Bartram Trail 20M Run - Georgia From GA/NC Border over Rabun Bald to Wilson Gap (out and back) Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Another beautiful day in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Parking at Beegum Gap I got a late start by 0830 to start the 1.6M climb up to the summit of Rabun Bald at 4696', Georgia's second highest peak. I had no difficulty running the entire way to the top in 30 minutes on a well-worn trail with abundant rocky outcrops. I passed a family half way up on the switchbacks and was surprised to see thick sheet ice on the trail where the sun no longer reached a seep flowing across.
Heading south on the yellow-blazed Bartram Trail I heard the bells of the chapel down below in Sky Valley ringing nine times. A group of four hikers passed me on their way up from the resort below. The running was easy in the crystal sunshine as I cruised past Saltrock Gap and up over Wilson Knob at 3480'. The following descent was a bit treacherous due to its steeper gradient, lots of rocks, and tight switchbacks. Once down, the trail gradually descends to Wilson Gap where it crosses an access road twice.
At 7 miles I turned around at the gate for 155F Road and kept up a good tempo on the two climbs back. I climbed the observation deck atop Rabun Bald just for the 360-degree views before heading back down the mountain. A quarter mile before reaching Beegum Gap where I parked, the Bartram Trail swings east and north as it descends further into thick rhododenron stands across endless girgling streams with convenient bridges.
I picked up a companion on my way down from Rabun Bald - a golden retriever that was out adventuring alone in the mountains. She was delightful company and full of energy as we both raced down the mountain for three miles to a turn around at Hale Ridge Road. Crossing the road I ran a bit further to the GA/NC border before starting the climb back to the car. Maybe I was tired from racing down the hill so quickly, but I was dragging a bit coming back up, which I think the dog was grateful of.
She stopped frequently to drink from the endless number of streams we crossed. When I stopped on the bridge a couple of times, she seemed to find great joy in playing in the water - running, jumping, and splashing like a puppy. She was loving it and I believe she would have followed me anywhere. It was with great regret that I had to say good-bye and drive away from my new-found friend. The look in her eyes as I pulled away still leaves me sad. But she "belonged" to someone as evidenced by her transceiver collar. If I wanted a dog, she would have been the perfect companion.
It was a good day. I have now run every step of the Bartram Trail in Georgia. Next up, I'll tackle the North Carolina sections.