Adventures in Pisgah

Sunday, September 28, 2014

joyce kilmer

Last weekend's runs in Joyce Kilmer were of stark contrast to each other. We arrived late on Saturday afternoon and after setting up camp in the peaceful Horse Cove campground Duma and I headed into the forest for a run. At the trail head we were greeted by throngs of other forest users who seemed oblivious to anyone except themselves. Out on the trails it wasn't much better. What I imagined would be a serene run through a grove of towering trees on a ribbon of pristine single track was instead a crowded romp through the woods trying to dodge dogs and unattended screaming children. That was hardly the wilderness experience we were after and while it was good to see so many people out enjoying the trees that had been spared the devastation of the last century of human impact we headed back to the campground more than a little disappointed.

After a very peaceful night Duma and I awoke early on Sunday and were running into the forest just after sunrise.  Instead of going to the big trees in the memorial forest we took the first trail we came to and headed for the heart of the wilderness. This run proved to be what we were after: very lightly used rugged single track. We climbed steadily and often steeply. Once we gained the top of the first ridge we were able to look down and see the stand of old growth trees far below us on the valley floor. Dead Hemlocks looked like toothpicks standing on end. We had been hoping to climb up to the top of the mountain and make a nice loop but after several hours of climbing we were still 750 feet short of the top and with Terri waiting in the campground for us decided to do the smart and considerate thing and turned around and headed back the way we had come.

Later that afternoon we went back into the memorial forest to show Terri the big trees. The trail head was still quite crowded but we had the trail almost to ourselves and were able to enjoy the trees. Duma was quite tired from the morning run and took a little coaxing to go up anymore hills but he rallied and we enjoyed a nice Sunday afternoon family stroll.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

one slip

Last Saturday's run couldn't have been going any better: I was running on some good trails with a good friend and was having a great time pretending to be a rock climber and dodging rainstorms when I came off a high water bar and landed on an acorn. My foot slipped under the weight of my body and my ankle gave way and rolled all the way. Just like that I was hurt and that was that. We had just run up a scramble route where the chance of injury from a slip is very real but down on an official trail with good tread all it took was a single acorn to bring it all to crashing halt.

We had just passed the high point of the run and it was all down hill to the trail head and I could have either hobbled and moaned and walked back down or ran, so I ran the however many miles it was back to the car. It hurt and I spent that hour both cursing my rotten luck and being thankful that it wasn't worse.

Today my foot is all black and blue. Bruises streak across it but yet it can bare weight and I can't believe my luck that it wasn't any worse. Another case of tragedy narrowly adverted... Sometimes one slip is all it takes...

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ellicott Rock

Three states come together in a single point and are marked by three rocks. Yuri and I managed to locate two of those rocks. Along the way we got to go for a really good run on some really good trails. There were some bees and they hurt, but other than that it was an excellent trip!

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Ellicott Rock

Friday, August 22, 2014

Cambric Ridge

After being defeated by the mighty Linville River last winter I had been wanting to go back to finish the route we had planned on doing and August is the perfect time to be crossing a  big river so I recruited Jon who recruited Ryan and we headed out last Saturday for a nice run through the Linville Gorge. Back in January I thought for sure I had located where Cambric Ridge trail intersects the Linville River trail so we headed straight down Pinch In, took a left on the river trail and went straight to where I thought Cambric Ridge was. We forded the river and then stopped on the other side to stock up on water for the long, dry stretch back up to the rim of the gorge. When we climbed up the bank to where the trail was supposed to be but it wasn't there.

I knew Cambric Ridge was going to be hard to find but didn't realize just how hard it would be. We spent the next hour fruitlessly searching the East bank of the Linville River for the trail. On the National Geographic map it is one of those particular spots where the exact GPS coordinates are actually printed on the map so we used Jon's smart phone to go to the exact coordinates where the map said the trail would be but it still wasn't there. We talked about continuing to look but decided to actually do some running instead and continued on up the river trail.

The river trail makes for some very challenging trail running and somewhere along the way, as I hobbled over boulders and wrestled my way through downed trees, I realized our only chance of doing a different loop and finding Cambric Ridge to approach from the Mountains to Sea at the top of the rim. So after a brief swim at the Spence Ridge river ford we headed up to the top of the East rim. At the top of the climb Table Rock was right there in front of us so we took the brief detour to the top.

The Mountains to Sea trail across the Chimneys was an incredible stretch of trail but at that point we were four or five hours in to the run but since PRAR I have not been doing long runs and was starting to feel it and was getting worried about finding Cambric Ridge. Not finding it was not an option. Any other way back from where we were would be more miles than I could do. Bailing would be hard an complicated. We had to find the trail.

