Another Sunday, another long run out at Crowders Mountain. I had originally planned to just head out there on my own this morning, park at the Visitor’s Centre and do a figure eight of sorts between some unspecified point on the Ridgeline Trail and Crowders Pinnacle. I was feeling somewhat antisocial and just game to get out there and run solo for around 17 miles, or thereabouts. Via Facebook I found out that coincidentally Ashley was also going to be out there that morning, at the same time, but running from Boulders Access towards the Visitor’s Centre. It was going to be fun to see where we might cross paths along the Ridgeline Trail.
I woke up to a very gloomy looking early start to the day and forecasts of thunder storms around mid morning at Crowders. I wasn’t to be put off but I did decide a change of plans was possibly a good idea given the iffy weather and hastily arranged to hook up with Ashley at Boulders Access and run together. She was game for 14 miles so that wasn’t too far off my target.
From Boulders Access we headed off to do a five mile out and back along the Ridgeline Trail towards King’s Pinnacle, with the intention of returning to the cars for refueling before heading back out and crossing the state line border into South Carolina and running another out and back on that section.
Roughly five miles into the run we had reached the wooden stairs up to the first rocky outcrops and things were going great. We decided to run up to the top of the stairs and use the scattered granite across the path as our cue to turn around, and have a quick photo op. As you can see it was rather misty out there today. I feel like I’m exploring a bit of the Lost World in that photo and a dinosaur might be just about to launch itself out of the mist and gobble me up.
So then back down the stairs we merrily went with Ashley taking the lead and me following until our easy chatting suddenly turned into screams of pain. My screams. My pain. Sharp burning stabbing pain on my left ankle to be precise. I had no clue what was going on at first until I spotted the yellow and black stripey culprit burrowing into my sock. I had apparently angered one of the Crowders’ natives, and he was not to be ignored.
I could not get that beast of an insect out of my sock and away from my skin. It seemed to take an eternity of panic and Ashley standing freaked and wondering what was going on before I managed to flick the jasper away, all the while worrying that at any moment a swarm would be following my tormentor and ready to continue the attack. Wasp finally removed I tried to quit the flapping and flailing and move away from the scene without disturbing any more stripy warriors. Further down the trail I was able to take a moment and examine the damage. I thought yellow jackets weren’t supposed to leave a stinger behind but I certainly had to carefully pull a barb from my ankle, and oh my gosh that jasper sting hurt like crap. My hydration bladder of ice was already melted but I was at least able to soak my bandana in the chilly water and create a make shift pack to wrap on my ankle. That really helped and I was able to continue with the run. It actually wasn’t too bad as long as we kept moving and I could focus away from how much my ankle was burning. It was also a good job that I am not allergic to yellow jacket stings as I could picture exactly where my epi-pen was…on the dining room window sill back at home. Useful.
So we continued back down the trail. On the return journey we did a little detour to Boulder Overlook as Ashley wanted to take some photos there. I gingerly managed to perch atop the granite in an attempt to follow and see the view, but then had to make a retreat back down as I got plagued by another jasper taking a gander at my ankles!
A further short maybe half a mile run and we made it back to the cars for a quick first aid and pit stop. I was able to refill my bandana with ice, reapply my compress and declare myself good to go for the remainder of the run. Yeah, it was swelling and hurt like crap, but I wasn’t ready to call it a day quite yet. This next section of trail beyond the NC/SC border was new to me and I didn’t want to miss a good recce.
It was fun. Past the stateline we hacked our way through a section of tall grass and then hit trail again. This side of the trail was much gentler than the other. A nice long swoop into Kings Mountain State Park which was refreshing after the hill work to the North. By this point I think we had both also exhausted any desire for conversation, we’d already set the world to rights somewhere between miles 1 and 9, and were just in the mood to run. I took off and got lost in my own thoughts, occasionally stopping to throw extra icy water from my pack onto my ankle and dowse the burning as I went. Though make no mistake, just because it was gentle doesn’t mean it wasn’t a hill. It was a bit of an optical illusion actually. While on the way out the trail felt nice and fairly flat, but when it was time to turn around and start the return leg it was soon evident that there was a climb to be tackled.
I certainly felt very content and at peace by the time I made it back to the cars. Despite the run in with the wasp it was a great morning. I’m still feeling that damn sting now though and will be reaching for yet more ice and painkillers if I’m going to get any sleep tonight.
The weather, although still horribly humid, was actually the best it’s been for a good run for weeks and it felt fantastic to be running without soaring heat. All told we did around 15 miles on the trails this morning. It was the longest run Ashley has yet to do and with my eager lack of brakes she did it at a faster pace too. Nice going. I was really glad that the miserable forecast had been the catalyst for us doing the run together.