Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 4th Fun Run!

Happy 4th!! Elk Garden
Jenny and I had tossed around the idea of traveling to Sophies Death March with the VHTRC in the SNP over the holiday weekend, but Jenny ended up at the beach and I didn't relish the thought of spending that much time in the car over the long weekend, so when Mike Day mentioned he would be camping @ Grayson Highlands with family over the holiday weekend and would like to run I was all about making something happen. A few emails later, a post on the IMTR facebook page, and we were on our way!!
Rob French had also sent a message he would be in the Damascus area and would like to run! so knowing two north carolina runners were going to be in the area and eager to run was enough motivation! it's always a treat to have visitors and share the trail. The posting on facebook also caught the attention of Donna Bays and Sean Dunlap! and the usual suspects Rick and Tammy Gray and JJJ were up for the adventure as well.
JJ nearly lost a finger
JJ and I picked up Rob in Damascus on our way up the mountain and met the crew @ Elk Garden at 7am. Luckily, thanks to the GPS gods, the directionally challenged Donna found her way to the parking area for the first time as well :) We met a friendly dog in the parking area and snapped a couple photos before heading up to Grayon Highlands State Park via the Appalachian Trail.
It was a lovely morning and the conversation flowed as everyone was excited for the journey ahead. Some visiting the park for the first time! We took several pit stops along the way to regroup, chat, snack, it was after all supposed to be a fun run :) we wouldn't want to push the pace or anything. We wondered along the way if Tammy and Donna would be able to navigate the (new to them) trails we had described before leaving the parking area. We put down some wooden arrows on the group at junctions in hopes they would distinguish them from all the other brown stuff (unlikely). We turned off the AT onto the Mount Rogers trail. A bit grown over since the last time I had ventured that way and we had to cross one large blowdown. It's a great almost level trail, rocky in places but cushy in others, very nice in my personal opinion.
The Mount Rogers trail intersects the Lewis Fork Spur, a fun, fast, windy trail,  leading to, you guessed it, the Lewis Fork Trail! a wider, muddier, horse trail that climbs up at a gradual incline before you pop out at an intersection of the pine mountain, cliffside, and crest trails. We took the Pine Mountain Trail which ducts back into the woods for 1.11 miles before connecting to the AT again around Rhododendron Gap.
Donna and Tammy emerge from the Crest Trail

Sean, Me,Donna, Rick, Tammy, JJ, Rob, Mike
We stopped to chat with some hikers who were calculating their next move. JJ, or fearless leader and navigator extraordinaire gave them some helpful tips as we soaked in the incredible views. A bit of conversation and we made a connection with the hikers. They were friends of Mo, aka the Sultan! they had run his RAM fun run a couple of years ago! small world. Shout out to Mohammed who is currently climbing Danali! Just as we thought of departing I decided we needed another photo. As I was gathering my gear, we heard a familiar Hootie Hooo!!! Tammy and Donna popped up from the Crest Trail, having missed the turn onto Pine Mtn Trail. They were saying some foul words about rocks and how they wished they would never see another.. I hated to tell them the biggest were yet to come! we were super excited they had made it in time for the second group photo!  They took off on the AT, anxious to get in the final miles and we headed towards the spring for a refill and the spotting of our first pony! H20 top off and we were back on the AT, Once we arrived at the Mount Rogers Spur we took a vote on "summiting" Mount Rogers the highest peak in Virginia. Some won, some lost, but in the end I think we were all glad we made it to the top 5,729 ft, which may be the most unspectacular summit of any mountain? the only way you know you've made it is because you can't find the trail anymore :) lets just say all the views are down below, but it's a super neat trail with an ewok village feel and I dream of bottling the scents of pine along the way.
Herd of Ponies
The return trip was fast and furious, almost completely downhill and mucho fun! we stopped to view some ponies in the distance and dodge some hikers but gravity was pulling us along as we danced around the rocks, rejuvenated by the sights, and smells of such a special place. I'm will forever be amazed at the beauty found in and around Grayson Highlands and we only scratched the surface on our 13 mile jaunt. I felt watermelon would be the perfect way to top off a patriotic, all American fun and it hit the spot! thanks to everyone who came out and made it such a special day!


  1. Such a wonderful day. I really did not want it to end. I could have stayed all day with our group. It was so nice to be able to finally meet Sean in person and a total surprise was seeing Rob when Tammy and I pulled up. Thanks for getting the word out on a wonderful morning at Grayson. By the way, your selection ability of watermellon is right at the top. Thank you!

  2. Beth,

    One of these days I am going to get to mt. Rogers for a run! Beautiful! Will you organize a run, pretty please, for the gang up here?

    So bummed I have to miss Eric's run this week. Hope you guys have a great time!!

  3. Thank you Beth for the invite, the photos (I used some), the after run watermelon and to you and JJ for being such great hosts on the 4th. Memorable day for all.

  4. Looks like a lot of fun and good company. I hope to get to join the IMTRs one of these days...

  5. awesome run, one of my favorites!

  6. Thanks, Beth, for putting this together, and thanks to all for coming up our way to run with us. The dog bite is nearly healed and I guess if I don't start foaming at the mouth here soon, I'll be OK ;).