"Footstep" was delightful. I met him about ten miles into today's section,
after he had summitted Roan Mountain at 6,285 feet.
Footstep tried to thru-hike the AT in 2001 (at age 66), but had back problems
and had to quit. After three back surgeries, he's section-hiking the Trail until
he finishes - hopefully by age 75. He has just a little more of the Trail to
hike in the South, then just from New York to Maine. He's slack-packing like me,
and his wife is crewing for him.
I really enjoyed talking to this gutsy man. Folks out here thru-hiking and
section-hiking who are in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s are such an inspiration
to me, just like Tread Well said folks in their 50s and older are an
inspiration to him (he's in his 40s). My athletic heroes are all older than me!
Another hiker I talked with today had to end a thru-hike because of knee
problems. He had operations on both knees, and is now doing the AT in sections.
He's hiking southbound for two weeks with his son. I met them on Tuesday when I
skipped this section. They were surprised to see me again today.
Hope I don't have to have my knees replaced because of this adventure run!
This guy looks like he's in his 40s, maybe early 50s. Although this is a big
life goal for me, it's not worth permanent harm to my body. I figure I'll
probably need new knees or hips someday, but hopefully not any time soon.
I SAW SANTA AGAIN!
I was also happy to run into one of my favorite thru-hikers at one of the
shelters today: Santa. If I hadn't "skipped ahead" on Tuesday and rested
yesterday, I might never have seen him again. He's having a great hike. He
with his wife daily on the cell phone because she worries about him. He's doing
fine, Mrs. Claus! He asked for this journal address
again so she can follow along and see his photo from Day 13. I also mentioned
when I first met him a day or two earlier.
I'm glad I didn't attempt this long, difficult section on Tuesday, when I
originally planned to run it. My left quad was better today, so I could handle
the 8,700 feet of elevation loss (much of it steep and rocky) with less pain.
Taking yesterday off was helpful.
Don't get the idea that today's section was all downhill. There was also an
elevation gain of 7,300 feet, per the AT guide. That's a total of 16,000 feet,
This section is also definitely longer than the 26.1 miles the guide says.
There were several obvious relos again. I'd add two miles to this number, which
is conservative. My favorite relo was on the north side of Little Rock Knob and
was easy to estimate because I ran the whole way down to the road crossing on
smooth, gradual trail. It was the best place to run in this whole section, and
was considerably longer than the advertised 1.3 miles.
I was expecting Roan Mountain to be the figurative, as well as literal, high
point of the day. Instead, I enjoyed all the true "balds" much more because of
their bright green grass and awesome views of the countryside. My favorite was
Little Hump Mountain. There's also a Hump Mountain that's a bit taller.
When I got to the top of Little Hump at 3 PM, I just wanted to lie down in
that lovely green grass and take a nap in the sun! If I'd been with someone to
wake me up in a few minutes, I would have done it. After I'd climbed and climbed
up to Hump (the bigger one), I found a young weekend hiker doing just that -
lying in the grass, waiting for friends.
It's too late for me to write much tonight. Because we're now camping near
Damascus, VA (Bear Tree, a beautiful forest service campground), Jim had a very
long drive to get me this afternoon. It took me 11:30 to run/walk this section
today. I did a lot of walking, so I'm not as wiped out as when I run more. The
Trail was very rocky, rooty, rutted, and steep (up and down) today. I don't know
how anyone could make very good time running this section.
But someday I'd love to return to the Humps and show Jim how beautiful they
are. Roan Mountain would be more spectacular in mid-June when all the Catawba
rhododendrons are blooming. The firs and spruces are attractive and fragrant
there, but the views aren't nearly as good as from the Hump mountains.
I learned an interesting bit of history near the Overmountain shelter. The
Overmountain Victory Trail crosses the AT here, also known as Bright's Trace.
This trail was used by frontiersmen in 1780 on their way from Elizabethton, TN
to defeat the British army at King's Mountain, SC during the Revolutionary War.
They trekked 170 miles. Their victory was a turning point in the war.
I was running/walking on the NC/TN state line a lot again today, but I've
finally finished with NC now. Two states down, twelve to go!