People-wise, this was a great day for Jim and me.
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.
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.
COULDA, WOULDA, SHOUDA
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
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
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.
MISS WIGGY AND OTHER TRAIL CHARACTERS
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
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.
BEING A TRAIL ANGEL
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.
NEW ULTRA FRIEND
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