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 142:  SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
 
Start: Moosehead Family CG/Greenville, ME        
End:  Same - recovery day
Today's Miles:                       -0-
Cumulative Miles:          2,070.1
Miles to go:                        104.8
   
 
"The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail.
Travel too fast and you miss all that you are traveling for."
- Louis L'Amour
 


Moosehead Lake harbor in Greenville, ME

Paddle-wheeler named "Katahdin" in harbor. Katahdin-the-mountain is getting closer!    9-18-05

After yesterday's trauma on the Trail Jim and I both agreed we needed a day to rest physically and recover psychologically; yesterday completely drained me in both ways. I still have to figure out how to do the remaining 4.4 miles of that section and must wait an unknown length of time for the water to subside. I'll probably be out there again tomorrow. No more rain is predicted until Tuesday.

Today was an overcast, misty day with a bit more rain, but nothing measurable where we were in the valleys. I hope that will give some time for the streams to abate.

After a relaxed breakfast and computer time enjoying the Wi-Fi connection right at our site, we went into nearby Greenville, Maine. Jim ran near Moosehead Lake and through town while I did a couple loads of laundry. We also got groceries.

Most of the afternoon was spent driving to AT trailheads. We had to figure out how best to get me back to the northeast shore of Big Wilson River AKA "Stream" without hiking another tortuous route like I took yesterday. I doubt there's any more of a "trail" there than the bushwhack I did going out on the southwest side.

First Jim showed me the northern route he took off KI (Katahdin Ironworks) Road that goes to the trail head at Long Pond Stream. Jim said the double creek crossing looked better today, although the far side was still churning.

Next we drove to the Hedgehog Checkpoint, one of the "gates" in the 170,000-acre KI/Jo-Mary Multiple Use Management Area. Thirty miles of the AT traverse this combination logging-recreational area. Some of the dirt logging roads that Jim will use to get me to and from trail heads have user fees and certain times they are open.

We talked to the woman manning the checkpoint and got a bit more information than we already had. She also told us KI Road wasn't graded this year as usual. That explained all the holes and bumps! It takes a long time to negotiate these roads, whether they are currently used by logging trucks or not.

Our last route was from the south side of the AT. We hoped to find a mile-long side trail that would get me up to the AT faster than trying to follow Big Wilson. The first gravel road was a dead-end but the second one was correct. Jim was able to drive up six-tenths of a mile before the road got too bad. We walked up the remaining four-tenths of a mile and found the AT - success!

We saw a hiker walking on the road. He had hiked down the trail Jim was on yesterday that follows Little Wilson Stream to the bridge across the Big Wilson Stream. He by-passed about five miles of Trail to avoid both creeks, upon the advice of a south-bound hiker he met this morning.

The hiker's trail name is "Fido." He rode up the side trail in the truck and we walked up to the AT together, talking. My philosophy is different than his. Fido just kept going north without back-tracking to do the part of the AT he missed. He probably did the same mileage on the side trails and roads, and I suppose this is legitimate.

However, I feel compelled to back-track a mile and a half tomorrow to catch the piece I missed from Big Wilson to the new side trail. Both will add a couple miles to tomorrow's section, but I'll feel like I covered the whole Trail.

My current plan is to do the remaining 4.4 miles from Big Wilson to Long Pond Stream, then the next 15.6 miles through the Barren-Chairback Mountain Range to the West Branch of the Pleasant River.

JUST TELLIN' THE TRUTH AS I SEE IT

Sometimes I worry that journal readers will think I'm a "Drama Queen," exaggerating the difficulty of the Appalachian Trail through New Hampshire and Maine. Although I sometimes take a bit of "literary license" describing my reactions to things, I've never deliberately exaggerated facts about the Trail itself.

I've tried to give an accurate description of the entire Trail to benefit others who want to hike all or part of it. Obviously, YMMV - "your mileage may vary." My perceptions may be quite different from yours, especially if the weather is appreciably different on the day you are there.

Today I've been reading some of my friends' recent entries on the Trail Journals website (and I'm delighted to see entries by some hikers I didn't know were doing journals, like "The Honeymooners," "Hareball," and "Still Walking"). I wanted to see what their reactions were to the Whites and Mahoosucs, in particular.

Believe it or not, some hikers had even stronger reactions than mine! Now I know I'm not a "Drama Queen." For example, read "Longhaul's" August 28 entry as he carefully climbs up Mt. Webster in the Presidential Range. His detailed description of the difficulty of finding hand- and foot-holds is very vivid. The fear he feels looking back down where he's climbed is palpable.

When I saw "Goat" and "Buffet" a few days ago I whined a bit about the difficulty of the Trail in NH and ME. They concurred. Since they live in NH, I asked them how much of the AT they'd hiked there before their thru-hike. Most of their mileage was done on other side trails. I mentioned how much more civilized the side trail was that I took down from Madison Hut twice. They said that is typical; every side trail they've hiked is appreciably easier than most of the AT through New Hampshire.

CAN IT GET ANY WORSE?

I guess I just don't "get" it. I'm not alone, either. I don't understand why the AT has to be so user-unfriendly, even dangerous, in New Hampshire and Maine. What's the point? Bragging rights?

Not only is the Trail steep and rugged in New Hampshire, it is also difficult to find the way with all the different trail names, poor signage, and minimal blazes. In Maine, the Trail is well-marked but the bogs, swamps, and rivers are a major hazard. Why risk peoples' lives in these wet areas, which must flood fairly regularly? Isn't it worthwhile to build some decent log or wood plank bog bridges through swamps and footbridges over large streams?

I expected the distance and elevation change of  2,175 miles along the AT to be a big enough challenge for a 56-year-old woman with arthritis. Five months ago I had no clue if I could finish. But I knew I'd give it my best shot.

Now here I am with just over 100 miles to go, and in some ways the goal seems farther away than it did on Springer Mountain in Georgia.

I can't believe some of the things I've forced myself to do to keep moving forward - the tough climbs and descents; the rugged trails; the dangerous "suicide slabs" (these current slate slabs are the slickest yet); near-vertical rock walls; boulder fields; Mahoosuc Notch; swamps and bogs with rotted "bridging;" and now having to fight my way across raging creeks and rivers, my life hanging on a half-inch rope strung fifty feet between two trees.

What's next?

Can I possibly face anything more hazardous in the next 104 miles? Will I be able to overcome similar challenges ahead? Is my will to finish strong enough?

Stay tuned to find out!

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil