For me it was the Pisgah44 but...what was all the non-hoopla about? Clay figured out a route, about a dozen people tried to follow the route. That's it.
I left White Pines at 4:15 or so AM, about 15 minutes behind Broussard. I had slept in my riding gear so was ready to go the second time my alarm went off. The climb up Clawhammer was horrible for me. Hot, cold, hot, hungry, cold, nauseous,hot... and I stopped more than a couple times to adjust gear and get my head wrapped around what was ahead. On the way up clawhammer a beauiful 18-24" tall owl dove towards me then perched up in a tree, never taking its eyes off me. Right onto Black and up the switchbacks went by quickly. When I got to the second overlook I stopped and turned out my lights and well I'll be damned I could already see lights climbing Clawhammer behind me.
I stopped for a good long breather at Turkey Pen and fired off a text to Erinna : Moving slow. Feeling great. Then flew into the depths of Turkey. The sunrise on Turkey Pen made me come to a stop more than once just to soak in the beauty of it all.
I really was feeling great and felt like I was picking up the pace until a front flat caused an unscheduled dismount. Rob, Brad K, Fusco, and Dicky were all there before I was rolling again.
Fusco and I went to the campsite to filter water and the rest of the guys took off to Mullinax. I fired off another text to Erinna: On Mullinax. then started to get into a good climbing groove. Fusco passed me after fixing his own flat tire:
then I saw Clay behind on the trail a little further along. To my surprise Mike B got to me before Clay, passed me, then was waiting for me around the next corner. 'I'm going to ride with you' he said. Sweeeeeeeeeet. My pace picked up considerably with the company and we yo-yo'd with Clay, then Cissy and Clay all the way to the Pink Beds parking lot.
I got into the Pisgah Rangin' groove on Squirrel and we were at Laurel Creek, Pounding Mill, and Cantrell quickly. What happened next has been bothering me though, we passed through Horse Cove and don't recall it at all. When we were in the ups and downs heading to SMills I was confused.... this part of the trail is..... after? Horse? before? no... after....errrrr??
Then we ran into LeAnne and John! Thanks for the photo guys.
I decided to get water there rather than risking not being able to get any at the top and while refilling Rich sauntered into the parking lot, defeated... meh.... and was unable to be convinced to head back up 276 a second time. Cissy was an easy sell though and as soon as we hit the pavement Clay (on a SS), Mike, and Cissy left me in the dust. My legs were not having any part of it. I was tired. My legs were starting to cramp. I was in granny gear. I walked. on pavement. I had a motorcyclist stop next to me and ask if my equipment was in working order and all I could muster was a thumbs up. From that point on I would hop on whenever a car would approach, so they wouldn't stop, and made it to the Parkway about 10 minutes after Clay and Cissy had started towards Big Creek.
Mike was waiting for me and playing with his new GPS. He was entertaining himself well enough that I didn't even feel bad about making him wait.
Next was three miles of parkway climbing to Mount Pisgah then the turn to Big Creek. That trail descends something like 1800' in less than two miles and my brakes were boiling by the bottom. At the bottom I knew we were in the home stretch, four or five wet feet crossings and a gravel road climb later we were at the Trace parking lot, saw Caroline and Ben, then finished the ride passing a huge group of parents and 4-5-6-7-8-? year old kids, then Fisherman's, and to the Subaru which Erinna and I had planted in the woods the day before. Right after Mike and I said 'Cheers!' Ohio Rob, Matt F., and David C rode through the campground and were happy to take the tools and water we had to offer. That actually made me feel great about my overall performance because I was only Fletcher->Spencer->Trace (plus my morning head start) behind the FAST guys.
Anyway, even at half of the proposed route it was very very very tough day in the woods.
44 miles, 8800 feet of climbing, 4:15am to 2:50pm. ouch.
What ended up happening with the route? Brad Kee finished the entire thing in 22 hours. He was the only one to finish but..... David Cook was out there a long time, too. Surprise surprise.
Thanks Clay for renting the camp and proposing a route that was impossible for everyone except for Brad to finish. That made for a fun weekend.
Oh, when Mike and I got back to White Pines we were hanging out with the Saturday-night-camping crew and we saw a WHITE SQUIRREL in the woods just above the campsite. Awesome
I'm finishing this writeup on Monday night just after Wode drove me back out to Brevard to retrieve the Subaru. Floyd came along for the ride.
Thanks for the ride Wode!