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 62:  THURSDAY, JUNE 30
 
Start: I-70/US 40, Maryland                                 
End:  PA 233/South Mountain
Today's Miles:                      31.7
Cumulative Miles:          1,066.3
   
 
"Our greatest glory consists not in never failing,
but in rising every time we fall."
- Vincent Van Gogh
 


As usual, the beautifully smooth trail above soon morphed into this non-trail section below. 6-30-05

Each time I've done runs/hikes of 11-12 hours on the AT I'm so wiped out at the end, and have so little time left in the evening, that I don't have the mental energy to write. Even if I've taken lots of notes during the day it's difficult. There's just too much to do to get things cleaned up (including me!) and ready for the next day, to eat properly, and to get to bed at a decent time.

And when it's an emotionally draining day, too . . . well, then it could take several days to write the entry! Such is the case with this section. I'm finally writing it on July 4 on a rest day.

I began this section in Maryland and ended in Pennsylvania. It was satisfying to reach my seventh state - Maryland has only 40 miles of the AT, so it went quickly.

This day was also the end of my second month on the Trail. I'm almost halfway done mileage-wise and believe I can finish by the end of August. Going for a new women's speed record for the AT looks improbable, however.

It was time to move the camper north again so Jim dropped me off at the trail head parking area at I-70 and headed to Gettysburg, PA to find a campsite. Because of the long day I started before 7 AM while it was cooler. Temps were predicted in the 90s again in the valleys and I wouldn't be any higher than 1,900 feet - not high enough to escape the heat.

As usual I began with a climb. This one wasn't so bad, only about 600 feet up to Pine Knob then a bit more to Annapolis Rock and Black Rock Cliffs. For the first nineteen miles I was still on South Mountain, a name applied to a succession of narrow ridges. If this was Virginia, each summit after a gap would have had a different name! South Mountain is a Maryland state park for its entire length.

The birds were out in full force, as yesterday, to serenade my passage. Many laurels filled the woods at the higher elevations. All had finished blooming already, their browned blossoms still clinging to the branches, marking the transition between spring and summer. The whole Maryland stretch of trail is very attractive and would be even more so when the laurels are in bloom earlier in June.

About eleven miles in, just after MD 77, I was totally distracted by lots of ripe raspberries and got scratched up getting to some of the tastiest ones a few feet off the Trail. Yum! I've been seeing ripe berries for a couple days now.

Between MD 77 and MD 491, near Warner Gap Road and Buzzard Knob, was a beautiful pine forest with long-needle pines and hemlocks. I just love running on soft pine needle trails. The Trail was as schizophrenic today as always, though - sometimes very smooth, sometimes rocky beyond belief, and everything in between.

The rockiest section began right after the lovely pine forest area. I had an 800-foot climb up Quirauk Mountain to High Rock, today's highest point. The initial ascent was steep and involved clamoring over boulders. I stopped for a few minutes at Raven Rocks (pictured below) to enjoy an awesome jumble of huge rocks off to the side while I ate a muffin, then continued climbing.

The ridge here was alternately rocky and smooth. Since the day was so long I by-passed the Devil's Racecourse shelter (3/10th mile off the Trail) and the boulder "river" called Devil's Racecourse another 1/10th mile beyond the shelter. I've been over enough similar boulder rivers on the Trail to not feel the need to go that much out of my way to observe another one, thank you!

I wasn't expecting such a gnarly descent from High Rock to Pen Mar and the Pennsylvania state line. This is one of the toughest rock scrambles I've encountered in over 1,000 miles of the AT. There was no trail for much of the next half mile. I just had to follow the blazes and determine what was the best way to get from one to another. It was a real balancing act and very tough on my knees. These rock scrambles are easier on my knees going up. (This isn't in the rocky photo at the top; it was much worse, and steep.)

It rained, apparently pretty hard, on this section of Trail yesterday afternoon. For most of the day the rocks were pretty wet and slick. I slid numerous times but never took a hard fall because of the rocks. I just had to be very careful, which decreased my pace even more. With over 31 miles planned for the day I didn't have much time to dawdle anywhere. It was an RFM kind of day (relentless forward motion).

WELCOME TO PENNSYLVANIA!

Just before the Pennsylvania state line the AT goes through a lovely area called Pen Mar that was a very popular resort from 1877 to 1943. It was built by the Western Maryland Railroad to promote passenger traffic; gas rationing during World War II caused its demise. Pen Mar is now a tranquil park with a great view (but very hazy today) of the valley to the west.

Just after Pen Mar I crossed into Pennsylvania. There is a sign for the Mason-Dixon Line (from the 1765 survey) and for the state line. I called both Jim and my sister, who lives near Philadelphia, to announce my arrival. Neither answered so I left messages. I was happy to be in my seventh state!

There was also a sign indicating the Trail was following an old trolley line from the early 1900s. The Pen Mar Post Office, trolley office, and Jim's Pop Corn Stand used to be located here.

Soon after the state line I had a hot, steep 800-foot climb to Mount Dunlop. I passed an older male hiker and his younger female companion. Both were struggling and didn't seem to appreciate my attempt at humor ("Are we having fun yet??") any more than fellow race participants when I ask that question about two-thirds of the way through an ultra!

C'mon, we're all out here to have fun, right? OK, sometimes it's a lot of work and not so fun.

TRAIL PEOPLE

About two hours into my run/hike I saw "Charlie Brown" hiking south. He flew home to get his van so his three-some ("The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly") will have two shuttle vehicles. They're the older fellas who ditched their full packs and are now slack-packing and enjoying their thru-hike a whole lot more.

This time I got a photo of Charlie. Now all I need is a picture of Little John and I'll have all three of the guys. After I take off some days in July I'll probably be behind them and eventually catch up to them again.

At the Cowall shelter I met my second ridge runner, "Ramen" (as in noodles). Dave is from Baltimore and is on the Potomac AT Club staff, as was Web Breaker. He expects a very busy summer as folks from the eastern cities come to the higher elevations in Maryland to escape the heat and hike this summer. He has to do more back-country education with weekend hikers than thru-hikers, who already know the drill.

Later I met a young man called "Neon" who just returned to the Trail three days ago after a six-week hiatus to let a torn Achilles tendon heal. We were negotiating part of the tough descent from High Rocks together, figuring out the best routes to take through the rock mazes.

I also came up on "Knees," a 30-something fella from Wisconsin who is a race-walker. He was especially interested in my way of trekking the AT. He's a race walker because of bad knees and he got his trail name from knee problems early in his thru-hike. We talked about the beautiful Kettle Moraine Forest (north and south units) in his home state, where I've run the Ice Age 50-miler and paced twice at the KM 100-miler.

I stopped at the Deer Run Lick double shelters but didn't read or sign the trail register there because it was in use. I had the Antietam shelter and double Tumbling Run shelters all to myself, however, and spent some time reading the entries. A thermometer at Tumbling Run indicated the temperature in the shade at 1,200 feet was 80 degrees. And by then, 27 miles into my run, I was getting fried.

BAD CREW DAY

About that point I called Jim to let him know I was five miles out but moving slowly in the heat and rocks. It was the first I'd talked to him since he dropped me off early in the morning. Little did I know that he'd had his worst day on the adventure run. He let me know he was running late, was having a terrible day, but would get to the rendezvous point as soon as possible. He didn't want to talk about what went wrong.

So there I was, out in the woods with five miles to go, worrying about Jim, the dogs, the camper, the truck. I had no clue what went wrong, so I imagined the worst. I tried to hurry faster so he wouldn't have to wait for me, and promptly fell down.

That's #15 if I'm keeping score correctly.

I slowed back down. I'd get there when I could, but it would be safely. I ended up waiting about 45 minutes for him so he didn't have to wait for me after all.

Jim's problems started soon after dropping me off at I-70 and US 40. He got into a traffic jam that took two hours to drive five miles. He was towing the camper and couldn't turn around; he was captive.

We were unable to make reservations at any campground in Gettysburg for just Thursday night. There was a popular Civil War re-enactment going on all Fourth of July weekend and the campgrounds didn't want to rent a site for only one night; they were holding out for late-comers who'd be there all weekend.

Jim got to his first campground choice at 10 AM. They'd "probably" have a site but he'd have to wait until noon to get in. He was pretty impatient by then and it was getting hotter and hotter. Both dogs were with him and he was concerned about keeping them and himself cool.

He decided to go back to a nearby RV service place to see if they could look at some problems we've had with the camper. They said they could be done in a couple hours, so Jim unhooked the truck and went back to the campground. At noon he got a site (for just one night), set up a chair in the shade, put the dogs on their 20-foot cords, and read some running magazines.

He was incredibly frustrated that the RV service center did not finish with the camper until nearly 5 PM! There was all this historic stuff in Gettysburg and he couldn't go see it. If the camper was ready earlier he could have set it up, turned the air conditioner on, and left the dogs inside, free to explore Gettysburg. He couldn't leave them alone, outside, at the campground or in the truck (too hot) while he explored.

So he spent the whole afternoon reading and getting increasingly frustrated.

Although he regretted taking the camper in, it was a good thing he did. We could have had a serious accident if he hadn't. You see, when they were fixing the brake pads they noticed two large holes in the inner sidewalls of one of the camper tires! Even though Jim had worked on the brakes he couldn't see the damage and had no clue. So now our camper has one new tire . . .

By the time he got the camper set up I was already waiting. No problem - there was a nice raspberry bush behind the large rock I was sitting on! And a Trail Angel had left a bag of ice-cold soft drinks nearby, so I was pretty happy waiting there, just concerned about what had gone wrong with Jim.

The final straw for him was choosing a winding, hilly road to come get me. I swear, on the map it was straight! You know how that goes. But he did finally get there, we got back to the nice cool camper (around 7:30 PM) with the nice, safe new tire, and we dealt with our respective exhausting days in our own respective ways:

Jim relaxed outside in the cool evening air with a beer, and I showered and got us something to eat - my biggest priorities after a long, hot day on the Trail.

And now you know why this didn't get written until four days later! Fortunately, if you've read Day 63's entry, you know Jim got to see some of Gettysburg the next day.

Don't get injured. Have fun. Be flexible and adapt. Our three "rules" get tested nearly every day out here.

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil