A week and a half ago however, I did have some fun in the snow. I set out with some friends on a birthday run for my buddy, Doug, who turned 31. The original plan was to camp at the Standing Indian campsite near the AT up in the Nantahala Forest just over the stateline into North Carolina and then hit 31 miles of tasty trails comprised of a couple of loop trails and a portion of the AT. A bad weather system was forecasted for the weekend, so we skipped the camping part and got up early on Sunday instead and drove up. Good call on skipping the camping as the area got dumped with 5" of snow and temps were down in the teens at night. I like to camp, but no reason to freeze like a popsicle unnecessarily.
Anyway, Doug, Woody, Roxanne and I got up there early on Sunday morning and the place was a gorgeous winter wonderland. Stunningly beautiful with snow everywhere and just enough ice on the trees to make the whole place seem crystalline and delicate. I was excited about the run and was looking forward to a day of running and hiking some great trails. Part of the itinerary included two big climbs, one of them up Standing Indian mountain at 5,500 feet. I know, not a big deal by Colorado standards, but pretty hefty for us here east of the Mississippi.
We couldn't take the road down to the campsite area due to ice, so we had to park the car off the road and run a mile and a half or so down to the trail head. We would hit the Park Creek and Park Ridge trails first which formed a 10-11 mile or so loop, mostly following a couple of creeks but with a couple of pretty good ascents and a brief ridge line portion. At first, I was having fun, but it wouldn't be long before I was having some trouble. The snow was fine, although in parts, I underestimated the added effort it took to run through it. And the trail itself was actually very easy to follow even with the snow. But my stomach was giving me problems and I was falling behind the rest of the group. Rox, Woody and Doug were looking strong and having a blast.
At one point, we did have some good laughs when we needed to cross a rather wide creek but no one wanted to get their shoes wet. I found a log that cut across and walked along it to the other side. When Rox gave it a whirl, she stepped in the water and with the cussing coming out of her mouth, we couldn't help but chuckle. Doug and Woody made it across sans wet shoes.
As we finished up the loop, I realized that it wasn't my day. Here I was in a beautiful setting with good friends on a fun run, but I just wasn't in the game. I was having stomach problems and even worse, some doubt about finishing up the run. I didn't want to be a drag on the rest of the group, so I gave Doug some of my water and gels and split off from them back to the car. They in turn began the trail that led to Standing Indian and the climb up to the top.
The rest of the story from my perspective is rather uneventful. I got back to the car, changed into drier, warmer clothes and headed into Franklin, NC for some food and a clean bathroom. I came back to the same spot and ended up having to wait only a couple of hours. Woody texted me from the top of Standing Indian and let me know that they were coming down the same way they went up and coming back to the car. Good call, because at the pace they were going, they would not have made it down and run the rest of the planned course, AT and all, in time to be back by dark.
When I heard about the climb up and the view from the top, I admit, I was pretty envious. I didn't know that they would end up coming down and calling off the rest of the run or who knows, maybe I would have been a bit more adamant with myself to push on. We definitely want to go back later this year and check it out again. But all in all, it was a good day and I did have fun. I definitely know, Rox, Woody and Doug had a good time as you can see from the photos below. I ended up running about 13-14 and they got in a little over 24 plus the summit of Standing Indian. Happy Birthday, Doug (and thanks for letting me use some of your photos here)!