I was sailing along today for the first ten miles of relatively smooth
trail along the ridgetops, enjoying the 360-degree panoramic views of mountains
and valleys, when I suddenly came upon these horrible jumbles of rocks and I
"Why didn't they name this mountain chain the Rockies instead of the
one out West?"
and, "I shoulda run the PCT!!!"
But I do think the PCT has many fewer rocks. I'll just try to think
positively that this is good training for the infamous rocks I'll find soon enough
on the AT in Pennsylvania and New England.
This was a new section of Trail to me so I didn't know what to expect beyond
the official ATC information (trail guide and map with elevation profile). The
series of trail books gives you lots of interesting historical information and
facts about distance, shelters, springs, roads, etc. - but virtually nothing
about the trail surfaces. And all I remembered that Steve told me about this
section was that it was "easy" compared to what I'm running tomorrow.
RUNNIN' THE RIDGES
So I was very pleased with the first ten miles. I was running ridges that
didn't have as much elevation gain and loss between mountaintops and gaps as
the last two days, and the Trail wasn't nearly as rocky. Not only were the views
expansive on the ridges, but the breezes were also nice. It was another sunny day in
the 50s up where I was, and the 60s in the valleys.
I was above the "leaf line" all day (sorta still in the "winter" phase of
"creeping spring"), starting at 3,450 feet, topping out at 4,025 feet on Blue
Mountain, and dropping from there to only 2,949 feet at Unicoi Gap (like Blood
Mountain, it felt like more of a drop than that).
Cody-pup was my running partner today. He had on his pack with two liters of
water but we found several springs and little creeks for him to get water. The
first little falls was about five miles in (photo above) and surrounded by
lovely tall, yellow flowers.
There were numerous beautiful flowers along the Trail today. Most I had already
seen the last two days but some were new to this area or I just missed them
before: wild strawberries, skunk cabbage, toadshade trillium, wild
geraniums, white and blue daisy-like flowers with yellow centers, tall purple
flowers, and others I can't find in my wildflower ID book.
I was surprised by the number of little water sources today. They just came
out of the ground on the up-slopes next to the Trail. I'm not sure if they were
true "springs" or what. I did pass near the spring that is believed to be the
source of the Chattahoochee River, which flows through Atlanta and beyond.
"STOMPS" AND THE OLD ROADBED
I'm learning some interesting terms along the way. One of the first gaps I
ran past today was White Oak Stamp, then later, Poplar Stomp Gap. "Stomp" and
"stamp" are used interchangeably in Appalachia to indicate a place where
livestock were kept in the early 20th century by farmers who lived in the
hollows ("hollow" is another good word!). Unfortunately, neither gap was marked
so I wasn't sure when I passed either of them.
The character of the Trail totally changed from Low Gap to Cold Spring Gap.
These gaps weren't marked either, but I knew when I first hit the old roadbed at
Low Gap that was a source of controversy in the 1930s.
In 1934, the CCC began building a road in this area as part of the same
national initiative that resulted in the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.
When the Georgia AT Club discovered it went by their brand new Rocky Knob
shelter, they were just a bit upset and successfully appealed to the Forest
Service to stop building the road because it conflicted with the Appalachian
By then, however, five miles of the recently-built Trail had been destroyed.
Some folks still think the AT should be re-routed on this five-mile section,
but I liked it. It's obvious where the 10-foot wide roadbed was built into the
side of the mountains, but trees, shrubs, and other plants have reclaimed most
of the area between the bank and the edge of the "road" where the two-foot wide
Trail runs. It reminded me of parts of several ultras I've run. Not a problem!
Near the end of this section was one of several thick stands of mountain
laurels and rhododendrons. Suddenly the "road" ended and I was back on another
lovely ridge with great views and cooling breezes.
Then came four miles of rocks, including a 1,076 foot descent, that took me
and hour and a half to negotiate . . . Mumble, grumble. I just
have to go slowly through those sections so I don't end up having ankle or foot
I finished today's run in 4:25, a little longer than expected but not bad
considering the slow pace through the rocks. I was a bit concerned that Jim
wasn't at the parking lot when I ended my run, so I sat on a comfy log and
stretched while Cody rolled around on the leaves, happy to have his pack off.
Jim showed up in about ten minutes and we went "home" to our new campsite at
Moccasin Creek State Park farther north in Georgia.
We almost didn't get there. Thank goodness Jim is a mechanical whiz. We had a
problem with one of the camper slide-OUTS not wanting to slide back IN this
morning so we could move the camper. Jim got under it to investigate and found a
big problem with the gears and a bolt that was sheared off. He was able to
jury-rig it so the slide would go in, but it'll need to be fixed in a more
permanent fashion soon. There is also a problem with the camper brakes, so he'll
be busy fixing them tomorrow.
Before the trip I was concerned about finding campsites along the way, but
hadn't thought too much about mechanical problems with a camper that is less
than two years old (and recently out of warranty!). Always something to distract
us from the job at hand.
Jim was so busy with the camper, going into town for parts, moving to another
park, getting groceries, and ferrying me to and from trail heads that he didn't
get to run today. He and Tater do plan to get in a good run from our camp site
up to the AT to Addis Gap and back tomorrow.
We have internet access at this campground so we can get on-line. Thanks to
all the folks who've sent us supportive e-mails recently, and to Lynn and Kevin
for North Carolina/Virginia campground info. As you can see, we need all the
help we can get!