Tsali-Part 1

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IMG_3682This past weekend Brian and I took a trip to Bryson City, NC for a long weekend away and some mountain biking on the Tsali in the Nantahala National Forest.  These trails were once among the top 10 mountain biking trails in the country—or so I’ve been told.  Tsali is the name of a Native American that used to live at the mouth of the Fontana river.  The river has since been dammed and the trails stretch along 2 peninsulas extending into the subsequent lake. 

Here we are about to head out.  Brian did a good job getting the car all packed up!  We were worried it was going to rain on us all weekend but God blessed us with great weather the whole time.

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Our bikes liked holding hands on top of the car.

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We stayed at the Watershed Cabins which happened to be only 5 miles from the Tsali trailhead.  Very convenient and a great place to stay!  There are 4 trails at this park.  The trails are accessible to bikers, hikers/runners and horseback riders.  Because of that bikes and horses are allowed to use alternating trails each day and hikers/runners typically try to avoid the trails mountain bikers are on making the trails pretty clear and open.

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On Friday the Right & Left Loop were open to bikers so we headed out.  We took the right loop first, took a break for lunch and an excursion (I detail that in just a bit) then headed out on the left loop. 

So, toward the end of the first trail (right loop) Brian noticed a screw from his clip had come off making it almost impossible to get his shoe (and therefore his foot) off his pedal.  Not a safe situation.  So, we decided to scope out a bike shop after lunch.  I had glanced at some local information back at the cabin and thought I remembered seeing a bike shop in Robbinsville.  We made it to the little town, got gas and I headed into the store to ask where the bike shop was.  The lady looked at me funny and said she didn’t know of any bike shop around the area.  We decided to head back to Bryson City, which was a bit bigger than Robbinsville, to look for a shop there.  We didn’t have an address for a bike shop in BC so I just typed in BC into the GPS and picked a random destination.  We followed the directions and ended up on a windy road.  Brian started looking around and commenting that this looked like the Tail of the Dragon…a “famous” stretch of winding road that apparently motorcyclists enjoy cruising.   Oops, my BC directions were taking us in a major circle.  We decided to type in “Nantahala Outdoor Center” because Brian remembered you could rent bikes from them and figured (rightly) that they would have a bike shop.  So off we went.  Turns out the NOC was only 4 miles from our cabin (or 6 miles from the trailhead).  My poor memory took us on a 75 mile detour around rural western NC. 

I did have one fall at mile 3.5 of the 13 mile right loop trail.  The trail had some really fun down hills with banked turns.  However, I took one turn that didn’t have a bank slightly too fast and my bike slid out from under me.  I got a nice bruise on my right hip.  There were a lot of killer climbs on this trip.  Most of them rewarded us with incredibly scenic views or screaming hills we could bomb down.   With no helmet cam I couldn’t catch any of the downhill action (darn) but we did stop at several scenic overlooks for some pictures.  The pretty views gave us a good excuse to rest and catch our breath at the top of the hill.  Some pics are below.

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Here we are enjoying our lunch.  We both got some pretty nice helmet hair going on here!  And here we are sitting on the Nantahala River.  Didn’t see any rafters come in but it was fun to see some small rapids.

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The left loop wasn’t quite as fun as the right loop.  It followed the edge of the lake more closely and therefore had some pretty steep drop-offs and narrower trails.  It was a good workout though because not only were there some pretty good climbs but my nerves were on edge most of the time making my muscles tense.  I was pretty nervous for a good portion about hitting a root or a rock and careening over the side.  At one point I did hit a rock funny and thankfully it threw me sideways into the side of the “mountain”.  I didn’t actually come off my bike but my face and arm slid pretty well against it and I came away with some good mud caked on my arm up to my elbow.  Brian watched the whole thing.  I think he was just thankful I fell into the mountain and not off of it!

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After our adventures we headed back to the cabin where Brian grilled us a nice steak dinner.  Our friend put together a menu for us for the weekend that was great and we ate really well for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  There was a nice evening thunderstorm we enjoyed under the covered porch and after that rolled through we got to test out the hot tub.  Then it was off to bed to rest up for another day of Tsali adventures!

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Part two to come.

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