Adventures in Pisgah

Saturday, June 18, 2016

mosquitos on the river

Last weekend was the Pisgah Nation Wilson Creek SWEaTfest but before the Saturday run I made a quick stop in Charlotte for the Dead and Co. concert. I had a drink or two in the parking lot but then had to limit myself to nothing but kool aide for the concert itself. The tour opening show was surprisingly good and much fun was had. After the show I was greeted by a huge traffic jam and wasn't going anywhere fast. The gentleman parked next to me kept trying to get me to keep drinking from his handle of whiskey but I had to decline as I had a two hour drive before my 8am run...

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It was 1am before I left the parking lot and 3am before I was turning onto Brown Mountain Beach Road. Driving through the Wilson Creek Gorge at that hour was a surreal experience and when I got to the Harper Creek trail head I almost wanted to just tap the horn, shake the tambourine and keep driving. Instead I pulled in and managed to get a few hours of sleep before I woke to the sound of cars pulling in and knew the run would be starting soon. I got my stuff together and we all chatted for a few minutes before starting the run.

A steep climb up Yellow Buck Mtn. started the run and with the previous night's concert still ringing in my head I wondered what I was in for. The first half of the run would be mainly up hill with a few rollers thrown in for good measure and the first big highlight came on Little Lost Cove Cliffs where big views of Grandfather Mtn. abounded.

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From there it was a little more trail and then a short stretch on a gravel road before starting down North Harper Creek trail.

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From there I would be following the creek back to the finish where along the way I would pass by several waterfalls and the trail would go back and forth between nice and gentle single track to  very rocky stream side terrain as I crossed my way back and forth across the creek. I had stopped for awhile on Little Lost Cove Cliffs and then stopped to explore several of the waterfalls and figured I had to be the last runner out and tried to just keep moving. The previous day's festivities had me a little tired and as I started to get a little chaffing I felt like Black Peter and that the run might never end. I stopped to swim at a few of the waterfalls and let the rejuvenative powers of nature wash over me. The biggest waterfall came just a mile from the finish and was the perfect place for an extended break.

After the run we all sat in Wilson Creek drinking cold beer for a couple of hours. It was the perfect start to what is sure to be a long crazy summer. One Nation Under Pisgah!

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

misery loves company

Last weekends adventures were interesting and not necessarily fun. Or maybe they were fun but just not the type of fun I was looking for at the time. Or maybe they were exactly what I was looking for. I don't even know anymore...

On Saturday I rode South Mills River trail out and back from Turkey Pen to Wolf Ford and fished along the way. South Mills River is probably the flatest trail in the area but is also arguably the most challenging. The trail leads users across uncountable river crossings through an impossible tangle of dog hobble, over plenty of dead fall and endless mud pits. As pleasant as that sounds the stretch of trail between Cantrell Creek and Wolf Ford is amazingly beautiful and a perfect place to try your luck against wild mountain trout.

As I wrestled my way through the trail I stopped at this serene spot and made a few casts. It didn't take long before a big brook trout hit my fly. It felt like my line got hit by a  brick and after a short fight I had caught and released my biggest wild trout to date. An amazing fish.

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On Sunday Jon and I made an attempt at getting the band back together and met up for a fun run. We shuttled to Shope Creek from his house and then made our way up through Shope Creek to the Blue Ridge Parkway where we crossed over and bushwhacked our way to the top of Lane Pinnacle. That made for a lot of elevation gain in not a lot of miles. It also meant that the last three quarters of the run would all be downhill on the MST. That sounds great if you like downhill but I don't and the run quickly became a study in misery with me simply trying to survive.  The only other time I had been on most of that stretch of trail was during the FAC50k and interestingly after Rattlesnake Lodge I didn't recognize any of the trail from the FAC... Nothing lasts and after sufficient agony we dropped the final mile down through Haw Creek and back to Jon's house in east Asheville.
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Saturday, June 4, 2016

it takes dynamite to get me up

Too much of everything is just enough.

Last weekend in pictures:

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

just fishing

I thought about running the Pisgah55 last weekend. I also thought about riding the 111. Then I thought better and decided to just go fishing instead. And so on Sunday when I went fishing I made sure I went up a creek where I was guaranteed not to see any racers and was unlikely to see any other users. I had a really good mountain bike to get there and then once I was at the old logging camp that was my destination I hung out for an hour or so and fished the hole behind the camp and made lunch on the centuries old stone furniture. Lunch was good and I actually caught a few fish before I reversed my course and headed to the Hendersonville Reservoir.

Once there I walked right down to the river and caught a nice hatchery fish on my second cast. I was only there fifteen minutes  during which time I caught several fish and noticed several groups of mountain bikers congregated up top. Nothing out of the ordinary for  a Sunday in May in Pisgah.

So, imagine my surprise when two frantic mountain bikers pull up  and ask "Which way do we go?" as I'm packing up my fishing gear.

"Where are you headed?" I reply.

"We are racing the 55," the younger one says.

He is on a single speed and looks familiar. It looks like Watts who I met at prar a few weeks before and I think maybe he is fucking with me. That is the sort of thing I might do after all. But then I look closer and see they have 55 number plates on their bikes.

It doesn't make sense. There is no reason a 55 rider should be at the Hendersonville Reservoir. I ask how they got there and they mention a steep descent and then a bunch of creek crossings. I check their cue sheet and it all comes together. They dropped Sassafrass off of Laurel mtn. down to Big Creek and were now ruining my fishing trip.

It really sucked for them as they were a long way off course and had been near the front. Backtracking up Big Creek would take at least an hour. There goes the race. But Watts, being the classy type, opted to reverse course and intercept other racers who had taken the wrong turn.

In the end I would drive three racers back to the finish from North Mills River and several more were riding down highway 280 as we passed them in the truck. It sounded like the course markings had been intentionally sabotaged to send racers as far off course as possible. I can't imagine a shittier thing to do. What is wrong with mountain bikers?

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pisgah Running Adventure Race 2016

Sunday morning at Smoker's Cove was like returning the scene of a crime. The carnage from the previous day's bike race was apparent as mountain bikers were passed out  in all sorts of places. The runners, being runners, were scattered about doing their final preparations before heading off into the unknown. I did my best to get Mike P. and Watts D. to give the race a go and Watts seemed interested but used not having shorts or gear as an excuse. Yuri assured him had everything he needed in the back of his car but Watts wasn't biting. Maybe next year. With as big of a hit as pmbar is I was surprised at the light turnout but that is just everyone elses loss as this year's prar would prove to have the best course.

As Eric gave his speech and instructions I could hear mumbling about how last year there had a been a bus and we were shuttled. There was no bus in the parking lot. Something was up. Remember how I said I can't imagine a better trail in the area than Black Mtn.? Well, that is what was up. A quick glance at the passport one minute before the start revealed we would be starting and finishing with Black Mtn. to Pressley Gap. I left Yuri to ponder the rest of the passport and lined up alone at the start so that we would start exactly at 8am. The clock counted down and off Yuri and I went, passport in hand, while everyone else tried to make sense of the passport and routes.

You had to go to either a mandatory cp at the helicopter pad on Looking Glass Rock trail or Deep Gap on Turkey Pen Gap trail and then get a total of four checkpoints with the others being Club Gap, Avery Creek at Buckhorn Gap and Coontree Gap. A fifth cp would result in a two hour time bonus.

Local knowledge goes a long way and I have been wearing a hole in Black Mtn. as well as other trails in the area recently and the only question I had was if the Looking Glass Rock cp would be worth the time and effort. I calculated it to be close and as we discussed routes we decided we needed to leave Looking Glass Rock hanging for the end if we felt so ambitious. That would mean we would going all the way back up Black to a little out and back on Turkey Pen Gap before heading back across Black to Club Gap. Talk about Deja Vu.

One thing we had learned from previous years was that there was the potential for real pain and suffering as the race wore on so we had both brought poles to help ease the wear on our aging joints. A lot of time had been spent fine tuning our systems for carrying them and just a few minutes after starting up Black Mtn. we decided it was already time to take them out. My poles would stay out for the rest of the day as they proved invaluable on the steep sections of trail - both uphill and downhill.

With the whole race behind us it was only going to be a matter of time until we got caught. I was expecting teams to blow by us at any moment but we rolled over Hickory Knob and through Pressley Gap without seeing anyone and the first team - the Wrights -  wouldn't catch us until just before Turkey Pen Gap trail. I took that to either be a good sign or a bad sign - I wasn't sure which. As we rolled up and through the gaps on Turkey Pen a female team (whom I would refer to as The Ladies) caught and passed us and that felt better. A quick turn at the Deep Gap CP and we were headed back up to Black. On the way back up we crossed paths with several other teams including Simon and Damien - the only other team doing both pmbar and prar - as well as my old neighbors Thad and Kellie. Smiles abounded all around.

Back over the top of Black and Clawhammer mountains for the second time in as many days and there was no place I would rather have been. The Ladies were just in front of us but they hit the gas on the drop down to Buckhorn Gap and were out of sight as we rolled up and down the trail to the Club Gap CP. With as close as they had been it seemed like we should have been able to see them at some point but we never did. That had me thinking they might have made a navigational blunder and that a game was a foot.

Straight down Avery Creek to the CP at Buckhorn Gap where several teams including The Ladies were congregated. I pulled a sandwich and bag of chips from my pack and we continued on Buckhorn Gap trail towards the road as I ate my lunch. The short stretch of Avery Creek Rd. would be the only road we would be on all weekend in the single track heavy weekend. The Wrights passed us about half way up Bennett Gap trail on our way to the Coontree Gap CP and I estimated they had a ten to fifteen minute lead on us. That seemed like an impossible gap to make up which was fine with us. The Ladies were still in front of us and I expected them to be coming down the trail as we were headed up but they didn't. Then when they weren't at the CP it could only mean they were going big and heading for Looking Glass Rock or had taken Perry Cove to get to Bennett Gap. Simon and Damien passed us on their way up Bennett as we were headed down which gave us 10-15 minutes on them - a lead I knew we could hold as long as nothing happens. The mind game in these races is truly fascinating.

Pressley Cove is one of my all time favorite trails and would be the crux of the race. As long as we could move steadily up it we would be finishing well. I took the lead for the first time of the weekend and ran all the pitches I felt were reasonable. The rest I fast hiked. We paused at the stream to get our last bit of water and pushed on ahead with no signs of teams either in front or behind us. As we started up Hickory Knob I felt the first warnings of cramps in my left hip flexor and that had me squirting mustard in my mouth and toning it down a little as that was not the time or place to be rolling around on the ground with cramps. Once we could finally say Downhill From Here and it actually be true for once the cramps subsided and we hit cruise control to the finish coming in just under a minute after the Wrights.

Having not gotten the extra checkpoint meant that we would have the two hour wait of shame before we knew how we did. As the teams trickled in nobody had gotten the fifth checkpoint and we all just hung out and chatted as we waited for our two hours to pass. The communal aspect of these races is one of the many reasons why I keep coming back and I had a great time hanging out, drinking beer and listening to everyone's stories from the race. Our second Second Place PRAR finish was unexpected but more than welcome!

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Now is the time for what now?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race 2016


This year marked my eleventh pmbar and that milestone had me recollect one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs and made me wonder: Now is the time for what now?

