12.29: Bartram stage one, 23.1 miles, 4500' climb in a leisurely 4:54. Mohammed, Brian and I are newbies easing our way into this stage running madness. The weather is fantastic, the rain clouds have parted and the sun is out. From the pine flats along the Chattooga to the laurel-framed waterfalls of the foothills, the GA Bartram trail traverses a true Appalachian wonderland.
12.30: Bartram stage two, 33.7 miles, 8400' climb in 7:27. The day starts out cold and rainy and never gets much better. On the climb up Rabun Bald, I'm near hypothermic and put on all my clothes. Still cold, I take to running up the steep grades and reluctantly pull ahead of Mohammed. Brian has graciously opted to crew for us today. He greets me 18 miles in at Osage overlook with a subway sandwich. I pick up Uwharrie and we finish the stage over the steep Fishhawks to Buckeye Creek.
12.31: Bartram stage three, 22.8 miles, 6700' climb in 4:52. The weather is perfect, the sky is clear blue. The leaves crunch underfoot from overnight frost. Mohammed, Uwharrie and I ascend Wayah Bald from Wallace Branch. This is really starting to feel like a workout now. I reach the summit in two and a half hours. On our way down to Nantahala Lake, we swap keys with Brian who is running the section in the opposite direction. We pound our way to Appletree group camp in under five hours and soak our tired legs in the icy river. Three stages in with a cummulative time of 17:13; one 25 mile day remains, could I possibly go sub-24? Stay tuned to find out! We hope you have a safe and happy New Year! Cheers.