Mountain Range

TELLICO HIGHLANDS

Sean Barton (1)

5/15/22

I admit that I have had a few adventures in the queue recently. I was not entirely sure that my outing for this weekend would be the Highlands route. Then as the weekend approached and rain seemed to be settling in over the crags in Linville Gorge, I had to look elsewhere for some mountain time. The weather for Sunday in Tellico was going to be warm by the time lunch rolled around, but it was otherwise undeniably going to be gorgeous. This might even turn out to be the first weekend for a swim in the creek. I was sold. I was hoping to get a few more long days in before my 30th birthday and the full heat of the summer. This would be good.

After some urban trail on Friday and some Saturday commuting to the bakery followed by a potluck that night, it did not seem as though my bike was going to get any modifications aside from a quick cleaning and lube; my flat bars were to remain in place (didn't feel like switching back again) and my gearing would remain 32:18; at least I had my comfort grips :) .

As I approached HWY 68 the mountains above Tellico Plains were already setting the scene; the night before saw several separate instances of quick, heavy rainfall, and the clouds on the windward side were still taking their time to blow out even though clearer skies were peaking through.

I got established at that first good swimming pull off on River Rd, unloaded, and then rode back to Oosterneck for the start selfie at ~8:44am. Good thing it's Sunday because if the bakery had been open then I would have started even later! I found myself pretty amped climbing up towards Waucheesi and reflecting on the inaugural event from just a couple of months ago. Heading up on Wildcat/Bald River was like being in the rainforest; the clouds and fog were still thick from the night before, and every creek was pumping thunderously; you could no longer see out of the canopies due to the Spring foliage; it was amazing. I had a few goals today however: don't pop, climb North River Road in one push, don't stop yet, continue onto the Unicoi Crest pulloff before breaking, get an ice cream, take lots of photos, go down to some creeks. I better dial it back...

After some water at the Ranger check station I headed up North River Rd. It seemed all but two car campers/fishers were deterred by the rain the night before. I was only passed by one car the entire climb; the two people said they were excited to see me tackle the last bit of the climb on a bicycle, so they drove behind me for 9 minutes until the last sharp left hand turn. I felt like I was in the Giro except they couldn't carry all my gear and hand me a tasty snack out of the window. Oh well. When I hit the state line and the Nantahala I found myself daydreaming of good memories from Santeetlah Creek from the summer prior. Onward. I kept rolling onto the skyway because I was in fact not at 4400ft yet, and the climb was not over. After a rest at the Unicoi Crest pulloff and pleasantries with Benton MacKaye hikers I rolled on. I was able to hit 44mph descending on 2.1s; always fun.

At Indian Boundary I grabbed an ice cream, snapped a selfie, and gave kudos to Ryan from Cleveland, TN, who was out there crushing the Vista route; I couldn't imagine. The lake loop was entirely empty and as gorgeous as ever. Then the descent along Citico Creek was just stunning; the amount of times I screeched to a halt to snap photos was adding up.

As I approached the second to last effort heading up to Farr Gap I really started to feel like I was farr away from the main roads. Farr Gap was in an entirely different condition compared to my first two climbs of the day. The first two were soft, and I felt like I was sinking into sand after all of the rain the night before. Climbing up to Farr was bone dry, rattly, and the sun was beating down on my back. When the pitch kicked upwards at the top it was all I could do to not pass through the threshold zone and on out to my max, but I got through the marbly top section in one shot and proceeded on. I knew there were good views shortly into the descent. At this point the mountain feels like an island in the sky, and you can feel that the Foothills Parkway is just off to the north. If only those connected... Better get moving. Look back at the Skyway, snap some pics, and get down to Citico Creek Rd.

Once again Citico Creek was gorgeous. I let myself go down to the water just once because I knew the last service road would take me over an hour. My giant bottles were full so after a snack I rolled onto the last effort, the aptly named segment "descending the mostly uphill". This doubletrack is pretty cool, but with all the debris and climbing it is quite a bit of work at this point in the day. I was glad I had my tires and bike choice for all of these trials logs and brake pumping strainers. I ate my last peanut butter chocolate brownie at the end and made it for Turkey Creek Rd. I wanted 32:18 so I could max spin 14-15mph here. After all this time as I rolled down River Rd I still found myself swerving into the river side lane checking out each rapid. It was a fine and beautiful day out for some adventure. I got back to Oosterneck at 6:15 pm. It was cold but refreshing as I made it into the river up to my waist; I lounged on a rock in the middle of the river and soaked my tired legs pretending it was an ice bath. That'll do.

I brought my karate monkey single speed which was living somewhere between mountain bike and gravel bike this weekend. 2.1 inch low tread tires. One half frame bag. One 32 oz and one 20 oz water bottle so I don't need my filter; carry one empty sometimes. Multi tool, two tubes, patch kit, plugs, levers, pump, phone, charger, cash money. No extra layers needed today 🤗.
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