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Article Published: May. 10, 2012 | Modified: May. 20, 2012

This map depicts the 3K, 10K and paddle route through the Earth.Water.Fire race event May 19.
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Earth.Water.Fire – it’s not a summons for Captain Planet, but rather the High Country’s newest outdoor challenge, and it’s coming to Todd May 19.

Watauga County Pathways’ Earth.Water.Fire: 3K/10K Run & River Paddle Challenge will see single or tag-team participants take on three elements.

As for Earth, participants will run a 3K or 10K (depending on their skill level) from Todd to Green Valley Park. 3K runners will take Big Hill Road to Green Valley Park, while 10K runners will run Railroad Grade Road, turn right on Castle Ford Road, right on River Road, and right again on Big Hill Road, before entering Green Valley Park.

For water, solo participants take to their boats in the New River, where they paddle back to Todd. Duo teams may tag their partner at this point.

With fire, they’ll celebrate the end of the race with a massive bonfire, live music and North Carolina barbecue (along with vegetarian options), from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The race begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 19, in Todd at Walter and Annie Cook Park, located across the street from Todd General Store.

Through May 15, interested parties can register for $25 (solo) or $50 (team), with a $15 boat rental. From May 16 to 19, folks can register for $35 (solo) or $60 (team), with a $20 boat rental. All prices include an event T-shirt and ticket to the Fire celebration. Tickets to the celebration portion alone cost $7 for individuals and $20 for families.

Race packets are available at Footsloggers, located at 139 Depot St. in downtown Boone, on the Thursday and Friday prior to the race, as well as in Todd the day of the race at 8 a.m.

Those bringing their own boats must have them marked with their name and on site at Green Valley Park by 8 a.m. the day of the race. Those who rent boats will find their craft ready to go. All paddlers are required to wear a life vest.

The event is designed to where anyone can participate, with the bare minimum being a 3K run, which amounts to about a mile and a half.

“The race is definitely designed to where you can have a partner and not have to do an extensive amount of strenuous activity,” event coordinator and Watauga County Pathways (WCP) board member Eric Woolridge said, “but it’s also designed to where if someone is fit and up for the challenge, they can run the 10K and do an hour paddle from Green Valley Park back to Todd. But really, we just want people to come out and support the cause.”

As Woolridge said, it’s not only a quest for victory. The primary goal is to raise money and awareness for Watauga County Pathways and its efforts to plan, build and steward multi-use greenway trails, as well as paddle trails, hiking trails and biking trails throughout the Boone area and Watauga County. A portion of event proceeds will also benefit the Todd Community Preservation Organization and Green Valley Park.

Woolridge said Earth.Water.Fire is the Pathways’ inaugural event, with more to come on an annual basis. While a fundraiser, the event “will also raise awareness of the need for trails that connect our community,” he said.

Woolridge sees WCP as an opportunity for community development, promoting interaction among the community, as well as all the health benefits associated with getting outdoors and hitting the trails.

“Then we also see it as an economic development tool,” he said. “As we become more known as a community that’s walkable, that provides access to natural resources and that connects with other communities, there’s quite a precedent for economic development when you can do that on a large scale.”

The Middle Fork Greenway Association is the precursor to WCP, which Woolridge said is playing off the same idea of greenways that would connect Boone with Blowing Rock. In fact, a number of properties have since been acquired, he said, that will help make that dream a reality.

Woolridge said the group is presently engaged in an engineering study related to trail development along that corridor.

Pathways is also working with the Valle Crucis Community Center about connecting the Mast General Store and the Mast Store Annex (with the adjacent park) in Valle Crucis, he said, as well as with Green Valley Park to improve paddle access areas along the New River.

Further down N.C. 194, Pathways is working with the Todd Community Preservation Organization to improve river access, while also creating greenway opportunities along the South Fork of the New River in the same area.

“We’ve been partnering with these organizations,” Woolridge said. “The reason we created Watauga County Pathways was because all these other groups working on a variety of issues in their communities … identified trails as being one of their priorities. But there really wasn’t one umbrella organization working on those particular initiatives. So, that was the need for Watauga County Pathways, to have one group that could really spearhead and focus on that particular community development element.”

WCP is open to new members, with the basic membership costing $10 annually and $100 for the corporate option.

For more information, visit

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