Highland Trilogy, pt 2a

yawnnnnnn. damn I slept well, solid 8hrs of dreamland. Hit the snooze, not in the mood to wander out into the damp chill fog. Where's the sun? come on, burn this shit off. Knowing Seneca is 'just down the hill,' do a qwik press of coffee to wash down the pop tarts, no oats today. Did sleep in a bit, and the typical hourish breaking of camp saw me rolling lazy at 7:45. But that's ok, right? All I gotta do today is ride the Gnarly, then spin down thru the Smokehole and find a camp spot before dark. Gnarly is 20ish mile, should be a 4-5hr traverse w/ a couple snack breaks. Figure to grab a qwik hearty breakfast from the store in Seneca, big fat bagel sandwich or something, along with a sandwich to go and be on the Gnarly 11ish. Eat lunch along the trail, off the mtn 5-6ish, eat a hot meal, then a relaxing spin into the sunset. Easy enough right?

Right. Get moving, and as usual, another 1/4 mile of trail woulda found me an even sweeter campspot, w/ prebuilt stone chairs, now I know. Get rolling down the hill, think I hear an odd rattle..shit, I never gave the bike that once over that I wanted to. Trip across Huckleberry should've seated everything by now, pull the wrench and touch all the bolts. Then I hear that hisssssssss again. damn rear tire. musta nicked it oh so slightly rolling the gravel path out to the sitting' bench on Spruce, heard the first hisss then. Been hoping the Stan's would take, but these little pinholes open up every time the tire really flexes. Keeps sealing with the shake n spin ritual, but it's starting to get old, let's just get to Seneca, it's going on 9ish.

Really start rolling that uber sweet lower Allegheny descent, and just before the final pitch, get that soft knobby collapsing squish carving thru a corner. fuck. This thing just won't cooperate. Start to count the number of times I've hit this thing with the pump and say fuck it, time to take the time to put in a tube. This is doing nothing for covering ground today. Repair done, dropping the final pitch into the base campsite is anticlimactic, just get me to Seneca. Hit the pavement and relieved to finally hit town at 10ish, take in the small scene in a daze and see an oasis of a sign: "Coffee shop. Breakfast served."

Park bike, stroll in and am greeted by one of the most angelic, wholesome, beautiful smiles that I've ever seen, boy she was cute. I try to adjust to society and manage to order a french toast, w/ fruit w/ syrup, switching from the confused Belgium waffle first choice. And as the small world turns, I bump into WG TonyB. Turn's out that he and the Seneca climbing guide dude opened up this little oasis last year. Always so neat to see ski buds away from the ski scene. Little bit of catch up, then restock at the general store while breakfast is cooking, turkey sub to go for sure this time.
Chow down on the french toast, god that was good, shoulda had seconds. And starting getting sucked into the relaxed, chill WV vibe. No hurries, no worries, I've got allll day to get thru the Gnarly, and then a day and a half-ish to roll the SMT. Plenty of time right? Bag another 80today, then 60 and a 20-30ish to finish. Freshly restocked with full water bottles, 150oz total, and a 16oz Coke to help wash down the sub, another 6ish hrs worth of ride snacks and finally hit the road, 11am sharp. Slummy spin out 33 until I got my head straight and adjusted to the heat of the day. If only I'd gotten up earlier, if only I'd checked my bike before breaking camp, put the tube in sooner, if, if, if...just pedal, play the cards you're dealt. Swing into a little last chance thrift shop/homestyle cooking establishment for a splash of water.

"Nope, nothing bottled or like that.."
Can you top me off?

"Oh yeah! You'll love this water, comes from deeeep in the ground."
Sweet, that's even better, thank you sir.

There were bikes hanging
on the outside of the building.
they may have been for sale.

