We've gotten such a barrage of letters lately, I'm going to have to do
another "From the Mailbag" segment again soon.
I really appreciate all the well-wishes from readers since I've been injured.
You guys help keep me going!! Thanks so much.
I'm happy to report that today's walk felt great. It still hurts my right
knee and thigh (hamstring area) and hip (piriformus) to run, but walking is
fine. I have to "lead" downhill with that leg, and uphill with the stronger left
As long as I remember those two caveats, and don't run quite yet, the leg
feels OK. I managed a 25-minute/mile pace today over 23.5 miles, which I
consider good for all the rocks (still). That also includes all my stops.*
I'm trying to savor every minute I have the opportunity to be on the Appalachian
Trail. I'm flirting with injuries that could end my journey prematurely. I want
so badly to finish, to stand proudly next to the sign at Katahdin and know I
earned a photo there with my arms in the air like all the other thru-hikers before me.
I hate sitting around the camper doing "rehab," wondering if I can continue
northward without undue agony or permanent damage.
[*A couple folks have asked why I don't use my watch's chrono feature to just
count the forward-motion pace each day. That's how I've usually measured my
training runs - stopping the watch whenever I stop for anything.
But it was too hard the first week of this adventure run to remember every
time I stopped to turn it off, then turn it on again, that I decided I wanted to
just count overall time. The pace has never mattered much to me, except to be
able to give Jim decent estimates of when to pick me up at the end of the run. A
lot of days I don't even figure out the pace or include it in this journal.]
As you can see from the photo caption above, I saw another bear today! Not
that YOU can see it. He wouldn't hold still long enough for me to get a
close-up and the photo gets distorted when I try to enlarge him any further.
I've seen six "real" bears on the Trail so far, when I'm walking or running.
Two cubs were in the Smokies, one adult was just north of there, and Jim and I
saw two cubs with their mother in the Shenandoahs. We also saw a "camp" bear in
the Shennies but he doesn't count even though he passed through our campsite
and down to the AT a few feet away. I wasn't hiking when I saw him.
Forty-five minutes into the hike this morning a SOBO female hiker warned me
that she'd seen a bear off the side of the Trail about 1/4th mile back. I had my
"bear radar" out big-time, hoping to see him. A hiker had told me that he's seen
more bears on the AT in NJ than in the Shenandoahs and I've read in registers
about recent bear sightings.
Alas, no bears all morning. The woods were mostly "open" today, with views
through the trees. I saw several deer, but was disappointed the bears were
hiding from me.
About 2 PM Jim called to see how I was doing. I was in a dense, narrow
"tunnel" of trail between the Culver fire tower and Gren Anderson shelter, which
was unusual today. About a minute after we hung up, I heard a loud rustling in
the underbrush ahead of me and decided it was probably more deer.
I'm not sure who was more surprised when around the corner came a BEAR,
running toward me! I yelled out something stern like "Hey!" or "NO!" and the
bear stopped short, stood up on his/her legs (about five feet tall), then
immediately dropped to all fours in a non-combative stance. The bear was only
about twenty-five feet away from me. It looked like a yearling or a very small
adult female but was definitely larger than this year's cubs.
We had a stand-off for about one minute, long enough for me to get out my
camera and take two photos but not long enough to get a good close-up shot. I was
talking normally to the bear at this point, imploring him/her to stand still
long enough to get his/her picture!
My next thought was, "Why was he going so fast? Is something chasing him?"
Bears are at the top of the food chain, aren't they? I mean, not including
humans with guns? Was someone else coming up behind him and toward me,
sandwiching the bear between us?
Not a real good situation, so I called out, "Is anyone on the Trail?"
answered. (I saw only three hikers between 7:20 AM and 3:45 PM today, not
exactly a busy trail.)
There was nowhere for me to go except forward or backwards. The shrubs were too
dense for me to move off the Trail to do a detour, and I didn't want to turn my
back to the bear and return the way I'd come. I had to get the bear to turn
around or get off the Trail.
Well, yelling for another human being was enough of an incentive for the bear
to go crashing off into the woods about as fast as he'd come barreling toward me
on the Trail!
And we both lived happily ever after. I kept going north, making sure the
bear was still off the Trail and feeling guilty for traumatizing him at the same
Oddly enough, 2/10ths of a mile before my destination at the Deckertown
Turnpike I found the Mashipacong shelter area wrapped in crime scene tape. Oh,
no! Was someone murdered or something? (Happened to one couple many years
ago on the AT.)
No - there were signs warning the shelter was closed due to bear activity,
and a bear trap was laid nearby.
I couldn't immediately determine where the Trail went so I was standing
outside the tape surveying the situation and hunting for blazes. Two rangers
pulled up and showed me the way, then went to inspect the trap (empty). At the
road crossing the AT was taped off. If someone was going south, they'd see the
tape and warning not to cross it.
Now what the heck do I do if I run into that situation somewhere up the Trail
and shouldn't go on? Backtrack to the last road crossing? What if I can't reach
Jim by phone?
Another "emergency" for us to ponder.
THE BEAUTY OF NEW JERSEY
Jim and I were both ignorant of how
beautiful this section of New Jersey is until we came here yesterday. There are
many large farms and attractive homes. It's not at all like the busy urban areas
closer to the coast.
I'm surprised at how
wild the Trail feels so far. There is very little road noise below the ridge of the long Kittatinny Mountain. There are
nice views from the
open woods, many lakes down below, and pretty scenery in the distance. I
crossed over several beautiful "balds" today like the one below:
The Trail is still very rocky, however. Does that ever end? Today the Trail
was just plain schizophrenic, from very smooth dirt road and trail sections to
rocks that rival the worst that Pennsylvania had to offer. There were the
obligatory up-and-over-the-rock-wall sections (one where I needed to use both
hands to pull myself up) and many large slanted rocks at a 35-to-45 degree angle
that were easy to negotiate on a dry day but would be tricky when wet.
Mercifully the Trail by-passed a couple of rock rivers.
Despite the rocks I'd recommend it for a run or hike, especially the first
14+ miles from Millbrook Rd. to Route 206.
It was a good day for wildlife.
On the way to the trailhead this morning Jim and I saw two deer and their
large, spotted fawns crossing the road near our campground, and I saw several
other adult deer along the Trail. There was the bear, always a treat to see. There was a frog chorus at the pond I walked
along about a quarter of a mile into the hike. And I saw all the other usual
critters during the day - turtles, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, lots of birds.
No rattlers (despite a note left this morning that one was nearby).
In addition to the abundant wildlife there were numerous berries ready for the picking:
tiny blueberries and larger blackberries and black raspberries. Yum!
I'm looking forward to another interesting day on the Trail tomorrow. Stay
tuned . . .