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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 99:  SATURDAY, AUGUST 6
 
Start: CT 341/Kent                                              
End:  Housatonic River Rd./Falls Village, CT
Today's Miles:                      25.8
Cumulative Miles:          1,488.6
   
 
Day hiker to Sue, looking at sign on AT next to the Housatonic River.
It points south and reads, Georgia, 1,480 miles: 
"Can you imagine anyone hiking that far?"
Sue: "Yes, I just did!"
 


Mossy rocks along the Trail

Narrow rock fissure to negotiate    8-6-05

The exchange above took place near the end of my run today, on a beautiful wheelchair-accessible part of the AT along the Housatonic River. (The trail surface is dirt, not paved.) I was standing at a trail intersection, trying to see which way the AT went when the 30-something fella read the sign and made his comment.

I never did get his name or trail name even though we talked for about five minutes. He lives in Connecticut and has section-hiked the AT in three states, but the concept of hiking (or running) the whole Trail at once is hard for him to grasp. He was a good source of information about the part of the Trail I'm running tomorrow, so I'm glad I "ran into" him.

For a beautiful Saturday (low 80s, lower humidity than the last few days, nice breeze, sunny), there weren't many people on the AT where I was. I saw maybe ten day hikers but only one backpacker, a NOBO thru-hiker who goes by "Sundance Kid." I neglected to ask where "Butch Cassidy" is! Anyway, he got my attention because he was wearing a red plaid kilt.

I was too shy to ask about the kilt. Some of the young women on the Trail wear skirts designed for hiking (hygiene reasons) but this fella is the first I've seen in a kilt. Whatever works.

DOING MY PART

Yesterday's thunderstorm left dozens of branches on the Trail. I started early, so not only was I the "web catcher" for the first seven miles, I was also in charge of clearing the Trail for those behind. I chose the latter role. I figured it was easier for me to flick the branches off the Trail with my trekking pole (or bend over and pick up the heavier ones) than it would be for the backpackers to do it.

It made me even more glad I wasn't out on the Trail yesterday during the storm. Some of those branches could have done serious harm to a hiker's head if s/he was under them when they came down.

The storm left the rocks wet so I had to be extra careful until they dried off later in the day. The rain did make the Trail less dusty along the Housatonic River (where the surface was sandy dirt) and in the pine forests. Everything looked fresh today, not wilted like yesterday.

ROCK CLIMBING

Most of this section was forested and very beautiful. There were "pine cathedrals" with huge, tall pine trees and lush ferns and mossy rocks below. Most of the trees were hardwoods. I'm seeing more and more birch trees, whose white bark just glistens in the sun. Unlike other days this week, I didn't see any berries today.

I no longer have to worry about losing my conditioning going up and down mountains. This section offered more than enough steep climbs from 400 to 1,000 feet high, usually full of rocks. It's not just Pennsylvania that's rocky! There were several miles of very smooth trail today, too.

One of the toughest descents I've encountered so far on the AT came early this morning on the way down from Caleb's Peak and St. Johns Ledges. My heart was racing the whole way down, almost as badly as when I climb up a steep rocky wall of rocks. The AT guide says the local trail maintenance crew has installed ninety rock steps here. It's still a scary descent because of the pitch and the distance between the rocks. I can't imagine anyone negotiating this descent with a backpack.

As proof of the difficulty of this descent, I offer the following quote from the MA-CT Appalachian Trail Guide: "These rock cliffs, named after an eighteenth-century owner, Timothy St. Johns, are used frequently for rock-climbing instruction."

A.T. SUPERHIGHWAY

This difficult section then segued into the easiest section of trail all day, a five-mile fairly flat, sandy road and trail along the Housatonic River. This river walk is the longest on the entire AT. I wish it had gone on longer because it felt like a superhighway by AT standards. It was very runnable! Only problem was, since I was going upstream by running north, the Trail was also going uphill most of the way. I ran until it got too hard, then walked to get my heart rate down - over and over. It's the same thing I do in training runs and races.

Several fishermen were also enjoying the river and the beautiful day:

Although I was able to run about one-fourth of the distance today, my overall pace was very slow (24:30 minutes per mile, including all stops) because of the numerous rocky climbs and descents that slowed me down. As in every state north of Tennessee, this one also plays the game of "come up and see our cool rock walls at the top of the mountain."

I actually enjoyed the rocks on Mt. Easter - they were quartz and came in many lovely colors and designs. They were very sharp and hard to run on, though. It's the only place I saw them today.

I got more than I bargained for when I signed up for this course!! Kinda like some ultra races I know . . .

The only annoyance today was a very LOUD motor speedway in the valley west of the last two mountains before Falls Village (Mt. Easter and Mt. Sharon). I could hear the racket for over an hour 'way up on the mountains. If you do this section try to find out when the cars are racing and do NOT hike then. It totally destroys the peace of the AT.

There was a little excitement about three miles from the end of this section. A sign warned hikers there was a detour around a train wreck; the AT has been temporarily re-routed on a nearby road until the wreck is cleared. I admit to having an insatiable sense of curiosity. I took the AT right past the train wreck! Fortunately, no one was there to admonish me or turn me back. (I'm finally admitting seven months later that I did this. I didn't want to be a bad influence on any of my younger readers while I was actually on the Trail. I'll include a photo of the wreck in one of my photo essays.)

The only unusual critter I saw today was a little orange salamander. I haven't seen one of those for several states. This one didn't have the purple circles on his back, though.

I had a long but very satisfying day on the Trail today. This whole section is worth your while to run or hike. I really like the Trail in Connecticut.

Tomorrow I leave the state, however, and enter Massachusetts, my eleventh state!

Progress.

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

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  2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil