Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas weekend at Max Patch and Sunrise Lookout

This year Linds and I decided to do something different for Christmas. Although we both absolutely love our families and love spending the holidays with them, we decided to spend this year's Christmas away from the lights of the city and not get caught up in all the complexities of a consumer Christmas. The goal was to escape to a cabin and spend the weekend without television and other worldly distractions. We would spend our time playing in the sunshine and outdoors exploring new sections of the A.T. and surrounding areas. Immersed in the wild with plenty of sunshine for the weekend we spent Christmas Eve day enjoying the wonders of Max Patch. An expansive bald at 4700' with 360 degree views of the Black Mountains, the Smokies and many other mountains. With so many wonderful sights we ran in circles for a bit just enjoying the beautiful views. Eventually we descended the backside of the bald with the Appalachian Trail all to ourselves we ran through some very vegetation rich draws as we followed the stream to Lemon Gap. We passed a couple shelters and enjoyed many other great views.
Looking back now I can say how much better it was being on a trail in the woods together and alone then driving some road as people honk and yell at each other in the name of Christmas trying to get that last ham, or that last video game they procrastinated about buying their child for months on end. Yet while we were on the trail from Max Patch to Yellow Gap without another soul in sight I can honestly say I thought not once about the land of the lost below. I just ran, with Kirra on a personal mission to smell every tree in the woods and Linds by my side we just ran. We talked as we always do but on this day we especially enjoyed being with each other. No more holidays away and across oceans from each other. This one was special and we decided to spend it in the sunshine.
After a great run we spent the evening relaxing and of course eating great food. Christmas day we ate more great food and spent a majority of the day again out in the woods hiking. We embarked to find a lookout tower. Though we never made it there, seems it looked closer than it was which may have been the binoculars, we had a great time again enjoying the solemn quiet woods. There is something truly peaceful about being in the woods not being able to hear passing cars or honking or anything other than the natural sounds of the wild. It was an amazing hike.
After dinner Linds and I decided why not catch the sunset on Max Patch. At 458pm we jumped in the car and drove much much faster than we should have but arrived at the parking area at 515 just as the sun was setting. We jumped from the car and ran like a couple of kids in the wild for the first time. With a very unforgiving hill ahead of us we were instantly reminded of our run the day before. Kirra of course had a blast being back on the bald. With hundreds of yards of grass in all directions, though only 4700', Kirra felt as if she was in heaven, doggy heaven! We made the top to be greeted by a windchill which brought the temp to about 10-15degrees but were welcomed with the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen .
There on the top of Max Patch as the sun set across the Smokies and Tennessee beyond it was hard if not impossible to not gasp in the awesome beauty we stood before. As I stood hand in hand with the only woman I have ever loved and the greatest wife ever, Linds and I shared a special moment. As the sun sank away the sky filled itself with streaks of pink, yellow, orange, purple and many other colors which can all be summed as beautiful!
Was it a traditional Christmas...No. Was it the best Christmas I can ever remember, yes. To spend time in the wild and in the sunshine is to be free. And this past weekend I gained a whole new appreciation for a phrase I have heard a few times. To love is to live in dreams awake! I love the outdoors and I absolutely adore my gorgeous wife. This weekend was a dream yet even though I am awake it has yet to fade.....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Life's three simple lessons and the freedom of running.....

This weekend the plan was to keep it simple. After a long week of work and many weekends of epic runs and adventures the goal was simple, do some relaxing. But as the world always does it seems to throw a twist and turn in the road when you least expect.

Running in and of itself has always been a form of escape for myself. A way to clear my head and refresh my mood and energy. Trail running offers that and more. The opportunity to get in a great workout, clear my head, and ultimately relax as my body gets into a rhythmic stride where I feel as if i am no longer consciously moving my legs, but rather they seem to just swing forward as excited as I am to see whats around the next bend. This weekend Linds and I were going to keep it simple. We started out Saturday with an hour on the Mountains To Sea Trail. Getting an early start we ran as most of the country slept. It is a good feeling being out on the trail in the woods all by yourself. With Linds up front setting the pace and Kirra running around as if she owned the place, I found instant relief from a long busy week. With Christmas fast approaching, the world seems to focus on one thing, shopping, money this and money that. Sales are down, Sales are up. Its an emotional roller coaster trying to live in this world. Out on the trail things are different. The biggest hill could be ahead of you, trees could be blocking the path, but no matter what I always seem to have fun. The diversity and surprises the trail and woods offer are more than welcomed. These are the intricacies that make the journey worth taking.

After our brief but more than needed trot through the woods, we headed to north Asheville. Linds had training and i would drop her off and return to the trail for more relaxation. On the way there we were greeted by yet another of lifes great surpises. Unlike the trail these surprises aren't always welcomed. Today's great gift was a rock or a bolt, either or doesn't really matter, what does it the fact it smacked our windshield hard enough to break it! Yes, what a day it was now. No one was hurt, nothing bad really happened but it was enough to send me into a spiral of worldly chaos. I started thinking about the $500 it costs to replace and why the heck it had to happen, but a great lesson was due to be learned. Life isn't about broken windshields, life isn't about how much money is in the bank, life isn't about a lot of things we seems to get caught up in! This lesson of course didn't sit in right away.

I dropped Linds of at training, not in a good mood of course, and on I drove back to the trail. Today's first lesson came at the hands, or should I say the hills, of Kitsuma. Kirra and I went out for another run. I seemed to run the entire way out and most of the way back before it truly set in how truly UNimportant a broken windshield is. I glanced through the trees and saw yet another gorgeous view. I could see north, south and east and what I saw was truly humbling. There are things greater, much greater than me feeling sorry for myself and that dumb windshield. I had the world, the wild, and the trail at my feet. In that moment I realized how chaotic life can be when you get caught up in worldly things. Yes, we need jobs to make money and money to life, so they saw, but life today was free and what a blessing it was. I returned from the trail refreshed and calmed.

The second lesson came when I pulled in and saw my gorgeous bride. I am truly a blessed man. Not only do I have a truly wonderful and amazing wife, but she is crazy and, thank God brave enough, to travel this road of life with me. I not only get to enjoy the beauty and mystery of the woods and trail but i get to do it with the most amazing and inspiring woman i have ever met. I am a blessed man.

Sunday we decided to take another 'easy' trot through the woods. Today was the third lesson. A trail on a map can, may and will look much easier than when you run it. Today's run would be Turkey Pen Gap trail from the trail head to Black Mountain. A mere 5.5 miles each way showed the map. What I failed to spend time looking at was the contour and the many, many close elevation lines stacked on after the other. The trail was great. Back to the trail where surprised though painful at times always return the favor. Though the parking lot was filled, everyone else seemed to know how tiring this trail was and chose other routes. But yet again, we had the trail, the woods, and what feels like the world to ourselves. In this third run of the weekend I couldn't help but recap the previous two lessons. Life can be chaotic. Without a doubt life never goes the way you want it to. It is easy to get caught up in the plethora of things that do not matter. But in the woods, on the trail, it is easy to remember how simple life truly is and what a majestic world we truly have. There are things bigger than ourselves out there and how selfish of us to ever forget this. The other thing i thought about and what seems to always occupy most of my thoughts if how amazing my wife is. Again, strong enough, brave enough, and just as wild as me she chose to follow me on yet another journey through the woods. With her on my mind, our hearts beating as one, and the trail, woods and world at our feet, what a wonderful journey its going to be....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

GrayBeard Mountain Running

If you haven't ever taken the time to take a step back and look at the mountains in the winter, I recommend you do so. After the leaves have fallen and nothing remains but the bare bones of a mountain you are able to see the mountain for what it really is. Steep, rocky, odd shaped, rugged.... the list goes on as each mountain is different. Well, today the mountain was Graybeard. From the distance Graybeard seemed to display all the rugged characteristics of a well defined mountain quietly holding an amazing view waiting to be seen from the top. The great thing about a good mountain is you are forced to work in order to reach the top yet you are handsomly rewarded with a majestic view. Today, Graybeard did just that. With a couple miles of rugged trail to begin the route soon turned to a gradual grade and smooth switchbacks offering the ability to really push yourself as you ascend the mountain and withdraw further and further from civilization below. The last stretch had a few fallen trees and rocks along with a nice climb but finished on a small rock bluff giving you just enough of a boost to provide a complete 360 view of the world around.

It is amazing how you can fall, get scratched and bruised as you climb a mountain yet the moment you reach the top any and every thought of discomfort and pain seems to escape as your thoughts are filled with a euphoric pleasure of having accomplished yet another mountain run.

In the shadow of Adam Hill we then started the decent. Although the route to the top was a great run we felt the punishment was not enough. We decided to take the West Ridge Trail back to the start. The decent was rather something of a 'love-hate' relationship, being torn between slowing your pace for comfort, well not comfort, but safety and actually running but risking many falls accompanied by scraps and bruises. Though some may disagree we did all eventually make it down safely and were rewarded with another section of great trail as we ascending back of the hillside on Big Piney Trail to capture one last view of Montreat and all else below before the run finally came to an end.

I learned a few things this weekend. We are truly blessed with a number of really great friends and genuinely good people and when you mix that with a good quality mountain you are bound to have an amazing time. I also learned something else. Though I have known it now for a while it is seeming to grow more and more prevalent that without a doubt......I LOVE MOUNTAIN RUNNING!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Art Loeb and Perry's Palooza Palace!!

It all started on a fateful evening at the Asheville Brewing Company. With good company, great pizza and beer the conversation undoubtedly turned to trail running. Jon spoke of his desire to run the Art Loeb having yet to run the entire 30 some miles if you don't get lost. I, of course, said, "Hey, me too!" and then it all began. In a few short sentences it turned out we were going to be running the Art Loeb in 6 days that couldn't go by fast enough.

The goal was to meet at the start and run the entire trail ending at the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp where delicious food would be cooked around a fire in a nice warm cabin. The only thing standing in the way was a lovely 31 miles and 9500' feet of vertical elevation gain.

The air was nice and crisp in the morning, but with a beautiful day and perfect weather forecasted we knew this run would more than suffice the deep burning desire to be on the trail this weekend. We donned the headlamps, let the dogs free and off we went. It seems our legs weren't even warm before we hit the first hill climb but we knew once the sun rose we would already have a view.

Mile after mile we continued on enjoying the gorgeous views, solitude from the chaotic life below and the great company along for the journey. Though the run was gorgeous we did complain plenty with a trail covered in ice and cut from erosion but our spirits remained high knowing we had the trail mostly to ourselves.

Roughly 9 hours later, we happily stood in the shadow of Cold Mountain as we enjoyed the delicious warmth a cold, crisp Cold Mountain Winter Ale offered as we recapped the epic journey.

Thanks to Melissa for the shuttle and everyone for joining in on the great weekend journey. See you on the next one!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sam's Gap to Big Bald

Sitting here on the living room floor after a nice bowl of soup and big salad I am left pondering what made today so great?! Was is the fantastic company (wifers and dog), was the the unusually warm fall weather, the clear blue sky, the awesome section of A.T. (thanks Jon for the recommendation) the end I think without a doubt it was the perfect combination of all three.

We hit the trail about 9am on some rather sore legs after a day of hill repeats on Ferguson Peak and Little Pisgah Mtn in the Hickory Nut Gorge (picture below) but our spirits were high and with such amazing weather it was very easy to find energy and motivation for the expansive balds that lied ahead.

The trail was perfect with a few leaves matting the trail making the run rather comfortable on the good ole knees. With the trail and the mountains all to ourselves enjoying views in every direction. We made our way from Sam's Gap roughly 6.5 miles to Big Bald. On top the wind was blowing but the sun was shining and it was glorious. The warm breeze was very uncharacteristic of mid November weather but much appreciated. We enjoyed the views, soaked in the sun, drank some some wild air. Another awesome run and gorgeous day.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Little Pisgah Mountain

Today was yet another beautiful fall day. It has been a few months now since we have moved to Asheville but I still wake up pinching myself. There have been few places in the world I have seen that hold the same majestic beauty the mountains surrounding Asheville do. It still amazes me how just a short drive up the road and a quick hike or run up the trail and you can find complete solitude and resolution from the chaos down below. There is something about being out in the woods on a trail and the only sounds you hear are the beat of your heart, the heavy breathing and the crunch of the leaves beneath your feet. On this particular day Lindsey, Kirra and I decided to ascend the route to Little Pisgah Mountain. Another gorgeous day and awesome run....enjoy!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The 'Peoples Shut In Fun?? Run'

Well the day started waking up just after 5am and boy was it a nice chilly morning. We finally received our first overnight frost down in the valley and knew it was going to be quite a cold morning out. Nonetheless we headed out to beat the sun to the top of Pisgah in order to drop our cars for a run. We reached the top ready for this supposed 'fun' run that was going to take us over 18 miles and well over 5000' in elevation gain back to where we staged our car at the top of Mt Pisgah. We stood outside our car enjoying a very hot cup of coffee shivering intensely as the morning sun began to inch slowly over the mountains in the east. Was it going to be long and potentially painful, yes, but it was going to be gorgeous without a doubt.

