Apr 2017 16

The ride that took a little over three years to complete is finally behind us. In late March of 2014, we set out with a couple friends to ride our bicycles up to Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mtns from the Gatlinburg area. That day produced many memories etched in our minds for a long time to come. With little planning prior to the ride and a chance for bad weather to arrive in the mountains, it proved to be the perfect storm. I highly encourage you to search our history at Clingmans Dome and read the follow up to that ride.

 

When I tossed out the idea early this year that we return to finish what we set out to do as a group down there three years ago, it became more than an idea when we put it on the schedule and booked a cabin. Then it became a reality on April 4, 2017 as we once again set out on our bicycles to climb Clingmans from the Gatlinburg area. This trip, we were joined by friends Linn, Rusty, Gene, and Jim and we departed from the Sugarlands visitors center with my wife Maria driving SAG for us (just in case) and the climbing immediately began with twenty miles to the summit.

 

The weather forecast leading up to the ride was all over the place and we considered moving the ride day, but it turned out to be near perfect weather on the day we had chosen all along, so up the mountain we went. It was not long before Jim and Gene broke away from our group, as they were considerably faster and had a more challenging detour planned. The other 4 of us managed to stay together for the majority of the ride. We stopped briefly along the route to regroup and snack, then once more at the Newfound Gap overlook.

 

This is was my fifth time climbing this route and fourth time I would make it all the way to the top at Clingmans Dome, and without a doubt, it was my heaviest weight, but somewhere near the top with a mile or so to go, I thought to myself it just didn’t seem as hard as I remember it. Maybe it was because I didn’t push myself as hard as previous trips, maybe it was because we started closer to the mountain than I usually do, maybe it was the recent mountain biking I’ve been doing at Capitol View Park. Whatever the reason, I left the trip with the confidence that I will one day return to complete the “over and back” ride that Gene and Jim performed (they rode from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC and back), however I plan to include the Clingmans summit on the way up & over.

 

It it was an awesome ride and it was an awesome feeling to finally get that group photo at the summit! The descent was a nice reward for the work our legs did on the way up. It’s fast and fun. The temps were cool and windy near the top, but as we descended the temperature ascended and we were blessed to complete this ride on such a beautiful day. Back when this ride was still just an idea, the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area was very unfortunate to suffer through a tragic forest fire that destroyed many homes, businesses and some of the land. I honestly went there expecting to see some form of total devastation. Well I know there’s nothing easy about the things that were lost by the locals, especially the lives, but the area is living, breathing and thriving just as I remembered it. There were many areas with charred and burnt trees, but the forest is still there and as beautiful as ever.

There’s something special about the mountains, and I look forward to my next visit there and hope it will again include my bicycle! Another great RAM Cycling ride with great friends is in the books, and special kudos to Linn, for being the only friend that has joined us on every single group ride we’ve hosted…I’m impressed!

@KPtheMasher

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