Adventures in Pisgah

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.


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.




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


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.



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.



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.


I paused briefly at a crossroads for Yuri before we continued the short distance to the top of Shortoff.

Just like always the effort was well worth it and the view from the top was unparalleled.




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.


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.




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.


 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.



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.


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



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.


It was very cold and windy and when I got to Charles Bunion a group of hikers were amazed that I was wearing shorts.

I paused only briefly and tried my best to look casual as I asked them to take my picture.


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.



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!


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.











Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Winter in Pisgah

One weekend and you are running through a foot of snow with temperatures in the teens and the next weekend you are running on the same trail wearing nothing but shorts and shoes.



Sunday, January 8, 2017

Mackey Mountain

It wasn't that long ago that it seemed like the whole world was on fire and the apocalypse was upon us. The news rained downed like Napalm and a long November was followed by an even longer December. Eventually the rains came and while they didn't wash all of our sins away they did finally extinguish the fires that had surrounded us. A heavy price was paid but the forests were left to their own again. Fire in itself is a good thing but these fires were not natural . Like so much in this world  they were the result of humans messing with things that are better left untouched.

I've been eager to see some of the fire areas and last weekend I made it over to Mackey Mountain where one of the fires had raged. Mackey Mountain trail is a five mile long stretch of singletrack that if you look at the map appears to lead to nowhere. I had hiked the trail once before with Duma during a storm and recalled it being very overgrown and not too pleasant and hadn't wanted to do it again until I saw that the trail was used to access the fire by ground crews as well as serving as a dozer line at its far end. That was all the news I needed to know that it was time for me to revisit that seldom traveled dotted black line on the map.

Things started with some nice rolling singletrack that took us over a few knobs where big views were abundant. I don't get out to that side of the forest too often so it was nice to be gazing out at the iconic peaks on Table Rock, Hawksbill and Grandfather mountains.



After twisting our way along the trail for several miles we reached the first dozer line. There wasn't much to see as the fire was kept back from this area.


A short while later we found this tree which is undoubtedly a Cherokee trail tree.


From there we kept following the dozer line and reached a burned area. We assumed this was a back burn but that is just an assumption.


Following the fire line took us to the top of Mackey Mountain itself and at the top we realized that we had left the trail somewhere around the trail tree so we backtracked back to the trail.


Once back on the trail we came to a very big dozer line where it was clear they would have stopped the fire had it made it that far. Yuri was able to win the race in the process.


The big cut allowed for more big views.


Once at the end of the trail we turned around and started making our way back to Curtis Creek Rd. When we got close to the trail tree we encountered this rather phallic tree. Being a White Oak the species was right but the crook looked a little high off the ground to me so I labeled it inconclusive.