I flew up to North Carolina last Thursday to visit with my folks and borrow a car (so Lily and I won't have to juggle work and school schedules with one vehicle). Dad and I got in a good run at Salem Lake on Friday, but I couldn't resist the temptation to vector west on my return to FL to get in a good mountain run.
I brought with me an altered perception of the Appalachians from over a month living in Florida. For perhaps the first time, I noticed rolling hills driving west through the flat Piedmont. I was absolutely blown away by the grandeur of the beautiful, but relatively minuscule South Mountains. As the Blue Ridge towered above me on the final approach, I smiled with a new-found appreciation and awe. Would my quads remember what to do?
At noon on Saturday, I parked at the Kitsuma TH right off of I-40 to begin a Rattle my Heart remix. My plan was to get in a good 50K workout and explore a link-up of three summits (Pinnacle, Rocky Knob and Greybeard Mountain) via a route known as the Swannanoa Rim Trail (thanks to Brandon, for the inspiration). Starting in a counter-clockwise direction, the loop immediately climbs Kitsuma Peak, then descends an exciting roller-coaster ridge line to the Old Fort Picnic Area and a short section of pavement.
After an hour of running, I began the climb up Heartbreak Ridge to 5,665' Pinnacle. Fall colors were beginning to appear and there was a hint of cool and crisp in the air. I still felt sweaty and out of shape on the climb (which I guess should be no surprise). I needed water, but found only the slightest trickle at Pinnacle spring. No matter, while waiting for my bottle to slowly fill, I slurped eagerly at the cool mountain water dripping from saturated moss.
With bottle filled, I ascended the yellow-blazed trail to the clouded summit of Pinnacle and was surprised to meet a couple of hikers on top. Now it was time to follow the Swannanoa Rim "trail" south, commando crawling through thick laurel in the clouds without map or compass. The challenge was short-lived as the forest soon opened up and produced pleasant terrain over the memorable outcrops of Rocky Knob all the way to the top of Greybeard Mountain.
|View from Heartbreak Ridge|
|Fall colors are starting!|
|The forest opens up along the Swannanoa Rim|
|Descending Rocky Knob, looking towards Craggy Dome|
|The aptly named Rocky Knob with the Blacks above and beyond|
|Greybeard Mountain from Rocky Knob|
|Kitsuma Peak and Youngs Ridge from Royal Gorges overlook|