recap of my trip: Wednesday afternoon 7/31/13 as soon as I finished my last final exam for summer semester (yeah I passed everything) I up and left to Pisgah National Forest... unprepared, but that's ok. I just had to go. I didn't know how long I was going to stay either. It would turn out to be 10 days. I called my friend Paul to see if I could borrow a mini pump. He set me up with one as well as some tire sealant and bleach to kill nasty stuff in water. Thanks Paul! I'll get you your stuff back. I left around 10 pm and arrived in Pisgah Forest, NC near Brevard around 1 am Thursday morning. I was driving around looking for a camping spot and caught the attention of the police. They pulled me over and checked my license while I asked them where there was some camping and they pointed me in the right direction. I set up camp on Avery Creek Rd in the South Pisgah Ranger District. I didn't even have a tent. I planned on either sleeping in my car or getting some makeshift something the next day. I slept in my car the first night. I would later acquire a hammock to borrow. I woke up and got into my cycling clothes. There were two camping spots across from mine. Both were occupied. I ended up making good buds with all of them. I noticed one had a bike and looked like he was getting ready to go ride too so I said hey. Sam, 19 was camping by himself too from Florida. There was also Trance and Redd, an awesome couple of two girls from Florida. First of all, Trails and roads that I mountain biked on this trip include but are not limited to: Black Mountain, Avery Creek Tr, Clawhammer Rd, Club Gap, Turkey Pen, Vineyard Gap, Riverside Tr, Bradley Creek Tr, Laurel Mountain, Pilot Rock, Yellow Gap Rd, Yellow Gap Tr, Hwy 276, Avery Creek Rd, Bennet Gap, Blue Ridge Parkway, Big Creek Tr, North Mills River Tr, Unimproved road such and such, Pilot Cove – Slate Rock Tr, Pilot Cove Loop Tr, Buckwheat Knob Tr. Hiked: Looking Glass Rock, Buckhorn Gap, Presley Cove, many of the ones that I biked, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some. I have a new favorite trail in Pisgah: Big Creek. Not to be confused with Bent Creek. Big Creek Trail connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you are traveling North on the parkway it starts off to the right of the beginning of the second tunnel after having gone over Mount Pisgah. I saw this trail on the map and wanted to try it. It is rated “most difficult” and is about 5 miles long. This was going to be part of a big loop of about 40 - 50 miles. The que I planned on went Avery Creek Rd (up it from the bottom), hwy 276, Blue Ridge Pkwy, Big Creek Tr, North Mills River Tr, Yellow Gap Tr, unimproved road, Yellow Gap Rd, Pilot Cove – Slate Rock Tr, Pilot Cove Loop Tr, Yellow Gap Rd, hwy 276, Avery Creek Rd, Club Gap Tr, Buckwheat Knob Tr, Avery Creek Rd. I started first thing in the morning. The ride began with 14 miles, 11 of which were UP, on gravel road. Climbing up the higher parts of hwy 276 and on the Blue Ridge Parkway I was actually going through the clouds. The clouds tasted metallic and they collected in droplets on my hair. Roadside overlooks that would normally be beautiful were all whited out. As soon as I got over Mt Pisgah, one of the highest points in the area, there was blue sky and sun and I could see the clouds rolling over the mountains... awesome. I ducked into Big Creek Trail for the first time, and a half mile in I saw a black bear running down the trail away from me. First time I've seen an East Coast Bear. It was super black it had a big butt and cute little ears. Big Creek was just beautiful. All the streams in Pisgah are clear, but this one was amazing super clear. The creek falls down really fast as its so high up. Look one way up the stream and as far as you can see before it turns the water is level with your eye. Look down the other way and the water is 6 feet below you. Its stacked with green mossy rocks and the hardwood forest is completely carpeted in ferns. Other wildlife notables include a large ~ 4 foot rattle snake with something big in her belly I saw on the trail near the top of Black Mtn. I came around a slight curve on a hike – a – bike section and I heard the rattle before I saw it. I went back around the corner where I came from thinking that if the snake didn't see me it would move along, but that wasn't so. I grabbed a long stick and gently coaxed the rattler under its raised head. She tried to move, but the huge lump in her belly (rabbit, ground hog ?? ) prevented her from doing so. She would move until the wave of her body got down to the lump and then she just would not budge. So I ended up walking past her carefully wheeling my bike between her and I. There were a lot of Monarch butterflies, and wild flowers. I saw a turkey on Club Gap just over Black Mountain. This was my third trip to Pisgah and one thing I have noticed is there is not tons of obvious wildlife (that you see) compared to a place like Yellowstone which is practically a zoo. For instance I saw only 2 squirrels in this 10 day trip. Pisgah is just so quiet and large. During the daytime in the woods at the top of a mountain it is almost completely silent. The only sound will be a trickling creek if you're near one, or