Well, it is downhill from here. We just had the summer solstice, which is my favorite day of the year. No, I am not a Druid, I just love daylight and late spring, and now it is summer and the days start getting shorter. We definitely have a few good months of long days left, but somehow it saddens me, even as I stood on my deck last night at twilight (9PM!) to know that the short days of winter are on their way.
In the meantime, it is the busy, busy real estate season, but as my voicemail says, I am trying to achieve some "work/life balance," so every weekend I put on my weekend warrior hat and hit the woods!
Jimmy and I are trying to get back in to mountain biking shape after an unintentional 2 or 3 year hiatus (it just happened- hence the concerted attempt at work balanced with life). Biltmore Estate is the best place to start the getting in shape process. There is a nice level ride along the river that you can extend from as short as you want to about 10 miles round trip. Then there are some nice "beginner" type trails with more hills and technical challenges. This is all great if you have a season pass to the estate (which is worth the cost - what a privilege to have access to this privately owned treasure!) as you can go in to ride in the evening when the house and winery are closed.
I have to admit my impatience with the getting in shape part, so pretty soon we hit the trail I have wanted to do for years: Spencer Branch in Pisgah National Forest. The book I have rates it as moderate with some easy single track. Dude is seriously insane, as there was no "easy" section to this trail at all. It is about 4.5 miles of glute-burning forest service road, but that is pretty easy as trails go around here. Then you hang a left into the forest and the adventure begins. Gorgeous single track, and throughout the ride it is relatively level with no significant climbs on the single track. But it is rocky and has huge roots, is super narrow and has drop-offs and hazards galore. Some of you will love it, but I won’t ride it again (ok, I did wipe out on a gnarly root and am still nursing some bruises). I will hike it, though, as Spencer Branch (creek) is one of the most gorgeous creeks I have ever seen, and I have seen some beauties in these mountains. The trail ends at the Hendersonville Reservoir, which is also breathtakingly beautiful, and then you have a good steady climb up a forest service road back to the parking area.
Last week, we opted to hike instead, and hit the Hawksbill Trail up by Craggy Gardens. This is one spectacular walk through the woods at 4000-5000 feet elevation, so nice and cool. It is a little strenuous due to both the elevation and the elevation gain and loss (hills), but so worth it. At the turn-around point is Hawksbill rock, an outcropping on a ridge with some fantastic views and cool breezes. And, from there you can see the rain coming. Fast. Lesson: always carry rain gear at high elevations where it rains when it doesn’t rain in Asheville, and the temps can drop fast. It was a cool wet hike back to the car!
My trail companions!
I am always in the back!