Contemplate This on The Tree of Woe

Yesterday I did about 12 hours in the motorcycle saddle, crossing Neel's Gap across the shoulders of Blood Mountain, then up to the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina, then back over Unicoi Gap. I did the last one in the dark, which was a real experience. It was on the way up Blood Mountain, though, that I happened to reflect on a whole field of crosses in the elbow of one particular curve. How strange that we seek to chance death. I know why I do it, and I know the different reason why young men who haven't proven themselves do it. Still, what a strange feature of human nature.

During the ride I encountered more than one Tree of Woe. The first one I came across is at Neel's Gap. The Appalachian Trail crosses the highway there, as it also does at Unicoi Gap. Northbound hikers frequently abandon the quest after Blood Mountain. Others, though, abandon their gear -- an outfitter has set up shop in a early 20th century stone building up there, and does land office business selling ultra-expensive, ultra-lightweight alternatives to all that stuff you brought. They will even ship your old gear home for you. Many too-heavy pairs of boots have been abandoned there.

Southbound hikers, coming from Maine, often abandon their boots for a new pair too. These boots are frequently held together mostly with duck tape.

Boots at Neel's Gap

The second Tree of Woe is actually called "the Tree of Shame," and it stands at the Dragon. It is covered in motorcycle parts from bikes destroyed on the road. The "Tail of the Dragon" has 318 curves in its 11 miles, some of them quite extreme. The rugged and difficult passage over this arm of the Great Smoky Mountains has an interesting history. I've done it three or four times, and it never gets old.

"The Tree of Shame"

Independence Day weekend is a big occasion at the Dragon.  Lots of motorcycle riders are veterans, and the General Store was all decked out for the occasion.  They closed early yesterday so their employees could get over to see the fireworks show. 

Independence Weekend at the Dragon.

UPDATE: Below the fold, another shot of the dragon sculpture for Douglas.


Eric Blair said...

You be careful up there.

raven said...

Yeah, be careful some squid does not blow his apex and come careening into your lane..

Grim said...

I was in much greater danger of being killed on the road today, when this moron driving a big Ford dualie brought his truck fully into my lane. He was driving too fast, and couldn't stay where he belonged. I was just about three miles from home.

douglas said...

Grim, any chance you've got a picture of the whole dragon sculpture shown in the last image? My son is really into dragons, and that one looks pretty nest- a little different and convincingly done.

And glad you're still here to celebrate today!

Grim said...

I do. I'll append it below the fold.

douglas said...

Thank you, sir. That's quite a nice piece of work. My son enjoyed it. He was a little bummed that it was all the way across the country though. Maybe we'll get out that way someday.