Welcome! The intent of Anecdotes from the Trail is to share my experiences while trail running or racing (occasionally on the road too.) And to feature other trail runners and their accomplishments. You may see the occasional gear review or even contest. Please visit from time to time. Happy trails!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chatooga River 8.15.10

Woody, me and Doug at trailhead
It is hard to believe it has been over six months since my last blog entry. It's not like I haven't had anything to write about. Quite the contrary. I have ventured on a couple of good trail runs with friends in North Georgia, ridden a beautiful century ride at Lake Tahoe, ran some miles on a legendary pilgrim route in Northern Spain and enjoyed a few weekend runs near home. However, my trail race calendar has gone through several revisions and a few cancellations with much of it due to work and family. That's just life. You have to prioritize. But I have a couple of races coming up in the Fall and I am ready to get this blog back into gear.

I'm running the Stump Jump 50K in October and I am considering the Lookout Mountain 50-miler in December. With those races in mind, I have slowly been ramping my mileage back to what it was earlier this year. This past weekend, I joined my usual running mates, Doug and Woody, to head up to Sumter Forest National Park in South Carolina to hit a 23 mile loop consisting of the Chatooga River trail, Fork Mountain trail and Foothills trail. Woody researched and found the loop and it would turn out to be a fun day of trail running.

We headed up there early on Saturday morning in an effort to get on the trail by 8:30am. We woke up to overcast conditions with the threat of rain, but it would turn out to be the best possible forecast. The cloudy conditions pulled down the triple digit heat index we have been experiencing in Atlanta this Summer and as a result, we actually got to run in temps in the 70's for almost the entire run. Unreal.

Anyway, we made it to the trailhead which is near a fish hatchery off a creek that leads into the Chatooga River. We got started at about 9:00am. The first few miles were great, as we were mostly following the creek down stream and the trail did not have much climbing. What it did have was alot of storm debris, hanging branches and rooty trail. It made for some tricky foot work while having to watch our heads. We soon came upon one of my favorite parts of the run, a 40' tall rock wall off the trail that extended for about 100'. This thing was really amazing to see and the picture here does not do it justice. It was a great site.

After playing tourist and taking a couple of pics, we kept on the trail and we came closer and closer to the Chatooga River. The Chatooga River is the state line boundary between South Carolina and Georgia. So it was kinda nice to think that we would be running in South Carolina and having Georgia just on the other side of the river. When we made it down to the river's edge, we took the trail to the right knowing that we would be making it around the loop to end up at this very same point later in the day. If we thought the trail was rooty along the creek, it really got technical along the river.

We passed a couple of campsites and saw a few campers who had spent the night down by the river. Everybody's always really cool when we go by giving a friendly wave and a nod. We would stay on the Chatooga River trail for about three miles while nearing Ellicott Rock. Ellicott Rock is a marker which corners the three states of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Pretty soon, we would head East and straight up what would be the worst climb of the day. Not a bad climb, but just a hard climb when having enjoyed several miles of mostly downhill and flat running since we left the car. A couple of switch backs and a couple of hundred feet and we were suddenly on a completely different type of trail than the one running along the river below.

We ran mostly single track trail along rolling terrain. Now clear of the rooty trails, we were making good progress. But we quickly learned that this trail is not as well-traveled due to all the spider webs across the trail. At first, Woody and I were taking turns at the front but we would keep hacking away at these webs or having them break across our face. As we complained about it, Doug would make fun of us by meowing. Insinuating we were a couple of pussies, but he would change his tune when we threw him out to lead us for a few miles. Wasn't long before we were meowing back at him. He did manage to dodge a couple of shoulder level webs that would end up still getting me or Woody. Bastard. It became a running joke through out the day when ever someone bitched about the webs. "Meow!"

The Fork Mountain trail saddles North Carolina and South Carolina. Eventually, we would come out on Route 107. There was another trail head at the road that hit the Foothills Trail. Before heading down that trail, we busted out some sandwiches and took a little break. The mist was weird, we were soaked but it was appreciated as it kept the temperatures down. After some calorie replacement, we took off down the Foothills Trail.

I don't know what was my deal, but I would end up on my hands or on my butt a few times during the run. One time because the ground gave way under my right foot. Another time because I slipped on some mud. And yet another time, out of poor clumsiness right near a little creek crossing. This, of course, triggered more "meows" as I bitched while getting up. These guys don't cut any slack.

On the Foothills trail we came across another impressive landmark, a 50' waterfall right off the trail. Another reason to love trail running!

After a few miles we actually crossed the road that led down to the hatchery, the trailhead and our car but we had more trail still to cover and kept going. Short time later we would begin descending in a major way. This is always fun especially when the legs are tired. Woody pulled away and Doug and I just tried to keep up, dodging trees and watching our feet as we went down for a couple of miles. Soon we were down on the Chatooga River again.

The water looked to good to pass up. We only had a couple of more miles to get back but took advantage of a small beach area to get in the river. Ahhh! It felt amazing. The cool water after almost 20 miles was just what the doctor ordered. We stayed in the water for about a half an hour before putting our shoes back on and finishing off the run.

It was good that we only had a couple more miles to go as all of us had run out of water. I went through my entire bladder in my North Face light pak and one hand held. Plus for the first time all day, the sun was breaking through the crowds. Good time to wrap this thing up.

Once back at the car and after a round of high fives, it was time to change into some dry clothes and make our way to Clayton, GA for some major calorie replacement.

Another good day on the trail. I can't wait to get a few more of these in before the 50K in October. Happy trails!