I started checking out places that I hadn't run before and one of the places was Crowders Mt. Once the idea resonated as a good place for a run, I went about doing some research. I looked at the park trail map and saw that it extended to the South Carolina line. From there, I pulled up the Kings Mt. park trail map and saw that yes, the trails connected between the two parks. That's when the idea hit me about planning a run from Crowders Mt. to Kings Mt. and back.
More research showed that I could definitely run from visitor center to visitor center. Awesome, I could reload with water for the return trip. The research continued but mostly based on the Crowders Mt. side because they had the trail distances listed on their trail map.
With trail maps in hand, I started plotting out my course. From the Crowders Mt. visitor center, I would start with the Crowders Mt. Trail, then onto the Pinnacle trail, from there pick up the Ridgeline Trail. Roughly, I figured this would be about 8.5 miles of running.
Based on some other research, I figured the SC side of the Ridgeline trail was about 2 miles and then a short distance to the visitor center.
This should put me at 10.5 to 11 miles one way and 22 miles was my goal for the day. Ugh, I wish.
I had thoughts of doing the run in 3 to 3 and ½ hours.
After talking to Megan about it, she wanted in so 8 AM Saturday morning, we set off.
Crowders Mt. trail was pretty easy. The climb along the Pinnacle trail was ugly and steep and we were pretty reduced to walking as we circumvented the rocks. Humm, this left me wondering if my 3 ½ hour estimate had been too conservative.
Getting on the Ridgeline trail, we climbed down these 4 by 4 steps. This just tells how steep it was if they put in steps for it.
But once off this section the course still have some tough sections but it becomes more run able. We navigate across 3 road crossings. We run on a gravel section for a short distance. We even run on an old paved road for a hundred yards. I never did see a clear section saying that we were in South Carolina but I assumed we were because the trail flattened out and widened out.
But I knew for sure that we had hit the Kings Mt. State Park when the Ridgeline trail merged into the Kings Mt. main trail. Here was where a couple of eye opening realizations set in. The camp ground was 1.5 to left and the visitor center was 2 miles to the right. Decisions, decisions, decisions. What made the decision even more difficult was that my Garmin said that we had already run 10.5 miles. If my math is correct, we would be turning around at 12.5 when we reached the visitor so we would be running 25 miles by Garmin on the trail for total measured running distance. This definitely was not a pleasant thought. Garmin don't measure well on trails so we could be going 26 or 27 or even 28 miles. Especially trails with numerous switch backs as this trail had.
We decided on the 2 miles to the visitor center. This was the best decision. Bathrooms and water would be a waiting us.
We reloaded and headed back. The trip out had taken 2 hours and 5 minutes.
But now, the sun was starting to rise up into the sky and we spending a lot time climbing. We retraced our steps along the Kings Mt. trail back to the Ridgeline trail for the trip back.
We crossed 3 roads. We crossed over the gravel section and the old paved road section. We climbed up the steps. We transverse the rocks and finally enjoyed the 2 mile downhill back to the Crowders Mt. visitor center.
Total running time was 4 hours and 17 minutes.
My Garmin had 25 miles on it. Thinking about it just made me laugh on the inside. My quads hurt. My gluts hurt. My calves hurt. I was covered in dirt and oh so very, very tired.
But I was glad that I did it.
There is something about taking on difficult challenges and the great feeling of satisfaction when you complete it.
But one word of warning, I would not recommend the out and back approach. This is definitely makes for a long day. By the road, the two visitor centers are only a short drive apart so taking two cars and doing a one way trip makes a lot more sense for future runs.
Sharing one thought at a time,
The Cool Down Runner