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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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PREP #26:  ON THE ROAD AGAIN    Friday, April 29

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.Ē    - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Top to bottom: Helen, GA; Sandy Geisel with her other dog; Sue typing in the camper on the eve of the AT Adventure Run.  Photos 4-29-05 (2nd two by Jim).

Road trip!!!!

Iím writing this page from our campsite at Vogel State Park in north Georgia. What a beautiful park! We highly recommend it. Iím glad we get to enjoy it for several days. There are numerous trails in the park and surrounding mountains, a lake for swimming and fishing, and huge shaded campsites next to a clear, rocky creek with lush rhododendrons on the far bank (not yet in bloom).

It doesnít get much better than this!

Oh, maybe it does Ė tomorrow morning I begin my AT Adventure Run!  Tomorrow. Wow. Iíve waited a long time for this opportunity.

We got the camper packed on Wednesday and drove about eight hours yesterday from our home east of Roanoke, VA to this park. We already have a list of about ten things we wish weíd brought. I think I have all the essentials for running, though. The rest we can buy or get when we go home in two or three weeks.

We crossed the AT three times in transit yesterday: once in VA on I-81 near Groseclose (odd name!), on I-40 at the TN/NC border on the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and near the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) in NC.

Iíve read about the NOC in hikersí journals because itís a popular stop for supplies. Itís also a very popular white water rafting venue. Even though it was raining, we saw about a dozen kayakers navigating a slalom course on the Nantahala River, and two rafts upstream.


Today we drove over a hundred miles through idyllic north Georgia mountain valleys and up and over several mountain gaps so I could show Jim some of the trail heads for the first few days of the trek and to check out the best roads to use when we move our camper next week.

My favorite little mountain town is Helen, a German/Scandinavian-themed village that is a favorite weekend escape for folks from metro Atlanta. We also saw license tags from several other states, indicating the tourism industry has done a good job advertising the area.

When I lived in Atlanta (1974-1999), I used to visit the Helen area once or twice a year, mostly for races but also to show it to visitors. I played tourist guide to Jim today, driving up the Hog Pen Hill Climb course (Iíll end my run Sunday at Hog Pen Gap, where the road race finishes), walking by the numerous shops in downtown Helen, having lunch at a quaint bakery, and enjoying the antique Sautee General Store with its 19th century farm tools, attire, musical instruments, elixirs, and other items used by mountain families generations ago.

We donít have cell phone service here at Vogel State Park so we used the library in Helen today to get our e-mail and upload the last prep page. That means the first few trail pages will be a day or two late, depending on when Jim can get to town or somewhere our cell phones work with the laptop.

Thanks, friends, for all the well-wishes youíve sent. I really appreciate the support, and will need it all along the way.


During the day we Jim called Steve Michael, who used to be my ultra running training partner in the late 90s when I lived in Atlanta. Steve will be running with me the first two days of my AT run. We coordinated our plans for tomorrow based on the prediction for severe thunderstorms tonight and early in the morning.

Steve indicated one of my other Atlanta friends, Sandy Geisel, would be with a hiking group at Vogel SP today and tomorrow. I havenít seen Sandy for probably ten years and didn't know if I'd even recognize her now.

On our way back into the park about 5 PM, I looked down at a trail next to the lake and saw a woman running with her Doberman. I joked to Jim, ďHey Ė maybe thatís Sandy!Ē  She had on a hat and was far enough away that I wasnít sure.

Well, it was Sandy! What luck. We spent a few minutes relaxing with her and talking before she had to leave to meet friends in Dahlonega. Sheís a Team in Training leader for a group of hikers preparing for a hike in the Grand Canyon in three weeks, and they have a tough hike out of Vogel  planned for tomorrow.

Sandy runs ultras and adventure races. She had on a Western States 100 shirt and told us about an exotic six-day adventure run she did on the coast and through the jungles of Chile. It was great to see her again and catch up on some of her news.

After supper tonight I got out my ďdaily check-off listĒ of running supplies, mentioned in Prep10. Itís the best way I know of to be sure I have what I need on the Trail each day. We have our supplies pretty well organized (for now!) in the camper so it will be easier to get out what I need each evening/morning for the next run. I donít want to waste too much time hunting clothes and supplies each day. Weíll need to get into a routine pretty quickly.

Iím familiar with most of the section Iíll be running tomorrow, and know pretty well what items Iíll need considering the terrain and weather forecast (rain in the morning, sunny and 70s in the afternoon). Other days, when Iím at higher elevations, in unknown territory, or not as aware of the weather forecast, Iíll need to carry more than I will tomorrow.  My pack weight should never be more than about ten pounds, and most of that will be water weight.


I donít know how he does it, but Jim has the ability to find the greatest cards for various occasions. Tonight, on the eve of my grand adventure, he presented me with this one:

On the front it says, ďI was going to wish you luck, but you donít need it. Youíve already got brains, courage, and heart.Ē 

Inside, it reads, ďAll you need is a pair of red shoes and a feisty little dog.Ē

Perfect!  Got a feisty little dog (Cody, not Toto), but Iíll have to hunt for those red shoes! Think Montrail makes some for trails??

Jim also wrote a loving message that ended with, ďIíll be your crew Ė all you have to do is run.Ē

Like I said earlier, it doesnít get any better than this. And we sure aren't in Kansas any more!!

Happy trails,

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

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 © 2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil