Laurel Valley Trail Retirement Run


October 2, 2004


Alex Morton


I retired from the Medical University after 28 years and wanted to do something remarkable to celebrate this occasion. I decided to run one of my favorite trails in the form of the Laurel Valley Trail Retirement Run. I started asking my running friends to join me about a month ago and by the time of October 2 rolled around I had enlisted five people who agreed to run. Bernie Momber from Grand Rapids, MI flew down and we stayed at my Brevard cabin. We met Andrea Stewart and Eric at 6:30 AM at the Rocky Bottom start and got a quick start. The trail had a significant amount of trees down from the Hurricane Parade in September, however people had already started working to repair the trail and cut the trees. Unfortunately, this lasted only about the first 4-5 miles.  In the first few miles we lost Eric to s strange gastrointestinal bug, so he and Andrea turned back around for the start as Laurel Valley is no place to be when you are sick.


Bernie and I continued to pick our way around, over, and through the trees…massive trees, hundreds of feet tall, which had been blown over by the storms, mostly Ivan. We were planning to Meet Jeff McGonnell and John Teague near Bear Camp Creek, as they were not able to meet us for the whole run. Both had recently received “running passes” from their gracious and lovely wives to attend this event.


The weather was foggy at first, clearing to blue skies, with the temperatures in the upper 70’s with lots of humidity. Bernie and I took our time, as running in many places was almost impossible due to the trees crossing the trail. After a while, downed trees became the norm and was just part of the run.


We met Jeff and John about halfway between Bear and Horespasture. They had brought in chips and “Sweet Sixteen” doughnuts to add to the festivities of the retirement event. The doughnuts had taken a beating, but were quite tasty and welcomed. We proceeded to Hilliard Falls, an area usually ignored and bypassed by those “serious” runners of former Laurel Valley Trail Running events. These falls are some of the best and well worth the little detour of 0.1 miles (despite what the trail marker says.) Upon arriving at the falls, I was presented with another retirement surprise: a cold bottle of Coca-Cola, something I usually only dream about on one of these runs! I decided I needed to have my retirement photo taken under the falls. Before long, Bernie, John, and Jeff had all gotten in to cool off. The photo, while not in focus due to us shivering, was taken by one of many hikers who had also gone to see the falls. The water is just the right temperature for fish usually found in the Artic and helped get our feet appropriately numb for the remainder of the run. As we left, we received something, as far as I know, never experienced on the Laurel Valley Trail: a rousing cheering and applauding section of about 16 hikers, who clearly appreciated our efforts of running this trail.


After that send-off, we were forced to run uphill until we were out of sight! We continued to navigate downed trees and arrived at Whitewater Falls in just enough daylight to scale the beat-up trail climbing the last 500 feet straight up. Total time for multiple celebrations, tree hopping, swimming in the falls, and taking in one of the most beautiful areas of the Carolinas: 12hours 37 minutes.


My thanks and gratitude to all my friends who helped make such a time so remember able! I hope I continue to be blessed with such people as well as good health as I see what easing into retirement is all about.