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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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MARCH 15, 2006
"It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out;
it's the pebble in your shoe."
- Muhammad Ali

Distant blue ridges as seen from Blackrock Mountain in Shenandoah National Park.

I am continuing with the general theme of environmental diversity of the Appalachian Trail, and working from the macro (sky) down to the micro (little stuff, like leaves and bugs). I covered the sky more thoroughly than I originally planned (typical of me!). Let's see what happens with the next essays about mountains, valleys, and eco-zones.

I'll start with those beautiful blue ridges for which the Appalachians are renowned.

A portion of the Appalachian Mountains that stretches from north Georgia to Pennsylvania is designated the "Blue Ridge." South of Roanoke, Virginia the range forks, forming an immense oval until the forks join again at Springer Mountain in Georgia. The western ridge includes the Smokies and Nantahalas and the eastern ridge is what is popularly known as the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Although the AT technically follows the Blue Ridge only in Georgia and parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, I photographed the phenomenon of "blue ridges" all the way to Maine: when atmospheric conditions are right, the distant mountain layers fade into lighter and lighter shades of blue. I find it fascinating.

Here's a photographic tour from south to north of some of the magnificent blue ridges I observed from the Appalachian Trail. This is the first I've shown about half of these pictures.

This was one of my early glimpses of the distant blue ridges from Georgia on Day 4, a little north of Unicoi Gap:

The ridges closest to me were still brown at the peaks in early May. You can see the green leaves as they "creep" up the next ridge, and the distant blues of the ridges on the horizon.

You definitely get your money's worth of expansive blue ridge vistas along the AT in North Carolina and Tennessee! The views were particularly nice in North Carolina on the way up to and through the Smokies. I had great weather those days (5 through 13) and the first day in the Park (14).

Here are some blue ridge sightings in southwestern North Carolina, beginning with one of my favorites:







Some of the best views of distant blue mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee are from the numerous balds. I'll feature balds in the next essay, but include this shot heading toward the Humps from Roan Mountain on Day 27:

Unfortunately, many of the distant blue ridges in Virginia, my home state, were obscured by haze when I passed through in June. This was especially true in the Shenandoah Mountains.

The next set of photos are from various vantage points in Virginia, beginning with a view from Whitetop Mountain on Day 31:

I caught this view of blue ridges from Apple Orchard Mountain on Day 42:

Some varying shades of blue mountains were also visible from Cold Mountain  . . .

 . . . and The Priest on Day 50:

Although Day 53 was overcast in Shenandoah National Park when Jim and I ran and hiked on Blackrock Mountain, the photo at the top of this page shows the blue ridges in the distance. There's a horizontal view in the journal that day.

You can just barely see layers of blue ridges through the haze beyond Stonyman Mountain in the Shennies on Day 56:

Even though the official Blue Ridge Mountains extend into Pennsylvania, I didn't notice (or capture in pixels) any more multi-layered blue ridges until I got to New Jersey. In the mid-Atlantic states you tend to see just a single ridge in the distance rather than ridge after ridge after ridge. As in Virginia, the air was often hazy and even the single and double ridges were more muted than in North Carolina and Tennessee.

This is a view of the Delaware River and Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania taken from New Jersey's Kittatinny Ridge on Day 89. You can just barely see the faint blue second ridge:

Jim took this shot of the Hudson River from West Point in New York on Day 94, showing several layers of low mountains in the distance:

Below is a photo of the Hudson River from Bear Mountain State Park in New York on Day 95, looking south toward New York City. I was happy to see blue ridges instead of signs of civilization!

Now you'd think I'd have some decent "blue ridges" photos from southern New England as I got back into higher mountains. But, noooo. I don't.

Maybe there weren't any other ridges besides the ones I was on. Maybe the views were there and I just didn't photograph them. Maybe the leaves in August blocked them out. Most likely it's because I wasn't above tree line again on a really clear day until I got to New Hampshire.

The White Mountains of New Hampshire more than made up for any lack of blue ridges in the preceding seven states. Wow.

The next four photos are from Day 118. I took the first three as I was climbing Franconia Ridge from the south toward Little Haystack. The fourth one is up on the ridge just before I reached Mt. Lafayette.




Boy, was I ever happy to be back above tree line again!!

The next morning (Day 119) I got these ridge views from the top of South Twin Mountain:


Day 120 in the southern Presidential Range between Mt. Webster and Mt. Washington was also chock full of blue layers of ridges in the distance, as shown in the next set of photos:




That last shot on Mount Monroe shows so clearly the range of blues from dark navy closer up to pale, pale blue at the horizon.

Cool, huh?

The next photo may set a blue ridges PR (personal record) for me: in the large original size, I can count at least nine ridges back south toward the various Carter and Wildcat peaks that I'd climbed that morning (Day 125). My vantage point is on top of Mt. Moriah. You can see another photo from here in the journal that day.

There were at least two clear days when I was in Maine to see layers of blue ridges either where I had already run or where I was heading.

One of these was Day 135 in the beautiful Bigelow Mountains. The first shot is looking south beyond the lakes where I'd just run. I love the "sawtooth" look of the ridges and the "been there, done that" feeling of satisfaction I got every time I could see so clearly what I'd recently accomplished.

The next view is looking north and west to another sawtooth pattern of mountains that I'd climb in the next two weeks. Katahdin is in there somewhere!

You can see more photos from the Bigelows in the journal on Day 135 and in Post 14.

There were also good views of distant ridges from the Barren-Chairback Range, which I climbed on Day 143. You can see a photo from Third Mountain in the journal that day. I was in near white-out conditions above tree line on Whitecap Mountain on Day 144, missing any potential blue ridge vistas, and none of our photos show such a view from the top of Mt. Katahdin, the last exposed summit.

Next up: southern balds that I loved.

<sigh> So many more mountains out there, and so little time . . .

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

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil