Sasquatch Trot – The Story
When John and I first began kicking around the idea of putting together trail runs a bit more proximal to Nashville, it seemed to be a rather daunting task. Did we want to wade through the administrative bog that separates a brilliant concept from a tangible event? We (John, Jonathan Schmidt, and I) spent a short weekend in the Smokies, to which I was lured with the promise of running to Clingman’s dome, a personal goal of mine. The true pretense of the trip ended up surfacing; that John needed help loading and transporting some paulownia wood for a canoe he is constructing from a man with a striking resemblance to Panama Jack. The run (which I highly recommend) was 28 miles round trip, providing plenty of time for mental exploration, anguish, and a rationalization of life, happiness, and trail race staging. The absolute raw nature of the endeavor, which included an idea of a path, a pack with inedible food and warm water, and a non-functioning walkie-talkie, inspired me. John and I subsequently discussed our thoughts on races and locations, and agreed that we want to instill that feeling of adventure and accomplishment in each of our races. This includes striking scenery, the back-to-Nature feel that hooked each of us on trail running, and the comradery that follows while swapping stories with friends. It was on this foundation that we sought to establish our first race, which we termed the Sasquatch Trot, held at Hardin Farms resting atop Peaceful Hill.
We began with an aerial map and a couple beers. The unintelligible swirls we produced that we considered a trail were laughable. It wasn’t until we arrived on the property and John began to show me what was available that we felt true inspiration. We set out marking the 5 mile course with dull machetes in hand, multi-colored flagging tape, and trusty Bowser (the loveable Australian shepherd) at our heels. I will attempt to describe the 5 mile for interested parties:
The 5-mile course begins on a gravel road that leads to the homestead atop Peaceful hill. For about a one-tenth mile you travel away from the eventual finish, before taking a ninety degree left onto an old wagon road that traveled in to town a century ago. This road is sandwiched between a rock bottom creek bed and a tree line perimeter of an open field for about three-quarters of a mile, providing beautiful canopy covering and a fast, wide start. This section should be used for separation of runners. (We were able to spot a flock of turkeys in the creek during one trip, which confused Bowser to no end.) After this, the course crosses a dry portion of the creek and turns uphill, with a gradual climb that runs next to an old stone wall and an eventual bluff. The course opens into a field with another small creek crossing that requires a bit of rock hopping to an old house that sits in the woods. At this point, the trail runs between the house and its complimentary shed, and down an old firebreak. A brief stint on gravel roads leads to a rugged bushwhack through a reentrant for about a quarter mile. This consists of a suggested “trail” marked by flags. This section is completely runnable, but equally as reasonable to hike, as it is more-or-less a bushwhack. After this short jaunt through the woods, the first aid station is encountered in the field where the family cemetery rests. (Jim suggested this be the final resting place for any DNF’ers.) This provides a nice stop before the long climb on jeep road that reaches the peak of the property. This climb is a proud one, but the views that it affords are worth it. Having put the hill behind you, a fast downhill follows which should be taken with care, as it is steep, fast, and on gravel. Still proceeding downhill, the trail cuts left to an old path that provides a fast section for making up lost time. This trail opens to a field that leads to the second main aid station, which is another rustic wood home that rests along a tree line in an open field, called by all the “White House”. The course continues with a short run through a field before beginning a portion that flows through a dried creek bed. This technical and interesting portion heralds the finish for the 5 mile runners, followed by a turn back to the road on which the adventure began. Runners of the 5 mile will continue on the gravel road, allowing an opportunity to leg out the competition, or just stretch the legs in general, before finishing through two barns (where you may spot the infamous paulownia wood).
Meanwhile, the 12 mile runners, who hopefully have kept their feet dry, begin the portion of the course that we set out to make challenging, beautiful, interesting, and memorable. (This portion elicits memories from the Clingman’s climb in my heart and mind.) The second lap begins with the same wagon trail until the dry creek crossing. At this point, the trail deviates, and begins to lull you into complacency. Two open fields give a striking perspective of the gorgeous setting, after which a small creek crossing leads to a grove-like setting that carries runners again to the old house in the woods that was first met in the first lap. The trail then begins a rugged, uphill bushwhack that is both technical, and physically demanding. This portion is an incredible sample of what is gained when you take the path less traveled. (Beware a barb-wire fence that stays to your right during this ascent.) After about 300 feet of elevation gain, and multiple rock garden crossings, a trail appears from the ether, and runners are brought to an aid station atop Bent Tree Hill. Bent Tree Hill sits nestled in the woods, cradled in an old stone wall. A brief downhill section leads to a jeep road that climbs for about 100 feet and then the trail turns right, to an old off-camber trail that is fast and leads to a technically demanding downhill bushwhack. (To map this section, John and I took turns flagging and chopping, with a fortuitous ending of the section into a small opening with an old wagon trail.) The trail continues to the extremity of the property, passing through fields and by a small pond, after which more water awaits thirsty runners. This downhill portion must be reversed by turning back and climbing back up through the woods through a different path. This section is, again, both technically and physically demanding, with rock hopping, and uphill slugging through the woods. However, I consider this to be a totally runnable section (as I do with the entire course!). There is no shame in hiking, though! This portion is an incredible section of dense woods that seek to smother the runner. Somehow, this trail finds its way back to an old wagon road which leads to more established trails that bring you once again to the major aid station by the White House before beginning a portion flagged by Andrew Orr and John that I consider one of the most beautiful of the course. This climb brings runners up “Rattlesnake Hill”, which is a breathtaking ascent. The thick woods open to an incredible scene of rocky reentrants and beautiful Tennessee woods. The climb is hard but incredibly enjoyable and rewarding, with sections traveling lateral on the hill face. You emerge from the woods victorious, knowing you only have to perform a downhill section back to the White House, fuel up, and finish strong along a very similar path that the 5 mile course runs.
This verbose course description is likely reflective of my intense love of this course. It is something that was resultant of many people spending countless days to clear, establish, test, and retest. Overall, the 5 mile course gains 600 feet and descends the same. The 12 mile course is closer to 2000 feet ascension and 2000ft descent. I have run many trails, and many races, and I can honestly say this is a unique course that deviates from established routes. We have put our heart into this course, and we hope that it is reflected by the amount of fun it produces.
On a similar note, the concept of these races didn’t end with course production. It is important, of course, but equally important is the time spent after the race. To bring everyone together, we are having some delicious food, tasty drinks, and friendly faces after, with camping to those who would like to stay. These two courses provide the opportunity to physically challenge you in a beautiful setting, or simply enjoy a great day out at the farm with great people.
So, details! Saturday, October 13th at 10010 Statesville Rd Watertown, TN 37184.
Both races begin at 10am sharp. Sign up details are HERE
The cost is $28 for the short run and $32 for the long. If you’d like a shirt, then they are 10$ extra. If you would like to volunteer, or have any questions at all.