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News spread fast last week after the Sylva Police Department removed more than 50 spikes from hiking trails at Pinnacle Park, but a drive by the trailhead two days later showed that the incident hadn’t dampened local enthusiasm for the area. Even at 1 p.m. on a Thursday, the parking area held seven cars whose owners had come to enjoy a sunny afternoon on the trail. 

Sylva resident Amy Schmidt, 33, was one of them. She and her German shepherd Greta come to Pinnacle Park regularly, about three times a week, and though she’d heard about the spikes she didn’t think twice about coming back for their regular walk. But the story did give her pause.

Sixty-five runners started and finished the first Assault on Black Rock Trail Race at Sylva’s Pinnacle Park on March 19, raising more than $1,400 for the Community Table soup kitchen.

The 8.3-mile course boasts a 2,700-foot elevation gain and forced participants to use hands and feet to scramble to the craggy pinnacle atop Black Rock. Organizers hope the first-time event – which is basically uphill the first half and downhill on the way back, with the last half-mile of uphill featuring a ridiculously steep climb – will catch on in trail racing circles.


“I am very pleased with the turnout, although I am sure the good weather helped,” said race organizer Brian Barwatt. “… The thought that 65 people stood on the summit of Black Rock on Saturday (not including my volunteers) is awesome because I have been up there about a dozen times in the past couple years and have only seen three people on the trail up to Black Rock.”

Participants traveled from as far away as Atlanta and Raleigh.

The top three men and women finishers were:


(1) Chad Hallyburton, age 42 of Sylva, with a time of 1:31:17

(2) Andrew Benton, age 20 of Hickory, with a time of 1:33:12

(3) Sean Botzenhart, age 18 of Cullowhee, with a time of 1:35:19


(1) (11th overall) Ginny Hotze, age 50 of Asheville, with a time of 1:46:42

(2) (14th overall) Hannah McLeod, age 15 of Waynesville, with a time of 1:51:53

(3) (16th overall) Brenda Holcomb, age 38 of Cullowhee, with a time of 1:56:42

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