This was the third day my Roanoke ultra running buddies came to my rescue
while Jim's away in Illinois to visit his youngest sister, who was deathly ill
Neal Jamison graciously volunteered to join me again today at the end of the
run so he could attend church with his family in the morning and still provide
me with a ride back to my truck at the end of my run.
I drove to the start of today's segment at VA 621 and ran alone the first 16
miles. Neal parked at the end (Catawba Pass) and ran south to meet me in about
six miles. Then he ran back with me, giving him a 12-mile workout after his 16-miler
Neal thought he would have to run in farther to meet me from the end. I think he
was glad he didn't have to negotiate the rocks for two or three miles on either
side of Dragon's Tooth!
He was pleased with the weekend runs, even though I know he can go much
faster than I can. He's even talking about running with me farther up the Trail
next week. He's easy to talk with and would be great company.
Speaking of shuttling vehicles . . . I've heard lots of different ways to
hike the AT, including two or more people using two vehicles (like vans,
pick-ups with camper tops, or small RVs) that they can sleep in at or near trail
heads. I talked with two thru-hikers last year at the outdoor store in Daleville
that were using their vehicles this way.
One day this spring while on a training run, Graham spoke with a grandfather
thru-hiking with his three grandsons. Although they were heading north from
Georgia to Maine, they walked each section southbound. Here's how: they
would park one vehicle at point A, drive north to Point B, then hike south to
Point A. Next they'd move that vehicle to Point C, then walk south to Point B,
and get in that vehicle. And so on, until they get to Maine.
Pretty clever, eh?
RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY
It was foggy again when I started about 8 AM. Instead of having to climb a
mountain right out of the truck, I got to negotiate a flood plain with several
creeks and eight wooden bridges in the first mile. I could see where leaves and
logs had been washed up all over this area, and couldn't imagine it would be
passable on foot after a big storm.
Soon I had my opportunity to climb, this time 1,500 feet up to Brush
Mountain. There were loads of mountain laurels and various wildflowers blooming.
I've seen some new flowers this week, including pale pink wood roses and
brighter pink phlox. There are numerous scarlet red fire pinks in this area,
Just before the top, I frightened the tiniest fawn I've ever seen in the
wild, a little spotted baby that ran into the woods but stood perfectly still
about twenty feet from me. I took several photos. Unfortunately, all of them were blurred. He was
such a cute little guy, standing no taller than about 18 inches at the head. I
never saw the mama.
I came to a pretty, grassy "jeep road" at the top where the Trail made an
abrupt left turn. Right at the turn was a bench, an unusual sight on the AT. It
was all because of the Audie Murphy Monument, I surmised. Hikers can reach this
monument from this trail head or from the one at Trout Creek. The trail is good
in either direction - smooth, mostly gradual, very runnable.
IN HONOR OF A WAR HERO
I don't ever remember hearing about Audie Murphy until I moved to Roanoke.
This mountain is near the site of his unfortunate death in an airplane crash in 1971. Murphy was the most-decorated military person in World War II and
later an actor. There is a nice four-foot tall granite memorial inscribed with
his acts of valor, dedicated in 1974 by a veteran's association. The memorial is
about 200 feet off the Trail and easy to miss; there is only a small, weathered
sign facing toward southbound hikers.
The ridge on Brush Mountain was very runnable, as was the long 1,550- foot
descent to Trout Creek. There were some interesting large layered rocks on this
ridge that I hadn't noticed on other ridges. I can only imagine the forces of
nature that created them. I'd love to see a time-lapse movie through the
millennia as the mountains were formed over and over by major upheavals.
I could see the repairs the RATC made to the long bridge over Trout Creek
this spring. It was one of many bridges all along the AT that were damaged or
destroyed in the aftermath of last summer and fall's hurricanes.
The Trail had a totally different character in the first half mile going up
Cove Mountain from Trout Creek. It was a dry-looking pine forest and reminded me
of the mountains in the second half of the Western States course in California. The woods
were deciduous again closer to the Pickle Branch shelter.
The Trail became
more rocky as it curved on the ridge around Miller's Cove toward Dragon's Tooth. Trail runners call rocky and/or rooty trails "technical." I call them a
nuisance because they impede my running!
DRAGGIN' MY BUTT OVER DRAGON'S TOOTH
It was a long climb on rocky terrain to Dragon's Tooth from 1,250 feet to
3,050 feet. About ten minutes from the "tooth" formations at the summit, it
began to rain. Oh, no!
Not only were the long valley views now obscured by rain and fog, but I know
how treacherous the rocks are on the other side of Dragon's Tooth. I've been up
there several times since moving here. I passed two thru-hiking men going my
direction but didn't talk to them long in the rain - mostly warned them about
the rock walls coming up.
Fortunately, the rain didn't last long and some of the rocks were dry when I
was going back down the Catawba side of Dragon's Tooth. But it was still slow
going and I had to do butt-slides on several of the large slabs of rock. It took
me over two hours to negotiate the five miles of rocks on either side of
Dragon's Tooth and get down to near VA 624, where I met Neal for the last six
miles of the run.
We had another hill to climb, creeks to cross, pastures and stiles to
negotiate, and another ridge (Sawtooth) to climb and run across before reaching
There would have been beautiful views of the surrounding valleys and mountain
chains from all three of today's ridges if it hadn't been for all the leaves.
There are a few viewpoints, but this section offers more views in the
winter and early spring.
On the way out to meet me, Neal saw a large black snake on the Trail. On
Sawtooth Ridge I was leading the way when I suddenly inhaled loud enough for
Neal to hear me and stopped suddenly. Ahead on the Trail was a four-foot long
black snake. Neal said it was the largest one he'd ever seen, and guessed it was
five feet long. Who knows? We didn't see it strung out, but mostly coiled up and
hissing at us, refusing to move! I gave Neal my trekking pole to prod it off the
Trail, but the snake was territorial. It eventually did slither off and we went
our merry way. (Would've been too easy to just go around the snake!)
Wow. Five black snakes in three days! I forgot to mention the two Graham and
Dru and I saw yesterday . . .
We saw a lot more hikers today, but most were on the Sawtooth Ridge near VA
311. I talked with only three thru-hikers today.
Sorry I wasn't able to run more when you got to me today, Neal. After six
hours and all those tricky rocks around Dragon's Tooth, I was mostly walking
when I was with Neal. But good friends don't make it sound like an imposition.
He said he had fun!
Thanks to everyone who wrote asking about Jim's sister and when he'd be back.
He returned home safely tonight at 8 PM and his sister is doing much better,
although she's still in the hospital. He's relieved, and I'm very glad he's back