|Gearing up for the approach to Cheoah|
The weather was ideal, the day started cool and mostly cloudy. The trail was in better shape than I anticipated coming off a recent burn and more recent heavy rain. Our descent to the car passed quickly and I took the extra time to take off my shoes, feed the dog, lube my feet, chug some water, eat some calories and grab a bottle of juice before continuing on down the trail.
My goal for this trek was to finish in 30 hours. Given my fitness, this seemed like a reasonable expectation, but I still wanted to be cautious and keep it nice and relaxed for as long as possible. Conversations with Adam and Carl had led me to believe that pain would be inevitable along this journey. Perhaps I could prolong the inevitable. I chose to walk, eat and drink a lot early on, but still clicked off checkpoints ahead of schedule.
Near Appletree, Uwharrie and I bumped into Denise Davis running down the trail to cheer me on. For those who don’t know: Denise is the thru-runner pioneer of the Bartram. Having persevered through illness and injury, she finished her inspiring traverse on Veteran’s Day, 2010. Now she was providing caloric and moral support for my attempt, truly a class act. After a quick break, Uwharrie and I continued on to the lake while Denise made plans to meet us closer to Franklin.
|View from Wayah|
Leaving the summit by sunset (8PM), I began the rollercoaster descent to Franklin aided by hiking poles and Carl’s powerful headlamps. The full moonrise was a sight to behold! Denise and Tony surprised me by meeting me half way down the ridge. I enjoyed our fleeting conversation before continuing on solo. Lily and Uwharrie hiked in a bit to welcome me to Wallace Branch at 10:45PM where I took a 15 minute break, ate pizza, switched shoes and socks and packed for the overnight stretch.
Alan Buckner and Tracy Taro ran the 14-mile road section with me out of Franklin while Denise provided vehicular support behind us the whole way. I am truly humbled and indebted to their tremendous kindness for helping me safely reach Buckeye Branch by 2AM. Thank you! Meanwhile, Lily and Uwharrie drove to Osage Mtn. Overlook to sleep and await my early morning arrival.
Halfway through the Bartram and an hour ahead of schedule, I felt great, but Denise cautioned me that I had hardly had anything to eat or drink in the last 3 hours. Denise, Alan and Tracy offered up any of the food items they had on hand. Realizing that I had forgotten to pack my instant coffee, I helped myself to Denise’s stash of caffeinated gels. After quick farewells, I set off alone up Wolf Rock…
Here is where the inevitable caught me: on a long climb through the middle of the night, I could no longer keep my eyes open and my legs moving forward. Never before has sleepiness struck me with such a force. Over the next 15 miles, I plopped down at least half a dozen times on the side of the trail. Forward progress simply seemed impossible when fully immersed in one of these waves of drowsiness. And the waves just kept on coming.
I reached the summit of Scaly by dawn. The sun rose and moon set as I paused to take in the immense beauty of fog-enshrouded peaks rising out of frosty valleys below. Although the latter part of the night had taken a toll, my spirits were still lifted and I felt encouraged by the new day. I arrived at Osage a little before 8AM, one hour behind schedule. I quickly prepped for the 22-mile push to Warwoman Dell before getting too chilled, or too comfortable.
Much to my dismay, the sunshine did not relieve my drowsiness. On the contrary, the rising temperatures seemed to lull me to sleep. The stretch over Rabun Bald passed in a zombie-like blur and the descent to Warwoman seemed never ending due to several impromptu “naps.” I eventually learned to splash cold creek water on my face and the back of my neck whenever I could.
|Toasted in Georgia|
|Kissing the rock at the southern terminus|