Sunday, August 17, 2014

Asheville (North Carolina)

The first day of our three-day trip to Asheville, North Carolina was spent primarily on the road. Rebecca and I took our time leaving Richmond and were south bound by 11am. We stopped midway through the drive in Chapel Hill to check out the town and visit the Chapel Hill Rumors, a Richmond-based thrift boutique.

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Once we arrived at our AirBnB in Brevard we were ready to unwind. The loft apartment above our hosts' garage was comfortable and inviting; and it had DirectTV! We lounged for the rest of the night and planned the next two days rides.

The next morning we headed out for DuPont State Forest. Just as we left our hosts' neighborhood we spotted a fresh produce stand, so we pulled in to grab fruit for the day and fill our water bottles for the ride ahead. Just a few minutes later we were in the Reasonover Road Parking Area, unloading bikes and gearing up for the ride.

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The trails were spectacular. Even more impressive was how well-marked they were. Navigating with our free trail map was a breeze.

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We made our way to the Bridal Veil Falls where we dismounted and took a break.

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After that we had a few more miles of trail to complete before returning to the parking lot and heading into town for a bite to eat. Our hosts own a BBQ joint in Brevard called Hawg Wild, so we decided to check it out. We were very pleased, especially so since we ordered the fried mac-n-cheese bites to wet our appetites! Rebecca and I decided to restrain ourselves though, taking a few last scraps home in to-go boxes so that we could indulge in Dolly’s Ice Cream across the street.

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Once back at our AirBnB we lounged in the pool before retiring to the loft to explore their Blue-Ray collection - we landed on Lincoln and Olympus Has Fallen ;-)

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The next morning we slept in before packing up and heading out towards Pisgah National Forest. I found a Strava ride in a local biking guide for the area, so we decided to try it. The ride consisted of a long fire road climb that connected to the Black Mountain Trail. The climb was a good burn - just a slow churn in our granny gears for about an hour. One last, hellacious ascent to start the section of Black Mountain Trail gave way to a steep, rooty descent. Rebecca handled the technical trail very well. I was delighted to see a smile on her face in the midst of a truly intimidating section of singletrack.

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Once we reached the Jeep we drove down 276/Pisgah Highway until we spotted a suitable watering hole in the Davidson River.

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Our final stop before hitting the road was an early dinner at Mayfel’s in Asheville, where we met Rebecca’s friend Steve and his girlfriend Carrie Sue. Following dinner we pointed the Jeep north and reached Richmond just after midnight.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Outer Banks (Rodanthe, NC)

Our second trip to the Outer Banks this summer began with a gloomy forecast. There was a huge rainstorm moving east and our camp site in Rodanthe seemed to be directly in its path. This trip, however, could not be dampened by a bit of rain - after all, we were there to celebrate Warren's birthday.

The rain moved in Friday night and persisted throughout Saturday morning. I was beginning to lose hope for the weekend when Joey found light at the end of the tunnel - in Kitty Hawk to be more specific. He found a surf cam that showed sun north of our location so we decided to head towards it.

On our way north we spotted a stranded Jeep Cherokee in the ditch. Since Warren's new Jeep Rubicon has a winch, he jumped at the chance to put it to use. In just a few moments he'd freed the Grand and elated it's Aussie driver.

Once we approached the Bonner Bridge to Oregon Inlet the rain subsided and we found a secluded pull-in to the beach. The cloud cover was still thick, but it was almost better that way since we didn't need to worry about sunscreen.

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The majority of our time was spent watching Ruprecht battle the ocean. He loved biting the surf and chasing us into the deep water while being tossed by the waves.

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That night we celebrated Warren's birthday at Sting Wray's. After stuffing our faces the group of twelve headed back to the camp site. We didn't last long after the restaurant though and soon retired to our tents.

The next morning we were woken by the warmth of the sun. After emerging from the tent Rebecca headed to the nearby pier to stretch and get in a few yoga poses while I struck the tent.

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Once we had packed the vehicles, each car set off individually to find its own adventure. We decided to revisit the beach near Oregon Inlet. This time the sun was out in full force and we spent far more time in and out of the water.

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Just before the end of our time at the beach, Ruprecht found a Fiddler Crab. To our surprise, he didn't attack it. He actually just seemed to consider it a new friend, as if the crab snipping at his nose was an invitation to play.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

North Anna River (Doswell, VA)

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The week before the float we accumulated eighteen people to join us down the North Anna River. At the same time, the water level was steadily dropping and I was curious to know whether this year's float would turn into a "walk" instead. When we arrived at the put-in we were glad to see some depth, although it wasn't exactly a swift current.

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Some participants dropped out of the float and some joined the trip at the last minute, which somehow landed us right back at our expected group of eighteen floaters. The mix of friends this year was great and a lot of new friendships were formed.

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I was looking forward to bringing my new dog Ruprecht along, but he was in a scuffle with Rebecca's Boston Terrier, Mr. Tuffy, and had stitches on his arm from the fight. We did bring along Rebecca's other dog Bailey. She was a hit with everyone, especially her goofy swimming style.

