Tuesday 17th January – Up In Smoke

I had a terrible night’s sleep! Dreaming way too much, constantly tossing and turning. This time my subconscious took me back to my Holden days where I’d stolen a friend’s white BMW and was looning it around the carpark, but had to apply the brakes with all my might to get it to stop. So I woke feeling sluggish but embraced the mountain view before me as I made cereal for breakfast. I was on for an omelette, but the wind had picked up so it wasn’t worth the effort. I said goodbye to camp and drove down the hill.

I stopped at the Smoky Mountains visitor’s center and asked for trail run recommendations and she suggested a run along the ridge that forms the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, which sounded like it would offer some sweet views. It took about an hour to drive along the beautiful winding road along the river, but as I climbed, I feared that the suggested trail would be well within the clouds and not offer any views. I let my FOMO guide me as I drove past a carpark that was half full. I turned around and decided this would be a good trail to do.

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I put my headphones in and started out on the forest trail. The Alum Cave trail followed the river and while it wasn’t raining, there was a mist hanging in the air that became refreshing after I warmed up. I ran at a steady pace, knowing full well my fitness is not what it had been after my European disease. The trail gently climbed the whole way, with a few bridge crossings over the gurgling river and stairs over the steep stuff. I ran under Alum Arch, a dark, dripping rock formation that left a hole underneath it. My end point was the Alum Cave, not actually a cave, but a huge overhanging wall that stays dry no matter the weather. I could just imagine some intense climbing routes up its angled face. There was an older couple here that seemed impressed I’d run the whole way but I assured them there had been many walking stints.

This was as far as I’d intended to run, but the view out to the mountains before reaching this point was spectacular, so I went on a bit further. The wind grew as I climbed and the trail turned from packed earth to slippery black rock. When I realised the trail didn’t stretch out to the ridge I’d seen, I stopped at a semi-peak where I was amongst the clouds and turned around. The mountains really were living up to their name.

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The downhill was easy on my body and I loved the pace, I really got to stretch my legs. I gave big smiles to those I passed and they returned them, often egging me on. By the time I’d descended back down, I was sweaty, refreshed and awake, my shitty sleep from last night forgotten. While I was still warm, I decided to get a shower in. I kept my undies on in case of other people and the process worked quite well! No time to heat the water, I had a character-building shower that also gave my muscles a feel of recovery.

Feeling fresh, I got back in the car to carry on south-east into North Carolina. When I reached the ridgeline, I was laughing to myself when I got out of the car to take a photo, not only were the clouds totally in charge at this elevation, it was properly raining and it was falling sideways. I’m glad I did my run lower down the mountain! The weather didn’t much improve on the North Carolina side. After I left the park, I took the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and managed to stop at an Overlook to make the omelette I wanted at breakfast for lunch. By the time I’d finished frying, the rain started to fall so I retreated to the van to eat and resolved I would be spending the rest of my day indoors.

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The drive down the mountain was lovely but I got off the scenic route because I needed petrol. Before getting there, I stopped in at the library in Maggie Valley. They had computers for public use so I finished off Dad’s spreadsheet and did some blogging. It was a gorgeous little place, frequented by many locals whom the librarian knew by name, dogs were even allowed!

On my way to the bathroom I noticed a piano in the deserted cafeteria inside the building. When I left the library, I asked if it would be ok to play it and the answer was yes. I was excited! I hadn’t touched a piano in over a year. It was a tiny thing with its own charm with uneven tension on the keys, but it had a beautiful sound. It took a while for some songs to come back to me, but eventually it flowed and I was happy to know I still have it. Something to look forward to when/if I end the nomadic lifestyle.

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Time to carry on, I found it was raining heavier so I got straight into the car, filled up with petrol and water, then drove on towards Brevard. To my surprise it took me over an hour to get there so I made it to my freecampsites.net find a lot later than I’d hoped, making camp in the dark. It’s not all bad, it’s not raining here so I could make dinner the normal way and with the windows open I can hear a babbling brook nearby. It’ll be a surprise to see where I am in the morning!

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