John Switow (1)
It was an adventure of nearly epic proportions!
Ok...I failed at this on Father's Day as most of you know, so I had a better plan for this attempt. From the house it is about an hour and 45 mins to the start, so I got a hotel room in Etowah and set my alarm for 4:00. I arrived at the start at about 5:45 and managed a 6:10 start, knowing this could be a long day...
Things went pretty well early up Kimsey and Lost Creek, filled 2.5 water bottles at Webbs and bathroom pitstop at 9:35, about 30 miles in, and close to 5000' climbed. Got moving in about 15-20 mins. My next planned stop and refill was the Coker Creek Visitors Center (Make sure they're open) which comes up close to 65 miles. Star Mountain rd has fresh gravel, it fairly well sucks at the moment. A few weeks it ought to be fine.
I made Coker Creek by 1:00 and Plugged in my auxiliary power supply to recharge my Wahoo, refilled 2.5 bottles again, drank a Mountain Dew and ate a Snickers. Spent 21 mins there.
Next big stop of the day; Buck Bald. I was feeling a little fatigued by the time I got there at 3:25, but still feeling pretty good about the day. To this point I had not one dog encounter, and no mechanicals. Spent about 5 mins on the Bald. Had 1.5 bottles left at this point.
Next goal was the foot bridge over the Hiwasee. I did have my 1st dog encounter, nothing bad, just after I turned off 68 onto Shuler Creek; 2 young healers and some mixed breed. The Healers were surprisingly friendly, just wanted a little love, the 3rd kept his distance....on I went knowing the hills were about to get steep.
The section after Buck Bald is a mix of Chip-Seal and gravel, some rutted and chunky, so stay alert. I was out of water pretty much by the time I made the river road to the bridge, so stopped and filled two bottles in the Hi (with a filter), took about 10 minutes, if that. I figured 2 would get me to the Spring Pipe mentioned at 106 miles, but I missed it in my delirious state (had 108 miles in my mind).
The climbing starts immediately past the power house, steep and loose. From 99 miles to 106 I went through most of two bottles. By 110 I was out and there were no seeps to be found that high (and dry). I cramped shortly thereafter, did my first walking of the day. Word to the wise (from the not so wise!); fill three bottles at the Hiwassee, before starting up behind the power house! I had crossed the foot bridge at 5:50, nearly 2 hours ahead of my previous go. I was feeling cocky about my prospects to finish before 9:00. Once over the bridge, it is steep, chunky and absolutely gorgeous country back through there. Saw a fair amount of bear sign and hog as well. About this time I got really hot, it seemed every pore on my body was sweating. Panic I figured, but I wasn't going back for water, too near the end and didn't want to climb even 1 more foot than was necessary! So on I suffered! It started to level a bit though still very chunky at around 112 miles. I found one more gulp of water at about 114...the wind began to pick-up and it was getting dark, quick by about 8:15.
Didn't expect to reach the top until 120 miles, but the Wahoo showed only 116 and change, so I didn't think I was there, but was very happy to be descending. By this time it was dark, the wind came up, the temp dropped and a drop of rain...then another, then it poured. Evidently it was ~ 9:00 by then. I descended that 8.5 miles in a down pour and it was crazy! Twice I surprised hogs, once as I was zooming past a spot where blackberries (?) were crowding the road, and it is chunky, occasionally rattle your eyeballs chunk! These hogs; startled by the sudden light and noise, scattered from their spot in the blackberry thicket. One shot out in front of me, realized his error and 180'd back into the thicket, missed him by 2 feet! Further down the mountain I came upon 2 more, big enough that I initially thought they were bears. They moved off, but not so hurriedly or afraid. There was one more that I saw, think it may have been a bear, it was black! I was never so glad to hit pavement, civilization! Think I was just about two miles out at that point, riding through a little community; Greasy Creek(?). There is a heli-pad back there and there were people in a vehicle there, sure they thought I was nuts riding out of the mountains in that down pour at that hour. About that time; I rode out of the rain! By the time I got to the van, about 9:45, it was warm and apparently hadn't rained a drop!
What a day! It'll be a while before I think about that one again, but I'll take that 3rd bottle! It wasn't too hot yesterday, low 80's, though it did get hot and humid before that storm hit. I will be sure to switch my phone to airplane mode prior as well, it died about 8:45, I guess from searching for service all day?