“Are y’all ok?”
No. The earth is on fire and we have the meanest friends ever.
“I’m just sitting here and I’m hot. Y’all must be dying.”
Iced coffee. Give me iced coffee. Please.
So, a few weeks back, Rogue mentioned visiting Frozen Head State Park to run some of the Barkley Marathons trails.
And ten seconds later, Beautiful Beastie had a house reserved in Knoxville for us.
Just a nice girls trip.
So we packed our bags full of snacks and headed south. Or whichever direction Knoxville is from here.
We hit Knoxville about the same time a video was dropping that was supposed to explain what my life is going to look like for the next 10 months. (It didn’t.)
In preparation of viewing said video, we stopped at a brewery.
Had a few beers as I learned absolutely nothing about whether or not I’m really gonna have a job to do next month.
Got to the house. And continued the brewery theme as Rogue and K-Rob-D tried to learn unlearnable technology.
#dammitJustin you can’t make a smart tv pair with a smart phone.
So, instead of watching Hamilton, we just continued brewerying.
Which made the Saturday morning wake up a bit of a struggle for ya girl. I just don’t drink that much. My body is a temple.
Yeah. Even my phone rolled its eyes as I typed that.
So we shoved a bunch of water and snacks into our packs. Rogue poured five gallons of water into hers.
“OT would be so proud of how much I’m hydrating today. Y’all be sure to tell him.”
And we headed to the park.
And. Ok. So a few weeks back. When I told J-Pete we were doing this. He sent me a Strava map of the Barkley Challenge Loop.
So, as soon as we got out of the car, everyone asked what our route was.
And they were looking at me as they asked that question…
Let that sink in…
These very experienced trail chicks. That have all run many, many trails with me. Just traveled 500 miles. With the expectation that I was gonna get us through Frozen Head State Park.
Do you see how dense those trees are?
If y’all gonna turn me loose and follow me into the woods. This is exactly not the place to do it.
They’ll never find our bodies.
About that time, a sweet old Park Volunteer Hero man walked up. And asked which trails we were running today. And I shoved my phone with the Strava map at him.
“That’s just a red circle. There are no trail names on that…”
And Beautiful Beastie told him we wanted to find the gate where the Barkley starts.
“They already ran that race…”
But then he suggested we get an actual paper map. From the visitors center. And I may be remembering this wrong. But I swear he said, “instead of relying on her and whatever that map is.” And kind of waived his hand at me.
No, that’s fair.
So we got our maps.
And they let me pretend to be helpful.
And Park Volunteer Hero showed us a route we should take. That would get us 20 miles. And take us by the Lookout Tower. And a water supply. Because Rogue’s 500 gallons might not be enough for all of us.
And we headed out.
Found the gate.
Took some pictures.
That’s my sexy pose…
I had to explain that to them later.
I mean, I’ve got two kids. So I think maybe there was a time when I knew how to sexy.
That time has passed.
Whatever. That’s not why we were there, anyway.
We headed up the mountain.
Just so much up.
And Strava says we only headed up about 2,700 feet. But I swear that bitch lies.
No way we climbed less than 3,000 feet in those first three miles.
And I don’t know if there’s an actual head. That freezes. At Frozen Head State Park.
But we found some rocks that could maybe look like heads. At Castle Rock.
I mean, I’m looking at the pictures now and I’m thinking maybe I was still a little drunk at the time. There’s really no head there. Is there…
Shortly after this. Rogue realized that her hydration pack. Her brand new 50lb 500 liter hydration pack. Was meant solely for bicycling. And not trail running.
So that every time we’d take off running. She had to gather up the straps. And pull. To keep it from just scraping all of the skin off of her back.
And it was somewhere around 500% humidity. And 95 degrees. And the rest of us were running through our water supply. But Rogue still had enough to power every single visitor in the park.
We eventually found our way to the Lookout Tower.
I’m not sure that view was worth the terror that this gave me.
No way that thing is structurally sound.
But I made it back down. Without dying.
And we reconvened back down at the trailhead.
And made some decisions.
We were spent.
We probably could have managed another ten miles on the long way back to the car. With the 400 gallons of water still strapped to Rogue’s back.
But my food fantasies were running high power through my head. And the Kind bar and clementine left in my pack were not gonna keep me pleasant for that long.
So we took the 2 1/2 mile short cut back across the mountain.
The trail that every other visitor to the park was using.
Rather than the ten mile 3,000 foot climb route we’d just taken.
Passed by what I assume was the scene of a tragedy.
And finally made it back out to the park.
Where Park Volunteer Hero was waiting.
“You wimped out.”
Yes, sir. Yes, sir we did.
I think maybe July is not the best month to visit Tennessee?
So, we promised him we’d be back. In the winter. And we were gonna run just all over that park.
And that should be the end of my story.
Except I was traveling with BB and K-Rob and Rogue.
So, we all know that’s not the end of the story.
We get back to the house. Shower. And decide we’re gonna visit downtown Knoxville.
Except none of us brought road shoes with us.
We only had flip flops and trail shoes. Just really gross trail shoes.
People walk around in flip flops all the time. We’ll be fine. (This is called foreshadowing, kids.)
So we Ubered downtown.
And strolled around a bit.
Had some food.
Did some people watching.
Tried to teach me how to sit normally while wearing a sundress.
Wondered how long the earth was gonna be on fire.
And then something happened while Rogue and I weren’t paying attention.
We were moving away from downtown.
And the earth was only getting hotter.
And we were struggling to stay in the shade of the buildings.
And BB and K-Rob kept saying something about the river.
And Rogue and I were just complaining about having to have clothes on at that point.
And then we realized what was happening.
These chicks were walking us back to the house.
And, I mean, fine. We are ultra runners. We can handle that.
But also. I don’t know how people walk around all the time in flip flops.
And definitely not Dollar Store flip flops.
And my in-betweensies were getting rubbed raw by the flop thong.
And why am I wearing underwear right now??
And holy fuck. Y’all gonna make me walk across the fucking River! Aren’t you????
Yes these bitches sure did make me walk across the River.
And so I had to switch on my coping skills. And empty my head of any thoughts of what was actually happening. And just run through the opening number of Hamilton. To get across.
At one point. When I’d sprinted ahead of them. And finished the final “Alexander Hamilton!” My brain tried to think about the bridge. And the tresses. Or whatever the fuck those things are. That run down under the-
Nope. Ima get a scholarship to King’s College. I probably shouldn’t brag, but dag I amaze and astonish.
So, we made it across.
Without the earth opening up and swallowing us.
And my in-betweensies were getting rawer.
And I kept asking K-Rob how much further.
And every time she’d say 1.4 miles.
And then we found the brewery from the night before.
And while BB and K-Rob happily bounced over for a beer. Rogue and I stumbled deliriously into an ice cream shop. And begged for something cold.
Iced coffee. Please give me iced coffee.
And it was the most magical iced coffee I’ve ever had.
And our body temperatures were maybe coming back down to normal.
And K-Rob and BB finished their beers.
And we started heading the last 1.4 miles back to the house again.
And then found another brewery.
Where Rogue and I downed bottles of water. While BB and K-Rob enjoyed more beer.
And I tried to fashion a type of toe splint. From some old bandaids K-Rob scavenged out of her bag. To protect my in-betweensies.
And y’all. People should definitely not be walking around in flip flops all the time.
And we were somehow still 1.4 miles from the house.
And the sun was never gonna set.
But people were already setting off fireworks.
But we made it back. Through sheer power of will.
Where we spent the rest of the evening watching Top Gun and eating through all of our snacks.
So many lessons learned on this trip.
BB is gonna get her miles in one way or another.
July is never the right season to go explore new trails.
Sunshine is never gonna come prepared with a trail route. (I’m not sure how we haven’t already learned that lesson…)
And one of us took her underwear off halfway through that walk back from downtown Knoxville.
I won’t tell you which one of us.
Also, can we stop with the fireworks now? Please? They’ve been going on for a month now. And the animals are not sure what, exactly, we’re continuing to celebrate. Because this country is a shit show if you haven’t noticed. Maybe we get all of our shit together first? And then celebrate? Like, maybe the animals should all take our fireworks privileges from us. And make us earn them back?
And I think other people do girls trips differently? And maybe I’d like to try that someday.
And I’m gonna need some new flip flops…