Wednesday morning was an 8:30 a.m. start. I’m sure Martha would have liked to begin earlier, as she is a much earlier riser, and I thought at first that I would be ready at 8:00 a.m., but finishing up breakfast of zucchini bread, banana, and orange juice on the cool porch cabin overlooking the creek and then getting my stuff on my bike took more time than I thought it would. But we did leave at 8:30. Martha had already ridden down to the beginning of the trail (about ½ mile) and back to meet me at the cabin, but she agreed to ride about 100 yards down so that I could be opposite our cabins and then turn around and start on our way. (I had pictured myself riding on the trail while eating breakfast and wanted to complete the reality of the situation by riding there.) Anyway, we said our goodbyes to Ron and Ed, who were going to handle the logistics of getting the car and the truck to their respective parking lots so that they could ride part way with us and then still have a car at the trail’s end. Ron was installing the bar ends that Tommy had given him for his birthday, so that he wouldn’t have to lean over quite so much to grasp the handle bars. (Which, by the way, worked just fine, and he looked a lot more comfortable as he rode in front of me on the trail.)
The first 12 miles was back to the junction where we had left the night before, following close to the creek all the way. The creek was actually as large as a river, and it was very scenic. That might have been my favorite part of the whole trail. And then just before the junction was a long trestle over the part of the river where the creek met the New River. That was great. And for my physical comfort, a clean toilet awaited me before we kept going along the New River. The weather was great—about 68 degrees—and shady under the canopy of trees, and right next to the water. During the next 14 miles along the New River, it was wider, of course, but not as many rocks to create any white water, and some of the time it was harder to see the water because of the trees and shrubs between us and the river. One really nice feature of this trail was the several picnic tables and even little parks situated alongside the trail. And it was well marked with these yellow posts/gates that helped us see where to go next at any intersections. The crushed gravel had quite a bit of packed dirt mixed into it, which made the ride fairly smooth. It was pretty scenery, and I think is near the top in my list of favorites. Our only problem was that the mist that started to surround us eventually turned to rain, and we had to stop to put on our rain jackets, which wasn’t all that bad actually, except when the rain stopped and the mist was thick and hot and we were in a sort of sweat bath with our rain jackets on. But it was all tolerable and not totally uncomfortable. About every hour I had to pee, but the trail was accommodating because about every hour we saw an outhouse. Not just an ordinary wooden outhouse, but a nice cement structure that even had hand sanitizer installed on the wall. Not a flush toilet but good enough to serve the purpose.
After 26 miles we saw Ed on the trail by the Shot Tower where he and Ron were waiting on us. I don’t think they had to wait too long—maybe 10 or 15 minutes. It was still raining a bit, so we decided to drive to Foster Falls and have our picnic rather than bike over there. That was good. It was a nice break, the area was pretty, and we found a little gazebo to eat under. Ron and Ed had picked up sandwiches at the Draper Mercantile before coming to meet up with us. So after lunch the rain had stopped and we headed back to Shot Tower (where in the early 1800’s they used to drop bits of lead down this 150 foot tower, where it formed into a ball and landed in a bucket of water as a round bullet for their shotguns.) We had to carry Ron’s and Ed’s bikes down the steep trail to the New River Trail, but we did it.
Then we started out on the next 20 miles. This section, according to bloggers, was the prettiest, and it was pretty as it paralleled the New River almost all the way, but the river was also sometimes camouflaged by trees. There were a few trestles, but not as many as we had on the first 26 miles and no tunnels (we had gone through two tunnels before we met up with the husbands). It was oftentimes shady, so that was nice, and fairly flat. In all, it was a good ride. The Hiawassee Bridge over the river was long and neat. Soon after that, though, we left the side of the river into the woods for about four miles, and the last two miles were noticeably more uphill than the rest had been. By the time we reached the Draper Mercantile, where Ron and Ed were stopping, Martha and I were ready to forego the last 4.2 miles and stop there also. It wasn’t supposed to be as scenic, the bugs were noticeable, it was hot, there was no river, and I guess my age was showing because I was getting tired after 46 miles. So we decided to just ride with Ed and Ron in the truck over to Pulaski where we cooled off in McDonalds with ice water and a fudge sundae. That was a good finish to a good ride.
We then all rode in the truck back to Shot Tower to pick up the Subaru and part paths. Ron and I drove back to the Brownie House and Martha and Ed went back to the New River Cabins in Galax.