Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Clingmans Dome to Davenport Gap - 40 miles on the AT

Clingmans Dome to Davenport Gap
40 miles on the Appalachian Trail 10:49
Great Smokey Mountains National Park

We stood on the summit of Clingmans Dome as the red glow of the morning began to illuminate a new day. I thought about the last time I stood here. It was in the middle of my SCAR run in the summer of 2009.

Dave, Paul, John and I set off for an adventure on the Appalachian Trail. We would run from the highest point in the Smokey Mountains to the Northeastern tip. I had dropped my car off at the Big Creek parking lot, 1.4 miles downhill from Davenport Gap, some 40+ miles away from where I was standing.

The first two miles were chilly, and required a headlamp as the sun took its time to fully come out. But when it did, and the low angle red rays filtered thru the spruce trees and reflected off my breath which I could see clearly at this cold hour of the morning. Here I stopped and pointed out this phenomena to John who was immediately behind me. It is moments like these that bring out the full joy of running in the mountains of Appalachia.

Running from Clingmans to Newfound Gap is mostly downhill, but there are a few climbs. Both John and I made it to Newfound Gap in less than 2 hours, and Paul was maybe 45 seconds behind us. We refilled water, made a few clothing adjustments as the sun was out and about just before 9am. I was headed to Davenport Gap a few miles longer than where everyone else was going, Cosby Campground, and so after a few minutes I told the fellas I would be on my way. I stuck to my plan, hike the hills, and run the flats and downhills. So I took off.

From this point forward I was in a daze. I spilled my mind onto the trail, and danced on the rocks as if I was a mountain goat. My left heel was talking to me, so I took some vitamin I to quiet it down. I talked for a long time before it became quiet. I hung a sharp left just before hitting the Icewater Spring, which is where I refilled my bottles, and kept moving forward at a healthy pace.

Next thing I know I see John right behind me, and we ran together for 2 miles or so when we both reached Pecks Corner. Here John decided to hike down to the shelter to retrieve water, and I went on my way to continue this journey solo. I again put myself in a daze and before I knew it I had passed Tricorners Knob, and was hiking past Mt. Gyuot. Here, I met a man and his son boiling hot water on the trail for some hot coco. "How cool is that!" I thought to myself silently. “Its all downhill from here” the man shouted out at me. I nodded, and kept moving, knowing full well I had a few more climbs before this was all said and done.

I still had 15 miles to go from here, and took full advantage of the downhills, moving at a healthy pace. I wasn’t flying, but moving consistently, which I felt I did the entire day. I zipped past Old Black, passed the Snake Den Trail (where Paul, David, and John planned to turn left to Cosby campground), kept up some speed as I pulled into Camel Gap, passed Cosby Knob, and ran downhill all the way to Low Gap. I then hiked up the hill they call Cammerer, bypassed the tower and turned right for the longest 5 miles of the day. They were all downhill too. I reached the gravel road in 10:49, 12 minutes slower than my 2008 run, and shuffled back to my car at the Big Creek parking lot. I was happy to put another Clingmans to Davenport adventure on the books, and share in what turned out to be the most beautiful fall day so far this year!