I wanted to do a trail journal of my big bicycle adventure into the Blue Ridge Mountains, but, turns out, 1) there is almost no cell phone coverage in the middle of the forest (duh), and 2) climbing mountains all day on a bike sent me to bed before I had a chance to write anything out. Here’s some of what I remember!

We based our route on the Blue Ridge Wrangler but cut out some of the sketchier single-track sections and some of the climbs—which seems unbelievable as this three-day ride totaled over 16,000 feet of climbing. I’d never ridden my bike up a mountain before, let alone several mountains one after another after another. We hit about 5,500 feet each day; it was a lot of up hills. But! I rode it all, spinning for long sections—like the endless 13-mile climb on day three, “the easiest day”—creeping forward at four miles per hour.

After almost every climb, you’re rewarded with some sort of descent. Sometimes it’s a mindblowing, absolutely incredible ripper down the Blue Ridge Parkway (where I hit 36 miles per hour, don’t tell my mom); sometimes it’s a fun, soft forest road covered in pine needles; and sometimes it’s two miles of horrible, chunky gravel. I lack the experience for the latter, and it’s definitely my riding weakpoint—my wrists are still sore from squeaking down mountains with the brakes jammed on full.

The weather treated us well, and the handful of times it rained felt perfectly timed to cool us off after brutal, hot climbs. I think I could have even left my hammock’s rainfly at home (which is heavy and irritating to set up). I’m a full-on convert to hammock camping: As a side-sleeper, it’s miles better than sleeping on the ground with a sleeping pad.

I think this trip may have been the most physically challenging thing I’ve done—certainly as an adult—and it was a blast. I’m proud to have accomplished it, and I’d do it again in a heart beat. I know it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time to take enough food, water, and camping gear to survive three days in the woods and haul it up and down endless mountains and ridge lines, but! you could definitely line up a series of breezy day trips and get a lot of the same experience. Virginia is beautiful, and you should grab every opportunity you have to get out there and explore it!

Bare feet and a bicycle after a creek crossing.

One of the many stonework bridges on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A tunnelized creek that was, in fact, the actual trail.

The Blue Ridge Mountains in the background, forest for as far as the eye can see in the foreground.

My bike and Eno hammock set up in some pretty dense undergrowth. Worked out OK, though.

The Shenandoah Valley seen through a gap between two mountains. Off in the distance, the mountains that make up the western edge of the Valley.

A field, old farm house, some mountains, and a threatening sky. It definitely rained like 15 minutes after I took this photo.

A recliner on the top of a mountain. Why?