Hit the top of 33 and enter the NorthFork 'bout 1ish, rest stop at the hang glider launch, steady gunnin' thru to there. Again, riding like shit into the woods, oh...that's right, tire pressure. psst, psssssst, psst. suwheeeeet. Now immediately drawn into the beauty of this trail. The memory that's burned from each traverse of this ridge is of the finale', the namesake gnarl. But the hidden heart is this flowing green carpet. Punctuated with a bit of the rocky lumps to keep you honest, but boy does this thing flowwwww.

2pm, reach the hang glider launch and take a lunch break. It's hot, it's humid, it's time to get nekid. Let the UV's cleanse the chammy and air things out. ahhhhhhh, awesome breaktime until the trail conditioned Coke fizzes all over everything, and I mean everything, upon opening, dumbass. Well, that was good for a laugh. Kit back up, saunter down to the steed and hit the trail once more, refreshed. Next goal, the fireroad halfway point. Immediately sucked back into more flowy love. Then disappointment suddenly appears. Oh, this is that always forgotten hike a bike. Well, if it's often forgotten, that must mean one thing, that the payoff is worth it and wipes out the memory. One foot in front the other, no friends on a powder day, get it done.

Over the top and rolling into the halfway, taking inventory, checking fluids. What time is it, how far out am I? hmmm, it's gonna be tight, especially with this heat.. Just keep moving forward, and woohooo god damn?!?!? what's this??? A trail angel of some sort left a jug of water out here. A fresh, still sealed gallon of drinking water stashed along the trail. hmmm, moral dilemma. Do I, don't I, do I don't I? Who? why? definitely somebody else, so who? why? would they mind? would they if in my shoes? hmmm. fuck it. Crack the seal, pour a bottle's worth, wish I had a sharpie to leave a thank you...Thank you anonymous water jug leaver behinder!

Cherish the unexpected spirit reboot, hit the trail steady gunnin', looking for another possible forgotten hike a bike, or was that the one? Roll, roll, roll, terrain looks famliar, trail is keeping me on my toes, making steady enough pace. Should be down off the mtn 5:30-6ish no problem. Then filter some water, cook dinner, and spin up the road to a camp spot, Big Bend possibly? Trail rolls steady, feeling groovey, make the right that I sometimes miss at the protected habitat and sneak along that tight boundary line. Hear an oddish rattle, take the time to touch the wrench to the rack bolts, make sure everything is snug before this descent. Seems good so push on, follow the bambi path into a bit of an opening and eye up a barkless log w/ rubber laid on it. There's the line. Portage over and immediatley into tight alternate bambi path, that gets tighter...Fuck. I do this every fucking time I come here, god damnit. Back track, fore track, back track, fuck, up over that rocky ledge, back down it. damnit. back to that log, shit, there it is, missed that hard right, damn log distracted me again...

Get rolling, up to cruising speed and not two blinks later, what the hell is that noise? rattle, rattlerattle, rattle tattle rattle. Brakesssssssss. dismount, grab rack, shake. fuck. A mounting bolt sheared. Well, was expecting this someday, just not now, but if not now then when? this is the Gnarly afterall. No problemo, just more lost time, I have spare bolts. But shit, how do I get that stub out? didn't think about that... {advanced touring lesson, run your rack bolts long, leave an 1/8" or so protruding thru the eyelet. Will give you something to grab onto and turn w/ the pliers when they shear off flush.} So the spare bolts are sorta worthless, but these zipties are worth about a million buck right now. Had a plan for this, one, two, three, that should hold, hopefully. Leaves me three as back up, plus parachute chord for desperation repair.

Get it rolling again, with a bit of gingerlyness for sure. Low risk, able to shut it down early no surprises descending. When, maybe 3minutes down the trail, another rattle rattlerattle manifests, same, but different this time. Look down, zip ties still intact, other bolt is intact, wtf? gawddamnit. Now the opposing seatstay bandclamp let loose, assymetric loading I 'spose. Well, I know I didn't pack one of those. Two more zipties to the rescue. Down to just one left in stock.

Now the head trip really begins.

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