Daily Log

Stories by The Dog Team, written and compiled by Sugar Dog

Please note that Daily Log entries are based on a race day, from 5:45 am to 5:45 am.

Day 0

On Thursday, June 12, Sugar Dog drove in from Los Angeles and made the transition with Cave Dog to The Dog Pound (Base Camp) where they were treated to a meal of grilled trout, caught right from the Base Camp pond.  They picked up Lady Dog and Ed Dog, who flew in from Eugene, OR.  Sea Dog was also expected to fly in that evening from Maine, but he waited for two hours on the LaGuardia runway and missed his flight from Charlotte to Asheville.  As a result, he was forced to seek out accommodations other than a cozy corner of the Charlotte airport, and arrived in Asheville on Friday morning.  Friday, The Dog Team tackled Cave Dog's van, which contained all of his worldly and less than worldly possessions, which had accumulated since he left Oregon for Tennessee for the Barkley Marathons in March.  Grocery shopping and other errands were run, maps were assembled, and The Dog Team members from near and far were hunted down and contacted by Lady Dog.  The Dog Team that was at The Dog Pound met up with Love Dog and DEW Dog for dinner in downtown Asheville with Danny Bernstein, who was writing an article about Cave Dog and his challenge.  Cave Dog then stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, printing out maps and outlining the course for the South Beyond Insanity Ultramarathon to be distributed to The Dog Team the next day. 

On Saturday morning, Lady Dog met up with DEW Dog to photocopy the forty page packet of maps of the course that Cave Dog had assembled the night before.  In the meantime, The Dog Team members assembled at The Dog Pound for an organizational meeting.  They took a marathon three hours just to go over such a complex assemblage of maps.  They then sat down for a meal that was deemed a picnic instead of a barbecue, as it did not meet the standards of North Carolina barbecue.  However, the local Dog Team members were indulgent and partook in the good food and friends despite the nonSouthern definition of "barbecue".  Soon after the meal broke up, Houn' Dog left to drop off Sea and Good Dogs at their first trailhead, Cosby Campground in the Smokies.  From that trailhead, they walked three of the nine miles they needed to reach Cave Dog the following day.  This hike gained 4,000 feet over nine miles, so they were glad to get a good portion of the ascent completed before the next morning.  Luckily, Good Dog and Sea Dog set up their tent just in time to avoid a major downpour.  Cave, Sugar, and Lady Dogs reviewed maps one last time before Cave and Sugar Dogs took off for the Clingman's Dome parking area.  Rad Dog flew in late that evening from Coos Bay, Oregon, and, in the middle of the night, drove out to Clingman's Dome for Cave Dog's start at 5:45 am.

Weather:  Partly Sunny

Day 1

Clingmans Dome, Collins, Kephart, Le Conte, Seyquoyah, Chapman, Guyot, Old Black, Marks Knob, Yonaguska, Luftee, Big Catalouchee

Cave Dog began his morning at 5:00 am with some of Sugar Dog's scrambled eggs and then walked up to the top of the tower at Clingman's Dome with Rad Dog and Sugar Dog.  At exactly 5:45 am, he began to run down the spiral pathway of the tower to begin  his challenge.  Fog persisted throughout the morning.  From this mist and condensation, Cave Dog's legs and feet became drenched almost immediately because he was running through the water soaked grass that overhung the trail.  This would be a constant theme through out the entire challenge.  As Cave Dog walked towards Newfound Gap on the Appalachian Trail, he found himself treading on Rhododendron petals strewn across the trail by the wind.  The Dog Team found it amusing that he started his challenge on a path of flower petals.  With wet feet, he ascended Mount Kephart and Mount Le Conte as he continued on to traverse the rest of the Great Smoky Mountains.  At one point on the Boulevard Trail, Sugar Dog was able to hear Cave Dog warbling over the radio that, as the fog temporarily lifted, he was able to see Guyot, Old Black, Chapman, and Kephart : "It is great to see the course laid out before you."  Sugar Dog and Rad Dog met up with Cave Dog before and after his ascent to Kephart and Le Conte, and he was in excellent spirits, running up to five miles per hour on the mountainous terrain.  During this time, Rad Dog saw a brown salamander on the Appalachian Trail and Cave Dog saw another that was bright orange with black spots near the Ice Water Shelter.  Sugar Dog and Rad Dog then dropped off one of their vans at the Beech Gap trailhead for Good Dog and Sea Dog, who would be hiking through to that trailhead the next day.

While Cave Dog was starting off his challenge, Sea Dog and Good Dog were hiking up the Snake Den Ridge to their first rendezvous location at Mount Chapman.  They then met up with Cave Dog during his long series of bushwhack down and backs at the Tricorner Shelter, near Mark's Knob, the Gunter Fork Trail, the base of Big Cataloochee, and again at the Laurel Gap Shelter.  Cave Dog was amazed to see how dramatically the vegetation had grown up in the two weeks since the last time he had done these bushwhacks.  In fact, all of his bushwhacks for the challenge would be a bit more difficult than anticipated because of this recent burst of undergrowth.  Where Cave Dog, during training, had a nearly bare forest floor sprinkled with dried leaves, now he was wading through four foot tall stalks of blackberries.  Grasses and ferns were obscuring any evidence of manways or primitive forest trails.  This seemed to coincide with a general change in seasonal weather patterns.  Now the air tended to be of the hotter and more humid summer variety than the cooler spring air.

At 3:30 pm, The Dog Team got their first of many showers for the rest of the day.  This rain and the continuing fog covered all vegetation with moisture and would result in Cave Dog's feet being wet almost continually for the next five days.  Atop Old Black, Cave Dog noticed an inspirational greeting left a few days prior by Bill Ross.  Cave Dog was very pleased about the kind gesture and was in a great mood that trended to ecstatic excitement as it became more clear that he was unexpectedly going to be able to complete all of the bushwhacks in the daylight.  This was a huge savings in time and effort.  Cave Dog was so pleased that it was reminiscent of the great thrill to find himself bounding down Mt. Wilson, much to his own disbelief, during the first day of the M4.

Along the way, Good Dog and Sea Dog spotted two salamanders, an orange one eating a brown one in a surprising act of cannibalism.  The two Dogs had a long day of hiking with heavy packs that totaled about 17 miles.  They originally thought they would hike out that night, but instead decided to spend the night at the Laurel Gap Shelter amid some short but drenching storms.

Earlier in the day, Sugar Dog and Rad Dog biked down Balsam Mountain Road's dirt section, looking for the intersection with the Spruce Mountain Trail.  As they continued to coast down in elevation, they realized that they must have missed the trailhead, for they had traveled twelve miles, nearly twice as far as they should have journeyed. They began to wonder how long it was going to take to bike back uphill.  Luckily, they ran into two National Park Service rangers and their vehicle, who kindly provided a ride back up to the beginning of the dirt road.  With so much time transpired, the Dogs were now worried that they had missed Cave Dog.  Rad Dog went on to stay at Poll's Gap, the next provision stop, while Sugar Dog drove back into town to get in touch with Lady Dog to find the whereabouts of Cave Dog.  Lady Dog explained that Cave Dog could not reach the Balsam Mountain Road/Spruce Mountain Trail junction until much later.
After meeting up with Good and Sea Dogs, Cave Dog pushed on through the muddy trails from the Laurel Gap Shelter to the Balsam Mountain Road.   It was difficult for Cave Dog to find his way at night because the fog had rolled in so thick that the light from his headlamp often reflected off of the mist, making it difficult for him to find his footing.  Cave Dog and crew heard thunder around 10:00 pm that evening.  In addition, during this night, Cave Dog had a kamikaze bat fly right into and smack his forehead.

Sugar Dog biked back in to meet Cave Dog along the Balsam Mountain Road and found him around 11:15 pm.  The fog was thick, Cave Dog needed new, dry shoes, and he was still in a great mood from his excellent progress on the first day; however, this twenty two mile road section would prove to be monotonous and tedious and would seem never ending.  However, they managed to make the hike back to Poll's Gap, where they met up with Rad Dog.  Cave Dog took a ninety minute dognap and then began his walk to the junction of Balsam Mountain Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Weather:  Overcast, Showers, Thunder, Downpours, Fog

Day 2

Yellow Face, Waterrock Knob, Jones Knob(Lyn Lowry), Plott Balsam, Richland Balsam, Reinhart Knob

At 6:23 in the morning, Cave Dog reached the Balsam Mountain Road/Blue Ridge Parkway junction after suffering from two large blisters on the small toes of each foot.  The blister on his right foot was enormous.  In fact, this blister nearly swallowed up his entire toe.  The calluses on his feet from training actually made it difficult to pop his blisters, but they had to be popped or they would only grow.  Digging away at the blisters, they finally punctured through, sending a stream of blister fluid almost three feet.

With the break of day, the sunlight revived Cave Dog and he had renewed energy that carried him forward on the rest of this long road trek to the base of Yellow Face.  Rad Dog motored alongside Cave Dog and Sugar Dog as they walked on the Blue Ridge Parkway down to Soco Gap, keeping Cave Dog nourished and hydrated.  It was a great help to have Sugar Dog with him on this road section for moral support.  At the gap, Sugar Dog hopped into the car as Cave Dog ascended the other side of the valley.  He climbed Yellow Face quickly and then moved on to the Waterrock Knob Overlook.  Once again on trails, Cave Dog's pace and humor were replenished.  Sugar Dog and Rad Dog wished Cave Dog luck as he walked up the pathway to Waterrock Knob Summit, and they retired home to The Dog Pound to refresh and revive themselves.

In the meantime, Good Dog and Sea Dog walked out from the Laurel Gap Shelter to the Beech Gap trailhead, where they picked up the van that Rad Dog and Sugar Dog had left the previous day.

Cave Dog and a Dog Team member experienced some miscommunication at Balsam Gap and missed each other at that provision point.  As it would turn out, they were only a couple hundred feet from each other and still managed to miss each other.  The Dog Team member got confused by the radio buttons and held down the "CALL" button instead of the "PTT" (Push To Talk) button.  Hence, Cave Dog's radio would ring continually as long as crewmember was talking.  Not being able to communicate or connect with the crewmember, Cave Dog was in a quandary.  The next scheduled rendezvous was not for another thirteen miles at Double Top Overlook.  He was out of fluids.  He had acquired seven more blisters that needed to be tended to so that they did not grow out of control.  Thunder was heard at 1:00 pm with lightning bolts seen at 1:30 pm were shortly followed by torrential downpours.  Cave Dog had only a thin exercise shirt and was getting cold despite the hot day.  Cave Dog ran for cover to a National Park Service maintenance depot.  There he ended up waiting fifteen minutes for his turn to use the phone.  As it would turn out, the phone did not allow for long distance phone calls to Asheville, the Base Camp phone would not accept a collect call, and the crewmember's cell phone battery had expired.  By this point, 45 minutes had transpired.  Dejected Cave Dog went back out into the rain and decided to continue on for the next rendezvous at Double Top Overlook.  He decided he would drink out of the available creeks along the path and risk the untreated water.  If he had any severe trouble, he would bushwhack to the Blue Ridge Parkway and flag down a passing vehicle.

Miraculously, after only a couple miles of hiking, Cave Dog received an anomalous and serendipitous radio transmission from Rad Dog who was in Waynesville with Iron Dog.  The transmission was intermittent, but Cave Dog could express his dire circumstances.  Cave Dog bushwhacked to the Blue Ridge Parkway and waited fifteen minutes for Rad and Iron Dogs to spot him at this random location.  The two Dogs tended to his blistered feet and tried to make up for lost time.  From now on The Dog Team took very proactive and thorough measures to stop the formation of more blisters, including coating his feet in Vaseline, tape, padding, second skin, Band-Aids, and puncturing existing blisters at their first sighting.  These measures would prove to be successful in that even though his feet remained hot and wet for the rest of the challenge, he would not gain any other blisters until the marathon road run at the end.  

Iron and Ski Dogs had been postponed in arriving to the challenge until today because of a whole series of vehicular mishaps.  Iron Dog's pickup, which had been the main support vehicle for the Adirondack and White Mountain challenges, had been totaled in a car accident in Michigan just a couple weeks before the challenge.  Slo Dog in Keene, New York, was going pick up Ski Dog in Pennsylvania and drive down.  Unfortunately, both of Slo Dog's cars had untimely problems.  So, as it turned out, Iron Dog had to drive to Maine to pick up her new electric blue pickup and pick up Ski Dog in Pennsylvania before driving down to North Carolina, delaying them until today.  Unfortunately, Slo Dog was unable to make the trip.

As Cave Dog moved along the Moutains to Sea Trail(MST), he found a collection of about twenty flaming azaleas that lit up the trail with a vibrant orange.  He had never seen such a solid mass of flaming azaleas.  He found it awe inspiring.  He also came across one of many locations on the course where the foul weather had dislodged and dropped thousands of mountain laurel petals into the trail.  The mountain laurel has a distinctive white with red highlights thimble shaped petal that Cave Dog loves.  It was wonderful to hike on a glorious trail of mountain laurel petals.

At Grassy Ridge Mine Overlook, Iron Dog hiked back along the trail to provide Cave Dog with some moral support and then met up with Rad Dog at Double Top Overlook and later the Richland Balsam Highest Point Overlook.  Here, Ski Dog, Silver Dog, and Resa Johnson met up with Cave Dog for his night hiking and bushwhacking.  After climbing Richland Balsam with Ski Dog, Resa and Silver Dog tended to Cave Dog's torn feet and gave him what would turn out to be the first of countless foot massages.  Silver Dog had made a delicious duck and curry rice tortilla dish that Cave Dog ate just before taking his nightly ninety minute dognap.

Ski Dog accompanied Cave Dog for the next night hike in order to keep him company during the much more difficult sleep deprived darkness.  The choice of dates for the challenge had in part been for the accompaniment of the full moon.  Unfortunately, The Dog Team would never see the moon during the entire challenge because of dense nightly fog.  This section up Reinhart Knob and along the woods roads to Haywood Gap was one of the most difficult sections to navigate at night.  The blackberry brambles were very thick and as the fog rolled in, it was difficult for them to even see their own feet as they searched for the MST on the backside of Reinhart Knob.  It was even harder, in the dense fog, to see the faint old and decaying blazes of this section of the MST.  The nipple on Cave Dog's hydration system fell off and all of his energy drink lay upon the west slopes of Reinhart.  Ski Dog shared her water, but it was soon gone.  To compound the growing list of problems, during the bushwack, Cave Dog's radio fell off and joined his energy drink, lost on the west slopes of Reinhart.  In addition, Ski Dog had not realized the nature of the bushwhack and had not brought any pants.  Her legs were torn to shreds by the thorns.  She also had to succumb to wading through seas of nettles as they pushed through the night.  However, she was excited to see the largest salamander she had ever seen in her life, brown and slimy as it was.  Being dehydrated, Cave Dog became especially sleepy during the evening's hike, and Ski Dog did her best to keep him motivated, but dehydration was beginning to affect her as well.  They were very glad to meet up with Silver Dog at Haywood Gap, where Cave Dog got some much needed foot attention, fluids, and a twenty minute dognap before moving on to summit Mount Hardy.  

Weather:  Overcast, Showers, Thunder, Lightning Bolts, Downpours, Fog

Day 3

Hardy, Chestnut Bald, Sam Knob, Black Balsam, Tennet, Grassy Cove Top, Shining Rock, Cold

From the summit of Mount Hardy, Cave Dog radioed in to The Dog Team.  Both Good and Lady Dogs, waiting at the Sam Knob parking lot, and Sea and Sugar Dogs, waiting at Shining Rock Gap, heard his time over the radio waves even though they were so far away.  Cave Dog got provisions from the night hiking support team of Ski and Silver Dogs at the junction of Route 215 and the MST, and then Cave Dog pressed on for Chestnut Bald, which neither has Chestnuts or is bald.

After summitting Sam Knob, Cave Dog met up with Good and Lady Dogs, who were accompanied by the journalist Jack Horan from The Charlotte Observer .  Good, Lady, Sea, and Sugar Dogs had all left The Dog Pound at 5:00 am to make sure that they were extra early and could not possibly miss Cave Dog.  Without stopping, Cave Dog had a quick and chaotic interview and photo session with Jack Horan while Cave Dog was hiking and having his feet attended to for blister prevention.  Then Cave Dog ran on to summit Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain, and Grassy Cove Top.  This was the first of only two times during the entire challenge that the sun was seen.  Despite the sunny conditions, all of the vegetation was wet from the misty morning and Cave Dog got drenched anyway.  He met up with Sea and Sugar Dogs at Shining Rock Gap, where it was raining.  He ran on to summit Cold Mountain.  On his way over, Cave Dog got very hot and was having difficulty staying awake even though it was daylight.  However, on the Narrows he perked up as he witnessed a number of goregous wildflowers that he had never seen before.  In fact, during training, Cave Dog went on a hike every day and every day he saw a new blossum he had never see before.  The challenge would prove no exception to this rule.  The Southern Appalachians are absolutely teeming with biodiversity.

In the meantime, Sea and Sugar Dogs went up to Shining Rock to see a summit made of white quartz, like a giant agate mountain.  They enjoyed some brief moments of sunshine, accompanied by some rare 360 degree views, and then returned to meet Cave Dog at Shining Rock Gap when he came back down from Cold Mountain around 7:00 pm.  They treated his feet, Sea Dog spoon fed him some applesauce, and he got a change of clothing.  From being off his feet during this reprovision, Cave Dog's feet became inflamed and he could hardly walk.  It was amazing to see him run in to Shining Rock Gap and later barely able to stumble away.  In addition, the large rocks that littered the trail of the North Prong of the Shining Creek compounded the problem.  It would take nearly a half hour before Cave Dog loosened up again and could hike with some efficiency.  By now he had lost the use of his toes because of overwhelming pain and would not gain them back until three days after the challenge was over.  This would prove to be the section of the entire course with the most pain.  After this experience, Cave Dog insisted that reprovisions not last long enough for his feet to become clad in pain, unless it was time for his dognap.  Also the support crew became much more religious about changing his shoes at nearly every rendezvous and massaging his feet whenever reasonable.

At Big East Fork, Cave Dog was greeted by an incredible welcoming party of DEW, Houn', Good, and Iron Dogs.  The occasion was joyous with many hugs.  Cave Dog's mood immediately flipped for the occasion.  Iron Dog had once again hiked up the trail to provide Cave Dog with some moral support and Good Dog hiked the road section back up to the MST, completely distracting Cave Dog from the tedious road section.  Cave Dog wanted to try icing his beaten feet, so DEW and Houn' Dog took off to find some ice.

Iron Dog went on the trail with Cave Dog on his night hike to the Pisgah Inn.  Ski Dog and Rad Dog arrived at the Pisgah Inn at 9:00 pm and ran into Sea Dog and Sugar Dog who were on their way home.  Ski Dog and Rad Dog spoke with the office staff about the SB6K.  

While Iron Dog was hiking with Cave Dog, a Dog Team member realized he had left his radio with Iron Dog, so he did not have any means of communication with Iron Dog and Cave Dog to figure out where they were, but was soon reunited with the group amassing at the Pisgah Inn of Ski, Rad, DEW, Houn', and Good Dogs.  From here, they were in communication by radio with Cave and Iron Dogs.

Rad Dog, in true form, got the office staff of the Pisgah Inn involved.  The staff allowed access to the microwave to warm an angel hair pasta tortilla wrap for Cave Dog.  They also lent the Dogs two plastic garbage cans and plastic liners, which The Dog Team filled with ice and water.  When Cave Dog arrived at 12:55 am, he placed each foot into a bag to submerge into the water.  This process allowed Cave Dog to quickly cool his feet without getting wet.  However, this water would prove to be too cold and caused him much agony.  His feet had been warm and sore, but he had no redness or swelling.  His existing blisters were stable and he had no new blisters.  Cave Dog removed all bandages, tape, and moleskin from his feet and Good Dog gave him a foot and leg massage that put him to sleep for his ninety minute dognap.  He then repeated the foot cooling process.  Rad Dog placed new bandages on the old blisters and Cave Dog left on the trail with Ski Dog.

Rad Dog drove the van to meet Cave Dog and Ski Dog at Buck Spring Gap.  At Elk Pasture Gap, Rad Dog took his own dognap.  When Cave Dog arrived, he changed to new shoes and ate a banana and carrot and drank a can of Ensure.  Then, Cave Dog took a twenty minute nap at Glady Fork Gap at the Big Ridge Overlook.  Here he again changed shoes and socks.  He drank another can of Ensure and ate a bagel.  Cell phone service was available and Rad Dog called in to Lady Dog at The Dog Pound with the times for the website.  At Beaver Dam Gap Overlook, Cave Dog changed shoes and socks again.  He ate another banana and carrot.  He took energy drink with him on the trail, as always.  It was now light.  Ski Dog retreated to the van and Cave Dog journeyed on solo, picking up the pace again.

Weather:  Overcast, Sun, Showers, Fog

Day 4

Craggy Dome

Sea and Iron Dogs met Ski and Rad Dogs at Bent Creek Gap.  The four competed for Cave Dog's choice in food and Iron Dog won with a donut and a hamburger patty.  Cave Dog also drank extra water.  After which, the support team baton was passed to Iron and Sea Dogs and Ski and Rad Dogs returned to The Dog Pound to get ready for their next leg.  With the extra difficulties at night, Cave Dog had slowed his pace.  Now, with a new day's light peeking through the fog, he regained his usual pace.  Cave Dog gave a Dog Team howl as he journeyed past Bent Creek Gap.

Cave Dog enjoyed this section of the Shut In Trail built long ago for George Vanderbilt.  It was one of the few times that Cave Dog came through a section that one could see the ground.  Open forests with a cleared floor and an occasional brilliantly green fern grotto made for a delightful atmosphere.  Elsewhere on the course the ground was completely covered by a dense competition of undergrowth.  Unfortunately, on these lower portions of the MST, one would often run across dense and healthy patches of poison ivy.  Some areas it would grow with such enthusiasm that it clinged to the tree trunks and coated the forest floor, sending out shoots of toxin.  Fortunately, if one kept to the trail there was little to fear.  Cave Dog would end up with only one patch of poison ivy sores during the challenge.

There were periodic showers and rainstorms throughout the challenge; however, even when the rain stopped, the trees would drip for hours.  In this section, the drips landed on dead leaves that made a loud pitter pattering sound.  The air was humid and vegitation never seemed to dry.  Anytime Cave Dog brushed up against plants, he would drench that portion of his body.  Water would hit his legs and run down and into his shoes.  It would often only take a few minutes before a dry pair of shoes were heavy with water.  Trying their best to contain blisters, The Dog Team changed Cave Dog's shoes as often as they could.  Even with twenty five pairs of shoes, they still had a difficult time drying shoes fast enough before they were needed again.  Soon Sugar Dog had to go to the laundry mat to tumble Cave Dog's extra pairs of shoes dry in order to keep up.

Provisioned by Sea and Iron Dogs, Cave Dog picked up his pace and seemed joyful about wearing a pair of old Nikes from his Colorado 14ers challenge.  After seeing him at the French Broad River provision point, Sea and Iron Dogs ran into town to pick up a copy of The Charlotte Observer, which had an article about Cave Dog on the front page of the Sports section from his moving interview the previous day in the Sam Knob parking lot.  They returned to park near the junction at I-26 to wait for Cave Dog to pass through.  After about ten minutes, the Dogs heard a call over the radio.  It turned out that a jogger who had just run past them had found Cave Dog's radio lying on the Mountain to Sea Trail.  Having a solid presence of mind, the jogger spoke into the radio and reached Iron and Sea Dogs.  The jogger returned the radio and Sea Dog ventured into the woods on the Mountain to Sea Trail's many logging roads to try to find Cave Dog.  Amazingly enough, Cave Dog appeared right behind Sea Dog on the trail and retrieved his radio, which he had not noticed was gone.  By this point, Cave Dog's perception of time seemed to be a bit off.  Every section now seemed to take much longer than it actually was taking to complete.  With the progessing day and the low altitude, this section was heating up, making it more difficult for Cave Dog to stay awake.

Love Dog joined Iron and Sea Dogs near the I-40 junction to help guide Cave Dog in the right direction on a tricky spot in the trail's transition near the freeway.  The Dogs then came down to join Sugar Dog and Good Dog who were waiting at the Folk Art Center for the next provision stop.  The Dogs ate some burritos and muffins until Cave Dog came into view.  He enjoyed his Colorado sneakers too much to take them off, so he ate a burrito, took a new CamelBak, and was off again, gingerly walking across the parking lot.  Sea and Iron Dogs headed back to The Dog Pound and Sugar and Good Dogs headed over to Craven Gap.  They parked on the side of the road, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Cave Dog.

Minutes before Cave Dog showed up, Inn and Zen Dogs showed up to cheer on Cave Dog.  Cave Dog appeared through the trees, full of energy, and happy to see Inn and Zen Dogs.  He was also pleased to have passed the Folk Art Center, as it was a sign that he was entering the last stages of the course.  In all his previous training drives to hikes, Cave Dog always headed out to scout the eastern trails and peaks by driving past the Folk Art Center, and so this part of the run felt very reminiscent of those days, and even more so, now that he was reminded that he was closing in on the end of the challenge.  Cave Dog asked about the mileage to his next several provision spots, had an orange and some Ensure, and headed out across the Blue Ridge Parkway to continue on the MST.

Good Dog and Sugar Dog drove over to the trailhead for Rattlesnake Lodge and sat in the van across the road from it.  Love Dog and his children came to attempt to meet up with Cave Dog there, but realized that they could best catch him as he crossed Ox Creek Road.  Love Dog and his children drove over and Good and Sugar Dogs could hear them over the radio as Love Dog and Cave Dog spotted each other from across the road.  It felt a bit like eavesdropping on someone else's private conversation to hear all this happening a few miles a way.  Realizing that Cave Dog was only two miles away, Sugar and Good Dogs hiked up the steep and muddy trail to the remains of the original Rattlesnake Lodge that existed until the 1920's when it burned down.  Soon after, Zen and Inn Dogs joined them.  There were several walls remaining from the Lodge, and Sugar, Good, Zen, and Inn Dogs admired the view and did their best to stay dry as the rain began to fall.  Running between the raindrops, Cave Dog joined the Dogs and snacked on some chocolate covered raisins while putting on some extra layers and taking a headlamp for the darkening skies.  Picking their way down the muddy slope, Sugar, Good, Zen and Inn Dogs walked back down to their cars, marveling at the joy of hiking at night despite the lack of moonlight on this evening.  

