Adventures in Pisgah

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rube Rock to Groundhog Creek

It rained all last weekend. I really wanted not to get out in the woods but come Saturday afternoon I wanted to go to the Hub and Duma wanted to do something so we went into the Ranger District for a fun little wet run.

case camp


It was wet, and cold, and as such Duma only wanted to stay for one beer before heading home...

Come Sunday and I couldn't get free to play until afternoon! Luckily by then the storm had passed and Jon was free as well so we went out to Harmon Den for an easy ten mile run.


Since ten miles isn't enough we parked down at the bottom of 148A and ran the road up so we could get in a half marathon. Our route took us up a gravel road climb to the Appalachian Trail and then down Rube Rock Trail #314to Interstate 40 and then up Groundhog Creek trail #315 back to the AT.


Even though it looks all nice and easy, this run ended up being quite challenging.The gravel road to start was steep as was the Appalachian Trail to Rube Rock. The trail was clearly marked and it was all downhill from there.


I didn't know what to expect from these two trails. They are close to the interstate so there was a chance it was a popular loop. But with Max Patch just up the road and the Great Smokies just on the lother side of the interstate it turns out these are lightly traveled trails.

Rube Rock in particular was very overgrown and when we weren't squeezing our way through downed trees we were playing the fun game of trying to find the trail.


The trail followed a very lush and deep cove and as I suffered my way down it I imagined fleeing from the jungles of distant lands. This reverie was shattered when we hit the bottom and the trail wound around the mountain just a few hundred yards from Interstate 40. Things got a little better from there and improved steadily as we headed up Groundhog Creek.


Groundhog Creek appeared to be an old rail grade that follows the creek all the way up the mountain and though still overgrown was nothing like the mess that was Rube Rock. But it also had plenty of creek crossings and lots of rocks and still made for slow and difficult running.


When the Groundhog Creek shelter appeared I was relieved and thought the heavily used AT would mean that we would be back down at the truck in minutes. I was wrong, of course, and we were still many miles away with a series of climbs before the final pounding gravel descent. It was a beautiful day and the sun was starting to set and although I started the run in just shorts by the time we finished I was wearing long sleeves, a jacket, gloves and hat.

On the drive home Jon and I agreed that Rube Rock was the most difficult trail to navigate since we did Bad Fork last winter. Although this was a challenging run and not one I am likely to repeat soon I am still glad we made it out to explore these two trails.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Day after Christmas with Dennis:


Sutton Top

So, it has been awhile and while what I really want to tell you about is last weekend's spectacular Rube Rock to Groundhog Creek run, first I need to tell you about my bicycle trip to Sutton Top -  otherwise this narrative might become askew.

It was the weekend after getting runner's knee coming down from Mt. Sterling when Yuri proposed we, gasp, ride bikes around the Smokies and check out the Sutton Top fire tower.  After a cursory glance at the map I agreed it would be a fun bike ride.

sutton top

A lot of gravel but also a lot of unknowns. A supposed fire tower and all of it new to me. Combined with a bum knee it didn't take much to get me to go along.

In the end it was okay. It was a long ride, almost all gravel, and I hadn't ridden since the Double Dare. And while it was a lot of riding I hate to say it but riding is kind of easy these days.

Pedal, pedal, coast, coast....

Just don't sit down for too long or you will get butt hurt.

So, like I was saying, Yuri and I rode forever to get to the Sutton Top tower but when we got there all there was were Verizon and US Cellular and other lessor competitors. But it was still a very good adventure. Mt. Sterling and Mt. Cammerer both played games with the horizon all day long while another couple of peaks just across the interstate sparked my interest...







Saturday, December 20, 2014

Psalm 43

Last weekend Jon, Yuri and I went to the Smokies for a run. We started from Catalooche and headed for Mt. Sterling. A thick frost and a herd of Elk greeted us as we rolled in.



We headed up Pretty Hollow Gap trail and quickly hit the snow line. While no other humans had been on this trail since the snow many animals had. A bear had ambled down low, even crossing the creek on a log bridge, and we ran several miles along side a single set of coyote tracks before another set of bear tracks rejoined the trail for another short stretch.


Once we hit the gap and Mt. Sterling Ridge there were plenty of human tracks as well as some living humans. The snow was deeper and we were suddenly exposed to the fierce wind as we slogged our way up to the lookout tower.




It was all downhill from there with a pounding descent on loose snow and even looser rocks. This downhill, combined with trying to keep up with Jon, who is now one of the fastest guys around, on the climb as well as our frequent stops started to take its toll on my right knee. By the time we reached Little Catalooche trail I was in pretty good pain with a classic case of runner's knee.

Little Catalooche trail is littered with historic remains and I did my best to appreciate them as I hobbled by.






Yuri is a notorious history fan so I gave him my camera to play around with in an attempt to slow him down to my painful pace. Somehow he accidentally changed the settings and added a stamp to the pictures.



Eventually I had enough of the pain and resigned to walking the last few miles back to the car. Jon and Yuri were kind enough to join me on my stroll and we chatted as we wrapped up another excellent adventure.

Driving out of the park the same herd of Elk were still on display, now bathed in the warm late afternoon sun.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

sunday morning sidewalk

Ever since getting hurt a few weeks back Duma has been limited in his adventures but was finally back out in Pisgah this last weekend. I was once again a little hobbled after another big effort in the Smokies on Saturday so we did an easy trail that I have only been on a few times: Slick Rock Falls.

The waterfall comes at the beginning and the rock at the end. Combined with warm Carolina Blue skies it made for a most excellent outing. We watched some rock climbers and afterwards had a beer at the Hub. There is something about a Sunday that makes a man, and dog, feel alive.




Bonus pic from a few weeks back on our backyard trails:


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mt. Cammerer

Last weekend I finally got around to combining tenkara with trail running. Of course I had to climb a mountain at the start and before I ever started fishing I had almost already run a marathon.

Ouch! , is the best way I can describe this one.

mt. cammerer













mountain bridge wilderness

The Mountain Bridge Wilderness isn't true Wilderness in the federal government sort of way but instead is wilderness in the South Carolina state park system sort of way. A big sign saying that the fee that is supposed to be $2 per person has been raised to $5 per person greeted us on our way into Jones Gap State Park and highlighted the differences between the two different types of wilderness. That being said the mountain bridge wilderness is really good stuff. Long time readers of this blog might remember the days when Jonathon and I went there with the dogs regularly. This time Jon, Yuri and I did a Rim of the Gap > Bill Kimball route which felt surprisingly easy. I guess that is what happens when you are used to running for twenty miles, not just ten. Rugged would be a good adjective with which to describe this run.