It started out as an idea, not even a terribly creative idea : Run 44 miles on your 44th birthday. Take the day off from work and do something special to celebrate being alive. By the end of the day, my birthday run had in fact given birth to it's own creation- The Birthday Adventure Run Challenge. The BARC.
For example, on his 70th birthday Jack LaLanne towed 70 boats carrying 70 of his friends across Long Beach Harbor (about 3 miles), handcuffed and shackled.
Why would you do this, you ask?
Like Captain Kirk said, "I don't want my pain taken away, I need my pain." With no pain, there is no struggle, no struggle, no rewards, and if no rewards, then why bother living at all? These things add experience to our lives, they fulfill and enrich us, they make us human.
This Year's Challenge
I take it the situation is grim and the odds are against us. Sounds fun.
A 44-mile out-and-back run starting at Montreat College in Black Mountain. The goal was to run to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the highest place in the Eastern U.S. at 6,684 ft, then summit the next four highest peaks along the 4.5-mile crestline trail between Mt. Mitchell and Deep Gap before returning to the start.
All in all, that's FIVE mile-high peaks:
- Mt. Mitchell (6,684')
- Mt. Craig (6,648')
- Big Tom (6,581')
- Balsam Cone (6,596')
- Cattail Peak (6,584)
Finally, the Toll Road drops you on to the BRP at Black Mountain Gap. For some reason, I started getting really excited about the run at this point. From here on out, I was in uncharted territory, and suddently summiting Mt. Mitchell seemed a whole lot more real. Maybe I was just happy to be off that rocky, river of a toll road.
First surprise of the day: The gallon of water I had stashed in the bushes just right of the sign was gone! That really surprised me, but I figured Deep Gap was not too far away, and considering all the water on the trail, I'd be fine. Off to Mt. Mitchell State Park I went, with a left turn on to Hwy. 128, and then I kept my eyes open for the Buncombe Horse Trail.
Highway 128 is the road to the summit of Mitchell. Had I known what I was in for with the Buncombe Horse Trail, I would've taken this road all the way up!
Maybe a mile up Hwy 128, I picked up the Buncombe Horse Trail. There was snow on the trail, but the real problem was the water. It soon became clear that this stretch was going to be slow going and miserable. The trail was a choice of ice or swamp. When you could run on hard packed snow, things were fine, but the terrain constantly changed and trying to decide where to step soon began to wear me out. (On the way back, I didn't even bother. I ran right down the middle and just did not care).Entrance to the Buncombe Horse Trail
But just as often, your foot would completely sink out of sight
After about 5 miles, I began to look for the Commissary Trail, which would take me to the Mitchell Trail. All I could think of was how happy I would be to get out of this bog!
All the water that had run down froze over
It's surreal to come upon this sign in the middle of the wilderness
I took this picture on the way to the picnic area- no view whatsoever.
Second and third surprise of the day: I reached the picnic area, and took shelter in the little building there. I was ready to get my water, have some lunch, and call Charles. At this point, I was harboring some lingering thoughts about heading out Deep Gap even though it was getting late in the day.
I called Charles, only to find thathe had gone home sick and was completely out of it. It was a frustrating call as I kept losing reception and so we finally just said good-bye.
So close, yet so far away. Good-bye Mt. Craig and friends.
* Over the weekend, Adam Hill (Mad A) was kind enough to e-mail me some additional information I was missing about the route I had chosen. I was working off of Mike Mason's (Cheetah) general directions for this course, and had I not had Adam's additional notes I would have gotten lost for sure. Thanks, Adam!