Sugar Dog and Good Dog drove off to find Potato Field Gap, but to their dismay, the Mountain to Sea Guide indicated that there was no parking area for the trail.  Moreover, the fog was rolling in like it had every night, and the two Dogs realized that they were going to have trouble finding the sign.  After making several efforts to find the location of mile marker 368.2, the Dogs spotted the elusive white dot that is the symbol of the MST, on the side of the road.  They rejoiced and turned on their hazard lights and headlights to wait for the arrival of Rad Dog and Ski Dog who were on the night shift.  Around 11:00 pm, Rad and Ski Dogs pulled up and parked behind Good and Sugar Dogs to pass on provisions and go over the locations of the next several provision points.  Once Rad and Ski Dogs had all the running shoes and layers they could take in their van, Sugar and Good Dogs slowly maneuvered their way back to Base Camp through the pea soup fog of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Weather:  Overcast, Showers, Fog

Day 5

Blackstock, Mt. Gibbes, Hallback, Mitchell, Craig, Balsam Cone, Potato Hill, Winter Star, Gibbs Mountain, Celo, Roan High Bluff, Roan High Knob, Grassy Ridge Bald

Cave Dog showed up to report that his hike from Rattlesnake Lodge was, "one of the most bizarre hikes he had ever done."  The combination of the dense fog and the seemingly dead stalks of trees in the tall grass and bushes that appeared to mysteriously pass by made for an eerie setting for this night hike.  Rad Dog hiked in from Potato Field Gap to find Cave Dog and give him some moral support.  Cave Dog was feeling energized by seeing friendly faces and soon moved on to the trail again with Ski Dog.  The trail around Craggy Pinnacle was not well maintained and seemed illogically laid out.  This long circumnavigation of Craggy Pinnacle in order to keep on trail seemed excruciatingly long and the countless rocks made Cave Dog's knees hurt for the first time.  Luckily, this pain would not last.

On the descent from Craggy Dome, Cave and Ski Dogs heard a strange noise.  Ski Dog thought it might be Rad Dog snoring.  Cave Dog thought that Rad Dog must have been blaring the South Bottom Boys.  As it turned out, it was Rad Dog singing "Country Roads," to help inspire Cave Dog in the wee hours.  It made for a good laugh.

It was Cave Dog's last naptime for the challenge when he arrived at the Greybeard Overlook.  He slept a restless hour.    Rad Dog tended Cave Dog's blistered feet while Cave Dog tried to sleep but this seemed to orient Cave Dog's hips so that they ached making him kick and fidget in his stupor, which in turn made Rad Dog's job much more difficult.  Ski Dog continued with Cave Dog as dawn approached.  Cave Dog felt inspired as the end of the challenge, now only sixty miles away, was vaguely in sight.  Pushing for the finish, Cave Dog increased his pace, now jogging most of the way.  Cave Dog and Ski Dog surprised Rad Dog at Balsam Gap.  He did not expect to see them so soon.  The weather had turned particularly nasty with a heavy rain and wind and Rad Dog was taking video when they arrived.  Cave Dog made only a minimal stop for food and a new CamelBak.  Ski Dog joined Rad Dog in the van and Cave Dog pressed on alone.

At 7:45 am, Lady Dog received a phone call from Rad Dog to let The Dog Team know that Cave Dog was on the run, literally.  Now playing catch up, Rad Dog and Ski Dog went on to the next provision spot at Balsam Gap instead of heading back to Base Camp.  Instead of going to Balsam Gap, as they had planned, Sea and Good Dogs caught up with Cave Dog at Stepps Gap.  Sea and Good Dogs had planned to go to Bowlins Creek to hike in to Celo Knob, but at this point, they were going to go to Mt. Mitchell; after which, they went to the Bowlins Creek provision spot for the road marathon later in the afternoon.  In the meantime, Iron, Sugar, and Houn' Dogs were just about to head out to Mt. Mitchell, where they were planning to walk into Deep Gap.  They immediately realized that they needed to change their location to a provision point near Celo Knob instead.  The three Dogs drove out to the Bowlins Creek trailhead and Iron and Sugar Dogs headed up the trail in the pouring rain.  Completely distracted by conversation, the two Dogs had not noticed the fact that they were ascending several thousand feet in just five and half miles.  Now Rad Dog was long overdue for a rest at Base Camp, but because of his proximity, he made a dash out to Balsam Cone to cover support on the beginning of this long peak filled ridge.

In the meantime, Cave Dog was speeding down the trail.  At Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Black Hills, South Dakota, Cave Dog met Sea, Good, and Ski Dogs.  Then he met up with Rad Dog just passed the gap between Craig and Balsam Cone.  At 3:45 pm, Iron Dog and Sugar Dog met up with Cave Dog in the middle of an idyllic field, sunshine finally out, with a wonderful view of the Black Mountains. This would be the second and final time that the sun was seen by Cave Dog during the entire course.  Iron and Sugar Dogs administered some much needed foot massages to Cave Dog and fed him some pizza, which was particularly scrumptious.  Despite the fact that their foot massages rendered Cave Dog nearly unconscious from pleasure, he tore himself away and proceeded to summit Celo Knob.

Sugar Dog and Iron Dog continued down the trail, stopping only when they still had not heard a time from Cave Dog for Celo Knob.  They waited for him on the trail, and sure enough, within a few minutes, he came bounding past them.  They continued down, only realizing on the descent, the steepness of the trail.  In the meantime, Cave Dog ran down this old woods road.  The steepness pounded his overused joints, giving him knee pains that would haunt him in his upcoming marathon road run.

At the bottom of the Bowlins Creek Trail, Cave Dog was met by Good Dog and a photographer from Backpacker Magazine.  Cave Dog changed into road running Nikes and took off down the road at a good clip.  It had been conjectured that up to this point, the longest period of time Cave Dog had dry feet on the course was only thirty minutes.  This road run had proved anticipations correct with its difficulty.  After hiking and running for 265 miles in four and half days up and down mountains mostly on soft trails, the hard constant surface of the road took its toll on Cave Dog's body.  Soon his feet pounded and his knees screamed with every descending footstep.  Despite the unusual lack of rain, Cave Dog started to develop blisters for the first time since the first day and half because his feet were hot and sweaty.  In addition, this was an absolutely terrible road to be running.  It was a collection of windy mountain roads without shoulders and fast commuter traffic of people trying to get home after a long day at work.  On several occasions, Cave Dog had to jump into a ditch to avoid head on collisions with speeding oversized pickups.  Drivers not only seemed caught off guard by a jogger on the road but they seemed to not have any idea what a jogger was or how to deal with one.  This would prove to be, by far, the most dangerous portion of the mountain climbing adventure.

