New baseline for technical- The Cumberland Trail

10 02 2009

I have been wanting to hike into North Chick since I first ran it in a kayak about 14 years ago and scared myself nearly to death.  I had been back several times since for paddling and a little light hiking ,swimming around the bowling alley section but this  would be the first real attempt of the gorge as a trail-run.

Here is a view of the area and the gulch.

Click here to learn a little more about the  Cumberland trail in the North Chick Gorge

Elevation Profile for Cumberland Trail

The run started at the take out for the river in the the old Bowater pocket wilderness parking lot. There is a nice climb in the beginning but I was so stoked about being out there and the amazing views  that I did not even notice it, and the first real climb came in around mile 1, and you will without a doubt notice it.  Not only is it nice and steep; it is so close to the Bowater parking lot that there are other people out there attempting to hike it with cigarettes and small children in hand, at the same time mind you.  Also I figured it would be relatively easy to pass them given the circumstances, however as family units they proved capable of moving up the mountain at a decent clip.  But I was not deterred and eventually was able to overtake them and keep cruising up the trail.

Now the trail itself, while being nice and steep,  is part of Walden’s ridge and the cumberland plateu, so after the initial climb there are no more major climbs unlike the Blue Ridge mountains to the east that I am more used to running. This I thought was going to be a nice reprieve, however I forgot to factor in the stresses of tiny hills.

img_0173In addition to the small hills this is one of the most technical trails I have been on to date. I should have just run the creek bed for as many rocks as I encountered.  The Cumberland trail follows an old road for the first mile or so that has been washed away leaving many of the rocks exposed, but then the real technical parts are under the cliff line.

It was almost like a video game, not a new video game but something like Pitfall ala Intellivision.  Some large plate rocks you would step on and they would be as solid as bedrock, while others would teeter and shift.  You could not tell which ones would move by looking at them, so it was random guessing and hopping, hoping for the best.  I wound up on the ground several times laughing; but with none of the cool sound effects from Pitfall.

img_0186In addition to the technical challenges,the trail is poorly marked.  Sure you can spray paint and write your name on the walls at your leisure, but apparently marking for purposes other than declaring your love for Lurleen are not encouraged.  Just so Rinne, does not feel unloved, I promise upon my next visit, to bring a can of spraypaint so Southeast Tennessee knows how much I truly care for you.  I apologize for not being able to do so this time around. It will not happen again, because I am purchasing a pocket size can of spray paint for such occasions.

LaddersAnyway, I missed the trail turns a few times and had to do some backtracking along the cliff-lines, and came to something I though was only reserved for trails in Canada.  Being the litigous society that we are I did not think a stater recreation area would allow these things, but I am grateful that they do.

When you climb this set of stairs and ladders, you reach one of the coolest views on the trail, but be careful there are no rails to keep you from getting becoming part of the view.  You can play around with the view by clicking here. (If you think google earth is cool you will enjoy this, you can pan around with the view and switch to aerial.)

I took in the view and got a little to close to the edge on a wobbly rock… boooo!  After that I decided to take in the views while holding onto trees.   After this overlook you are along an old road for about a mile, passing an old mine, and then you drop back down into the gorge (if you are following the trail) and follow the middle cliff line with the super technical rocks.  I however, chose a different path, that led me to some amazing waterfalls, one which you cross with the aid of a cable, which is absolutely necessary unless you are Spiderman.

I kept cranking along and I kept losing the trail.  I thought it would follow the cliff lines at certain points, but it would meander off into the woods, and other times there were obvious trails into the woods, but as it turns out the Cumberland  trail would follow the cliff line and not the obvious path.  Lesson learned.

I definetly want to go back and explore this trail again soon. The views are amazing, and it is going to be great for swimming when it warms up in the summer.  In addition there are a plethora of waterfalls, and even areas for water bouldering, if you are willing to turn your run into a multi-sport adventure day.



You ain’t nothing but a hoochie mama– hoodrat hoodrat

4 01 2009

Ok, so maybe this is not what they were talking about.  Went to the Chattahoochee for a longer run on Saturday and managed to get in 16 miles, although it took close to 2:45.  It is nice to be able to leave my house and drive for about 3 miles and be able to run on trails for 16 miles or so.  I am not sure who says Atlanta is not much of an outdoor town, but they would be dead wrong.  I saw a gaggle of geese, 3 blue heron, one really large person (but hey they were out there giving it), and two park rangers, one of whom I met recently under good circumstances.    His name is Will Overton, and if you come across him in the park say hello.  I do not think you will come across people who love this park more than the rangers.  

As I was coming back up the river on the left bank near a formation called the Marietta Mangler there was a horrible smell.  NOt the normal horrible hooch smell we are used to, but something with a little extra emphasis.  It is awful.  This is about a 1/4 mile downstream from Ray’s on the river.  When I went back under 285 I found the rangers at the park and reported it.   I told them I thought a septic tank was ruptured or something.  I wish you could have seen their faces.  They looked like I had told someone their dog had died.  There was true disappointment that the park they work & play in everyday is being even more polluted than it already is.  They thanked me and were off to check it out.  

It felt good to have a run in with a park ranger and not be scolded because my dog is not on a leash.  Good thing the dogs can not make the long runs anymore or this situation could have been entirely different.   No matter, the run was good and I felt as though I had accomplished something other than a long run by reporting a sewage leak into the river. 

I have to work today so I missing the Fatass!!!!  ARRRGGGGHHH- good luck to all those participating.

Winter Solstice… sort of

21 12 2008
  • Distance- 30.9 miles
  • Time: 8 hours and 45 minutes
  • Participants: Janice, Trevor, Robert and ladies & gentleman the Reverend Craig Anderson,

It was pointed out to me on the drive up to the trailhead for the Duncan Ridge, that this was now officially “Reeve’s Day BEFORE Solstice run,” and my partners in crime wanted to know why they even joined me.  Good question… but all shall be revealed in time.

I awoke at 4 am, and immediately began the process of breakfast, & Trevor joined me shortly after.  I made as much noise as possible (according to my wife) while prepping breakfast.  I on the other hand, thought I was displaying my mad ninja like qualities of domestic morning duties.  Anyway she mumbled something to me about the dog, and I was out the door on my way over to Janice’s for a 5 am rendezvous(that’s a ninja term for those of you that are unlearned).  We loaded the car and soon we were on our way to the three forks trail head, but first we had to stop at our sponsor QT and acquire a few more provisions; pringles, chocolate milk, gator-ade, peanuts, water, and I believe someone even got a can of skoal, so we would not stand out anymore than we already did with the hunters.   Craig showed off his skills as the mad navigator/crewman. As a runner, I now know the most valuable piece of gear is a Craig.  I do not think you can get them anymore, and I am positive this was the last of a series, but if one ever pops up on ebay, Bid and bid high!

We reached the trailhead just before dawn and met a couple hunters. They asked how far we were going, and someone mentioned 30 miles.  It was still kind of dark, but I think he shook his head, mumbled something and he was off into the woods, luckily in the opposite direction of us.We waited until there was enough light to head out without lights and we were off.  Below is the elevation profile of what happened next.

Duncan ridge Profile

Duncan ridge Profile

This was my first solstice event where other people would be joining me for the duration of the day, which mentally changed things for me.  The challenge I had put before myself, was now being taken on as a group, which raised my level I believe of completing it.  Plus was a little fun having a few catholics (yes “catholic” is not capitalized, here… forgive me father for I have sinned) participate in a pagan ritual.
The trail started off moderately enough and my stomach was feeling great.  I am pretty proud of myself for getting my nutrition dialed in and not feeling as if my stomach was trying to crawl outside of my body. We crested the first peak at about mile 2, a nice grassy bald, and posed for a couple of pics, and I took in the first long range views that the Duncan Ridge trail provides.  It was a dark, grey day but you could see for miles & miles, and included in those miles and miles were several of the ridges we would be climbing, today is going to be great!
We headed downhill from there and were treated to some nice views and a steep decline, to our first aid station at about mile 8 where we were met by  a smiling Craig.  He had been rally driving the hills of North Georgia and as fast as a man with a pretty mouth has to in these parts.  We reloaded on fuel and crossed the Toccoa, at possibly one of the most over engineered bridges I have ever seen.  I could not believe such a bridge existed just for a trail.  I am becoming a big fan of the forest service.
We saw a couple more hunters after leaving the bridge, and they were in just as much awe of the bridge as I was.  I think its kind of interesting, as far away as I am from being a hunter, how much we share in our passion for the outdoors.  Now there are some fundamental differences, but there is no denying how much they value the forest.
We crested the ridge and were met by Craig, again (are you beginning to see the value in a Craig yet? Add to not only his generous support of us but he kept me & Trevor laughing for most of the day).  Trevor got off the train at this point, as he had styled the first part of the run without doing further damage to his foot and was not intent on doing so.  We refueled, as I rummaged through my bag looking for  food it finally hit me what Corinne had said earlier in the morning  about the dogs, “he ate your Clif bars.”  MOTHER of Pearl.   Janice shared her pringles, and I downed an Enervitene, quite an interesting mix.
I was ready to go and in my mind I was thinking, in theory this is one of the most difficult trails in Georgia and I am feeling great, this is not so hard, I am  CHAMPION.
I was told this weekend, by someone with the social skills of a rock that I enjoy conflict, and while I disagree with how she intended it, I can see a little bit of conflict here, or what my seventh grade literature teacher introduced to me as Irony.  I much prefer the word Irony, and witnessed a healthy dose of it the rest of the day.
The climb after mile 12 was grueling.  The ridges allowed me to truly understand the Sisyphus myth, sans rock.  I was amazed at the beauty of the trail and baffled by the topography.  Who in God’s name designed this trail, I want to see the quads on this person.   At about mile 16, I got off trail for a little bit, searching for the blaze.  My misadventure took me down the side of the mountain, until I heard an “on on” form the top of the mountain.  Crikey, I have to climb that hill again.
The good thing about the Duncan Ridge roller coaster is that it does allow you to find some sort of rhythm.  Up, down, up down, up down.   The profile, may look like a cokeheads EKG, but there is a cadence in there and I felt like I found it. For the first time on a long run, I was really good about nutrition and never once did I feel dehydrated or hungry, or desalinated. We made it to the next aid station, at about mile 23 and was greeted by Craig & Trevor,
“what took you so long?  It was only a 10K!!!”
I have a whole new respect for those who participate in 10ks now.  If you can finish the Peachtree in under an hour you are CHAMPION.  Rob got off the train here and Janice and I got back on for another stupid ascent.  This trail was not holding back any punches, and was landing each one it threw squarely.  At one point the DRT intersects with Duncan ridge road and parallels it all the way to Wolfpen Gap.  Someone had mentioned this earlier in the day, and I did not give it much thought, however when I saw it there was no question in my mind that I was going to be a roadrunner for part of the day. The road itself is a challenging run and we still managed some good ascents & descents, but on much better footing the rest of the day.  There was a good bit of walking involved for this section and at one point were passed by some people in Jeeps offroading it enjoying the outdoors and Duncan ridge is a slightly different way than us.  I was suddenly jealous, and wanted my own ORV (hunter orange of course), with flames on the side, a boar’s head as a hood ornament, a booming system so all the wild animals in North Georgia knew to get back because they do not know me like that, and case of beer for good measure.
We made it to Wolf Pen gap, and decided that for the Day Before Solstice Run this distant would suffice.  The original plan was to make it to Neel’s Gap, however I was worried we would not be able to do this and still have daylight, so our crew hurried us along to get changed and get in the friggin car.  I know Chopper would have been disappointed in us, but I felt great about our run.  The DRT in its completion may have to be a summer mission, or to add to the theme an equinox event. Either way this trail is worth the effort.

Dark night running-

21 11 2008

Started my trail run from Sope Creek parking lot last night about 5:15 PM, and was bundled for the blast of cold that has hit Atlanta as of late.  I took off with water bottle in hand along with my flashlight in anticipation of the darkness.  I settled into a rather fast pace and it is the best run I have had in a while, I was feeling good, and the miles seemed to be flying by as my head was dreaming of my next big adventure (winter solstice run).

