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 27:  THURSDAY, MAY 26
 
Start: Iron Mtn. Gap, NC/TN                                 
End:  US 19E, TN
Today's Miles:                      28.1
Cumulative Miles:             407.4
   
 
"I'm just doing it one footstep at a time."
- section hiker, "Footstep," age 70
 


Meadow full of flowers between Roan Mountain and the Hump Mountains.  5-26-05

"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 mentioned talking 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, folks. Youch!

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.

THE HUMPS

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!

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil