Time. It controls every aspect of our lives. The world revolves around timekeeping and therefore we are a slave to it. There's really nothing we can do about it so... suck it up buttercup!! Simply cherish the time granted to you and make the best of each passing moment. I've learned a few things during the 28yrs I've lived on this rock... and one of the most important lessons I've learned is that you've got to live in the moment and take opportunities when they are presented to you. Now don't get it twisted... I'm not one of these people that say "I live in the moment and don't worry about tomorrow. We could die today... so what's the point of worrying about the future?" Because I know... there's a good chance I could be living tomorrow.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't make plans for the future... one can not literally live in the moment... that's just foolish talk. But you can be fully engulfed in the present moment and enjoy it without thinking of what tomorrow brings.
My wifey (Kati) got this amazing opportunity to fly to Spain to visit her cousins. She was a little hesitant to tell me about her grandmother getting her the ticket because she knew how bad I wanted to head overseas.
"Are you crazy?!?! Go!! You're going to Spain!!"
At that moment, I think I was more excited than she was about her going to Spain. She's worked her ass off for the past few months and she deserved to get away on a nice relaxing, worry-free vacation.
Kati's trip just so happened to perfectly line up with my 2 weeks notice, so I started making plans as well. This would be the perfect time for one last hard training weekend before heading up to Virginia in a few weeks. So like normal... I started prepping Hotel De Andrews for my mancation/trailcation getaway...
And Kati bought me some snacks...
Before we knew it... it was the night before the flight and we were well into our second batch of margaritas...
The next afternoon... with a hug and a kiss... I became wifeless for the next 10 days....
I set out north to the Smoky Mountains. I had no real plan.... no real destination... I simply wanted to spend as much time as I could in the mountains. I had hoped to catch a sunset up on the Appalachian Trail somewhere... but we all know how wonderful Atlanta traffic can be. After finally getting out of Atlanta I stopped to get gas and a bag full of cheeseburgers. I had all but given up hope for an AT run because it was already getting late and I wasn't even out of Georgia yet. As I passed through Rabun Gap I flashed back to last October. During our Pitchell road trip, Erin and I needed a drive break so we ran up to Rabun Bald. So in search of my first summit... I veered off course and headed up the mountain to the trail head.
I was the only car at the Beegum Gap trail head. Perfect. I had been craving solitude for weeks. The route starting from Beegum Gap is roughly 2 miles up the Bartram to the summit. It is runnable but one long constant climb (1100ft). The reddish glow of a beautiful north Georgia sunset was weaving in and out of the trees as I made my way up towards the summit. I was looking forward to sitting on the observation deck and watching the sun set... however... I entered a cloud a 100 yards or so from the summit.
I got to the observation deck only to discover the fog in 50 shades of grey... well... maybe just one big shade of grey. True mountain runners know that it is not about the views. It's about the journey. It's about connecting with the environment and enjoying nature's most fascinating playground. Good views are just bonuses.
The sun was setting quickly and I didn't pack a head torch so I couldn't stick around on the summit for too long. The clouds opened for a quick little second to reveal a little glimpse of sunset mountain silhouettes. The trail was dark on the way down, so I was a bit more cautious on the descent... but it felt good to loosen up the legs after driving for so long.
I pulled over at a scenic overlook on my way back down the mountain. I dropped the tailgate on my Element (aka: the patio on Hotel De Andrews) and enjoyed a cheeseburger and Coke as I watched the night swallow the mountains.
At night fall I continued onward to the Smokys. I stopped by a Smoky Mt rest area/visitor center right outside Cherokee. Of course the information center was closed but I could only assume that the bathrooms were open all night. As I pulled into the parking lot my lights shined upon an old beat up Cadillac parked in the first spot. I pulled in next to it and started walking towards the stairs that lead up to the visitor center.
"Can I help you?"
A creepy voice came from the shadows under the stairs.
The visitor center worker walked out from under the stairs with a cigarette in hand. He reminded me of the bartender from The Shining...
I would have probably punched the guy in the face if I could have reached him. Who does that?!?
I asked if the bathrooms were opened and he replied with a simple yes. I could feel this guy's stare as I made my up the wooden stairs. I hurried through the glass doors and into the bathroom.
I heard the sound of an entrance bell from down the hall.
F this I'm out. I was not about to be chopped to pieces by an ax. Rule #1: don't die.
I decided to leave immediately and carry on into Cherokee.... where I stopped at the Food Lion... where I was greeted by a 16yr old cashier with braces. Much better. Much safer.
After leaving Cherokee I entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I caught a glimpse of a beautiful red fox as I winded along the foggy mountain road. I got to Newfound Gap and decided to head on up to Clingmans Dome. I figured it was far enough out of the way that no one would really bother me. I pulled into the Clingmans Dome parking lot and stepped outside into the cold and windy mountain air. There were a few cars parked in the lot... probably backcountry hikers... but it still felt nice having other vehicles around. I put up my sunshade inserts that I had cut out for each window, a blanket over the front seats to hide my bed from any onlookers, and curled up in my sleeping bag for the night.
Day 1: Thursday
I woke up to the sound of a car door shutting. I peeled back the blanket to reveal a dreary foggy morning. I could hear the wind howling outside the car as I started changing into a pair of shorts. Even though it's summer... it can get chilly up at 6600ft. I put on a base layer, a light long sleeve Patagonia pullover, and started getting my pack ready.
I stepped into the cool mountain air and took a deep breath. I had missed this.
The first thing I wanted to do was head out to Andrews Bald... why wouldn't you want to visit a bald that was named after you?! ;) The Andrews Bald route is about 4m RT (round trip) with about 900ft gain.
I got out to the my bald rather quickly and propped up on a rock to enjoy breakfast.
After enjoying another Clif Bar... I bid farewell to my bald and headed back towards the trail head.
On the route back I blazed past a backpacker and quickly exchanged "good mornings." I got back to the trail head and continued up the AT spur trail towards the actual AT. I passed another set of backpackers (appeared to be a father/son duo) and again exchanged "good mornings." Their tired voices did little to hide the apparent long night they had just encountered. My next destination was Silers Bald. With the spur trail it's about a 10m out and back with a little over 2100ft gain. I ran this same route last summer and it was gorgeous. It takes you over beautiful ridges with extended views of the mountains. The fog hindered any chance of these scenic views. I pressed hard out to Silers Bald, tapped the rock in the middle of the summit and retraced my lonely, muddy steps back down the AT. Instead of taking the the spur trail back, I headed up towards Clingmans Dome.
I hung out at the top for a few minutes before heading back down the concrete path to my car.
I passed by the father/son backpackers as well as the first backpacker I saw. By this time of morning the parking lot was filling with tourists walking around snapping pictures of the fog... and of signs... and of the bathrooms. I opened the backdoor to Hotel De Andrews and sat down on the patio. I peeled off my muddy shoes and socks and slipped on my flip flops. I got several odd looks as I drank a coke and unrwapped a cheeseburger. Too early?
As I started out of the Clingmans Dome parking lot I saw the father/son duo sitting on their packs with their thumbs out.
I moved my bed to make way for thier massive packs. Anthony explained how him and his son (Carter) had taken a wrong turn and were off track. They were from Texas and decided to hike a few days while the Mrs was on a business trip in Nashville. We chatted as I drove them down the mountain on the NC side. Anthony told me how he was trying to get back in shape. He had been working extremely hard in the gym and had lost 20lbs already! We eventually pulled up to their rental car. Anthony handed me a $20...
"Thank you so much. Get ya some gas."
I handed the money back to him and told him to simply pass on the trail magic.
We shook hands and parted ways.
By the time I got to Newfound Gap it was drizzling. I sat on the patio and made lunch.
It was pouring by the time I finished my sandwhiches. I was a little worn from the 14m earlier this morning so I crawled into my bed and took a short nap. After a brief nap I threw on my pack and headed out for my next destination.... Chimney Tops.
I started out on the soaking wet and muddy AT. It was a little under 2m to Indian Gap.
I headed down the Road Prong Trail towards the Chimney Tops Trail. The trail descended quickly. The first part of the trail was made up of very slick rock in which I was extremely cautious. The last thing I wanted was to take a spill out there and get injured.
The trail intersected with the Road Prong Stream and dissapeared. I wasn't sure if that was part of the trail or not, so I just marched through the water until it reappeared....
Which it took quite a bit of wading to get back on the trail...
But eventually it turned back into rolling singletrack. I ran along the stream until the sound of rushing water grew louder. I turned and looked down to the left and saw my first glimpse of Road Prong Falls. I climbed down to the bottom of the falls, splashed water on my kneck and soaked my trucker cap in the cold water.
I climbed back up and started again along the trail. I felt a peace that I haven't felt in a long time as I went running alongside the rushing water. I felt so in tune with nature... I could feel myself getting back to the root reason I started trail running.
I eventually popped out at the Chimney Tops trail and began my ascent to the summit. I started around a corner and heard a loud breaking sound. I thought it could be a bear, so I stopped and started slowly walking to investigate. I continued my jaunt up to the top when I saw it was only a group of people.
One of the workers looked up, "The trail is closed until 5p."
I was only a half a mile or so from the summit and the weather had finally broke to reveal blue skies.
"Well damn. Think I could just go tap the top real quick?"
My big puppy dog eyes had failed me.
"We don't mind... but the NPS up ahead would."
After 4.5m I had to turn back... summitless. I hopped back onto the Road Prong trail to make the long climb back to Indian Gap. Back through the water...
And up the slippery rocks...
I finally made it back to Newfound Gap and caught a glimpse of one of the few times the blue sky showed itself during the trip...
I jogged back across the road. As I began walking to my car I saw the same backpacker I had saw earlier at Clingmans... only this time he had his thumb out. I pulled out a pack of crackers and started munching as I walked over towards the backpacker.
"Aren't you the guy that flew past me near Andrews this morning?"
"Haha I thought I recognized you. You ok?"
"Any way you could take me down to Sugarlands Visitor Center?"
It worked out perfectly. I was heading down to Gatlinburg to grab a 6pk anyways. I was just going to kill some time in the hammock down by the river until the Chimney Tops trail head opened at 5pm. I wanted that summit.
We hopped in my car and chatted all the way to the bottom. Stefen was out for a few days backpacking and really only had one night left before reaching his car in Elkmont campgrounds. All of his gear (sleeping bag/clothes/etc) was soaked and it didn't look like it was going to dry out in the off and on rain showers. He wasn't looking forward to spending another cold night in a wet bag. We talked about adventures and family on our way down the mountain. He asked where I stayed last night and I said I car camped up at Clingmans... probably would do the same that night. He advised me to not car camp off Newfound Road because he's seen people get busted (asked to leave and/or fined), but said Clingmans would be fine again probably. I dropped Stefen off at the visitor center and again had another cheeseburger on my patio.
I went into the visitor center bathroom to change into some clean shorts. I was on my way out when I saw Stefen again with his thumb out.
I rolled down my window.... "Hey buddy... what's up?"
"Just looking for a ride to Elkmont."
I laughed. "I can take you to Elkmont! You just said you wanted to go to Sugarlands!"
He laughed and hopped back in the car. "So we meet again!"
He told me a story about another time he and his friend were looking for a ride back to their car. He said that it was below freezing and they were caught in the bitter cold. A couple pulled over and rolled down their window....
"Sorry... but we don't give rides to hichhikers."
WTH!?!?! Who does that!!??
I dropped him off at his car and we bid farewell.
"If I ever see you on the side of the road Zach... I promise to give you a ride! Thanks again!"
I decided to go ahead and grab a campground spot for the night. My legs had already carried me 24 miles and I really wasn't wanting to head all the way back up to Clingmans tonight after running Chimney Tops. I justified it by telling myself It was easy access to Mt LeConte in the morning... and to the brewery tonight.
