The MST Endurance Run officially began at 4:30am Thursday, May 10 2012. With temperatures in the low 30’s clouds covered Clingman’s Dome tower and made for visibility limited. Diane Van Deren, excited to begin this adventure, wondered what her first experience in the Smokies would hold.


It held a lot! The first day included 60+ miles that included the new section of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail, likely the first time this section has been traveled in one single outing. A brief rest came that evening as she climbed to the where the trail meets the Blue Ridge Parkway was an amazing adventure with over 65 miles covered as Diane Van Deren climbed the MST just below Richland Balsam, the Blue Ridge Parkway’s highest elevation. Getting to that first night’s campsite was just a bonus to the adventure.

Knowing that Diane and guide runner Dennis Norris had been on the trail for over 22 hours we wanted to set up camp as close as possible to the trail. Yet accessing the MST from the BRP in this area is tricky, especially at midnight when you have not slept in 48 hours. (and that is just the conditions of the support team!) So while we were walking the Parkway in the effort to access the spur trail a truck stops to offer assistance. This was the only vehicle that had passed during the 45 minute period we had been scouting the area. The window rolled down slowly and the driver asked “Can we be of help?” Little did they know how a family connection from years ago would support the Mountains-To-Sea Trail today!

Karla and Wayne not only knew of the trail they informed us that we were about 1 mile off and escorted us to the trail head. Wait. It gets better! Karla’s Uncle, Earl Ammons, use to deer hunt this area years ago and would take her on hikes. She and Wayne had just hiked out to the Devil’s Courthouse and they were up for another midnight hike. They had heard of Diane and were inspired by her story and wanted to help.

The couple guided us down through the woods and showed us where the MST horseshoes around a bald creating a situation where we could miss Diane if we chose the wrong path. This short clip below tells the story. Thanks Karla and Wayne!

For more on this incredible rendezvous, check out the video Chuck Millsaps linked with this post.