16 miles - 3:19 - Montreat, NC
Photos: By Jesse Hagberg
I rolled into the Dripolator at 8:15am. Got some caffeine and a large thermos to go which they lend you! I ran into Sara and John and we made the drive up to the Lake Susan parking lot just before 9am. The weather was perfect. A few clouds in the sky spoke to me and said to bring my Houdini, I wrapped it around my waist, but never used it.
A bunch of characters showed up for this fun run that Adam has put on for a few years. Brian Behdun was the architect of this madness and was at the starting line. These people bring so much positive energy that is uplifting you don’t feel like you are traversing up big mountains on fairly technical trail. Charlotte represented big time with the Crimson Cheetah leading the pack. New and old friends joined in on the action.
We all took off around 9:15am with the Grand Kirk leading the pack. He was dressed as if he was going into gorilla warfare?? I asked him to tone it down a bit as it frightened me. Non-the-less a good pace was set and we were climbing up Rainbow Mountain. This is when a few of the fast cats took off and left us mortals behind. Michael Jackson even showed up and busted out his dance moves on the rocks skipping up the mountain effortlessly.
Sultan was there for fun and games, and got in a few quality miles and laughs along the way. In his company was the Worm and a Yogi from Georgia who was not only pulling off this run in good pace, but doing it in style with aviators on. For the first two summits we would take a short break and bust out a yoga stretch move. I mastered the crow again on the summit of one of the Seven Sisters. Boooya! This wasn’t a race, but an experience to be had. Ok, having fun yet?
We pushed along to the Lookout Rocks and enjoyed a clear sunny day with astonishing views. While refueling on my inner chi I let a few runners pass me. It was me and Yogi at this point. We moved quickly on the East Ride Trail which twisted and turned many times. We went through Sourwood Gap and then climbed Rocky Head Summit and descended back to the Trestel Toll.
If your following along, great…most people get lost, and I almost did here. So what I do is print off directions or a map, put it in a ziplock bag with easy access while running so I can reference it when needed! Have a map and know how to use it, simple right?
I was now looking for the Greybeard Trail (blue blaze). Once I was heading up Greybeard I could see the fast cats coming down as this was an out and back section. Mark Lunblad, the Cheetah, and Mike Jackson were in a tight pack flying off the rocks as if they were floating on air. Mad A, Damian (whom by the way is getting stronger every time I see him on the trails), and William past me in the opposite direction. The Worm put a lead on me and now I was on my way up to the summit of Greybeard.
We then returned to Big Slaty and hung a right onto the West Ridge Trail. This was my favorite section of trail. Adam describes this section as “a sadistic playground of rocks, roots, climbs and descents!” I picked up the pace here testing out my footwork.
After going up many more of the Seven Sister Summits, you reach Big Piney Mountain. A large rock out cropping was the perfect spot for a few of us to take a break and soak up what was views from every section of this run. I suggested to the group to revive the inner coyote and we yelled out a synchronized howl which was heard by many of the residents of Montreat and Black Mountain. I could even hear a few of them howl back at us.
We all then descended, some faster than others all the way into Montreat. By the time we hit asphalt it was myself, Mad A, and the Worm to make it to the parking lot in 3:19. I stretched a little here, took a short break, and then was off for another 7 miles with the Cheetah. A total of 23 miles for the day.
Whence we made it back to our starting point, we decided to dip the feet in the icy cold waters and bask in the sun. Later that night I joined up with the Grand Kirk, Mad A and company for some din din. Awesome day in the hills.
"START/FINISH: parking lot adjacent to Lake Susan--to find the parking lot, head up into Montreat, then turn right onto Lookout Rd., and the parking lot is on the right (note: all trails will be blazed with a plastic diamond blaze on trees...most intersections are marked, but you must be paying attention and read what's written on the diamond blaze if confused)
Leave the parking lot and find the Gate Trail (blue blaze) which runs from the parking lot to the creek and heads downstream. Follow this trail through the playground, beside the tennis courts, around the softball field, and through it's many twists and turns. After passing below several Montreat houses, you will pop out in a clearing with dirt and gravel...be looking diagonal-left for Rainbow Mtn. Trail (gray blaze) which is near an out-building with the number 3 on it. Take this trail up and over Rainbow Mtn. being careful to watch for the summit trail at a key intersection near the top; After going up and over the summit, turn right at the intersection with Rainbow Rd./Tr. and follow this staying left at the next three intersections. The last left will put you on Trestle Rd. (there is a FS sign) for about 20 yards until you will turn right onto Lookout Tr, Go up and over Lookout Rocks, then after enjoying the view stay straight over the summit to access East Ridge Trail; This trail will take you over numerous summits, and amongst it's many twists and turns it passes several trails that take you off of the ridge, so be careful to follow the blazes of East Ridge Trail (gray blazes); After going through Sourwood Gap (East Ridge Trail goes straight through), you will climb Rocky Head Summit, then you will descend to where East Ridge Tr. dead ends to Trestle/Mitchell Toll; Stay left here to continue on Trestle and follow it to the first intersection with Greybeard Trail (blue blaze) which would take you to Pot Cove Gap; DO NOT GO UP to Pot Cove Gap, but continue straight to a creek crossing and stay on Trestle for a couple of miles of UNBELIEVABLE trail!! Be careful to look for Graybeard Tr. (blue blaze and marked well), which you will turn left on. Once heading up the Graybeard Tr. you will come to the turn off for Walker's Knob (there is a shelter there); Take this side trail a short ways to Walker's Knob, then head back to Graybeard Tr. and continue up towards Graybeard; Be looking on the left as you are climbing up in order to take notice of West Ridge Trail (which you will take after summiting Graybeard); After going over Big Slaty Mtn.(written on a gray blaze), then you will do a short out and back to the summit of Graybeard; After returning to Big Slaty, you will then take a right turn onto West Ridge Trail; This trail is a sadistic playground of rocks, roots, climbs and descents! After going up and over many more of the Seven Sister Summits, you will come to Big Piney Mtn; Turn left here on Big Piney Tr. to descend into Montreat; The trail ends at a gravel rd, then run the gravel rd. until it turns to pavement, then turn right onto Graybeard Trail Rd. and take this back past Lake Susan to the parking lot and the FINISH!!!!!"