On Memorial Day, 2015, we loaded up the car and headed out for a day trip to Toccoa, Georgia. Although this Blue Ridge region of the Peach State has many spectacular places of interest, I was only focused on finding one particular landmark: Currahee Mountain. Currahee is a Cherokee word meaning “stand alone”. Most likely the name was derived from the mountain’s prominent peak that extends higher than all others within Stephens County. Currahee Mountain, which rises abruptly above the Chattahoochee Forest, climbs about 800 vertical feet above the local terrain and its summit is visible for many miles on a clear day.
For me, the significance of Currahee Mountain was not due to its topography, but rather the historical legacy it offers to the local community and our country as a whole. In 2001, the mountain received international notoriety by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg when they created their HBO television miniseries, Band of Brothers. The show chronicled the story of Easy Company of the US Army’s 101st Airborne division and their mission in WWII Europe from Operation Overlord through V-J Day.
The immediate area surrounding Currahee Mountain was once the official training site of the American paratroopers stationed at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. It was this grueling terrain that the men of Easy Company and the 506th Infantry Regiment ran up and down on a regular basis to condition their bodies for combat. The name of the mountain, “Currahee”, became the proud motto for these paratroopers including the now famous quote: “3 Miles up, 3 Miles down”.
A soldier of the 506th Infantry Regiment poses in front of the entrance to Camp Toccoa, GA.
Paratrooper display at Currahee Military Museum, Toccoa, GA
Memorial Day is a much more solemn holiday than Veterans Day as it was set apart to honor only those veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Although I typically spend this day engaged in family-themed activities such as recreation and barbeques, I wanted to do something this year that would allow me to reflect more on the people who gave their all so we can enjoy those liberties so often taken for granted.
This year I became determined to know the pain of running the “three miles up, three miles down” of Currahee Mountain. Though I’m hardly as fit as I once was, I devised a couple of rules for myself to make this special run as challenging as possible: I would not allow myself to walk at any point in the climb or descent; also, I would do the entire thing wearing combat boots. So many Americans throughout the history of our country have felt the pain of death in combat. So many Americans throughout the history of our country have felt the deep, heart-wrenching pain that comes about when a family member or loved one is killed in the heat of battle. What a small price it is to pay, what a small discomfort it is to endure, simply to run up a small mountain when so many Americans, past and present, have given away God’s greatest gift -their very own lives for the service of others.
Finding Currahee Mountain was a challenge all of its own. Aside from a small roadside marker, the trail leading up the mountain had no real distinguishable characteristics. It was simply a dirt road where heroes once trained.
“In memory of Col. Bob Sink, first Commanding Officer of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment”
Big John poses with Old Glory just before taking to the mountain.
Although Rebecca’s knees were injured and Noah had previously never ran more than of couple miles on flat ground, they both committed whole-heartedly for the cause.
…and so it begins!
My son grasps firmly onto those colors as his proud father rallies him on!
Her knees ached fiercely, yet she soldiered on!
We passed a few others along the way but there were two people who touched me in a profound way. One was a young soldier who was descending back down when we first began our climb. He was in uniform, wearing full battle gear to include a helmet and body armor. He carried a flag similar to mine and had an assault rifle slung across his chest. What a symbolic image he presented as he marched down that dusty trail!
The other was a heavyset, middle-aged man with a photograph of his brother memorialized on the back of his t-shirt. We exchanged words in passing and he informed me that he was making the trek for his dear brother who had been killed on his second tour in Iraq. What a small sense of pain I felt on this run compared to the internal wounds this man suffers daily over the loss of his own brother. I pray he found comfort knowing that we didn’t forget, we will never forget, the price that his brother paid for all of us so that we may live in a safer world.
Rebecca carries the flag up Curahee Mountain.
Way to go, Noah! Remember the reason why you’re running!
The higher we go, the steeper the climb!
Noah takes his rite of passage!
About a quarter of a mile from the top, something truly remarkable occurred. We were facing the steepest, harshest part of the climb. My jog had slowed considerably and it had admittedly become more of a crawl than a run. Each pain-staking step forward was transformed into its very own crucible and all three of us were suffering in our own personal hell.
It was at this moment, when the mountain seemed to be giving us her worst, that Noah grabbed a hold of the flag and took off in a full sprint towards the peak. To see him run like that, fueled by nothing other than raw determination, filled me with pride beyond words. Noah understood the meaning of selfless service and he had come to understand the meaning of sacrifice.
Rebecca leads the way as she takes those few remaining steps to the summit.
Our small, exhausted squad snaps a quick selfie from the top before beginning the descent.
A view from the top of Currahee Mountain.
Noah waves Old Glory over Toccoa, Georgia.
Noah leading the charge back down the mountain!
We made this run to honor those who didn’t come back.
We were amongst the lucky one to leave that mountain and head back home. Many left that mountain to fight in a world war and never made it home.
Noah rounds the curve on the way back down.
My baby-doll assumes the honors!
Our trial is nearly over! We will conquer Curahee!
Another selfie at the finish!
“3 miles up, 3 miles down” – We had conquered Currahee Mountain. Along the way, the mountain gave us stories of sacrifice, taught us life lessons, and made an impact on us that goes much deeper than sore muscles and aching joints. God willing, we’ll all return here next Memorial Day. May we never forget!
Camp Toccoa Memorial, Toccoa GA
Toccoa Falls, Toccoa, Georgia
No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends – John 15:13
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Posted in Adventure Fitness, Adventurous Places, Historical Journeys, North America and tagged 506th Infantry Regiment, Band of Brothers, currahee, Currahee Mountain, Toccoa Georgia, WW2 by Big John with 10 comments.
My latest quest for Adventure Fitness carried me clear down to the Peach State where I, along with Rebecca and the boys, competed in the Navy Seals’ BATTLEFROG O.C.R. (obstacle course race).
Visit battlefrogseries.com for the next BATTLEFROG race near you.
Going into this particular O.C.R., I didn’t quite know what to expect other than one hell of a challenge. The fact that the course was designed and ran by our most highly trained, bad-ass members of the United States military was an intimidation factor all of its very own making. This 8 kilometer course definitely lived up to its founders’ reputation and certainly wasn’t created for the faint of heart! The course encompassed swamps, streams, tunnels, open fields, forest, walls, ladders, ropes, slides, and yes… lot’s of mud and water!
Look at Rebecca muscling those jerry cans 35 minutes into it!
Look who’s not smiling here!
Beast mode, baby!
As a forty-something year old man, I did okay but it was Rebecca who really brought her game-face that day. You should’ve seen my baby doll scramble all the way up that gritty length of rope and ring that bell! She’s as tough as they come – HOOYAH!
We’re humping half a mile up a mountain with 50 pound bags on our backs and she’s still smiling! She’s a lean, mean, killing machine!
Rebecca and I are pictured in the background on the KillCliff Tsunami
– we’re about to take the plunge!
What happened to that award-winning smile, pretty baby?
Oh man, is that a bald spot? I must’ve caught it on that barbed wire!
C’mon baby, let this old man have a breather!
Are we there yet?
No, I don’t need a wheelchair, just give me my medal!
Yes, we are finished and now even I’m smiling!
After the big kids had their go, the little ones got into the action as well. Jonah ran in a one-mile O.C.R. full of challenging obstacles, muddy pits, and a whole lot of fun. Let me tell you something -that kid can fly!
Team Cutler from left to right: Noah- the stealthy patriot, Rebecca- the strong & sassy one, Big John- the dazed & confused, and Jonah- the little lightning bolt.
All in all, the BATTLEFROG was right up my alley and I recommend this race over any I’ve experienced thus far. Not only was the course phenomenal, the entire event was an enormous festival with a patriotic, proud-to-be-American feel to it. There were Navy Seals on site to motivate, numerous vendors, great music, good food, and even Shocktop- my all-time favorite of beers!
