“Alone on the Trail”
Laurel Valley
34-Mile Trail Run
Rocky Bottom, SC to Whitewater Falls, NC
October 25, 2002
Alex Morton
The Laurel Valley Run paralleled a number of existential life issues for me this year. Given the 10 hours 25 minutes and 19
seconds it took me to complete this run, I would say I had adequate time to think, review, and discuss lots of things. Being alone
is one that I remember, so I wanted to write about it in this run report.
 The scheduled LV Run takes place in August, a time of intense heat and humidity, which can be a challenge in itself. I had
skipped the run this summer due to more disruptions than normal in my life and I was missing the experiences of this run. I had
completed 5 runs in the past and found each run to be quite remarkable and memorable. I was able to convince a friend, Robert
Crosby, into running LV again and we made plans to find a time in October.
The logistics of this run are sometimes as challenging as the run itself. Since it is a point-to-point run, you need to have a car at
the end to take you back to the beginning. Since there is no aid, you need to take what you want to have out there on the trail. (No
aid stations so take something to eat!) After getting a car to the finish the day before, we finally got started about 6:45 AM,
requiring us to run in the dark for about an hour. This was actually good, as we didn't start out too fast.
Running with someone else seems to be common sense as there are so many things that can happen out there in the wilds of
the Appalachian Mountains. (However, I will contradict this idea later.) This run utilizes part of the Foothills Trail and is quite well
marked as it crosses from SC to NC. Despite this, we found ourselves constantly questioning if we were going the “right way.”
The trail clearly appears different in the autumn, with fewer leaves and more views. At one point, Robert was ducking the falling
leaves as they appeared to be birds about to fly into his head (a clear sign of salt depletion)!
Even though I had done this run many times, I must confess I was constantly questioning if we were on the right trail (maybe a
clear sign of my own salt depletion?). This persisted even to the last bridge where we crossed the Whitewater River. You have to
rely on many parts of yourself in this run: your planning, creativity, judgment, intuition, and orientation, besides your fitness,
durability, and mental stamina. This year rather than pump/filter my water, I used iodine to treat the water. I added Conquest to
help with the taste and found it to be acceptable. (I did not have to battle the heat and humidity that's usually found in August, so
the taste may be different then.)
The trail had a few loose leaves and lots of blow downs from a recent storm, but overall the footing was good, but a little slippery
at times. We had mild running conditions, with the temperature in the 50's: clouds at the beginning, then mist, followed by light
rain for the last 3 hours, turning into steady rain at the end. The tree canopy helped keep most of the rain away and I didnÂ’t
really use my jacket until the last 2 hours.
What to carry? I usually take too much, (but I'm trained to expect the worst). I certainly don't want to be out there when a major
weather change occurs or have to spend a night without some kind of jacket. I also take waterproof matches, but forgot to take
my knife (which I fortunately did not need). Both Robert and I carried 2 cans of liquid Boost, which I believe, is worth the weight
because it just tastes too good when you are so far away.
Robert and I tolerated each other's insanity, which was bound to ooze out at some point in a 10 hour run. I remember Robert
talking about someone who would never consider doing Laurel Valley because of the 'dangers. I then thought about my
conversations with Claude Sinclair, the run's original organizer, who jokes about how some people are so fearful of this run.
Given common sense, preparation, and the other characteristics that I mentioned earlier, most runners do quite well. Claude
always screens people really well and makes sure people have some idea of what hey are getting into (like:Â  Absolutely no aid
and absolutely no way to get aid, plus: Once you start, you have to finish.)
Now, where did I get the idea about doing this run solo? Probably, because we really ARE alone. I guess the idea of being
alone” is a concept that most humans examine at some point in one's life. Some people briefly look, get scared, and
consequently either never leave home or recreate home as soon as they do leave. The person may immediately bond with
someone so they won' be alone or feel abandoned. Some prefer alcohol and drugs to avoid such feelings. (I've heard this from
patients over the last 30 years of my clinical work.)
Laurel Valley is an excellent place to experience almost total aloneness and get closer to yourself and what is important to you.
Dangerous? Probably, but what isn't? What if you live alone and fall at home? Driving to work in Mt. Pleasant traffic? Eating at
Ryan's? (recent salmonella poisoning) or other daily activities at home and work. This is all pretty dangerous stuff too. Life in
general looks pretty dangerous sometimes so I'm not so sure LV deserves the fear it sometimes generates. (Besides, if I'm
going to check out; I think Laurel Valley may be a nice place to go. Although, it would be a pain in the ass for relatives.) I'm still
playing with this idea of doing a solo run. I think with proper planning and having someone who knows where I am and when
approximately I should show up at the finish, this could be quite an interesting, fun run!