But I kept on looking for a sign
the middle of the night
But I couldn't see
the light

No I couldn’t see the light

I kept on looking for a way
To take me through the night
I couldn't get it right
I couldn't get it right”


From “Couldn’t get it right”, by The Climax Blues Band



Christy and I enjoyed spending Tuesday and Wednesday in Asheville so much, we returned the following weekend.  Unfortunately we both had to work on Thursday and Friday, otherwise we probably would’ve just stayed.  This time though, instead of hanging out and going to a concert, Christy was competing in a triathlon.  The race was scheduled to start early Saturday morning.  Neither of us was interested in getting up in the middle of the night to drive to Asheville, so we decided to go Friday afternoon.


We had the dog with us this time, which limited our hotel options.  Instead, we decided to take the tent and camp somewhere nearby.  I considered all kinds of options, but struggled to find the ideal place.  The campground in the Bent Creek area seemed like a good choice, except that it is gated at night, and wouldn’t open up until long after we’d need to leave.  I thought about North Mills River, Mount Pisgah, and even Montreat, but all of those campgrounds would’ve required a 30 minute drive to get to the race.  We were both exhausted from an eventful week, and we were looking for maximum sleep.  Ultimately I reserved us a night at the West Asheville KOA.  On the upside, the race site was only a 10 minute drive away.  On the downside, it was a KOA.  KOA’s typically don’t offer the kind of camping experience we enjoy.  To make matters worse, the $32 / night price seemed a bit ambitious.  Neither of us was enthusiastic about the KOA, but we figured that all we planned to do there was sleep.  For that purpose, we thought it would do fine.


We left Charlotte at rush hour on Friday, and took back roads through York County to avoid the usual traffic jam on I-85.  This worked great, as we made it to Gaffney in about an hour.  I was surprised, as even when traffic is light on 85, it takes me that long on the interstate!  From there, we headed on to Asheville.  We made it to the race site at Biltmore Lake in time for Christy to register, which was great news.  That meant she could arrive at the race a little later the next morning. 


After registering, the next order of business was tiring the dog out.  A tired dog is a good dog, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to let him run free at the KOA.  We drove into Asheville and stopped at the dog park near the French Broad River.  There were a dozen or so dogs there, and it wasn’t long before Boone was moving at full speed.  I think he played with every dog there, but my favorite moment was when he decided to pick a fight with a Great Dane and a Malamute at the same time.  Between the two of them there must’ve been 300 pounds of dog!  We were looking forward to seeing them put Boone in his place, but it didn’t happen.  The Great Dane wandered off, and the Malamute proved to be submissive.  After only a couple of minutes, Boone had him pinned.


We ran him around a bit more and then headed to the KOA.  I checked us in, and endured hearing about all of the wonderful amenities we wouldn’t be using.  We really didn’t have any interest in the game room, nor the pool, nor the laundry facilities.  Finally a guy in a golf cart arrived to “escort” us to our campsite.  This seemed wildly unnecessary, as I’m pretty sure we could’ve located it with the map that was provided.  Our site was situated in a grassy field next door to the bathrooms.  It was also at the base of a huge cell tower, meaning we had wonderful reception!


I thought being near the bathrooms would be convenient, but there was a hole between our site and the facilities that Christy kept stepping in.  I was just waiting for her to sprain an ankle there the night before the race.  Also, not to complain or anything, but the facilities would’ve been nicer if the women’s room had been stocked with toilet paper.


We leashed Boone to a small pine tree and set up camp.  I made a pasta dinner for us, while Boone systematically stripped most of the branches off the tree.  Sigh.  He didn’t seem tired at all.  If anything, our visit to the dog park had only served to get him cranked up.


Christy went to bed at dusk, shortly after dinner.  By going to bed, I mean she went into the tent with the dog.  Unfortunately, Boone wasn’t on the same page.  The first fiasco occurred when I gave him a treat.  Lately he’s taken to hiding his pig’s ear treats around our house.  We’ve been finding them in all kinds of strange places, like the linen closet and the laundry basket.  On this occasion, he was intent on burying his pig’s ear.  Unfortunately, he was in the tent at the time.  Fortunately, Christy was able to stop him before he tore a hole in the tent floor.  Despite her best efforts though, he did manage to puncture our brand new air mattress.  We tried to patch the hole with duct tape, but we knew we’d be flat on the ground before the end of the night.


I joined Christy and Boone in the tent, and we attempted to sleep.  Our first challenge is that we were directly below a street light that shined directly into our tent.  To make matters worse, Boone had another agenda.  Every few minutes, Boone would bark.  Occasionally it was because of another dog barking in the distance.  Sometimes it was due to someone walking through our campsite to access the bathroom.  On still other occasions, it was for no apparent reason whatsoever.  This was startling to us, as Boone rarely barks at home.  We had actually brought a muzzle along, but it didn’t fit quite right, and was completely ineffective.  When somebody pulled into a site nearby later that night and began setting up camp, I knew it was hopeless.  He’d never settle down.


This literally went on for hours.  Between his barking and his pacing around on our leaking air mattress we couldn’t sleep a bit.  We tried every conceivable tactic to quiet him done, but nothing worked.  To make matters worse, he didn’t bark constantly.  Instead he’d get quiet for a few minutes, just long enough for us to nod off.  Then he’d start again, yanking us out of our slumber.  It was like some newly developed form of torture.


By 3:30, we couldn’t take it anymore.  Christy got up and took Boone to the car, where she spent the last couple of hours.  I stayed behind in the tent and dozed on what little was left of the air mattress.  By the time my alarm went off at 6, I figure we had each managed to get 3 hours of sleep.  For Christy, it was a disastrous way to start a race.  It wasn’t much better for me, as I was planning to meet Jack for a difficult bushwhack to a waterfall.  For both of us, the day promised to be an interesting experiment in the effects of sleep deprivation.


I really just wanted to sleep in the car while Christy raced, but it was far too late to cancel on Jack.  Plus, I was really looking forward to the hike.  Our goal for the day was the waterfall on the Right Fork of the Davidson River.  This one has been high on my to-do list for several years now, and I was determined to do it. 


I dropped Christy off at the race before driving to the Pisgah Fish Hatchery.  I arrived 15 minutes early, which gave me some time to organize my gear.  I was brushing my teeth in the parking lot when Jack arrived.  He followed me from there, and we headed over to the Daniel Ridge Trailhead, which was already crowded with cars.  We soon found out why, as there were a number of groups camped along the river a short walk from the road.


We hit the trail at 8am and set an aggressive pace.  I knew I had to hurry, as I had to pick Christy up after her race.  Originally she had told me to be there around noon, after all of the festivities were over.  Then on Friday she told me that she would probably be ready to go by 11am.  Unfortunately, by that point, Jack and I had already made our plans.  I told her I’d get there as soon as possible, but I really wasn’t sure how long the hike would take.  We’d follow a good trail for about 2 miles, but after that, we’d have to bushwhack for more than a half mile.  There was no telling how long that would take.


I stumbled along after Jack, trying to keep a fast pace despite legs that didn’t seem to want to work right.  The only saving grace was that this was a short hike.  My only hope was that I could somehow survive it.  Well, that and the drive back to Asheville.  And the drive home.


We made it to the end of campsite row, and continued up the Daniel Ridge Loop Trail along the Davidson River.  A few minutes later, we reached a fork, with a more primitive path cutting to the left, towards the river.  I knew this was a nice alternate route, and suggested it since it’s a more interesting hike than the official trail, which follows an old road.  This path stays close to the river, providing views of many pleasant slides and cascades.  We stopped at one of the larger ones for some photos.  Thanks to our early start, the sun was still behind the ridge to the east, which provided some appealing light.


From there we continued upstream, eventually rejoining the official trail.  Then we passed the remains of an old concrete bridge and another small waterfall.  From there we climbed a fairly steep, eroded stretch of old road before reaching a junction with the Farlow Gap Trail.  We followed this trail, still heading upstream, now along the Right Fork.  A few minutes later we rock hopped the creek, and climbed away from it on switchbacks.  Then we reached the point where we had to leave the civilized trail.


From there, we followed the directions in Kevin Adams’ guide, which were excellent.  We followed an old railroad grade to a gully, which we traversed to regain the grade on the far side.  The going wasn’t too bad through here, although numerous fallen trees slowed us down.  Before long, we rock hopped the creek again, and worked our way up to the confluence with Lanning Branch.


We made a minor error here.  We side hilled along the slope, climbing above the stream.  Later we discovered that it would’ve been much easier if we had climbed all the way up along the spine of the ridge.  Despite this mistake, we continued to make progress upstream.  At times there was at least a hint of a path.  It was a far cry from an actual trail though, and the stinging nettle through here was brutal.  Plus, Boone was underfoot more often than not, which added to the challenge.  I was drained from a lack of sleep, but I was determined.  Over the last quarter mile or so, I was running only on adrenaline.


We walked up the creek bed briefly, and later crossed the stream one more time.  Moments later, the waterfall came into view. The hike had been wicked, but it proved to be worth it.  The Right Fork tumbles through a narrow crevice and over a high ledge, creating a lovely waterfall.  It was quite a sight for tired eyes.


Luckily we arrived when the waterfall was still in the shade.  Unfortunately, my photos were a bit marred by abundant deadfall littering the waterfall.  Plus, the gnats around the falls were horrific.  They were some of the worst bugs I’ve experienced, and although they weren’t biters, they managed to drive me and Jack nutty.  Thanks to the bugs, we were both content to keep our visit to this waterfall brief.  Ultimately this was probably a good thing though, as I still had to get back to pick up Christy.


We headed back by more or less the same route and made great time.  We regrouped back at the trail, and parted ways.  Jack had all day free, and was planning a much longer hike over Pilot Mountain.  That is one of my favorites in the area, but it wasn’t an option for me.  Instead, Boone and I hustled back down the trail despite our fatigue. 


The hike out was relatively uneventful, although I was startled when I passed a large group of hikers going the other way.  I made it back to the car around 11:45 and wasted no time getting back on the road.  I headed back to Asheville, and found Christy waiting for me at Biltmore Lake.  She’d had a lousy race, finishing in what must’ve been her slowest time ever.  This was her first race since her most recent knee injury though, and she was just happy she had managed to finish it.  Best of all, there was no swelling in her knee, which was encouraging.


From Biltmore Lake, we drove over to West Asheville to get a late lunch at the Lucky Otter.  I had a cheese steak burrito, and it was the best meal I’ve had in a long time!  The waterfall on the Right Fork had been nice, but the burrito was definitely the biggest highlight of the weekend.  I might do the hike to this waterfall again sometime, but it definitely won’t be in June.  If I do it, it’ll be earlier in the spring, before the stinging nettles and bugs are out in full force.

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