The eighth running of the Art Loeb Adventure Trail Run was a success yesterday. Every year the ALTAR is ran on or around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Running this rugged trail is a challenge in itself, but running it on the shortest day of the year, and winter weather only adds to the challenge.
This year, Matt and his family put together the lodge again at Camp Daniel Boone which makes for a comfortable start/finish. Spending time with the other runners is a special part of this adventure.
More runners were at the start of this years run compared to last year. The weather was unseasonably warm, with a high chance of rain later in the day. I wasn’t expecting any aid this year and prepared myself to go the entire distance with what I was carrying with me. Almost all of the elevation gain is in the first 18 miles of the trail.
After the first few miles I found myself running alone on the trail, enjoying the majestic sun shining down on hills. I was sweating, and drinking more water than anticipated. After climbing up and down several times, the massive climb up Pilot Mountain was upon me. I think this is the hardest section of this run. This is where David Horton and Jennifer Davis passed me. I met Jennifer and her husband the night before at the lodge and heard of her new AT female record, 57 day and 8 hours. We exchanged hellos and told them I would see them soon.
After crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway the Art Loeb shares the Mountains to Sea trail briefly. The climbing doesn’t stop, and we continue to ascend up high above onto Silvermine Bald. This is where I ran back into David Horton and Jennifer Davis. From here we crossed Black Balsam Bald Road which is where I was able to get a liter of water from Matt’s mother.
I immediately threw on my rain jacket and gloves kept trucking along. The wind on the balds must have been 60+ MPH. Some parts of the trail I could not run in a straight line. It was cold, light droplets of rain would freeze and pellet me in the face. Despite the rain and wind, the view was better than last years fog. After climbing up a few balds, the wind died down, and the sun came out again. In the distance, you could see Mt. Pisgah and a rainbow wrapped around it.
Conversations with David and Jennifer about her recent accomplishment made this section of the trail that much more enjoyable. We continued along a flooded trail and ran into Richard Lilly. Before reaching Cold Mountain, we turned left on the Art Loeb and headed back for the lodge. I finished this years run in 8:53, almost an hour and a half better than last year’s time!
Length: 30.1 miles
Location: Pisgah National Forest and Shining Rock Wilderness Area (NC, USA)
Trailheads: Davidson River Campground to Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp
Highest Point: Black Balsam Knob (6,214 ft)
Lowest Point: Davidson River
Elevation Gain: 8,720 feet
Top photo and middle photo taken by Matt Kirk
Bottom photo taken by Jennifer Davis
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