Last Friday, the affable Vince Bowman kindly allowed me to crash at his place in what has become my new home-away-from-home, Harrisonburg, Virginia (Sidebar: Try The Little Grill restaurant if you are in the area. This is my type of restaurant, what with the scent of patchouli oil, dreadlocks, fine hemp clothing, and most importantly, kick-butt healthy food!).
On Saturday morning, Jack Broadus and I headed out to the so-called Sophie's Death March organized by Sophie Speidel. In a nutshell, this training run is a 24-mile clockwise loop run out of Whiteoak Canyon in the Shenandoah National Park.
|My heart yearns for thee!|
In any case, we started west up Whiteoak Canyon towards Skyline Drive. This was a steep, intermittently rocky climb along a lovely creek with waterfalls. Pretty quickly, the runners strung out along the trail. It didn't seem like too long at all before the group of runners I managed to tag along with topped out on the ridge line. We crossed the the drive and headed over to Hawksbill Mountain, the tallest mountain in the park, for some cherry views. The pace was a bit too quick for my weekend agenda, so I decided to peel off and run by myself heading north up the Appalachian Trail (AT) to Skyland Drive. There, I kibbutzed briefly with some thru-hikers where we exchanged stories, Snickers Bars, and hugs. Yahoo!!! Now, here is where things got off track for me. We were supposed to be take a cutoff trail back to the east (Corbin Cabin Trail) but inattentive me zoomed right by it and continued north on the AT. Pretty soon, I came across a trio of thru-hikers in a picnic area (Pinnacles) that didn't look familiar to me at all. Thanks to Harmony, Ben, and Barack and the official AT Data Book they had, we determined that I had just upgraded my run by an additional 4 miles (sniff, sniff). With my tail between my legs (after all, I am Lost Dog), I headed back south where I successfully hunted down the cutoff. I then headed waaayyy down the trail to a scenic cabin near a stream and came to the Nicholson Hollow Trail. It now came to me that I had overestimated the amount of water on-hand and given the temperature and humidity had substantially risen, my mind became unsettled.
Continuing to head east, I startled a large black bear 20' to my left that exploded out of the bushes and ran directly away from me. I don't know if it was due to the fact that I was thinking through a statistical proof at that time or just conditioning but I literally never broke stride. (Sidebar: The first time I ever saw a bear was in Pennsylvania where I became so excited you would have thought The Rapture had occurred. Years later, when I lived in Alaska, fishing the Russian River with a huge grizzly sow within rock-throwing distance wouldn't even merit lifting my head up to look.) Finally, I hit the upper Old Rag parking lot and started to shuffle south along a fire road with a frankly annoying rising grade. I was now down to meting out a sip, i.e., thimbleful, of water every 10 minutes or so to try to quench my thirst. Once I got to the Old Rag Trailhead, I came across a pack of other runners that had been turned around. More or less as a group, we ran down to Berry Hollow and arrived intact back at the original parking lot -- whew!
Afterward, coolers of beverages were unleashed, many bags of chips broken open, fruit cut into bite-sized chunks, etc., etc., by many nice, happy people. Very cool! I met and chatted with several of these fine folks, all with their interesting stories and perspectives, for a couple of hours easy (Matt and his girlfriend Holly, Nicholas Hamblet, Christian Dahlhausen, et al.). Back in Harrisonburg, I ended up eating dinner with several friends, including Dave and Erin Frazier, and capped the evening with a great conversation with my friend Eva over a fine white wine.
Saturday, it was time to get after some more running near the town of Luray, Virginia. This training run was organized by Quatro Hubbard and was called Jeremy's Run Loop, held in the northern part of the park. At 21 miles and with less elevation change, this run was relatively easier in difficulty than the previous day's run. Nevertheless, I felt somewhat tired and my legs didn't have their usual spring as I started up the ever-rising Neighbor Mountain Trail. If I had to make a guess, I'd say there might have been 40 people in attendance? While I ran with several people in this stretch, of particular note was running with the cool Rob Colenso, who had recently run the MMT 100 and was training for the upcoming Grindstone 100. It was in this stretch that another bear encounter occurred; namely, we saw a sow black bear with two cubs hanging off a tree and many excited Japanese tourists with head nets on.
|"What in darn tarnation is going on here?" Credit: Rob Colenso.|
All told, these two runs provided all the solid base miles and elevation change a guy would need in a weekend. The "modified" Sophie's Death March had an elevation change of 12,000', while the Jeremy's Run Loop chipped in with 8,500'.
The next phase of my journey had me driving to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania later that Sunday night. My former AT thru-hiking partner had flown in with his wife Alicia and his son Philip to visit Alicia's family who live in the area. Ross and I had decided to spend some time on the 4th of July providing "Trail Magic", or random acts of support and kindness, to unsuspecting thru-hikers. Why, you may ask? Since we were the recipients of trail magic many times during our thru-hike, Ross and I feel it is important to pay it forward. Accordingly, we loaded up on beer, pop, hotdogs, fruit, candy, etc., that night and were headed out the door early the next morning. Due to Ross' diligent research, we selected a road crossing near the town of Pine Grove, and set up our grill and coolers. It wasn't anytime at all before we had our first customer (WIP) followed closely by two more. There could hardly be anything more precious (at least that I could think of) to see the look on a thru-hiker's face when you come springing out of nowhere with cold beer and juicy grilled hotdogs on a hot summer day ... mint!
|Our new friends! The clean-shaven Ross (Vast Horizon) is on the far left.|
|Vast Horizon and Catalyst in the 501 shelter.|
|Welcome home, Phil! View from my front door.|