It was almost 4:30p by the time I checked into the campground, so I decided to mosey on over to Chimney Tops trailhead to wait for it to open. There was already a car parked at the trail head by the time I got there.
The radio personality proclaimed... "Thunderstorms and heavy rain making its way towards Gatlinburg."
I grabbed a water bottle and tucked a gel in my shorts and headed out onto the trail.
I love the Chimney Top trail. It's 2 miles (1500ft gain) straight up to the summit. It's a hard climb but you run next to a river, get to climb alot of stairs, and the best part is the scramble to the summit.
I passed a couple enroute to the top and they shot me the "you're crazy look." A break in the treeline revealed some ominous clouds...
Finally I reached the sign marking the warning to the summit...
Now the fun part! The scramble to the top!
I got to the top and to my surprise... there was a view.
The spine was tempting me with a traverse... but perhaps another time... when I wasn't alone... and it wasn't about to storm.
I sat on top of the summit enjoying the view while nibbling on a Clif gel. Silence. No wind... no traffic... just blissful silence. The glorious moment was shattered when a massive clap of thunder boomed across the valley. "It startled me" would be putting it in the least embarrassing way possible... so yea... "it startled me."
I quickly scrambled down the rock facing and started back on the single track.
"Did you climb that?!"
"Wow. Good for you. I got scared and turned back!!"
I explained an easier/shorter route that was just past the sign. Of course it wasn't nearly as fun... but hopefuly she will climb back up for another shot at the summit.
I stopped to tighten my shoes before the trail started the descent. I wanted to run the descent wide open. It would be great training and alot of fun to do it on tired legs. After a quick relace... I bounded down the mountain. At about the halfway mark another loud clap of thunder ripped through the air. This time it unleashed a beastly rain shower. I welcomed the rain. By the time I got to the car I was drenched. I felt refreshed. I felt alive.
After drying off I made my way down to the gas station to fill up on gas and buy a 6pk. I got back to the campground a little after night fall and changed into dry clothes. I sat in the main room of Hotel De Andrews and had 2 cans of Ravioli and a bottled water. Once it stopped raining I made my way into town and scored a parking spot along the river. I made my way through the sea of tourists that filled the streets. Shouldn't these kids be in school or something? It's Thursday.... or Friday? Wait. What day is it?!
I stopped into Sugarlands Distilling Company for a taste test... and then Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery... and then there was bluegrass...
I eventually made my way down to the Smoky Mountain Brewery to test out their new Black IPA. Rule #6: drink locally when applicable.
Delicious. About half way through this towering glass of goodness... the self proclaimed Beer Master of the World came and sat next to me. This man would not shut up about the beers that he's drank... in all the amazing places... all around the world. He blabbed on and on about why you should drink this beer and not that beer... how the taste of this beer pairs well with this food. I too sir... can read a book on beer. However.... I read more maps than books... (<--- name that band and I'll love you forever).
I'm still unsure of who BMW was directly talking to. It was only me, the bartender, and the Beer Master of the World at the bar. Neither myself nor the bartender paid this man much attention. I felt as though he was the kind of man that just enjoyed hearing himself talk. An entire day of hard running in the mountains and a little bit of shine had me in such a euphoric state that I could have listened to the Beer Master's ramblings all night... but I didn't. I finished my brew and headed into the night. I parked at my campground spot, popped the back windows open and crawled into the back of my car. I had a midnight snack... whipped up by the finest chefs in the Hotel De Andrews kitchen. I listened to the sound of the river flowing a few yards away and drifted off to sleep...
Day 2: Friday
I awoke to the sound of gentle rain on the sunroof. The world was barely illuminated as I poked my head out of my sleeping bag. I traded my pjs for a pair of compression shorts. Dang my thighs are sore... guess that's what a ton of hard descents will do to you. The game plan was to start the day off running Mt LeConte via the Alum Cave trail. It's one of my favorite trails to run. It's about 5.5 miles miles to the summit with about 2800ft gain. I had planned to go a little further once I got to the top. I wanted to hit High Tops, the actual summit, and then head out to Myrtle Point. Mt. LeConte was beckoning as I drove towards her...
The trail head was surprisingly empty so I was able to get a parking spot in the main parking lot. I sat on the patio as I filled my hydration bladder and stuffed my vest with Clif Bars and Clif gels...
I passed hikers along the first little bit of the trail. Of course one of the most popular hikes in the Smokys is to the Alum Caves (2m or so from the TH), so there's always large groups within the first 2 miles along this trail.
Most of the peaks were covered in clouds... which I hear is very rare in the Smoky Mts...
I came up to a surprisingly emtpy Alum Cave area...
Shortly after leaving the Cave I started into the clouds...
The further I went up the mountain the more people I came across. Most of the hikers I met were on their way down from their stay at Mt LeConte Lodge. Of course I had to answer the same questions over and over again... "Are you going all the way to the top?! Are you running all the way?!" I was looking forward to the descent. I've found if you're moving at a good speed going downhill no one wants to bother you. I happily danced in and out of the clouds...
At one point I ran upon a grandfather and his grandson on their descent. The young boy was cloaked in his Boy Scouts attire and you could see the love of the outdoors had been passed down from the old man leading the way.
The old man did not speak a word but his warm smile said more than any morning greeting I've received so far.
The young boy's eyes were full of excitement... "Good morning Trail Runner!"
I immediately got chills. I've been called a trail runner before... but not in this way. It's hard to explain the way he spoke these simple words. He proclaimed the name "Trail Runner" with such conviction... almost as though it was an Indian name... like "Running Bear" or "Stands With Fist." For some reason it just struck a cord in me and in that short 15 second moment... the term "trail runner" had a new meaning for me. I felt a sense of pride.
The boy's morning greeting resonated within me for the next little bit. This kid had blessed me more than he would ever know. It opened my eyes and heart to the absolute beauty of what mountain running was all about. Trail running felt new to me again...
I made my way past the lodge and took a sharp right up to High Tops and welcomed the grey abyss with open arms...
I didn't stay long up on High Tops. I hurried down and ran up to the actual summit which is far from exciting... but I tossed my rock onto the pile nonetheless...
I still had one more point to hit before heading back down the mountain. I was getting a little hungry so I hurried the .7m over to Myrtle Point to enjoy the views and another delicious Clif Bar...
A small shiver let me know it was time to get moving again. I wanted to really push it hard on the way down. I cleaned out my shoes, popped an electrolyte tab and took off...
I retraced my footsteps through the beautiful Appalachian Mountains...
"Running is my art... and the mountains are my canvas." - Timothy Olson
Artists and athletes are one in the same. However, society has placed art and athletics on separate ends of the spectrum... but in reality... they share more similarities than they do differences. Both are so in tune with their inner most ideas and aspirations... both are extremely passionate about creating something beautiful and meaningful... both have something deep inside that drives them... and when it all comes together.. when it all clicks... a masterpiece is created.
The entire descent of Mt. LeConte was picture perfect. For the first time in a long time I felt a true connection with nature. I wasn't out competing against anyone... or even competing against the mountain... I was simply in my own little world... creating a work of art... enjoying every blissful moment and the athletic ability God has granted me. Clarity.
I exited the single track and onto the dirt grounds at the Alum Cave where I was greeted by 10-15 spectators. Most were sitting around snacking while a few were pressing on up towards the trail. I slowed just enough to catch a few kind words of encouragement from the hikers. I locked back onto the single track and continued hard until I reached a cluster of people at the staircase. It was late into the morning and more hikers had made their way onto the trails. I chatted with a group I had passed earlier on my ascent. They told me more in detail about the Mt LeConte Lodge and how they stay up there almost every year. After the train of people made their way up the stairs, I fell in line behind the group waiting to go down. Once off the stairs I rushed over to the water and soaked my hat before heading back to the trail head. I finally reached Hotel De Andrews. The temperature was warmer down at the base of the mountain. I removed my pack and tank, grabbed a beer and walked down to the river. The water was frigid. I found a spot in the shallow part of the stream where I soaked my feet. It wasn't long before I found another spot where I could completely sit down and submerge my lower half.
I sat in silence enjoying my cold beer... taking in the peaceful sounds of the river. I'm not sure if it was an alcohol induced epiphiny but it came in like a wrecking ball. I had not once worried about the time. There had been zero structure in my days. I simply woke up when I woke up, ate when I was hungry, and ran every minute in between. It felt amazing. Now I understand this feeling and way of life couldn't, wouldn't and shouldn't last forever because it would take away the joy of these types of moments... but for now... I planned to completely enjoy every second of it.
I soaked in the water far longer than I imagined I would. I was just so relaxed... so engulfed in that peaceful moment... I didn't want to move. But all good things must come to an end... (basically I finally started getting cold), so I pulled myself out of my river throne and made my way back to Hotel De Andrews. I made my way through the city and headed out to Roaring Fork Motor Trail for another delightful meal on the patio...
I parked a mile or so down from the Grotto Falls trail head because it's usually overly crowded and I wanted to have lunch alone. I finished my lunch, repacked my vest and headed out into the woods along the Trillium Gap Trail in search of Grotto Falls and the Brushy Mountain summit.
From my starting point, Brushy Mountain summit would be a 10 mile RT with about 1800ft gain. I ran this route last year from the actual trail head and really enjoyed the long extended climb. The climb isn't steep... it is literally just one long gradual uphill that taunts you to run it all (which I did not).
The first mile or so of the trail is picture perfect single track that follows alongside the road. I couldn't help but smile looking down at the cars driving by... hands stuck out the window pointing in my direction. Bet they thought they were going to see a bear... sorry to be a disappointment.
When I arrived at Grotto Falls it was infested with tourists. There were upwards of 30 people around the area snapping pictures and splashing around. I decided not to buy a ticket to await my turn to walk behind the waterfall. I chose to wade across the knee deep water to the other side. As soon as my legs hit the water my body went into "oh dear God this feels good" mode. I stopped for a brief moment to give some reprieve to my legs. A lady who was knee deep in water with a tripod gave me an awful look and started motioning me to get out of the way. Jake (my alter-ego) reached down into the cold water, picked up a baseball size stone and hurled it at the lady's forehead. Zachary on the other hand threw a frustrated glance at the woman and carried on across the water.
Within seconds of rounding the ridge I was out of the infestation and back in solitary confinement. I continued up the trail alternating between running and power hiking. I rounded a corner and saw movement up ahead. What the...
Pack llamas on their way back down from a Mt LeConte Lodge resupply. I've read about them but never thought in a million years I would actually witness them! I stepped to the side and watched them march on down the mountain. The leader of the llamas told me I had less than half a mile to Trillium Gap.
I hit the gap and started the last half mile up to the summit of Brushy Mt. I started hearing voices up ahead and a group of hikers popped around the corner.
"Well hello there!!! We haven't seen anyone all day!"
I was just as surprised to see them. This was the first time I'd ever seen anyone on the trail past Grotto Falls. We exchanged conversation for a few seconds... they warned me of the upcoming mud and I warned them that I would be heading back down soon so they shouldn't be startled if they hear something behind them.
The half mile to the summit is really beautiful... you get tucked away in a little quiet tunnel...
They were right about the mud...
And you probably have already guessed it... but no view from the summit!
I tapped the top and started my descent back down. I had conversed with my legs out loud...
"Ok guys... 2 hard miles and then I'll soak you in the cold water at Grotto again... deal?"
I swear I heard them moan...
I dropped quickly out of the clouds and before I knew it I had passed by the hikers heading down. I rounded a corner to see a park ranger hiking up. I slowed to a walk...
"Hey man can I ask you something? I know you're on a time crunch..."
I smiled because although it appeared that I was in a rush... I really was in no hurry at all.
