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 125:  THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
 
Start: Pinkham Notch/NH 16                               
End:  US 2/Gorham, NH
Today's Miles:                      21.1
Cumulative Miles:          1,883.2
Miles to go:                       291.7
   
 
"Hiking across this section [the Carter-Moriah Ridge]
is extremely strenuous. Allow three days to traverse it."
- AT Guide to NH-VT, p. 74
 


My little buddy, above (more about him in text)

Run-off on AT from torrential rain       9-1-05

After spending fourteen hours on this section of Trail today I felt like I'd been our there for three days!

My knees were so sore, it was hard to walk after sitting down for several minutes to eat dinner at 8:45 PM. My shins and knees were bleeding from climbing up and down rocks all day. My fingertips were abraded from the same.

All I wanted to do was go to sleep.

Four days of rain. Five inches recorded in Carter Notch in the last 24 hours. Flooded lakes covering parts of the Trail. Flooded creeks and rivers to wade through. Trail sections that became creeks with all the run-off. Submerged bog boards. Puddles covering the Trail. Blow-downs blocking the Trail. Branches and limbs across the Trail. 60MPH wind gusts. Tangled roots. Rocks galore. Vertical walls to climb up and down. Suicide slabs (AKA "exposed rock ledges"). Ascent of 1,000 feet in one-fourth mile (Peak E of Wildcat Mtn.). Ascent of 700 feet in less than one-fourth mile (bottom portion of Carter Dome). Equally steep descents.

Does the fun never end in the White Mountains???

This was just today - and the sun was out! It doesn't include all the fun I've had in the rain on a couple of previous days.

You know the scary part? I hear it's worse in the Mahoosucs . . .

This was one tough twenty-one miles. I guarantee you I'll never do any part of it again. Yes, there were some impressive views of the parallel Presidential Range and there were three lovely lakes. But the terrain was so doggone rugged that the rewards just aren't great enough to entice me back.

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE

I started at Pinkham Notch right at dawn, knowing it would be a long day. It was very windy but warm - already 66 degrees at our campground. After four days of rain, a dry, warm front was blowing in. Clouds hung over Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range nearby, but the lower Wildcat-Carter-Moriah Range I'd be running and hiking was clear.

The flooding in the first mile surprised me. There hadn't been nearly as much rainfall in the valleys as in the mountains but I didn't know that until I talked to the caretaker at the Carter Notch Hut. He's the one who told me that five inches of rain fell in the notch in a 24-hour period ending during the night, and several more inches had fallen the preceding three days.

Lost Lake, above, was so full it covered parts of the Trail near the start. The two Carter Lakes in the notch were six feet over normal levels, flooding the Trail near the hut. I was never in over my knees, and could see bottom, but it was still unnerving and at times I wasn't even sure I was on the AT. (Trail markings have been a real problem for me in New Hampshire.)

I was a little concerned about encountering creeks so full I couldn't get through, but that didn't happen. The deepest ones were near the end, before dark, while I was with Jim. He was a sweetheart and came out four miles from the end to meet me so he could help me get through the final mile(s) in the dark.

The runoff started very near the summits of each mountain I climbed. The trails were little creeks even in the afternoon, many hours after the rain stopped. I'm guessing the moss ground cover in the alpine zone acts like a sponge, slowly releasing the water.

What this meant was running water in most of the trails and standing water in flat spots. The wet areas (bogs) were flooded and some of the boards bridging the areas were submerged. In addition, rocks that would normally be dry with all the wind and sun were wet, making them harder to climb up and down. Fun times.

BLOWIN' IN THE WIND

The wind was strong in exposed areas all morning and in the late afternoon. Carter Notch hut had gusts up to 60 MPH this morning. It's in a fairly protected area at only 3,288 feet. When I was on the Wildcat peaks (five of 'em) in the morning, I was up to 4,500 feet. Carter Dome is 4,832 feet. The windiest spot was at the Wildcat gondola (for skiing) because the trees were cut down there.

There was a lot of debris in the Trail all day. I saw no other hikers until afternoon. No one had removed any of the branches and limbs that fell overnight. There were several recent blow-downs that were difficult to get around.

I was hit in the back of the head by a small branch on Wildcat Mountain. Fortunately, I wasn't hurt. Unfortunately, it didn't knock any sense into me! I just kept on going . . .

One good reason was that I was not about to go back down that hairy climb on the suicide slabs!!

The what?

This section has some very difficult climbs and descents, very steep as noted above. The worst was probably the initial climb up Peak E of Wildcat Mountain because of the exposed rock slabs, which I henceforth will refer to as "suicide slabs." One misstep here and you're dead. Thank goodness I wasn't going down this side. (Especially since it would have been in the dark if I'd gone southbound.)

The climb up Carter Dome was very steep at the bottom, then became more moderate. After climbing only twenty minutes I came to a rock outcropping where I could look down on the Carter Notch Hut. I was amazed how far down it looked.

I took this photo later on Mt. Moriah, looking back at the Wildcat and Carter peaks I'd hiked already:

There were a lot of bog boards up high today. On North Carter Mountain I came upon the cute little woods grouse in the photo at the top of this entry. (S)he let me take the photo, then started walking ahead of me over about twenty boards. When (s)he ran out of boards, off (s)he flew off. (I was wishing by that point that I could just fly right over the wetlands, too.) These grouse are much friendlier than the ones I encountered in the South.

On his way in to meet me Jim stopped at the Rattle River shelter 1.6 miles from the end and talked with the hikers there. It was dark enough to turn our lights on when I got there, so I didn't talk long with them. "Boo Boo" and "Stinkerbell" met us just before they got to the shelter and we talked a bit. They are doing a flip-flop from Harpers Ferry. I met them a couple days ago.

Jim usually gets crappy, unrunnable trail when he comes in to see me but this time the last four miles were the best of the day and he could run some of it. I was able to run a little before it got dark, then I just slogged as fast as I could. I was out of energy and wanted to be done.

It was a long fourteen hours. I'm glad tomorrow will be easier. I'm almost done with the Whites, thank goodness.

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil