Adventures in Pisgah

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Run Me Out

What do you do when it is in the 40's and raining on a Saturday in January?

You head to Pisgah and drive up high and then run even higher and with the parkway closed you get trails and roads that are usually full of people all to yourself. Try it sometime.




Thursday, January 23, 2020

Plane Crash

Way back in 1983 things went really wrong and a plane crashed high on Browning Knob. They almost made it but almost isn't a word that applies to most plane crashes. I'd read about this site last year and have been eager to go there but the standard three-mile round trip route hardly sounded adventurous and seemed too easy so I'd been putting it off until I could do a longer and more proper route to this tragic site.

Starting from Pinnacle Park just outside of Sylva, Yuri and I headed up the West Fork trail and then over the top of Black Rock.


From there we stayed on the ridge top and went through some very nice stretches of spruce-fir forest with nice rocky outcrops and even some interesting logging artifacts.


The ridgeline would take us across three six thousand foot peaks. Yellowface Mountain, Waterrock Knob and Browning Knob. The trail to the plane crash had several groups headed to it but when the plane appeared there was nobody but us there and we had a few minutes to think about it all to ourselves.


This is an interesting but quite somber site. You don't often get to see the remnants of a plane crash but it is nothing to take lightly. Two people died here. We took a look but didn't linger long.


The plane had been our destination and from there we turned around and retraced our route back to Black Rock as we enjoyed the unseasonably warm day and raced the sunset. It was a great route coming in right at 13 miles with 5700' of climbing.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Mountain Bridge Wilderness

I love the Mountain Bridge Wilderness in Upstate SC but rarely go there. The terrain is rugged and the trails are great but the trailheads are often crowded and full and the parks are full of regulations so I often just go somewhere I don't need to worry about any of those things but a few weeks ago I finally got around to checking out Raven Cliff Falls for the first time.

It is a short distance to the overlook on Raven Cliff Falls Trail where you can see the mighty waterfall looming in the distance. This waterfall would be perfect for rappelling but it is in SC so that won't be happening. 


I turned around at the overlook and headed to Gum Gap trail and then eventually on to Natureland Trust Trail and the top of the waterfall I had just been admiring. There is a nice swinging bridge that takes you right over the top of the waterfall.



There is a sign on the bridge warning you that it will take 4-6 more hours from there and the next stretch of trail was a game of shoots and ladders as I worked my way down to the bottom of the waterfall.



There was a big rocky cliff face with some spray coming off it that freezing into marble-sized balls as it fell to the ground which was a quite interesting phenomenon.


From that point, I was expecting Natureland Trust to get a little easier but it never did. Ceaser's Head came into view as I slowly worked my way up through the boulders to highway 276.


I'd gotten a late start and was starting to push the sunset but I crossed 276 and heading for Coldspring Branch to round out the half-marathon and complete the loop. Near the end, I was rewarded for my efforts with this tree.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

where the chilly winds don't blow


I had just crossed over the top of Blackrock when I decided to alter my course. I was just below six thousand feet and was planning on going higher but the trail was quickly becoming hard to follow and was covered in a layer of snow and rhime ice and a cold wind was blowing.

 If I stayed on my intended route there would have been little running over the next six miles and there was a good chance I would not have time to reach my intended destination and just 750 vertical feet below me it was sunny and warm. That was all the temptation I needed so I opted to save my goal for another day and altered my course for the Pinnacle instead.


That meant actual running instead of playing a slow game of shoots and ladders across the icey ridgeline.


And in the end, it was all worth it.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Everything's Right

It is a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon in November and I'm trying to deny that I am sick. This is the sort of Sunday you dream about and I should be out running mountains and basking in the sunshine but instead, I'm pulled into a parking spot at the Ranger Station and am just waking up from an unexpected nap. Ladybugs cover my truck windows and I watch through my dreary eyes as they do their ladybug crawl. After Cloudsplitter there is nothing left to train for, at least not for now, so I am content to watch the ladybugs. But I still feel like a junkie in search of an angry fix. I was first going to chase that dragon by heading to Panthertown for a 13 miler but then changed course for the Fish Hatchery and my Cedar Rock Loop, and then again for Pink Beds. And now here I sit at the Ranger Station. Definitely not sick. Just a cold. Better than shingles, cancer, death or any number of other ailments. Running can wait for another weekend.

As the leaves fall and the ladybugs do their ladybug thing, I think about all the times I have been sitting right here and all that has been and all that will ever be. I wonder where I will go from here. Change is in the air and tomorrow begins a new chapter in my life. I don't know what I am going for but know that I am going for it, for sure. I won't spend this winter freezing, at least not outside. I think about Whitman and Thoreau and Eliot with his dried tubers and know that I will be okay. My eye and my mind return to the ladybugs. Is this is for them? One last hurrah? Or are they only beginning? Where do they go from here? As for myself, I am going to take it one step at a time, right foot, left foot, when I get to the bottom I go back to the top, through pain and suffering, beauty and wonder. I don't know what I am going for, but know that I am going for it, for sure. For now, it is Andy Cove and Exercise Trail, we'll see what tomorrow may bring.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Cloudsplitter 100k Race Report

It has been over two weeks since the Cloudsplitter and things are just now getting back to normal. There are still some physical pains - my right Achilles and left big toe are today's main complaints -  and my mind is still playing tricks on me, but for the most part the race is behind me and I am looking forward. I learned a lot and am eager to continue to build and eventually go further.

We got to Norton, VA early on Friday, checked into the hotel and headed to the pre-race dinner and meeting before returning to the hotel to attempt to sort out my gear and make a plan for Terri to serve as my crew. This was my first experience at a 100 mile race (I was registered for the 100k, not the 100 mile) as well as my first experience at a supported Ultra of any sort and I really didn't know what to put in drop bags  but we got it figured out and I attempted to sleep before the 8am start with me finally drifting into a deep sleep just before the alarm clock went off.

The race started in downtown Norton inside the farmer's market with all distances starting at 8am. A heavy fog hung over the town and anxious energy resonated through the crowd. A musket shot signaled the start of the race and off we went. I was hoping for somewhere around a 24-hour finish and knew the key to that would be to be disciplined by walking the initial 7-mile climb and just keeping moving throughout the day and night. As we all walked and shuffled up the mountain the heavy fog remained and threatened to start spitting rain at any moment. On the way up to the first aid station at High Knob, we all fell into our own rhythms and pace and friends were made as we slowly worked our way up the mountain. The trail was very steep at times and it had me wondering what it would be like when I was finally coming back down.

The rain held off but when I got to High Knob I was pretty cold and had a really hard time refilling my water because my hands were too cold and I had to get a volunteer to help me. I had rocks in my shoes and started to try and get them out but my hands were not cooperating and I just kept moving forward instead. From High Knob, there was a long descent down to Edith Gap with the trail becoming very technical and slow at times. I led a congo line through the worst of the rocky miles and somewhere along the way it started raining lightly and I kept my mind focused on moving forward. At the Edith Gap aid they were cooking up hot breakfast burritos that were super yummy and did a great job of warming up my body and spirits.

On to Bark Camp Lake aid on some fabulous and scenic single track where Terri was waiting. I sat for a few minutes and we changed my socks and resupplied my vest and pockets and I picked up my poles for the out and back to Little Stony aid. This stretch of trail was a rocky nightmare with countless dry creek crossings across slippery rocks that were just begging for injury. I did a quick turn at the aid station and started back to Bark Camp Lake. It was somewhere in here that my knee started hurting and I went from 3-4mph down to 2mph and started to get really sleepy. It was way too early in the day and race for that so I took a caffeine gel and tried to get my mind back on track. I met a 100-mile racer named Randy who was running his 18th 100 (with 13 finishes) who stayed with me all the way to the aid station and told me about his life experiences of beating cancer, turning to a plant-based diet, and becoming a 100-mile ultra racer. He was wearing sandals and was just a great guy.

From Bark Camp Lake we had to go back up to High Knob before we would have any resupply other than the Edith Gap aid which meant it would be dark by then so Bark Camp was the time to get lights and night gear ready as there was a long way to go. The stretch back up Edith Gap took way too long with my body complaining about a variety of issues. I paused at the aid and tried to roll out my IT bands and had another amazing breakfast burrito. I have to say that all the volunteers on the course were amazing and cooked up some great food and kept spirits high.

As great as the volunteers were as I started back up and through the long rocky nightmare to High Knob my body and mind were not doing well. My right knee was refusing to run at all and my Achilles didn't even want to walk. Somewhere along the way, the clouds split for the first time of the day and the sun came out briefly before giving way to night. The full moon rose and the stars shined bright in the sky above. It was perfect and there was no place I would rather have been but I was barely moving. I had passed the 50k mark and was closing in on 40 miles but still had 30 to go. For the first half of the day, I had been beating my target times but the return trip up to High Knob shattered all that and I was hours behind schedule before I finally hobbled in.

Terri was waiting for me and I sat in a chair and covered myself with my sleeping bag as my mind kept telling me I was heading into the Devil's Bathtub where I seal my fate and DNF. The race offers the opportunity to drop down in distance at any aid station and after much thought, I informed the race officials I would be dropping down the 50k. That was not an easy decision to make but I really did not see myself going 30 more miles, and if I did it would not have been pretty. I had wanted to actually be able to run, not slog it out for 40 hours, so there at mile 41, I dropped to the 50k. I still had to run the 8 miles back down into town so I stuffed food into my pockets and told Terri I would see her back in town in three hours.

The descent back into town was bittersweet, to say the least. On one hand I was glad to be finishing the race, even if not the distance I had signed up for, as well as running my first 50 miler and beating my previous longest run by 12 miles but on the other hand I was extremely disappointed I would not be running all night and would not be finishing the 100k (which is actually 70 miles). For most of the race I had been around other racers but on that descent, I was all alone and I got a lot of thinking done in those three hours.

I hobbled back into the Farmer's Market right around 1am after 17 hours on the course and got my 50k finisher's medal. You would think that would have been good enough for DFL but another 50k racer slept on course and came in over 25 hours and another 100k racer dropped to the 50k at the Devil's Bathtub Gate and came in after 30 hours on course.

It was a great event and I really learned a lot. In hindsight, I did not train nearly enough and was not ready for such a difficult event and had seriously underestimated just how technical the course was. I also should have at least had a pacer from the second time at High Knob to the finish if not from Bark Camp Lake. But the race left me itching has left me itching to go longer and I was already browsing ultra signup on the drive home.

Where do I go from here?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Flattop Mountain to Andrew's Glacier

For my final big run while I was in Colorado I camped at Glacier Basin campground and did a really fun 15-mile run that really showed me the diversity of Rocky Mountain National Park. I was going to tell you all about it: the long, gradual climb up Flattop, the slow and rocky slog across the Continental Divide and Hallet and Otis Peaks, and then the decision to turn around at the Sharkstooth on my way to Taylor Peak. And that is not to even mention the steep, deep rush through amazing day down Andrew's Glacier, past the Loch and hordes of people and back to the trailhead.

I'd love to tell you all about that but that was over a month ago and I don't have any idea where the time goes. But I do know where the time is going - to the Cloudsplitter - for which I have just days left to prepare and have done nothing. So, please enjoy these pictures and write your own story.