Since I had run the same route no less than four times before you would think that I would know how long it takes but you would be wrong. It was just before 3pm when we started up Presley Cove and I wanted to make it to the Pisgah Tavern before last call. That left me two and half hours to run 10 miles. Easy enough, right? Ten miles should only take even a slow runner like me two hours, right? That would leave me plenty of time to make it to the Hub for a beer with my friends. I even double checked the math - yep, all good.
Our route was a running version of the Big Nasty mountain bike route:
Pressley Cove > Black Mtn. > Buckwheat Knob > Bennett Gap
It was snowing hard when we pulled up to the start. That was unexpected, but welcomed. I'd spent the morning and early part of the afternoon running around ragged trying to tie up work loose ends and with daylight at a premium picked a route that was quick and easy to get to but also had really rugged and mountainous terrain with decent mileage. The ridge run around the Avery Creek drainage fit the bill and even though I have been on those trails hundreds of times I knew this time would be special. The snow at the start sealed it and off we went.
Pressley Cove and then Black were a blur. I had lots of steam from a long week to blow off and the stout climb at the start provided the perfect opportunity for blowing. I can't recall Pressley at all and if I didn't have the obligatory picture from the top I wouldn't believe I had even been there at all.
As I've said many times the stretch of Black Mtn. across the top of Black and Clawhammer mountains is amongst my all time favorite stretches of trail in the forest. It is rivaled only by the Art Loeb across Pilot Mtn. and the Art Loeb across the Narrows in Shining Rock. Black Mtn, trail is unique to the Art Loeb as it is open to mountain bikes and provides the best view shed in the forest to cyclists. There wasn't much to see on Saturday other than falling snow and heavy cloud cover but the winter weather provided another perspective to this trail that I have traversed so many other times in all kinds of conditions.
I glanced at my watch as we crossed Buckhorn Gap did some quick math and realized if it had taken us over an hour to get that far we wouldn't be finishing in two hours but we were still optimistic about making last call at the bar. We ran on to Club Gap making fast work of the two climbs on that stretch of trail but still didn't make it to Club Gap until almost 5pm. With hopes of a frosty beverage at the forest gate fading we headed up Buckwheat Knob.
I know how long the trails in Pisgah are and how long they should take. At just over a mile Buckwheat knob takes me at least 20 minutes. At almost two and a half miles, Bennett Gap takes me at least 40 minutes. Duma and I don't claim to be fast but we are steady and we headed steadily up and then down Buckwheat Knob.
We paused at the overlook on Bennett to take in Looking Glass Rock in looking glass mode:
I announced to the dog that it was all downhill from here, put on my technical Goodwill sweater and we ran on knowing that we would not be making it out in time for that beer. With the climbing over, the snow still falling and day light quickly fading it started to get cold out. One of the things I prefer about running to biking is that in the winter it is much easier to stay warm while running than while biking. My hands went numb and then got painfully cold but I reassured myself it would have been much worse on a bike.
Down at Coontree Gap the snow was much lighter but the sky was growing very dark, very fast so on we ran. Near the bottom the day finally surrendered to the night and we stumbled on in the darkness. I've been doing lots of running in the dark and have tried to practice running without lights which paid off for the final minutes of the run and we made it back to the truck just over three hours after we started.
This is an excellent mountain running route. I highly recommend it to any trail runners who haven't done it!
18 hours ago