I had a computer conference all day Friday, but I was determined to make the most of my time up here in the mountains of Gatlinburg. Friday morning I was up by 5:15 and out the door by 5:30 exploring the super steep climbs in and around Gatlinburg. I went down one road that was easily a 20+% descent for a quarter mile or more. Also, I did the Cherokee Orchard descent which is really crazy (but fun) in the dark. The one-way scenic road is barely wide enough for a car to fit through and it twists and turns around trees, numerous creek crossings, amazing dropoffs and thankfully no bears.
Today I headed out for a super long ride. I left early at about 6:30 to beat the traffic out of Gatlinburg heading to the Smoky Mountain National Park. I was trying to set the KOM on the Clingman’s Dome climb, but came up a few minutes short. Still it was the first chance this year to do a long threshold effort instead of the shorter efforts on the short climbs around Birmingham. I was able to finally get power data for a good hard climb, never too steep, and I was happy with my effort even if it did end up a few minutes short. The temperature difference between the shaded north side of the pass and the exposed south side was amazing – 23 degF was the coldest I saw. Even with the cold, I had to shed layers all the way up the climb. At the top, it was very, very windy with a steady 30+mph wind howling from the west. By the time I had snapped a few pictures and eaten a powerbar, I was freezing so that motivated me to push it really hard on the descent down towards Cherokee.
The Ocanaluftee visitors center at the entrance to the Smoky Mountains National Park is really cool. There is a GIANT raised-relief map that covers all the way from Knoxville to Asheville and is laid out on a table that is at least ten feet long. There is also a convenient water fountain outside. I left the center and turned onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was a really cool climb. Towards the bottom of the climb, you would be riding along and see deep gouges in the road. Looking up, towering above you would be a cliff with either a fresh landslide or an omninous overhang. This stretch of the ride was the most rural. After 18 miles, I had made it to Waterrock Knob and climbed as high as the paved sidewalk went.
After the long descent back to 441, I was faced with one more climb – back up to Newfound Gap before a long descent back into Gatlinburg. This climb start out very gradually but then gets steeper the farther you go up the climb. I hit 100 miles and 15,000 ft of climbing near the top of the climb before the long descent back into Gatlinburg. What I had anticipated was going to be about 110 miles and 6 hours was actually 117 miles and 8 hours, 15 minutes long!
Here is the data from the ride and pictures that I took:
Gatlinburg 2011, a set on Flickr.
Pics from my 117 mile ride on 441 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
LET YOUR MOUSE HOVER OVER EACH PICTURE FOR A DETAILED CAPTION!