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:  Hawk Mtn. Rd./Eckville, PA                       
End:   Lehigh River Gap/Palmerton, PA
Today's Miles:                      24.9
Cumulative Miles:          1,254.0
"My life is like a stroll on the beach - as near to the edge as I can go."
- Thoreau

My first AT rattlesnake sighting

The Cliffs, a knife-edge rock outcropping   7-21-05

Whew! I came pretty close to that edge several times today.

First was the rattlesnake. I've read and heard that Pennsylvania is notorious for its rattlesnakes. Horton wrote during his 1991 AT speed record run that he saw several rattlers and killed most of them. Jim asked me why I didn't kill this one, but it didn't even occur to me! I was just happy that he got himself off the Trail and I didn't have to throw any rocks at him to encourage him to go away.

With my aim, I'd probably have just made him madder and he might have come at me! My photo is hazy because I didn't want to waste any more time in his territory.

It's funny. I was thinking only a few minutes before I saw the rattler that I was 'way overdue to see a poisonous snake. I've seen numerous entries in the PA shelter registers about them. I thought I'd see one in the heat of the afternoon on some of the many sunny rocks in this area, but this guy surprised me at 8:30 AM!

I heard him before I saw him, at first thinking it was another of those insects that was making a clicking sound above my head. Then I realized this was a little different sound, and coming from the ground directly in front of me. Thank goodness the rattler moved or I might not have seen him.

Another "edge" was the knife-edge rock outcrop called The Cliffs. My photo doesn't do this justice. It was another heart-stopper getting up to the edge and walking along the sharply-canted rocks 1,600 feet above the valley floor. This is not somewhere you'd want to be 1) in a storm, 2) when the rocks are wet, 3) after spraining your ankle, or 4) if you're afraid of heights.

It was one of several use-both-hands-to-haul-yourself-up-and-down the boulders that I encountered today. This one had a great view, so it was worth it:

I also was "on the edge" of my physical limits, at least those of my right leg. It's just gimpy. I can't think of any other word to describe it. I walked again all day, as running puts too much strain on the injured piriformus/glute and the back of my knee. The knee also feels like it's just gonna give out sometimes, like it's very weak.

Oddly enough, it only feels this way on flat, smooth Trail (which was in very short supply today). When I'm rock-hopping I'm so focused on staying upright and not spraining an ankle that I don't notice the knee.

I wasn't even able to balance well today. I fell twice on rocks, not a fun thing to do. Now I have new battle scars. That's #16. And 17.

At least I haven't sprained an ankle yet. I do have bruises on the sides of my feet from sliding against rocks, though, and each shoe came off once today after getting wedged in between rocks.

And I was only walking!!

It was a long, long day. I started good and early, just after 6 AM. It took me 11:15 hours, a slow 27+ minute pace including all my stops to read three shelter registers, take photos, eat muffins, and clean new wounds after my two falls. It was hot and muggy, the last few miles were exposed in the heat of the day, the gnats were all over me (no flies biting yet, thank goodness), and I was not having any fun most of the time.

I saw no NOBO hikers, only south-bounders who appeared to be out for the day or week. I learned that some of the earliest thru-hikers I met are right ahead of me now (Santa, Bigfoot, and Pizza the Hut), others are eight to nine days ahead (Still Walking, Hitman, Pumpkin, Apple Pie, Bearcanless), and Warren Doyle's group is sixteen days ahead. I may never catch that bunch! I'm hoping to run into Santa and Bigfoot this week.

I can't recommend today's section for running but if you like rocks a whole bunch you might enjoy the challenge of hiking it. The worst rock scrambles were near Dan's Pulpit, Bear Rocks, The Cliffs, and Bake Oven Knob. Only about four miles were truly "runnable."

Jim's day wasn't any better. Among other things, he had trouble maneuvering the camper through the narrow streets of Jim Thorpe, an interesting little Pocono town, to the new campground we're in tonight, and even more trouble getting it into our site because of low-hanging electrical wires. We'll be moving to another campground tomorrow that's more convenient to the next three days' sections of trail.

Despite Jim's frustrations with traffic and errands today he still was thoughtful enough to bring me some yummy moose tracks ice cream at the end of my run! Thank you, honey.

Hoping for a better day tomorrow,

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil