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: Perham Stream/logging road                       
End:  Maine 27/Stratton
Today's Miles:                      16.8
Cumulative Miles:          1,987.1
Miles to go:                       187.8
"Are you coming or going?" 
- stupid question of the day (my response below)

"Patch" napping in the middle of the South Branch of the Carrabassett River

Boulders to negotiate on north side of Sugarloaf Mountain         9-10-05

There's a saying that ultra marathoners like to toss around, especially during 100-milers: It never always gets worse.

Ha! They've never done the entire Appalachian Trail from the south to the north. I'm convinced this Trail is just going to get harder and harder until I reach that sign at the top of Katahdin in (ta, da!!) fewer than two hundred miles.

Who are these trail-routing masochists, anyway? Why do they keep sending us through the worst boulder fields, rock slides, and rivers with no bridges???

I'm happy to report I lived through today's section. I wasn't so sure on the way down Sugarloaf Mountain through a steep, harrowing quarter mile of boulders, one of the toughest descents I've ever encountered. And I could hear the boisterous river from over a thousand feet up the mountain, knowing I was going to have to ford it soon. That was nerve-racking.

But you know, it was kinda fun to climb down those boulders and hop from one boulder to another across the river since I wasn't in a big rush today. And it felt soooo good to be done with both "obstacles" in today's run/hike. I worry too much.

The Maine AT Club is right about this section and yesterday's being difficult. Yeah, they threw in some easier miles, but the rest of it makes everything south of New Hampshire look easy.

If you're bored with the trails in your neck of the woods, come spend your next two-week vacation on the AT in Maine or New Hampshire.


The weather held up beautifully for another day. It's getting chillier, though: only 46 degrees this morning when I started up Spaulding Mountain. There was light wind all day in the mountains and valleys. Fall is coming.

We wouldn't want to be around here in the winter. Yesterday Jim found out this area receives thirty feet of snow annually. I imagine it's more on the mountains. You can't miss the huge woodpiles in everyone's yards. Brrrr. It's interesting to see how close we are to Canada when we're watching the weather reports on TV each night.

Quiz of the day: we hear the term "Mainers" a lot on TV and radio to describe the folks who live here. While we were in New Hampshire, we didn't hear what those folks call themselves: New Hampshirians? New Hampshirites? New Hampshirese? New Hampshirers?


This section includes five mountains but summits only three of them - Lone Mountain and the north and south peaks of Crocker Mountain (elev. 4,228 feet, today's highest). There are side trails to the tops of Sugarloaf (Maine's second-highest mountain) and Spaulding.

Considering the fact that I've been following white blazes up and over, what, at least a thousand? mountains the last four months, I wasn't particularly interested in doing bonus mileage up these two mountains. Yes, the views would have been scenic. In the interest of saving time and preserving my knees, however, I declined and continued following white blazes farther down the mountains (still between 3,750 and 4,000 feet high).

As usual in Maine, some climbs and descents were gradual to moderate and some were super steep. The largest gains were 1,750 feet up Spaulding over four miles and 1,820 feet up South Crocker in two-point-five miles. Total gain was about 4,900 feet.

The longest drops were from Sugarloaf down to the South Branch of the Carrabassett River (1,700 feet in two miles) and the north peak of Crocker Mountain down to Hwy. 27 (2,750 feet over five miles). Total loss was 6,100 feet.

That's a total elevation change of 11,000 feet in about seventeen miles. No wonder I'm tired! It'd be different if the trail surface was smooth and runnable, like many trails out West. There you don't usually have to pick your feet up so high to get over all the rocks and roots. That's what makes the AT so tough in New England: the rugged trail surfaces, not so much the elevation gain and loss.

The woods were mostly very peaceful and pretty today. There weren't many views; the summits were treed but the MATC has cut away some trees in a couple spots so you can see the surrounding mountains and valleys.

This section doesn't have any ponds or lakes. The river is the main water feature. If that's your goal, it's only one-tenth of a mile from dirt Caribou Valley Road - a much simpler way to arrive than going down Sugarloaf's boulder jungle gym!

One interesting feature in this section is the bronze plaque on Spaulding Mountain that commemorates the construction of the final two miles of the AT back in 1937 by the CCC.


So, I've just successfully (i.e., safely) completed one of the top ten toughest AT descents through boulders coming down Sugarloaf Mountain and rock-hopped across a potentially dangerous river. I'm more than relieved to be done with that, and feeling a little cocky that I actually enjoyed the adrenaline rush.

In a tenth of a mile I come to Caribou Valley Road. Two men and a woman are standing beside their car, day packs on. The 40-something woman looks at me and asks, "Are you coming or going?"

Huh? Two smart-alecky responses immediately flash through my brain:

1. Yes.

2. Some days I'm not so sure myself!

I have no clue what information this woman is seeking. I laugh, and she thinks I'm either rude or nuts. I joke that I'm not sure some days, but right now I'm reasonably sure I'm heading north on the Appalachian Trail.

Just what information did she want? The direction to go to the river.

Well, silly woman, why didn't you just say that?? There are interesting features in both directions. How was I to know?

Guess you had to be there. I laughed about her question the rest of the day.


Since it was a sunny Saturday most of the hikers I saw were just out for the day. The only thru-hiker I saw was "Patch," who I first found napping on rocks in the river. He heard me jumping from boulder to boulder and asked if I'd seen "The Honeymooners," who were ahead of us. Nope. Never did catch them, either.

Close to the river I saw two young couples with several small children, who were having lots of fun in the rocks. It's great to see parents out like this with their kids, enjoying nature. Near the end of my run/hike I talked with a couple about my age who are section-hiking for a week. Christine and Bill are from Pennsylvania. Bill has hiked over 1,000 miles of the AT, Christine a bit less. I was in a hurry to run on down the mountain to meet Jim so didn't talk with them too long.


Jim had a more relaxed day than yesterday - no major adventures or misadventures!

After dropping me off at the trail head he got the truck's steering linkage straightened out at an auto shop in a local town. The mechanic didn't have a new part in stock but this temporary fix will work until we get home for a permanent repair.

Next he went to the library to download e-mail, upload a couple journal entries, and complete other critical internet tasks. He learned all the high schools and libraries in Maine have Wi-Fi connections, which may help us keep current with the journal. Cell phone coverage is spotty here and we are unable to get on line when we have "extended service."

Jim also did laundry and a myriad of other tasks around the camper before coming to pick me up.

He saw a flyer about a community celebration today in the nearby town of Avon. The barbeque-and-hamburger lunch sounded appealing, so he drove over there for a while. This is a photo he took of several women who comprise the SAD 58 Steel Drum Band, which was giving a concert during lunch:

Jim didn't stick around for the baby crawling race, men's log-throwing contest, pickled egg eating contest, women's weed whacker throwing contest, or red neck horseshoes (using toilet seats).

Just Avon's way of "saying good-bye to summer and feeling fortunate to live where we do."


Tomorrow I pass the 2,000-mile mark on my journey to Katahdin. Jim had an interesting observation recently, as he pointed out how far I've gone on the long AT wall map in our camper (it's about four feet long). It's even more graphic than the little map on each journal page.

Sometimes I think I'm dreaming. What, me walk and run 2,000 miles?

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil