18 08 2008

Spent the weekend in NC, arriving late Friday night too much cooler than Atlanta temperatures, which was more than pleasing to me. On Saturday morning I woke up and did a nice 4.5 mile run on Flint Ridge which is directly above the NOC where you gain about 700 feet in the first mile of the run. The Flint Ridge trail was built as part of a trail building camp hosted by NOC and IMBA a few years ago, so the result is a nice smooth trail that is is mountain bike friendly the whole way. Translation: the whole thing is runnable because of the grades not being ridiculously steep. After the fun climb in the beginning it is a nice rolling trail that you can get moving fast on. This was a nice warm up fro what was to come Sunday.

I spent Saturday afternoon teaching a friend to paddle on the Nantahala. I forgot this river imports its water from a glacier. I can not believe I spent a good part of my life in this river without jumping inside a woodstove like our friend from Plumtree.

Now onto Cheoah…

Trevor, never one to turn down stupid adventures, came to join me for the Cheoah Bald “bad idea” run. This is is part of his preparation for his first marathon in November. The area was packed with people who were planning on kayaking the Cheoah the next day, and Trevor and I were mistaken by a few as kayakers when we told them our plan was to run to Cheoah.  I was slightly insulted (not sure why),  my priorities have shifted a little to say the least, as there was a time when paddling was all I thought about, & cheoah meant really only one thing to me.  Dont get me wrong, not that paddling is not fun, I just do not have the drive that I once did, plus if you only do it about 10 days a year, things can start to get scary again, yeah Horsepasture!

We started our approach to Cheoah bald on the Bartram trail along Ledbetter creek at roughly about 1900 feet. When we started to cross the creek we came across the President of the NC Bartram trail Society building a bridge across Ledbetter creek. Spoke with him for about 5 minutes and thanked him for his work and discussed volunteer opportunities as I feel like I owe some serious time in the trail maintenance department.

To give you an idea of how steep the first section is, it took us 23 minutes to climb .9 miles and my heart rate was in the 150s. The trail diverts away from Ledbetter during this time, but comes back to the creek and you follow it for its entirety until it runs dry, well at least this year. We ran what sections we could along this part, but for the most part, this was just an anaerobic hike. After the creek goes dry you can run at a decent pace for about a 1/4 of a mile, where you cross an unused forest service road. At the junction of the road and trail I believe there was a butterfly convention. I have never seen so many in one place before, and the variety of colors, it was like a being surrounded by a bunch of flying flowers, not to mention there were flowers, although that had not taken flight, (I am still somewhat of grounded.)

Elevation Profile. Apparently I fell off the mountain 33 minutes in, and it did not hurt as much as I thought it would.

After the butterfly convention we headed back into the woods for the most miserable climb of the day. And by miserable, I mean painful, and by painful I mean i hurt in a place I did not know existed in my body. The trail was goregeous but relentless in its ascent. This is for about a 1/4 of mile before it makes a sharp right hand turn and becomes a manageable climb. Whoever blazed this trail was one tough… person. We continued up and met up with the AT about a 1000 feet from the summit.

Cheoah bald is at an elevation of about 5064 and roughly 4.25 miles from the mouth of Ledbetter creek. A little over 3000 vertical feet not counting any ups and downs in about 1:34 . This is the fastest I have made it up here. We dropped our hydration packs, broke out Gator Ades, Clif Bars and the camera and enjoyed the views. The dogs enjoyed the rest, and the extra food packed for them. I became chilled much faster than I anticipated on an August day, so we packed up took a few pictures and started moving.

We started the rapid descent from the bald and Trevor, tried to wrap himself around a tree, and was fairly successful. Luckily his pack afforded him some protection, not much but some. When he & I run together it is usually me who ends up hurting himself, so this was a nice change, but was in the front of my head the whole time. We dropped down to Sasafrass Gap, 732 foot descent in about a mile. Only 7 more miles to go, and my quads were yelling at me already. We managed to keep a good pace, and were much more talkative on the way down than on the way up. We were able to run most of the trail except a few steep rocky declines and a couple inclines. Even the smallest of ascents had my quads yelling expletives to the rest of my body within 10 seconds of staring a hill. We continued on down to the Nantahala for a total of 12 miles for the day with a total time including our rest on top of Cheoah in about 4 hours. I climbed into the icy cold river and soaked my legs along with Java soaking his entire body, 12 miles was rough on the both of us.