Sunday, May 18, 2014

Spring Has Arrived to the Upper Reaches of WNC!

Over the past few weeks, I've been able to get out on some excellent adventures.  I revisited the Little Hump Fitness Challenge with some friends and extended it to the first ever Hump-D-Hump Challenge.  Although speed wasn't the goal that day.  Hannah, Tom, Michael and I had an excellent jaunt up to the summit of Table Rock starting at the base of Steeles Creek Trail, which offered up high humidity, warm temps, and the feeling that summer was upon us.  Then this weekend, I explored new trails up and down to the Black Mountain Crest, where I was greeted with a dusting of snow and purple trillium's side by side.  Man, this Spring has been a bit whacky, but my vote is for the cooler temperatures to last a little while longer (like the rest of the year).  Enjoy the photos taken from these runs below.

Hump-D-Hump Run w/ Phyllis, Jose, Jody, and Tom.  Route: OVT, AT, side trail to Big Yellow, AT to Hump, back the way we came.

Table Rock Run w/ Hannah, Tom, and Michael.  Route:  Out and back on the MST from the bottom of Steeles Creek.

Colbert's Black Horse Loop w/ me, myself, and I.  Route:  Colbert's, Crest, MST, Buncombe Horse Range 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring Break 2014!

Well, this year's Spring Break from work at school was most excellent!  I felt that I really capitalized on the time afforded to us to wind down from a hard 2nd semester of teaching.  I won't really go into much detail about each of my adventures, but will let pictures give you a glimpse of what I got into.

I started off with an phenomenal retreat to the Black Mountains to hang in a cabin with a great friend and my new brothers, then leave the comfy confines of the rustic cabin to run up to the crest of the highest mountain range east of the Mississippi and traverse it all the way to Mt. Mitchell and back down.  A few other looney WNC Trail Runners joined us on what I dubbed the Green Woody Crest Traverse, although no one took up the option to climb up to Green Knob at the end of the run.  Let's just say the weather didn't really cooperate, but we still had a great time!

After returning home to visit the families over Easter, Hannah and I headed out for some camping on Table Rock in the Linville Gorge on Monday and Tuesday.  We set up on the summit of Little Tablerock and enjoyed the sunset and sunrise from it's bigger brother.  Jody met up with us Tuesday morning for some trail running out over the Chimneys and to Shortoff and back.  It was just another majestic trip to the gorge!

And a little time lapse footage recorded from Table Rock during sunset and sunrise for your viewing pleasure.

Table Rock Time Lapse Spring 2014 from Brandon Thrower on Vimeo.

Wednesday featured a good run out at Hickory City Park with the Catawba Valley Trail Runner crew and then I formed a plan for a nice loop out on Grandfather Mountain for Thursday.  I woke up early Thursday and drove up to Blowing Rock for the lone adventure.  Spring wildflowers were popping up all over the Tanawha Trail, I was mightily humbled by the difficulty and lunacy of one of the most amazing and scenic trails in east (Grandfather Trail), and even bumped into some Gorge Rats while bounding down the Daniel Boone and Cragway Trails.  It was a glorious outing on a perfect day on Grandfather!

Next up for Hannah and I was a two day trip out to Merlefest!  The lineup this year was outstanding and we witnessed some great musical moments during our attendance.  Some outstanding acts that we saw this year included: Scythian, Red June, The Duhks, Mandolin Orange, Steep Canyon Rangers, Tim O'brian and Derryll Scott, The Waybacks, Todd Snider, Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Sam Bush, and Old Crow Medicine Show!  We returned to the site of my previous 50 miler, Leatherwood Mountains Resort, which my legs are still feeling by the way, and camped out beside Elk Creek between the two days we were there.  Great place, even if you aren't running.

