Solstice Run

23 06 2008

Great Smokies- Fontana Dam to Forney Creek 28.7 Miles- Ouch!

I thought the run was 25.2 miles until about 10 minutes ago when I plugged in my GPS unit and discovered the trip computer shut down for a little bit. 28.7 miles is not the longest run I have ever done, but by God (Buddah, Mohamed, Yaweh, or whatever deity you prefer) it was the hardest.

I awoke at about 5:45 and began cramming calories & as many liquids as I could sustain in a short period of time. I was hoping to see the sunrise, but we were fogged in at the house. I ate a few hard boiled eggs, 2 bowls of oatmeal with various berries and enough coffee to kill Juan Valdez.

My friend Trevor was kind enough to help with a very long shuttle to Fontana Dam, the highest dam east of the Mississippi at 480 ft, and the starting point for my jaunt. By the way if you ever come by this place check out the bathrooms, they are made of marble, pretty friggin impressive.

Trevor looking at the dam

I chugged a red bull on the way across the dam, posed for a picture at the entrance tourist style, checked my Inov-8 hydration pack full of Mojo Bars, shot bloks and gator-ade, thanked Trevor for getting up so early and making this trip a who lot easier, and I was off.

The first 1/4 mile was pavement, all up ill until the entrance of of eagle creek trail. It was a nice rolling path & relatively wide with minimal obtrusions minus a few presents some horses had left behind. The first thing I noticed when I got deep into the trail, was the Rhododendron blooming everywhere. The Sun had not made its way into the coves yet, but they seemed to be lit by white flowers on the waxy leaves.

The trail seemed to roll effortlessly down to Eagle creek trail when I realized I was on the Benton MacKaye trail as well as Eagle creek trail. I strolled through Eagle Creek campground and came across a few fisherman and hikers a couple hundred yards up the trail right before a trail marker sign, that caused me some confusion. The confusion was the sign pointed to hazel creek (where I wanted to go) but it was pointing in the wrong direction according to my route. As I am looking at the sign a few fishermen asked where I was headed and I told them Forney. One of them repeated me. “Forney, are you sure?”

Well I was when I started out, but now… Anyway got the matter figured out and it was only a couple mile gamble if I got it wrong. So I deviated from my proposed route and headed toward Hazel Creek as the sign said, enjoying the views in the cove, wondering why the forest did not look bigger, passing a couple of old cars that were abandoned 65+ years ago, and letting my mind wonder along with my ipod.

Somewhere during this part of the run, at about 8 miles my GPS froze, and quit responding when I would try use it. I tried powering down, but to no avail, so I removed the battery and put it back on. It was back in business, and I was back on my way.

I later arrived at the old town of Proctor, along Hazel creek about 13 miles into my run and was feeling pretty good.

The town of Proctor is easily accessed by pontoon boat or the watercraft of your choice.I stopped and took a few pictures of this old settlement that is still maintained by the park service as a staging area for various park vehicles that transport people who want to visit their relatives cemetaries located in the park. What this means for us, is the Hazel creek trail is a well maintained gravel road that is only used by park service vehicles. I ran on the road crossing Hazel creek several times on a nice man made bridges and a couple of tressles.

I passed 4 people pushing a cart up the Hazel creek trail (road) to carry all their supplies for a week long camping trip in the park, which made me think maybe I am a little deeper into the woods than I thought originally. Anyway Hazel creek kept going, and going and going, but I finally reached the trail I had been waiting for, Cold Springs Gap trail.

I’d read about this trail. I’d looked at it on a map. I thought I knew how difficult it would be…I had no friggin clue.

This trail has helped me decide to become a road runner, who will from now on will only participate in “fun runs” at churches and elementary schools. I will have nightmares about this trail.

At 18 miles in I started a 4.4 mile ascent of 2675 feet. I forced myself further & further along the trail promising myself Gator-Ade around the next bend or across the next creek crossing. The creek I was following eventually became the trail itself, and crushed me along with my will.

My mind started going places on its own. I was told by someone, a long time ago, that my mind was like a bad neighborhood and I should not go in there alone. I thought there had been a little regentrification in this particular neighborhood, but apparently there are still a few bad apples.

I made a desicion to quit dangling the carrot in front of myself and eat it. At about mile 20 or so, I sat down on a nice wet mossy rock and drank from the frozen gator-ade bottle I had started the morning with and ate some more Mojo bar. I love the people at Gator-Ade. I mean seriously… LOVE them. From the person who designs the label, to the person who ships out the boxes from the factory, may each one of you win the lottery a 1000 times over. Amen.

Sitting on a wet mossy rock

This might be the prettiest place i have ever had a Gator Ade. During my refueling I started to get cold, so I was back on my feet and moving up this friggin hill again. This is the hardest trail I have been on. The rocks in the creek were completely unsympathetic to my plight and kept rolling when I would place my foot. I hate nature.

I continued my ascent, stopping occasionally and taking a few 30 second rests before I crested at High Rocks, the highest point along the trail at about mile 22 and 5135 feet of elevation, which afforded me this southern view.Looking South 5135 feet

Its all downhill form here, and I knew it too. I had no idea a downhill could hurt as bad as this , but I shuffled as fast as I could, knowing that Trevor was going to meet me for the final leg of the trip. 2 miles into the downhill I saw Trevor, and not only was Trevor meeting me along the trail he had with him one gigantic vegan chocolate cookie.

Drunk Monkey & a cookie

In the past I have made fun of vegans, even vegetarians, however I am a new man and wish to take that all back. Vegans are the best! I ate the cookie and walked around like a drunk monkey while Trevor laughed at me and took pictures. I did not want to stand around too long for fear my legs would lock up, so together we hit the downhill. It seemed like it would not end, and I am confident without Trevor pacing me at this point I would have shifted my run into a long walk, but he kept me laughing, which in turn kept me running.

We made it to the Forney creek trail head which was a relatively flat 1/2 mile section to the trailhead. I could not believe I had made the whole day without falling down once, and managed to think this without jinxing myself. The last 1/2 mile was uneventful and I reached the lake and let out a scream only to be answered with another scream from my wife and the rest of the crew picking me up on the boat. I swam out to the boat and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon hanging out on the lake with some of the greatest people on earth. I cashed in all my chips for this run (shuttles, eyes, waiting teenagers, the ever patient Captain Bill McMurry) and as of right now I feel rich!

crew Trevor & rinne running in to meet me

Off to eye surgery in a couple of hours… nothing can hurt as bad as cold springs gap trail… right? (lie to me)




2 responses

23 06 2008

So, I only did part of Reeve’s crazy run and I feel like my legs are getting stabbed by a thousand knives every time I walk down a step or a little hill. Seriously, that was some ridiculous shit. But, it was totally worth it to see Reeve stumblin around like a punch drunk monkey when I met him on the trail. It was also fun as hell to watch him eat a Vegan Cookie like it was the best food he’s ever seen.

Don’t let him tell you different- there’s been no re-gentrification in that low-rent neighborhood he calls his brain. It’s still a bad neighborhood. Who else would go on a run like that for no good reason?

24 06 2008
David Ray

Nice run and good writeup. Love the pics. Get well quick.

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