We loaded in a couple of cars and headed back down the mountain to give up every foot of elevation would would re-earn on foot. As the layers of clothes were shed and we quickly started running to stay warm each stride brought us further from civilization and closer to the gorgeous expanse beyond. We shared this beautiful morning and run with Hayley and Damien Wells, Isaiah M and El Guapo (canine friend, maybe Kirra's new boyfriend), Brian Beduhn, and a great cameo by Mad A. who graced us with a very convenient shuttle. We slowly ascended the mountain traversing the Shut In Trail along the Mountains to Sea trail. With strategically placed aid we enjoyed some Gatorade and cookies along the way. 

A few hours later we stood in the parking lot in the shadow of the peak itself. Damien decided to rush to the top before the temptation of cupcakes and beer, which were standing by in the car, convinced him otherwise. I soon followed and moments later enjoyed a gorgeous view atop Mt Pisgah taking in the 360 views of the beautiful fall day. We grouped at the cars and finished the day reveling as we lay in the afternoon sun sharing cupcakes and few sips of very deserved and refreshing beer fending off the dogs which apparently were as hungry as we were. A big thank you to Hayley and Damien Wells who put this great run together, Adam for a friendly shuttle to the start and everyone else for the great company.

See you all on the next one. Until then...enjoy life and live in the sunshine.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall running in the Roan Highlands

It was a crisp fall morning in the Roan Highlands where North Carolina and Tennessee collide presenting some of the most gorgeous views I have seen. Wifers, the dog and I jumped in to the car and headed north drinking plenty of coffee as we watched the temperature decline as the landscape did nothing but rise. The goal was to run on the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap to Hump Mountain. What we thought would be a nice rolling 16 miles turned into a cold, sloppy, 19 miles with some rather brutal climbs but even more intense views.

With one foot in Tennessee and the other in North Carolina we started down the A.T. All three of us felt great  and who wouldn't with the views we were soaking in. Not many people were on the trail as it was still cold and mostly frozen. There were a few hunters out though which made us feel great that they came to this very spot to hunt black bear! Nothing like starting a good long run knowing the bear population is doing well on the trail. Nonetheless the run began and off we went. It was hard to not stop and take more pictures but knowing each step provided a more gorgeous view than the last, if that was even possible, we pushed on.

The run went great, no bears, though at about mile 8 Kirra had no shortage of energy as we spooked three deer. She ran faster than ever before chasing them. She loves nothing more in the world, except a bag a marshmallows which she ate the day prior without our knowing of course, than running with deer. With ease she caught the deer and pranced across the 5000' bald as she ran as if she was a deer herself. A few minutes later she returned ready to continue the run and climb the final accent to Hump Mountain. The top offered yet again a gorgeous expansive 360 view. There is no better way to enjoy a few fig newtons than sitting on the top of a mountain feeling like you are on top of the world. 

After a few moments to enjoy the view and catch our breath it was back to the trail. The run back, though sore and ready for some lunch, continued to amaze us with awesome views. The biggest surprise came as the deer returned for a victory lap with Kirra. This time she ran with them for a good 3-4 minutes as I had to go chase after her to coral her back in. As I write this now she is comatose on the couch dreaming about running still, or maybe having a nightmare since we had to lift her up on the couch after her first 19 mile run. 

A few climbs later and a couple of falls we returned to the car which was hard to find in the over filled lot at Carvers Gap. Almost a hundred people had gathered to hike the balds. And sure enough the hunters came to the right spot as they drove off with a black bear tied to the top of their truck. Nothing is more gratifying though than the solemn peaceful view enjoyed by alone just us some 9 miles down the trail.  Another day in the sunshine with the most amazing woman ever and a dog that never stops! Till next time.......

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fall is here!!

Headed out west Saturday October 8th for a highly anticipated new route we wanted to conquer.  We got to drive almost 25 miles on the Blue Ridge for some of the most amazing views I have ever seen.  The trees in Asheville haven’t started to fully change, but in higher elevation the colors are more than vibrant.  We encountered quite a bit of ridge drivers but continued on to pass over Mt. Pisgah and come to our starting spot near the Art Loeb trail.

We were trying to run with our cameras this trip so we could get some great shots from along the trail.  This run was going to be a bit slower for me and turns out for Tim as well, since we just did a 50k not even a week ago and the trail was very rough.  

Parts of the trail you were running on you couldn’t see your feet because of the trail and the grass growing over it.  The first bald we hit was Chestnut Bald and then continued on to Black Balsam Knob, stopping just below Tennent Mountain.

Over the 13 mile run we only gained roughly 2,300 feet in elevation.  The technical nature of the trail sure made up for the lack of elevation gain. 

After we finished up we thought taking a dip in the creek was a smart idea.  I think it was the coldest water either one of us has ever dunked ourselves in.  Needless to say warm cocoa and food was next on our to do list.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dupont 50k

On Sunday we bundled up and headed south to Dupont State Forest for a little "jog" in the woods.  This marks Tim's first ever 50k race and my second.  About 75 people were as crazy as we were this morning.  

The race consisted of two 15 mile loops on single track, fire roads and gravel paths.  The terrain was quite rocky and quite hard on the knees and hips.  Tim started out of the gate in first and never slowed down.  He got in a groove and just kept on going.  He ended up with a winning time of 4:18!!  Pretty impressive if I say so myself.  I felt great on the first lap but on the second lap hit a wall when I was low on fuel.  A patch of rolling hills really got me out of running rhythm.   I pushed through and gutted out to finish in 5:07, three minutes quicker than my previous race.

He always matches so well!

Freezing and waiting to start

Almost done!

Post race picture
After crossing the finish and being greeted by the best husband ever I was done and we were ready to go home.  A few snacks were grabbed as we headed on our way. 

 A nap at home was followed by a trip to Mamacitas for a very delicious burrito!!

Next race....Shut In Trail Run Nov 5th

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Carvers Gap

After waking up in the cool fresh air of the mountains and enjoying oatmeal and camp coffee we packed up.  We were told about some magnificent views from this spot on the AT called Carvers Gap.  It was a few miles from the campsite and boy was it an amazing view every way you looked.  

We took a quick hike along the AT and reached Round Bald at 5,826 feet.  You were up above the fog where the sun was shining and it was a gorgeous Sunday morning.

Looking south off of Round Bald

The white blaze of the AT

Little Hump Fitness Challenge

Saturday Sept. 17th we ventured north of Asheville for a new adventure.  We met a trail running group about a month ago in Dupont National Forest and learned that they do a "crazy" run once a month.  So we thought why not?  It was 1.5 hour drive to Roan Mountain, TN.  We met up with 3 other seasoned runners around 9am.

You start the run on the Overmountain Victory Trail (OVT) running through cow pastures, avoiding cow patties and climbing fences.  It seems as if the pastures are a never ending hill until you get into the forest.  But once you reach the forest it just continues to climb.  The trail intersects with the AT and makes a quick little jaunt up a bald with unbelievable views all around you. It's a 5 mile trip up to the top, but man does it feel much longer than that.  Tim reached the top at 57 minutes, me around 1:08.  Heading back down through the forest was very technical but so much fun!  We all reunited back at the cars and cracked open a few cold ones.  Much deserving for a great day of running!!

We figured since we wanted to get away, we'd camp out Saturday night as well.  The campground at Roan Mountain State Park was perfect.  After getting all cleaned up we did some exploring with the dog, since somehow she still had energy.  Soon after we got back to camp we all crashed for an afternoon nap.

Shut In Training Run--

Saturday Sept 10th all 3 of us geared up and climbed in the car. It was a gorgeous September morning, no clouds in the sky and the sun was shining.

 We drove to the top of Mt. Pisgah and left a car and a cooler stocked with chocolate milk.  Drove back down to the bottom and off we went.  In the 13.14 miles we gained 4,716 feet, not too shabby for a training run.  The dog made the whole trip and could've done it faster than both of us.

simple adventures

In the beginning....every story has a beginning and this one started a couple of years ago when a boy met a girl. If life were only so simple...well, it is. This is a story of the simpler things in life. Enjoying each breath as you take it,  understanding life is a gift and not taking it for granted, and the list goes on. It is simple but rather vast. So we will keep this very simple. This story will chart the life of two and a half. A boy, a girl, and a dog as they embark on their adventure through life enjoying the simpler things of life. Run, drink some beer and always remember the greatest gift in life is to love and be loved. Have fun reading and hope to see you on the trail, whether its going up, down, or hanging flat its always going forward..........