Alabama Skyway Day 2 The Climbing
Day 2 opened damp-ish, but no precipitation was falling as we left camp. We expected a 30-mile day with a finish at or around the Cheaha State Park. Without surprise, our day began with a climb.
|Uphill, with Pondero already extending.|
|I wanted to get a pick of the Pinhoti Trail symbol, which is the white one 3rd down. It's was a precursor to the construction of the AT, and I've heard well-marked in AL.|
|Oh, look! Another climb!!|
|The only reason I had the time to set up for a Pondero pic was that he waited for me at the top of a climb and I descend faster than he does due to intertia x mass or whatev the physics is. He looks pretty plumb here. Good for him.|
|I strangely like the juxtaposition of the fire tower, tree, and modern communications tower, so a strange melange of tech and nature. This is at the top of a fiercely long gravel climb. I didn't see Pondero for minutes and minutes.|
We had a jolly time rolling along our 15 miles- no, I just checked and it was only 7.5 miles, Geez!- before we stopped off at the ranger station for a water-topping and rest. Thereafter we hit pavement along AL 281 for the remainder of our day, the Alabama Skyway. Of course the AS began with a mile-long climb. Climbing. Day 2. Yes. 281 presented us with about 10 miles of reasonable rollers before the climbing began anew, in this case up to a nice lookout at mile 17. The lookout vista was the first of what have named "The 3 Sisters", or what could be the "3 Lizards" or "3 Hills". Suffice to say the first had a nice lookout, the second I don't really remember.
It was the 3rd "Sister" that proved my personal downfall. Pretty quickly I dismounted for what ended up being a challenging walk up % grades in the teens. While not as long as the previous two "sisters", #3 was a real pain. We found some lumpy stuff at the top before a bombing descent and the sign for the entrance to Cheaha SP. And its climb.
While the star of the show, the climb up to Cheaha wasn't that bad. Yes, 3 to 4 miles of climbing isn't fun, but it was paved and reasonable in gradient. You just chugged in a low gear. Yes, I did experience a little cramping in my left inner thigh; yes, that was new. But I chugged up to meet Pondero at the top. All was good.
At the top we studied plans and decided on reserving our campsite, setting up camp, and returning to the restaurant for a warm dinner instead of camp food. The young lady at the counter suggested that the camp was about "one mile down". I became alarmed, but somehow Pondero soothed my concerns. We would descend, set up camp, and return unburdened, and easy jaunt. So we descended. And descended. And descended. We made the necessary turn and descended. At some point stopped, no campground in sight and decided that this "one mile away" campground was WAY too deep in the boonies so we decided to ascend to the hotel/restaurant area to reassess. Pondero climbed ahead while I eventually stopped to eat some welcomes PB crackers. About a mile back up our climb, (which we measured at 2.2 miles and 700+ft of climbing), my right leg began to cramp, and thusly I enjoyed an additional mile of walking uphill.
|Contrast, peoples, Contrast.|
After a nice cleaning (in the hotel shower. We got a room. The extremely right decision with impending mid-30s temps), we partook of the restaurant and its large burgers. Later we enjoyed the Cheaha sunset, a trip highlight. What a day! 30 measly miles and 5K of climbing. I was at my limit and eventually met my limit on the restaurant return. It was all a bit much, but turned out to be beautiful day. Hard, but I already remember it fondly.