A big part of me wanted to stay at the tunnel with people rather than heading toward the raspberries, (and anything eating raspberries) but we pointed our bikes south and pushed away. I remember thinking to myself what the TV interview with those folks would sound like after they found parts of me mixed in with the raspberries.
My riding buddy and I began to talk loudly about anything and everything (except bears), to take our minds off the isolation that soon returned. Without saying it out loud, we had independently decided bears might be frightened away by talking so why not blab our way to the B&B?
We passed enough raspberry patches to supply Smucker’s for a year, but still no bears (and no people either). After an hour or so of traveling through the forest, we began to look for the spur trail that would lead us safely to the B&B. We were still chattering away when suddenly there was the split in the trail we were looking for. Up the short hill we went to a narrow paved road. We followed our directions to a clearing and there, just ahead was a grand old house draped with massive oak trees with a big sign in the yard, “The Current”.
We laid our bikes against the side of the house and walked toward the screen door near an old Ford Fiesta parked in the driveway. As we approached, a small dog pushed the screen door open and rushed toward us wagging and barking. The dog only had three legs.
A nice looking middle-aged lady named Mary came to the door and greeted us. “What’s you dog’s name” we asked? “Dog” she said. He’s all bark and no bite so just ignore him.” I reached down and petted Dog and continued to the door. “You guys can park your bikes in that shed if you want. Nobody bothers anything around here,” she said.
We all chatted in the kitchen for a bit while Mary put away her groceries. She said it was forty miles to the grocery store so she had to buy a lot each time she went. Forty miles to the store, I thought? We are truly in the middle of nowhere.
After a nice dinner with Mary and Dog, we went to our room down the hall and prepped for bed. Forty miles on crackling gravel and my legs were humming. We were about to turn in when Mary came down the hall and tapped on the door. “There’s HBO on channel 92 if you want. I’m going across the street to sleep at my parent’s house. They are in Asheville for the summer. Help yourself to anything in the fridge. See you in the AM.” She said as she headed down the hall and out the door.
We thought it was a little strange for Mary to leave us in the house alone (40 miles from groceries or anything else), but nothing to fear. Dog had decided to stay in the big house with us so he curled up between our beds and turned in the night. We got ready for bed and flipped to channel 92 for a little tube. Six Feet Under was just coming on. What a treat; one of my favorite shows as a night cap for an incredible day.
The show started off with two people on bikes riding on a trail through the forest when BAM, a cougar jumps off a rock and takes one rider down for the count. I slept about thirty minutes that night.
Mary came in about dawn, Dog hopped out of the room, and the smell of bacon frying soon filled the old house. After a wonderful country breakfast, a few pictures, and hugs goodbye, we were on our way to the trail.
Mary told us the only place to have a sandwich between us and our car was a convenience store on the highway about half way back to the car. She said it wasn’t a restaurant but we could pick anything we wanted in the freezer and they would warm it up for us. Wow, something to look forward to.
We were crackling down the trail hoping the highway would appear around the next curve when a small canyon appeared across the trail. We slowed to a stop and peered down into a chasm that had been cut into the trail by runoff from a recent storm. It was about six feet deep and at least twenty feet across all the way to the river. We could see where other trail users slid down the bank and clawed their way up the other side so we dismounted and started down the bank into the muddy surface below.
The chasm seemed even deeper once we were down in the mud. The climb back up to the trail with bikes in tow was aggravating and dirty. We emerged from the creek bed and tried to put ourselves back together. As I was cleaning myself up, I looked down to see two huge bear tracks FILLING IN WITH WATER! We clipped in, and crackled our way on down the trail while singing “oh what a beautiful morning” as loud as we could. At our new pace, we almost missed the convenience store turnoff.
We rolled into the parking lot, walked in, asked them to defrost a pizza, and sat down at the little table by the Coke machine. I was facing the side of the coke machine which was covered with pictures of good ole boys standing beside bears they had killed. We still had twenty miles to go. I wasn’t sure how many more near-bear experiences I could bear.
If you have been reading this story in the hopes one of us either killed a bear, survived a bear attack, or even saw a bear, I apologize. I hope you can be satisfied with a story that has a happy ending. We finished the ride a couple hours later, tired, a little rattled, but so glad we had made the trip. We did decide that when we returned, we will bring a flashlight for the tunnels and something that would protect us from bears. We agreed we would be back. This is not barely a trail. It is a journey I would recommend to everyone.