I hope Tom gets to fulfill his dream when his kids are older. And maybe one
or more of them can share the experience with him!
I've met lots of father/son hiking teams on the AT, as well as moms with one
or more of their kids, husbands/wives, sisters/brothers, and other family
combinations. Most are out for
the weekend or a couple weeks, section-hiking. There's at least one older fella
with three of his grandsons who is thru-hiking this year. I just love it when
family members share adventures like this!
This is my third and last rest day this week. Jim's out doing a long run this
morning and we'll be heading back to our campground in Pennsylvania this
afternoon. I'll be back out on the Trail tomorrow.
I thought I'd use this entry to respond to some questions readers have
asked (or comments they've made).
"How do you keep going day after day? Don't you just want
to sleep in some mornings?"
Absolutely. Some days I'm so tired it's hard to get out of bed. Recently
I've looked like a cripple until I walk around for a few minutes and loosen up.
There are sections I'm not looking forward to (like the very next one!) but I'm
motivated by the "finish line." I have a goal that's important to me. I've
wanted to do this for so long and I consider it a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to fulfill my dream. That goal helps me get my rear end out of bed
when I'm tired, something hurts, or it's raining.
Everyone reading this has goals that are important to her/him. No matter
what's going on in your life at the moment keep your goals in mind and always
be working at them until you achieve them.
"Do you think you can break the women's speed record on the
Not unless I suddenly get a younger, sturdier, faster body! I have 1,068
miles to go in 35 days to beat the current "record" of 103 days. That's 30 miles
a day with no more rest days. I'll be taking off at least five days around
Vermont 100 next weekend and I'll need one rest day for about every six days of
running the rest of the trek. In addition, some of the toughest miles remain in
New Hampshire and Maine.
I still believe I can finish in my original
"realistic" goal of 120 days, which is near the end of August.
"It's too bad you don't like
the rocks. I myself (Jay) like rocky trails. Maybe you will like them after
Pennsylvania. The Massanutten 100 is waiting and has your name on it for next
Have I mentioned how rocky the AT is? Oh. About 600 times?? Never mind . . .
Very funny, Jay Finkle! He's one of our buds from Roanoke. He and Graham
Zollman, another ultra runner from Roanoke, both enjoy running on rocks and have
completed Massanutten. The motto of this northern Virginia race is "Massanutten
Rocks!" It's probably the rockiest 100-miler in the USA.
I've come to a truce with the rocks on the AT. I'm trying to learn about and
appreciate the geology of the Appalachians but that doesn't mean I have to like
running over, around, under, and through the quartzite, greenstone, shale, and
other forms of rock found here. I'm not looking forward to tomorrow's run
either. It's the first of the "Rockies" in Pennsylvania: Rocky I, Rocky II,
Rocky III, and Rocky IV. Even David Horton complained about them in his book
about his 1991 AT speed record.
No, Jay, I seriously doubt you'll ever find me running Massanutten. You know
that phrase about he_ _ freezing over first?? There are some races I'll never
do and this is one of them (Badwater is another, for completely different
"Why isn't Cody running with you any more?"
I miss my little trail buddy! Water was the main reason I stopped taking him
with me after about three weeks. He requires a lot more water than he can carry.
I'm already loaded down enough with my own water. It got very difficult to find
adequate water when I was running so much on the ridges, above the springs. It's
time-consuming to go down off the Trail to springs, then back up.
Heat is another factor, especially now. There aren't enough creeks that are
deep enough for him to immerse himself and get really cooled off. His thick fur is
black, absorbing even more heat.
The rocks would also be more of a problem for him than I originally thought.
Not only would the pointy ones hurt his feet, he'd also have difficulty on a lot of
the boulder scrambles that I've encountered. He's 70 pounds of dead weight (very
solid little boy) and although quite agile, there's no way he could get up some
of the rocks I've had to climb using my hands and arms. His pack would get stuck
in tight places, too.
In Pennsylvania I'm real likely to encounter poisonous snakes. I've been
lucky to not see any by now. That would also be problematic with an inquisitive
There are sections of the Trail that are very "dog-friendly" but many are
not. The folks I've talked to that are thru-hiking with dogs have mentioned the
problems above. In addition they have to consider the dog's food, what to do
with the dog at shelters and in towns, and how to get through the Smokies and
without the dog (not allowed there).
Cody and Tater get to run with Jim sometimes when he's coming in to meet me
on the Trail at the end of the day. I wish I could run with Cody more but it's
just not practical or good for the the little guy.
"Could you talk a little about the dog-friendliness of the
areas you've been in (campgrounds, towns, etc.)?"
All the public campgrounds we've stayed in, including state parks, national
forests, and Shenandoah National Park, have been dog-friendly. So have the
private campgrounds but that's one of the things we have to consider when we're
choosing them - some private campgrounds don't allow dogs or have size or
other restrictions. Some charge an extra fee (one campground we recently stayed
at charged $3 per dog per day).
The towns (Hot Springs, Damascus, Erwin, Harpers Ferry, Boiling Springs,
etc.) along the Trail are probably more dog-friendly than most because they're
used to some thru-hikers having dogs with them. Still, hikers run into problems
finding hostels, B&Bs, and motels that allow dogs. And most restaurants
aren't going to allow them inside!
If we run into any problems in this regard the rest of the trip I'll make a
note of them.
While on the Trail Cody was well-accepted because he's obedient and
well-behaved. Some folks ignored him but most wanted to pet him. Many hikers
have dogs at home and really miss them while they're on the AT.
A couple observations after two-plus months on the AT:
Sometimes when I think back to some of the places I've been on the Trail that
I've really enjoyed, like the Smokies or Mt. Rogers (the ponies!), it seems like
so long ago. On the other hand, at times it seems like the first half of the
adventure run has gone by very quickly. I'm in Pennsylvania already??
It's kinda like marriage. You know the standard kind of joke:
She: "Wow! We've been married 20 years already!" He:
that all?" Then, seeing the look-to-kill on his wife's face, stutters,
has it been only 20 years??"
An interesting physiological phenomenon has been occurring since the
beginning of this journey run. No matter how warm I get when I'm running I get
very cold very quickly when I stop. I can't take breaks of more than five or ten
minutes on the Trail because I get chilled. After I get in the truck at the end
of my runs I usually have to put on a sweatshirt or wrap a towel
around me to keep warm on the way home.
Looks kinda silly when it's 90 degrees outside!
Is this an endocrine system problem? Drop in blood pressure? Jim initially
thought I was being a Drama Queen until he realizes he does the same thing after
50- and 100-milers. He has to put on something warm pretty soon after finishing.
A couple times he's gotten a massage soon after completing an ultra and he's
gotten so cold on the table he started cramping up.
If anyone knows why this happens we'd appreciate the