Adventures in Pisgah

Sunday, October 25, 2015

FAC 50k

For the first time in ten years I did not do the Double Dare this year. Instead I joined the Pisgah Nation for a fun little run to the top of Mt. Mitchell. While some chose to tackle the monster Pitchell 100k distance I am not nearly that ambitious yet and instead settled for the second half of the route. Starting from the Folk Art Center the 33 mile point to point would follow the Mountains to Sea trail to the top of Mt. Mitchell with an elevation gain of over 10,000'. One of the most appealing aspects of the run was that I had never been on most of that section of the MST so I was looking forward to seeing new trail.

This wasn't an  event of any sort, just a suggested route and nothing more, so I chose to start my adventure around 7:30 in the morning. Everything started off great. I was running strong, feeling good and looking forward to a great day in the woods. About five miles in a Pitchell runner, Eddie, caught up to me and we chatted for a little bit as we ran along. Then out of nowhere my left shoe caught a rock or something just right and the sole ripped halfway off the shoe. This was bad. It was flopping and catching on everything making running almost impossible and hiking not much easier. I had a little duct tape wrapped around a nail in my pack and thought I could just wrap it in tape and everything would be fine. I hobbled a short ways to the next Blue Ridge Parkway crossing where I stopped to make the repair. Clyde and Jane from Brevard were there providing support for a Pitchell runner and gave me more duct tape and helped me make the repair. We wrapped the shoe in enough duct tape that I had no doubt I would be able to make it to the top of Mitchell.

About 50 feet up the trail the duct tape peeled right off and I once again had a floppy shoe. I stopped for a long while and tried to fix it again. I added more tape, tried to make the tape into a rope and tied that around it. Of course none of that worked and no repair like that was going to work. The road was just right there. I could still see Clyde and Jane standing by their car. I could just turn around and go back down the road and get a ride to my car. I could be home by 9 and make my wife breakfast. I could easily avoid having to fight a floppy shoe for the next 27 or so miles. But I just kept going. I reminded myself I was in it for the adventure and that I had solved bigger problems before. I figured out how I run a little when there weren't obstacles in my way and for the next many miles I crawled steadily forward while I ran through the options in my mind. If I wanted to finish the run I would need to fix the shoe. I knew the terrain ahead would be too challenging for my broken shoe. So as I hobbled along I took a mental inventory of everything I was carrying and how I might use each item to fix my situation. I had to look carefully at my left shoe with each step and pondered how I could reattach the sole. Eventually I realized I could 'sew' the sole back on by making a few holes in both the sole and the upper part of the shoe and then I got to thinking about what I would need to make the repair. I would need something to make the holes and then something to tie the parts together. What I needed was a knife but I had purposely left my knife at home because I had never needed it before. I thought about using the nail to make the holes, which would work, but couldn't figure out the string. I could use the drawstring for my shorts but it would be way too long and I couldn't cut it with a nail. I thought about using the earphone wire for my mp3 player. I could probably use two rocks to cut it into a usable length. Any of those options would take awhile and likely lead to more frustration so I kept going forward.

Having never been on the trail before I had no real idea where I was. I assumed the parkway had to be coming up soon and there would be people there  and those people would have knives and I would be saved. A few more Pitchell runners, Ben and Byron, caught up to me and we chatted some as we passed Rattlesnake Lodge and that area. I had been really looking forward to seeing that stretch of trail but couldn't enjoy it as I was dwelling on the shoe. I passed a few hikers but none of them had a knife. After a seemingly endless unknown number of miles I eventually got spit out onto the BRP. There were some people there supporting runners who greeted me and asked what I needed and started listing everything a runner might need. I told them what I needed was a knife and as they thought about if they had one a runner said she did and pulled out a pocket knife. What a glorious feeling it was to hold that knife! As I sat there making my repair I asked if they said they had beer and they handed me an ice cold PBR. A knife and a beer! Life doesn't get any better than that!

I finished my repair and beer and bid my saviors farewell and continued on up the trail. Unlike the duct tape this repair actually held and I could actually run again. The weather couldn't have been any better and the trail was great. I passed through the Craggies on a very rocky stretch of trail and was very glad that my shoe wasn't tripping me with every step. I had thought Eddie was in front of me but he caught up to me again and I was thankful to have company and we ran together for a long while. After many miles the stitch ripped out of the sole and I told Eddie to go on while I fixed it again. It was much easier this time and I was able to use the nail to make another hole and I continued on. As I ran through Balsam Gap Eddie was there looking a little rattled. Clyde and Jane were there giving him food and encouragement and he looked relieved to see me. He had been assuring me that from Balsam Gap things would be easier we continued on up the trail together. He told me he'd been ready to quit and I told him that wasn't an option and that I would pace him to the finish. We talked as we steadily worked our way ever so closer to our goal.

There weren't many easy miles on the run and when we finally crossed highway 128 Eddie assured me the next three miles would be easy and when they really were I was relieved. 30 miles in and we were actually running at a respectable pace. Those three easy miles came with a toll and that was a very tough final mile. But only one mile. The end was in sight. As we summited the highest mountain in the east the sun was starting to set and it was getting cold fast. The sweat was freezing on my jacket and we each snapped a quick picture and then jogged back down to the waiting cars.

Another excellent adventure! One Nation Under Pisgah!








Wednesday, September 30, 2015

stuck in a rut

Sunday I drove the dog all the way up to Black Balsam so we could see the new trail work on Sam Knob except when we got there the temptation of running the Art Loeb trail over Black Balsam and Tennent mountain was just too much to bare so we did just that. The views were amazing as always and were augmented by a howling wind and driving rain. We never did make it to Sam Knob but I can't think of a better rut to be stuck in.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Real Mt. Mitchell Marathon

Last Saturday I got out to run the Real Mt. Mitchell Marathon with the wnctrailrunners group. I have been eyeing this route for a long time and things finally aligned to be able to run it this year. Starting on the Black Mtn. Crest trail  at Bowlen's Creek near Burnsville the route climbs steadily for the first several miles to the ridge top at Celo Knob and Horse Rock. From there you follow the fishhook shaped crest of Black Mountain range to Cane River Gap. Evidently along the way you climb no less than 10 6000' peaks for a total of 8000' of elevation gain.

There really isn't much to report about this run except it was just exactly perfect. We started in the dark and topped out on Celo Knob just as the sun was rising. The views were incredible all across the Crest and for the most part we had the trail to ourselves until we got nearer to Mt. Mitchell and the halfway point. Really just amazing stuff along the way. If you haven't done the Crest trail yet you really need to.

We all rendezvoused at the restaurant in the state park just past the summit of Mitchell where I enjoyed way too big of a brunch while looking out over yet more spectacular views. As we were checking out the cashier couldn't help remark about our attire.

"I wasn't going to say anything," she said, "but y'alls shorts are really short."

From there it was bloated bellies up to Potato and Patton Knobs before intersecting the MST. A few more mountains then Balsam Gap and then on up Little Butt. By the time I hit Point Misery I was starting to feel it just a little but before I had a chance to think about it I was half way up Big Butt and a cold beer was just a downhill away.

Easily one of my favorite outings ever. Long live Pisgah Nation!














Friday, September 4, 2015

Linville Gorge Half

So it has been five days now and my legs still hurt really bad. You would think I would have known that this was going to happen, and maybe I did, but I still went and did it anyway. For a few years now I've been staring at maps of the Linville Gorge and itching to do a big 13 mile loop going from rim to rim by crossing the river twice. I have set out to do it on two other occasions but fell short both times. It was a freezing winter day on the first attempt and two deep river fords kept us on the west rim of the gorge. On the second attempt we crossed the river only to find Cambric Ridge trail wasn't where it is supposed to be and had to alter our route and skip Conley Cove and Rock Jock trails. We did finally find Cambric Ridge trail which meant that I finally had all the pieces necessary to complete the route. The day came last Sunday when I headed out solo.

My route was to be:

Pinch In > Linville Gorge Trail > Cambric Ridge > Mountains to Sea > Spence Ridge > Linville Gorge Trail > Conley Cove > Rock Jock > Kistler Memorial Highway

linville gorge half

Hint: Cambric Ridge is not where it is shown on that map. (actually it might be, but I just couldn't find it there)

Pinch In trail is aptly named as it gets you down into the gorge in a pinch. It is just over a mile straight down to the river but it really is straight down which meant I started out the run by hardly being able to run. I didn't want to destroy my quads at the start and the tread was so loose and rocky that running was very sketchy anyway. But the scenery sure was good!




Pinch In dumped me at the river and I headed south on the Linville Gorge trail and followed it a short ways to the first campsite where I knew one of the branches of Cambric Ridge was just across the river.


An easy ford and then straight up Cambric Ridge I went. This trail is ridiculously steep. Unlike Pinch In the trail was heavily wooded and I made some sort of attempt at running. I was more often using my hands to do some sort of crawl run combo thing but at least I was headed up. Not a lot to the trail but like everywhere in the gorge there were gorgeous views all around.


