FKT: Liz Goodman - Art Loeb Trail (NC) - 2021-07-18

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Total time
11h 42m 56s
GPS track(s)

We camped out at Pisgah campground the night before and got a late start on Sunday, July 18 because of some storms. My husband McCrae dropped me off at the boy scout camp and I started up the long slow climb up to the junction with Cold Mountain spur trail. I paused for a moment at the junction to enjoy the wildflowers and then I continued along the Narrows. I had been on several sections of the Art Loeb Trail before, but had never done the Narrows before, so it was exciting running along the ridgeline and exploring some of the rock outcrops. When I got to Shining Rock Gap I was back on a section of the trail I'd done before and was grateful I knew which direction to go since several trails (and social trails) intersect here. I had been looking forward to the section between Shining Rock and Black Balsam Knob since this section has some incredible views along the balds and the trail is generally fun, but I did not realize just how overgrown the trail would be in mid-summer. It wasn't that the trail was very hard to follow, but the vegetation was thick and spilled over the trail so you had to constantly push through the growth. It also meant that it was hard to see where you're stepping, so after a couple mild ankle rolls on loose rocks and almost stepping on two snakes I slowed down to mostly hiking along this section. It was disappointing to hike this instead of run since it's such a great section of trail, but I figured it would be better to take my time instead of stress over whether I would sprain an ankle or get bitten by something. My husband McCrae met me at the Black Balsam parking lot and I filled up water bottles and refueled, and kept heading south. I ran across a few backpackers on the southern section of trail, past the shelter at Deep Gap, and met up with my husband again at Gloucester Gap. It had been mentally taxing being solo for so long that morning, and so I was glad that McCrae met me a second time to give me a mental boost before the next long push to Davidson River (he would head to Davidson River Campground directly to set up our camp for the night). But even so, from Gloucester Gap to Davidson River Campground it was a tough section. The terrain wasn't that intense but there were lots of switchbacks, and I had the FKT course running on my watch with turn alerts, which was apparently a bad idea because it gave me two alerts for every switchback -- one warning that a turn was coming up and another at the turn. (Very annoying) Right around Cedar Rock my pocket profile map disappeared and my Garmin watch freaked out (I suspect my watch lost GPS) so I had a fun time trying to find my map (it never turned up) and make sure I was on the right course according to Garmin. At that point though it was late in the day, and as sunset approached I tried to hurry, but I knew that I'd run out of daylight before I finished the course. Around mile 24 or so the trail skirted a deep ravine on a switchback, and suddenly I heard a snap from across the ravine. I looked up and there on the trail on the other side of the ravine was a mama bear and two cubs. I paused a moment, called out a greeting to let them know I was coming, and got a chuckle when the mama bear briefly startled and then tried to herd her adorably oblivious cubs to hurry off the trail. Shortly after seeing the bears it started raining torrentially and the sun finally set, and it was mentally tough to push through the rain and long dark summer twilight. The last mile or so was done in heavy rain and pitch black, and my headlamp had limited visibility through the rain and mist, but when I finally arrived at the Davidson River Campground and saw McCrae and knew I had a warm tent set up and waiting for me in camp I was so happy. What an adventure!