The good news today is that I have fewer than 1,000 miles to go now!!!
Instead of just counting the miles I've already run and hiked I can now
obsess over how many more miles I have to go! It's fun watching that number go
The bad news is that a 27-year-old hiker from Birmingham, AL was struck and
killed by a freight train this weekend in Duncannon.
I originally wrote in this journal that he died where the AT crosses those
three rail lines just before going up Peters Mountain and I railed against the
dangers of the crossing. Maybe now the ATC would construct a pedestrian bridge
across the tracks!
I subsequently learned the hiker was struck downtown
and not at this crossing (see the
entry for a little more information). That doesn't make the crossing any less dangerous,
however. It's easy to see how someone could be killed there.
The AT Guide warns hikers about the danger because there are no warning
signals and no pedestrian bridge. The trains go through there very fast. I was
fortunate no trains were coming when I had to cross the tracks.
When I wrote the prep page about risks and dangers on the AT that I might
face, never once did I think of train crossings. I really didn't think the road
crossings would be as dangerous as some of them are, either. My warning to other
trail users is to just be very vigilant at any road or railroad crossing.
I've learned how to deal with rocks, finally: just always expect the
worst and if it's better I'll be happy with that day's section!
This is so much easier to deal with than the opposite. I used to get upset
when the Trail was so rocky because I wanted to run more. Now I'm grateful when
there are nice places to run here and there, as happened today.
Pennsylvania is notorious for its rocks. There were plenty today, from the
obligatory boulder jumbles where I'm mumbling, "This is a trail??"
to the standard try-to-find-the-dirt-between-the-rocks type of treadway. There
were the places where I try real hard to land on something relatively flat and
stable, not pointed, skewed at a wild angle, or wobbly. And there were badly
overgrown areas where I couldn't even see the rocks. Man, I hate that
because it means I can't see snakes, either!
However, there were also beautiful smooth trails today, too! I cherished
One was near the soothing Rausch Creek and Rausch Gap (also some very nice
tent sites located there). Others went through the fields and woods near the
road crossings in the middle of the section before climbing up Blue Mountain.
The rest were sporadic on the ridge of Blue Mountain, interspersed with gawd-awful
rocky areas. The last three or four miles were a dream.
I finished an hour before I estimated, necessitating a call to Jim to please
come get me earlier than planned. That made me feel good. And it was all because
I expected the worst from the Trail today.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SECTION
There were two broad ridges in the first half of today's section, Stony
Mountain and Second Mountain (one of those really creative names!). The climbs
up both of them were long and rocky but gradual. There were no views from either
of these "ridges" because of the leaves and the wide "plateaus" on top.
But the forests were pretty and there were lots of creeks. I'm so glad I
didn't run this on Friday during and after the hurricane-spawned deluge because
of all the creeks and "dry" creeks that would have been difficult to navigate
after 3-4" of rain. Some still had standing water in them, and a lot of mud.
I was delighted to find rhododendrons blooming about four miles into the run
today! There was a cool rhododendron tunnel later, which reminded me of North
Carolina. So did the pine trees in one area. There were lots of laurels on top
of Stony Mountain but they'd already bloomed. Here is a photo of one of the rhodos:
I passed the ruins of two different villages on Stony Mountain: Yellow
Springs, a long-abandoned coal-mining community, and Rausch Gap, a large village
(1,000+ people) whose industries from 1828 to 1910 were coal mining and railroad
equipment repair. It's interesting to me how towns come and go like this.
Rausch Creek/Gap was the most beautiful area in today's section. You can park
at the Gap if you just want to explore that area.
The road crossings after Second Mountain were, um, interesting. The trails
were runnable from before the PA 143 road crossing through Swatara State Park
and over to I-81. The most difficult part of the Trail to follow was the detour
under I-81, where a new bridge is being built 'way overhead. There were two HUGE
cranes sitting there today (Sunday). I'm glad I didn't get there on a work day.
The climb from the underpass to the top of Blue Mountain was grueling. It was
long and steep, over 1,000 feet. Once on top of Blue the Trail was fairly flat
for the seven-plus miles to my end point of the day. It was alternately rocky
and smooth, wide and narrow, single-track to jeep trail.
The ridge is narrow and affords nice views into the valleys when the leaves
are down. With the leaves out I could catch only occasional glimpses of the
pretty farms. They helped me mark the distance, as there were no intersecting
trails, roads, or shelters for seven long miles. I usually have distance markers
more often than that.
Some of the forest on Blue Mountain was open and airy, quite pretty. Some had dense
under-story vines, shrubs, and trees that detracted from the beauty of the large
trees. There weren't many flowers but loads of ripe berries helped me forget
I thought a lot today about risk-taking, after hearing about the hiker's
death. My thoughts morphed into the risks I'm willing to take at this point in
the adventure run.
I decided the farther I get, the less risk I'm willing to take.
Why? Because the closer I get to my goal of reaching Katahdin, the less I
want to screw it up. I've waited a long time for this opportunity and have a lot
of other resources invested in it. This "finish line" is more important for me
to reach than any race I've ever run. I'm not willing to take unnecessary risks
now, like running on rocks where I might fall and really hurt myself just to
have a faster time that day, or running during or after a torrential downpour.
I also thought a lot today about the miles I've put in already. It's no
wonder various body parts hurt! (Today it was just my knees.) When I look at a
state or U.S. map, it's pretty incredible to see how far I've run and walked. And
if the Trail was straight, it'd look even more impressive.
So . . . about 995 more miles to go!