We encountered a SAWS trail work group along the way and if there is anyone you think might know how to get to a lightly used trail in the gorge it would be them and one guy was able to confirm that he had been on the trail and roughly described its location, which matched the map. That was reassuring. We then encountered an Outward Bound group whose leader did not know of the trail but did have the USGS quad which confirmed Cambric Ridge's location. But based on our experience down at the river I was still a little skeptical.

The mind blowing stretch of trail across the top of the rim burned up almost all of our water and I was threatening to cramp. We had to get back down to the river as fast as possible. After passing through Chimney Gap we started to climb and then there was a trail right where our trail was supposed to be. Hallelujah. There is a God.

And down we go. Cambric Ridge turned out to indeed be lightly used but it is used and it is there. It is steep and littered with downed trees and not necessarily a lot of fun. Or maybe it is and I just don't know it because I was hurting so bad. But at the bottom there was a great big huge and cool river and we were saved.

After cooling down and hydrating in the river we pulled up our location on Jon's phone and saw that we were nowhere close to where the mapped to show the trail to be. Instead of being North of Pinch In trail we were South of it. The map is way wrong. If you want to find this trail from Pinch In go right at the bottom and then ford the river at a campsite a short way down stream.

While Pinch In gets you into the heart of the gorge in a pinch getting out up Pinch In isn't nearly as easy. We made it down to the river from the car in just fifteen or twenty minutes but climbing up it took over an hour. I was out of food but had water and the end was so close it was blinking like a green light at the end of a novel and I couldn't fail to grasp it.

We finished the thirteen mile 'run' in right around seven hours. My legs still hurt.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tuckaseegee Gorge

Last Sunday Dennis and Stephen joined me for a trip down the Tuckaseegee Gorge trail #438, commonly called Bonas Defeat, in the Highlands district of Nantahala National Forest. I made a trip up this trail last year and thought I knew exactly what to expect but Bonas Defeat is a  place like no other and managed to really surprise me once again.

I thought going up was very hard and expected going down to be much easier but was wrong. Down climbing is much harder than up climbing and we found ourselves pulling out the ropes we brought as reluctant hand lines several times. The landscape is exotic and dramatic but unforgiving. Going down canyon it was harder to see what lay ahead and we frequently had to backtrack and try yet another shoot or crack or cave before being granted passage downstream.

Near the end we hit the crux: a boulder problem of immense proportions. This is the cave we had to swim into last year and then climb out of. I didn't recognize it from above and after much scouting we found a slab that was just steep enough to not be safely down climbed so I set up a hand line as added protection and went down first. Halfway down I slipped and went down hard, teetering just above a precipitous. The entire right side of my body took the fall but I did not let go of that precious hand line. Once I regained my senses I continued down and saw that the ledge I presumed was just below the slab wasn't there and instead there was the mouth of a cave. We just had a hand line set up and only had 70 feet of rope to work with but needed a bomber rappel anchor and 150' of rope to work with. And even then we would have a very hard rappel down a rock slab into an awkward cave and then into water. That wasn't going to happen this day.

So, I ascended back up and we took the walk around. But I'll be back. What an amazing place!


















Thursday, July 31, 2014

Redefining Epic

This blog is called Adventures in Pisgah because that is what it is about but often I wonder just what that means. What exactly is an adventure? Is there some sort of criteria or set of standards one should follow?

Sometimes I'll set out with the intent of purposely having an adventure. I'll have some sort of grand plan involving mountains and rivers and dragons and maidens that is certain not to disappoint but that isn't always the case. Sometimes the trail or trip will not be as challenging as I expected or the weather will be too good or whatever  and Ill wonder if it even counts as adventure. Whatever that might be.

Other times I'll set out to not have an adventure. Sometimes it is just as good to have a nice and relaxing simple outing to the woods. But things never go always as planned and adventure looms behind every door.

Last Saturday I headed out with Terri and a few friends for what was supposed to be a nice and leisurely  three mile tour of the Davidson River via river tubes. With sonic tracers from the night before's Phish concert still ringing through my head we put in just below Coontree on what couldn't have been a better summer afternoon for a lazy river float.

We are only ten minutes in when I flat on a log jam. A brand new tube too,  and just my luck. But sometimes that is just the way it goes and nothing can change what already happened.  I was content and resolved to walk my limp tube back to the car and the then fish while waiting for everyone else to finish the float, but Terri really wanted me to continue on so after much prodding and insistence from our friends I pretended to be convinced that sharing a tube with Terri was not only possible but also a good idea I hopped aboard with my wife.

It was an impossible distance fraught with many dangers we managed to cover. Around every bend there were either impossible rapids or not enough water to float. And only one tube for two people. It always goes to show...