Buggy Top – My First Trip was Almost my Last

My wife and kids were taking off for a two-week vacation in Michigan with her family. I had to work, so I stayed behind. They left on Friday.

Saturday I wanted to make the most of my temporary freedom. I took my camera, hopped on my bike, and headed out to ride and take pictures.

Some of the best bike riding in the area goes through Sewanee. Coming from the west on 64 you have lots of switchbacks and tight turns. From the North there is only one road that goes through to Sewanee, and you HAVE to know where it is. That thing is ALL switchbacks, on a poorly maintained back road. Exciting. Good road. East of Sewanee you are already at the top of the ridge and headed into Monteagle. To get in or out of Monteagle requires you to go down one side of the ridge or the other on Interstate 24. North you get long sweeping turns and switchbacks. If you look carefully you will even see a small cave with a little waterfall flowing out of it. (been there – done that) South is a steep grade with sweeping turns and TWO emergency runaway truck exits.

Basically, I am saying that’s bike country.

Anyway, I found myself riding down the stretch of road that Buggy Top is near. Good road, top notch bike material. I drove down that road until I reached a small town. I took some pictures of an ivy-covered old abandoned mill there. And then I realized I was in Sherwood, TN. Oh crap! I didn’t know this was where Sherwood was! I got back on my bike and drove right back out the way I came in! Wheh!

Even I knew about Sherwood! They found a guys boot there once, with his foot still in it! And then there was that Uncle and Nephew that had a shootout with some rivals, and the losers were buried under the barn floor. Sherwood was in a secluded valley that did not get power when everyone else did. The Tennessee utilities didn’t want to cross the mountain just for them. The Alabama utilities wouldn’t cross the state line, even though they were down the valley from Sherwood. So Sherwood lived in a non-electric world longer than the rest of us. They developed a kind of closed society, strangers ain’t welcome.

On the way back up that road I pulled into a roadside parking area to see what it was. Looked interesting so I decided to check it out. I was still nervous about having been in Sherwood so I decided to hide my bike, so no one would know I was there. I drove the bike up into some bushes and concealed it with some branches and tall grass. You would have to trip over it. lol

A quick look at the map posted. Not close enough to read that it was 2 miles back. Nor close enough to realize that the map was rotated 90 degrees from North. Not to worry, I know how to follow a simple trail. sheesh!

It was a nice hike and I got a few pics, but I began to wonder, doesn’t having a parking lot imply something close to the parking lot? Just before I got to the cliffs the trail crossed a stretch of asphalt! It was one lane wide and stretched in each direction as far as I could see. Another parking lot maybe? A second entrance?

When I got to the cliffs it was suddenly worth all the effort! Beautiful! I climbed down the face of the cliffs. The rocks almost form a series of large steps dropping across the face of the cliff. But if you miss your step, it’s 140 feet down. I scouted the cave, cooled off with the water from the stream, and finally climbed back out. That pretty much drained me.

When I got to that stretch of asphalt I took a break, and re-evaluated my situation. I had left the house without eating anything. I had brought no supplies. It was getting to be late afternoon already, and the amount of activity was taking its toll on me. I was exhausted.

I recalled the map, showing the trail as a North south trail. The map was rotated 90 degrees on the sign. The trail really runs East West. As the road I came in on was a North South road, it seemed almost obvious that following this asphalt road West I would HAVE to intersect with the road I came in on. In fact, because the map was turned, following that asphalt road North had me paralleling the road I came in on. Keeping me deep in the back country.

To this day I have NO IDEA what that asphalt road was for. It never went anywhere. Well, it went past field after field. But no houses, no intersecting roads, just that single lane of asphalt winding through valley after valley. Parts of the valleys were already filling with darkness. I sensed I was in real trouble.

It took me a long time to realize I was headed North. It really wasn’t until the sun started creating long shadows across the valley that it suddenly became obvious to me that I had been heading the wrong direction! The road I was looking for was to my West, which I could now see was to my Left, over that ridgeline!

I decided my only hope was to climb the ridge to the West. Surely I would find the road, but at the very least I would gain high ground and a decent view. I picked a spot and began the scramble up. It was slow going. I was so spent that I could only climb 20 feet or so before I had to rest. The growing darkness kept me going. Climb. Rest. Climb. Rest. Keep moving. Finally I reached the crest, and there was the road below me!

I stumbled down, and sat down on the edge of the road. Now I need to build some strength to walk however far it was back to the parking lot, far to the South. A car came down the road, heading south. I didn’t even stand up. I was too tired. I just stuck out my thumb, and he stopped!

He got to hear this whole story on the way back up to the parking lot, it was a surprisingly long ride. I pulled my bike out of the bushes by the light of his headlights and he made sure my bike started before he left me. Then he went on down the road, towards Sherwood. Was he one of those Sherwood people???? Seemed like a nice guy to ME.

I drove to the nearest town and got some French fries and some water. Salty carbohydrates and water. My stomach appreciated it, and I was able to stop shaking.

Then the possibilities run through your mind. No one knew I was going to Buggy Top, not even me. No one would miss me until Monday, at the earliest. Even then, there would be no one to get in touch with at the house. No one would find my bike in the bushes for quite some time. I could have really messed up. Well, more than I did.

Lesson learned. NEVER take a “walk in the woods” for granted.

Ickiest part of the story. I picked up a tick in the middle of my back, between my shoulder blades. Couldn’t get the little bugger to let loose. My wife had no problem getting it off, when she came home 13 days later. lol

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