Distance: 6.04 miles
Effort: Moderate - Uphill Tempo
Weather: Slightly chilly
From the deck at my father-in-law's place in western North Carolina, one is treated to a full-on view of the Appalachian Mountains ridge on whose shoulders runs the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. With the trees now bare of their leaves, one can just make out the thin, unnatural line of the road from his place, just 15 miles away.
To a trail runner, though, the hint of the parkway through the leafless trees is not the dominant lure. Where there's national forest and mountains, there's bound to be trails and dirt roads. The Big Ivy or Coleman Boundary part of North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest does not disappoint. This 10,000 acre (or so) area hosts several trails and two well-maintained dirt roads that climb from the valley below to the Blue Ridge Parkway above.
With dusk falling, I headed up Dillingham Road in Pop's truck and parked about eight miles away in a pull-off just inside the Forest Service boundary off Stony Brook Road. The two Forest Service roads off Dillingham Road in the Big Ivy area are perfect for running. They climb steadily, but not precipitously. The surface is firm, smooth packed dirt/gravel. What makes this area really remarkable (particularly to a Westerner more accustomed to water scarcity) is that one is rarely out of earshot of falling water. Creeks,springs and seeps flow down from the hills above seemingly everywhere. This time of year, the abundant waters are visible through the leafless trees.
Today's run was meant to be a modest uphill tempo run. With little (if any) warm-up, the plan was to run up three miles and turn around in order to get back in time for dinner. I averaged about a 10 minutes pace on the ups and just under 6 minutes on the return. Elevation gain on the run was 2,400 feet. The most welcome surprise, though, was how easy that elevation gain felt. There's so much oxygen in North Carolina!