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 140:  FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
 
Start: Moxie Pond Rd.                                
End:  Maine 15/Monson
Today's Miles:                       24.8
Cumulative Miles:           2.060.4
Miles to go:                         114.5
   
 
"Are you sure you didn't hitch a ride?"
- Jim, surprised I finished today's section 2:45 hours faster than predicted
 


Slate bedrock and attractive sub-alpine plants on east side of Moxie Bald Mountain

"Goat" and "Buffet," thru-hikers from NH.   9-16-05

I was surprised, too! This has gotta be the worst estimate of my predicted time to finish a section of the AT since this adventure run began. Thank goodness I over-estimated, not under-estimated, my time for the first 18.5 miles of this section, the original distance I was going to run/hike.

And thank goodness Jim and I have ESP (extra-sensory perception). Not that I necessarily believe in ESP, but what are the odds that we'd meet at the appointed place at the same time - almost three hours early??

If you read yesterday's entry, you know I was worried about whether several creeks and rivers in this section would be flooded today. I even lost sleep last night over this.

Dear man that Jim is, he said he'd come in on the Trail at least to the last river crossing, four-tenths of a mile from the end, to see if I needed any help. He planned to run after dropping me off this morning at Moxie Pond, move the camper about sixty miles up the road, and go to the grocery - so he didn't know if he'd have time to come in any farther on the Trail.

Although much of the Trail was a mess today (lotsa mud, rocks, and roots), there was enough of it that I could run to make a significant dent in my predicted time. I found myself slowing down a bit when I couldn't reach Jim by cell phone to ask him to pick me up earlier. If I couldn't reach him, I'd just have to wait and wait and wait. I didn't want to leave a note at the trail head, go on ahead, and risk him not seeing my note.

What I really wanted to do was to add another three to six miles onto the eighteen-plus I'd planned for today. There were no roads in that first 18.5 miles, but two other places I could stop after that. I had the time and energy today to go farther, the weather was decent, and it would shorten tomorrow's run in the predicted rain.

I was frustrated when I finally got a phone signal a couple miles from our rendezvous point, but Jim's phone wouldn't ring. So I sent out some very strong "signals" to him saying, "Please come early and run in to me." I told myself nothing would make me more happy today than to see Jim at that river crossing when I got there - almost three hours early.

Now what were the odds of that, considering the busy day Jim had planned??

Now I'm not much of a believer in ESP, but sometimes it's uncanny how closely Jim and I think. And for some reason we were both thinking about the same thing this afternoon.

PERFECT TIMING

After I left him this morning,  Jim decided not to run on Moxie Pond Road. He felt he just didn't have time. He was concerned about moving the camper, and decided to run in on the Trail instead.

Imagine my total surprise and delight when I got to the river (East Branch of the Piscataquis) and discovered 1) it was only calf to knee deep, not flooded, and 2) that Cody was on the other side, with Jim running down the hill toward the river!

Jim was even more shocked to see me there so early! After all, he hadn't been imagining this scenario the last hour like I had been. We hugged and that's when Jim started teasing me about "hitching a ride" to get there so soon. (Yeah, in the middle of the wilderness in Maine.)

Jim's learned a lot about flexibility and adaptability this summer, crewing for me. He was immediately agreeable to returning to the truck on Shirley-Blanchard Road with me to look at the AT map to see just how far the next two roads were. The six miles of Trail that I'd just run and hiked would have made a great run for him, along the other branch of the Piscataquis River, but he chose to bag it and try again tomorrow. (It also says something about how motivated he is to get this thing done and go home!)

It was only 1:45 PM, giving me plenty of time to hike another 6.3 miles to Hwy. 15 north of Monson. It looked like there were several streams and a lake, so Jim suggested I take Cody with me. He had a ball in the mud and creeks and I was glad to have him for a distraction because I disliked that little section with a passion. Running was impossible.

This is an example of one of many mud pits I went through today (it was difficult to go around them without destroying plant life):

I also had to contend with very slippery slate rocks (no matter what form they were in, they were slick as ice), wet roots that are as treacherous as slick rocks, about forty little creeks (remember, it rained all day yesterday), and the usual swamp and bog boards that are often missing, canted to one side, slippery when wet, or so deteriorated as to be useless.

Oh, and there was this "trail" across the end of one swamp. This is a beaver dam, for Pete's sake!

At least there were the two rivers and numerous creeks to get the mud off my shoes each time I went in, up to my ankles. (Oh, and the rivers weren't any deeper than just above my knees, so I didn't fall or get swept downstream . . .)

Yep, I'm havin' me some fun in Maine!

MAINE HAS MORE MOXIE

My two favorite parts of this section were Moxie Bald and the nine miles along Bald Mountain Stream and the West Branch of the Piscataquis River.

