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: Standing Indian Campground, NC                 
End:  Standing Indian Campground, NC
Today's Miles:                        -0-
Cumulative Miles:               82.2
"There is no satisfaction without a struggle first."  - Marty Liquori

Trout lily and wood anemone near Deep Gap, above.    Photo taken 5-4-05.

This is my first "zero" day to rest. If you ready yesterday's journal entry, you know why I need a day off. I'm in much better spirits today after ten hours of sleep and no running.

An interesting thing happened this morning at Lowe's.

Jim and I needed to go to Franklin, NC, the nearest town, to get some supplies and use the internet because we don't have cell phone service at our campsite in the Nantahala National Forest. We use the cell phones to get on-line with our laptop computer.

Our first stop was Lowe's, a store where I usually enjoy shopping. But as soon as I walked in, I was overwhelmed with sensory overload. There were bright lights, lots of people, a bazillion items on display from the floor to the ceiling. I just blinked a few times and shook my head. It was starting already!

I didn't instantly flee or anything, but I had to laugh at how little time it took me - only five days in the wilderness - to appreciate the solitude and beauty "out there."

My thought was, "I can't wait to get back on the Trail tomorrow!"

Traditional thru-hikers usually have a difficult time with "re-entry" after four to seven months on the Trail. Most go into trail towns every few days to pick up their mail drops, get supplies, do laundry, eat out, and stay in a hostel or motel, but they are out in the wilderness even more than I will be. Every day I'm on a road heading back to our campground, so I'm not as removed from civilization as they are.

David Horton eloquently commented on the difficulties he faced returning to "real life" after only 52 days on the AT when he set his speed record in 1991. He was away from his wife and kids most of the time and he spent a few nights on the Trail. Even though I'm with my husband and we're in our camper every night, my method of running the Trail is more like his than the thru-hikers. I haven't had a chance to discuss this yet with Regis Shivers, who ran the AT in 87 days in 2003, but I'm guessing he faced a transitional phase afterwards, too.

So I've been expecting an adjustment period at the end of my adventure run. I just didn't expect the Trail to grab hold of me so quickly! I'm pleased, actually.


In this entry I'd like to share some random thoughts about my journey after five days.

There are several reasons I'm keeping this journal. I thought my daily trail entries would be short, but there are so many memories I want to record that these entries are as long or longer than the prep pages. I'm reneging on my promise to keep these pages shorter - sorry!

I realize some readers are interested only in how far I go each day, how long it took, and what the Trail was like. That's fine. I'll include that information in each entry.

But this adventure run is so much more to me than an athletic feat. It's also about enjoying the views, the flora and fauna, the history, and the amazing variety of people with whom I'm sharing the Trail. So all that will be included, too.

The main reason I'm recording so much information is to have a detailed record for myself and my family. The journal and photos will become part of a voluminous memory album that will be fun to read when I'm 100 years old, can't run any more, and live in a nursing home somewhere! [Two years later: Ha! How about twenty albums or more??]

My second purpose is to share the journey with other people. Some folks are just interested in vicariously enjoying the experiences we're having, like reading about an adventure in a book. Some have told us they share the same or a similar dream and hope to do a long trail themselves some day. Maybe they can gain some knowledge from what I'm doing, or get more motivated to accomplish their own goals by seeing how much fun (and agony) we're having.

I can empathize with the folks who are envious of our freedom to follow this dream. I've waited 36 long years for the opportunity. I wasn't able to do it until both Jim and I were retired. I hope my readers don't have to wait so long.

Life has a way of interfering with our playtime, doesn't it? So many other obligations get in the way - getting our education, maybe getting married and/or having children, following career dreams, ad infinitum. It's hard to carve out two to seven months to run or hike a long trail like the AT unless you're just out of school, making a career or other life change, or retired.

Just ask David Horton how hard it is to take even two months off work and away from his family to do this, let alone several months longer to finish the trek at a more pedestrian pace like I'm doing.  David is probably making sacrifices to be gone a third time for his PCT run this summer. I hope it will be easier on him (and Nancy) than the AT trek was. If you haven't read David's book about his AT and Trans-Am runs yet, I highly recommend his book, A Quest for Adventure. 

David, tell Nancy I think she should write a book after your PCT run!

And one of these days, Jim's going to write in this journal about his crewing adventures. Like me, he's had good days and bad ones - and we've only been gone from home a week!!!


The internet is so amazing. We post our entries one day, and often have responses in only a few hours from friends we know and friends we haven't yet met. Wow! This is so different from Horton's experience fourteen years ago. I wonder what he'll think about this during his PCT speed attempt. 'Course, I've got more time to read my messages and respond to them since I'm lolly-gagging my way up the AT and he's flying up the PCT. I remember in David's book how much the written notes and cards he received meant to him along his difficult journey.

Jim and I both love reading the messages and phone calls we receive every day from folks following our progress. Thanks so much! We'll try to respond as quickly as possible to your questions and comments.


Two of the people that I've most wanted to correspond with the last few months are Diana and Regis Shivers. I mentioned them in a couple of my prep pages. As noted above, Regis ran the AT in 2003, averaging over 26 miles per day. Diana crewed for him much as Jim is doing for me (they slept in their Jeep or motels instead of a camper), so their method is the closest to ours of anyone I know.

We've never met Regis and Diana but I know now that when we do meet, we'll feel like long-lost friends. The last we'd heard about Regis on the ultra list was that he was struggling after having throat cancer last winter. I hesitated to bother them, but finally sent them a card and note about a month ago. When we didn't hear back, I worried that Regis wasn't doing well.

So we were delighted to receive not one but TWO e-mail letters from them on Tuesday! Their enthusiasm and support for our adventure just jumped off the screen. Turns out they only recently got a computer and are learning how to use it. Regis is doing much better now, thankfully. They sent another letter and a motivational e-card today in response to my reply. Diana and Regis hope to meet us somewhere on the run, and we will stay in contact with each other.

Regis, I wish you could be out here on the Trail with me. In lieu of that, I hope you can re-live some of the fun you had by reading my journal. Thanks for all your support, Buckeye and Buckeye Babe!


I'll close with an amusing anecdote.

Our campsite is situated somewhat in the middle of a large loop of the AT that I will be running the next day or two (depending on how good the Trail is). The forest service road to the gap where I stopped yesterday is gated two miles from where I have to resume my run tomorrow. Yesterday I had to walk over two "bonus miles" to get to the truck. Tomorrow I get to repeat that, before I even start on the AT.

So today we've been investigating other ways to get there. The only one we've found is a 3+ mile trail from the campground but we don't know what condition it's in.

So Jim walked over to the nearest campground host to ask him about the gated road and other possible ways to get right up to Deep Gap. He ended up having an enjoyable conversation with the man and his wife, but didn't glean much information about our options.

Jim explained that I was running on the AT from Deep Gap to Mooney Gap or beyond. He said it wasn't a problem at Mooney Gap because we checked out that forest service road today, and it's not gated.

The man asked, "But how's she gonna get there?" (meaning to Mooney Gap). Jim repeated that I was going to run the distance (only 13+ miles) on the AT.

"No," the gentleman repeated, "How's she gonna get there?" He apparently didn't know that some folks RUN on trails. He was even more dumb-founded when Jim told him I planned to run the whole Trail from Georgia to Maine! Maybe if he'd said I was walking a lot, the man would have understood.


Goodnight, all. The main lesson I've learned in five days is that I need more sleep.

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

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  2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil