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 132:  THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8
 
Start: Maine 4/Rangeley                                      
End:  Maine 17/Oquossoc
Today's Miles:                      13.1
Cumulative Miles:          1,954.9
Miles to go:                       220.0
   
 
"I'm looking for moose tracks. There was a big one here last night."
- young man at Sabbath Day Pond lean-to, peering intently at the muddy Trail
 


Early morning drama on Maine 17 near the AT trail head:  fog over Lake Mooselookmeguntic, above . . .

. . .  and a moose sighting along the road, below. Photos by Jim 9-8-05.

Moose were on the minds of a lot of folks on the Trail today.

Jim and I were fortunate to see not one but two moose early this morning on our way to the Maine 4 trail head. The one pictured at left was just up the road a few hundred yards from our camp site at the AT parking area on Maine 17. She was right next to the road and Jim got this shot of her before she loped off into the woods. We saw another one on the road near Rangeley Lake State Park a few minutes later.

As I ran and hiked southbound on the Trail today several northbound hikers asked me if I'd seen any moose. No, not on the Trail. But we all saw plenty of tracks in the mud and droppings on the side of the Trail. Despite passing through perfect moose environments next to bogs and ponds, I couldn't spot any of the critters while hiking.

Backpackers have an advantage in this regard, since they are more likely to see moose near their campsites early in the morning or at dinnertime, when I'm usually off the Trail. The Sabbath Day Pond lean-to is very close to water so I'm not surprised the campers there saw a moose last night.

"Road" moose are fun to spot but it's more special to encounter "trail" moose! Jim and I have each seen one on the Trail recently and hope to find more. (We often saw them in the Beartooth Mountains and other places we've run in Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon.)

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE

Although I didn't find this section of Trail to be as "easy" as other hikers have reported (only "easier" than most of what I've walked the last couple weeks), I loved all the lakes and ponds today. The Trail goes right next to Moxie Pond, Long Pond (which is a large lake), Sabbath Day Pond, Little Swift River Pond, and South Pond. At each pond/lake there was a cooling breeze that offset the warmer-than-normal temperature today.

This is a picture of one of the canoes available to hikers at the Little Swift River campsite:

There weren't any big creeks to cross today, but plenty of water and mud in the Trail because of all the bogs in the area. Some of the bog boards and logs were so deteriorated it was impossible to use them. Many more could have been employed. This section would be even more of a mess after a good rainfall.

BOREAL BOGS

Several miles into the run I passed the outlet of an extensive boreal bog. It looked more like a meadow than a swamp but there is plenty of water underneath those plants that you can't see. Marshes and swamps are more nutrient-rich than these highly acidic bogs, which preserve the floating mat of Sphagnum mosses and sedges on top of the water.

An interesting note about the peat bogs at the higher elevations in the Mahoosuc Range, where I hiked last week: the peat is such a good insulator that in some places the frozen layers underneath never thaw out. Sounds like Alaska, not 4,000 feet high in New England!

I'm fascinated by the bits of information like this that I've learned during this adventure run/hike.

The Trail surface in this section ranged from fairly smooth, soft pine-needle covered paths to gnarly rooty, rocky, or muddy spots. It was difficult to run more than a hundred yards at a time, if that. Bates Ledge was the hardest place to walk, with sharp, slick slate rock instead of the more prevalent granite I've gotten used to.

My time was much faster than yesterday for nearly the same distance: 5:50 hours. At the end, I did a half-mile bonus down to the camper again.

APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING

There was much less elevation change than I've had recently. I ended up with a net gain by going south today. I went up about 2,600 feet total and down about 2,200 feet. Most of the climbs and descents were gradual but a few were surprisingly steep.

Each AT map set (eleven in all) uses a different scale. Maine's has increments of 250 feet instead of 500 feet, which is probably more visually accurate as to the steepness of some hills than the other maps.

Still, I think they should put a sticker on these maps (like on vehicle passenger mirrors) saying, "Hills on these maps are steeper than they appear."

Maybe it's just my increasing fatigue . . .

I saw two gray-green snakes about 18 inches long today. I saw a similar one last week. What's interesting is that these are the first snakes I've seen since the rattler in Pennsylvania. There are also a lot of little brown frogs on the trails in New England, usually in fairly dry areas. Seems like they'd prefer wet areas.

I saw only four thru-hikers today: "Giggles," "Box 'o Fun," and "The Honeymooners" ("Birdie" and "Muskrat") were hiking together. In the afternoon Jim saw "Giggles" and "Fun" in the town of Rangeley, where they picked up their boxes of mail. He was going to offer them a ride back to the trail head when he got done with his errands but they were gone by then.

There were another dozen folks hiking for three days to two weeks. Seven of them looked older than me, which always inspires me. I wonder if they realize what positive role models they are for younger folks on the Trail?

PRIVY HUMOR

I rarely use the privies along the Trail because it's so easy to, um, pee, when I'm wearing running shorts that I just step off the Trail and do it in a few seconds. (When I wear my zip-leg pants, however, it's a real pain to have to drop my drawers.) Today I used the privy at the Little Swift River campsite because it was two feet off the Trail - how convenient!

Inside was this cute sign (notice the "bites" in the corner):

I hope to have an even better one for you tomorrow from the Piazza Rock lean-to's privy (unless it's been changed from two years ago).

A TOUCH OF FALL

It was another warm, sunny day with thick white fog in the valleys in the morning, as in Jim's photo at the top of this page. It was 57 degrees at 7:30 AM when I hit the Trail. Temperatures have been in the 80s recently, about ten degrees above normal. It's been great hiking weather.

Forecasters predict good leaf color in New England this fall, with the peak the first week in October in northern Maine, the second week in mid-Maine, and the third week in southern Maine. We saw several bright red and orange maple trees along the roads and Trail today but most deciduous trees and shrubs are still bright green.

Rain is expected in the mountains tonight, which will bring in cooler weather for a couple of days. As I write this, the weatherman at one of the TV stations in Portland says hard rain and hail are falling right now at Rangeley Lakes State Park, about ten miles from our boon-docking site at the AT parking lot off Maine 17. It isn't raining here yet. Jim hooked up the camper to the truck while it's dry so he can drop me off in the morning and continue on to our next campground.

I hope there isn't much rain in the mountains tonight. I'm concerned enough about the difficult section I have tomorrow in the Saddleback Range. There are numerous bogs, streams to cross, and boulders to climb. Worrying sometimes prevents me from sleeping well the night before!

WORLD'S BEST CREW

Jim spent several hours today negotiating numerous logging roads trying to find the "unimproved road" he found on Topo software where he can pick me up tomorrow to break up a difficult 32-mile section of trail that the AT guide says is the worst in Maine. (I thought the Mahoosuc section was supposed to be the worst!!)

All Jim could find today was a road that gets to within 1 miles of the AT. Even with our high-clearance four-wheel drive truck the road became too rough and narrow for him to drive all the way to the Trail. He took Cody and Tater with him while he hiked the rest of the way to the AT and back to make sure the trails connected.

He's going to hunt some more tomorrow and come up on the Trail to guide me to whatever he finds - hopefully the passable road a couple miles farther north that Topo says crosses the AT - so I don't have to do any bonus mileage tomorrow and Saturday.

Isn't he just the best crew person around?? I am so grateful for all he does for me to help me realize my dream.

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

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  2005 Sue Norwood and  Jim O'Neil