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 72:  SUNDAY, JULY 10
 
Start: PA 325                                                      
End:  PA 645/Pine Grove
Today's Miles:                      26.5
Cumulative Miles:          1,180.3
   
 
Hiker humor at ATC headquarters in Harper's Ferry:
The 16-pound bowling ball in a box of items that hikers have discarded
and others can take for free! Staff say they can always tell when
someone is looking in that box because of the burst of laughter.
 


Rausch Creek

Lots of purple clover near PA 443. Blue Mtn. is in background.  7-10-05

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 down.

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 next 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.

HEAD GAMES

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 them.

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 the miles.

RISKY BUSINESS

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!

Stay tuned,

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil