Adventures in Pisgah

Monday, March 11, 2019

Wildcat Rock

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From the top of wildcat rock I can hear church bells in the distance. I check my watch - noon on Sunday. An old oak stands guard, its branches entwined around the rock in an ancient symbiotic struggle. I somehow missed the trail to the top of the trail's namesake rock on the way up, a 90 degree hard left with a sign and rock steps. My head must have been down, focused on not slipping on the wet rocks as I tried my best to run on the technical terrain, as I worked my way up to the top of Little Bearwallow Mountain.

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The trail has been a pleasant surprise. After starting along the edge of an orchard you cross a creek and then the trail starts going up and has been recently built.  It is steep and full of locust water bars and steps that quickly give way to lots of rock steps with sections of machine cut sidehill tread where you can actually run before the rocks start up again. The trail work is impressive - while it is a far cry from the Inca Trail, great care and lots of time and muscle have been used to build the many steps.

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I had briefly gotten off the trail at the waterfall but quickly realized my mistake and backtracked back to the trail. The carsonite trail sign lists it as hardcore and while that may a bit hyperbolic it is most definitely a challenging trail that leads to the top of Little Bearwallow Mountain. Eventually, it will connect with the Trombatore Trail and the top of Bearwallow Mtn. itself but for now the field at the end of the trail is the perfect spot for a snack before heading back down the rock steps.

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The mountains are still cloaked in fog and as I listen to the church bells in the valley below there is a sense of a view just beyond the fog and I know I will be back one day to see what is out there.

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Wrangling Horses and Hogs

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Sunday and I've stopped at the North face trailhead again. I have been here once a week all month. Last week I sat and watched as two climbers negotiated a tricky pitch - two specs in puffy jackets on the wall high above me with a bright yellow haul bag hanging below them. Today the rain has stopped and a warm wind has blown in. There are no climbers to watch but earlier I added Davidson River trail to my normal loop and stopped and watched a quintet of creek boaters enjoying the high water. It is still February but the dandelions are in bloom and the forsythia will soon follow.  March is near. It will be spring soon.

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

An Angry Fix

Late February and it is still raining. My hip has flared up and hurts and here I am tucked in off Avery Creek Rd. getting ready to run and feeling like a junky yet again. My escape to Panama was ever so fleeting and this is my only way to get away for now.  Phish killed it in Mexico last night and this is my way to set my soul free, however temporal that relief may be.  A lone car joins me at the trailhead and an old man prepares to hike in the rain. He looks at me through the rain with a look that asks: "Are we really going to do this?". Of course we are, my glance tells him. Later we will pass on the trail after the rain has stopped but there isn't much to say, it is a solitary sort of day. My route takes me to the waterfalls because every journey needs a destination. Come August this twin pair of falls could be almost dry but for now they are raging and for now, mine alone. 

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Mountains in the Mist

Yet another rainy Sunday in Pisgah and I can once again be found headed up Black Mountain Trail. It will be May soon and May in Pisgah means PMBAR and PRAR. The bike race sold out faster than a Phish NYE show but there are still entries available for the running version.  The reason the bike race sells out so fast is that the word is out this is the most fun you can have on a bike in Pisgah. Word hasn't quite gotten out yet about the running version but trust me that it is just as much fun and if you like mountain running and adventure this is the even for you. So, recruit a friend and sign up!

Chances are at multiple times that first weekend in May I will be right here:

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Mountain Bridge Wilderness

Yesterday I had the great idea to go running around Raven Cliff Falls but when I got to the trailhead there were hundreds of cars and scores of people everywhere and it did not look like the type of experience I was after at all so I consulted my map and drove the short way to Ceaser's Head from where I headed down Frank Coggins trail into the other side of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness where I knew there would be far fewer people and the solitude I was after. It was unseasonably warm for February with temperatures in the mid sixties and while the hordes of people were out to see the waterfalls the trails in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness are often steep and technically challenging and most people do not venture too far from the popular sights. My route would take me on a few new-to-me trails with a few surprises and plenty of elevation gain and loss. While I did not see the spectacular Raven Cliff Falls I did manage to avoid passing hundreds of people and the waterfall is not going anywhere and will still be there for me to view on another day. 

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Panama

I don't know how, but I managed to avoid hearing the Van Halen song from the time we first considered going on the trip until we were back stateside. I find that interesting because the first thing everyone mentioned when I said I was going to Panama was the song. I almost expected it to be blaring when we boarded the plane or maybe when we landed but it wasn't. Instead, our soundtrack for the trip was Bob Marley and Van Morrison as we drove around the country.

We landed in Panama City late on Christmas Eve and drove to the small beach town of Santa Clara on Christmas Day. It turns out there isn't much of a town to Santa Clara and the beach is very popular with Panamanians on Christmas. It was absolute insanity with people everywhere and gave us a good taste of their culture. 

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From there we took a fun day trip to the mountain town of El Valle where we got in some good exploring after our phone GPS sent us way out of our way on the way there through the steepest mountain roads I have ever seen.

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After another day in Santa Clara, it was another epic drive across the country and through Panama City with our phones' once again failing us to the quaint port village of Portobello. We stopped at a little beach on the way and once again saw how the natives actually live and recreate. 

Portobello was a great little town and we made friends with our waiter and got in some good exploring once again. We took a water taxi to a little-hidden beach where I snorkeled and then we rented kayaks and paddled around the port checking out the shipwrecks and looking for sloths. 

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With our flight home not departing until 3am we had a full last day where we made the obligatory stop at the Panama Canal before returning the rental car and taking a uber to Casco Viejo, the historic old center of Panama  Center, which was a nice mingling of Panamanians out celebrating the new year and fellow tourists looking at souveniers.  A fitting end to a fun journey.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019