Benton MacKaye Trail – Section 5 x 2

15 06 2009

After taking a few weeks off because of  a broken toe, I have decided to attempt to get my running back up to speed, especially if I am going to do something epic on Solstice.   I had originally decided not to go for a solstice adventure , but a friend said, “hey even though my training is not up for it I am not letting that stop me.”  Seems like a valid point, I think.    Solstice is not about me and my training, its about doing something epic twice a year, mainly because you can.  I reserve the right to make changes to what solstice is about depending on how I feel.

Now that has me thinking, if I quit running altogether, epic could be defined as a 10K.  Strategery

Anyway back to this weekends date with a Mr. Benton Mackaye. For those of you who do not know Mr. Mackaye is the gentleman who first proposed that we have an Appalachian Trail in an essay that he wrote in the early 1920’s.  If you are a fan of the outdoors, not just the AT, we owe a lot to this guy. His idea for the trail was not just a long trail, but also as a social experiment.  The social experiment fell to the wayside but the inspiration for a long footpath remained and inspired hikers from Georgia to Maine, to create this highway. 

The path I took today was section 5 of the BMT, from Shallowford Bridge rd to Wilscot Gap. 15.2 miles out & back with 9,268  feet in elevation gain according to my GPS.  That’s a lot of elevation gain and I am not entirely trusting it, but you get the general idea of the ups & downs.  The mountains here are not high, but what they lack in elevation they make up in steepness.  I started the run at a house in Blue Ridge right next to the Toccoa  ElevationBMTrestaurant where the BMT enters the woods for Sedction 6.  I ran along Aska road for about a quarter of a mile, and crossed the river on a bridge, that reminded me of something you would see in Costa Rica, although the wood on this one was not as hearty as on the bridges down there.  After crossing the bridge, there is a tube rental place on the right.  Apparently it is the 2nd city to some other fine tubing establishments in Georiga but a very close second. Fine place, Good Americans, however some of the people hanging out around here look as though they are the type of people who would look for a burrow owl in a tree.   I was however offered a ride with some people since they said it looked like we were headed down the same path.   Oh, I how do hope they were only referring geographical positioning.  I declined the offer, and kept moving up the gravel road looking for the BMT to cut into the woods, and after enjoying a relatively flat course, I started my first climb.  The beginning of the climb was not so bad, and I started to think, this is going to be an easy day in the woods. 

turtleThis line of thinking of course did not continue, it came to an abrupt halt about a mile and half into the run.  I was able to find a pace and settled into it. Granted the pace was incredibly slow, it did allow me to notice this guy & fly past him.  I saw one of his or her cousins later into the run, but with more yellow markings.  I also scared  a grouse along the trail, who in turned spooked the hell out of me, frickin nature.   Around mile 5 I crested Brawley mountian where there is an old, I mean really olde,  firetower that has been converted into a repeater for transmitters and was covered with signs saying there may be some frequencies that are harmful to humans here.  Duly noted, and I decided this would be a poor place to tresspass.  After Brawley mountain there is a steep downhill and then an uphill to Tipton before a steep descent to Highway 60 at Wilscot Gap. 

One thing to be noted about this trail, if you are running with the hopes of long range views, they are not to be found on this trail, especially during the summer.  Foliage is jungle-esque.  With that being said, the forest is rather mature in some parts and undergrowth is minimal, except for a sea of ferns.  The sides along some of the trails descending down to Highway 60 are are about 80 degrees leading into deep, dark coves.  There are also plenty of areas to rehydrate just a few hundred feet from the trail if you do not want to carry too much with you.

ropeNow the most important part of the run was very very close to the end.  The last half mile return to Aska is along the Toccoa, and as soon as you come out of the woods if you hang a left instead of just finishing your run, and go for a bout a fifth of a mile you come to a killer rope swing straight into a nice chilly Toccoa.  This is the best way to end a run.  I am thinking about going back next week and just running to the rope swing and spending the day there.  Solstice spent on a rope swing… I see an orthopedist in my future.

“If these people were on the skyline, and kept their eyes open, they would see the things that the giant could see.”
– Benton MacKaye, 1921


Humble Pie

7 06 2009

Today I went on my first run since breaking my toe in a tragic beach chair accident, that somehow I managed not scream obscenities about, the breaking of the toe, not the run.  Serenity… I seriously doubt it.  I have been impatiently waiting for a few weeks for this day.  I figured since I had spent some of the days the past few weeks doing trail maintenance at Sope Creek and we opened the new sections of trails yesterday, this would be a great place to go today.  And it was, well sort of.

The new reroutes on the Sope Creek trails are cool, but they shut down some of the old trails for erosion control.  I was not happy about this, especially since it was my job yesterday to post the “Area closed” signs.  I do not like losing trails, especially some of the best hills in the system, however this is only phase 1 of trail construction so there are more miles of new trails to come.  The new sections are ultra smooth, have great sight lines, and will hopefully not hold any water.  SORBA of Atlanta has been integral in making this happen and has garnered more than their fair share of volunteers thanks to trail steward Charles Myrick’s efforts.  He is a true advocate of not just mountain bikers, but of the trails themselves.  

Anyway back to my humble pie.  The run was the afternoon activity of the day, and I started the run with the idea of being on the widest flattest trail in the system, so as to not jar the toe too much.  Pain was minimal in the beginning and I settled into a slower than  normal pace, but I am ecstatic to be back running again.  I can tell my fitness has taken a little dive.  I think it has something to do with the time off, but more something to do with the EYE OF THE TIGER eyeing too much ice cream.  You scream.

I cruised along and was feeling ok, until I reached the downhill on the first new section of trail, and my toe began yelling obscenities at me that would make a kid with Torettes feel sorry for him.  Anyway, I pushed through knowing it was not too long of a down hill and I would be safely on uphill soon enough.  I did this for a few miles, and finally resigned to a walk/run/gimp strategy to make it back to the car.  It does not hurt bad to hike, so this seemed to be the way to go.

It was all well & good because I managed not to see anyone, so  ego was still in tact.  But it did not stay in tact.  I was hiking along and I was passed by one guy running.  Mind you he said nothing, made no gesture, just cruised on by minding his own business, but he was running, & I was insanely jealous.  Ok, if he can do it I can do it, and with him 10 paces or so in front of me I started running.  My toe yelled at me “who the f&%k do you think you are?”  I answered “Rocky, now shut up.”

Apparently my toe has a golden glove and I swear to (insert favorite deity here) it sucker punched me.

I stopped running, and settled back into my hike watching the runner in front of me trudge up the hill.  I’m thinking I want to do that, but resigned to being a hiker.  Hiking is not so bad, you notice things you do not normally see:  Owls hooting, Magnolias blooming, New contours in the landscape.  You also see things you do not normally see, or ever want to see, like a mother & her college daughter running together and passing you… UGH… but here come the real kicker, they each had a poodle with them.  I got passed by POODLES.    

Back to the waiting game, and taping of the toe, in hopes of a miraculous heal in the next couple of days. 

Does anyone have a better recipe for humble pie?