Last Friday I was able to realize a long-time goal of running the Appalachian Trail from Davenport Gap to Newfound Gap. This run along the eastern spine of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park had been on my mind for many years. I simply had not "made" it happen. My preparation for the upcoming Bighorn 100 provided an urgent and just cause for action.
The AT through the eastern half of the Smokies contains the highest sustained elevation east of the Rockies. The AT enters the GSMNP at Davenport Gap (1975 ft) and climbs Mt. Cammerer (5000 ft) in the opening five miles. After dropping to Low Gap (4200 ft) the AT climbs over Inadu Knob before ascending and staying above 5000 feet for the next 36 miles.
|Highlighted elevation profile of the run.|
This rugged section of the AT is also the most remote section, having several 4 to 6-mile stretches in which there are not even intersecting trails. Heliports are located in a couple of these regions for emergency evacuations which, coincidently, did not make my to-do list.
Along the way I encountered numerous vistas of haze shrouded mountains, a couple dozen backpackers, a small rattlesnake underfoot, a far off bear, blooming Mountain Laurel and Catawba Rhododendron, dozens of black muddy bogs, and countless knee high wood and stone obstacles.
I used a finicky UV light to purify 8 liters of cold, great tasting water from springs along the way. A pack used for summiting 14ers carried the light, 2500 calories, and emergency supplies. I started and finished with a Polar tank, but it was too warm to wear it throughout the run. My weak and taped ankle caused me to go with the stable La Sportiva Skylite 2.0 that has given me peace of mind during my three 50-mile mountain runs. And, of course, I wore the Polar RCX5 to track my progress. I opted not to carry a camera, since I knew the haze would be thick and the warm air would cause excessive sweating.
|Polar RCX5 data file|
This was a practice run aimed at slowing my butt down for a long haul. Tortoise or hare? Survival or death? Finish or DNF? 100 miles is out of my league, beyond my range of motion, and certainly beyond my sense of logic, my rational faculty. I don't normally move 100 miles in a month, let alone in a little over a day. So, this run was my attempt to get a grip on the pace that I will be capable of maintaining for a long, long run.
|New friends Jim (master brewer) and Donna (teacher) from AK|
|Sweat and mud, but no blood!|