Rockcastle River from Bee Rock bridge.
Rockcastle River from 192 bridge. Look carefully and pick out the many swallows having their morning bug breakfast.
The 192 climb was manageable and a quiet way to start the day. It would establish a paved stretch of 15 miles with almost no car traffic and a gentle, swaying profile. We weren't on the vaunted gravel, but this stretch was among my favorite of the week.
Instead of gender confusion, we have barn confusion here.
View from Mt.Victory Rd. Do take it in sometime.
We hit a quick descent into Sandy Gap and stopped at a store for some fluids and snacks. At this point it would be a jog east to catch back up with our original route. I suspect we stayed a good 20 minutes gathering our energies.
Our route met back up at 80 along this busy stretch, but we didn't complain. We had seen virtually no cars all morning.
The route took us north into some potential back roads and texture. At this point our routine was established; Patrick plowed a bigger gear than I and pulled away a bit, but at big turns he stopped and waited. I wasn't having the best of legs but kept moving. Right? Keep moving? The roads north of 80 again were sparse and depopulated, with some of the best mixed-terrain I've seen.
The opening of Buffalo Branch Rd, which was 3 miles of nowhere riding, but at a gentle clip up the valley. Much recommended.
Buffalo Branch dumped us onto Sand Springs Rd, which for me was a 1-mile stairstep dose of brutality. I walked the last little bit and was pretty worn out for our turn onto Cleft Rock Rd. To the positive, that ridgetop run provided some of the best scenary of the week with vistas on both sides.
A brief stop at the strangely named JTB Rd. opened a fascinating bit of riding, with an opening drop straight off a cliff face and eventually the creek valley where the road *was* the creek. We've been in these before for usually creek crossings, but his lasted for maybe a mile before extending along more traditional gravel on Luner Rd. I loved this section. "No Road" is always fun.
I kid (not kid) my wife about buying my hermitage, my off-the-grid hideaway where I can read, bird, and avoid things like blogs. This is it, along the descent of JTB Rd. Just look at that backdrop and curve in that driveway.
JTB Rd. or maybe Luner Rd., depending. Pretty crazy stuff on a rainy day.
Eventually Luner dumped us onto Lower River Rd. amid a huge, scary, meth-addled junk yard. At one point I wanted to explore a potential river crossing in this area, but Scary Junk Yard vibe had us moving down Lower River Rd. and some nice, flat ground. It was getting hot, though, and our tushes weren't as strong as they could be. After exploring a lunch possibility below I-75, we eventually found a picnic area which we exploited. Eventually researched showed that it is property of Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest, an educational program with two different sites, one of which lies along the Rockcastle River. We saw no one, but also asked no one, and cooked our lunches in their picnic pavilion. Afterwards we both took naps in the grass and whiled some summer heat away. It was great. I saw some nice birds (BnW Warbler, American Redstart) and we recharged our somewhat empty batteries, well, mine at least. More research shows that you can camp there for a relative high fee, but one used to pay for programming. I like that idea and hope to support them in the future.
Our last miles included a 1-mile climb back up to the car. Again Pat extended ahead of me and I ground it out in the heat. Day 2 was in the bag, but adjustments needed to be made.
If you remember, we were going to park the car at the 4-wheeling place. We again were going to camp there only to find that it would cost up $20/per, not per site but per person, and that's without water and only one portapot basically in the middle of a field. No way. No class. Thus began a journey to find where to sleep or how to modify as needed. We fumbled and bumbled before Patrick happened to see a sign for "Historic Daniel Boone Camp". We called (we're pretty sure it's the folks at Just Kik-n-it Outfitters) and took a look and found basically a weed-infested spot just above the gravel road down to the Rockcastle and just below the main road. We were going to camp in the ditch. But for $10 a night with wood, it was better than camping in a field for $40. All the better, we took the opportunity to reconnoiter our options for the next day's track. Our time down in the river that evening was some of the best of the trip. We cleaned off and cooled down and generally chilled. Eventually we drove down to London to have some crappy pizza from an establishment whose marketing pitch involves lots of Jesus. He needs to perform a miracle on their product.
Suffice to say that we bedded down early in tents this time and had a long, adequate sleep.
Across this crossing you can see the beginnings of Wilderness Rd. which we would take tomorrow. We saw two trucks who both drove the right of this pic, making a big 'U' and getting across. I did not, however, drive across.