Friday, December 11, 2015

Brasstown Bald Run

I woke up early on Tuesday morning excited to be running up Brasstown Bald for the first time ever. I was actually surprised by myself for not having run it before, but the last 3 years that I've visited my parents, I've run an ultra, the Duncan Ridge 50k or the Battle for Black Rock. The rest of my visit involved easy recovery runs or rest days, but this time was different, even a bit depressing. Exactly a year ago, I won Battle for Black Rock outright. This year, I feel like I've lost everything. Every time I look in the mirror I'm shocked at what I see. I can't believe this is me. I don't care what other people don't notice. It's what I see, the details, the differences. I can see what me as a non-runner looks like, and I don't like it all. I'm not fat, but there's a softness to my body, a roundness to my face and someone who now looks her age. I know I'll get back what I had, but that doesn't make it any easier now. The only thing that makes it easier now is get out and do something epic. Running Brasstown Bald wouldn't normally fall under my "epic" category, but right now, it does, and I was SO excited to get out there Tuesday morning.

I got up at first light, grabbed some coffee to go then drove 15 minutes over to Traprock Gap where the Arkaquah Trailhead is located. The fog down low was pretty thick, but it was starting to lift when I pulled in. I'm still carrying my day pack, as opposed to my running pack, for extra clothes in case my injury starts to bother me, and I have to walk. It's not uncomfortable, but the extra weight I've been carrying on my back for these mountain run/hikes is starting to bother my neck. I put it on in hopes of it being the last run I do with it, crossed the road and began the somewhat steep climb up to the ridge. I had read the reviews on Summit Post of how "steep" and "difficult" this climb is, but I had a feeling it would be pretty easy for me. Haha. Yes, it was quite the elevation gain, about 1500 ft over 1.4 miles, but these Southern trails are just so EASY. Just dirt, no rocks, hardly a root. Smooth running, even uphill. I was up on top of the ridge in just over half an hour and burning up. The run started off in freezing temps, but once up on the ridge in the sun, I shed some layers. Kept the gloves. It was just chilly enough until the very end of my run that I needed them the whole way. I stopped at a view point with a beautiful view north of the clouds below still covering Lake Chatuge. Snapped some pics then moved on.
View from the ridge

Brasstown Bald, still about 4 miles away

Once on top of the ridge, the trail continued a more gradual ascent along the ridge up to Brasstown Bald. Most of it followed the ridge, going over peaks and sometimes skirting around them. The trail was your typical GA/NC trail with the green tunnel through Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel. Very beautiful. I was also lucky to have some decent views along the way due to the the time of year. I came out to another viewpoint in what seemed like no time, and Brasstown Bald was all of a sudden within reach.

Sweating. It was close to 50 degrees!

So close!
From here, the trail descended only slightly before gradually ascending again to its end at the parking lot for Brasstown Bald. Much like Mt Washtington, it has an auto road to the summit and a mountain top museum. The trail came out close to the summit trail which is paved and 6/10 of a mile up. This trail used to be straight up and steep when I was a kid. I remember it seeming so long! Ha ha. The trail has now been made into a less steep climb with long switchbacks. The run up was easy, and I was finally on the summit.

I stayed up on the summit for about 15 minutes. I was the only one up there. Such an unbelievably beautiful morning. I hit the day perfectly for this. I was surprised at how quickly I made it up there in about an hour and 40 minutes, including my multiple stops. 

The run back was super quick and easy. It was a very gradual downhill with just a few ascents and then the steep down at the very end. I made it down to the road where the trail sign was. I was so happy. My injury wasn't bothering me. I felt great! I ended up with 11.4 miles total. I think I lost about .4 on the way back since my GPS said 5.9 when I left the summit. Total moving time was 2:37:36, but I know I was out there for well over 3 hours. 3750ft of elevation gain. My favorite part of the stats was that I snagged the CR OVERALL on Strava for the entire Arkaquah Trail up to Brasstown Bald segment. Haha. I didn't expect that, especially with all of the stops I made and my poor fitness, but I did, by two minutes. Poor Kyle, whoever he is. "You just lost your CR to Leslie O'Dell." :) 

Run is done.
I rushed back to shower and then drive with my mom and John over to Franklin, NC to hit the Lazy Hiker Brewing Co. I had at least 2 brewery visits on my list, but only this one ended up working out during my trip. I had to hit this one since I was once a lazy thru-hiker on the AT passing through Franklin. It was a nice brewery with some pretty good beer. I got a full flight, while my mom just had one regular 10oz Wesser Evil Porter. I'm finding a new love for Black IPAs lately, and their Headlamp Black IPA did not disappoint. 

Lazy Hiker Brewery in Franklin, NC

My flight. Way more tame than Garrison City Beerworks.

My mom enjoying a porter
We stayed about an hour and drove over to the Fun Factory so that John could have some fun. This was a place filled with arcade games, John's favorite. He made me play Jurassic Park and Transformers with him. He loved it.

John at Fun Factory in Franklin, NC

Place was huge
We left for the drive back over the mountains to Hayesville and were treated to an amazing sunset along the way. 

John helped my parents decorate their Christmas tree when we got back.

John with my parents

Don't ask me why, but we have had this real blowfish ornament since I was a kid. No idea where it came from, but we've had it as long as I can remember. Gross and funny, at the same time.

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