Running to North Carolina

Since most people are running Red Rock this weekend I wanted to do something fun too. So I decided to run to North Carolina on the Appalachian Trail.

Some years ago my father mentioned that he had hoped to hike all of the trail in Georgia. He was then 89 and missing one section, the bit near the start (or finish) at Springer Mountain. Unfortunately for him there is no easy way to even get to the start, and he has (regretfully) given up the idea.

But I decided it would be an interesting thing to try. When I’m up here I frequently run on bits of the trail, the bits that are closest to me, which turn out to be those near the middle of the trail. So I’ve been running the trail from the inside out.

Anyway I have reached the point where I had about an 8 mile run to get to the NC border. (And a 20 odd mile run to get to Springer Mtn.)

So this morning I got up at 6. The temperature on the front porch was 24°F. Brrr. This is disturbing because the AT is 2000+ft higher than we are here and is usually cooler. It’s been a long time since I ran when it was this cold. So I put on lots of layers.

I reach the trailhead and for once it feels warmer there than back home. Still cold of course. The parking lot is jammed. I consider this trailhead to be the backside of beyond. I didn’t expect to see anyone here. I can’t actually find a spot and must pull over on the side of the road. I’m here pretty early so I assume these people are camping. Brrrr.

The trail climbs steeply out of Dick’s Creek Gap for about a mile providing good views off to the right.
Footing is a bit tricky at first. I’m not sure if the leaves are naturally slippery or if they are coated in a thin layer of ice. There is certainly some ice, thin crystals of it push up the dirt.
Ice Crystals
It’s fairly bare. No leaves, no wildflowers. But there are some ferns. Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is green all year long as is Creeping Cedar (Diphasiastrum digitatum).
Christmas Fern / Creeping Cedar

When I reach the top of the climb, I find I’m a bit warmer than I want, so I shed two layers and bundle them up and leave them by the side of the trail. I hope no one will take them…

The sun is shining down on this side now…

The trail goes beside a little bog here. There is no ice. Can it really be above freezing? And above freezing all night? After a bit the bog turns into a creek which runs beside the trail for a way. (View looking backwards, uphill)

Then we drop down into a stand of loblolly pines. This is a bit unusual as most of the trail (here anyway) goes through hardwoods. And at the bottom of the stand is Cowart Gap. What kind of name is “Cowart”? Cows don’t do art.

A little under 2 miles. Time for a bite to eat.

Mountain Pano3

And look here! Some snow! Perhaps left over from the midnight rain we had 3 days ago? Anyway Christmas Ferns don’t seem to care.
Christmas Fern Snow

I pop over to the back side of the mountain, out of the sun and here, finally is some real ice. A little stream comes trickling down and the rocks around it are coated with icicles.

And just beyond this is a rock covered with Common Polypody. I guess they are evergreen too.

I pass through Plum Orchard Gap (Really? There was a plum orchard here once? no sign of it now). And then on to Blue Ridge Gap. NantahalaThis gap has a forest service road and there’s a car parked here. The sign says it’s 3.1 miles to Bly Gap, which is just a little beyond the NC border. So I think I’ll go that far into NC.

Hmm. I’m entering the Nantahala wilderness. That’s a new one wilderness area for me.

As I approach the NC border I run through an area with more snow than I’ve seen so far. The whole slope is covered with a light dusting. And a marginal woodfern seems happy enough to be in the middle of snow.

And then the border… A small sign tacked up to a tree.

I continue on to Bly Gap where I meet my first hiker for the day. He’s a photographer who likes the gnarled tree that grows here. He’s taking pictures of it in every season and he encourages me to do so too.
The Tree At Bly Gap

When I get home I load my route into Garmin … and it shows that I didn’t quite reach the NC border. Um. I look it up. The NC/Ga border is at 35°N. And the mark on the tree is at 34.9931375°N — that’s about half a mile south of the border. Bly gap is only marginally better, it’s a third of a mile short. Now my watch uses GPS with a 5 meter expected error for each location. I could believe 10, even 20 meters. But not 800. The trail is mis-marked.

Damn it! I’m going to have to do the whole thing over again.

So I went back the following August.
Bly Tree in August
I programmed my cell-phone to ring an alert once I crossed the 35°N line. I ran it. I got to 35°N and I ran on for another mile or so, just in case. Then I got back home. Back in November I had looked at two sources, one was garmin, and one was something I’d found on the internet (can’t find it now). Both appear to have been incorrect.

This time I looked more carefully. The boundary was supposed to be at 35°N, but was badly surveyed. The surveyed line is not at 35°N, it’s a bit below, and it wiggles. There was even a border war between GA and NC back in 1804 (I’d always thought there was only one “War between States”). The current boundary is this badly surveyed line, and not 35°N. The signpost on the AT is probably correct.

Damn it! I didn’t have to do the whole thing over again.


2 Responses to “Running to North Carolina”

  1. Adger Says:

    Why shouldn’t there have been a plum orchard? There used to be apple orchards until it got too hot in the 1980s…

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