It Ain’t That Deep

It’s been a minute since I’ve been up to the Smokies… and by minute… I mean it’s just been since May. Typically I try and get up there once a month, but I’ve found myself dialing back my visits lately. Perhaps it’s settling into a new job… or maybe it’s that I’ve been shittily training for a race that’s not so mountainous… or maybe it’s just that life is better than it’s ever been and I’m not needing that escape. Who knows really, but at the moment, I’m content with my visits to my favorite place.

Life is a little more demanding lately so it’s harder to jet out early on a Friday and sneak up to the Smokies for a Friday evening/night, but I almost feel as though it’s less stressful not rushing to get up to the mountains. Lately, most of my trips up have seemed less stressed and less forced.

We woke up as the sun came up (no alarms or early sunrise departure), grabbed some coffee and breakfast in Bryson City, and made our way over to Deep Creek where were going to camp for the night. Luckily, we were able to switch camping tags so that we could go ahead and set up camp before our run.

Smoky Mtn running is a ton of fun with Matty Fierce. He’s not so locked into the highlight trails and h honestly helps get me out to see different areas of the park. We set out of the campsite and made our way to the beginning of Deep Creek Trail.

It was easy crushed gravel running parallel to the creek for the first little bit, passing a few waterfalls and some early morning hikers. Eventually the trail would narrow and we found ourselves in that good ole deep green and log bridges of the Appalachia.

Deep Creek had some evidence of some flash flooding and wash out and required us to use some of our trail ninja skills to navigate a few areas.

About 8 miles in, we were moving along a thick, grassy, exposed area when Matty Fierce yelled and quickly and backtracked down the trail. My initial instinct was “bear.” Instead… it was a beautiful rattler curled up right beside the trail. Man… the camouflage was gorgeous. Not that ya ever wanna get tagged by a rattler… but ya definitely don’t wanna get tagged by a rattler 8 miles into the backcountry with no service… that could quickly turn into a life and death situation.

We took our time, found some longer sticks and gently persuaded the snaky snake to slither on its merry way into the thicket.

After the snake, I took the lead for a bit while we continued along Deep Creek. This section of the trail and park was insanely beautiful.

We eventually got out of the low lands and started climbing upwards. At about the 14-15 mile mark, we popped out on 441.

We had a little over a mile of road running to connect to the next trail. I’ve grown fond of connecting long efforts via roadways and keeping things pure in the Smokies. 441 provided the only views we got all day along the trail. The views you get on these types of routes are less focused on the horizons and more focused on the deep beauty of the forest.

We took a lil snack break at the Thomas Divide TH.

About 2 miles into Thomas Divide, MF wasn’t feeling the heat and humidity, so he decided to drop the 3 miles down Kanati Trail and thumb a ride down into Cherokee. For a second I thought about joining, but truly needed some longer miles on my legs. From MF’s report… Im kinda glad I didn’t take Kanati and not sure I’m looking forward to having to cover it at some point for the map’s sake.

Thomas Divide was a bit overgrown on the ridge.. see the trail? Yea… same.

The trail dialed back the growth a bit once I started descending and turned into some good old fashioned single track. The last few miles of the 30 mile effort was a double wide trail followed by a beautiful forest service road.

The park rangers were setting a big steel bear trap about 50 yards from our tent site. Apparently some kids left some food out the night before and a bear came through a ravaged some of the area. I took a quick dip in the river to wash off the mountain mucky muck, hung up my clothes and set off to rescue MF from the perils of being stranded at a brewery. MF got cleaned up in the back seat and we made our way back to Bryson City for some colbeer, pizza and live music.

The next morning we set out for a trailhead in the same general area. Typically day 2 of these adventures would bring a summit of 6593, but it was nice changing things up a bit. I’ll get back to my mountain this Fall.

We tried our best to get to this trailhead… but after a few wrong turns and pull ins to… how do I say this kindly… some sketch ass looking properties… we took our L (mainly for safety reasons) and headed to Wesser.

It was a bit rainy as we started up the AT for the familiar out and back… but the moody weather made for some beautiful scenery!

We were socked in at the Jump Ups…

But we were hoping the clouds would burn off by the time we reached the fire tower. Things were bleak up top for a few minutes…

But the clouds began to part and we had an absolutely beautiful trip down.

It was nice getting down to the bottom and not feeling rushed to leave immediately. We soaked in the icy cold Nantahala, basked in the gorge’s sunshine and sipped on a few local colbeers.

Life is good. I’m finding myself beyond blessed for the people in my life and the opportunity to cover ground on this incredible planet.

Time to focus in on some long, droned efforts for the next month and then hopefully can get back to planning something fabulously rugged and Appalactic for the Fall.

You Can Always Find Me Where The Skies Are Blue

A certain intimacy lies in grand adventures and travel. There’s just something that bonds people when seeing beautiful places or doing hard shit together.

Perhaps it’s the collective feeling of awe and amazement when staring out into the High Country in Colorado from 14,000ft.

Kyle ~ 2016 on El Diente

Or that feeling of smallness when gazing upon something as majestic as the Tetons…

Wifey ~ Jenny Lake , WY

Or that feeling of a cold beer and pizza after spending 5 days camping in the Wyoming backcountry…

Angle Mtn, Wyoming

Or a quick weekend trip up to Appalachia to break up the monotony of every day life…

Da bois ~ Nantahala , NC

Whatever it may be… I feel like you instinctively grow closer with people in which you spend this type of intentional time.

Trail running has blessed me beyond belief. Over the course of the past 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to be an ambassador and sponsored by several amazing companies. From travel to gear, I’ve received much more than I feel like I deserve. No matter how much hard work you put in and how much passion you have for something, the cold hard truth is… you don’t always get to reap the benefits and rewards.

About 6 years ago, I remember coming to the realization of like, “damn, this is pretty amazing. I wish I could somehow give back and connect people to the outdoors.”

So I started opening up heart and mind to that idea. I started putting those intentions into the universe through thought, prayer and moving meditation. I feel like it’s one thing to put intentions out there, however, if you’re not actively observing and paying attention, you may miss something the universe is trying to show you.

A few weeks passed and I received a random email from a women I’d never met before. She explained that she was going to start a new program in Alabama based around a program in North Carolina that she recently went and observed and volunteered. We agreed to meet up for drinks to discuss the event in a but more detail. I think I was halfway through my first beer when I was like… “Yea… I’m in.”

That random ass woman… well her name is Valerie.

And we’ve been bringing sexy back to the trails and training Make a Wish hikers since 2017.

This past weekend I got the opportunity to spend time with Val and 2 other high quality humans that I’ve known for years but haven’t really got to spend much intentional time.

I got into Denver just in time to drop my bags at the hotel and catch a super late dinner with Val, Beebs and Trevor. The next thing I knew… it was 2:30am and we were headed off to Colorado’s Trailblaze Challenge event.

When we got to the trailhead, I strapped on a headlamp, grabbed a handheld and set off into the dark abyss to scope out the 23.8 miles of the Colorado Trail that CO MAW utilizes for their hike.

The trail was gorgeous. I moved along the well groomed western single track as I watched the morning sun illuminate the sky.

I passed through where aid station one was to eventually be set up and began through an exposed section of trail. The sun finally popped it’s head over the ridge line to allow sight in the beautiful valley.

I passed through mile 10 aid station and said hello to the CO volunteers. Since the air was cool, I didn’t need anything other than a squirt of water to top of my handheld. The trail continued as a forest service road for a bit until it turned back into the groomed single track. The BIGGEST difference between the CO and AL route is that AL route on the Pinhoti is waaaaaaaaaay more technical.

I eventually linked up with my MAW crew at mile 23. They had just finished setting up Wish Mile and we all 4 hiked back to the finish together. We made a quick pit stop in Bailey, CO to grab some food. OMG… Bailey is the cutest town. The shops were cute but the town folk were cuter. AND… it had a Sasquatch Museum!

After some hot dogs, we headed back to a few of the aid stations to volunteer with the Colorado chapter. Typically on hike weekends in Alabama, I’m preoccupied with taking care of hikers on the trail by either sweeping, scouting, or spot checking. It was nice to not have that obligation and to be able to work an aid station and chat with the CO volunteers and their hikers! I even met a hiker in CO that was from Athens, AL!

You don’t really get the understanding and scope of how bad ass your own program is until you witness another. AL’s Trailblaze is so much bigger in terms of participant and volunteer size… and honestly… I think it has everything to do with the passion and hard work the AL team brings to the table. Though it takes a village to find this type of success, these 2 women right here are 2 of the most inspiringly hardworking individuals I’ve ever met.

Val & Beebs

They care a hell of a whole lot and it shows in the success the AL Trailblaze chapter has seen. The AL Trailblaze Challenge almost raised $1,000,000 last year… yes… Dr. Evil… close to a million.

It’s been fascinating and inspiring to watch this grass roots event turn into a magnificent production that’s impacting so many lives.

The one thing I love about these small group trips is the lack of conflict when it comes to deciding what to do next. Y’all wanna grab a drink and go cool off in the cold ass river? “Im down.”

bros in boxers drinking beers

Y’all hungry? “Let’s stop and eat at the next place we come to…”

Y’all wanna wake up super early again and hike a 14er? “In.”

Sunday morning, we’d decided to yet again wake up at an ungodly hour and make our way to a trailhead before the sun.

We collectively marched through the darkness with our sights set on Mt Bierstadt. As we trudged through the darkness, the sky was slowly lightening.

I don’t suppose watching the sun come up from a mountain will ever get old…

We eventually made our way to the tippy top and enjoyed a few minutes taking in the beautiful sights from Bierstadt!

I love the fact that the people that push and expect hard effort from the hikers of Trailblaze don’t just talk the talk… but litrully walk the walk.

They say “you’re known by the company you keep” and the older I get… the more thankful I am for keeping good company.

✌🏼 out Colorado. Hope to see your blue skies again soon.