It was an epic run across the Plott Balsam Range. I think 19 of the 20 miles had a grade of 5% or more (12 of those were up, 8 down). The day beat my legs up big-time. Many thanks to Julie and Les Taylor from Waynesville who came to the start and supplied cookies from Kandi's Cakes and Bake along a bottle of CryoDerm for achy muscles. How nice! Thanks so much. A cookie powered miles 8 through 12.
Day 23 Run
I'm glad I started in Virginia. If I had started with today's terrain, I might have quit. It was hard! We started at Milepost 440 (Village of Saunook Overlook). 3.5 miles were sharply downhill to Balsam Gap. That's the transition to the Plott Balsams and began an 8-mile climb to Waterrock Knob (almost back to 6000'). Then the route dropped me like a rock to Soco Gap. The last 5 miles had 4 miles of climbing. At the 19th mile, I started back down.
The views along this route continue to amaze. We have many photos on BRPWeather.Com. They tell the story best.
The big discovery on the run today was finding OJ's glove. In the middle of nowhere on the side of the road.
We placed today's photos on http://www.BRPWeather.com/. From BRPWeather.Com, zoom into the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway to see all the photos . By the way, you can upload your photos to BRPWeather.com also; just click on the Photo link and follow the process--it's quick and easy!
Here are the starting and ending videos...
Our last night on the road is special. We are staying at Cataloochee Guest Ranch. The photo to the right was my "office" for blogging this afternoon.
Cataloochee Ranch is located above Maggie Valley with long range views in every direction. Lodge, ranch house, and cabin rooms are available on an 800 acre ranch. It's a great spot for to bring extended families with something for everyone. You can just simply relax in the cool mountain air or fish, ride horses, mountain bike, hike, birdwatch, take the wagon ride, and (in winter) ski or snowboard.
Cataloochee Ranch was founded by “Mr. Tom” and “Miss Judy” Alexander in 1933 and was originally located in the Cataloochee Valley. In 1938 Mr. Tom purchased a large part of the present Ranch property on Fie Top Mountain. The Ranch is now run with the same level of hospitality by a third generation of family members.
Food. Oh yes, lots of food. Social hour was at 6 PM and an outdoor feast was enjoyed by all the guests. Breakfast is equally special. Serving "family style" is a Cataloochee tradition.
It's one of my favorite spots in Western North Carolina--you will never be disappointed.
Parkway Attractions and History
The ending section of today's run was a controversial one for routing of the Parkway. The National Park Service preferred a lower-elevation route through Soco Valley to Cherokee, NC; however, the route through Cherokee Territory (near the current Hwy 19 Route) was rejected by tribal leaders. Fred and Catherine Bauer led the opposition to the Soco Valley Parkway route from 1935 to 1941. Finally a compromise was reached on the "High Elevation" route I began late in the run (but only after a change in tribal leadership). My legs would feel much better tonight, if that lower elevation route had been selected. 🙂
If you have never traveled over Waterrock Knob, do. It's majestic!
I'm left with just 9 mostly downhill miles to reach the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Hwy 441, just north of Cherokee, NC. We'll start at 9:30 AM and will plan on an 11:30 finish. I can't believe it's almost over. My special guest tomorrow is Don Lister--the only other person to run the whole Blue Ridge Parkway in consecutive days (except he added Skyline Drive for 576 miles and did it in 17.5 days). He'll finish the run with me along with David Still who has worked tirelessly in planning, promotion, logistics, and being "the crew" for 10 days of the event. And.. my friend and 6th cousin, Neal Stubblefield, (I'm not kidding. Our families got to work on genealogies and found our common ancestor last week) is coming back up from Atlanta to run today. Here are details for the run... http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/1101927386