Now everyone who knows anything about N. Carolina will tell you that the western part is in the Smokey Mtns. and it's hilly. No exceptions. And indeed the author of the HDL ride did point out a 2 mile climb but with the assurance that he does it in his "big ring" (21st gear) hence the average weekend rider should have no problem.
That was reassuring. Nonetheless I took the opportunity to scout the route by car when I arrived in Murphy on Monday afternoon and I'm glad I did. You see, the author of the write up did a fine job of describing how to navigate the first half of the route - but described the second half by simply stating, "Follow Beaver Dam until it intersects Joe Brown, take a left, and follow it back to your car, at this point you will be nearing the half way point." Oh, and there was no map of the route in the posting either. But the scouting outing let me learn the route and honestly it's a dandy. Hilly? You bet. But doable even for lazy old BikerBuck.
Checked in at the Daze Inn, found a little Chinese dinner buffet place in town, got a great night's sleep and was the second guest in the breakfast room on Tuesday morning. Got the OK for a noon check out, jumped into my bike togs and took off for Graves Grocery, the designated parking place for Hanging Dog Loop. It was pitch dark and 45 degrees.
The route accesses campgrounds, Lake Hiawassee, farms and several gentrified vacation home developments all very well designed to fit in with the natural environment and rural lifestyle.
The chilly morning produced a lovely down comforter for the crop land.
This is the entry drive to a small cluster of handsome homes.
The beautiful fall foliage is nearing its peak of brilliance and the occasional gust produces the first showering of leaves. In a week or so, the road will be coated with nature's patchwork.
Not to be confused with Sticky River Drive.
The mist lingered in the valley well after sun up. It was all of 58 degrees at the end of my ride.
The area was not spared from the drought conditions I've witnessed in every state this fall...
...but Hiawassee Lake is nonetheless a beautiful and welcoming attraction in this gentle corner of North Carolina.
BikerBuck is truly indebted to the author of the Hanging Dog Loop posting. The language tells me it is a guy, so I thank him for taking time to share his ride with all of us. This is what Southern Comfort is all about. Cyclists sharing their discoveries with other cyclists in the spirit of safe and rewarding outdoor adventure. Thank you, Murphite Loopster.