Adventures in Pisgah

Saturday, January 19, 2019


I don't know how, but I managed to avoid hearing the Van Halen song from the time we first considered going on the trip until we were back stateside. I find that interesting because the first thing everyone mentioned when I said I was going to Panama was the song. I almost expected it to be blaring when we boarded the plane or maybe when we landed but it wasn't. Instead, our soundtrack for the trip was Bob Marley and Van Morrison as we drove around the country.

We landed in Panama City late on Christmas Eve and drove to the small beach town of Santa Clara on Christmas Day. It turns out there isn't much of a town to Santa Clara and the beach is very popular with Panamanians on Christmas. It was absolute insanity with people everywhere and gave us a good taste of their culture. 




From there we took a fun day trip to the mountain town of El Valle where we got in some good exploring after our phone GPS sent us way out of our way on the way there through the steepest mountain roads I have ever seen.





After another day in Santa Clara, it was another epic drive across the country and through Panama City with our phones' once again failing us to the quaint port village of Portobello. We stopped at a little beach on the way and once again saw how the natives actually live and recreate. 

Portobello was a great little town and we made friends with our waiter and got in some good exploring once again. We took a water taxi to a little-hidden beach where I snorkeled and then we rented kayaks and paddled around the port checking out the shipwrecks and looking for sloths. 





With our flight home not departing until 3am we had a full last day where we made the obligatory stop at the Panama Canal before returning the rental car and taking a uber to Casco Viejo, the historic old center of Panama  Center, which was a nice mingling of Panamanians out celebrating the new year and fellow tourists looking at souveniers.  A fitting end to a fun journey.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Monday, December 24, 2018

Old Butt Knob

I was headed to Panthertown on Saturday but when I saw white up high on the mountains I changed my course for Big East Fork trailhead
and Shining Rock with intentions of seeing if it was rhime ice or snow I saw from the highway.

My intended route was the classic Old Butt Knob loop I've done many times before. At around eight miles it is not very long but has some good elevation gains on some very technical terrain. 

Things started innocently enough with dry trails and a little fresh snow lingering in shaded areas.


By the time I hit 5000' there was a lot more than a little snow and I was postholing through knee deep powder while having to wrestle my way through a tangle of snow covered vegetation. What had been a cold rain all day on Friday had clearly been snow high in the mountains and made running difficult. To further complicate matters I was dressed for 50 degree dry temperatures, not running through a curtain of snow in below freezing conditions.


After just an hour and a half I was wearing all my clothes and already freezing. I still had over a mile to go to the top and if things didn't improve it was going to be a very slow and cold slog. After much contemplation I made the tough call to play it safe and turn around.

After such a defeat I headed out Sunday to actually run. Just a short out and back to the top of Bennett Gap but just enough.




Sunday, December 23, 2018


Sometimes I think I might have a Pisgah problem. As soon as the snow stopped I found myself once again headed to Pisgah and with highway 276 barely passable I parked at the Ranger Station and headed up Black Mtn. Trail. The snow was deep and the was trail covered in downed trees which made running hard. I got the first tracks but turned around just below Hickory Knob after an hour of hard effort.


A week later and still unable to shake the monkey and I'm right back in Pisgah again - this time for a quick out and back to John Rock.



The clouds were replaced by bluebird clear skies the next day and Black Mtn. was calling once again. The first mile of the trail was still covered in deep snow but further up on the sunny ridges the snow was almost gone and I was able to actually run.

It had been a week since the snow storm so I was quite surprised to see the only tracks were mine from the week before. I turned around at Turkey Pen, saving the top for another day. 




Sunday, December 16, 2018


Two of my favorite things to do in the outdoors are exploring new trails and go on adventures. The more trails I explore and the more adventures I have the harder it becomes to do either. Over the years I have steadily scratched more trails off the list and find myself looking at more maps and driving further and further on my outings. That makes it hard to always be checking out new trails and most often these days I find myself doing trails I have done many times due to their proximity to my house. In an effort to mix things up a little, two weeks ago I decided to do the Seven Sisters route for the first time since the race last spring.

I've done the route several times and should know it but I ended up making a few navigational errors that resulted in both an adventure as well as seeing two new to me trails. Things started out just fine but then when I found myself on top of the Rainbow Mountain Summit that seemed a little wrong but was an easy enough mistake to fix.


Back out on the East Ridge Trail, everything was going great and I was following the directions and soaking in the views on this very warm fall day.


Then I noticed the blaze switched colors but I hadn't seen an intersection so I thought I was still on course. As I continued the trail got less and less familiar and I was certain I was off course but figured I would pop out somewhere on the old rail grade that goes up to Greybeard. Then I found myself descending a very steep trail and by the time I realized I was losing too much elevation I saw a building and found myself at the campground right by the Greybeard trailhead.  You can't get much more wrong than that but the mistake also meant that I had done the Rocky Head trail for the first time.


Going back up and completing the route would have taken too much time so instead, I headed across the road and headed up Big Piney. I had been down Big Piney before but had never been past there on West Ridge so once at the top I went left and then down Stomping Ground and Little Piney - both of which I had never been on before. So, in the end, a few navigational errors lead me to explore three new to me trails and made for a perfect mini adventure.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sunday, November 25, 2018