Looking at the elevation profile of today's section, it didn't seem too
imposing: a 2,000- foot climb to Bald Knob (4,059 feet) over four miles,
riding the ridges up and down over several more mountains at or above 4,000 feet
the next nineteen miles, then a 3,100- foot freefall from The Priest down to the Tye River (970 feet) the last four miles.
What I failed to appreciate on the profile was the amount of elevation change
in the middle eighteen miles. Think of a sawblade with about fifteen
exaggerated, uneven teeth. There were another 6,000 feet of up and down between
Then add the fact that about 20 of those 25+ miles had enough rocks to
prevent me from running, and you'll understand why it took me 9:20 hours to finish
this "run" (more like a hike).
Good thing there were some great views of the beautiful Virginia countryside
to distract me throughout the day!
Jim and I parked at the Long Mountain Wayside on US 60 and started our
respective runs. He retraced the last four miles of the AT that I did yesterday
so he could see the site of the old Brown Mountain community, then ran another
sixteen miles of dirt roads in the area (including one used in Horton's Mountain
Masochist race mentioned yesterday). He had an exciting morning, meeting several
thru-hikers that know me ("Grasshopper," for one) and getting booted out of the
Pedlar Reservoir Dam ("But officer, I didn't see any signs!").
He had a great run and got lots of hill work.
Meanwhile, I was plodding up to Bald Knob. A 2,000-foot ascent over four
miles doesn't sound too bad, considering some of the mountains I've climbed thus
far. Well, the moderately steep climb up to Bald Knob at the very start of my
day just about wiped me out. I had to stop to catch my breath several times.
I was thinking about that dirt road to my left that we use in the Mountain
Masochist 50++++miler. It's tough after already running 26 miles of that race.
Lemme tell ya, it's at a more decent pitch than the nearby Appalachian Trail! I
bet you if Horton was allowed to use the AT, he would. He's that diabolical. So
consider that the next time you're moaning and groaning up that hill in the
On one of the false summits of Bald Knob, who should I run into than "Dogbreath"
sitting on a rock, reading, at 8:15 in the morning. He started much earlier than
me and two miles farther (from the last shelter before Hwy. 60). He's not much
of a talker, so we greeted each other and I kept going.
After that, I was the cobweb-catcher until the next shelter.
As I was writing a note (and catching my breath) on the uphill, I noticed
something move out of the corner of my eye. I looked down and saw a cute brown
rabbit five feet away, just off the Trail, motionless. He waited there while I
wrote, put away my notebook, got out my camera, and took his picture. He only
moved when I resumed walking. Usually rabbits just run as soon as they see me.
BALD IS BEAUTIFUL
The views began with several rocky outcrops on Bald Knob's ridgeline, and
continued on nearly two miles of open balds between Cold Mountain and Tar Jacket
Ridge. I haven't been on this long of a bald section for a while. I was glad it was mid-morning and
not the heat of the day, as the sun was already quite warm. It was nice to run
in soft grass with few rocks, the best place I had to run today until the last
three miles down The Priest to the river.
In this area are the remains of a network of twelve miles of stone fences
built almost 200 years ago. They became known as "hog walls" because hogs were
driven up to the mountains to be fattened on chestnuts and acorns before
butchering. Cows were also grazed here.
There were numerous sun-loving flowers on the balds, including red
columbines, pink phlox, yellow daisies, and cow parsnips, white flowers taller than me. There
were also many flowering berry bushes. Might be a good place to spot black bears
when the berries ripen!
Laurels and rhododendrons were still blooming prolifically on several
mountains in the second half of the section - Rocky Mountain, Porters Ridge,
Maintop Mountain near Spy Rock, and on The Priest.
The Priest, part of the Religious Range (no kidding - it also includes Little
Priest Mountain, The Bald Friar, and The Cardinal), had terrific views in all
directions from various rock outcrops. The AT on either side of the summit is
extremely rocky, but it is a popular place for day and weekend hikers. I saw
more people here than anywhere else on the route today. Spy Rock on nearby
Maintop Mountain is also a favorite hiking destination.
Since my quads don't hurt anymore, and the thigh/quad I hurt in Wednesday's
fall is barely sore now, I loved the descent to the Tye River at the end of the
run. In fact, I ran more the last three miles than the whole rest of the
section! The rocks were tricky the first mile down, then the Trail was decent -
and fun. Of course, I've got to make up that 3,100 feet in the morning . . .
Pity the poor folks going up that mountain, southbound on the AT. I'm
guessing most are begging for mercy from The Priest, The Friar, and The Cardinal
by the time they hit the rocks a mile from the top!
The only other thru-hiker I talked to today was sitting on a rock outcrop
with a great view (below) as I descended The Priest. I stopped to take a photo and chat
for a bit. When he told me his trail name is "Noonan," I asked how he got the
name - not knowing the significance.
He told me he got lost the very first day on the AT, and his new hiking
buddies gave him that name. I learned that "Noonan" refers to Fred Noonan,
Amelia Earhart's well-renowned navigator on her ill-fated circumnavigation of
the globe in 1937!
Just another bit of Trail humor that amuses me . . .
[Note after my trek was over: "Noonan" was my favorite trail name this
The only shelter I stopped in today was the Seeley-Woodworth shelter near
Porters Field; the others were too far off the Trail. As I read the register to
see where friends are, I noticed a comment from "Natty Bumpo" dated yesterday.
I'm hoping it's the "Bumpo" (Nat Stoddard) that I corresponded with prior to
beginning my adventure run. He began his thru-hike last year and it turned into
a section-hike. Maybe I'll run into him tomorrow! I'd love to meet him in