Adventures in Pisgah

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lake Tahoe Basin

What can I really say other than I just spent a week in South Lake Tahoe and did pretty much what you would imagine: Ran some mountains, rode some bikes, drank some beers, and hung out with my wonderful wife. The scenery and weather were amazing and it was a trip to remember. While I didn't head too deep into the mountains (that isn't what this trip was about) I did manage to check out both Maggie's Peak and Mt. Tallac as well as plenty of other miles of trails. Starting runs above 6000' was a contrast to the elevations around here but overall the elevation gains were lower than here and other than a huge tallas field on Tallac and big exposure on Maggie's the trails were not overly technical or strenuous.

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For my first full day there I went for a short run close to town up Tahoe Mtn. This was a good shakedown run that gave me a feel for the mountains and the trails. Tahoe Mtn. was a very fast run with enormous vies of South Lake Tahoe all around but I didn't get started until late in the afternoon and almost skipped the summit. I'm glad I didn't because once I made it to the top of the ridge I was greeted with my first up close look at Mt. Tallac across Fallen Leaf Lake which had been on my mind since first driving into town.

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The next day Terri and I did a fun hike to Eagle Falls and then Eagle Lake in Desolation Wilderness. Much like some of the Wilderness Areas in WNC this part of Desolation was hardly wild with hundreds of people out but the scenery and weather were simply amazing.

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After our hike we drove down the road a hair and while Terri opted to relax and read a book I opted to run out and back to the top of Maggie's Peak.

My route put me on the shaded side of the mountain and what had been bright blue skies with dry and perhaps even a little hot trails became cloudy and a little bit cold with Granite Lake almost frozen.

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Once the climb started in earnest I quickly hit the snow line and was reminded of many such runs here at home with knee deep post holing as I worked my way to the summit. 

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At the top of the ridge things once again dried out and I got a good view of the Eagle Lake area where I had just been.

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From there it was a short off trail hike through deep snow to get to the top. There was some big exposure and I was wishing I had packed a little more gear for the week. Traction devices would have been good to have so without them I took my time and tested each step before committing. Once at the top Mt. Tallac was directly in my face and my fate with that mountain was sealed. I knew I would be on that summit soon.

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The next day was a rest day but come Tuesday I was up early and running to the summit of Mt. Tallac. Not knowing any better, I took the standard mile round trip route up Floating Island trail. This gave me the full climb to the top and I was feeling good as I started up. It was another perfect weather day and I passed several more lakes as well as other groups of hikers as I slowly gained elevation. Eventually I hit the snow I was expecting and once I passed Cathedral Lake the views opened up and I was staring at a huge snow filled bowl where the trail was supposed to be. To the right there was a big tallas field. It was quite the sight.

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The scale is hard to tell but those are all very big trees and the snow in the bowl was corniced and foreboding looking.  So, up the tallas I went. By my calculations I was still almost 2000' from the summit so when I met some other hikers on their way down reporting it was very sketchy higher up I went back down with them to see if we could find a safer way around either the snow bowl or the tallas. We couldn't, so faced with either not climbing the mountain or working my way up 1000' feet of very loose and jagged rocks, I started back up the tallas again. Several other groups had caught up to me by then and they all said they were going to try it but by the time I gained the ridge I could see they had all turned around.

Once I hit the 8700' mark the weather quickly deteriorated and a mixture of sleet and snow were driven at me as I continued to pick my way through the jagged rock maze.

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Things got a little easier as I approached the top as the rocks were covered with a deep blanket of snow. Try as I might I could find no signs of a trail or any human tracks indicating an easier passage for the return trip back down. Navigation was no problem as all I had to do was keep going up while not falling off. When there was no other place to head up I snapped a picture and headed right back down. No grandiose views of Lake Tahoe this day.

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Going down is always harder than going up and down climbing 1700' of rocks with sheer exposure all around was no different. I took my time and tested every foot and hand hold before committing.

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About halfway down the lightened a little and Lake Tahoe made an appearance.

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Once out of the rocks it was blue skies and I was running again. This was a big mountain run and would be the highlight of my trip.

The next day Terri and I rented mountain bikes and played around on the trails down around town. It was nothing mind blowing but was still a whole lot of fun!

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The day after that the days started to blur together but in the afternoon I headed up to the Tahoe Rim trail for a fun run around Castle Rock. There was none of the craziness of Maggie's Peak or Tallac, just lots of really good single track with abundant views.

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For our final day and last outing Terri and I headed up to the Pacific Crest Trail for a great hike around Lower and Upper Echo lakes. By now we were used to just how perfect it all was and had a great time tromping around these two high mountain lakes even if my legs were beginning to feel what a long week it had been.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bootleg Canyon

Waking up in Las Vagas on Sunday I opened the shades and was relieved to see mountains on the horizon. Bright lights and big cities are lots of fun but I knew I would go to those mountains. We spent the morning and early afternoon checking out Vegas and then I made a feeble attempt at running to the mountains I could see. Horizons are tricky things and after running for an hour the mountains in the distance where only a little bigger and I turned around defeated.

Monday was to be the day, however; and I rented a car and headed out to Bootleg Canyon where I had plans to rent a mountain bike. Jimmy, the World's Best Bike Mechanic, previously from the Hub, works out there now and it seemed like a pleasant way to spend a day.

All Mountain Cyclery where Jimmy works and where I was getting the bike didn't open until 11 on Monday's so I took my running shoes along so I could get in a run as well as the ride.  I hadn't done any research on the area other than ask the guy on the phone when I reserved the bike what it was like (he said it was the most technical stuff I have ever seen which I assured him sounded like a wager to me) so when I pulled up at the trail head I didn't know where to go or what to do. I parked in a parking lot at the base of a little mountain, tied my running shoes and took off up a trail like thing and ran to the top of that little mountain. The trail was steep and covered with small jagged pieces of volcanic rock and made for hard going but also fun going. The trail eventually disappeared, or I followed the wrong trail, and it turned into a scramble to the top.

Once at the top of that little mountain I was granted a 360 degree vista that revealed many more mountains all around me. I decided then I would see how many of those mountains I could run up before I went to get the bike. I spent the next several hours doing just that. I ran on the downhill trails and then the cross country trails and went over three or so mountains in the process. The desert environment is obviously a lot different from the southern Appalachians and I was enjoying the varied terrain and bountiful views.

I was tempted to just run all day but I also wanted to say hi to Jimmy and check out the trails from the comfort of a mountain bike. So I did just that. The trail system was very accessible and I was out of my running shoes, off to the bike shop and back to the trails in no time. Jimmy set me up with a Rockhopper - the closest rental they had to a hard tail singlespeed - for a rare geared ride and my first ride on a full suspension bike since 2008. It was a lot of fun and I spent the afternoon riding around on the cross country trails. They were very much purpose built bike trails but there were enough jagged rocks and surprised shoots to keep me on my toes and the lack of vegetation had me amazed at the views all around me. I smoked my way through most of the bike trails and was then back in Vegas before the sun even set.

Lots of pictures:

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Camel Hump Knob

With and inch of ice covering everything in sight it is hard for me to recollect that just two weekends ago it was sixty and sunny with brilliant sunshine both days. The exact kind of February weather you hope for but never expect. That Saturday Yuri and I headed to the Smokies for a fun little 13 mile run. Starting from Cosby campground in Tennessee we did:

Snake Den Ridge > Appalachian Trail > Low Gap

On a map it looks like this:

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It had snowed at work all day the monday before so I had a hunch there might be some snow once we got up high on the north slopes. I was right and after gaining just a few hundred feet or so on the way up Snake Den Ridge we started encountering pockets of snow in coves and on north slopes. With thousands of feet more to climb it wasn't at all surprising that by the time we hit the Appalachian Trail the snow was a foot deep. The plane crash just below the top was hidden by the snow and as we cruised past I assured Yuri it was there and we vowed to return another day.

Once up on the AT the conditions varied between deep snow, howling wind and bitter cold if we were on the north side of the ridge or a dry, dusty and hot trail if we were on the south side. Over our left shoulder loomed Mt. Guyot and Tri Corner Knob while in front of us lay the aptly named Camel Hump. We went over the Camel Humps and then Ross and Cosby knobs before beginning the pounding Low Gap Descent. I hit the downhill as hard as I could and by the time we got back to the car my knees were reminding me just how brutal 13 miles in the Smokies can be.

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On the drive home we dropped a stranded hiker in Cosby which gave us an excuse to take the scenic highway back and soak in views of the ridge we  had just run.

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The next Sunday it was even hotter. So hot that I was worried about how Duma would do so we went to Turkey Pen where there are many rivers to cross and we did a fun Bradley Creek > Riverside > Vineyard Gap route which kept us nice and refreshed!

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