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Last year our float lasted roughly three hours. This time we saw the bridge for the take-out after five hours on the water. It was perfect timing, though, as evidenced by the single remaining beer in our cooler.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Outer Banks (North Carolina)

Our friends Paul and Erin rented a house in Kill Devil Hills for the week and invited several of us to join them near the end of their stay. Naturally we obliged and by Friday night a total of twelve friends made the small cottage home for the weekend.

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We danced the night away on Friday night and spent much of the following day basking in the sun. The beach was a mere 100 yards away, so we took trips to and from the cottage throughout the day. Paul rented a sea kayak and entertained us all as he rode waves and wiped out heroically before our eyes.

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That night, while the rest of our crew played beer pong and got generally hammered, Rebecca and I snuck away to visit my Mom in Southern Shores. She and her husband John, quite by coincidence, had rented a house for the week beginning that weekend. We decided to stay there that night and return to the house in Kill Devil Hills the next morning.

When we returned the next day, everyone pitched in to clean the house and pack for the road. After departing the cottage Robin, Jasmine, Joey, Rebecca and I drove to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Once we parked and began walking to the beach, we discovered a stranded sailboat. We took a look inside and decided to set up beside the beached craft.

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Eventually we packed up and headed home. It was a quick, but enjoyable introduction to the sunny summer days that lie ahead.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Snowshoe (West Virginia)

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Our first trip to Snowshoe this season offered perhaps the best weather we've ever experienced at the resort.

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We loaded up a group of six in two vehicles and headed for our Slatyfork campsite on Friday night. When we arrived we were greeted by Jarrod, Chris, and Keith.

The next morning I woke early to prepare coffee and bacon for our crew and soon after that we were on the road, destined for the top of Snowshoe mountain.

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Three of us rode downhill on the lift-accessed trails while the other three in our group rode XC bikes on Snowshoe's Six-Thousand-Steps trail. We rendezvoused later and once again made the trek to our campsite in Slatyfork.

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Paul, Erin, Rebecca and I stopped by the Big Spring Fork on our way back to the campsite and braved the chilly water for a short bit before makeing our way up the fire road to our campsite.

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That night Paul and Erin served hobo packs for our dinner and we sat by the fire while the sun set around us. I was exhausted after receiving little sleep on Friday and riding all day Saturday, so I was proudly the first to retire to my hammock that night.

Sunday began much the same way as Saturday as Bailey and I woke first to prepare food and coffee for the group. We broke off into three groups that day and once again culminated at the vehicles that afternoon before loading up and making the haul back to Richmond.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

James River (Richmond, VA)

This weekend Nat came for a visit from DC. He suggested we take a float from Pony Pasture to Reedy Creek on the James River, so I jumped at the idea!

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Nat brought three friends along and I assembled four more people to join the trip. We met at Reedy Creek around 2pm, consolidated gear in order to leave one vehicle at the take-out, and headed up river for Pony Pasture. Nat's crew was renting sit-on-top kayaks from Riverside Outfitters, so they were driven to the put-in separately.

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Once we hit the water we paddled quickly to catch up with them and eventually crossed paths under the Powhite Parkway Bridge, where we took turns jumping from the old bridge pillars.

After that we made our way down the rest of the river and eventually took out at Reedy Creek around 5pm. It was a quick, but enjoyable trip down the James on an especially warm and sunny day!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Merchants Millpond (Gatesville, NC)

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I remember seeing photos of Evan Venditti's trip through a swamp years ago and just thinking "What? That's possible?"

For whatever reason, the idea of canoeing through a swamp seemed like something only possible in the everglades. Even then it seemed a little bit dicey!

So I called the man, got info on where and when to go, and reserved a campsite as soon as I could!

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Rebecca and I headed to the park on Monday morning, arriving around 3pm. The visitor center at the park was impressive. It featured exhibits and info about the area's wildlife and history.

We decided to explore Bennetts Creek since the campsites were further away than the ones within the millpond.

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After portaging our boat to the put-in, we entered what seemed to be another world. The water was a dark, cola color and the green pollen floating on top created an eerie indication of the creek's slow, meandering path. Along our trip down the creek we spotted turtles, birds, and even a snake slithering beside our canoe. In the distance we heard some intense thrashing in the brush, which we decided must have been the sound of one of the park's infamous alligators.

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The first sites we reached were on land, with a small dock at the shore. We surveyed the area before pressing on to our reserved site which lay just around the next bend. Once we arrived at our reserved site, we noticed the lack of a fire ring and dirt to stake our tent into, so we decided to paddle back to the earlier sites. Since we were visiting the park on a Monday, we were the only campers present and simply took our pick of our favorite site.

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We gathered wood, started a fire, and cooked our dinner before watching the sun set from our small dock.

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The next morning we paddled up river to the put-in and actually made better time than the day before. This probably had something to do with the knowledge that constant paddling was necessary to counteract the slow, but ever-present current.

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The trip was just what I'd hoped for. An unusual experience in a setting like no other. I'd suggest the trip to anyone with but one piece of advice - go to the park EARLY or LATE, but not in the middle of the summer season as the insects are notoriously abundant and aggressive.