Adventures in Pisgah

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Farlow Run Around

In case you haven't heard the races are coming to town. PMBAR sold out in less than a half hour this year but don't fret because there are still spots for PRAR available so sign up for the most fun you can have while there is still time!

While exploring trails I have not traveled yet is my driving passion the Pisgah Ranger District is where it all began and those trails that I have traveled so many time are quite good and are the perfect place to prepare for the May races. So, last weekend I put together a good loop in the Fish Hatchery area.

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A swarm of hungry gnats greeted me with unbridled alacrity  as I hurried to prepare my gear in the parking lot. Their presence was a sure sign that spring is now officially in the air. 

Farlow was easy enough and Sassafras and Pilot Mtn. were just blips before the big descent of the day down to Gloucester Gap. The pain started to set in as I crawled my way up Chestnut Mtn. Centuries old red oaks stood guard and views of Cedar Rock taunted me over my left shoulder as I slowly made my way towards Butter Gap. I had my last sip of water just as I made it to the shelter and then an eternity later I finally topped out on top of Cedar Rock where a flock of hungry vultures drifted above me sensing their next meal was near.

I paused at the top and laid back on the warm granite to soak in the sunshine and admire the view of where I had been. The sun rejuvenated me and I announced aloud to nobody except myself that it was all downhill from there as I prepared to depart. A few miles later and I was back at the truck and glad to be done running.

A day later and I am pulled up at another trail head in Pisgah. Feeling tired and broken I struggled to muster the energy to take the bike to go fishing. All things pass and once I was on the bike I was feeling alright again and the outing was a success even if I didn't manage to catch any fish.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

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As winter draws to an end the time changes allowing for an extra hour of sunlight after work. The added sunlight means there is more time for recreation without the needed aid of a headlamp. Tuesday was a cold and snowy day at work but as I stared out at the mountains from the job site all day all I could think about was how I wanted to be up in the mountains playing while winter had it's last hurrah. So, after work I scooped the dog up and we headed up to Bearwallow Mtn. for a fun little jog.  The conditions were indeed wintry and a quick little 5k was just right - any more and things could have been unpleasant.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Steels Creek

Two weeks ago while running the Seven Sisters we paused at the top of Greybeard Mountain and as we gazed out at the mountains one mountain way off in the distance in particular stood out - the iconic Table Rock. Its distinctive profile was but a speck on the horizon but was dominate even from that vantage point.

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The following weekend I had plans to camp in the Wilson Creek area and with Table Rock still on my mind I planned to run out and back to the top  of Table Rock from Barkhouse on the MST on Saturday and then explore some trails in the Craig Creek area on Sunday. Driving up highway 181 out of Morganton Table Rock was very much the prominent feature with glimpses of it peeking around every corner. My plans took a detour when the highway was closed at Brown Mountain Beach Rd. due to a tractor trailer that jackknifed on the road. 

The accident led me to drive through the Wilson Creek Gorge after which I planned on taking Craig Creek Rd. back to 181 and then on up to Barkhouse but when I got back to the highway the accident was still above me and the road was still closed so there would be no getting to Barkhouse that day. Instead I stayed in the Craig Creek area and ran several different trails around there.

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After a nice night spent out under the stars I headed back out to 181to do the run I had planned the day before. The jackknifed rig was gone and my plans were back on track. My destination was Table Rock where I have been before but I was equally excited to see Steels Creek. Last summer at the Wilson Creek Sweatfest Brandon had suggested I check out Steels Creek as a possible canyoneering destination so I was eager to see what the creek was like.

Running down to the creek I had the feeling that I was all alone in an enormous wilderness. The creek was wondrous and once again I was taken aback by just how amazing of a place Pisgah is. No matter how many different areas I explore Pisgah never ceases to amaze me and I am lucky to live a life filled with such wonder and beauty.

Steels Creek was chocked full of waterfalls that the trail only offered me fleeting glimpses of and I'll no doubt be back this summer with a rope so  I can explore it from a different perspective. By the time I made it out to the gravel road I was short on time and with Table Rock so close that I couldn't fail but to grasp it I turned around and headed back to the truck without going to the top. It was one of those trips where the journey was more important than the destination and Table Rock will still be there next time.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Linville Gorge Southern Half

The first highlight on last weekend's outstanding run came early on with the discovery of this oddly shaped tree marking the site of our first turn.

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From there it was just a short way to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain. This rocky pinnacle of a mountain offered an excellent 360 degree vantage point where we were able to see exactly where we were heading. As we stared out at the massive face of Shortoff Mountain where our immediate future was taking us I couldn't help but to ponder our fate. All of my other 'half marathons' in, around and through Linville Gorge have been both brutally painful and stunningly beautiful.

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Shortoff loomed ominously before us and although it was just a short way off the path did not look easy.


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With Table Rock hanging just ahead and no time to waste we plunged down from the top of Pinnacle straight into the gorge on a steep and exposed section of trail.

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After a fast descent there was a little bit of rolling and varied terrain before we reached our first crossing of the Linville River. It is still February but yet temperatures were in the 70s and I was running in nothing but a pair of shorts and the river felt great.


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On the other side of the river there was nowhere to go except up so I dug in and tried to make time up the mountain. The earth was barren and scorched with enormous views everywhere you turned your head. Somewhere along this dreamscape I passed a couple of hikers who remarked that I must be a mirage which had me imaging an oasis awaiting me at the top as I trudged ahead.




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I paused briefly at a crossroads for Yuri before we continued the short distance to the top of Shortoff.
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Just like always the effort was well worth it and the view from the top was unparalleled.


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From there we had several miles along the Eastern rim of the gorge before we would take Cambric Ridge back down to the river where our way out awaited us. This section of trail was closer to a lunar dreamscape than to your normal WNC environment. We were both thoroughly enjoying the unique terrain and I told Yuri we would have to keep an eye out for Cambric Ridge trail. I wasn't worried at all about finding it because I've been there before and know exactly what it looks like so imagine my surprise when I started to think that we might have somehow gotten off the MST. The trail we were on was very overgrown and covered in dead fall and just didn't seem right. Then we realized we were losing elevation very quickly and were on our way down to the river.

Then the trail looked familiar and I realized that we were already on Cambric without having noticed the turn. I'm still not sure how that happened but it did and just a few minutes later we were once again preparing to ford the river.

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After the final river crossing there was only Pinch In trail between us and the finish so I decided to give that final mile climb everything I had. Halfway up I started feeling dizzy and when I thought I couldn't push any harder I looked over my shoulder and saw Yuri just below me. I paused long enough to snap a single picture and then resumed my frantic dash out of the gorge. As I neared the top the world started to spin and just as I was sure my heart would explode I stumbled the last few steps up to the trailhead.


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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Charles Bunion



















Last weekend's adventure found me in the Great Smoky National Park exploring some new to me trails. With so many options in the region I have a hard time deciding where to go and I spend a lot of time looking at maps and pondering my options. With 900 miles of trails in park the options are seemingly endless but many of those miles are very far from the nearest access point so short little loops are hard to come by. After much debate I put together a nice little lollipop that would take me to the top of Mt. Kephart as well as the scenic Charles Bunion.









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 Things started nicely with a gentle trail up Kephart Prong. There were several groups of backpackers heading towards the shelter but once I turned onto Sweat Heifer I had the trail all to myself.

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Halfway up the trail I passed by the Sweat Heifer Cascades and made a mental note to remember the spot to explore for canyoneering this summer.

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As I approached the ridge top the views started to open up and I basked in the Carolina bluebird skies.

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Up on the Appalachian Trail the trail was covered in snow and ice and my solitude was shattered by an endless progression of day hikers going to and from Charles Bunion who seemed surprised that I was running on the trail.

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It was very cold and windy and when I got to Charles Bunion a group of hikers were amazed that I was wearing shorts.
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I paused only briefly and tried my best to look casual as I asked them to take my picture.

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The iconic rock was the hikers destination and once I left Charles Bunion the mountains were all mine again and I was plunged into solitude. It was all downhill from there and I put it into cruise control and soaked in the beauty and wonder of it all as the miles rolled by.

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Sundays are good days for hikes so we went out on a family excursion to Looking Glass Rock. It was snowing and there were not many views to be had but still a classic hike and yet another excellent adventure in Pisgah!

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Panthertown Redux

Last weekend Yuri and I went to Panthertown Valley for another take on my half marathon route there. This version would take us past nine different waterfalls along the way as well as some of the more scenic trails like Overlook and Little Green. There were no mountain views to be had this day but the waterfalls were spectacular even if my feet did inadvertently get wet somewhere along the way.

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