I considered taking the bad-weather by-pass around the exposed, rocky peak of Moxie Bald as I worked my way up the 1,659-foot ascent to the summit. It was foggy and the foliage was so wet, it felt like it was raining. I didn't think I'd get to see the advertised great views, so why bother?

But as I climbed higher I got above the clouds and could look down on them from the rocky summit. I always love views with mountains poking above white clouds in the valleys. Once again, I'm glad I followed the white blazes.

The shortest way to Moxie Bald is to follow the AT five miles east (north) from Moxie Pond Road. This includes an immediate ford of Baker Stream, which had my nerves on edge at 6:30 this morning. Jim watched as I  v-e-r-y  c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y moved from boulder to boulder across this wide creek at the south end of Moxie Pond. I finally gave up and just got in the water before I fell into it!

BEAUTIFUL RIVER WALK/RUN

About a mile north of the Moxie Bald Lean-to I started following Bald Mountain Stream. Within three miles it flowed noisily into the West Branch of the Piscataquis River. At that point the Piscataquis was split by an island. The white blazes pointed me toward that island, requiring me to ford the river's two channels. Fortunately, the water was clear and I could see the rocks on the bottom. Two trekking poles helped me retain my balance on the very slick rocks under the water. The most challenging part of the river crossing was getting up the very steep, eroded far bank.

Then the AT follows the Piscataquis for about six miles east. Sometimes the Trail is close to the river and sometimes it roller-coasters up and down a little farther back. At all times you can hear the river as it cascades downhill and rushes through beautiful slate gorges. It ranks right up there with the Pierce Pond Stream that I loved so much two days ago.

To access the six-mile river walk (where you can run quite a bit), go west/south on the AT from paved Shirley-Blanchard Road and cross the east branch of the river. The west branch will be on your left for about six miles. It is beautiful whether it's flowing slowly in flatter areas or shooting through rock walls where it's steeper. There are tent sites along the river and a lean-to about halfway in at Horseshoe Canyon.

TRAIL FOLKS

"Steady Eddie" rode with us to Moxie Pond Road this morning so "Charlie Brown" could save some miles and take their crew car to Hwy. 15 near Monson. Ed started a few minutes before me and I saw him only once (after Moxie Bald) during the day. I saw Charlie hiking south around noon and was pleased I covered the distance it took him five hours to do in 4:15 hours. (I was at an advantage; he had on his full pack today.)

On the other side of the second-deepest water crossing today, the outlet of Bald Mountain Pond, I finally ran into "Goat" and "Buffet" again. They are a couple about our age that I first met in Virginia. Jim has seen them several times recently, but it's taken me over two months to catch up to them again. They were changing back into their hiking boots after crossing the outlet in the plastic shoes hikers like to wear around camp. They said they wanted to keep their boots dry today.

Every time I crossed a creek or river today, and got all muddy in the mud pits, I thought of the futility of Goat and Buffet trying to keep their boots dry. It's just not possible in this section, and probably for the rest of Maine!

Score one for quick-drying trail shoes. I wore my Montrail Highlines today. Jim washed them thoroughly when we got home.

Right at the end of the six-mile section I added today, I caught up to "Vision Quest," a young woman who Jim has seen several times. I've never seen her before. We gave her a ride to the P.O. in Monson so she could get her drop.

Earlier in the afternoon, Jim also drove "The Laugh Factory" ("Giggles" and "Box o' Fun") from the Shirley-Blanchard trail head to Monson so they could get their mail. They were debating whether to do some more miles, or hang out at Monson's popular hostel, run by the "Pie Lady." Monson is the last stop for backpackers' supplies until they reach the end of the Hundred-Mile Wilderness.

The only other hiker I talked to was the woman who is crewing for two northbound thru-hikers, "Kokomo" and "Bigfoot," guys about my age, while they are in Maine. They were carrying full packs until recently. We saw their RV at Moxie Pond this morning but I didn't see the men and they never caught up to me today. The crew person ("Stumblefoot") was going back on the Trail to find them this afternoon. She didn't understand how I'd stayed ahead of them all day . . .

<grin>

NO RAIN, NO PAIN, NO MAINE

OK, it's gonna rain tonight. And probably all day tomorrow, according to the weather prognosticators. Not only is a storm heading toward Maine from the west, but the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia are hitting from the southeast. Thunderstorms are likely. Whether I get up and run/hike depends on how much rain falls during the night. Tomorrow's fourteen-plus miles are at low elevation. They include some ledges, canyons, and two rivers that can be dangerous when flooded - rivers that Regis Shivers had serious trouble with two years ago when they were flooded.

I'm ready to enter the so-called "Hundred-Mile Wilderness," a rugged area with minimal road access and no towns for hikers to re-supply. Backpackers usually take eight to ten days to traverse this section of Trail right before Katahdin. Jim has the roads figured out for me to do it faster - in six segments. If the trails are easier than I expect and we have road access, I might do it in five sections.

How many days it takes to reach Katahdin mostly depends on the weather now.

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil