HMS PRINCE OF WALES swaps the deep blue for the Blue Ridge Mountains

Storyline: Adventurous Training

HMS PRINCE OF WALES personnel enjoyed an adventurous time away from the ship while in Norfolk, Virginia.

6 of the ship's company participated in a 6-day bike packing trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains within the Appalachian Mountain range. 

Mid Angus Christie gave a personal account of his experience, “Our first day saw the team begin near Lake St James in the Pisgah National Forest state park, the morning was spent cycling along some lovely mud tracked routes within the forest which made for great downhill riding and our first cross-country bike packing experience. 

This was the first bike packing trip for all members of the team, so the first few hours riding were spent ironing out all bits of admin and kit that had to be sorted. 

The afternoon saw us come out of the forest and onto the other side of Lake St James to which we started. We began our ascent into the Blue Ridge Mountains giving the team the first big push. 

Due to very undulating and steep terrain, the final two kilometres of the day, on an 8% gradient was a ‘hike-a-bike’ route. This was by far the hardest part of the trip, pushing all our bikes and associated equipment uphill. 

That night, spent wild camping in the heart of one of Blue Ridge Mountain bear sanctuaries, the team looked over the route for the next day. 

The second day started well, with one large climb followed by a very enjoyable downhill. The gravel tracks on which we were cycling were rather slippery and loose which lead to some skilful riding required over the rough surfaces and bumpy terrain. 

A barefoot river crossing led on to the second climb in the afternoon and then to Ole’ Betsey’s country store, in the heart of Wilsons creek. This provided ample time to stock up on supplies as well as chat to locals about the any spots to visit. This was certainly one of the best moments of the trip. 

The second night wild camping led the team to a beautiful camping spot next to a river which gave the team their first wash of the trip as well as enjoying the campfire and star gazing.

The third day began well, little did the team know what was in store for them. The entire morning into early afternoon was spent on a single-track uphill ascent towards Linville falls. This uphill was as tough as it was long and ongoing. Yet once at the summit, the team was surprised with a great resting spot next to a church found atop the mountain. 

That afternoon the team made their way to Linville Falls, a historical sight named after a group of huntsmen killed by Pawnee Native Americans in the 18th century for trespassing on their land. The waterfalls where incredible and a great bit of sightseeing for the team. 

After having made our way to the campsite and setting up our tents, the team visited the famous Linville Rock Restaurant where some delicious and hearty American burgers were enjoyed by everyone, the first bit of food not out of a bag in days.

Our final day led to what was described in the biker’s guide as some ‘punchy uphill’s and crunchy descents’, the uphill’s were certainly punchy and the steepest we had seen, leading to some burning legs while trying to avoid the countless over landers and their four-by-four trucks on the track. 

Yet the burning legs were all worth it when the team arrived at Wisemans view, just in time for stand easy. After having been surrounded by forest for the past 4 days, Wiseman’s views offered a spectacular sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the vast area around which we had cycled and was the most spectacular part of the trip. 

This was followed by a descent of over two and a half thousand feet, which had been climbed over day three and four. This descent was extremely fast and fun, with brakes smoking by the end and speeds of almost 60km/h reached. 

Our final descent led us to the Fonta Flora brewery where a cold beer and a hot pizza were enjoyed by the team after four hard but extremely rewarding days of cycling.”

As serving members of the Royal Navy, our people are entitled to a minimum of five days adventurous training every year, with those five days considered part of the working diary. This all means that the Royal Navy will pay you as you explore and gain new experiences.

Pursuits range from activity courses and daily experiences, through to organised expeditions; all easily accessible across the world, wherever you are serving and in whatever capacity.