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.

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!”

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)