Friday, May 7, 2010

Epic Trail Run at Pandapas

Today's workout was supposed to be a nice easy aerobic 11-ish miles. I chose to do this out at Pandapas Pond, in the Jefferson National Forest, where I had some....errrr...navigation issues a few weeks back. THIS time, armed with a great trail map (click here to download) I set out with a plan to do some warmup miles on the flat, then head up Snakeroot (which I have come down) and then come back down Beauty (where I have never run). I had some great miles along the ridge line where I felt like I was in the primordial forest, but I never did find the turnoff for Beauty. I saw a few dead-ends, and lots of NO TRESSPASSING signs and such and after a while I began to wonder....

After a few false leads, I began heading down a deep gulley cut into the red earth, bouncing off the banks from side to side and trying hard not to slip or slide. Turnoffs appeared, trails here, trails there, and no clearly dominant one. Things deteriorated quickly as my trial-and-error approach did little good. I had two choices: (1) continue on down or (2) turn around and run the 8 or 9 miles back. (My watch was off for part so the mileage on the Garmin report was inaccurate). The prospect of turning around, admitting defeat, and essentially taking the long way back did not make me happy. I continued on and the road eventually widened into a reasonable dirt road, one that I knew had carried traffic. I heard voices and approached, asking, "I'm a bit lost, where exactly am I?" Fortunately there was a very kind and clean-cut older gentleman (72 years old, I later learned) who had come up there to turn around and he agreed to drive me back to my car. Good thing, because this was not the kind of street where you'd send your kids to sell Girl Scout cookies.

That was how I met Snake Davis of McCoy, Virginia. Born and raised here, along with his 4 brothers, and 5 sisters. On the 25 minute ride back to my car, down gravel pitted roads, I learned more about this fellow than I ever learn about most people. He has four sons, the oldest is 50, and they all live in the area. Three of his brothers passed away, one from diabetes. His father drove a truck for the coal and oil business. Snake was drafted twice into the Army, but never left the US, he was stationed in Georgia and he had two of his four sons at the time. Snake was a painter at VT but he has since retired and he spends some of his time coon hunting with his coon dog that he trained himself. The dog has one kind of bark to indicate he has spotted the coon, another to say it is treed. Mr. Davis carries two lights (you coon hunt at night) in case one fails. He knows every inch of these mountains and assures me bears are not a problem. There aren't many and they won't bother me unless they have "young-uns." There's a lot of coyotes, however. Snake doesn't drink, smoke, chew, do drugs, or drink coffee but he does like soda. There was a bottle of Dr. Pepper in his immaculate truck as evidence of that. He's never been sick, except for once. It was his liver and he was in the VA hospital for 8 days. They thought it was cancer, but it wasn't, and they never told him what it was. He has two trucks, a full size Chevy, and this small 1999 Chevy. The one we rode in he bought from a woman south of Roanoke who was selling it to pay for a funeral for her son who had killed himself.

Mr. Davis delivered me to my car, handed me a single wrapped life-saver, wished me well, waited for my car to start, and gave me a big wave as he drove off.

Thank God for putting Mr. Snake Davis on Bobcat Lane.

Addendum: I have since learned there IS no sign for Beauty at the top of the mountain because it crosses private property. So I didn't miss the sign. But I still missed the trail!