words and art by w a l t e r w s m i t h

Posts tagged “Tsali Recreational Park

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mountains 04

Mountain biking at Tsali Recreational Area in North Carolina

A photo challenge that includes mountains would not be a challenge without a difficult mountain bike to the summit. In this photograph I have just reached the top of the Right Loop at Tsali Recreational Area in North Carolina. The elevation at this point is around 5000 feet.

The popular Tsali Recreation Area has long been a top destination for mountain biking in Western North Carolina, and even the entire eastern US. Containing nearly 40 miles of trails in a system with four excellent loops, it has been rated as one of the top 10 places to ride in the USA. The area is located on a hilly peninsula reaching into beautiful Fontana Lake, at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. The four long main trails at Tsali wind along the lake shore and onto the wooded, steep interior ridges. There are several connector trails, gravel roads and extension trails that give a few more options for rides besides the main loops. Three designated overlooks along the trails provide sweeping views of Fontana Lake with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the other side. The trails are fast, hardpacked singletrack, and they’re extremely well designed and well used.

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Race Day April 3rd 2011

Mountain biking race day at Tsali Recreational Park

Mountain biking race day at Tsali Recreational Park, North Carolina

It is Race Day

Take what life gives us

Let us meet under the great pavilion

Where the sounds of aspirations

Are heard in the ballet of bikes

It is race day

Clutching our forged carbon loves

Sinewy muscles tense with sweat

We dream the dance

The dance of the mountain

It is race day

There is life in every breath

Let us meet silently at the starting gate

The noise of wind and sky to shatter our thoughts

While colors merge

A kaleidoscope forms

A kinetic fleeing pursuing blur

Rotating wheels and quick descents

Gorges rivers trees and falls

Pick yourself back up

Your pain body calls

And look up into the crying sky

To a transformative end

Finding yourself deep inside

It is race day

Transcending our weekday life

We are here to meet in joyous celebration

The sound of Kopeland

The sound of music

Victory for one

Pleasure for all

While arms and smiles embrace

Here at Tsali North Carolina

Its sure to be

A great race


Biking to a Place Inside and Out / 04

Road biking at high elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

But here in the South biking takes on a whole new dimension. It explodes with energy and beauty. Both road biking and mountain biking provide a means to an enriching and trans-formative end. This post entitled “Biking to a Place Inside and Out” includes a gallery of images that records visually that magnificent end.  And it is an attempt to express the color, beauty, emotional, and physical essence of biking. It is difficult to say what I enjoy most–road or mountain biking. They both provide their own unique challenges. The mountains of Western North Carolina, and the forest areas of South Carolina harbor great recreational parks such as Tsali, DuPont State Forest, Bent Creek, and Laurel River in NC and Paris Mountain, Southside and FATS (Forks Area Trail System (named one of the top 10 machine-made trail systems in the country)) in SC. These are moderate and difficult level trails with hundreds of feet in elevation changes. They are comprised of single track, access roads, and some, like the Left and Right Loops at Tsali, a single track that the rider navigates around a large man-made lake (Fontana Lake). In a recent conversation with a fellow rider, we discussed the horrible consequence of making a riding error and going over the edge into the lake (not good). In the winter the lake is drained and in the summer it is at full capacity.  Until then, it had not occurred to me that the prospect of losing one’s bike to the lake could become a reality.  But a challenge is a challenge, and in mountain biking especially, there can be no room for fear. Both the Left and Right Loops are each approximately 12 miles in length, and any lapse in concentration could be costly. In contrast to the obvious hazards, Tsali is a very beautiful recreational park located on the borders of Swain and Graham counties with the Great Smokey Mountains as its magnificent playground.  One can only marvel at the beautiful surroundings that become infused with every fiber of your being as you push, pedal and commit yourself to go one yard farther—to make that climb. Throughout most of these parks are rivers, gorges, tree roots, rocks, creek crossings, ravines, dead drops, imposing trees everywhere, and some that provide mountains summits that climb to 5000 feet. Expect to fall, expect to get hurt. These and numerous other challenges test the will, the level of oxygen deprivation to the muscles, balance, hand/eye coordination, timely decision making, and your overall physical stamina.

The tree obstacle on the trail at Laurel River, North Carolina