Man, do I love those mean BATTLEFROG medals!
My next two challenges in Adventure Fitness are creeping up on me way too soon. I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into with these things but let’s just pray I survive it all. Up next is the Green Beret Challenge on July 26 and the Spartan Super on August 29.
Don’t ask me why, just give it an old college try. C’mon, don’t let me have all the fun. Get off that couch, start training, and then join me out on that sweat-soaked, adrenaline-pumping course. Get moving and have some adventure of your own. Besides, I may need you there to carry me across that finish line. These muscles are sore and these bones are beginning to ache… but hey, isn’t that all just par for the course?
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Posted in Adventure Fitness, North America and tagged Battlefrog, Navy Seals, OCR by Big John with 3 comments.
I find it’s very difficult to get the most out of adventure and travel if my current level of fitness is holding me back. I am one of those types who gain weight far too easily and practically have to kill myself to take any of it back off. It’s hardly my fault though – beer is just plain good!
Recently I’ve made a decision to take my health back and do whatever it requires to reach those self-imposed fitness goals. In doing so, I’ve created a new category in Big John’s Adventures in Travel titled Adventure Fitness. For my first post in this new, motivational category, I will take you to my hometown of Greenville, SC for the Goodwill Mud Run of spring, 2015.
The Goodwill Mud Run, presented by St. Francis Sports Medicine, is a 3.5 mile long race with 35 muddy obstacles for teams to compete in. Rebecca and I entered this event for the first time together. Our two-person team “Wanderlust” may not have been the fastest, but I definitely believe we had the most fun!
Team Wanderlust (Rebecca & Big John) feeling all clean and neat just before the run.
Sgt. Zach Ervin of the U.S. Marine Corps motivates racers as they encounter their first obstacle.
Marine Corps reservists from Greenville, SC volunteer their time to ensure runners are properly motivated and complete each obstacle in the prescribed manner.
Marines motivate runners as they take that first muddy plunge!
In addition to cash prizes being offered to the fastest teams of various classes, the Goodwill Mud Run hosts a costume contest of sorts that can also be rewarding.
These guys were a very colorful bunch of characters!
…and off we go!
Look at Greenie go!
You’ve got to get low to crawl under that Humvee!
Climbing up and through those dark, wet tunnels!
That marine thought they looked hot and thirsty!
These guys and gals make light work of those cargo nets!
The center of the course runs right through a river!
Now that’s what I call teamwork!
Mud diving mania!
Ripping up the mountain of mud!
A helping hand goes a very long way in conquering this wall!
These colors do run!
Rebecca is a squinty one-eyed pirate – Argghh!
I look like a wounded seal (the sea animal, not the highly-trained warrior type).
With the finish line in sight!
That’s my “I’m much too old for all of this” face!
Me and my sassy little buccaneer!
This is what we looked like just after the run!
She’s so sassy!
I figured someone might want a gun show after their run.
PDQ provided the venue with tasty chicken, scrumptious sandwiches, and delicious salads.
Liquid Catering was on hand to provide adult beverages and soft drinks for thirsty racers and spectators alike.
Hey, I earned that beer!
The Upstate Young Marines (Youth Organization) operating a Mud Run for the smaller ones.
(They said I was short enough for the course but was disqualified due to my age.)
Rebecca ran so hard her soles fell off! Now that girl’s got some drive!
My run is done, now time for fun!
The Goodwill Mud Run, like every other obstacle course run, is not only a fun and rewarding experience for its participants. These events raise lots of money for charity and are often boosted by sponsors within the local community.
My next planned event is the Navy Seal’s BattleFrog run in Atlanta, May 2015. Yeah, wish me luck because this old man needs it! I’m taking the whole family out on this one, so you’d better come back and see the results. In the meantime, get off that couch and find a fitness adventure of your own. When you do, be sure tell us all about it in the comments section below.
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Posted in Adventure Fitness, North America and tagged goodwill mud run, Goodwill Mudrun, Obstacle Course Race by Big John with no comments yet.