Day #6: The Kennesaw Mountain Ascent
After the brutal 13.1 mile ascent on Shut-In Mountain yesterday, I decided to let my body rest a bit before heading off to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park for today’s run. Functionally, I still awoke at 6:20 a.m., but I leisurely got started around 8 a.m. After a brief stop at McDonald’s to send email and post some writing, I headed to the park.
This is a runner’s haven, apparently. There were scores of people running along the paved bike path (this is the Mountain Trail, I came to realize too late, and not the path into the park). I changed in the woods – it was a dicey affair as the trees are sparse and the parking is along the road – and headed the Visitor’s Center to retrieve my map.
Unlike Asheville trails, this mapped network is less clear.
I set out on the East trail along the paved path in front of the park. It hugs Kennesaw Avenue for about a half mile before turning right. There is a critical junction: you can continue on the paved path or make a right into the woods. Had I been thinking, I’d have realized Kennesaw Mountain was in the woods.
Actually, I did think that after I’d run a mile down Mountain Trail. I turned around, ducked into the woods, and set about my trip.
A note: the Vibram Trek Sports – the heaviest of the barefoot shoes – is simply not up to the task of serious rocky terrain. (It’s possible I am not running in them correctly although I have tried to follow the instructions.) Twenty-one miles of trails in the last two days have left my feet throbbing. I’m also convinced I am forced to run more slowly because of the jagged rocks.
The first few miles were savory with the exception of the rocky terrain. I felt like I was going to nail today’s run to the point where I’d decided to stretch the 8-miles into a 10-mile run until I cut east at Pigeon Hill.
As I turned back towards the Visitor Center, I had three increasingly difficult runs to make: Pigeon Hill, Little Kennesaw Mountain, and Kennesaw Mountain.
The west trail was brutal. The terrain shifted constantly: soft dirt (yay), rocks (boo), and giant boulders stretching around turns that led to more uphill.
At one point, I asked a fellow runner who was going in the opposite direction is it ever went downhill: “Not in the direction you’re running,” he said to me as he sped by.
(Side note: a hiker trying to boost my spirit said the Visitor Center was just over two more hills as I dragged by him. He was speaking country as the first “hill” was the peak of Kennesaw Mountain in the same way that “down the street” means anywhere from down.)
On the bright side, the higher up the mountain I climbed – and in truth it’s only about 1,100 meters high – the cooler the view.
There was the typical battlefield accompaniments, such as the cannons that you can see in my Flickr stream. What sustained me through this run was the thought that very soon I would reach the peak of Kennesaw Mountain and look down across the surrounding valley.
The earned view.
There are two lookout venues (you can see I took this shot from just above that area). This smaller one and a larger observational platform about 200 meters west of this.
My body is hurting right now. I’ve done 44 miles this week – a normal week’s worth of running – and I have 2 more days here in the park. Tomorrow I’m throwing on the running shoes to see if I can make the 10-mile loop around the park. There’s still about 5 miles of exploring I’ve yet to do here.