Sunday, June 02, 2013

West Fly Gap Road

This last Memorial Day, I was lucky to get away for a while and scout Fly Gap Road in preparation for my little Fly Gap Fun Run of Yet-To-Be-Determined Distance coming up this July. I wanted to find some good places to hide water and figure out how to get it there. I started driving west onto Fly Gap Road from Hwy 23 but didn't get very far. The mild grades were smooth gravel but the steeper sections were washed out. They might have been passable is someone else's Chevy Cavalier but not in mine! No problem, though. I just backtracked to a natural gas station of some sort about a mile from the highway where I could park and head out by foot.

For a life-long gearhead who nearly ruined himself switching from one gear-intensive hobby to the next, I'd gone a remarkably long time without buying any new running gear (one of the many things I've come to love about running!). But with a very long self-supported run coming up during the hottest part of the summer, I knew I would need to be able to carry more water. My not-buying-gear streak was about to end!

I love my Ultimate Direction Katoa waist belt with the suspenders I made from a climbing sling left over from my rappelling obsession from several years ago. I actually took that with me when I went to Rush Running to try on Ultimate Direction's new running vests to make sure the two could be worn together without interfering. I liked the construction and materials of the SJ model best but the AK fit a little better and looked like it would be cooler to wear, so I went with that one. I also bought two more of the Camelbak bottles which I prefer to the Ultimate Direction ones. Gear lust satisfied!

I drank two big glasses of water and a glass of soy milk before leaving the house, and a full bottle of water in the car. With my waste belt and my new vest, I could now carry 2.4 liters without having to struggle without handhelds, which I don't get along with. I drank another two full bottles of water, until I was bloated like a tick, and headed west with no real plan for where or how far. I did want to run some of it, but this was very much going to be an exercise in water management.

It was overcast and quite cool for late May, with a slight breeze coming over the ridge which made for very pleasant running.

Fly Gap Road follows an east-west ridge with beautiful views of both sides. The elevation stays between 2000 and 2300 feet for most of its distance.

Running on gravel roads like these is utterly pleasant during the summer when ticks and chiggers make the OHT and other trails less enjoyable.

Some might argue with this, but I think the Forrest Service does a pretty amazing job. There are designated ATV routes so people who enjoy fossil-fuel-powered sports can enjoy our public lands, but also plenty of areas for us Gatorade fuelers. The forests are healthy and alive!

Fly Gap Road dead-ended into FR#1510 a little over eight miles from my car. I had drunk less than a bottle at that point, but I was thirsty and starting to get hot. I decided I would go south on FR#1510 a few miles to the intersection with the Ozark Highlands Trail and catch the OHT back east to FR#1509, filling two bottles at Spirits Creek. I wasn't carrying my filter but figured the water would probably be OK.

FR#1510 looked to be well travelled and in fairly good shape. That might be how I get the water in for my fun run next month.

I'm usually watching the ground a yard in front of me when I'm descending at speed on loose gravel, so I'm not quite sure how I managed to see this hidden trailhead. I think I just "sensed" it.

The 2.2 miles from FR# 1510 to Spirits Creek was new to me and was very nice. My white calf sleeves made it easy to see the ticks so I could flick them off after each grassy section.

Spirits Creek.

I took a little break here and ate some Jason's Almond Butter and an Oskri almond coconut bar as part of an experiment with fat-based fueling that I'm doing. Both were delicious, as was the unfiltered water I washed it all down with.

I had hiked from Cherry Bend to Spirits Creek and back earlier this spring, so the 1.3 from Spirits Creek to FR#1509 was not new to me. It was just as steep as I remembered it, though!

Having filled up in Spirits Creek, I could have walked FR# 1509 southward to White Rock Mountain Road and back, but I decided to catch that section next time. Instead I just headed north back to fly Gap Road, shown as 1506 on this sign.

One of the smaller hills on Fly Gap Road.

Look, my car!

Scouting Fly Gap Road was a pretty amazing way to spend my Memorial Day. I was a bit disappointed that I never needed to drink my two bottles of creek water, but the hike was long enough. I even clicked off a few 13-minute miles at the end of it!

My next mission is to scout White Rock Mountain Road. I've driven it several years ago in my Accord with no problems, but the road may have changed since then. If it and the lower section of FR#1509 are good to go, then placing water for the fun run next month won't be any problem. I'll post a full report whenever I get a chance to do that run.

Here's my Garmin track, if anyone is interested.