Thursday, February 7, 2013

P4W2 Day 32 Talking Rock - Sky Lake, GA 71 miles

Day 32 was a very tough but wonderful day of pedaling.   A heavy fog and singing cardinals and phoebes greeted me when I woke this morning.  The fog quickly burned off and brought about one of the nicest days of weather of the entire trip...60s, totally clear, and calm. 

I snapped a photo of a Civil War era chimney before I left Talona Creek Campground.  And I couldn't resist feeding one of the local horses one of my granola was consumed as if he was on a bike tour (very quickly!).

The hills were immediate and intense today.  The first 30 miles I covered on pleasantly traffic-free roads.  World-class roller coaster rides have nothing on today's ride, and I shifted gears constantly.  I was fully in the beautiful Georgia mountains, and going slowly for a long long time.

Six miles into the ride today I got to a T in the road.  I sat there puzzled, for I had not climbed Burnt Mountain and the truck was pointed downhill on the sign.  Well, I think the Georgia DOT was playing a joke on me, for the 12 miles posted on the sign was uphill!  Turns out the hill signs in the state always have the truck facing the direction that bikers like to see.  Don't be fooled into thinking the tough riding is behind you!

Burnt Mountain was a very tough climb.  It was very similar in duration and steepness to Rabbit Ears Pass in Steamboat, Colorado (P4W1, Day 15 ish), except at 6000 feet lower elevation.  But Burnt Mountain had the elevation change where I could literally see the lobolly and oak forest give way to one dominated by white pines, rhododendrons, and mountain laurels, the southern terminus of species found even a couple thousand miles to the north.  The top of  Burnt Mountain even had snow.  I felt I was back into winter after a spell in the deep south where it felt like summer was upon me.

By noon I had made 20 super tough miles and detour off to see beautiful Amicalola Falls State Park, which has a spectacular mountain cascade.  And the state park is home to the start of Appalachian Trail, the famous hiking path of the East.  The quote on the memorial sums up the wonder of the AT.

The traffic re-found me later in the day.  But I had wonderful mountain views all afternoon as my route paralleled a major spine of mountains in northern Georgia.

After traveling through several very picturesque mountain towns, I finally made it to Sky Lake, where Gail and Dennis Piccirilli  hosted me at their beautiful home in the Georgia foothills.  Gail was a volunteer at OWLS and recently retired along with Dennis to a lovely and peaceful spot in the southern highlands. 

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