But one team out of Texas began its trek a few months ago during a trip to North Carolina. Caleb Hernandez, a recent college graduate, was traveling on I-20 between his family home just outside of Dallas with his sister when the pair spotted Mellow Mushroom on the way through and decided to stop.
“We saw a big purple mushroom on the side of the road and we figured we couldn’t do anything but stop,” Caleb said.
There he found a brochure advertising the race, and Hernandez, who has participated in similar races before, knew he wanted to do it. He garnered equal enthusiasm from his father, Steve Hernandez, and his friend, Nick Ocean, and the trio formed a relay team.
Just after midnight Friday, the men set off for the 12-hour road trip and at lunchtime arrived at the race’s starting point, the Chief Ladiga Trail Campground. The three set up camp, slept there overnight and began the race with everyone else.
While many of the residents were from Calhoun County, the Hernandezes and their friend, Ocean, weren’t the only out-of-state participants to race. Other participants traveled from surrounding states in the southeastern United States to make the race.
The race consisted of seven three-member teams, like the Hernandezes and Ocean. They competed in a relay fashion, with each member taking on one of the three-parts of the course — jogging, kayaking or biking.
The race also included about 50 participants who entered as individuals.
It began with a 6.2-mile run from the campground up a county road 70 to the to the Pinhoti trail, down its steep, rocky path and back through the park. There dozens of kayaks were lined up on the banks of Terrapin Creek, and participants began their 1.5-mile segment of the trek.
It was to be paddled, but instead was walked, swam and stumbled through as participants were forced to pull the boats behind them due to low water levels. Some would comment at the end of the race that that portion, which was the shortest part of the race, was also the most challenging.
After racers pulled their boats to shore down the creek, they mounted bikes and took off for a 33-mile ride to the finish, which was on the Chief Ladiga Trail by the Eubanks Welcome Center in Piedmont.
Race organizers were unable to provide a winners’ list by deadline Saturday evening.
But regardless of who won, lost, struggled to finish, or even dropped out of the race, the event proved positive for the area, some Calhoun County residents said.
And organizers said they hope to make the race an annual event.
“This is just a small something that helps the community. It helps the area,” said Barry Nicholls, who served as the cyclist for one of the three-member teams, while standing in the park. “I am just in awe of this spot. I didn’t even know it was here.”
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.