This year's race brought a few surprises and with Eric urging us to read the passport it was clear it would be a wooden nickle sort of year.  A quick glance at the passport revealed no physical wooden nickles but showed mandatory checkpoints at both ends of Bradley Creek with FR1206 off limits. That was interesting to say the least and we headed up Black Mtn. without a route in mind. The checkpoint locations meant there would be a lot of single track and also a lot of people on Bradley Creek. The logical route was to take Turkey Pen at the start but I was worried about being stuck in traffic all morning on both Turkey Pen and Bradley Creek which sounded miserable. We decided to skip Cove Creek even though it was probably ever so slightly worth the time bonus figuring that the extra miles could hinder our efforts on Sunday. So, we formulated a route that would save both of those trails for the end and would also be 100% Pisgah single track.  That meant we would be pushing up Turkey Pen at the end so I named our route the Fool's Gambit.

Fools or not, our route had us start with all of Black Mtn. trail which is the perfect way to start any mountain bike ride. I really can't imagine a better trail in the area (even if the current tread condition is unfortunate) and going over the top of Black and Clawhammer mountains is one of my favorite things to do. A quick turn at the Club Gap CP and then back to Buckhorn Gap and down to Wolf Ford before heading up Squirrel Gap. I was curious as to when the fast guys (and girls) would pass us going the opposite direction and was expecting them at any time but we made it up to the top of Horse Cove Gap without seeing them. A few teams were up there who had taken the road but we did a fast turn back to Squirrel Gap. We made it through the rocky section before the first couple of groups going the other direction started to appear. It surprised me that it had taken them that long to get there and I imagined what the scene on Bradley Creek was going to be like.

Just before Laurel Gap, at the worst possible spot, Charlie Roberts and his partner appeared coming the other way and I pulled to the side of the trail to yield for them but in true rookie style I stopped on the downhill side of the trail and when I went to put my foot down the ground gave way and I tumbled an impossible distance head first down the mountain. Luckily there was a downed tree that brought me to sudden stop when my face and shoulder hit it. I was left a little scraped and bruised but was other wise unharmed and really quite lucky.

On across Squirrel and down Laurel Creek where the masses started to appear. The traffic that we had hoped to avoid by going the wrong was still bogged down on Laurel Creek as well as Bradley Creek and the next few miles would be spent trying to get around all the people as we wrestled our way across the creek, through the dog hobble and over the downed trees. We crossed paths with several groups of friends as we kept trying to move forward through the masses. Bradley Creek is a beautiful trail and I was happy to be doing it as an out and back but other teams seemed less than thrilled with the experience.

The end of Bradley Creek brought our final checkpoint and left us with just Turkey Pen Gap trail to Black Mountain to the finish. Some friends were headed up at the same time as us and they said at the checkpoint they thought it would be an hour and a half to the finish but I knew they weren't thinking correctly as I have pushed my bike up the trail several times and have ran it many more. I knew there would be pushing but I knew it wouldn't be too bad. I also knew we had gone the wrong direction and were losing significant time with our Fool's Gambit but didn't care.  Just like the past two years, this year's pmbar was all about surviving to be able to run the next day. There would be no red lining it to the finish, just a steady push up Pisgah single track through a splendid forest. Somewhere along the way a checkpoint tent was set up which meant that it would be a checkpoint on Sunday. Game on.

Once at the top it was all downhill from there and the challenging sections had us taking it easy as a crash might not bode well for the next day.  A little bop up Hickory Knob and we were on the final downhill stretch. I rode the upper eroded section just fine but just before the seep with the log steps and rock slabs my front wheel washed out and I went down hard. I came up a little bruised but other wise intact and Matt F. took the opportunity to pass us. It was good to see Matt riding again after recovering from a broken femur  so being passed didn't bother me at all.

The finish was just minutes later with us coming in with what seemed to be a big wave of the front of the middle of the pack. Whatever, all I was after was to be done so I could drink a beer, eat a burrito and rest up for the next day. Not getting all the CPs meant we had the two hour wait of shame to find out how we did which provided an excellent opportunity to catch up with old friends,  make new friends and celebrate how lucky we are to be able to have such adventures in such an amazing place. And best of all was knowing that the next day I was going to get to do it all over again but this time without the bike!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

a frothy haze

Last weekend's Pisgah Productions races are still but a blur. For now all I can say is running is for horses and riding is for cowboys.

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