I passed a couple of people on my way down to the river as they were headed back up to the Sope Creek area for running.  It made me smile thinking there were some other people here that were willing to run here in the trails at night. As it started to get darker, I kept fighting the urge to turn on my head lamp as I really enjoying the feeling of being alone in the woods and running at night.  It goes back to something I think from the Pearl Izumi ad campaign of “run like an animal,” which always allows me to feel cool and want to run faster & harder.

I am not an animal.  Bravado got in the way and I would not turn on my head lamp and the result, was straining my quad.  I was heading down hill when my right foot caught something (I swear their is a troll on that hill) and sent me forward and I landed on my left foot, fulling loading my quad, and then collapsing on to the ground, yard-selling all my gear; water bottle, flashlight, one glove and my hat.  I think when i landed I saw dust fly up, but I am not sure because it was so dark.  Hmmmm, looks like I have found out when I need assistance with my night vision. I sat on the ground for a few seconds assessing the situation, and then laughing at myself. Nothing broken, and the only worse for wear as of now is a strained quad, and if I remember correctly, this heals fast. I dusted myself off, and was back up and running, but at a much slower pace, with my headlamp actually turned on this time. Duh!

The sky is falling

15 11 2008

golden fallThe sky is falling the sky is falling!  Well no, not exactly, but it is worth shouting about.  Here in metro Atlanta we have passed peak foiliage and now the leaves are darkening the sky in the woods when the wind blows.  The floor of the forest looks, in places, like blankets of gold.  I got out late this morning for a run around 10 and managed not to see anyone for the first 4 miles of my run.  

Keep in mind this is in Atlanta!  I ran 4 miles at 10 o’clock on a Sarturday morning in fall’s perfect weather and managed not to see anyone until I reached the hooch.  I still do not understand why Atlanta gets a bad rap for not being a good ourtdoor town.  Okay maybe I do understand, once I was off the single track and down by the river, I saw no less than 200 people, but back on the singletrack I was alone again.  It’s like peek a boo for trail runners here.  

The downed leaves provide a little bit of a challenge with my depth perception more so this year since my surgery. It has not affected me too much until now other than night running.  Night running on trails is a like a different leauge after the surgery, but still manageble! 🙂  

Speaking of eye issues, there is a chance I might be candidate for a clinical trial for Eale’s disease which could possibly restore some of my vision. Woohoo!  But for now I am beyond grateful for the vision I have today and being able to see the sights today. 

Even if the sky is falling, I say “Up with Fall!”

Mystery Mountain Marathon

3 11 2008

elevation profile etc click here

This run would be technically my first marathon, and it was my good friend Trevor’s first time to go this distance. We woke up around 5 am on Sunday to start fueling ourselves for the event. It was surprisingly easy to get out of the bed, I think mainly because we were housing 5 dogs at the time. Trevor brought his, we had our normal 3 and we have a visitor for a few months, O-dog, who is wintering in Atlanta instead of North Carolina.

We started our fueling with a few hard boiled eggs, which I think I am going to have to remove form my pre race/ long run regimen, as the thought of them right now makes me feel sick. We loaded the truck with Java in tow for the race. He was antsy on the drive up as he most likely thought he was going to spend the day in the Cohuttas instead of on a leash at an aid station, assisting Corinne, who is out currently because of a twisted morphed ankle. In spite of all that she still showed her full support by volunteering not only to drive us home but work the aid station as well.

We made it up to Ellijay in almost record time and were on the ridge top on Highway 52 in time to see the sun peak over the ridge with a golden amber that would inspire most poets to write line upon line, and may come up with something like “Nature’s first green is gold.” Oh well ponyboy back to the subject at hand, the marathon.

We arrived about 50 minutes before race time and received our race packets in record time. We suited up in our race clothes, thanked Corinne for being our chaperone for the day and volunteering for the race in general. We listened to the pre race instructions, took a pre race photo and headed to the starting line.

We started in the parking lot down at the lake for the only flat part of the course for the day, and we leap frogged a few people exchanging positions for this first mile or so and crossed a road and were greeted by the Race Director, one sicko named Janice Anderson, and the course marker Jason Rockman, who assured us we were looking good. That’s good to know, one mile in and we look ok, so far so good. Once you crossed the road any idea of the word flat was suddenly stricken from the vocabulary. The hills during this first part were not too terrible, and most of the challenges thinking about them were taken away by the overall beauty of the surroundings or talking with Trevor. The first few miles of the trail consisted of rocky, rooty, singletrack and kept you focused on the trail, but in the rare instances I would steal a view to my left, looking out over the valley of holly creek near Chatsworth it was amazing, it was like running along some panoramic shot of the Fall in Appalachia. The view was so amazing it did not seem like it was real.

After being treated to spectacular scenery we were then charged for those views on the climb up to the tower at about mile 5. This was the first time the hills had made it through my adrenaline and I was able to feel them. The feeling, well it hurt, but it hurt in that really good way. The hills kept coming and the scenery deep in the forest away from the long range view was just as good. At some point we saw a couple of deer pass by, but it was somewhere near an uphill so the sight of deer was not of my concern. What was of my concern was keeping the contents of my stomach in my stomach. I thought I had my pre race nutrition dialed in, but apparently I need to do some more lab work concerning that. I managed thanks to Trevor a couple of shot bloks and kept them in my mouth for a few miles, but could not bear to swallow them as my stomach was sending warning signals. I made it to the next aid station at about mile 7 with a half eaten shot block and I forced myself to eat some pretzels and pringles and avoid anything sweet. I got the food down, albeit with some difficulty. Trevor looked at me a few times, hoping that I would toss my cookies, as it would have upped the entertainment value for the day, but somehow I managed to hold on. For about a mile I was not so sure about the race but shortly after that battle things got good for a while. We stayed the course on rolling hills and leap frogged a few positions with people until we got to the aid station at about mile 11.

We took a look at that hill, grabbed a few gels and started our way up the hill. I call it the hill because I recently read a report about infamous hills in races like the Peachtree and how they were a big challenge to the motivation of a runner. I am not sure why this would demotivate anyone, as Trevor and I exchanged thoughts about what kind of sick person would think to throw this hill in the middle of the race. Spot on! This climb is not as ridiculous as it looks, however it is still a swift kick and it was not even the hardest climb of the day. Once you crest out you start the most ridiculous downhill along a powerline with a great view of the clear valley floor about 1200 feet below. You cruise down at this gradient for a little over a mile. My toes were attempting to escape the front of my shoes. I have never been so happy for a down hill to end in all my life. I always thought downhills were a nice diversion from the gruelling grind of a good climb, but I have found that I much prefer going uphill…  

I’ll tell the rest of the story later, but needless to say the day was spectacular and we finished 13th overall.  Not bad for a first marathon!, However the lead guys finished about an hour and 45 minutes in front of us.  I think they were on motorcycles.





I accidentally ran a marathon…

15 10 2008

This past weekend Rinne & I headed to Jackson for my neighbor’s wedding in beautiful Mississippi.  It was a challenge giving up a fall weekend in NC or North Georgia for a trip to Jackson, but well worth it.  The service was beautiful and it was an added bonus seeing f my sister who was also able to come in from Phoenix.

According to my running schedule I needed to get a long run of 18 + miles in one day.  This can be challenging enough to find suitable trails around here for this, much less in Jackson MS, but at least it was a guarantee it would be a flat course.  I woke up early Saturday morning at my father’s house and left from there heading toward the trails of the Pearl river.

I have been playing in these woods since I was about 10, and by playing I mean doing what stupid young boys do, starting fires (on the beach of course), making little bombs, smoking cigarettes and other recreational agricultural products, drinking, going off rope swings, doing the past 3 things listed simultaneously.  I come back to visit these woods on almost every trip home and find a new appreciation for them each time.  And over the past 10 years or so it is nice to see them in a healthy manner.  The woods seem the same as they always have, except now it  just seems a shorter distance on the trails to reach the river.

I ran for about half a mile on road until I reached the entrance to the trails which was afield overgrown with tall grass, and my dry foot-ware became immediately soaked from the morning dew. Cest lavie.  I ran past points along the trail that threw my memory back in time and brought what I am sure was a stupid grin to my face.  A tornado had touched down here in the spring so the trails were not as clear as I had hoped but thanks to the ATV enthusiasts everything was easily passable.  I never thought I would be grateful for the ATV riders, but if it were not for them, none of these trails would even exist.  I kept moving at about a 7:15 pace for the first part of the run.  For me, going long distance, this is flying, I could get used to running in Mississippi.  The trails dumped me out at my old soccer fields, ( I really sucked at that sport, but had a blast playing it).

I meandered through a few neighborhoods until I could reaccess the trails along the river.  I had to back track now & again when the trail would just suddenly stop. At about mile 7 I found myself in the middle of a cypress swamp and about 20 feet of water separating the other part of the trail I was supposed to be on.  The swamp seems to be unaware of the drought going on around the Southeast.  I walked up about 30 feet and crossed the water on a beaver dam, where from the looks of it some deer had had the same idea.

Kermit in swamp

Kermit in swamp

In my mind I was completely expecting to see Kermit the frog here, but he made no appearance, which is just as well as I am not fond of hearing banjo music when I am in the woods.  (Mental note, must sneak the duelling banjos tune on a trail runner’s ipod).  After the swamp crossing, a mile or so more through the woods, I made it to an aid station (translation convenience store) and loaded down on Pringles, Gatorade and more water.  Life is a bowl of cherries. I crossed a bridge to get over the river, and my plan was to head back upstream on the Pearl river on trails the whole way to the Reservoir, that was my plan anyway.  I headed back into the woods and was on great single track for a mile or two and crossed some ladder bridges over a creek, and was soon on fairly well maintained gravel roads on the edge of pine forests.  I had seen this area from google maps which meant I was on course for 18-20 miles.  What google maps did not point out, was this was private land.  I figured it was a hunting camp of some kind, and the deer stands on the edge of the forest with steps up to them affirmed my hunch.  I knew it was not season, so I figured it was allgood. The road was very straight and I could see a T intersection ahead, and I had my eyes set on it for what seemed to be 15 minutes, and when I was about a 100 yards from the intersection I saw a large white F-350 cruise by.  Uh oh.

As I made it to the intersection, I could see the truck making its way toward me at a high velocity in reverse. Ok, I thought this is going to be intereseting. The man driving the truck rolled down the window and his first words were “you’re not from round here are you?”  I already knew the answer to this question, “hell, no, I’m lost as I can be.”  This nice older gentleman who was obviously not too thrilled to see me on his private hunting grounds gave me a small lecture  about private property and public property, which I took several notes on, and thanked him for setting me straight.  He had a gun sitting on his passenger seat, which he never let his eyes direct to, but which mine were setting up a permanent camp at.  (I know I ended the sentence with a preposition, however let me remind you the setting is Mississippi, so when in Rome…) At the end of my lecture about property and property rights he pointed me ever so kindly in the direction to leave his property, which was only a bout a half a mile to the gate. I gladly started off in that direction, but about 5 steps into it, I realized my run was going to be a lot longer than I expected, and even worse I was going to have to run on the road.

Running on the road was not as bad as expected, but contending with motorists on a Saturday in MS on their way to watch football, aaiiyyyeeeeeeee!!!  I kept cruising along the roads hoping to find another way into the trails.  I took a turn after the trailer park at the Shady Oaks RV Park sign, which seemed like a good idea…  I am not sure if I was seeing things or not, but there was an Indian temple under construction on this road.  My first thought is I am hallucinating, this is not a site I expected to see on a run, much less what started out to be a trail run in Mississippi that has already gone through a swamp.  So I stop and look at this place a little befuddled, and I ask one of the workers what is going on.  It turns out he is the foreman from India and he invites me in for a tour of this 80% complete temple.  Now 80% of the construction is done, but none of it has any color, it is just grey.  If this were not surreal enough already, now I am seeing real life in Black & White.  I satiate my curiosity of the place, thank the workers for the tour and make my way back toward home.

I run along the edge of another hunting camp, knowing that my tress-passing, at least on hunting camp property for the day has ended.  I climb a fence into the Jackson Country Club and run along the levee separating the golf course from the river and with each step getting closer and closer to home.  I was only supposed to do 18 or so miles, but I am already at 25 by the time I hit the country club. I arrive back at my dad’s house with a little over 27 miles on my legs and am beat, but at least no one asked me to squeal like a pig.

Click below to see a map of the run, minus 3.5 miles or so of it.