Friday brought along the first significant winter weather of the 2010-11 season. Being a Friday it meant finding a trail to run. So, at about 6pm Friday night I reached the Tanawha Trail from Cold Prong along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I could see that Grandfather Mountain was covered in a cloud of snow and for this reason, I parked about 2 miles from its access point then headed straight for it.
The initial segment of trail was rolling and runnable though- very wet from the rain during the prior two days. Within 10 minutes the snow was coming down steadily and bridges were covered white and were slick. Upon reaching the first aggressive climbing at Boone Fork Trail, the ground was completely covered and the snow was coming down hard!! Love it. When reaching the Nuwati Trail junction I turned and headed up the side of Grandfather Mountain to get into the fun stuff.
The Nuwati Trail forms a loop with the Daniel Boone Scout Trail where you can either continue to the summit, or return to the Tanawha Trail. This was my destiny for the day, but first, I needed to climb up the granite boulders (which were slick with snow, ice and cold, like a frosty mug) for about 10 minutes where normally the runner can take in the Wilson's Creek watershed toward Caldwell County. This day all I could see was the snow in front of my face and a vague concept of the other side of the Boone Bowl. Patiently, mostly, I worked my way up the blanket of white on this rooted and rocky trail, ducking under branches and bounding (mostly) up big log steps.
In a series of moments I reached the junction with the Daniel Boone Scout Trail. To the right waited Calloway Peak... definitely NOT happening today and to the left was my route toward home. This downhill ride is normally technical and slightly out of control... today it was downright sloppy and since I was no longer climbing and the snow was still pounding- I was getting a cold and was soaked through. No problem, assuming I did not break my leg- I would be warm in about 40 minutes.
The sun was gone now and I was taking it smooth and easy on the slick rocks, back the way I came. It is so quiet and still in the forest after a good snow. I saw a few deer, one large doe and in a slight worry for what might eat such animals... I would give an occasional "hoot" as I moved from holler to holler on the dark trail.
The final 10 minutes of the run were lit only by the snow on the ground, running by contrast of dark and light to pick up high spots for warning of a hazard. Surprisingly I moved deftly and without incident while still carrying some speed through the woods. I do know this trail well- but still- blindness is blindness. After 80 minutes of solitude I neared the trail head and spotted a headlamp coming toward me. I stopped and chatted with a couple on their way out to sleep in the storm... I hope this wasn't a first date. I can just imagine what Lynnea would say if I suggested such an idea...
As promised I was soon enough warm and dry and back to the Element for some Friday night tunes. On my way home I hit up Chik-Fil-A for a #3 glycogen replacement meal. Yummy!