APPALACHIAN TRAIL ADVENTURE RUN

   
       
Jim, Sue, Cody, and Tater at Springer Mtn., start of the Appalachian Trail Adventure Run

 

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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
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DAY 119:  FRIDAY, AUGUST 26
 
Start: Galehead Hut                                            
End:  Crawford Notch/NH 302
Today's Miles:                      14.7
Cumulative Miles:          1,829.9
Miles to go:                       345.0
   
 
"Tough times don't last; tough people do."
- unknown
 


Hikers prepare to leave Galehead Hut in the morning sun

Looking back at Franconia Ridge (L) and pointy Mt. Garfield (R)            8-26-05

By staying at Galehead last night, I had the luxury of lying in bed for nine hours, which never occurs at our camper until a rest day.

Lights-out was at 9:30 PM, well after dark at this latitude. Reveille was 6:30 AM. It was loud enough that no one could possibly sleep late!

The AMC huts provide a bunk bed, pillows, and three wool blankets to each guest. Some hikers use their own sheets or sleeping bags, but I had neither. I put one blanket under me to cover the mattress ticking, and used two on top.

I assumed the bunks would be two-tiered. I was wrong - to use the space more efficiently, bunks are stacked three high in most huts and four high at others. Since I get up once or twice every night to go to the bathroom, I really wanted a bed on the bottom. I had resolved myself to climbing up higher, however, as I knew I'd be one of the last hikers to arrive.

I totally lucked out. There were four separate bunk rooms, all coed. Each had bunks stacked three high, with a ladder going up the middle. All the first and second tier beds were taken in the first three rooms I checked. In the fourth, a brother and his sister were putting their packs away before dinner. The young woman had her things on the lower bed, so I asked her if the one above was taken yet. She said I could have the lower one if I wanted it. Bless her heart! I didn't even have to beg for it. I told her she'd be grateful, as I wouldn't wake her up when I went to pee at 3 AM!

Which I did. The bathrooms (separated by sex) were through the dining room, past the kitchen, and down the hall. There was enough ambient light for me to get there and back OK without waking anyone up.

I wore earplugs and didn't hear anyone snoring during the night. However, I never could get comfortable on the thin mattress and tossed and turned all night. My knees have taken a beating lately, and they throbbed when I slept on either side and had them slightly bent. I wore a clean long-sleeved running shirt and sport pants to bed, but was cold even with three blankets. There is no heat in the hut.

But lemme tell ya, this was much preferable to sleeping in a shelter or tent!! I think I'm just too tired to sleep, as I've had trouble in our comfy camper bed the last few nights, also.

GREAT CROO SERVICE

Breakfast was served family-style at 7 AM. The spread was plentiful and delicious again. Big bowls of oatmeal were passed around. There were little bowls of pineapple, apricot, granola, and brown sugar to liven up the oatmeal. I'd never had pineapple in it before; it's quite good! Jim tried it later and enjoyed the combo.

Next came scrambled eggs with bacon. I'm guessing both were dried and/or vegetable protein, as it'd be quite tricky getting fresh eggs up a rough 4.6-mile trail in a backpack! (That's how all the fresh food gets up to the huts - on the backs of the "croo," or hut staff.) We also had freshly-made coffee cake, coffee, hot chocolate, and cranberry juice. Milk was available for the asking (dried and reconstituted).

I'll talk more about the hut "croo" (yes, that's how they spell it) in a separate entry, but want to mention here how hard they work. All five of this hut's staff members are in their mid-twenties. All are college grads. Most have worked several seasons in the huts, so they must love the work. They are part service staff, part entertainers. They work hard, and they have fun, too. Other hikers who have stayed in the various huts said the staff and the shtick here is typical.

The morning dawned bright and beautiful again. I woke up at my normal 5 or 5:30 AM and was happy to roll over for another hour of sleep. I had just 14.7 miles to go today and it was a net downhill. Starting just before 8, it took me 7:50 hours to complete the trip with a more leisurely pace than yesterday. I predicted a 4 PM finish so Jim would know when to get me, and came close to that. (We were able to connect by phone after dinner last night, so he knew I got to the hut safely.)

My second wake-up call this morning was the immediate steep, eye-opening 1,100-foot climb to the summit of South Twin Mountain, from 3,800 feet at the hut to 4,902 feet in a scant 8/10ths of a mile. Good morning, indeed! But the views on the way up, and at the top, were worth it. A man and his teenage daughter who were at the hut last night were at the summit when I arrived. He hikes regularly in the Whites and proclaimed this view one of the best in the whole area.

He pointed out Mt. Washington, on my agenda for tomorrow, and reminded me that it is clear on top only sixty days a year. Sure hope I luck out again tomorrow with a clear day! Yesterday the top was obscured by clouds. Today I could even see the buildings on top.

The Trail offered a variety of surfaces and eco-zones again today, from fairly smooth and runnable to gnarly with mossy rocks and walls (one ladder, thankfully, on a totally vertical wall), roots, and muddy bog areas. I'm still amazed at the new light green growing tips on many of the spruce trees. It's the end of August and it looks like spring! I hope the tips aren't frozen soon in the obviously short growing season here.

RELAXING AT THE FLUME

I was running and hiking a ridge between South Twin and Guyot mountains, gradually dropping in elevation back down into the trees. Shortly before the next hut at Zealand Falls, I found a delightful little "flume" creek with smooth rocks just begging me to sit a spell and relax. I heeded the call, enjoying the beautiful setting I had all to myself.

While eating a food bar, I watched the water cascading over a little falls before hitting the smooth flume that I'd have to jump up and over to continue on my way. I couldn't see where the water went but I knew it was steeply down. Turns out that it was near the top of large Zealand Falls!

