This weekend, I planned on doing some recon along the SB6K route over the Craggies and Blacks. Of course that was before another storm dumped a crazy amount of snow on western NC. Marooned in Marion: when life gives you lemons…
On Saturday, I set out solo without Uwharrie for a marathon run starting/finishing from my house at 11AM. I told Lily that I should be back by 3:30PM. After all, the ~26 mile clockwise route I planned to run was over half on roads, how hard could that be?
As I ran toward the Catawba from downtown, I noticed there were only a few vehicles out and about on the icy roads. Normally, running the five-lane and 221 would be suicide, but the conditions kept the traffic moving slowly.
The real adventure began at the Mountains to Sea trailhead at noon. Even with just four inches of snow on the ground, the going was slow. I was headed 2500’ higher with flurries still coming down.
At the crest of the first hill, I caught a glimpse of where I was headed. Bald Knob’s summit hid in the clouds. Breaking trail, away from the noise of civilization, I definitely felt alone in the wilderness on this cold day.
I arrived at the North Fork bridge by 1PM and felt confident having managed to average 4mph on the snowy trail. The creeks were flowing well and I was hydrating, but still in a deficit that would plague me later on.
The two mile and 2000’ climb from the North Fork River was both beautiful and brutal. The snow got progressively deeper. I startled a flock of turkeys at a watering hole where I tanked up. Onwards and upwards, this is a magnificent mountain!
Despite my efforts to take in fluids and fuel, I was exhausted from the postholing and climbing. I’ve never successfully counted the number of switchbacks on this trail, but on this day, there must have been a hundred! At “boot rock” I peered up to the summit. It seemed so far away. The snow began to fall harder.
Finally on the summit, 4000’ in the clouds, I plopped down on a snowy log and surveyed my map. Ahead of me, I had a cross-country descent southeast toward Lake James. If I hit it right, the bushwhack would be no longer than a mile, then I could take the Overmountain Victory Trail a few miles out to Lake James Road at Black Bear Cove.
Without a compass and with limited visibility to see where I was headed, I followed the south ridge for a while before dropping steeply into what I hoped was Bailey Creek. The laurels and blowdowns made the going very difficult. Gravity was on my side. I slid and crawled through the snow for over an hour before emerging on an old road bed.
I was on the Overmountain Victory Trail and I was alive! However, it was already 4PM and I had 11 miles to go! My body was suffering from diarrhea and I was dehydrating quickly. By the time I hit “pavement” (mostly covered in ice/snow) I’d been traversing trail/cross-country for five hours!
Despite exhaustion, I ran most of the seven miles on the road around Lake James, across the Catawba and back up to town. The clouds seemed to be parting and I caught a peek of Bald Knob before dark set in. I made it back to the house by 6:30PM and collapsed on the futon. Lily and Uwharrie were happy to see me.
T-minus 2 weeks
1 day ago