Hounds, Assburgers and Gas Station Cuisine
When you think of Appalachia - what do you imagine? Rugged mountains? Beautiful forests and streams? Hillbilly shacks? Moonshine?
Yes, the team saw all of those on this 4-day AR on the border between Kentucky and Virginia, but the things that really stood out were the number of semi-wild dogs seemingly everywhere, McDonalds cheeseburgers extracted from back-pockets (pure genius), and Valero gas stations as the center of the local social universe.
Hounds: When we weren't in the middle of nowhere, we were on roads that wound through deep, picturesque valleys or 'hollows' that were dotted with houses, trailers and shacks - and every swinging one of them had at least 15 dogs ready to greet us. Some nice, some not so nice. I am adding a taser to my packing list if I go back to this area again.
Assburgers (McDonalds cheeseburgers): Thank you Mr. Scott Mead for this brilliant idea. Cheap, calorie rich, never go bad seemingly (not exactly an organic product), taste great when you are starving for calories, and warm up nicely when kept close to your ass/body! On night 2 the term assburger came out and we laughed about it for the rest of the race.
Gas Station Cuisine: When the question was asked of a local where a good breakfast could be had -- the Valero was the answer and the Valero was truly were the action was. Sort of like a bar/lounge but with Twinkies and Fried Chicken instead of beer and cigarettes. It's all calories and it's all good when it comes to ARs.
So the race itself. Ken Batten, Jon Gamm and Scott Mead covered about 200 miles with 24,000 feet of climbing in about 75 hours - crossing the line 5th and ending in 14th place overall (but 1st in our division!). The journey consisted of 19 legs (reduced to 16 legs shortly into the race due to high water conditions) plus a foot-O prologue that began at 8pm on Friday the 7th of April. The course ran west from Breaks Interstate Park along Pine Mountain West and South to a place called Settlement School, then returned along slightly different routes. We climbed up and down the mountains on foot and bike multiple times, froze in the 30 degree nights and sweated in the nearly 80 degree afternoons but made good time throughout stopping to sleep for only a total of about 7 hours. The true accomplishment in all of this is that despite having a leaky (un- useably so) pack raft, losing 1 and half paddles and experiencing punishing treks that wrecked feet (that got even worse after we had to walk a 20 km section that others paddled), the team actually cleared every section we could go after (no paddling was possible for us, and two of the treks too much for badly injured feet), and stayed up with the main pack and then some. On top of that we were one of the only teams to take advantage of a TA where a local mountain man (who apparently knew Ozzy Osbourne in some way given all the pictures he had of himself with the Ozman) with moonshine was present - earning us the title of 361 Adventure's 'new favorite AR team'.