To cap off our Spring Break, Hannah and I took a little trip back up to the Linville Gorge, except this time just for a nice run along Jonas Ridge to Hawksbill and back.  Both of these were trails and summits Hannah had yet to be on, so it was nice to take her out to these iconic peaks in the Gorge.  It was definitely a great way to end our Spring Break.  Also bumped into another Gorge Rat, Mike Jones, while on the run.  Mike has done a ton for the Gorge community in the past few years, and it was great to finally meet him.  A stop into Fonta Flora Brewery afterward was a must as well.  Can't wait for the Brutus!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Little Bit of Everything

There are some days that just trump all and become something that you wish you could just relive everyday.  Of course life gets in the way, responsibilities weigh down on you, and life outside of yourself needs to be attended first.  But every so often, you get one of those free days that you are truly free to do what you want and enjoy and nothing much to hold you back.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I met up with Jody early in the morning and we headed out to our planned adventure of the day, a 12 mile scenic bonanza of long range views and waterfalls in the Harper Creek and Little Lost Cove Wilderness.  After a beautiful ride up NC 181 and down Pineola Rd, we reached the trailhead of Little Lost Cove Cliffs Trail.  While our legs quickly warmed up on the short but steep climb up to the cliffs,  I could tell that the day was going to be amazing.  The weather was ideal and once we arrived at our first view looking over the Wilson Creek valley and up the slopes of Grandfather Mountain my feelings were confirmed.  We had only been running for less than a mile and we already were in awe.  A beautiful and quick descent later we were staring up at the grandeur of North Harper Creek Falls.  Immediately after, we shuffling down the rock face of Chestnut Cove Falls and then down the amazing trail that is North Harper Creek, along with its many creek crossings.  We next came upon Bard Falls, which after looking at it from the bottom of the pool, I finally realized how big this fall actually is.  It has always been one of my favorites and couldn't help but wish the temp outside was a tad warmer to take a dip in its excellent swimming hole.  Granted, less than a mile later I was waist deep in North Harper Creek before ascending Persimmon Ridge Trail back to Pineola Rd.

We had already seen 3 waterfalls on the day and were heading to our next 3 in the Little Lost Cove Wilderness.  After the climb out, the downhill along the MST to Hunt Fish Falls was welcomed.  Hunt Fish Falls didn't disappoint, even though it is one of the smaller falls in the entire area.  I took Jody up to the campsite above the falls, to this day my favorite place I've ever camped, and then we took off on up Lost Cove.  Our next destination was he marvelous Little Lost Cove Falls.  This fall had eluded me for almost 4 years until a couple of months ago, and since that first visit in February, this was my third trip to the falls!  We approached from the bottom and I enjoyed the sight of Spring wildflowers along the path to the lower fall.  After some scrambling around the lower fall, we made our way up to the even more majestic upper fall.  We tried to scramble up even higher to the upper reaches of the fall, but the way was looking a little more difficult then I was willing to go on the day so we steeply headed up to Little Lost Cove Rd to get back to our car.  Just as we were about to finish our run, from the corner of my eye I glimpsed a field of daffodils.  We jogged over to the field and admired the Spring blooms and named it Little Lost Cove Gardens.  It was a fitting end to our adventure. 

After our run, we headed down to the local watering hole, Fonta Flora.  Fonta Flora brewery is one of my favorite new breweries.  The brewmaster is extremely creative with his recipes and the fruits of his labor pay off big with complex, but highly drinkable creations.  While enjoying our frothy beverages, our conversation started leaning towards the gorge.  Although Jody had been to many places in the gorge, he had yet to explore the area around Shortoff.  With Shortoff only being a short 25 minute drive from the brewery I jokingly suggested we check it out now.  Jody said, "Yeah, why not?"  Next thing I know we are at the Wolf Pit trailhead and on our way up to the Olson Trail.

We hiked with purpose up Wolf Pit and in 22 minutes we were on Olson.  Jody was already stunned with the landscape just from hiking up Wolf Pit.  I knew what he was about to see next would blow his mind.  Two words to describe Olson Trail, astonishing and thrilling.  It is truly awe inspiring and a must for anyone that visits the gorge, except those folks with vertigo.  After getting off Olson we played around the summit of Shortoff, checked out an arete, and then took off back to the car and finished our second adventure of the day.  The day truly had a little bit of everything.