Adventures in Pisgah

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bootleg Canyon

Waking up in Las Vagas on Sunday I opened the shades and was relieved to see mountains on the horizon. Bright lights and big cities are lots of fun but I knew I would go to those mountains. We spent the morning and early afternoon checking out Vegas and then I made a feeble attempt at running to the mountains I could see. Horizons are tricky things and after running for an hour the mountains in the distance where only a little bigger and I turned around defeated.

Monday was to be the day, however; and I rented a car and headed out to Bootleg Canyon where I had plans to rent a mountain bike. Jimmy, the World's Best Bike Mechanic, previously from the Hub, works out there now and it seemed like a pleasant way to spend a day.

All Mountain Cyclery where Jimmy works and where I was getting the bike didn't open until 11 on Monday's so I took my running shoes along so I could get in a run as well as the ride.  I hadn't done any research on the area other than ask the guy on the phone when I reserved the bike what it was like (he said it was the most technical stuff I have ever seen which I assured him sounded like a wager to me) so when I pulled up at the trail head I didn't know where to go or what to do. I parked in a parking lot at the base of a little mountain, tied my running shoes and took off up a trail like thing and ran to the top of that little mountain. The trail was steep and covered with small jagged pieces of volcanic rock and made for hard going but also fun going. The trail eventually disappeared, or I followed the wrong trail, and it turned into a scramble to the top.

Once at the top of that little mountain I was granted a 360 degree vista that revealed many more mountains all around me. I decided then I would see how many of those mountains I could run up before I went to get the bike. I spent the next several hours doing just that. I ran on the downhill trails and then the cross country trails and went over three or so mountains in the process. The desert environment is obviously a lot different from the southern Appalachians and I was enjoying the varied terrain and bountiful views.

I was tempted to just run all day but I also wanted to say hi to Jimmy and check out the trails from the comfort of a mountain bike. So I did just that. The trail system was very accessible and I was out of my running shoes, off to the bike shop and back to the trails in no time. Jimmy set me up with a Rockhopper - the closest rental they had to a hard tail singlespeed - for a rare geared ride and my first ride on a full suspension bike since 2008. It was a lot of fun and I spent the afternoon riding around on the cross country trails. They were very much purpose built bike trails but there were enough jagged rocks and surprised shoots to keep me on my toes and the lack of vegetation had me amazed at the views all around me. I smoked my way through most of the bike trails and was then back in Vegas before the sun even set.

Lots of pictures:

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Camel Hump Knob

With and inch of ice covering everything in sight it is hard for me to recollect that just two weekends ago it was sixty and sunny with brilliant sunshine both days. The exact kind of February weather you hope for but never expect. That Saturday Yuri and I headed to the Smokies for a fun little 13 mile run. Starting from Cosby campground in Tennessee we did:

Snake Den Ridge > Appalachian Trail > Low Gap

On a map it looks like this:

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It had snowed at work all day the monday before so I had a hunch there might be some snow once we got up high on the north slopes. I was right and after gaining just a few hundred feet or so on the way up Snake Den Ridge we started encountering pockets of snow in coves and on north slopes. With thousands of feet more to climb it wasn't at all surprising that by the time we hit the Appalachian Trail the snow was a foot deep. The plane crash just below the top was hidden by the snow and as we cruised past I assured Yuri it was there and we vowed to return another day.

Once up on the AT the conditions varied between deep snow, howling wind and bitter cold if we were on the north side of the ridge or a dry, dusty and hot trail if we were on the south side. Over our left shoulder loomed Mt. Guyot and Tri Corner Knob while in front of us lay the aptly named Camel Hump. We went over the Camel Humps and then Ross and Cosby knobs before beginning the pounding Low Gap Descent. I hit the downhill as hard as I could and by the time we got back to the car my knees were reminding me just how brutal 13 miles in the Smokies can be.

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On the drive home we dropped a stranded hiker in Cosby which gave us an excuse to take the scenic highway back and soak in views of the ridge we  had just run.

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The next Sunday it was even hotter. So hot that I was worried about how Duma would do so we went to Turkey Pen where there are many rivers to cross and we did a fun Bradley Creek > Riverside > Vineyard Gap route which kept us nice and refreshed!

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Playing in the PRD

The reason for my lack of recent posts is not because I haven't been doing anything but instead because I have been doing too much. It is winter in Pisgah and the trails are ripe for playing. Instead of exploring new and exotic lands I have been sticking closer to home and enjoying some old favorites in the Pisgah Ranger District. 

Some highlights from January include finishing a run on John Rock at sunset with Yuri. Art Loeb > North Slope with Duma, Buck Spring > MST > Pisgah Inn out and back with Duma, running Laurel Mtn. > Pilot Rock alone, and two big mountain bike rides.

And then February got off to a bang yesterday with an afternoon run in Shining Rock Wilderness with Duma. We did the classic Shining Creek > Old Butt Knob > Shining Creek loop and it was as epic as always. We hit it hard on the way up Old Butt but by the time we hit Dog Loser Knob both of us had blown a gasket and I gave up on pretending to run. Then on the rocky descent we were hit with a heavy snow at the top that turned to driving rain as we slipped our way down the mountain. It was very slow going and we finished the eight miles in just under four hours...

I haven't even been taking many pictures but here are a couple. I hope you enjoy them.

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rube Rock to Groundhog Creek

It rained all last weekend. I really wanted not to get out in the woods but come Saturday afternoon I wanted to go to the Hub and Duma wanted to do something so we went into the Ranger District for a fun little wet run.

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It was wet, and cold, and as such Duma only wanted to stay for one beer before heading home...

Come Sunday and I couldn't get free to play until afternoon! Luckily by then the storm had passed and Jon was free as well so we went out to Harmon Den for an easy ten mile run.

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Since ten miles isn't enough we parked down at the bottom of 148A and ran the road up so we could get in a half marathon. Our route took us up a gravel road climb to the Appalachian Trail and then down Rube Rock Trail #314to Interstate 40 and then up Groundhog Creek trail #315 back to the AT.

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Even though it looks all nice and easy, this run ended up being quite challenging.The gravel road to start was steep as was the Appalachian Trail to Rube Rock. The trail was clearly marked and it was all downhill from there.

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I didn't know what to expect from these two trails. They are close to the interstate so there was a chance it was a popular loop. But with Max Patch just up the road and the Great Smokies just on the lother side of the interstate it turns out these are lightly traveled trails.

Rube Rock in particular was very overgrown and when we weren't squeezing our way through downed trees we were playing the fun game of trying to find the trail.

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The trail followed a very lush and deep cove and as I suffered my way down it I imagined fleeing from the jungles of distant lands. This reverie was shattered when we hit the bottom and the trail wound around the mountain just a few hundred yards from Interstate 40. Things got a little better from there and improved steadily as we headed up Groundhog Creek.

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Groundhog Creek appeared to be an old rail grade that follows the creek all the way up the mountain and though still overgrown was nothing like the mess that was Rube Rock. But it also had plenty of creek crossings and lots of rocks and still made for slow and difficult running.

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When the Groundhog Creek shelter appeared I was relieved and thought the heavily used AT would mean that we would be back down at the truck in minutes. I was wrong, of course, and we were still many miles away with a series of climbs before the final pounding gravel descent. It was a beautiful day and the sun was starting to set and although I started the run in just shorts by the time we finished I was wearing long sleeves, a jacket, gloves and hat.

On the drive home Jon and I agreed that Rube Rock was the most difficult trail to navigate since we did Bad Fork last winter. Although this was a challenging run and not one I am likely to repeat soon I am still glad we made it out to explore these two trails.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cheers

Day after Christmas with Dennis:

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