The Art Loeb Trail is the gem of Western North Carolina. I have had my eye on it every since moving to Asheville this summer. This started out initially as a run for fun, but I decided to attempt the unsupported FKT because I felt that it was in my reach and would be a nice challenge.
Things I wore: Salomon Hat, Salomon Running Shirt, Salomon 3 inch running shorts, CEP compression Calf sleeves, Darn Tough 1/4 Hikers, Salomon Sense Ride 3
Gear I Used: Salomon 12L Running Vest, Ultraspire running belt, First Aid Kit, 3-500 ml Soft Flask Bottles, Katadyn BeFree Water Filter + soft flask, Ultimate Direction Windbreaker, Amazon Windbreaker Pants, Smartwool thin merino gloves, Generic Buff, Cheap Sunglasses, Apple Headphones, Apple iPhone with Alltrails, Garmin inReach Mini, Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire Watch. I didn't end up using the extra clothes, sunglasses, headphones, or FAK.
Food: 1 Clif Bar, 2 Lara Bars, 1 Avocado + Veganese Sandwich. I did not eat the Gu, trail mix, pretzels, or kind bar I also brought.
The first section from Davidson to Gloucester was quite peaceful and smooth, but without any views. It was well marked and the incline was steady, but nothing too steep. In hindsight, I probably took this section a bit fast.
The second section from Gloucester to Black Balsam is brutal. It involves most of the climbing and the climb up Pilot Mountain almost broke my soul. During this section I also stumbled across a magical purple cooler full of Gatorade. Unfortunately, I had to pass it up as I was going for truly unsupported. The next creek was not too far off, but I still find myself craving that sugary, electrolyte-rich, beverage. At one point during this stretch, my stomach started acting up and was made worse when I attempted to eat a handful of pretzels and almost choked to death. From that point on, I basically did not eat and drank very little.
The third section from Black Balsam to Deep Gap is the most beautiful section of the trail. The leaves were changing colors and the views make you want to just sit there all day. Unfortunately, by the time I got up to Black Balsam, I had done ~8000 feet of the ~9000 feet of vertical climbing. My spirits were low and the sun was a bit hot for an FKT attempt. Additionally, Black Balsam was packed because it was Saturday and everyone had come to see the leaves. However, people were generally very nice and let me pass as I ran/walked/waddled up and over the knob. After Black Balsam, I almost took a wrong turn at Shining Rock Wilderness, but quickly corrected myself. The next section is called the "narrows" which I guess means bush whacking and rock climbing over landscape that someone decided to call a trail. Even if my legs felt like running, there was no running that was going to be happening.
The last section is from Deep Gap down to Camp Daniel Boone. Seeing the sign indicating only 3.8 miles left gave me a burst of energy. The descent was not as bad as I anticipated and is actually fairly gradual. There are plenty of rocks and roots that were covered in leaves, but I managed to keep my balance. I definitely could have taken this section faster had I not gone out too hard in the beginning. However, I knew at this point that I was going to be under my time goal, so I was a little more relaxed. I even stopped at times to get a little more water, which was not necessary. Overall, this 30.1 mile trail with 9000 feet elevation gain is no joke. It requires your complete focus and will crush your glutes, quads, and threaten your ankles at every turn.
Looking forward to running this trail more in the future, perhaps southbound next time?