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Polar Bear Plunge

September 19, 2012

Awoke today to dry roads, clear sky’s and 50 degree temperatures. Also a broken camera. Sorry….it just couldn’t take 1 more picture. We dilly dallied around, stalling to get on the road to see if it would warm up……today was Sliding Rock day….the feature that made me fall in love with NC and the Pisgah National Forest.

Morning view of Asheville from Chuck and Judy’s deck

The Yellow Flash in front of C & J pad

The picture doesn’t illustrate the twisting 45degree driveway. Getting in was tricky, get out looked worse.

Had breakfast at the house with some time to visit before we scaled the driveway to get on the road. We couldn’t have had a more pleasant visit or been more grateful for the timing. I know Dorothy really enjoyed being able to get caught up with Chuck and Judy and I really enjoyed getting to meet them.

The drive to Brevard required 4 layers of clothes at 11:30am for the 40 mile trip. The whole time I kept thinking it would warm up. We passed a digital sign on the way that read 68*, and I prayed that by the time we arrived it might be over 70*.

We hit Brevard and made the turn leading into the forest. The thick tree canopy kept all but a few rays of sun from shining through and it seemed to get a little chillier. There seemed to be more traffic (I use that term loosely) through the forest than I remember from this time 2 years ago. We pasted Looking Glass falls and the parking pull off was packed. My thoughts then turned to formulating alternate plans in the event the Sliding Rock lot wasn’t open like 2 years ago. I had to sweet talk my way past 2 rangers to have them open the gate to let me park my bike. It was all academic as the lot was wide open with 2 randomly parked cars.

4 layers deep but still feeling a bit chilly, doubt began to creep into my mind. But I had talked this place up to so many people and practically thrown a hissing fit when it looked like weather would prevent a visit to the rock, I couldn’t possible back out now. The sun was at its high point and the sky was a bright blue with a few puffy white clouds. We gathered our swim suits and started down the trail.

For you who may not know….the sliding rock is a natural formation of hard rock that has been smoothed by a constant flow of water over it. You slide down it like a water slide and at the bottom, you curplunk into an 8 ft pool of water. The park service has built infrastructure including changing rooms, paths and a guard stand. In the summer, I’m told by Rangers, people wait more than an hour to go down just once.

Of course, being out of season, the changing rooms are locked……time to get biker naked in the woods. Not an appealing idea to Dorothy…..too much short stretching. We stood guard for each other, got dressed and leaned over the observation platform to assess the situation. NC got a significant amount of rain over the last 2 days and the water was running faster than I remember. We scrambled down to the waters edge to check for the water temp and damn, way colder than I remembered too!

I’m a little concerned with the volume of water coming down the creek but given the water level and temp, my adrenaline is up and I’m anticipating a great ride. I volunteer to go first, to show Dorothy how to do it. I carefully cross the creek through the rushing water to get to handrails you use to climb to the top of the rock. I let go, and as I check my footing with each step….the water pushed hard enough to knock me down if I wasn’t carefully. I decide I’m centered enough and I flop my butt down. Before my ass hits the rock I’m moving down, sliding over the rock. My arms involuntarily reach over my head and I’m shrieking and laughing hysterically. In the blink of an eye, I’m about to drop off the edge into the pool and I hold my breath…. I know what’s coming.

Splash…my heels are over my head and I’m underwater. I pop my head out, trying to get my breath before the pins and needles from the 50* degree water start. But I’m still laughing…and I catch a gulp of creek water. Clear, mountain stream…..doesn’t taste too bad. I swim to the ladder and pull myself up to the deck. Good thing we brought those little oil rags along to dry off with. Just like the Olympic divers.

I’m super pumped and excited for Dorothy to give it a try. She doesn’t look all that enthused and I’m stating for the record that I gave her an absolute out. She slid of her own volition. She’s got a foot issue and didn’t care to be walking through the woods or stream without sneakers on. She also can’t stand sand/ dirt on her feet. Didn’t she grow up at the shore?

We stood on the platform and conferred about positioning and technique, and like a trooper, off she went. She made the climb to the top, carefully stepped out into the rushing water and down she came, without a peep. She hit the bottom. I searched for the joy on her face but I got more of a “That’s what you brought me here for?”. She claims she liked it but that was her first and last ride…..the shoe issue.

Still dripping wet and cold, I climb to the top again…..same result, shrieking, laughing…..cold. Now I see why you drown when you become hypothermic. My muscles started to feel like lead from being in the freezing water. I was debating one more ride when a couple showed up with cameras/ long range lenses. They said they were in the parking lot and weren’t even going ro come down the path till they heard screaming and thought they better check it out. You can’t really appreciate this place until you see someone slide down it. They asked if I would consider going down again and Dorothy readily volunteered me.

I climb to the top and have to take a deep breath, I can feel the cold fatigue in my muscles. Down I go, screaming laughing, curplunk, cold. I got a review of the pictures and the photographers seemed as pleased with what they captured as I was. They caught some hilarious shots/ facial expressions. As a favor, I asked them to stand guard while Dorothy and I wiggle wet, into our dry clothes. They threatened to pull a Kate Middleton. No one needs to see that! Tree bark, stones and mud splatter all over my legs, feet and clothes. Real bikers……grrrrrr!

In the parking lot, we exchanged emails and some brief trip recaps. The couple was from Kitty Hawk and they promised to send the pictures! They were so nice and we all had a great laugh!
The couple left while we continued to adjust clothes and bags and brush out wet hair. Ecstatic from the experience, we couldn’t have been happier we bit the bullet and didn’t chicken out. It was cold… But even Dorothy said, as her muscle thawed out, she never felt better. Wide awake, energized and ready for action.

We headed back to Brevard for lunch, and the clouds started to block out the bright sunny sky. The temp dropped. We couldn’t have been luckier on this trip. Every time we needed a break, we got it. My bike broke in NOLA, they fixed it right away and our hotel was able to put us up a second night. The haunted plantation that books 3 months in advance had our same accommodations available the following night. We get to the Dragon on noon on Saturday….not very crowded. We get to Cherokee late, fit in horseback riding and get a nice room on the river. Rain sets in and we get through the mountains and all the way to Asheville with just a squirt of rain. During the deluge, we are put up by Dorothy’s friends, have a great time, go to the Biltmore. And today, the sun came out, warmed up the rock until we were done sliding. Dorothy said some one is looking out for us.

So leaving Brevard, we decide we’re going to start heading home via the interstate. But before we leave this picturesque forest…we’re going to do 30 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway into Asheville. We climb into the mountains and enter the Parkway. It’s just breathtaking. Curves and tunnels and scenic overlooks. Fall is beginning to make its mark here in the mountains with red interspersed among the walls of green. The leaves on the famed rhododendrons are yellowing and falling off. There is an occasional shower of leaves over the roadway. No picture does it justice. Good thing my camera is busted. Which by the way, I’m glad it’s broken. I hate that camera…it takes the crappiest pictures anyway!

We arrive in the Asheville area and as we leave the parkway heading for the interstate, we stop at a traffic light. I flip my visor open and ask her if she’d like to do some more miles on the parkway. She shakes her head and I scrunch my eyebrows. I couldn’t hear her over the rumble of the bikes but I’m pretty sure she said she never wants to go on that f–king road again, as long as she lives.

You’ll have to confirm that with her. We pointed north and caught the eastern most tip of Tennessee. We’re 620 miles from home. We have no more planned stops and tomorrow should be a big mileage day.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Chuck and Judy Papier permalink
    September 20, 2012 1:22 pm

    Miss you guys. Sliding Rock sounds teriffic–Judy cant wait to go.
    Chuck & Judy

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