Dark Sky 50 2021

FINAL 4-28-2021

Due to the Palm Sunday flood the course has been changed to bypass Station Camp and was re-routed for the Longbranch aid station.

From Longbranch the runners are going to take the dirt road to Gobbler’s Knob Aid Station for the FIRST time. From there, they’ll descend to Charit, do the Twin Arches loop, and come back to Gobbler’s Knob like years past. This will eliminate the Station Camp Aid Station (and replacing it with Gobbler’s Knob part 1) so no need to hike anything in anywhere except Charit Creek Aid Station. Hiking in will be Greg and Stephen but a much nicer hike!!

There are currently 93 pre-registered runners for this event.

The 2021 Dark Sky 50 miler on the trails of Pickett State Park and Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area  The course is mostly runnable on single/double track with a couple of jeep road miles thrown in. Runners should expect creek crossings, rolling hills, a little technical terrain, and amazing views! The race takes runners by such landmarks as the Hazard Cave and Natural Bridge at Pickett State Park and John Muir Overlook, Maude’s Crack, Charit Creek Lodge, Slave Falls, Twin Arches, and Gobbler’s Knob in Big South Fork.

This year the race has gone cupless meaning that the runners will provide their own re-usable cups and water bottles rather than disposable cups. 

Date: May 1, 2021
Start/Finish: Pickett State Park Rec Lodge
Start Time: 6:00am Central Time
Final Cutoff: 8:00pm Central Time (14 hour time limit for all racers)
After Party: starts as soon as first racer crosses the finish line!

The BSFARC team will be out in full force covering seven aid stations this year. This year Austin K5QF & Charlie K4CFM will shadow their race director (Beth Meadows) so that we will be in touch at all times. Stand-by volunteers are also needed for possible last minute deployment or for monitoring the frequency for any remote support.

The race map will be updated when new information is provided. It is noted since the race begins and ends at Pickett that all times are in Central time. 

Some minor changes this year include early runners will start at 04:00am to hopefully avoid the 8:00pm cut off. No change in aid station operating times. The times listed on the race map are when comm should be set-up and operational.

The race begins and ends at Pickett State Park in 2021. The runners will do the Pickett loop before returning to the race start/finish line and then head off towards Rock Creek 1. This aid station is NOT a communications station. Then it is off to Divide Road where John and Patty will call in their arrival/departures. Next stop is Long Branch Trail where they will be greeted by Bill and Nancy which will also record their arrival/departure. The racers will then head to Gobblers Knob 1 where Lee and Dinah will announce their arrival only. Then it’s off to Charit Creek where Greg and Stephen hiked to. They will announce the runners arrival before they navigate the Twin Arches Loop. Upon arrival back at Charit Creek Greg & Stephen will announce the runners departure to Gobblers Knob 2. Once the runners depart from Gobblers Knob (2nd time) Lee and Dinah will call in their departure as the runners head towards Rock Creek 2. They will be met there by Paul & Virgil who will call in their arrival/departure before the runners head back towards Pickett State Park. Any runners that drop must be called in immediately and confirmed with all down trail aid stations as well. The same is true for any serious injuries.

Post Race Information

There were 96 racers that were registered and there were 9 no shows the morning of the race. They had 20 runners start the race early between 4am and 6am to avoid the cut off time and for additional social distancing. After the Pickett loop two runners dropped out and another at Long Branch.

Pickett Start/Finish Line: The station was scheduled to be ready to go by 8:00am and was on the air at X:XXam. The aid-station was staffed by Jamie KO4LVG, Dale KO4DHA and Frank KT4SH.

Race Director Shadows: The role of shadows were staffed by Austin K5QF and Charlie K4CFM.

Divide Road Aid-Station: The aid station was scheduled to be ready to go by 9:00am and was on the air at X:XXam. The aid-station was staffed by Patty KB1TUY and John KX4WH.

Long Branch Aid-Station: The aid station was scheduled to be ready to go by 9:30am and was on the air at 8:57am. The aid-station was setup in the middle of the cul-de-sac at the end of Terry Creek Road just past Terry Creek Cemetery. They received their first runner at 9:20am who was an an early start (prior to 6am at Pickett. The only runner that dropped did so at 12:47pm right before the sweep arrived at 12:53pm. A total of 83 runners made it to the aid-station. There were no injuries and no issues with supplies. While parking never became an issue it was not clear where the runner’s support crew should park at first and eventually the radio operators assisted in making sure there was proper sight lines in/out of the aid-station and sufficient access for emergency vehicles if needed. The aid-station was staffed by Nancy KC8VTT and Bill KF4TY.

Gobbler’s Knob Aid-Station: The aid station was scheduled to be ready to go by 10:30am and was on the air at 10:00am. The aid-station was staffed by Dinah KD2LSA and Lee WB3AJS.

Charit Creek Aid-Station: The aid station was scheduled to be ready to go by 10:30am and was on the air at X:XXam. The aid-station was staffed by Greg KI4LCH and Stephen KF4DNY.

Rock Creek Aid-Station: The aid station was scheduled to be ready to go by 12:00pm and was on the air at X:XXpm. The aid-station was staffed by Virgil W4OME and Paul KT4PN.

Lesson’s Learned

1. BSFARC Team: Some stations didn’t properly ID per tactical procedure. some reversed, like “This is W4BSF (ie), Pickett, clear”. Which isn’t really a big deal. The only bad ones were when people would clear with tactical & NOT ID with their Callsign.

Follow-up: The use of tactical signs should be reviewed prior to next years event and a link to the document is below for reference.

2. BSFARC Team and Dark Sky 50: Should probably add a “Lifeline” station to monitor & provide phone line access anytime we’re serving an area without Cell service. We (ham radio operators) also did not have any real means to get ahold of the park ranger directly, or any other outside agency. Perhaps in the future we could employ a cell phone booster at net control or have someone at a land line monitoring the repeater traffic ready to dial 911 if needed.

Follow-up: Our remote operator after checking in early was unable to talk or communicate later in the day due to COVID. A back-up remote operator is highly suggested.

3. BSFARC Team: The radio operators at each aid-station need to communicate any issues as they come up at the aid-station. It could be that they are low on water or that they are understaffed. If the race director does not hear from the ham team, they have no idea what’s happening there. Informational Only.

4. BSFARC Team: Exact locations of aid-station tents/vehicles  may vary from year to year even if held at the same general location. This may require unique solutions to placement of ham radio equipment and related support items including tents and canopies. Informational Only.

5. Dark Sky 50: A simple plan should be made for each aid station to provide clear sight lines for runners entering and exiting the aid-stations with proper signage.  Many times, the ‘crew’ would not know where to park and created some access issues and blocked roads and access to the aid-station.  The aid-station captains need to take charge and place their support vehicles or other assets in such a way as to respond to an emergency if necessary.

6. Dark Sky 50: It did not appear that Charit Creek had enough ‘sweets’ to raise the blood sugar of some runners. The lack of a proper first aid-kit and proper staffing led to others providing the required assistance to the runners.