Later I considered this creek jump in terms of flooding. After a large rainfall I don't know how someone could safely cross that little creek. Any wider than it was today and it would be difficult to jump over (and up) to the other side, another smooth, rounded rock ledge that would be slick if wet. And if you stepped into the flume with the water you might get swept downstream, over the falls, because of the slippery rock.

Something to consider if several inches of rain fall! There are numerous creeks in the Whites and few have bridges. Any of them would be dangerous when more full than normal. Heck, I have enough problems getting through some of them when they are low.

I checked out the Zealand Hut, which was fairly similar to Galehead but not as new (Galehead, one of the oldest huts, was gutted in 1999 and completely rebuilt in 2000). I took a little side trail to see Zealand Falls from the bottom but didn't stay, as several other people were there. Just down the Trail was another nice falls.

ABLE TO RUN AGAIN

I was able to do some running on the Trail near Zeacliff and Zealand, as well as a nice two-mile section of fairly flat trail six to seven miles from the end of today's section at Crawford Notch. I think it was part of a logging rail bed. One section went through a boulder field but the rocks had been removed from the sandy trail.

What a concept! Too bad the AMC didn't do that a few more places on the AT . . .

I thought, It's amazing how fast a mile goes by when I can actually run it!

I'd dropped down to 2,500 feet by this time. After crossing a river about five miles from the end, the Trail turned wet and rough again. <sigh> Typical AT schizophrenia. There were many deteriorated bog boards and mud, rocks, and roots again. I couldn't run much more, even though there was another drop the last two miles down to 1,277 feet at Crawford Notch.

In this section I saw a fox on the Trail ahead of me, the first fox I've seen on the AT.

THERE'S MY CREW!!

I was delighted when I saw Jim and Cody-pup running toward me with another three miles to go. What a nice surprise! They got a good workout going up to Ethan Pond, which they visited before seeing me. Jim talked a while with the caretaker in the area, a young man named Cody! This is a photo of Ethan Pond, which we visited again on the way back to the truck:

I just love these glacial ponds! Cody-the-Caretaker explained that the dark brown color is from tannins in the pine trees that leach into the water. He also said that it's not a good idea to get into the water because of the real leeches, blood-sucking worm-like creatures that live in the pond. Jim spotted one that was about two inches long. He kept Cody-pup out of the water, although he wanted to swim very badly.

On the way back to the truck Cody fell off a narrow bog bridge into the muck and had trouble getting out. Jim finally fished him out. Yucky dog, but he got wet enough later to lose most of the mud before he got into the truck.

Jim's been busy while I've been on the Trail the last two days. He moved the camper from the beautiful Hancock Campground in the White Mountain National Forest near Lincoln over to another forest service campground, Zealand, on NH 302 above Crawford Gap. We love these campgrounds because of the spacious, shaded sites.

There are no hook-ups in forest service campgrounds, however. That lowers the price but makes more work for Jim (refilling water, tinkering with the solar system and generator, using dump stations, etc.). It also limits how much we can use the computer and TV, and eliminates use of the microwave.

We haven't been able to get on-line in the camper for a while, so Jim also has to find places with strong enough cell-phone service to use with the laptop, or use library computers.

HAPPY HIKERS

Jim had fun playing trail angel again today. He gave rides to three thru-hikers back and forth to Bartlett, a town south of Crawford Notch. I met two of them going SOBO on the Trail with Jim as we proceeded NOBO to the finish - "Old Scrubs," who wears a medical scrub shirt on the Trail (pictured below) and "South Paw." The other fella goes by "Chef Boyardee."

I was pleased to see so many hikers on the Trail today, from young kids to retired folks.

I talked with a guy called "Shenandoah" who was hiking today with his German shepherd, "Dante." Dante did the whole AT with Shenandoah in 2003 (except the Smokies and Baxter SP, where dogs aren't allowed). There were some problems with tricky rocky areas but Shenandoah was able to boost Dante up the tall walls the dog couldn't jump or scramble up.

Shenandoah is currently hiking all the mountains in NH that are over 4,000 feet high. There was another hiker at Galehead doing this, too. The AMC gives out patches to folks who complete these summits.

I noted that Dante was wearing the same pack Cody had, and Shenandoah hikes in Montrail Hardrocks (so am I). Cool, eh?

I also had the pleasure of meeting "Hokie Hiker," pictured below:

Since we moved last year into Hokie territory, I noticed his Virginia Tech shirt immediately. He explained that today is "Hokie Pride Day," a day in which all alumni (and fans, perhaps?) wear Hokie garb.

Hokie is a trail runner who has completed the Pike's Peak Marathon in CO (up and down the mountain), the Mount Mitchell Challenge in NC, and the Shut-In Ridge race in NC, all tough mountain races. He's back-packing the Whites and part of the AT in Maine this month in eleven segments with four other hikers, based out of Gorham. Hokie lives in the Roan Mountain area in TN now, where he has plenty of mountains the same elevation as the Whites but not above tree line.

This section wasn't quite as exciting as yesterday's since it wasn't as high, but it was varied and interesting. It makes a fine run/hike by itself, or combined with yesterday's section or one or more of the myriad of side trails in the area.

Next up: climbing up to Mt. Washington, the second-highest mountain on the Appalachian Trail and the one with the wildest weather in the entire world! Will I luck out and get another calm, sunny day, or will there be a record-setting gale force wind and snow on top when I get there?? (Quite possible, as measurable snow has fallen even in August, and the highest wind speed in the world was recorded there in the '30s - an unbelievable 231 MPH.)

Every day in the Whites seems to be a crap-shoot! Just roll the dice and see what happens . . .

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil