Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Snow Runs

We didn't get much snow this winter until March and the official start of spring was ushered in by three days of it. Earlier in the month, the DoubleTop 100 in Northern Georgia had to be halted mid-race because of the dangerous snowy road conditions.  Alan and I were supposed to sweep the night section and I was pretty disappointed that I would not get to.  So, instead of heading to Georgia, we headed to Standing Indian and did a 28 mile snow run that ended at midnight, fulfilling any need I had to run in a frigid blowing snowstorm for awhile.  Well, at least three weeks.  Here's some pics from that run:

Two weeks ago I was on spring break and it snowed for three days.   On Monday, I did an 8-mile run to Siler's Bald on the AT and back and found a few inches of snow.  Usually, in weather like that (strong winds, low 20's and snowing), I have complete solitude on the trail.  But it is through-hiker season here and I shared the trail with 24 of them on that four mile stretch of trail.  Several of them were heading back down the mountain, unprepared for the weather.  I eventually ended up in front, alone, and in an area sheltered from the wind just below the bald, I found a winter wonderland:

The next day, I messaged Alan to see if he knew where a lot of snow was.  He didn't but offered to take me up to Wayah Bald, one of the high points in the Southern Nantahalas so I could run back "down" to Franklin on the Bartram Trail (there is a lot of steep uphill on that downhill run).  I took him up on the offer and a couple of hours later, he dropped me off at Sawmill Gap, a remote trailhead on a snow-covered forest road.  There were three or four inches on the road and more on the ground. Everything was white and beautiful, not only from the snow, but from a heavy coating of rime ice.  I hopped out of the truck, he drove off and as I rounded the corner to get on the trail, I discovered that there was a lot more snow than I had imagined.  I was expecting a few inches, not a foot or more.  After Alan drove away and I discovered the amount of snow I would be post-holing through, I thought that maybe this wasn't a really good idea after all.  But then I remembered that this was Alan's idea and if I died of hypothermia, Tony could be mad at him instead of me.

The first few hundred yards were beautiful with the deep powdery snow, the solid white trees, the silence except for the strong, steady wind and a very real sense of being alone, far away from everything.

Then, the going got pretty tough.  There was probably only about 8" in sheltered areas where there was no wind, but there wasn't many of those areas on the ridge line.  The strong winds had piled up 24"-30" drifts for much of the two miles between Sawmill Gap and the intersection with the AT.  It was slow going pushing through the drifts, especially on the uphills, but it was well-worth it. I had a sense of wonderment, coupled with a strong sense of caution.  It was 22 degrees when I got out of the truck and the wind was blowing hard.  I was dressed warmly enough and carried some extra layers, but it would be awhile before anyone could get to me, even if they knew to come get me.  So, while enjoying the sublime beauty, I moved slowly enough to be careful, but fast enough not to be caught in the dark before reaching Franklin 16 miles away.

Right before the intersection with the AT, there was a spot sheltered from the wind where the snow had covered everything:

Once on the AT, about six hikers had already pushed through the snow that day, so the going was easier for the next four miles or so.  Then it was back on the Bartram, where the newest obstacle was snow laden rhododendron blocking the trail.  Again, slow going as I stopped to shake them off so I could pass.

As the elevation dropped, so did the snow depth until I got to the area where I had taken pictures of the bear prints and large cat prints in the snow a few weeks before.

That area is exposed to the wind and once again I was back in deep drifts.  This time, though, it was also a very steep downhill, with the consequence of the snow packing up my legs under my pants as I post-holed down the slope. Eventually, the snow became spottier and I was relieved that I could move faster, more safely, but at the same time I was disappointed that the adventure was coming to an end.

I have never taken for granted my ability to get out into the mountains and run, but runs like these just remind me of how lucky I am to have these epic adventures. 

1 comment:

Big Daddy Diesel said...

How fun and cool is that.

One thing I love about training is how Mother Nature always provides us with different views, even on the same path, today it is snow, in a month, that trail will be blooming and green.