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


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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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Start: I-81/Groseclose, VA                                  
End:  VA 42/Ceres, VA
Today's Miles:                      11.8
Cumulative Miles:             546.6
"Never judge a day by the weather."
- Dave Nelson

The AT takes many forms, including wooden plank paths through wet areas

Tilson's Mill on the North Fork of the Holston River   6-2-05

Today's count:

Cows:  about 40

Wooden stiles over fences: 17

Hikers: 3 (including Tony Danza)

Turtles: only 1

It was even rainier today than yesterday, but I was happy it was cool and I was running through such beautiful country valleys and ridges. There was less fog, so I could see the views better today.

After crossing under busy I-81, I entered the farmland of Davis Valley. I took the top photo within the first mile, while I could still hear the din of traffic on the freeway. The neat wooden path through the flowers helped ease the transition from the "reality" of rushing to get somewhere to the realness of rural American tranquility.

On the climb up Little Brushy Mountain, I stopped for a few minutes at the Davis Path shelter, the only shelter on today's short section. Three young men who spent the night there were preparing to continue their hike north. I noted who had signed the Trail register lately, and added my usual message (date, time, "Runtrails passing thru. GA -> ME '05. Happy Trails!").


Before I reached the top of this 800-foot climb, I called Jim to tell him I'd goofed about my time estimate (math-challenged!) and he had an extra hour to get the camper brake controller checked down in Abingdon (this brake saga continues).

As noted before, I've usually got great cell phone reception on mountains, but not down in the valleys where the camper is and where Jim's busy driving to and fro. We were lucky to connect.

Suddenly a northbound hiker whizzed past me. It was one of the guys from the shelter. He was moving fast up that hill, like Tread Well did. These are the only two NOBO hikers who've gone up hills faster than me. I'm slow, but back-packers are usually even slower.

I caught up to the hiker when we reached the top and I could run. I stayed with him about five minutes, talking. His Trail name is "Tony Danza," a play on words because he likes to sing Elton John's song "Tiny Dancer," not because he looks like the actor Tony Danza. He recently quit his job and moved to New York; he's doing his thru-hike before he resumes working.

When we started downhill I went on ahead. It was a great run down about a mile on smooth trail to the next valley. I thought "Tony" would catch me on the next long uphill, but I didn't see him again. He was going farther than me today, so I imagine I'll "run into" him again soon.


Several of today's mountains were again resplendent with laurels and  rhododendrons in bloom. The rain had knocked some of the flowers off, but here they are still at their peak in this section.

Portions of the Trail went through working farm pastures full of cattle and cow pies made soupier with all the rain. Yuck! Glad Cody wasn't with me or he'd have been filthy. He might have had trouble getting through a couple of the stiles, too.

These were my two favorite bovines du jour:

After crossing Big Walker Mountain and Rich Valley I came to VA 610, a little country road the AT guide book said to use as a detour "during periods of heavy rain" when the low-water bridge on the white-blazed Trail may be flooded at the North Fork of the Holston River..

OK, so it's been raining for over 24 hours now. I won't know if the AT is flooded at this bridge or not until I've gone almost two miles in. If it's flooded, I'll have to retrace my steps. Boring road detour or white blazes, detour or white blazes . . .

Betcha know which option I took!

The water was well under the concrete bridge, which is just in front of the second photo of the mill. I knew I'd miss this Civil War-era mill if I took the road detour. So I took my chances, based on my observation of creeks in the area that didn't look swollen. Not that much rain has fallen.

The short dirt and wood-chip path along the river was just gorgeous, full of flowers - even yellow irises. Too bad more of the AT isn't like that! I was too busy taking photos to run on it, of course.


I finished about ten minutes before Jim got to the rendezvous point. As I walked to the parking area, two women approached me and asked if I'd seen "Sawbuck" on the Trail. He was crewing Warren Doyle's group of hikers when we last saw him near Standing Indian in North Carolina, with the crew van and flat tire.

Apparently Sawbuck is hiking with the group and not crewing any more. Mary, the crew person, said the rest of the group was camping at the I-77 crossing tonight, so I'm still a couple days behind them. I plan to do 25+ miles tomorrow, which will put me closer. Might even see Sawbuck tomorrow.

I love "chasing" this bunch! They're fun, and I want to talk to them more.

Today was a short day to give me a break without taking a zero day. Some of the climbs and descents were steep, so it wasn't entirely a rest day. But it gave me some time in the afternoon to help Jim with laundry and shopping and to meet the runner who's accompanying me on part of tomorrow's section.

After supper, Jim worked on the camper brakes and I plotted the next ten days' runs. It'll be nice to go home again briefly while we're in the Roanoke area next week - and we can see what our flowers look like!

Happy trails,

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil