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: US 220/Daleville, VA                                
End:  VA 43/Bearwallow Gap
Today's Miles:                      21.7
Cumulative Miles:             690.6
"I found your AT trail journal web site after it was featured in's newsletter yesterday."
- from Robert, a 15-year-old, in an e-mail to us on June 10

Dru Sexton and Graham Zollman crossing one of the beautiful creeks on today's section

Graham dunking his head in another stream!  6-11-05

That CoolRunning newsletter link generated several more nice e-mail letters to us. The internet is amazing.

I enjoyed the company of not one, not two, but three of my Roanoke running buddies today! We had more fun than ought to be legal.

Graham returned with his partner, Dru Sexton, and Neal Jamison joined us for the first eight miles before heading back to his car. He will join me at the end of tomorrow's run, too.

Graham and Dru met me in their Jeep at the end point, Hwy. 43 at Bearwallow Gap just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 90.9. We all had difficulty driving a few miles on the parkway with the dense fog, but it was clear and sunny when we met Neal back at the start, the Park 'N Ride on US 220 in Daleville, where Graham and I finished yesterday.

As mentioned previously, I'm doing three segments out of sequence this weekend so my friends can help me with transportation while Jim's out of town. I couldn't have run on the AT without them!

We were all excited about seeing new trails today. Neal hasn't been on this section at all, I've done only the first three miles, and Dru and Graham had only been up to the Fullhardt Knob shelter at about 5 miles.

It was the first time all four of us had been together since the going-away party before Jim and I left, so there was plenty to talk about as we hit the trailhead. We were a happy bunch as we trudged through the woods, wet grass, and old apple orchard to the I-81 underpass, through another woods, up a hill to a pasture with cow pies but no cows today, and up 1,250 feet toward Fullhardt Knob, the first big climb.

If I'd been alone, I would have been irritated by the noise of the traffic on I-81 for the first couple miles, but with this lively group, I was hardly aware of traffic - only our conversation and the heavy, sweet smell of honeysuckle.


The best story I heard today was the one about an eccentric Roanoke resident identified in the newspaper as "Peggy." I had to ask Neal about the story later so I didn't get my facts wrong, and he sent me this information from the Roanoke ATC site description of the shelter:

"This shelter seems to be a magnet for controversy. It is the last shelter on the Appalachian Trail to use a rain cistern. Rainwater is collected from the roof and stored in a large tank. A spigot just behind the shelter serves as the water source.

This shelter is also notorious because it has been the
on-again-off-again home for an otherwise homeless woman named Peggy who believes herself to be the deposed queen of England. She is, at times, belligerent and she leaves a lot of trash behind; but she does not appear to be dangerous."

Neal continued, "I did a google search for Fullhardt Shelter AT Peggy, and even found this picture:"

Graham thinks he has seen this woman at the shelter before. It was obvious she was a "squatter" by the volume of possessions she had, including a large radio. She was eventually "evicted" by authorities, and there's no sign of her now.

Wonder where she went? Sounds eccentric enough to be an ultra runner!

I haven't seen anyone living at any of the shelters I've seen along the Trail so far, but I've seen some men in tents out in the forests that look like they're more "permanent" residents than just hikers. They just look and act different. I say hi and keep on going, not engaging them in conversation like I do other hikers.

We spent several minutes at Fullhardt Shelter, eating snacks and reading the register after our long climb. Graham showed us how the water system works: rainwater is collected from gutters on the roof. It is routed through a closed, locked concrete cistern. Water is piped about twenty feet away to a spigot. I'm not sure why this is the last such system on the AT. It looks pretty efficient to me!

It was another warm, humid day but we didn't have any rain on the Trail. We were all pleased by how runnable (smooth) the first fourteen miles were to Blackhorse Gap next to the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were more rocks after that, but not bad, and we crossed the Parkway several times at overlooks. The views of the Peaks of Otter (Sharp Top and Flat Top) six miles away and other mountains were very clear.


After Neal turned around near eight miles, Dru, Graham, and I enjoyed about five pretty creeks with water cascades in the next few miles. We were getting warm enough by then to dip our hats and bandanas in the water a couple times, and by the last creek Graham dunked his head in the water (photo above) and I stuck my hot feet into a whirlpool in the middle of the stream and soaked them, shoes and all! Felt great. (I don't get blisters from wet shoes and socks like some runners do. Grit is my enemy.)

The forest seemed particularly beautiful in this section, with lots of wildflowers, and we all noticed how much birdsong we heard, almost as if we were in an aviary. It was the most I'd heard the birds anywhere on the Trail. What beautiful music!

I'm surprised there weren't more hikers out today, a sunny Saturday on a great section of trail. We saw two young thru-hikers at the second shelter at Wilson Creek, where I read the register. We didn't go down to the shelter at Bobblett's Gap because it was too far off the Trail.

I took Fall #9 in the last section when I was getting more tired. Graham said it looked pretty graceful. A more nimble runner would have just kept rolling and landed on his feet again, but I'm not nimble - or quick. I landed on soft dirt and foliage and it didn't hurt this time (only hurt my ego!).

It was another great day on the Trail with good friends. It took us 7:30 hours to complete the run/hike with all our stops, 6:45 forward motion per Graham's chrono. We all agreed we'll use this runnable section of the Trail near our hometown for training in the future.

Thanks for the delicious chocolate chip cookies with nuts, Dru! She presented me with a couple dozen cookies at the start of our run. The recipe is on the Crisco label. Yum!!!

Jim's been gone two days now and I miss him a lot. We talk to each other on the phone several times a day, including on the Trail. His sister is doing better now and he plans to come home tomorrow. It's a 12-hour drive, so he won't be home until evening.

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

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  2005  Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil