Sue, Jim & Cody on the 14,433' summit of MT Elbert, CO - The highest peak in the Rocky Mountains


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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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PREP #24:  ALL SYSTEMS “GO”        April 22

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”   - T.S. Eliot


Dogwood blossoms.  4-16-05

Our bodies have ways of telling us to “pause” even when our brains are on “fast forward.”

Such was the case this week.

Remember in Prep22 where I was almost knocking on wood about how well I was feeling after three weeks with major mileage?  I knew it needed to end, but I was having trouble gearing down for a rest week.

So my body forced me to do it.

Fortunately, it wasn’t my usual way of having to slow down right when I was starting to feel fit and ready for an event – this time, no injury.

Nope, this time I apparently caught a nasty little stomach virus from Jim, who started having symptoms last weekend. Even though it caught up to me during the night of the pizza party, it wasn’t food-borne. No one else was affected at the gathering, and the symptoms have lasted too long to be food poisoning.

This is the first time I’ve been sick for a year or more. I haven’t even had a cold.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say I haven’t been able to keep food down for three days and/or I’ve had a lot of GI distress. I have zero energy and am mentally lethargic. Jim had a fever for a few hours during his bout, but I haven't. Wednesday and Thursday I had no desire to walk, let alone run. Today (Friday) I walked four miles, but it brought neither relief nor pleasure because my stomach ached the whole time.

Some good things have come of this, however (I’m always looking for the bright side).


On the first day, when I was feeling the worst, I hunkered down in my recliner and read David Brill’s book, “As Far as the Eye Can See,” which Neal Jamison had loaned me the night before. David wrote the book about eleven years after his 1979 thru-hike on the AT. He hiked soon after graduating from college and experienced many of the common life-altering themes that young thru-hikers and others seeking answers to their life paths often experience. The book flowed nicely and was an interesting perspective since it was written a decade after his hike.

This is just one of many good AT thru-hiker books that have been published the last fifty years. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it when I was at a low point mentally and physically because it helped perk me up a bit.

Another good thing about getting this stomach bug was that it abruptly curtailed any immediate plans I had for a long run on the AT from the Dragon’s Tooth parking lot, across Catawba Mountain, McAfee Knob,  and Tinker Cliffs, and along the ridges above Carvin’s Cove to Daleville on Rt. 220. This is a pretty tough 27- or 28-mile section that will prepare most anyone for most any 50K or 50-miler on their schedule. The only thing it lacks is that "Rocky Mountain high" elevation.

Then I read in the paper that part of the Trail was closed to hikers because of a suspicious four-acre fire on Catawba Ridge, not far from the famous Home Place eatery. About 200 yards of the Trail burned. Fire crews had to hike in 1 ½ miles to get to the scene, put out the fires, and cut down snags that could injure hikers.

If I’d been up there doing a point-to-point run with Cody, I might have had a very long detour to get back on the Trail to get to Point B. I won’t know until I go up there this Sunday (current plan) if I could have bush-whacked around it. Much of the Trail in that section is along a steep, narrow ridge. I assume the Trail has re-opened by now.

Which reminds me of my third "rule" for this trek: the need to be flexible and adaptable every day on the Trail. This sort of thing could happen anywhere, any time, and I'll have to deal with it the best I can.


Being mostly house-bound for three days has also given me an opportunity to get more sleep, make camping reservations at two nice state parks during our first week in Georgia and North Carolina, finish writing three of these prep pages, assemble some items we need on the trip, and enjoy scanning a second book about the Trail.

This one is “Wildflowers of the Appalachian Trail.” Although I have several gardening books, they haven’t been very helpful regarding identification of the numerous species of flowers I’ve seen along my Virginia trails, including the AT. When I post photos of flowers on this site, I want to have the correct common and/or botanical names for them. I remembered seeing this book at the AT Conference headquarters last year but didn’t buy it then. Suzanne Jamison kindly looked it up on the internet while we were at her house Tuesday night so I could order it or find it locally before we left.

I found it at the first bookstore in Roanoke that I checked. And no wonder - the author, Leonard Adkins, not only lives near here but he and his lovely wife are fellow Roanoke AT Club  members! I met Laura the last time I did a work hike on rock bridges near McAfee Knob. I don’t believe I’ve met Leonard, but now I know what he looks like so I can introduce myself next time I see him.

This is one of those “it’s a small world” moments.

Happy trails,

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

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