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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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MARCH 23, 2006
"You go through life in a series of peaks and valleys."
- Gloria Grahame

The Delaware River, PA/NJ  from Mt. Minsi on Day 85

One of the rewards of climbing mountains anywhere in the world, including all along the Appalachian Trail, is seeing the marvelous views of the valleys below.

Although you've already seen many of these photos scattered about the daily journal and in previous photo essays, I will focus here on some of the peaceful valley views that await you on the AT from Georgia to Maine. Some of the photos will be new to faithful readers.

I recommend both hikers and runners occasionally take a few minutes to sit down on a lofty rock perch to enjoy the valley below. Rivers, farms, little towns - all are interesting from several thousand feet up. The perspective is simply different than when you are in that valley.

Jim's got the right idea on Day 8 on Mt. Albert in North Carolina:

Can you hear the cows mooing down in Burke's Garden in Virginia? See the tiny tractors tilling fields in Pennsylvania? Feel the cool air drifting up from the lake in New York? See the hawks catch the wind currents and swirl effortlessly beneath you in Massachusetts? Hear the faint roar of the cascades 'way down in the river drainage in Maine?

Scan the scenes below and imagine what you might see, hear, and feel from the ridges above. Breathe slowly and deeply, visualizing you are there. Tune out your busy world for just a moment. There - feeling relaxed??

OK, now look alert. Your boss is coming! 

(I've teased you guys before about reading this journal at work!)

I began seeing beautiful valley views on Day 2 of my journey. The first day was too foggy to see more than a couple hundred feet from the Trail, but the second day was sunny and clear as I headed from Woody Gap to Hogpen Gap, Georgia with Steve Michael.

Jim met us about three miles from Hogpen Gap and I got this photo of the two guys and Cody looking at the valley view in the second photo:


The AT goes through wilderness in north Georgia. This is a typical view of wooded hills (and "creeping spring"), not farms, roads, towns, or other signs of civilization.

I love that!

Along the many miles of Trail through North Carolina and Tennessee much of the scenery from my vantage points continued to be distant blue layers of ridges, with lush green valleys, shimming lakes, and tumbling streams below me. We are fortunate to have this unspoiled wilderness in the Eastern United States, and must work diligently to preserve it.

View toward Smokies, Day 13:


View from Wayah Bald, Day 10:


Hot Springs, NC & French Broad River, Day 23:


Watauga Lake, Day 29:

I showed lots of valley views in the photos from the Virginia Highlands balds in the last essay. That area is still mostly wilderness.

After crossing I-81 many of the views from ridges are of populated valleys with farms and small towns visible (and audible, like the cows down in Burkes Garden). Even from the loftier Shenandoah Mountains in northern Virginia you see more signs of civilization in the valleys than pure wilderness.

Here is a sampling of valley views from the AT in Virginia.

Farms and homes in valley near Whitetop Mountain, Day 31:

Burkes Garden, Day 35:

Catawba Valley, Day 42:

James River valley, Day 49:

Farms below Priest Mountain, Day 50:

Unfortunately, most of my photos of the valleys in Virginia are not as clear as those in some other states. There appeared to be a pervasive haze covering the valleys last June. 

I also didn't take any valley photos in West Virginia or Maryland, only shots at ground level. I wasn't up very high in either state and summer leaves obstructed any winter views below me.

However, despite being no higher than a thousand feet above the valley floors on most of the ridges in Pennsylvania, I got several idyllic (but still somewhat hazy) patchwork-quilt views of rural areas from only a couple thousand feet in elevation. Each spot looks like a peaceful place to live.

The next two photos were taken near Fisher Overlook on Day 73:


View from Pulpit Rock, Day 82:

Valley below The Cliffs, Day 83:

The clearest valley photos I took were approaching the Delaware Water Gap from the west (going north on the AT) on Day 85. The photo of the river itself is at the top of this page.

Both New Jersey and New York surprised me with some areas of the Trail feeling like true "wilderness." I really appreciated that. Again, some days in those states were hazy and some were quite clear, as you can see in the photos below.

Kittatinny Ridge, NJ north to Delaware River, PA, Day 89:

Kittatinny Ridge, NJ south to Yards Creek Reservoir, Day 89:

The next two views of Culvers Lake from Kittatinny Ridge the next day are pretty enticing, aren't they? That was a really clear, hot day and I probably would've jumped in if I'd gone right next to that lake! The Trail stayed well above it, however.


There were expansive valley views from Wawayanda Mountain in New Jersey and Bellvale Mountain across the state line in New York on Day 92.

The photo below shows part of the unusual "puddingstone" rocks on Bellvale above the sprawling Greenwood Lake. I could hear motorboats on the lake from the ridge as it followed the lake for several miles on a sunny Saturday in July but the sounds were muted by the distance and the numerous trees.

Valley views in Connecticut were primarily wooded, as the ridge walks on the Trail are mostly routed through state forests and parks.

My favorite view was from the huge "cairn" on top of Bear Mountain (elev. 2.316 feet), looking out toward Twin Lakes on Day 100:

The same day I also enjoyed one of the best views in Massachusetts from the summit of Race Mountain (although you can't really tell that from the photos I took - just trust me!):

There are also great valley vistas in all directions from the top of Mt. Greylock, at 3,491 feet the highest point on the AT in Massachusetts.

I took the next photo looking south from Greylock's summit at the end of my run on Day 104. Trees block the views somewhat from ground level on that side but you can see over the trees if you climb up the War Memorial on the summit, as Jim did..

The next morning I took this photo looking north at a beautiful patchwork of textured greens in the valley on the opposite side of the mountain:

Even sedentary and time-challenged folks can enjoy the views from the summit of Mt. Greylock - there is a road all the way up if you are unable to hike the trails.

Two of the best views in Vermont were socked in with fog or low clouds when I passed through last August.

The first is from the top of the fire tower on Stratton Mountain (elev. 3,936 feet). When we were there on Day 107 we could see only a couple hundred feet even though we were above the dense evergreen trees. I imagine the views are of forested mountains and valleys because Stratton is in the middle of the Green Mountain National Forest.

The other obscured views were from Styles Peak. Dramatic gray and white clouds covered the valley while distant peaks poked through into bright sunshine. You can see several photos of the scene on Day 109 and in Photos 26. This is also a wilderness area, so I'd guess what I missed are more forested hills and valleys.

The same day I was able to see a long valley from the top of Baker Peak (elev. 2,850 feet). I almost felt like I was on the Beartooth Highway in Montana as I looked into that valley and some others farther along the Trail. You don't have to be up at 12,000 feet to have the same "feel" as being in much higher mountains:

There is another photo from Baker Peak at the end of Photos 22.

If you have been following along in this journal - even if you've only seen the photo essays - you know how much I loved the drama of the mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. I've already uploaded dozens of pictures from treeless summits in the Whites, Mahoosucs, Bigelows, and other mountain ranges in upper New England that show countless ridges and forested valley scenes. You can see them in the journal from Day 116 to Day 148, as well as in a fair number of "Post" and "Photos" entries.

But I can't end this essay on grand valley views without showing at least a few from New Hampshire and Maine. The AT mostly passes through wilderness areas in these states, so most views of valleys consist of various shades of green - very peaceful.

Some of these four photos from New Hampshire are new to you.

Heading north on Franconia Ridge, Day 118:

Low clouds in distant valley from South Twin Mountain, Day 119:

View north on NH302 from southern Presies, Day 120:

Great Gulf Wilderness from Mt. Washington, Day 126:

Maine is full of lakes and streams, so most of my valley scenes feature inviting bodies of water. My favorite views were from the Bigelow Range, although it's hard to find any crummy views in Maine!

This is a new shot that does not show any water (those are low clouds in the distance). I took this photo from a rock outcrop on the steep ascent of Old Blue Mountain early in the morning on Day 131 as I looked back on the valley where we'd driven to that day's trail head:

For a water scene from Day 131, click the link to see a photo of Lake Mooselookmeguntic (love the name!) from the trail head where I finished that day's run.

The next photo from Day 133 in the Saddleback Range shows two beautiful lakes I'd just passed in the valleys. I have several very similar photos two days later as I ascended the Bigelow Range. I never tire of views like this:


Lake views don't get much better than the ones you can see of Flagstaff Lake from the Bigelow Range (Day 135). There are numerous lakes in this area.


There are similar views featuring the very long Long Pond from the Barren-Chairback Range (Day 143):

My favorite photo of this valley continues to be the shot I took from Third Mountain that I've shown you a couple times before. See it here.

Perhaps the most far-reaching view of valleys and mountains along the entire AT is the panorama before your eyes on a clear day on the summit of Mt. Katahdin, at 5,267 feet the highest point in Maine.

Jim swore he could see Springer Mountain, where we started in Georgia! Of course he was kidding, but the views seemed never-ending from Katahdin:

We recommend you save the climb for a nice weather day or you're missing out on a 360-degree view you will never forget. I know several people who summitted Katahdin during thru-hikes or runs on foggy or rainy days and either hiked it again or want to hike it again on a clear day.

By the way: remember "Santa?" That's him in the foreground, left, with the Santa-like beard.

His real name is Jim and he's from Pennsylvania. I saw him several times along the Trail. We both started and ended our treks on the same days, April 30 to September 24, 2005.

Pretty cool.

Next up: Let's get down to ground level in some of the patchwork-quilt valleys I saw from ridges in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and other states where the AT winds through fertile farmlands.

Moooove on over, Elsie. I'm coming through!

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

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil