I have been getting camping gear together and I finally had everything lined up for my first night out on the motorcycle. Friday I started getting sick and by the time Saturday rolled around I had a runny nose and a sore throat, but I was not going to be deterred. The KLR was loaded up and I finished packing Saturday morning. I rolled out around 11:00 to head for the hills.
Here’s the route I took:
I didn’t want to get too far from home on my first trip in case things didn’t go well. The best place I could think of that is tame enough for solo riding, close enough to home, and feels very remote is Horsepasture Road in Sunset, SC. My First Dual Sport Ride was on Horsepasture Road, so why not my first motocamping trip too.
I took the back way up to 178 and tried to get my new T63 tires scuffed in. It was a great day with mild temps. In no time, I was at Horsepasture Road. I pulled over to air my tires down and then I was off on the gravel! It was only about 12:30 so I figured I would just ride for a while and explore. I was planning on camping down by Lake Jocassee, but I wanted to keep an eye out for any campsites that might be better.
One of the cool things about Horsepasture Road this time of year is almost all the roads are open. I like to take off down a road like this and just take a turn. Who knows where you are or where you will turn up. I took one of the roads that are almost always closed to vehicles. On the map it doesn’t have a name, but it is the loop off of Horsepasture in the route. Shortly, after I left Horsepasture the riding got a little more interesting. The hills were steeper, the gravel was looser, and there was sand in spots. I wore myself out on this road. Standing on the pegs and going up and down hills is pretty physical, but I was having a blast! There is a nice water crossing on this road. As you come down to the river you will see a nice big campsite on one side of the river. There is also a pedestrian bridge and place for vehicles to cross. I thought about camping here, but when I got there another person was already set up and I believe the glorious thumping of my KLR woke him up. I crossed the river, got a little water in my boots and headed on up the hill.
After the river the hill climbs were pretty steep and the corners were very tight with a lot of sand. The reason I remember the sand so well is because I came around a corner at a good pace and as soon as my front wheel hit the sand I started sliding. I used my hand to push off the bank three times, but ultimately the KLR decided to take a dirt nap. Since the bike was taking a break I figured I would too.
There was some great mountain scenery and riding, but I had been on this road for a while and I needed to make sure I was going to get to the lake. I saw a group of hikers and asked them about where the road was headed. I was soon to realize that I had doubled back and I would be coming back to Horsepasture Road. Once I got to the intersection I took a right to head towards the lake.
I followed the road all the way to Lake Jocassee. It’s always very peaceful down there. I parked the bike and started checking out my potential camp site. There is a small trail that heads over to a clearing with a fire pit. It’s not really a sanctioned campsite, but people clearly camp over there. I knew I would need to get off the road in order to not be bothered. There were two trees that fell across the trail. One I could have moved with some work, but the other was big and a wet rotting mass. Some riders may have been able to pop their bike over it, but it’s not me.
That’s when a guy in a Polaris RZR 800 pulled up and we talked for a bit. He said they patrol down there for campers and suggested I find a sanctioned camp site. I was pretty disappointed, but I decided to follow the rules. I rode back up Horsepasture to a nice site with a view.
This was it! I started unloading as the afternoon sun was getting lower in the sky. It gets dark quickly in the mountains so I knew I needed to work steadily at setting up camp. I pitched my tent first and then I started a fire. This campsite had been picked clean of firewood, but I did find some nice dry oak branches that had fallen out of a tree. I pulled a few of those to the fire pit and broke them up and that was all the firewood I needed.
As the sun was setting I was cooking up some Chef Boyardee Ravioli (don’t laugh its easy). As I was eating the quiet started setting in. There was nothing but the sounds of wind in the tree tops and the crackling of the fire. After I finished eating I started getting my gear stowed away and then I pulled out my camera for a little while.
When it got darker there were a few bats that came out and I watched them fly around as I brushed my teeth. There are a lot of bears in this area so I loaded up my food and toiletries in one of my dry bags and started trying to get a string over a tree branch so I could hang it. I ended up throwing about 4 rocks over the side of the mountain before I finally got it. The cool thing is I could hear those rocks go all the way down the mountain. That’s how quiet it was!
As I settled in for the night I realized that I forgot my inflatable sleeping pad. I did have my foam one, but that is not enough padding for a side sleeper. Between the forgotten sleeping pad and coughing I barely slept at all.
Since I didn't get much rest I heard all the wildlife around me. Through the night I heard a bunch of coyotes howling. The screaming sounds they make are one of the creepiest things to hear when you are on top of a mountain without a soul around. There was also a barred owl making a racket all night. That is a strange sounding bird. I didn’t know what it was until I looked it up.
As morning came it was about 40F outside and it was hard to get out of the sleeping bag, but I got up about 7:30. The first thing I did was rekindle the fire and then I lit my stove to make some homemade oatmeal that my wife made me. When I started eating breakfast the rain started. It was a light drizzle, but steady. It was not supposed to start raining until 11:00. I ate as fast as I could and broke camp in the rain.
The ride home was brisk. I didn't pack my rain gear so I was only dry for about 20 minutes and the rest of the way was just a slow soak in the rain on the way home. Overall, it was a good experience. I wish I hadn't been sick and I wish I would have packed my rain gear, but I would do it all again tomorrow.
What I Learned:
- The order you pack your camping gear is important when it comes to setting up camp.
- Pivot Pegz are an awesome upgrade to an offroad bike.
Psalm 63:6 NIV “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night."
After I got camp set up and things settled down that mountaintop became a lonely place. Sitting up there alone in nature and looking out over those mountains was a great time to clear my head. I know I have mentioned the meditative qualities of helmet time before. It was like that, but even quieter. Camping solo presented an unexpected opportunity to meditate, pray, and really get refreshed mentally and spiritually. So here’s my question to you guys.
When you are worn down from the world and you need to be refreshed, what works for you? Where do you go?