Unfortunately a lady had hurt her ankle near LeConte. I was no help. I told the ranger I had only been to Brushy Mt. He thanked me and wished me safe travels down the mountain. Grotto Falls came alot quicker than I expected and to my surprise... not a single soul was there.
I plunged into the cold water and soaked for a few minutes.
"Ahhhhhhhh...." I listened to my legs sigh.
I heard a group coming up the trail so I decided to get out of the water... Heaven forbid I get in the way of another picture. I started back down the trail and came back upon the llama train...
I walked behind them until the trail widened out far enough to where I could pass. I called up ahead to the guy leading the train because I wasn't sure how easily llamas spooked. He threw on the brakes, thanked me for asking, and let me pass. I veered off of the trail onto the last remaining mile or so back to the car...
I sat on the patio at Hotel De Andrews with a can of Ravioli and a half full Gatorade contemplating what to do next. My legs were thrashed. 28 miles the day before and 22 or so miles already at this point for the day. My heart, body and mind were not on the same page:
H: Stay one more night...you'd loooooove to run the mountains one more day!
M: Where would you sleep? Do you really wanna spend money on another campground spot?
B: Bro... chill out. You're going to kill me in a few weeks. Turn in! Turn in!
H: What if you tapped just one more summit? Just one last sunset run...
M: Then you could just head on home and rest all day tomorrow right Heart?
H: Yes!!! To the top!!!
B: WTF!?!?! NO! NO! NO!
Well the heart and mind won. I decided one more trip up to the top of Chimney Tops would quench my summit lust. I drove through town and parked at the trail head. The parking lot was extremely crowded but I luckily scored a spot. I stripped off my wet shirt, grabbed a water bottle, and ventured to the top one last time.
The scramble is real...
I stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor center to change into dry clothes for the ride home. I knew I would get home late but I was dying for a hot shower. I stopped at a Wendy's right outside of Knoxville to refuel and loosen the legs up before hitting the long stretch home. I was the only customer they had. I tucked myself away in the corner table. A group of kids burst through the door...
The chaperon pointed back at me...
"Him! Get him to do it!"
A girl of maybe 13yrs old walked over to me... "Will you do the 'asdfda' dance with me?"
I looked at the woman who was chaperoning...
"Don't worry! It's for a youth group scavenger hunt."
I took a quick look around to confirm I was not being set up on "How to Catch a Predator."
Again the girl asked, "Will you do the 'asdfda' dance with me?"
(I used 'asdfda' because I had never heard of the dance she asked me to do)
One quick off camera dance lesson later I found myself doing the "asdfda." Now somewhere on social media... a skinny, muddy, ragged and worn hobo-looking trail runner is dancing in a Wendy's restaurant with a 13yr old girl. You're welcome world.
As promised to my body... I did absolutely nothing on Saturday. My cat Wobbles was so overjoyed to see me that we literally did not leave the house all day... except to watch the sun set... in which she followed me like a dog outside and sat on my lap. Crazy cat.
Trailcation was so much more than I could have hoped for... a reconnection to nature, to the love of the outdoors, and to the true meaning behind the reason I run trails. It reestablished my passion for adventure. People tend to put so much emphasis on racing. If that's your thang then roll with it! Everyone has their niche. You do you. But I urge you... every once in a moon... get out and just enjoy running in nature. Don't worry so much about your time, your pace or who finished ahead or behind you... because in all reality... by next weekend... that race and your finish time has been forgotten by everyone but yourself. I admire all sorts of runners... elites and locals alike... but one of my biggest influences has got something figured out... and I pray it catches your attention...
"Running as much as I do is a lifestyle, and racing with others is a celebration of that lifestyle, a public a collaborative expression of the thousands of hours spent honing a specific craft and art. Without the consistency and discipline of my daily running ritual, however, these depths would never be accessible, so in the mundane habit is where the true work is done. My most essential nourishment comes from being on that mountain every day, and it's not the kind of nourishment that can be found in food, supplements, or a book and not even while out running on a road. Though somewhat inscrutable, it is still indubitably sustaining, and that is why I run trails."
- Anton Krupicka -