I made good time up to the Mountains to Sea where I headed north for the Chimneys and Table Rock. For whatever reason I was expecting this stretch of trail to be mainly flat. I don't know why, especially since I have ran it several times before, but I was. Much to my dismay, after climbing Cambric fast I was faced with even more climbing. I gave up on trying to move fast and settled for just moving and had nothing left to do except smile as I worked my way up to the Chimneys.


The stretch of trail across the Chimneys and Table Rock is perhaps my favorite that I have seen in the gorge. Just mind blowing stuff.






After such a beautiful stretch of trail I was feeling really good heading down Spence River. I was thinking that I was over half way and that I would be finishing up the run in under five hours.


Compared to the other trails in the gorge Spence Ridge is very moderate and actually somewhat runnable. Once down at the river I took a few minutes to relax and swim before I tackled what I thought would be my last climb of the day before the long flat stretch across Rock Jock.


Once on the other side I headed south on the gorge trail and quickly remembered how difficult that trail is. Since it follows the river you might think it would be fairly flat and fairly easy but it is up and down over a tangle of jagged rocks and fallen trees. Nothing flat or easy about it at all. But it wasn't too long before I was going right on Conley Cove and up the last climb of the day. I really did think it was going to be the last climb and that Rock Jock was going to be just another short little trail up on the rim so I put my head down and tried to see how good of time I could make on my way up. Along the way I started thinking that Rock Jock might be a little longer than I recalled and got concerned that I might be stretching my water too thin. It has been a dry summer and most of the little tickles that cross the trail were bone dry so when I came across little more than a stagnant mud puddle with dead bugs floating on the top I had no choice but to fill a bottle and hope that my bleach would do the trick.

Once I got to the top of Conley Cove I was already five hours and 11 or 12 miles in and realized my math must have been wrong somewhere along the way. I briefly considered taking to road back but there is no fun in that so Rock Jock it was.


I don't know how long Rock Jock is or how much climbing there is on it but it seemed to go on forever through and endless series of twists and turns up and down the cliff side. At times it was very overgrown and hard to follow and other times it was littered with plenty of jagged rocks. It had already been a long day and I was starting to come a little undone on it. As amazingly beautiful it was I was just ready for it to be over. I recalled a big climb at the end of the trail and kept hoping that it would appear around the next bend but instead there was always just another bend and just another view.


As I shuffled and staggered my way along the trail it was hard not enjoy looking at all the places I had been and even got a good view of Cambric Ridge:


After an hour or so of this splendid hell the final hill appeared and I finally climbed out of the gorge for the last time of the day. In the end this 'half marathon' came in at 16 miles with 5500' of climbing with an equal descent and took me six hours to complete. It is no wonder my legs still hurt!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

believe it if you need it

I was trout fishing in Pisgah one day when an older gentleman engaged me in some conversation. He was wearing an AT hat and was out fishing with a much younger gentleman who I took to be his grandson. The younger of the two was very concerned about what type of fly to use to catch fish but I assured him it didn't matter because the fishing was just that good that day and as he scurried around trying to catch some fish me and his granddad started talking about the woods and their history. He asked if I knew about an old home site just up the trail from where we were and when I told him I did he looked a little surprised but glad. We talked about a few other spots and then he asked if I had ever been up another trail that goes all the way to the parkway. Of course I had. He then asked if I knew about the old CCC camp on it. No, I didn't. He told me it had chairs and tables made out of stone and even a woodstove. What? Yes, he assured me he had been there many times and used to camp there frequently in the 60's and 70's. But then after many years he had recently headed back up the trail to find the camp so he could take his grandson there but was unable to locate it on several different attempts. He even went so far as to contact the Forest Service to see if the trail had been relocated and if they could tell him how to find the camp. They assured him the trail was in the same place it had always been but could not comment on the location of the camp. Hmmn. Needless to say my interest was sparked and when his grandson started yelling that he had a fish we parted ways and I headed back down the trail for my truck wondering about the legend of an old CCC camp with stone furniture on a trail I have been on scores of times.

Unlike the phantom train, or the Cold Mtn. plane crash, that I have been unable to find this took just a little searching and the camp does indeed exist. It isn't as big or elaborate as I'd thought and may or may not be a CCC or logging camp but it is there just off the trail. The wood stove is just a modified barrel and is rusted beyond repair but the stone furniture is rock solid and I noticed they had even had running water and a sink at the site. I took some time and cleaned up the area before stopping to pull a couple of fish out of the secret swimming hole. It is a great campsite that I look forward to using in the near future!



Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bonas Defeat again

I made another trip through Bonas Defeat last weekend. We did the big loop going down Wolf Creek before heading up Bonas Defeat. My other trip reports from the gorge are getting lots of views and for those of you trying to get beta on this very special place the main thing I can say is be prepared and know what you are doing in there.