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R/C trail runner John Brower on his attempted Smokies Challenge Adventure Run

What can you say about such an experience? I am finding the words to be almost impossible… it is difficult to capture the sights and the feelings of such a run.

This was the most pure run I have done, probably in my lifetime up to now; pure in the sense that there were no interruptions of other people racing, or aid stations, or clocks, or course markings, or expectations… just a trail that has been there for 90+ years, traversed by a countless number of people, marked with simple white blazes that might as well be birch… nowhere else to go but to follow the well-worn path, and the beauty that it entails.

As we went I couldn’t help but be reminded of those I had known of that had a history with the Appalachian Trail, from thru-hikers, to section hikers, to other running buddies that had shared this experience, and to think that their feet had traversed exactly where mine were… in this we shared a wonderful experience without even being together, and I took great joy in knowing that we were sharing in this experience, albeit at differing times in our lives, but we all were there, climbing, descending, suffering.

The tale will stay with me forever, and the experience will soon be replicated, and completed in one haul… but for this write up, I will share the highlights of the trip, and let the pictures (click here) and the imagination fill in the holes… until you decide that it’s time to find out the real story on your own, and take on the Smokies Challenge Adventure Run (SCAR) for yourselves.

    • The total length of the SCAR is about 72 miles, with about 18,000 feet of climbing.
    • While the section of the AT can be run in either direction, we chose the more traditional route, being south to north, or Fontana Dam to Davenport Gap, with a refueling check-in at Newfound Gap (mile 40ish).

  • We started from the far side of Fontana Dam at about 9:30am on Saturday.
  • My buddies and I made it to Newfound gap in about 13h30m, at which point the fatigue and the cold caused my friends to throw in the towel, and call it a day. I chose to do the same, given that it would be a long, cold night out there for the second half by my lonesome…and God-forbid that I break an ankle and have to hike it on one paw for 20+ miles.
  • After a restless few hours, I got up, and upon a bit of encouragement and cooperation, I put on my crusty clothes from the day before (except I did have a change of socks), I had my buddies drive me to Davenport Gap, where I proceeded to run back to Newfound Gap solo in 7h30m. This route added about 2000 ft. of vertical to the experience, so final stats for the two-day haul were about 72 miles with about 20,000 ft of elevation gain.
  • While this gave me the satisfaction of completing the task, I certainly have unfinished business with the SCAR. I am planning a return trip this fall, this time solo, with experience in tow.
  • A HUGE thanks to Jim and Cap’n Harold for the aid and the Airstream (1989 beauty!), to Ed and Greg for the company, to my wife for the encouragement, and to God for the ability, the courage and the beauty of creation.


This is a run that I highly recommend to everyone out there… the Smokies are freaking amazing, and God reveals himself on every inch of the journey. VAMOS!!!

Gear used:
Salomon Running Pack (the one I won at Stumpjump 50k a looong time ago)
Salomon EXO Shorts
Patagonia SS Top (Thanks R/C)
Day one socks – Balega wool
Day two socks – Smartwool
Hoka Stinson Evo shoes
Huma Gel
Oreos, Nutter Butters, and Chips Ahoy cookies
Katahdin water filter pump (freaking genius)
Camelbak Insulated bottles

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