Distance: 6.69 miles
Weather: A Bit Chilly, Sunny
Since Pop had the kids paddling around his pond in a john boat, complete with life jackets and fishing poles, JP and I figured the time was ripe to make a quick sojourn back to the nearby Big Ivy area of the Pisgah National Forest. We drove to the end of Dillingham Road, where it enters the national forest and becomes Forest Road 74. FS74, like the road I ran on Tuesday, steadily climbs the flanks of the mountains, but this road ends at the Craggy Gardens area off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We parked just below the entrance to the Elk Pen Trail, which is cleverly named for Elk Pens erected to house said animals during the filming of "Last of the Mohicans." JP was hiking and I was running so we parted ways at the truck, promising to meet at the truck in an hour. We both headed uphill. Her plan was to climb the road to where it intersects with the Elk Pen trail and return via the singletrack. My plan was to run up 40 minutes and return.
Two miles up the road, Elk Pen and Upper Corner Rock trails meet the road. I hung a left and ran up Upper Corner Rock another mile and a half. The trail, which follows an old logging roadbed, was in good condition, albeit totally covered in multiple layers of crunchy brown leaves. The leaves provided a soft running surface, but also camouflaged rocks and frequent boggy areas. Still, the scenery was beautiful...such a change from the ponderosa and lodgepole pine forests of Colorado. Again, creeks, springs and seeps were everywhere, providing eye candy at every turn.
Had an interesting moment when I came around a blind corner and startled two hunters hiking out after a day in the woods. Both were carrying rifles and wearing blaze orange. To my surprise, neither had heard me coming, even with each of my running footfalls creating a loud leafy crunch. I scared them again on my return, even though I called out a friendly warning of my approach. With ears like that, no wonder they were walking out empty-handed.
Once back at FS74, I crossed the road and ran down the Elk Pen Trail. This trail snakes in and out of hollow after hollow as it drops back down the mountainside. I made good time down this 1.5 mile stretch, only slowing for rocky spots and creek crossings. Another great run in the oxygen-rich North Carolina mountains. Makes me want to run the Mount Mitchell Challenge.