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With more great weather last weekend I set out for some trail running in the Emerald Outback atop Beech Mountain. I parked my car, tied my shoes and set out and up, up, up Oz Rd. for an hour of gentle trail running in the highest town on the east coast (5,500′ above sea level).

The Emerald Outback is a well-marked mountain bike trail system which lends itself to a good deal of “creative riding” through the grassy undergrowth at about 6,000ft. elevation. New trails and improvements are always being completed to meet the needs of riders, runners and hikers. You can get as technical or as smooth an experience as you like! A plethora of creek crossings provides plenty of opportunities to get muddy and wet! This is my favorite aspect of trail running. You move along twisting and turning, climbing and descending, splashing through recent rain drainage- it just doesn’t get any better!!

Recently, a series of new bridges have been built and installed to smooth out some of the more technical and soggy areas… not to worry, there is still plenty of technical trail and mud puddles to accommodate all levels of rider and ensure that you’ll be taking home some muddy reminders of your adventure! Including downhill sections, old jeep roads and the ongoing construction of new single track it is easy to spend hours in this back country playground!

The looped nature of the trail network allows endless options of routes which at times provide a feeling of remoteness while never being all too far from a new junction. This set up provides the flexibility to keep exploring or to head home early if unexpected summer weather pops up or you are short on time.

No matter when you go or how long you stay, you will find very little traffic in the Emerald Outback. You are just as likely to run up on grouse, deer or even a black bear than encounter another runner or rider. This gem is well used while remaining a pristine and peaceful experience. With one or two organized exceptions…

Home of the Xterra North Carolina Trail Series  During my run I decided to follow the course of the 3rd annual Xterra NC Beech Mountain 15k Trail Race. In fact, the annual event is this weekend on Saturday July 28th at 8:30am.

Vie to earn your spot as one of North Carolina’s top trail runners and qualify for the Xterra National Championships later this fall! The Beech Mountain course is already marked so you can go out now and test yourself with roots, rocks and really thin air! What better way to take on the Emerald Outback? The race offers 15k and 5k options.

The Emerald Outback is truly unique. You will conquer major climbs injected into mainly rolling single track and plentiful beautiful views. This includes vistas of nearby Grandfather Mountain, Roan Mountain and Elk River far below. Time out here loses meaning and you are left with the simple joy of movement immersed in the surrounding beauty and stillness of the high country. You will have to pry yourself from the mountain!

I wound down from the work week with an hour of single track Heaven before heading to Fred’s General Mercantile for something cool and refreshing to bask in the glow of time well spent. Go grab your trail shoes and get dirty in the Emerald Outback!

Happy Running!

 

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