04 Jun Milepost 469 – Blue Ridge Parkway Bicycle Ride Day 12
Last night’s camping spot was undoubtedly the best of the trip. The combination of the creek and 4200 foot elevation kept it cool. It had access by trail: no pushing through undergrowth like many others. The whole issue of finding a suitable and level campsite where I would not be disturbed has been a continuing issue on this trip. Although many people bicycle tour the Parkway, rustic camping provisions are non-existent. Compare campsites on the Silver Comet Trail and the Appalachian trail. Bike campers are left to fend for themselves on the Parkway and usually end up camping in questionable spots. As a result, it appears that most bicycle tourists go supported and stay in hotels and pay campgrounds.
The climb up Waterrock Knob (elev 5718) was much farther than I expected. The next climb from US Hwy 19 Soco Gap to Heintoga Road was easier.
At the top of Waterrock I stopped to fill up water bottles and make phone calls. The guide states water here, but I didn’t see any. Since I had time I hiked the half mile to the top of Waterrock Knob. This one is over 6000 feet ans the 15th highest peak east of the Mississippi. Back at the parking lot I used a screw from my water bottle holder to reattach the other mount of my Pannier Rack. I had left my bike gloves in the Waterrock bathroom and someone took them. Who would want those old sweaty gloves?
The morning was hot and I missed having the gloves to wipe the sweat from my eyes. I was interested in picking out Hemphill peak where I had recently hiked, but it was very hazy.
It was a fast descent to US hwy 19 Soco Gap where I exited south for 0.3 miles to the Starvin Marvin to refill water bottles. As I ate an ice-cream the man confirmed that they allow bicyclists to camp free. He showed a nice area across the street where they put the campers. There is also a restaurant with a trout pond where you can catch the fish and have them serve it to you.
Soon I was climbing again, but since hwy 19 is already over 4000 feet, this climb wasn’t too long. For water turn right at the Heintoga road (camping signs) and you will find a stream in about 100 feet.
Finally, I had the long 10 mile descent through tunnels to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and the final milepost, 469. Midway, I stopped to chat with another bicycle tourist making the climb. When I geared down to reverse direction the rear wheel locked up and I nearly fell. The other guy noticed. I tried pedaling around and the bike seemed fine. This guy was on a 2 day trip with the first day from Gatlinburg to Cherokee and the 2nd day on to Asheville. He was using a touring bike with road bike wheels.
I finished up and headed to Peter’s Pancakes in Cherokee for a cup of coffee and some washing up before meeting Sandra. Sandra arrived looking more beautiful than ever and we headed to the Dillard Inn for a night of feasting and some rest.
The next day I noticed that the rear wheel lock was not pushed down. When on Waterrock Knob I released it in order to replace the screw on the pannier rack. Lucky for me that the wheel did not spin off during the following two major descents.