Adventures in Pisgah

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Shining Rock Wilderness Half Marathon

Before I even leave the truck I realize I had forgotten my shirt and as soon as I start up the trail I realize I forgot my map as well. I haven't been on this stretch of trail in a few months and I notice they added new signs reminding hikers to have all the things I forgot. Welcome to Shining Rock.

Akira and I have set out to do my classic Shining Rock Wilderness Half Marathon loop. Starting from Big East Fork Trailhead we will climb Shining Creek trail to the Art Loeb and then descend Greasy Cove to Big East Fork. A true mountain run that will test both the dog and myself. The forest and trailhead are crawling with people looking to escape their isolation and as we start up the trail we have to negotiate plenty of clueless masses who do not expect someone to be running but I know that once we start the big climb the herds will have thinned out and by the time we reach Greasy Cove we will have the woods all to ourselves.

It is unseasonably hot and the trees have not leafed out yet leaving us exposed and sweltering as we work our way up the trail. Akira quickly shows her intelligence by laying down in the first little bit of running water we encounter. I help her cool down by spraying her with water from my bottle and then refill it and purify the water with bleach. It seems so simple. Water and bleach. But nothing is that simple anymore and bleach itself seems like a luxury and necessity. But I came here to get away from those thoughts and so up the mountain we go.

Shining Creek Trail is always harder than I imagine it is. I've had some epics on this trail including getting hypothermia and literally hugging trees to try and get warm but today it is not cold or epic. It is just hot and exposed but we have no reason to go fast or to worry. There is plenty of worry waiting for us back out in the real world. We take it easy and stop for water at every opportunity. This cove is a place of enormous beauty and today we have it all to ourselves.

After two miles more of rocks than there should have been, we finally hit the Art Loeb and while things flattened out some the rocks didn't end. We also started to encounter people again and one group of hikers we encountered ensured me Greasy Cove was in the other direction but I knew better and we continued on up and over Flower Knob towards Ivestor Gap.

It is still really hot out and we are completely exposed and although I am not missing my shirt I know I am getting sunburnt and it is time to start getting down the mountain. Akira, meanwhile, continues to cool down at every opportunity.

By the time we hit Ivestor I am starting to second guess myself as to where exactly Greasy Cove trail is and was wishing I have my map but know I don't need it and we run right through the gap.

I have to imagine I know Greasy Cove as well as anyone. I have hiked it, ran it, fished it and canyoneered it many times. It is one of the most remote and least used trails in the district and one of the most special. From the ridge up high to the creek down low it is a place of immense beauty. Akira and I manage to make quick work of it compared to the trip up Shining Creek and before we know it we are at the confluence.

Big East Fork means the hoards of people reappear but the end is near. Big East Fork is indeed big both in terms of size and volumes as well as beauty. By this time we have passed the ten-mile mark but Akira is still running strong. The closer we get to the trailhead the more and more people there are. On we run and manage to finish the route feeling strong but quite sunburnt!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

negative ions

It is another Sunday afternoon in Pisgah and I feel like a junkie once again. The world is in turmoil and everything we thought we knew is changing and here I am pulled up at Fisherman's once again getting ready to ride my bike to prepare for a race that isn't going to happen. It gives me something to do and offers a way to escape the reality that will still be there to greet me first thing Monday morning.

I do one of my favorite routes in the area - Bear Branch and Fletcher Creek. It is nothing too hard but I don't need too hard today. There are a splattering of hikers out on the trail and several groups of mountain bikers, I get the sense that we are all looking for that same escape. I think about how fortunate we are to have this playground in our backyards while a lot of the world is stuck inside four walls.

I stop at the reservoir to fish for the first time of the season. Usually, I'll catch a fish on the first few casts but it rained earlier and the water is a little murky and other than a few strikes I come up empty. I wonder if the trout have decided to stay home as well. Good call, I think to myself, they are much safer that way. I only fish for a few minutes before resigning to drink a beer and just relax. I sit on an old stone foundation and watch as the water cascades down the face of the dam. As the negative ions waft into the air I feel at peace. This is one of my favorite spots.

On the way back I am having so much fun lost in my escape I go around Bear Branch one more time. Other than a squeak coming from my seat post the bike feels good and I feel good. I feel like I could go on forever if only time weren't part of the equation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

season of what

March in Pisgah is normally a time for joy as winter gives way to spring but this year things are different. Winter was mild and the world was riding the crest of a wave where there were few concerns and summer was just waiting in the wings to bring warmth and sunshine. Races and concerts started filling the calendar and too much fun started to be a real possibility but there was something below the surface and now all of that is suddenly unknown and our world has become much more somber.

Several years ago, an old friend contacted me about this blog and said I live a life of 'beauty and wonder'. I wanted to write her back and tell her how wrong she was. Tell her about all the pain and suffering out there in the world and how these mountains that I love so are my refuge where I run and hide from all that I seek to avoid. But I didn't write back because I knew she was right and that I am very lucky to have such a place to find shelter.

Last Saturday, as the news from far and wide seemed to consume our every action, I loaded up Akira and took her to Panthertown - one of the most unique and special places in the Southern Appalachians. As we ran through the woods my thoughts consumed me. I was trapped in my own head and couldn't get out. I put on a Grateful Dead show but that didn't work and as The Eleven rang through my headphones all I could think was "What now?". The show ended with screeching feedback which I let dissolve into silence. Alone with my thoughts, I shifted my focus back to beauty and wonder and as I marveled at the natural landscape I thought about how it had adapted and changed through the years and was still evolving.

At the end of the run Little Green was bathed in warm sunlight and everything was right. Akira was happy with yet another day of adventure and discovery and so was I.

Sunday afternoon I dusted off the bike to get out to train for PMBAR. It would appear to be sure to get canceled but  I don't give up that easy, so away I go.

Friday, March 20, 2020

in a world gone mad

I'm so glad I have something more! I have to tell you, I love this dog!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Farlow, Farlow, Farlow!

What better way to break a new dog in than running Farlow Gap out and back? Akira proved she can handle Pisgah and we didn't see another person on Farlow. Too much fun!

Monday, March 9, 2020

a steep deep rush

March rolls in and life marches on. The new dog's name is Akira which can mean bright, intelligent or clear and she is all of those things and has settled into our household perfectly. She has been out to Pisgah for a few runs and we are still learning how to run on trails together but is the perfect companion even if she doesn't like stopping for photo shoots. 

She does, however; like stopping at the Hub for a beer and some snacks afterwards.

Sunday I dusted off the old warhorse and went out with Yuri for the classic 5000 > BRP > 276 > 1206 road loop. It was a perfect day and the 34 mile route was perfect and reminded me how much harder running is than riding.