The first part of this post can be found here.
When I awoke the following morning the freezing biting cold had made sleep difficult. The great thing about camping out in the open was being able to stay in my sleeping bag, roll over and get water boiling for coffee. As the sun came up and the hot beverage warmed me I got up and watched the valley below fill with sunlight. I knew I would have to get going soon as I had another fifteen mile day planned, the highlight being another 5000 foot mountain to climb, Albert Mountain, with a fire tower up top. I was looking forward to Albert Mountain but had been hearing horror stories about the difficult ascent up the mountain.
After a quick breakfast and cup of coffee I was packed up and heading on my way. The trail started out with a slight to moderate down hill that made movement pretty quick. I tried running a couple of times, but the right foot felt off and the leg did not feel well, so I just stuck with pushing a good walking speed. The morning moved on with the trail not being very challenging, often providing a nice slight incline or decline. Before I knew it the first half of the day was done, eight miles were completed and it felt effortless.
Eventually the miles ticked down and I went up the first little bump that would lead to the Albert Mountain ascent, nothing too challenging, just an easy bit of uphill. The trail moved on for a bit and then I hit the point would take me the final six tenths of a mile to the top of Albert Mountain, roughly four hundred feet of elevation change. The spot was indicated by the split in the trail with a side trail that is not part of the Appalachian Trail that would wind around and offer an easier uphill climb than the one before me. I was all in and pushed on. I was immediately greeted by a steep set of stairs built into the mountain, nothing too bad I thought, little bit of work to get up them but if the rest of the climb is like this then this should be easy.
As I got to the top of the first flight of dirt built climbing stairs, the trail turned and suddenly I saw the difficulty this six tenths of a mile, four hundred feet of elevation would pose… the trail no longer slanted upwards, it went straight up. I cinched my ten pound or less pack to my back and commenced to climb the rock face, pulling myself up and scrambling to get up the trail. According to my Strava record, most of this section recorded a grading of 45-50 percent. As I finished one section, the trail turned and I figured the uphill climb was over and I could go back to regular leg only trail climbing, but I then found another rock face to climb. This went on for a while til I finally could see how high I was and I knew the difficult climb was finally over, I had reached the top of Albert Mountain, 5200 feet of elevation and one of the toughest climbs I had ever experienced in the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail.
At the top the view was amazing! I ended up staying on top of the mountain for over an hour, climbing the watch tower and just enjoying the view. I only had another mile and a half to hike for the day and I just let myself relax and enjoy my time on the mountain. Eventually I left because I was ready for dinner. I got to the shelter finishing up 15.6 miles for the day with a monstrous climb near the end.
The next day I only had seven miles planned before I would meet up with my wife and head home to end the week. After an hour of walking my legs felt good and suddenly I found myself running. I was not pacing or timing myself, I was just running. It was a very enjoyable and relaxing run and often I went ten to fifteen minutes before stopping to take a walk rest. Overall it was the most pleasant running experience and I already had thirty five miles plus of walking, running and climbing on my legs to this point. As I exited the woods at Winding Stair Gap, thus ending my trip I realized it was the furthest I had gone in one trip and that my legs felt tired but strong and solid. I had a great time on this trip, even though I missed running and hanging out with my friends for the weekend. Til next time.