the wind rustling the leaves. Occasionally a woodpecker will screech. Its very very quiet during the daytime. There is more sound at night with the katy dids and so forth. A bird, maybe two birds, sings for just a short moment at dawn. I hung out at The Hub and Pisgah Tavern a few times. The coolest bike shop I've ever been too.. a place where you can grab a good beer or a pbr and enjoy it right there in the bike shop. I hiked up Looking Glass Rock. About 2.5 hours of hiking round trip on easy trails, and one of the best views in Pisgah. I went to Sliding Rock twice on this trip. A big ass rock with a creek running over it that you sit on and then slide down into the 8 foot deep 55 degree water. I went once with Sam, and I went once with Trance and Redd. Trance and Redd left from Jacksonville and weren't planning on going back anytime soon. Both artists, they planned on traveling around as “forest dwellers,” selling their art, bartering for things and partly living off the land. They let me borrow their hammock or “tree canoe” as they called it. We all hung out a lot. I would get their fire started and they would feed me. Very generous people that believe in sharing what they have. We went on a 10 mile hike one day up Presley Cove to Black Mountain to Buckhorn Gap to Clawhammer road. Since they were now forest dwellers they were very interested in things in the wild that are edible. I noticed some really big snails crawling around. The size of a half dollar. I had never eaten them before, but I knew they were edible. We ended up collecting 5 of them on our hike. We cooked them up in the shell over the campfire and they were actually delicious. Great taste and texture. Firm but not as chewy as a clam, tastes a bit like crab with a hint of moss and tree bark. On our hike we stopped and talked to this one lady camping on our road. We really liked her set up. It was an old Ford truck that had been modified into a camper. Her name was Renee. 71 years old, traveling by herself and with several dogs and parrots. She had been married for 40 years and had 5 kids. She had a cabin in the Adirondacks on 5 acres, but foreclosed on it. She was glad she was finally able to travel now. She said she still didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up, and that we were smart for traveling while young. There was this character Rick, also from Florida who was camping down the road from us. He had a guitar and amps and bongos and all sorts of stuff. He came to our campsite a couple of nights and we all jammed by the campfire. Mostly the Beatles. Some Lennon and Yoko, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones. Everybody had an instrument to play. I had the bongos, the cowbell, or the electric drums. I set up my tree canoe out off outside the edge of the campsite right exactly beside Avery Creek. Everybody was talking about how they would be seriously scared camping out where I was what with bears and horror movies they'd seen. It got really extremely dark at night, not many stars where we were. It seemed like even when the clouds moved there weren't many stars out, but it was cloudy most of the time anyway. It was nice sleeping out there, but I liked it even better napping there in the daytime or sleeping late in the morning by the creek. I didn't have any protection from rain whatsoever, so I took a gamble every night, but it never rained on me. I didn't have plans on when I was going to leave. I knew school started back on the 20th. I basically ran out of money for food and gas to drive the 175 miles back to school. On the 10 mile hike Trance and Redd and I did, we talked about how cool it would be to hike (or mtb) our way out somewhere on the trail and set up camp. For instance there is this one spot on Black Mtn with an awesome view that also has a perfect place to hang a tree canoe. From that I got the idea that I would go to Pilot Rock and set up camp up top, bomb my way down in the morning and ride a big loop of trails in the forest. It didn't quite work out. The top of Pilot Rock was basically engulfed in a cloud and it was thundering.. yeah not cool. I was winging it in the first place because the weather had been crazy and unpredictable. I wouldn't have been able to stay dry if it rained. So I broke down camp and rode back down before dark. It actually cleared up as I was riding down. There were awesome pink and orange clouds and everything on the ground was orange colored. It didn't work out, but hey that's something I'll be able to do next time I go, and there are still trails I haven't ridden in that area of the forest. I got back to camp camp and Trance and Redd weren't there. They had left in the afternoon to go to the library, but it was after dark and they still weren't back. I dropped off their tree canoe before heading back home. It sucked that I didn't get to say bye to them. I wanted a piece of their artwork too. Maybe I'll cross paths with them again some day. Just as randomly, sporadically and unprepared as I came, I left. 8/10/13 I got a lot out of this trip. I was planning on going alone and having some solitude, and I did. Sometimes I need to be left alone haha. That was very rewarding itself, but I also got to meet a lot of great people.