The past three days (Thursday – Saturday) here were gorgeous, especially for the southern Appalachian Mountains this time of year. Our highs averaged 56 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lows only in the mid 30’s. This is around 15 degrees above average, very much to my liking, and has very quickly spoiled me. Unfortunately the weather’s changing drastically. The forecasters are calling it an Arctic blast. Thankfully our temps are supposed to warm back up beginning this coming Thursday or Friday. Because of this great weather, and the forecast, I decided to make use of the warmer drier weather to get some extra wood for my stove, then start out the new year with a bicycle ride. My usual basic wood gathering process was described in a fair amount of detail in the “A Zero Day” post. I still only gather wood that has already fallen, from dead trees still standing and not the home of birds or squirrels, or from trees that endanger either the house I’m caretaker of or the utility lines, but this time the process was different. During one of the spring storms the power company, while repairing downed lines near the house, noticed a very tall tree that was leaning toward the line they were about to repair, so they cut it down before it fell over the line after it was repaired, causing the crew even more work later.
The only problem for me was it landed about 50 feet down a steep hillside. Being one that seldom resists a good challenge I decided to bring the tree up the hillside rather than take it down another 70 feet or so then cross a creek with it. In order to accomplish this the decision was made to rappel down the hillside, remove all the limbs from the tree trunk, cut the trunk into 4 sections, then use my power winch to drag the logs up to level ground. This sounded a lot easier in my head than it ended up being. Because of the girth and density of the tree, plus the steepness of the hillside, the original sections I cut were too heavy for my 1500 pound-pull winch to handle. I suppose the weight of the chains I had to use to extend the reach of the winch added to the problem also. This mean I had to rappel back down to the tree and cut those original sections in half. Nope, still too much for the winch so back down the hillside I went a third time to repeat the process. This time everything worked as it should, but instead of needing to winch up 4 large sections of the tree trunk, plus the usable limbs previously removed, there were now 16 smaller sections to deal with, which meant many more trips down the hillside to connect the chain, then climbing back up to my vehicle to operate the winch.
All of these ups and downs left a deep furrow in the ground and took most of 2 afternoons to accomplish, so once I got about half of the logs to level ground I pulled up a long forked limb, then decided that was enough for now. I know that sounds like it took much longer to accomplish than it should have, but when you have to extend that much cable in only three or so feet lengths a lot of time is wasted. The first day I did not have any help so to keep the cable from binding up on the winch spindle I had to use one hand to operate the control and the other to keep the steel cable taut by extending my arm. When I got to the end of my reach I had to stop the winch, grasp the cable near the guide, then extend it another three or four fee, stop, then repeat too many times to count. The second day I had help so the work went considerably faster since I could simply keep the cable taut by descending the hillside holding onto the chain attached to the winch cable while the winch was being operated by someone else, then ascend in much the same fashion above the log. Perhaps I’ll tackle the balance of the tree next weekend if the weather cooperates as forecast. Thankfully the remainder of the tree has been cut into winchable portions.
Night before last (New Years Eve), with encouragement from the weather forecast, I decided to start the new year off right with a bicycle ride. It wasn’t going to be a 5 or 10 minute ride like I mentioned taking in a couple of previous posts, but a longer ride that would actually take me somewhere, and allow me a slower, closer look at things I’ve only driven by at “street” speeds in my car.
The nearby town of Sylva, NC seemed a good prospect for what I had in mind with it’s rolling hills, no mountains to climb, and sleepy little neighborhoods on a Sunday afternoon. Not so long ago it was similar to the town of “Mayberry” depicted on the Andy Griffith television show. Now its a moderate size mountain town with a fair assortment of stores, a wide variety of chuches, and a regional hospital served not only by in-house ambulances but also a helicopter called “MAMA” provided by Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC.
My plan was to start in Dillsboro, NC , which is a few miles to the West of Sylva, ride through the center of Sylva to the Wal-Mart Super Center while checking out a couple of neighborhoods and a few other points of interest along the way, then decide if I wanted to go further. It turned out the weather forecast was a bit off. Actually it was a lot off. I awakened to find the temperatures had dipped to 30 degrees Fahrenheit overnight instead of the mid to upper 30’s and there was frozen rain on my deck and vehicle. What a bummer! As I sipped my morning coffee the TV weather-woman said we would have brief, scattered showers during the morning followed by mostly clearing skies with a high around 60 degrees. That sounded promising so I continued thinking about the ride as I got dressed. During the trip to church the clouds began breaking off and bits of sunshine appeared. At church I noticed abundant amounts of sunshine through the windows. After church, on the drive home, the clouds began gathering again. By the time I got home the temperature had only climbed to a little above 40 degrees and the drizzle that had begun before I got to my community had turned to full-fledged rain. Needless to say, I began rethinking the much-anticipated cycling trip during lunch. By 2:00pm I could tell this was going to be a lost cause… temporarily… since the temps here begin dropping at 3:00 pm during the winter. I’ve never been a quitter and I’m not about to become one now. The cycling trip would simply need to be postponed until more favorable conditions. The afternoon was not a total loss however. I was able to knock out more of the indoor remodeling work I’ve been whittling away at as time permitted.
When I cycled before I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the weather, riding whether it was hot, cold, or somewhere in between, regardless of it being dry, raining, or even snowing as long as there wasn’t ice. My future planned rides will be much the same, however the hesitation this time had more to do with anticipation and expectations than the weather. This “inaugural” ride was supposed to be something totally enjoyed without the encumberance of rain gear or heavy outer-wear, and a chance to put my bike through its paces to check everything out. Rain and cold would have only served to make the outing much less than anticipated, especially since the idea of this ride was to have a thoroughly fulfilling adventure the first time out in years. I suppose it seems I wimped out, but only for a few days if one can believe the forecast. My plan now is to have this ride within the first week of the new year. I’m willing to bet it happens. 🙂