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 92:  SATURDAY, JULY 30
 
Start: Co. road 565/Glenwood, NJ                          
End:  NY 17A/Bellvale, NY
Today's Miles:                      19.0
Cumulative Miles:          1,368.7
   
 
"Let the beauty you love
be what you do."
- Rumi (written on cover of trail register on top of Wawayanda Mountain
 


Sturdy boardwalk over the mile-wide Pochuck Swamp in the Vernon Valley, NJ

"Puddingstone" rocks on Bellvale Mtn., NY above Greenwood Lake. More photos in text.  7-30-05

This section of Trail is one of my favorites so far. Although there are lots of rocks to climb it's still a pretty runnable course and varied enough to make it really interesting. I kept saying to myself all day, "I wish Jim was here to see this!"

The highlight of my day came early as I entered a mile-long relocation of the Trail through the Pochuck Swamp, also known as the Pochuck Quagmire. I thought it was much prettier than the wildlife refuge I went through yesterday but maybe my perception was tainted by yesterday's mid-afternoon heat. It was only 8 AM when I trekked through the Pochuck Swamp this morning, so the temperature was cooler, there was a nice breeze, and numerous birds serenaded me as I walked the beautiful new bridging through the wetlands.

The Vernon Valley is part of New Jersey's "drowned lands," which I mentioned in yesterday's entry. Prior to 2002, the AT followed roads for two miles through the valley to avoid the sometimes-flooded Pochuck Swamp. For seven years the NY-NJ Trail Conference worked on the magnificent boardwalks and bridges that I crossed this morning. It is one of the most complicated and expensive construction projects in AT history.

The boardwalks sit three feet or more above the ground so hikers and birders can walk through the area even when the swamp has waist-deep water. Thin pilings are bored deep into the swamp. There are several observation decks, one bridge about 50 feet long, and a 146-foot "floating" suspension bridge over the Pochuck Creek.

I talked with one of the local club volunteers who helped build the boardwalks and bridges. He and his golden retriever were doing "trail magic" at the Hwy. 94 road crossing between the swamp and Wawayanda Mountain. He runs a hostel in nearby Vernon that is popular with hikers. He was very hospitable, as were all the local hikers I met today.

SWAMP DELIGHTS

Although the boardwalks are flat and the new boards are evenly spaced I didn't try to run across them. Even if I could run normally (hamstring still hurts too much, except to shuffle downhill) I wouldn't have wanted to run. I would have missed too much!

In mid-summer there is usually no standing water along the boardwalk, just lush green plants and many flowers - four kinds of tall purple flowers, yellow goldenrod, blue cornflowers, white Queen Anne's lace, and others. The only water I saw in this swamp was where the bridges are located. I'd love to see the swamp in the spring when it's flooded and early flowers are blooming.

I was amazed by the variety and number of birds out this morning. This is a bird-lover's paradise. The most elegant ones I saw were the blue herons, balancing on their long, thin legs before taking off in flight.

There were other smaller swamps on today's course, all mucky and some with standing water, but none as pretty as this one. The footing isn't nearly as good in them either - mossy rocks and roots in some areas, wobbly puncheon that behaved like teeter totters in others. But since I was mostly walking, I didn't mind.

You'd think swampy areas would be full of annoying bugs but the only time I've been "bugged" was having gnats in my face in MD and PA. As soon as I came down from the Shenandoahs to lower elevations, I started putting on Off Deep Woods spray. That and a generic fabric softener sheet kept near my face have warded off any bugs since then.

GOING THE "WRONG WAY"

The first eleven miles today were still "going the wrong way" - south! I was also going east, but it's disconcerting knowing the AT goes generally north and east and for parts of two days I'm going south. One part of my brain knows it's OK because I'm still clicking off the miles necessary to reach my goal. It's not like the miles are subtracted, or anything.

Life is like that sometimes, you know. We get sidetracked on our way to certain goals (education, career, family, etc.) and feel like we're losing ground. But it can work out if we always keep the end goal in mind and keep plugging away at it.

Sometimes the Appalachian Trail can be a metaphor for life.

"WINDING WATERS"

When I wasn't alternating between swampy and wooded areas in valleys, I was climbing rocks up steep mountainsides (Wawayanda and Bearfort/Bellvale) or walking across puddingstone rocks on the ridge. It was fun!

My first major climb was a steep 900-foot ascent to the top of  Wawayanda Mountain on a series of boulders and stone steps. I didn't need to use my hands to climb here but I had to stop to catch my breath a couple times before I got to Pinwheel's Vista overlooking the valley to the north and west.

Wawayanda is a Delaware (Lenape) Indian word meaning "winding waters." The mountain is a dramatic ridge with some of the oldest rock in the Appalachians - billion-year-old slabs of gneiss and other crystalline rocks that formed at a time when the most advanced life on earth was probably algae. Some of the boulders on the mountain were left behind by retreating ice sheets from the last glaciers about 15,000 years ago.

At the summit was the first of two "tree registers" I signed today (didn't go to any of the shelters because they were off the Trail). The quote above came from the cover of this register. Inside I noted the dates some of my hiking friends have come through: the Doyles on the 12th (doubt I'll ever catch them!), Gypsy Lulu on the 19th, Little John in the 23rd, and the Over-Forty Club right before me.

"Ah, ha," I thought. "Maybe I can catch Red Wolf, Pokey, and Gumby today" . . . and I did, about a mile before the New York border. They were taking a break. We talked for a few minutes, then I went on ahead and didn't see them until my rendezvous point on Route 17A, waiting for Jim to pick me up.

On the next hill I saw the second of three "trail magic" stashes today. There were beverages and snacks from "Holden," a current thru-hiker. The Over-Forty Club has hiked with him this year. He's one of the folks who did the "Four-States Challenge" a few weeks ago (hiking at the end of VA, through WV and MD, and just into PA in one day). Apparently he lives in the area and is taking a short break. He left the goodies for others to enjoy today.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK!

A couple miles from the New Jersey-New York state line, somewhere in Wawayanda State Park, I started going north again. Yes!

I almost missed the painted letters on the rock in the photo above because they were hidden behind a large rock in the middle of the Trail. (I was coming from the other direction.) But I noticed another "tree register" and stopped to sign it. That's when I saw the state line mark. There was also an inconspicuous metal survey marker. I was very happy to be in my ninth state!!

The name of the mountain I was on also changed at the state line: it's called "Bearfort" in NJ and "Bellvale" in NY. That seemed a bit odd to me!

This mountain stretches along the northern side of Greenwood Lake, a popular recreational destination and location for vacation homes. All along the ridge I could hear motor boats from a thousand feet above but it was less annoying than traffic noise to me.

PUDDINGSTONE? WHAZZAT?

The Trail is very interesting here. In a seven-mile stretch I had more vertical climbs up fairly smooth rocks than I've had in any one previous day on the Trail. Although it slowed me down I loved every minute of it! I had to use my hands to pull myself up or scoot down the rocks in eight or ten places. It wasn't scary like coming up out of Lehigh Gap, though. There weren't any really big drops if I'd slipped here (although you could break some bones if you weren't careful).

Here's a photo of the only "ladder" I encountered today to assist with a climb:

The rock on top of Bellvale Mountain is called "puddingstone," which is an interesting name. About 350 million years or more old, it is a conglomerate of red and white quartz pebbles and other types of rock and it shows the scraping action of glaciers. It is smoother than other rocks I've seen until a few days ago along the AT, and pretty easy to run on (unless wet).

There were many colors in the rocks in the NY section today - from blue-gray to greenish to reddish purple, many with white streaks running through them. Sometimes it was difficult to follow the white AT blazes because of the natural white streaks in the rocks.

The Trail zigzagged up and down from the sunny rocks on the ridge to welcome shady respites in the woods 50-100 feet below. There were lots of hemlocks, other pines, hardwoods, and rhododendrons in the lush forested areas. Up on the rocks, the views of the lake and forests to the south were nice, especially from Prospect Rock, where I took the photo at the top of this page.

TRAIL CHARACTERS

I met a personable south-bounder (SOBO) on the Trail this morning whose name is Marc. He doesn't have a trail name. Marc is a young man from Wisconsin. He began in Maine on May 26 and will hike as far as he can until he has to stop September 1. He hopes to get into Virginia, and will complete the journey later.

Marc's a 10K runner but is interested in trail running, so we talked about that a while. And ultras, of course! I suggested he run in the beautiful Kettle Moraine forest and meet some trail runners in that area, as well as maybe go observe the Ice Age or Kettle Moraine ultras next year.

I asked him if he'd seen Andrew Thompson fly by a few weeks ago. He did, but only knows him as Traildawg. Andrew was running down a mountain in New Hampshire when he caught up to Marc. They talked a little while. Marc knows about his speed attempt. He said Andrew asked him if his knees hurt at night when he's trying to sleep. I had to laugh, since this has been a problem of mine the past month. And I'm not doing nearly as intense a run as Andrew is.

At the end of the course today I met two more section runners, "Silver Fox" and "Huggy Bear," a couple in their late 50s or early 60s. They've been doing sections of the AT for several years and hope to finish in a year or two when they are both retired.

I had a great day today. This was one of the most fun days I've had on the Trail. The weather was great, the people were friendly, the scenery was beautiful, the Trail was varied, and nothing hurt when I walked. I was able to do a little running but I don't want to strain my hamstring. I'll add a bit more running each day. My left ankle has been hurting for two days (a swollen tendon on the front) but it didn't hurt today.

I wish every day was like this on the trail!

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil