This is now one of my favorite sections of the AT for running, and I can't
wait to show it to Jim.
It will be a good place to train in the future, since it's not all that far
from our home. In fact, Jim's going to run on part of it tomorrow when he drops
me off at US 60 for the start of my next section as I proceed north.
If I say a section of the AT is runnable, you can believe it. Neither Jim nor
I enjoy running over a bunch of rocks and roots. Out of today's 22 miles, maybe
a total of two miles of it would be "unrunnable" to us. Other folks who like
rocks would run those two miles, too.
Not only is this section great for trail running, it's also rich in panoramic
vistas, water, plants, animals, and history. What a great combination!
I averaged a 22-minute pace today, but that included all my usual stops to
enjoy the views, take photos, talk with hikers, read trail registers, and take
notes. There was a net elevation gain going north, so someone heading south and
focusing on running would go much faster. (But they'd miss a lot!)
The woods in today's section were absolutely beautiful. I'm not saying there
are any ugly forests on the AT, but some are definitely more attractive than
others. Even though there are very few flowers blooming in this section right
now, the whole trail was pretty.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
I began today's run in the most delightful of ways: following the
scenic Rocky Row Run (a creek) for the first mile before the Trail hung a left
and began its 2,333-foot climb to the summit of Big Rocky Row. I could have run
more during the first mile along this creek, but I wanted to savor the
boisterous melody of the water flowing over the rocks and shoals.
There were numerous beautiful creeks in today's section, particularly the
last half. I followed the Brown Mountain Creek for two or three miles near the
end of the section. Some creeks had substantial wooden bridges, including
another handsome (very new) suspension bridge. The others were easy to cross on
large, flat rocks.
The Trail also wound around Pedlar Lake, the scenic mountain reservoir that
is the city of Lynchburg's water source. The suspension foot bridge I mentioned
crosses Pedlar River, which flows into the reservoir.
And I had marvelous panoramic views of the James River Gorge and valley at
Fullers Rocks on Little Rocky Row, three miles into the run, and higher up at
Big Rocky Row. I could see the James River Foot Bridge I crossed yesterday
afternoon and the start of today's run. It looked so far away! I just love being
able to see where I've been.
The views of the river were the kind that make you stop and say "WOW!" to
yourself, views that take your breath away and make a long climb so rewarding.
None of today's climbs were particularly steep or strenuous, just long. It
took me over two hours to climb the five miles to Big Rocky Row at my Old Lady
pace (plus admiring the views and taking photos).
After the five-mile, 2,333-foot ascent to Big Rocky Row, I followed the ridge
up and down for five miles to the summit of Bluff Mountain at 3,372 feet,
today's highest point. Then there was a gradual six-mile drop to the reservoir
at about 1,000 feet and a six-mile, 1,145-foot ascent to US 60/Long Mountain
Most ultra runners are familiar with David Horton's popular Mountain
Masochist Trail Run, a beautiful but tough 50+++ mile ultra race that is run in
this vicinity. Long Mountain Wayside at Hwy. 60 is the approximate halfway point
during this race. If you've run the race, you might remember it's where the
busses and drop bags are located.
During the race, runners have to beware being sucked into those busses! Some
are forced to stop here if they miss the time cut-off, but others allow
themselves to quit because they are tired and can't quite face the next
2,000-foot climb awaiting them beyond this aid station.
So guess what the first thing is that I get to do in the morning??
Yup, do a
2,000-foot climb up the trail that roughly parallels the dirt road runners use
to get to the top of Bald Knob! I stopped at US 60 for two reasons today:
one, it's a great crew point with its parking lot and grassy areas, and two, I
already walked up one-third of the total 3,000+-foot climb from the reservoir to
Bald Knob (elev. 4,059'). In other words, now I have "only" a 2,000+ foot climb in the morning, not a
3,000+ foot climb.
BLACKFOOT AND MOOCHER
Considering it was a beautiful cool, sunny, breezy Friday, I didn't see very
many hikers today. I went 300 feet down to the first shelter (Johns Hollow) but
turned around about 100 feet from it because no one was up and moving around in
the shelter or tents. I didn't want to disturb them, looking for the trail
register. I later ran into "Dogbreath," who spent the night there but left well
before I arrived at 8:15 AM.
My favorite hiker encounter today was with Laurie from Oberlin, Ohio, who has
section-hiked all but about 700 miles of the AT. She has a bit more of Virginia,
then New England. She started section-hiking eight years ago with her buddy, a
fluffy German Shepard water dog (bred to rescue victims in frigid water) named
Logan. Their trail names are "Blackfoot" (that's Laurie) and "Moocher" (guess
how he got that name?!).
Laurie said she saw an adolescent black bear at a spring near the reservoir.
The bear seemed oblivious to her and the dog, so she was able to observe it
eating for about five minutes before she resumed her hike. That is so cool!
There was only one spring on that section of trail, so I know where she meant
and looked very hard for the bear but didn't see him. Rats.
The only other hikers I saw all day were a mom, dad, and teen-age boy in the
virgin-forest exhibit near the reservoir. They were out for the weekend. This
beautiful forest is mostly full of huge white pine and Canadian hemlock trees.
The most poignant scene today was the small memorial and grave of Little
Ottie Cline Powell at the summit of Bluff Mountain. Five days shy of his fifth
birthday on a cold November day in 1891, Ottie didn't return to school with the
other boys who had gone looking for firewood for the stove. Hundreds of people
searched for him for weeks before a group of men found his remains on top of the
mountain five months later, almost four miles from his school.
As you can see in the photo above, hikers have placed various toys and other
memorabilia on the monument to commemorate the child's death.
BROWN MOUNTAIN CREEK SETTLEMENT
Near the end of today's section I enjoyed a local history lesson about the
former freed-slave farming community of Brown Mountain Creek Valley. From 1800
to the end of the Civil War, slaves cleared and farmed the land in this narrow
valley. In 1868, a former slave purchased the land and built a series of cabins,
the remains of which are evident for a mile and a half along the AT. The new
owner rented the cabins to freed slaves, who sharecropped the land.
According to the AT guide, there are remnants of a tobacco barn, half a dozen
cabin foundations (one with a double chimney), an old walled spring, and many
rock walls. I walked through most of this area and saw only long rock walls and
a few crumbling foundations. I think it'd be easier to spot other remnants when
the leaves are down. The valley is so narrow I can't imagine how they had room
for crops there.
The US Forest Service purchased the land in 1918. I don't know if the owner(s)
sold voluntarily or where they went. It was interesting to walk through this
area and try to imagine how these people lived. There is a shelter here to
commemorate the community, and information kiosks and benches at either end of
MY OWN PERSONAL TRAIL MAGIC!
Jim is so thoughtful!
After he dropped me off at the James River Foot Bridge parking area to start
my run, he drove up to the James River Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway
(where the Mountain Masochist race begins) and did a ten-mile out-and-back run
on the parkway. Then he drove up to milepost 51, where I'd be crossing the
parkway halfway through my run, and left me a note and some cheese crackers in a
baggie next to the trail sign. I usually read the notes people leave in plastic
bags to their friends - enough to see if they are for me. Jim and I have left
notes at several trail heads for each other. But it was a complete surprise to
find the "trail magic" from him today!
This was a great day on the Trail and Jim had a fun day, too. Can't wait to
see what tomorrow brings!