APPALACHIAN TRAIL ADVENTURE RUN

   
       
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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
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DAY 143:  MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
 
Start: Big Wilson River/Maine                               
End:  W. Branch Pleasant River
Today's Miles:                      20.7
Cumulative Miles:          2,090.8
Miles to go:                         84.1
   
 
"I had to wait 2 days for my baggage, but I didn't wait to start having fun."
- "LB" ("Lost Baggage"), whose pack was misplaced by the airline
when he began his thru-hike 'way back in Georgia last spring
 


Vaughn Stream at normal levels, above (Jim didn't see any of these rocks two days ago when it was flooded).

 Fourth Mountain Bog     9-19-05

"LB" is an adaptable young man. I believe the ability to adapt and be flexible in life leads to a lot more happiness than being inflexible and too structured.

When I started this adventure run I listed three "rules" for myself: 1. don't get injured, 2. have fun, and 3. be adaptable and flexible.

Both Jim and I have had plenty of opportunities to invoke Rule #3, almost on a daily basis, as we've reacted to the weather, my injuries and need to rest, and other factors that affect the mileage I do, where we camp, etc.

Yesterday I wrote that I was planning to go back to Big Wilson River and start today's section there. This would mean hiking an extra 3 miles just to say I'd followed the white blazes the entire way.

I changed my mind this morning. I decided to be more flexible, I guess you could say. I already did the "legal" high-water by-pass of Big Wilson on Saturday. In fact, I did more than double the mileage I skipped today on the Trail, I crossed two extra flooded streams, and had to bushwhack to get to the bridge. I think that more than covers me.

Early this morning Jim drove me up the rough jeep road we found yesterday that put me within four-tenths of a mile of the AT, a little past Big Wilson River. We woke up to a full moon - a nice surprise after two days of clouds. I loved being in the sunshine all day, even though the Trail was still very wet from all the rain Friday and Saturday.

Exposed rocks were dry on top of all five mountains I climbed today in the Barren-Chairback Range, but rocks and roots in the woods were still wet and slick. I wasn't able to run much. Even walking was tough after that deluge.

The bedrock in much of the area from the West Branch of the Piscataquis Rive (near Monson) through the Barren-Chairback Range is composed of Silurian slate, an unusually dark form of slate. According to the AT guide this is an exceptionally fine-grained slate that is used in the building trade (think slate foyer or stepping stones) and as the memorial marker for the John F. Kennedy grave site in Arlington National Cemetery.

Many quarries remain in the Monson area. We've seen stacks of slate for sale at home building stores and garden centers in the area.

The stone is beautiful in every form I've seen it on the Trail - flat, rounded, whole walls in gorges, and grooved on open ledges at the top of today's mountains: Barren, Columbus, Chairback, Third, and Fourth.

And it's slicker than ice in nearly every form, even if it's not wet.

Remember that if you ever use it for flooring or as stepping stones! We inherited some slate stepping stones when we bought our Virginia house. They look nice but they're hazardous.

This was an interesting section of Trail - frustrating because of the difficult footing, but definitely interesting because of the variety of terrain. There are mountains, hardwood forests, pine forests, ponds, bogs, ledges, cliffs, boulder fields, scree, and numerous views of surrounding mountains, lakes, and valleys.

This is a view of Long Pond from Third Mountain (don't you just love that clever name??):

Even though the main peaks are all under 3,000 feet, this section of Trail involves significant gain and loss of elevation, some of it quite steep.

The largest gain was 2,040 feet from Long Pond Stream to the peak of Barren Mountain (elev. 2,660'). Total gain was about 4,650 feet. The largest descent was 1,580 feet from the summit of Chairback down to the West Branch of the Pleasant River. Total loss was approximately 4,600 feet.

FEAR AND LOATHING

I had to overcome some fear of flooded streams today, after Saturday's stressful experience. There were several creeks early in the section that concerned me, including Vaughn Stream and Long Pond Stream.

Jim saw both of them on Saturday when they were flooded and very difficult to cross. He chose not to cross Vaughn when he was first planning to meet me at Big Wilson River. "Bigfoot" crossed with difficulty while Jim watched. We saw Long Pond Stream yesterday as we traveled to that trail head and it still looked like it had a strong current.

Remember how I've mentioned before that I love running or walking next to creeks on the Trail? Now when I hear a creek or falls coming up I cringe in fear, worried that I'll have a difficult crossing because there are so few bridges across streams in Maine.

Long story short, I got across every creek just fine today, including Long Pond. Yes, the current was strong but I went upstream where it was wider, more shallow, and not as wild. The water came up to mid-thigh height. I went slowly and made it across OK. Vaughn and the other creeks were lower and easier to cross.

I ended at the West Branch of the Pleasant River today so I could see what it looks like. In the morning, I have to cross it immediately. Although it is about 100 feet wide, it was only calf deep today. Barring rain tonight, it should be fine tomorrow.

TRAIL FOLKS

I played leap-frog this afternoon with "LB," noted above, and "To-Phat" (pronounced TO-Fat with a long "O"), only getting ahead of them while they stopped for breaks. I found "Buffet" and "Goat" reading and snacking on one of the ledges with a view and talked to them about "Kokomo" and the flooded streams.

Jim saw "Chainsaw," "LB," and another hiker when he came in to meet me on the Trail. He left a dozen soft drinks and some snacks on KI Road, where he parked and everything was gone when he returned. We're hoping it was thru-hikers who got the goodies. They need them more than ever now, in the Hundred Mile Wilderness, because it'll be days before they can re-supply.

He also talked with "Bigfoot" and his crew person ("Stumblefoot") at the parking lot. They asked him if he'd seen "Kokomo." They hadn't heard from him since Saturday and had no clue he'd returned to Monson after his near-drowning in the Big Wilson River. Jim told them what Kokomo told me and they were finally able to contact him in Monson. They'll pick him up there. Apparently he's changed his mind and will return to the Trail again. I'm glad he'll be back.

Sometimes you just have to take a little time to regain your courage before you get back on the horse that threw you.

Jim was busy taking photos today, too. He visited two lakes (Spectacle Pond and East Chairback Pond) with Cody. I believe this is a photo of East Chairback Pond:

I love this colorful photo he took of laundry drying on this porch of a house near Monson. Look how orderly everything is!

I have a 21-mile run/hike planned tomorrow, getting up to 3,650 feet on Whitecap Mountain, the highest I've been in a while. And it might rain!

Oh, dear . . .

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil