  OOPS.  Sorry..
Oh, you've probably heard the statements by Rush Limbaugh or Shawn Hanity and the like that there are more trees on the planet now then at any other time in the history of earth.  Don't believe it.  That is a stupid thing to say and it is said to reinforce a political position.  It's a lie.
The above shot is called a busy picture but, there's a water pipe with cold, clear water pouring out non stop and water is rushing out of the moss on top the rock face and falling down the front of it.
And finally I arrived at the Max Patch Pond.  I've heard of this puddle over the years and I know the North Carolina Fish and Game people stock it with brook trout.

The pond is a manicured area and is quiet.  A fellow fishing on the opposite side was catching rainbow trout.  I asked him about that as the Fish and Game folks were supposed to only stock brook trout.  He replied, "they lie".   Ok.  I'll buy that.

The above and below shots show a good size tad pole hiding out.

 I asked the angler where Max Patch was.  I knew I was close to it.
His head was bowed while sliding a worm onto his hook and without looking up, pointed with his left hand toward the mountain and said "it's up air".   I looked up and thar she was.  I felt kind of dumb.
 Max Patch is what is known as a bald, a place on the mountain top where trees and foliage won't grow, for whatever reason.  The term bald can be googled and a wealth of information is available.  I remember reading that pioneer families moved onto balds  because of the fact the trees and scrub were already missing and all they had to do was till the soil and plant the crops.  They tried to eek out a living but the corn crops were sparse as well a wheat and rye crops which indicate that soil nutriments were lacking.  The industrious farmers would travel to outrageous places in the middle of the most hostile places just to farm a bald that, many times, was located weeks away from civilization. The land was harsh in those times and the winters were unbearable misery but, they persevered.  Many of the folks, women and children especially, rarely came down off the mountains to civilization except for once every three or four years, their men folk being the ones who took the crops to town.
 I mentioned earlier that the Appalachian Trail cuts over the top of Max Patch.
Well, I found the place and now I needed to keep the wheels turning because I knew not where I was and had no idea how to get anywhere.  No, I didn't ask anyone.  I'm too old to do that.


I can safely say that there is no place in the Eastern United States where I've ever had the feeling of reverting back in time to the early 1800s.  These mountains had a flavor of those times - a strong flavor like ramps covered in raw garlic and set to a boil.  Whew!
 The road seemed endless as it curved up and down and all around like a serpent winding its way through the mountain.


 There is nothing up here.  Nothing but a few folks here and there.  Bet times are tough.


 I stopped the bike in front of the place below.  I got off and just drank in the scene.  A pretty brook flowed behind me and everything was green and rich with the smell of the woods.  And, it was quiet - dead quiet.  I stood there with a smile on my face trying to absorb this feeling.  I was in envy of these people who had this fantastic retreat up here in nowhere on all this land.  Then a pickup pulled up to me and a nice older man leaned over and asked if I was in trouble.  I replied that I was just enjoying this scene here before me.
I told him, "I am amazed at the beauty I see and I can't seem to take my eyes off it.  Really.  That's what I'm doing.  It's a great day to be alive".  He said, "if I wasn't in a hurry to get to town I'd take you to my place up on the top of rattlesnake mountain.  I can see the world from up there.  The offer is there anytime - here's my number".  I said I'd think about it as if I got to his place he might not be able to get me out.  He told me, "that's OK too.  I live alone."
Just when I get down on humans, I meet this guy.  What I wrote here about our meeting is hard to believe.  Total strangers and yet something pushed the trust buttons in each of us.  The white smoke of truth surrounded each of our thought processes.  Oh well, enough of that.  I mounted up and hit the road.  The gentleman told me how to get to Hot Springs, NC from there and that sounded good.  I like Hot Springs.





I noticed that North Carolina does not coat the roads with gravel like Tennessee does.  It can be a treacherous ride if one doesn't keep his head on straight.
 Yep, had to stop for the creek.
I was wondering when the road would turn downhill.  So far it hasn't given up any elevation at all.
This little brook rolled past me and down to a little cabin that was charming.  I can't tell you how rustic this entire area is.  The whole mountain is out of time with life.
The concoction above is no doubt for grape vines but would probably work for raspberries and the like also.

I came to the town of "Luck" and noticed the Luck general store.  There was no place to pull off so I took a couple shots while supporting the bike on the roadway.
The sign at the gable is faded badly so I enlarged it to see if I could read it.
I forget what breed these cattle are but I believe they are from Scotland.


And the road finally turned downhill.




Every farm had old buildings from another era on the property.  They appreciate the past and they are preserving it for themselves and be damned with the rest of the progress seekers.

These roads were taking me toward the Pisgah National forest and Hot springs.  The gravel surface stopped about five miles back and I was entering real life once again, darn it.
 Little fixer upper.  Nothing a coat of paint and a few nails and a hammer can't fix.
And, of course my newest friends.  Well, one of them.  See the movie at the start of the entry.


 The house above belongs on a calendar.
I could go on and on but I better end this here.  Its been quite a day, and an enjoyable one.  Back to the Cherokee Tailrace tomorrow and maybe I'll stop and see the wolf dog, PeeWee.