Monday, January 07, 2008

Another Weekend, Not Another Bike

Just because I don’t have a bike doesn’t mean that my preparation for TMHTE stops. Saturday I was able to rile David George and BrouSSard into going hiking with me. I wanted to make a long one and Zach had the idea of making a big loop from Jones Gap to Caesar’s Head. I had often wondered how long this would take as we would basically be covering the same elevation as 276 does on the way up to the park.

We headed out on Rim of The Gap and just past the connector trail (#22) we met up with two hikers coming down the direction we were headed up. The warned us that our dog better be “sure footed” as we had some pretty big ice patches to cross. I looked at some pictures they had and was admittedly a little scared for Shade but I figured we could turn back if it was too much.

Once you actually get on the ridgeline that gives “Rim of The Gap” trail its proper name, the trail turns into a rocky wonderland with wooden ladders, cable crossings and tight rock squeezes. We were literally surrounded by ice for a mile or more. You could see some spots where the water literally froze as it was moving and had created a hardened “bubble wrap” texture. Some of the icicles hanging from the upper region were as big around as my body and they loomed above us dripping. I wondered what the chances were that we could be impaled by Mother Nature. . .

It definitely did not feel like we were in South Carolina anymore. There were some tricky slick spots but for the most part I felt very safe having Shade with us. There was one wooden ladder that had a rung missing making impossible for Shade to scamper up the ladder on his own so I climbed to the top and David George and Zach lifted Shade up to the first un-broken rung and after I had him secured he climbed the rest of the ladder himself. From there on, all the ladders were intact and Shade would just scoot right up them after some encouragement by me.

We came within a mile of the Caesars’ Head visitors center before we descended back to Jones Gap. The easy walk back down Jones Gap Trial a.k.a. Jones Gap Highway was welcomed after our initial 2,000 foot ascension.

Profiles from Saturday’s Hike:

I figured I better shake the legs out on Sunday so I geared up for a minimalist trail run/hike at Jones Gap. Kristin took off toward the Jones Gap waterfall while I made an attempt to best my time to the overlook on Pinnacle Mountain. I started off with a brisk jogging pace up the mountain that quickly turned into a fast walk/hike. Then when the trail would level out just enough to run, I would run. I didn’t stop until I made it to the overlook and rested for five minutes before attempted to run back down. Coming down I was all over the place, lacking proper trail running shoes I was attempting the trail with my running shoes and when it got steep I could only stop by grabbing onto trees. Luckily I had brought my gloves with me. At one point I heard a large crash that I figured was ice breaking off of the steeps.

I made it around the 5 mile loop in just under two hours. It was the most physically demanding effort I have put down in long time.


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