Adventures in Pisgah

Monday, May 3, 2021

the deep end

It is the first Sunday in May and instead of romping through the mountains I am at the skate park, dropping into the pool. Yesterday, a dozen or so mountain bikers undertook the pisgah99 and I was content to just take the dog for a ten mile run and then go home to mow the grass and today here I am, working on my ollies on the bank and my line in the pool. Twelve years ago, when we first did the pisgah99, there was no way I would spend a perfect spring Sunday in a concrete jungle. 

I thought hard about doing the 99 this year and had every intention of doing it but in the end did not have the motivation to buy some lights and actually ride my bike more than a few times a month. Every intention was little more than a daydream that had to compete with daydreams of tre flips, smith grinds and manual pop shove-its. So, j ust like that instead of getting up at 4am to ride my bike for 24 hours I slept until 10 and today here I am at the skate park instead of the forest.

Growing up, I was a surfer, I had a skateboard. I listened to Punk Rock in the city and reggae at the beach. Then came college and the skateboard got left at home and the Grateful Dead and Phish took the place of The Dead Kennedy's and Black Flag. I left the beach to go back to the big city where supposedly more opportunity awaits but grew stagnant and complacent. I spent years wandering around parking lots following a rock and roll band from city to city. The skateboard remained largely forgotten. It was mainly used to push a cooler around, selling beer and water to get money for concert tickets and gas money. Sometimes I would do an ollie or kick flip just to prove I still could but eventually even those got forsaken. The band broke up and with nothing left to chase I found myself going nowhere fast. 

I got a mountain bike as a means of transportation but quickly discovered trails and then after my first trip to Pisgah I was hooked. I quickly found myself making the two and a half hour drive to Pisgah every time I had a day or two off. On the drive home one day from yet another epic day I asked myself "Why don't you move there?" and couldn't think of a viable answer. I had a good paying job that I hated, a girlfriend I didn't like and not much else. So, the next day I went into work, gave my notice and a short while later moved to Hendersonville. For a long time I was riding six days a week, signing up for all the endurance races and was as big of a Pisgah junkie as there is. I used to take my dog to walk in this same park after my epic rides and would watch the skateboarders. When I was growing up skateboarding was very much a crime and we had nothing like these skate parks. I would have killed to have a perfect right hand kidney bean pool like this to skate. But still, I only watched as I walked the dog.

Eventually mountain biking lost some of it's allure and I discovered mountain running and it became my preferred mode to explore the forest. I found I could get in a good workout in less time and had a lot more hiking only trails available to explore. I'm still a Pisgah junkie but I won a new skateboard last year and after a lot of psyching myself up - and a set of pads - finally started skating again after a 27 year hiatus and am once again hooked. Things change and the mountains aren't going anywhere so I might as well live while I am young.

The skate park is an interesting environment and the Sunday afternoon crowd doesn't disappoint. I spend most of my time in the pool, working on my line. I keep getting higher and higher on the big wall and then get speed wobbles coming down and instead of slamming or knee sliding, I run out of it and my right foot takes the brunt of the impact. Pain shoots through my body and I think "This could be bad." Instead of having to hobble miles down a mountain trail it is just a short walk back to the truck and by the time I get home the pain has died down and I know everything might be okay, I will live to play another day.


Monday, March 1, 2021

february sun

The rain left and bright blue skies moved in. Cold, but there is warmth in light. On Saturday Akira and I ran up to the Pisgah Inn and on Sunday V and I rode Farlow Gap. Not bad for my second ride of the year!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

february rains

Thirty-three degrees and raining - just another February Saturday in Pisgah. The forest is nearly empty, just a few fishermen and hikers scattered about, and once again I have the trails to myself. I do a favorite loop I've been doing quite a bit recently. I was here a week ago in snow and ice but today that is all about gone, washed away by the rain. At the top of the climb I briefly break above the ceiling and get a little respite from the rain before plunging back down the mountain. Driving home all the vehicles are gone except a solitary couple wrapped in a blanket looking out at Looking Glass Falls. March is coming and Spring is in the air, the forest will be coming alive again, get it while you can.

The week before:

Fressies on Black with Jess (photos by Jess):

Sunday, February 7, 2021

a fork in the trail

Yuri and I made a feeble attempt at getting the band back together a few weeks ago. We headed deep into the heart of Shining Rock Wilderness and although the trail head was packed with hikers headed to Cold Mountain we had the forest all to ourselves. Our destination was a high top where we hoped there was a trail not on the map that would take us back to the trailhead. If that trail wasn't there we would be facing a 3000' bushwack or 13 mile return trip. After a long climb up a little fork and then miles of snow we reached it and the trail was there and took us right back down, closing the loop on yet another successful adventure in Pisgah.