Sugar and Iron Dogs met up with Houn' and Sea Dogs at the trailhead to Bowlins Creek.  Since they had been talking about ice cream on the trail with Cave Dog, they decided that it was necessary to get some ice cream sandwiches for Cave Dog and themselves.  After calling in Cave Dog's times to Lady Dog, Sea, Houn', Iron and Sugar Dogs, found Good Dog patrolling the roads for Cave Dog's progress.  Good Dog was unable to follow near Cave Dog with the support vehicle because of the nature of the speeding traffic around sharp corners.

Running alongside the road during evening traffic, the Dogs passed along an ice cream sandwich to Cave Dog and then ate some themselves.  The section from Burnsville to Buladean became a fun parade of support for The Dog Team.  For the first time, since the beginning of the challenge, much of the team could be together as Cave Dog ran along the road.  Houn', Iron, Sugar, Sea and Good Dogs proceeded to leap frog down the road in their cars to keep up with Cave Dog and offer him their support, or Iron Dog's offer of, "Do you want a ride?"  This was promptly rejected with a hearty laugh.

About seven miles into the 23 mile road section, just after Cave Dog began to slow down, just north of Burnsville, on Cave Dog's first of seven large hills, Sea Dog got on the road and started to run alongside Cave Dog.  Backpacker Dog, on assignment from Backpacker Magazine, and his photographer, in addition to reporter Jack Horan from The Charlotte Observer, were riding alongside Cave Dog on the road doing on the move interviews.  On several occasions, Cave Dog had several quarts of water dumped over his head to combat overheating, yet he continued running.  Sea Dog was amazing, running more than he had ever run in his life, with a smile on his face to boot.  He had not expected to run sixteen miles, but caught up in the excitement, he just could not stop.  Sea Dog was a lifesaver because, for the first time during the challenge, Cave Dog was really feeling exhausted during this hot, tedious, and dangerous road run.

As the two running Dogs continued on the road, they encountered more dangerous traffic with drivers that seemed not to understand speed limits or the concept of humans running alongside the road.  As day turned to night, the traffic slowed and lightened.  Ironically, the road seemed safer at night as cars seemed to be able to see Cave and Sea Dogs better with headlamps than with daylight.  An exception to this rule came at one point when a car came suddenly screeching to a halt in a congested area past Red Hill.  In order to have a gauge of progress on the seemingly interminable road, Cave Dog became increasingly eager to find out his mileage as he approached Broad Branch Road, where he would begin his hike of the last three summits.

When Cave Dog turned onto Broad Branch Road and started his ascent of Roan High Bluff, he immediately stopped running and walked the last short road section with Sugar and Iron Dogs and Backpacker Dog's photographer.  When the group reached the trail where Cave Dog would begin the hike to Roan High Bluff, Backpacker Dog joined Cave Dog for the last section of his challenge.  The two Dogs disappeared into the night, and Sea, Houn', Iron, and Sugar Dogs and Backpacker Dog's photographer drove to Carver Gap where they would hike to meet Cave Dog for his final summit.  In the Carver Gap parking lot, they met up with Rad, Lady, Good, and Ski Dogs and Jack Horan.  They all piled on as much warm clothing as possible, and armed with headlamps, they hiked up to Grassy Ridge Bald to wait for Cave Dog.  They arrived at the summit around 1:00 am, and began to wait.

In the meantime, Cave Dog and Backpacker Dog struggled with the final bushwhack on Roan High Bluff.  They came to a high point probably only one to two hundred feet from the summit, when they became mired in extremely thick rhododendrons and firs.  They had to crawl and claw their way about in an attempt to find the elusive summit.  Their difficulties were compounded by an intense fog that had reduced Cave Dog's vision to about ten feet.  Backpacker Dog had an intense lamp that increased their vision to about twenty five feet, but was still not enough for them to find which way was up.  At one point, they had crossed over the Southwest Ridge of Roan High Bluff and Cave Dog slipped to find his right leg hanging over a cliff wall.  In the darkness, he could not see the bottom of the cliff.  He looked up to see Backpacker Dog barreling down the slope.  Cave Dog yelled out for Backpacker Dog to arrest his descent and they hiked back up and over the ridge to the other side again.  The limbs and trunks of the vegetation had become thick with bright green slime that would take days to completely wash off their hands and gear.  They boxed, going north, then east, then south, then west, and still did not find the summit, nor the paved path or view deck atop the summit ridge.  Baffled by their difficulties in finding such an obvious summit, they finally backtracked to the southeast and proceeded northeast, paralleling High Bluff's southwest ridge and came yet once again to a high point but not the summit.  They searched around in the stiflingly thick vegetation and found a region ascending higher.  They proceeded uphill once again and once more tread upon the Bluff's cliffs.  However, with Backpacker Dog's intense light they could make out the decking of the view area and in moments were upon the summit.  Cave Dog felt terrible to drag Backpacker Dog on this dirty difficult bushwhack that should have been nearly effortless.

Now on trails again, Cave Dog and Backpacker Dog sprinted for Roan High Knob.  Cave Dog completed High Knob while The Dog Team huddled together against the wind and fog that set in on Grassy Ridge Bald.  They sat in piles, under sleeping bags, under bivy sacks, and generally became much closer, both physically and emotionally.  Telling corny jokes and running around in circles, The Dog Team alternated between calling on the radio for Cave Dog and making speculations about when he would arrive.  Finally, The Dog Team heard Cave Dog over the radio report that he had recently summitted Roan High Knob.  The Dog Team rejoiced.  Cave Dog was also relieved to finally make radio contact; for he was concerned that The Dog Team was worried about his delayed summit of the Bluff.  Momentarily, the group saw two headlamps flashing across the ridge.  Cave Dog and Backpacker Dog were in sight.  

Much of the way from the Bluff, Cave and Backpacker Dogs ran.  They hiked fast up Round Knob, then ran down.  By the time they reached Jane Knob, it was an all out sprint for the finish.  Unfortunately, the trough of a trail was partially obscured by overhanging grasses that hid the view of rocks and mud.  But they ran anyway.  The night's fog was so thick that Cave Dog could not see the trail because the headlamp lit up the mist in the air.  He had to take his headlamp off his head and hold it as close to the ground as possible in order to view a vague semblance of the trail.  But they ran anyway.  Despite the difficult situation, the Dogs pushed harder and harder as they scaled the final summit.

Right before Cave Dog reached the summit, his headlamp surged ahead of Backpacker Dog's and he came racing on to the summit, dodging Dog Team members and camera flashes to touch the USGS summit marker.  At 5:13 am, on June 20th, 2003, after 4 days, 23 hours, 28 minutes of nearly nonstop intensity, The Dog Team had once again set the mark for the future:  setting the speed climbing record for climbing the South Beyond 6,000 in one footpath.  In that time, he hiked about three hundred miles, forty peaks over 6,000 feet including 15 trailless peaks, and covering approximately 60 miles per day.

The group cheered and hugged Cave Dog, and asked him if he was okay.  They threw warm clothing around his shoulders.  The Dog Team had spent the last four hours in the middle of the night atop Grassy Ridge Bald so cold that they were in near hysteria.  Without much further ado, they quickly packed themselves up and started to head back down the trail in the inpending sunrise.  It turned out that Ski Dog's arrival time prediction was almost exactly right.  She thought he would arrive at 5:15 am, only two minutes off.

Weather:  Overcast, Showers, Sun, Fog

Day 6+

Cave Dog gingerly made his way back down the trail, as he had mentioned to Jack Horan that the hardest part of the entire challenge is often the walk back to the parking lot after the clock has stopped because the competitive drive is gone.  Surprisingly though, as difficult as this final hike to Carver Gap was, it was by far the easiest postrace hike Cave Dog had ever encountered.  The Dog Team gathered in the parking lot, bleary eyed and yet exhilarated.  Cave Dog had pizza to eat, had his feet attended to and discussed, and he answered some questions for Jack Horan's article for The Charlotte Observer.  He even started talking about his next challenge, The Long Trail in Vermont.  The Dog Team got in their cars and headed home, though many Dog Team members were exhausted.  Iron Dog and Ski Dog even pulled off to the side of the road to sleep a bit before heading back to Base Camp.  Cave Dog does not remember this drive to The Dog Pound.

As soon as the challenge was over, the sun shined brilliantly and sparkled with clarity unknown to The Dog Team during the challenge.  The sun would remain beautiful for the entire next week.

That afternoon, The Dog Pound was quiet, as The Dog Team tried to catch up on sleep, everyone but Rad Dog that is.  He ran around town looking for gifts for Dog Team members.  Iron Dog used her artistic talents to help him select a gift for Bone and Lap Dogs' help with Base Camp.  Cave Dog started the long process of collecting and updating website Bios and emails.  He and Sugar Dog continued to work to finalize this Daily Log.

That evening, Houn' Dog and Mary Lasher invited The Dog Team over for a real barbecue; however, it was made clear that it was a South Carolina barbecue, not a North Carolina barbecue.  As they ate voraciously, The Dog Team did not seem to mind that the barbecue was not truly a North Carolina version.  They were treated to a special presentation of a certificate and patch by Houn' Dog, as a member of the Carolina Mountain Club, for completing the South Beyond 6,000 peaks.  Cave Dog then spoke wholeheartedly and earnestly thanking each member of The Dog Team for their individual contributions.  It was a wonderful closure to an amazing experience that can never be repeated, but will always remain in the hearts and memories of every Dog Team member who participated in the South Beyond Insanity Ultramarathon.

The next day, The Dog Team organized and cleaned gear, worked on the website, and generally debriefed from the adventure.  Cave Dog worked on healing his fifteen blisters.  Good and Lady Dogs spent a beautiful afternoon atop Mt. Mitchell.  Rad, Ski, and Iron Dogs went to a nice swimming hole and falls near Looking Glass Rock.  It was nice for the support crew to have a day to appreciate the magnificent beauty of the area that could not be seen in the fog of the challenge.  The day was wrapped up by The Dog Team going out about the town listening to a live bluegrass band until the wee hours of the night.  That night Rad Dog finally got his first solid sleep since before the challenge started.  He would later report that he was able to sleep most of the way back to Coos Bay, Oregon.

It is unusual for Cave Dog's feet to swell after a challenge, but they did for the next three days.  In fact most of his pain was gone in the course of the next three days.  His blisters either turned into gnarly calluses or peeled away in that time.  At the same time, he gained the use of his toes again.  All joint pains during the challenge were fleeting and nonexistent after the challenge.  As is usual, his thermoregulation, sleep patterns, and general energy level all reached some sort of normalcy after about a week and a half.

Sunday morning started the onslaught of drives to the airport and by Monday morning Cave Dog was alone once more.

It was a privilege for The Dog Team to have such an incredible adventure in such a wonderful location as the top of the Appalachian Mountains.

Weather:  Sunny

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