Word from the high (and wet) country is that Diane Van Deren made it through Linville Gorge last night and is working her way today through the Wilson Creek area on her quest to trek the close-to-1,000-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail in a record 21 days.

“We climbed through Linville Gorge yesterday and pulled out at Table Rock around 10 p.m.” reports MST Endurance Run expedition coordinator Chuck Millsaps. “It was a great hike. Been a few years since I was in there so The Chimneys were a bit daunting in the dark but we figured it out.”

The aforementioned The Chimneys is a prominent and popular climbing area on the east rim of Linville Gorge. The MST manages to squeeze through The Chimneys on shelf trail that, in spots, is sheer rock face on your immediate right (heading north, as Van Deren is doing), sheer drop to your immediate left. Attention getting in daylight, more so in the dark, especially after you’ve been on the trail since daybreak. The Chimneys are less than a half mile from Table Mountain, where the crew ended Day 6 — another wet one, Millsaps reports — last night.

After putting in this morning at Table Rock, Van Deren will head northeast toward the appropriately named Ripshin Ridge in the Wilson Creek area. Van Deren won’t find relief from the brutal, wet conditions that have accompanied her the last three days. Wilson Creek is the land of waterfalls and multiple creek crossings, most of the rock-hop variety. Not great news for a trekker whose feet are showing the soggy wear of up to 20-hour days on the trail.

“Very blistered feet on DVD so we are taking 10-mile increments and making decisions on ‘What next?” to keep her safe,” reports Millsaps.  “Will not make Beacon Heights tonight but will come thru there tomorrow most likely.”

Beacon Heights is the point at which the Mountains-to-Sea Trail climbs out of Wilson Creek and rejoins the Blue Ridge Parkway for its last 88 miles in the mountains. She’ll hike more technical (rocky, rooty) trail along the base of Grandfather Mountain for 8 miles, get brief relief for a couple miles beyond the Boone Fork parking area, then face her last technical stretch as the trail runs through the Price Lake area spending a fair amount of time in Bee Tree Creek.

After a wet crossing of Boone Creek, Van Deren should have smooth sailing for the remaining 70-or-so miles of MST in Appalachians.

By: Joe Miller