Friday, January 15, 2021

crystals of snow

You never know what winter in Pisgah may bring. Last weekend I took advantage of the snow and road closures and got in some excellent runs. On Saturday I had the parkway all to myself and then on Sunday Akira and I encountered a surprisingly dry Pilot Rock trail and then had to put on micro-spikes for the steep descent down Thompson Creek in heavy snow before trudging back to the truck on Yellow Gap Road.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Pinhoti 100 Race Report

"How much time do I have?" I asked the volunteer as he filled my bottle at aid station 6.

"Twenty minutes," he said.

"That isn't enough," I responded and quickly turned and headed back on the trail.

"You have a four mile climb and then a two mile descent," I heard him yell as I disappeared into the woods. 

Perfect, I thought. A four mile climb would be the perfect opportunity to make up some time and get further ahead of the time cut-off. Other than my usual low point around mile 18 things had been going fine. Slow and steady was my plan and I was sticking to it. I knew I would be racing the clock all day and night but twenty minutes didn't sound like enough of a buffer so I was determined to use the climb to my advantage. I had led a group of eight through the last section and as I continued on the trail there was only one other light to be seen.  They aren't going to make it, I thought and then wondered if I was going to make it. The unexpected rain that had been lingering all day had finally stopped so I paused on the side of the trail to secure my jacket to my pack so it could dry some for the long night I had ahead of me, wasting a minute. Then I paused again to reward myself with music but discovered my phone had not been in airplane mode and was down to 40%. Music was going to help me get through the night so as I continued on I changed my headspace and got used to the idea of running all night by myself in silence. It will be fun, I convinced myself.


As I approached the top of Bald Rock a heavy fog set in and I couldn't see much past my poles and kept losing the faint trail. I never got lost but wasn't able to go nearly as fast as I wanted or needed as I looked for the little blue ground flags that led the way. I made it over the top and on to the boardwalk and then down the final descent into aid station 7.


"You have to hurry!", I heard someone yell as I popped out of the woods and into the aid station.

 "How much time do I have?", I yelled back. 

"Under a minute," was the response.

Fuck. Less than a minute to pass through the aid station. No time for water or food. So, I kept running. A volunteer jogged next to me as I asked how far to the next aid station and how long I had to get there. I don't remember his response but it wasn't enough and I wasn't going to make it and if I did make it by some miracle it was only a matter of time before time caught up to me and I timed out. My wife was jogging next to me and I turned to her and said it was over. She told me I could make it but the look on her face confirmed what I already knew, my race was over. Although I'm sure they would have let me keep going my minute was up and I wasn't technically out of the aid station so there at 8pm and at mile 40, I handed over my chip and that was it. Eight months of training and I didn't even make it further than my longest training run. An hour later I was back at the hotel eating Mexican take out and watching cable news confirm the Biden win.

It was a beautiful day, even with the rain, on a great trail but still quite the disappointment. Physically and mentally I was fine

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Fish Hatchery 50 Miler

Week 18 of my Pinhoti 100 training plan called for a 50 mile training run. Without many race options in the area I opted to do it as a training run but trying to mimic race conditions the best I could. Just like my 50k training run I started and finished at the Fish Hatchery allowing for multiple loops passing my truck to allow for resupply. Unlike my 50k run, I decided to use Yuri and Jess as pacers for the run. A hundred miles is no short distance to run and pacers could help me make it to the finish line and Yuri and Jess have volunteered to take that role so this run provided provided the perfect opportunity to practice for race day. 

My route for the day had me playing games on 487B. First I ran up the gravel to Pink Beds where I met Terri and Akira who joined me on a loop of the trail before I headed back down the road to the Fish Hatchery where I picked up Jess for a loop of 475B to Caney Bottoms. From there it was back to the Fish Hatchery where I exchanged Jess for Yuri who was taking the night shift. Once again it was right back up 475B to Cove Creek to Daniel Ridge. The moon was almost full and we were able to run without lights when we made it back out onto the road where we had to do a mile out and back to get the full 50 miles in.

Overall, the run went great. My biggest take-a-ways were that I did not need the poles I picked up at mile 34 and should have pushed harder the second half of the run. Physically I had some achilles pain and two blisters but otherwise there wasn't much of note. Yuri's highlight was seeing his 83rd bear of the year. Yes, he counts them.