Jim, Sue, Cody, and Tater at Springer Mtn., start of the Appalachian Trail Adventure Run


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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
Previous          Journal Topics by Date            Next
Start: Deep Gap, NC                                            
End:  Mooney Gap, NC
Today's Miles:                      13.1
Cumulative Miles:               95.3
"No pain, no rain, no Maine."   - David Horton

Rhododendron tunnel going up Standing Indian Mountain.  5-6-05.

People-wise, this was a great day for Jim and me.

Running-wise, it stunk!

Jim hurt one of his ankles about three days ago, running in to meet me on the Trail at the end of the day. He's able to run, but must do so carefully and with a Spenco ankle support.

I strained my inner quad(s) on Wednesday, thought resting yesterday would take care of it, and began this morning's run optimistically.

We had to go back up Forest Service Road 71 and stop at the gate; even walking to the AT the 2.6 miles from there is the closest access. I met a group of nine thru-hikers today that had to go through the same drill we did - walk to their crewed van after getting to Deep Gap yesterday, walk back in this morning. Too bad we met someone with a key to that gate after today's hike! (More about Lynn later.)

At least Jim and I could run about half of the road portion, so it took us only 35 minutes to get to the "start." Jim and Tater turned around at that point and returned to the truck and further crewing duties.

Cody and I started at 4,341 feet at Deep Gap (not so deep, eh?) and walked briskly 2.4 miles up Standing Indian Mountain to the highest we've been so far on this trek, a foot below 5,500. A back-packer started up about a minute behind me, but he didn't catch up as I expected.


Cherokee legend holds that a bolt of lightning struck this mountain, killing a hoard of monstrous creatures that had plagued the people and leaving the mountaintop bald. A warrior standing lookout nearby was turned to stone.

The views from the top were pretty much obscured by rhododendrons and laurels, as were most of the mountaintops today. These shrubs/small trees have glossy green leaves all year round. I walked through similar thickets all day, which was a nice shady reprieve from the sun. I was not only above the deciduous leaf line all day, but mostly above all the deciduous trees all day. It was nice in the shade, and there were lots of creeks and springs to further cool us off today.

The Trail was also very runnable most of the time - predominantly smooth surfaces, undulating ridges, gentle downhill grades. I got up high and stayed there. That's the good news.

The bad news is, I couldn't run once I got to the top of Standing Indian Mountain. That doggone quad (or quads) just locked up right above my knee and I got to walk the entire distance today. Even walking was pure agony until two sets of four ibuprofen pills finally took effect about two miles from the end. Downhills were torture, uphills were painful, the little bits of flat were barely tolerable.


If I could have contacted Jim when the quads went south, I would have walked back out about five miles instead of going on another ten-plus and risking increased damage to the muscles. But my only option was RFM (relentless forward motion, in ultra-speak). Although I had good cell phone reception on top of Standing Indian, Jim had none down at our campground so I couldn't even leave him a message.

I just hunkered down and went on to our first rendezvous point at Mooney Gap, 13.1 miles from Deep Gap (again, I'm not counting the extra 2.6 miles as AT mileage).

The original plan was for Jim to meet me there with additional supplies in case I wanted to go on an additional eight or eleven miles (we have several options near the campground). I was supposed to be there at noon. At noon, I was still 4.6 miles up the Trail, near the Carter Gap shelter. I tried to call him then, but had no cell reception at all.

Our contingency plan worked pretty well today. Whenever you're crewing or being crewed in a remote area and don't have reliable communication devices, always have back-up plans (yes, plural).

If I had gotten to Mooney Gap and Jim wasn't there, I was to leave a note in a baggie under a rock next to the Trail sign telling Jim when I got there and where I wanted him to meet me further up the Trail. I always have my little notebook and pen with me on the Trail, more for this purpose than to take notes as I run.

If he got there and found no note, he was to assume I hadn't gotten to Mooney Gap yet and he was to wait, run on the road nearby, or come out to meet me on the Trail.

He decided to run in to meet me, and boy, were we ever glad to see each other! It took me almost two hours longer than planned to get there, and he got in more mileage than he'd expected. He was worried what took me so long, and I was worried we'd have trouble finding each other. But it worked out because we had a plan.

The only thing I could have done better was to try my cell phone as I got closer to Mooney Gap. Turns out, there was good reception there and on up the Trail a ways. Jim had been trying to reach me, but I had my phone off to save battery power.

When I quit at 2 PM, after 5:10 on the Trail, my knee was slightly swollen and bruised. It felt much better by the time I got cleaned up, ate lunch, and went into Franklin with Jim to hunt for a knee brace (didn't get one - cheapest decent one I saw was $60). I've been using an ice pack on it and took a Celebrex after supper. I'll take another Celebrex in the morning and give the next section of Trail a try. RFM.


Jim and I met several interesting thru-hikers today.

Cody spotted Miss Wiggy first. (Most thru-hikers have a "Trail name.") She was sitting on a log at a campsite at Beech Gap, a couple miles after my leg started hurting and 'way before the ibuprofen took effect. I wasn't in the best of moods, but Miss Wiggy was very cheerful and friendly so I went over and talked to her. She gave Cody a snack and petted him, saying she missed her own dog, who she left at home.

We started on up the Trail together, talking. Her name is Karen Scalf-Benham and she lives fairly close to us in the Roanoke area. She's a Roanoke AT Club member, as we are, and a graduate nursing student.

Karen and I soon came to a beautiful creek with a huge log bridging it. (Not fun to negotiate with a very sore leg.) We heard a little squeal from the other side. Amy, another thru-hiker, was sort of taking a bath there. That's OK, we're all girls.

Karen and Amy were the last of nine thru-hikers in a group organized by Warren Doyle, famous for his numerous thru-hikes and seminars to teach others how to successfully complete the AT. Warren's wife, Terry, is one of the hikers. They are all crewed by "Sawbuck" and a woman whose name I didn't catch.

I passed the five men in the supported group while they had lunch at the Carter Gap shelter. I wanted to talk to them, but it was noon and I was 4.6 miles away from where I was supposed to be by then (Mooney Gap). Hopefully, I'll meet them soon.


Jim found Sawbuck, the crew lady, Terry, and another young woman in the group when he parked at Mooney Gap. He got to play "trail angel" pretty quickly - the crew van had a flat tire and stubborn lug nuts that neither Sawbuck nor Jim could budge. Sawbuck had called AAA for assistance before noon, and someone was "on the way."

After Jim and Tater found Cody and me and I hobbled into Mooney Gap and met Sawbuck, the crew lady, and Terry, it was almost 2 PM. The tow truck hadn't come yet. The nine hikers were planning to go another eight miles or so and camp for the night, but I think the van held their food (all of the hikers had on back packs with their gear). Jim asked Sawbuck if there was anything else we could do before we left, and he said no.

Jim and I were eating supper in our camper nine miles away at 6:30 PM when we saw a tow truck circling the campground, looking lost. Uh, oh. Jim ran out to talk to the driver. You guessed it - he was hunting for the white van. He had no clue where the van was, and this was about seven hours after the crew had called for help.

Think there might have been some hungry thru-hikers somewhere out there tonight because they all went on past the van several miles!

I'm hoping to "run into" them all through my journey. They have an itinerary with each day planned (I can't even imagine that!!) and their goal is Mt. Katahdin on September 3. They started on April 30 at Springer, just like I did. I don't know why I haven't seen any of them until now. Our time goal is almost identical. I've seen so few thru-hikers in the last week that this is really cool. Hope I can keep up with them.

Jim met another trail character in our campground; he and his wife are serving as campground hosts until the end of May. "Mountain Man Dan," who even has a calling card, is from Florida. He proudly told Jim he's 70 years old and he's been thru-hiking the AT this spring. He injured his knee near here and found the temporary campground hosting job at Standing Indian. He can camp free and let his knee heal. He plans to resume his thru-hike in June.

Views from top of Ridgepole Mountain. 5-6-05.


While we were in Franklin this afternoon, we had the pleasure of meeting Lynn DiFiore, one of the women on the ultra list who wrote to us after reading our journal entries. We've been corresponding for a few days. We got to her office at the Wayah District Ranger Station (she's an engineer) too late yesterday to see her, but caught her before she left today.

Lynn was a gold mine of information about the Trail in this area and she hopes to run a few miles with me if we can connect out there. It's hard because we have to drive about ten miles from our campground to get cell phone connections to call or get e-mail. Lynn loaded us up with local maps and other information and we were on our way.

We decided Lynn has the perfect job. She gets to be outside in these beautiful surroundings, inspecting projects to which she's assigned, and she gets three hours a week during work for exercise so she can maintain her fitness (she's also a fire fighter with the forest service). So she can legitimately run with me even during regular work hours!


I neglected to get photos today of Lynn or the van-supported hiking group members, but I'll try to get pictures of them later.

Like so many hikers have written in Trail Journals, it's not just the views and wilderness experience that make hiking (or running) the Appalachian Trail so special. It's also the wonderful people you meet along the way. I know we'll meet a lot more in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow I'll see how the knee feels and maybe go out to do seven to eleven miles.

Happy trails,

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil