Catherines Fat Ass 50k Course Description
Here is a writeup from the old website about each section of the course, and its gory details. The course totals just under 50k, but nobody has ever complained about the course being short. Much of the course is very runnable, only to have all that running kick you in the butt later. There are rocky climbs, smooth wooded trails, mossy creekbeds, great overlooks, well maintained dirt roads, goats, bears, snakes, deer and other wildlife. What more could you ask?
+ East 211 Parking Lot to Bird Knob -- about 7 miles
From the parking lot the early miles climb gradually up a twisty, rocky trail for about 1.9 miles to the start of the steep climb up to Bird Knob. It is about one mile to a picnic area, and then another .9 mile to the start of the climb up to Bird Knob. The trail forms a T intersection, and the Bird Knob trail is on the left (if you continued straight, you would go to the Visitors Center). So you must turn left and go up the mountain. You go up for about two miles -- steep for only a half mile or so, then slightly less intense. Be sure to check out the views at the top. You can look over New Market and the green valley below. Really excellent!
The trail continues on south along the top, with some slight ups and downs, with lots of rocks, but it gets a little more runnable as you go south. You will come to a sign on the right side of the trail that says something like Bird Knob is a couple of miles ahead, but indicates there is a trail to the left. Continue on (to the right) toward Bird Knob, and following the white blazes. You will run several more miles, and crossing some cleared Forest Service roads (but continue on the trail south). You will eventually come to a clearing. The trail will seem to die, with a faint hint of trail to the left and ahead -- turn left and go down the hill. As you go, you will see the trail pick up again and go down into a little gully. It broadens and becomes easy to run. You will go to a Forest Service road again, and find yourself running on it through the little gully, then up to the southeast to a gravel road. There will be a metal barrier across the road. Go around it onto the gravel road. You have just completed the first section -- estimated to be about 7 miles. This is also the first aid station of the run.
+ Bird Knob to Pitt Spring -- about 3 miles
After coming onto the gravel road, turn right and go downhill. We expect to have someone on the side of the road there to cheer you on and hand out some food. We can't promise it, but it's in the plan. In any case, run down the hill on the road. It is blazed orange. It is about 3 miles to Pitt Spring, and is nearly all downhill running on dirt road. You will be in between two mountains on Road 375, heading south. We estimate the spring at about 10 miles of total mileage. This is aid station number two.
+ Pitt Spring to the Yellow Trail -- about 4 miles
After refilling at Pitt Spring, go back onto the road and continue your downward venture. You will then be running on a gravel road, heading east. There will be a stream on the right. Very nice, relatively shaded, and all downhill for about another mile and a half to an intersection with Cub Run -- the stream and the road. Bear right at the intersection and across the little bridge onto Cub Run Road. Up you go for about 2 and a half miles to the Yellow Trail. Aid station number 3 is located at the turn onto Yellow. This station is more limited in its offerings than the major aid stations.
+ Yellow Trail to the Orange Trail -- about 1.5 miles
The Yellow Trail (Morgan Run Trail) goes up to the Orange Trail, heading west. It is nearly straight up a hollow in between opposing mountain slopes. It just about goes up the middle of a stream too -- called Morgan Run. It is truly beautiful and green, but rocky and slow going. Be VERY careful for the slippery rocks. Think of this section as icy and you will do stay upright. As you get to the top the trail will flatten out and get soft. There are a lot of ferns, and could be a bit muddy. At the Orange Trail intersection turn right.
+ Orange Trail to Pitt Spring -- about 3.5 miles
The Orange Trail heads north, with some ups and downs, but it is all very runnable. It is a Forest Service fire road that is a bit overgrown. You will run along it for about 2.5 miles, and then there will be a mandatory turn onto the Pitt Spring Overlook Trail -- it is a right turn onto a white blazed trail. It goes up for about .3 miles to a beautiful sight. Absolutely marvelous! After reaching the overlook, turn around and go back down to the Orange Trail. Turn right and continue on north. As you approach Pitt Spring, there will be a clear change to a downhill trail. You will come out to the spring, and aid station, from a different direction than earlier, and you will be back on the gravel road heading east to Cub Run.
+ Pitt Spring to Catherine Furnace/Purple Trail -- about 2 miles
At Pitt Spring, refill your water again because there is some wicked, evil trail to come. At the road, turn downhill to the right, heading the same direction as before (on section three). Except this time, when you reach the marked intersection, turn left and follow the dirt road to Catherine Furnace. From the left turn, it is about a half mile downhill. The furnace will be on your left, clearly visible. You will cross over the little creek and immediately turn left onto the purple trail. The purple blazes are hard to see, but the trailhead is clear, and it is very close to the furnace and the stream.
+ Purple Trail End to Bird Knob -- about 4 miles
The Purple Trail is evil.
It is long, slow climbing, in a hot part of the day, on a difficult, rocky trail. The start is kind of cool -- shaded and easy to run, but it gets insidious within a mile. And that's the bite. You think it is going to be easy, but it just keeps on going up. Oh hell, it is still fun, of course, but be prepared for your legs to be aching when you get over the mountain to the road. You will go up the Purple Trail, heading north, in between two mountains. This is a long, progressively steeper climb. You are not anywhere close to the top until you get to the switchbacks. Follow the too steep downhill to the dirt road and make a right turn. There is a nice view of the valley if you stop there and look back from where you came.
After only half a mile of dirt road you will come to aid station number five. From the aid station, continue up the dirt road straight to the metal gate. Go around the barrier and follow the "Ant Road.". From this gate all the tough uphills are done! It is not quite all downhill from here, but close enough!
+ Back to the Start -- about 7 miles
The gravel road will change into a wide dirt road, then grow narrower, but still clearly a jeep type road. It will go slightly right at some points. Be prepared for several cross roads and one road that goes straight ahead but leads to a dead end -- you will want to bear right when in doubt. The dirt road feels longer than it looks on the map. At the end is a clearing, and the Bird Knob Trail in on the left of the clearing. There will be a little opening, and pretty much nowhere else to go. Within a few dozen feet, you will come upon the sign you saw in the first section. Turn right, head to the north, and go back down the mountain. It will still be some miles before you are done, but the trail will be somewhat familiar, shaded, and with some great views on the way. At the bottom of the Bird Knob Trail, turn right and continue back to the East 211 Parking Lot. It is a nice gentle downhill in the last 2 miles, and you will be very happy indeed by that time to be done.
On Bird Knob, you may be stopped by a mountain goat and asked for payment before passage is allowed. Remember, this is his turf and you may choose to make an appropriate offer. He is very picky though.
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