Gee Creek bikamping
You can’t have much more fun than a camping trip by bicycle.
(I’m posting a few of my favorite pictures in this entry, but some additional photos/descriptions can be found in my Flickr set, here.)
Mark and I packed up the Xtracycle “twins” on Friday and headed out toward Cherokee National Forest, the Hiwassee River, and Gee Creek campground for a weekend of fun and adventure by bicycle. It was a lovely ride over – although extremely “warm”. Temperatures in the mid-90’s, and I couldn’t guess at the humidity.
We had only one mapping snafu. We had mapped a back-roads route so that we could avoid traveling on one of the more major roads – a road that is often used by logging trucks heading for the paper pulp mill in Calhoun. It was a good plan until the very end. Near the small community of Delano, TN, we could not locate one of the unnamed roads that would take us through the Amish community. We backtracked twice, looking for the connector, and finally gave up. It still remains a mystery as to whether the map was correct, or if the road really exists(?).
We arrived at Gee Creek campground in the early afternoon and had our choice of campsites. We unloaded the bikes, set up camp, and spent the remainder of the hot afternoon relaxing in the shade, trying to stay cool. Early in the evening we set out again to have dinner at a resort we had read about, Black Bear Cove. It was nice to enjoy a leisurely dinner in the air-conditioned lodge.
On Saturday morning, we set out early for the Amish community and market that was a nearby. We had been to the Amish market several times before – by car. They have just-picked-that-morning produce directly from their fields outside the market building. They also have some wonderful baked goods – from sorghum sugar cookies, to whole wheat bread, to killer sticky buns. We decided to have the sticky buns for our breakfast! 🙂
We rode through the community on some of the small gravel roads that meander around, in part trying to see where we had missed our mystery connecting road the day before. It was pastoral, picturesque and lovely – similar to some of the other Amish areas we have visited in Lancaster, PA, and Holmes County, OH. There is no electricity, no motorized vehicles or equipment. Tidy farms, tidy fields, windmills, horses and buggies. It can sometimes make you stop and question the benefits(?) of modern progress…
As the afternoon heat escalated, we decided to head for the Hiwassee River. We rented a kayak and had a nice, cooling trip down the river, snacking on a sweet watermelon we had picked up at the Amish market.
Saturday evening proved to be … well … let’s just say an interesting and colorful local experience. There is a small local winery in the area, and they were hosting an evening concert in their “pavillion”. The Goose Creek Symphony (YouTube). I’m not sure what I was expecting, never having heard of the group. The winery staff described them as “putting on a really excellent show, not exactly country, not exactly bluegrass …”. I kind of envisioned a neat bluegrass-y/mountain music kind of event, maybe a glass of the vinyard’s wine. Uuhhh …. not exactly.
Let me just say, the “Symphony” was actually pretty talented – for that type of music (not really my cup of tea, thanks). Maybe you’ve heard the song that begins, “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz …”? Yeah. Ok. Well, that’s Goose Creek. The Symphony may have had talent, the crowd on the other hand, was, well, quite a different story. I’ll just leave it at that. Mark had joked about visiting a place up the road called the Hillbilly Bar. Well, this may have been a winery, but the description could have fit just as well.
Sunday morning we packed up for the return home. We had really packed fairly lightly, but it was still impressive to see how much gear we were easily able to stow on the bikes – with still plenty of room to spare – and not any messing with panniers, trailers, etc. I love the versatility of the Xtracycle slings. The gear/cargo size and shape doesn’t matter – there are no constraints to deal with when using the slings (unlike panniers).
As much as I loved nearly all of the miles we put in, there was one stretch of county road that we covered that was paved with large, loose gravel/rock. It wasn’t the nice finely crushed and packed gravel of the Amish roads – it was just nasty chunky stuff. Without a major detour – or spending a few miles on the logging truck road – we had to use this road. It wasn’t more than a couple of miles, but without knobby mtn. bike tires, there was a lot of wasted energy pedaling uphill, and a lot of teeth-rattling, sketchy sliding action on the downhill. I didn’t love it. Yuck.
Arrived home in time to relax a bit in the afternoon (it was Father’s Day, after all). It was really a fun adventure. We logged some lovely and scenic miles and explored some back roads I would like to return to some day. The Xtracycles, as always, proved to be amazing vehicles – easy to haul our gear, easy to ride. The perfect machine.
So – get your bike out and grab your tent and sleeping bag. Have an adventure on two wheels. It doesn’t get much better!
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I am totally sold on those Xtracycles! They’re beauties to behold, especially when fully loaded. I’m so jealous of your camping trip. And, even though I lived in Bradley County for 8 years–and am moving back!–I had no idea there was an Amish community nearby. I can’t wait to visit it.
Oh, and I’ve had a similar experience with mapping roads that don’t exist–or don’t exist as “roads” per se. There’s one right by my house in NH. It shows up on Google and MapMyRun/Ride, but all it is an overgrown path. It might be traversible on foot or MTB, but not anything you’d want to take a fully loaded Xtracycle on (especially if you don’t like riding on gravel!). So, yeah, the road you were looking for might not really exist as a road.
Great post. The pics are great!
Thanks Jeff! Gotta say I agree with your Xtracycle assessment 🙂 And you’re right about digital mapping … accuracy can definitely be sketchy when it comes to remote rural back roads. I know exactly what you speak of – the road (path) near your house in NH 🙂
You and Sarah will definitely enjoy the Amish market – I highly recommend. And a nice drive (ride) out from Cleveland. Over the past several years it has gotten more and more popular, especially on Saturdays. I couldn’t believe it – there were nearly 20 people lined up outside before the 9am opening, all to get the just-picked veggies. I’d never seen it like that before. But it’s nice to see people catching on to the advantages/importance of buying fresh and local.
As for pics – your proposal pictures really made me smile! Oh happiness!!! 🙂
Speaking of fresh and local, have you been to the new (well, new to me at least) market in Cleveland that buys from local farms? I think it’s called Season’s Harvest or something like that? I’m curious as to what it’s like, since I hate the grocery stores in Cleveland.
Glad the engagement pictures made you smile. It was SO cold. Felt more like March than June…
Season’s Harvest!! Yep – it’s pretty much the main place I get our groceries. How’d you find out about it? It opened up roughly 3+ mi from my front door – the perfect biking distance (and the right side of the Paul Huff hill/interstate for me!), esp as I can get there via a back route (Candies Creek Ridge Road). People are really, really nice, food selection is excellent – although you kind of pay for what you are getting.
(And I’d never have known it was cold when your picture was taken … guess it is such a heart-warmer, no one would ever suspect! :-))
I found it online. One of the drawbacks of leaving northern New England and moving back to Cleveland was the fact that, in my opinion, there are no good grocery stores down there. A lot of the stores up here by from local farms and pride themselves on, well, the really good stuff one can get from NH or VT or ME. I dreaded going back to shopping at Bi-Lo or Cooke’s or (please sit down) Wal-Mart. (I hate Wal-Mart, especially the one on Paul Huff/Lee Hwy. I get mad just walking in there.) Anyway, so I did the really dorky thing of looking at grocer stores online. And that’s when I found Season’s Harvest, which about made me dance in my chair. I can’t wait to visit. Of course, since we’ll be living in or near downtown, it’s on the wrong side of everything for us. But, if need be, that’s a trip I’d be willing to make by car.