Jim, Sue, Cody, and Tater at Springer Mtn., start of the Appalachian Trail Adventure Run


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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
Previous          Journal Topics by Date            Next
Start: Hogpen Gap, GA                                      
End:  Unicoi Gap, GA
Today's Miles:                      13.6
Cumulative Miles:               50.5
"Live your life so that at the end of it you will have no regrets."
- Unknown

Cody at falls on old roadbed

Running gear air-drying on picnic table at campsite after today's run.  5-2-05

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 started thinking,

"Why didn't they name this mountain chain the Rockies instead of the one out West?"

and, "I shoulda run the PCT!!!"

Just kidding.

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.


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.


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 Trail.

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 surgery again!

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!

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

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  2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil