My injured arm wasn't swollen any more this morning and it didn't hurt unless I
touched the wounds. Nothing else hurt.
There was no reason not to run and hike today!
But, oh, it was another hot, humid, miserable-weather day. All this week it has
been over 90 degrees and since I'm at lower elevations (under 1,500 feet) now,
even shaded woods can be stifling, especially when there is no breeze.
The hikers are getting lethargic and I'm just drained after being on the Trail
for several hours.
Jim and I have been getting up at 5:15 AM this week but I'm usually not on the Trial
until about 7 because of the time it takes to get to some of the trailheads.
Tomorrow I should be on the Trail by 6:30. I need to get out there earlier
to get in more running before the heat gets too unbearable but it's so darn
hard to get to bed early enough at night so I can get eight hours of sleep.
THE GATES OF HEAVEN
This morning I was able to run a larger percentage of the Trail than I have
since the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania. The first ten miles were mostly
runnable except for some overgrown or swampy sections.
One area overgrown with weeds and bushes was just before and after a
wrought-iron archway with the words "Gates of Heaven" spelled out. A side trail
leads to a small cemetery on the grounds of a former state mental hospital.
It's nearly impossible to run on puncheon, those long, narrow, parallel bog
boards. They are slick when wet, too narrow to balance properly, often uneven
from puncheon to puncheon, and sometimes behave like teeter totters. They are
preferable to log "corduroy" sections, however, where short logs have been
placed perpendicularly across the trail in muddy areas. Those are tough to walk
on, let alone run.
And after going butt-down in a swamp yesterday, I'm not going to risk doing a
face-plant in one! So I didn't run through the swampy areas today.
COWS IN THE MIST
I started off going through wet, runnable fields this morning. One had lots
of friendly cows and sheep that don't budge when hikers walk through their pasture. I
always walk around cows, even if the Trail is runnable. Just seems proper.
Near the end of the last field, someone was camped right on the Trail. S/he was still asleep. I walked around the tent wondering, "What were
you thinking??" Must've been dark when they pitched the
After a 600-foot climb up Hammersly Ridge the Trail had gentle ups and downs
for about seven miles. Part of this section went through the Pawling Nature
Reserve. The AT intersects with several other trails in this area (Red, Green,
and Yellow Trails).
This section included "hemlock cathedrals," oak forests, and red
maple-hardwood swamps. Most of it was runnable.
A.T. RUNNING ANOMALY
I was running down a long hill when I met a SOBO thru-hiker named "Gantz"
(his real last name). He started at Katahdin on June 15 - the same day as Andrew
Thompson ("Traildog"). Andrew told him about his speed attempt. Gantz was glad when I told him Andrew beat the old record this week.
Gantz said I'm the only other runner he's seen on the Trail besides Traildog.
That doesn't surprise me. After more than 1,400 miles I haven't seen anyone
else running this Trail, even on weekends, even in the national parks and
other nice sections!
Some of the hikers "run" downhill occasionally to take advantage of
gravity, but they aren't
"running" the Trail like I am (although some of them are also
"runners" when not back-packing). The only runners I've seen while on the AT were
running on roads, like the Blue Ridge Parkway. E.g., one day in the Shenandoahs, Jim
saw VHTRC member Caroline Williams running on Skyline Drive; I forgot to mention
it that day.
At Hoyt Road, I entered Connecticut, my tenth state!! Only five more to go,
just over 700 miles.
I'm two-thirds done now.
My favorite section of Trail today was between Rt. 55 and the ascent to Schaghticoke Mountain. After going up and down Ten Mile Hill, I crossed a large
creek and followed it to Ten Mile River. The Trail through here is in pine
forest and lovely to run on. Ten Mile River merges with the larger Housatonic
River at the Ned Anderson Memorial Bridge (for hikers only).
The AT follows the Housatonic upstream for about half a mile - much too
short! The river was very pretty, with lots of noisy cascades. That kind of
noise I love. My very favorite trails follow creeks or rivers.
BEWARE THE CHAIR
Next the Trail turned from the river and started a moderate to steep
1,000-foot climb up Schaghticoke Mountain. By now it was plenty hot, so the
climb seemed to take forever. I stopped to rest twice on rocks, trying to get my
heart rate down some.
A common warning to ultra runners during races is to "beware the chair" at
aid stations. Sit down, and sometimes it's all over! It feels good and it's
hard to get going again. I haven't run into that on the AT, really. After a
couple minutes I'm usually good to go again.
I thought of this saying earlier today when I crossed the last road in NY and
found three chairs and some trail magic on the other side. Never have I seen
chairs out for the hikers. One was a nice wooden one. I sat and thanked the
trail angel in the memo book that was with the empty bags and bottles -
unfortunately there weren't any beverages or food left, but the chairs were
The Over-Forty Club later told me they had watermelon and other fruit there
yesterday afternoon. That's the first trail magic in NY for about four days -
and I missed it!
UP, DOWN, AND ALL AROUND
There was no breeze until I reached the top on the western side of
Schaghticoke Mountain. The trees are not close together but there is enough scrubby stuff
growing under them to block any breeze.
The Trail swung back to the eastern slope at Indian Rocks, an overlook with
nice views of the valley toward Kent and South Kent. The Trail briefly crosses
the Schaghticoke Indian Reservation near here, the only Native American property
through which the AT passes.
The steep descent from Schaghticoke was rocky and not runnable. At the
campsite in the next gap I ran into The Over-Forty Club and three other hikers
taking a break, reading. I was hoping to catch Red Wolf, Pokey, and Gumby. They
spent last night at the Wiley shelter, 5.4 miles into my run today. They got a
two-hour head start, but because of all the long breaks they take, I caught up
to them about 2½ miles from our destination for the day.
I stayed a few minutes to talk with Pokey (Diane) and Gumby (Scott) after Red
Wolf (Dwayne) resumed hiking. We exchanged e-mail addresses in case we don't see
each other any more on the Trail. The OFC decided today to spend tonight at a
motel in Kent because of the heat; they've had trouble sleeping and are
miserable during the day. I think several other thru-hikers I saw today,
including "Peanut," are also spending some time in Kent this weekend.
I caught up to Red Wolf going down the next mountain, also rocky and steep.
He stopped again to rest at Thayer Brook. I kept going up Mt. Algo and down
another steep descent to CT 341, where Jim was waiting. I could hear thunder the
last mile and tried to move fast to avoid the coming storm but had to be
careful on the rocks.
I just made it! It started pouring down rain in about five minutes. Unfortunately, the OFC and several other hikers still on the
mountain were inundated. We drove half an hour back to our campground in the
driving rain and lightning, dodging lots of branches and leaves already down on
the road. I am so glad I didn't get caught in that storm on one of those
mountains! I was hoping for rain all afternoon, but this kind of storm is
dangerous because of flying branches and slick rocks. I hope the hikers made it
CHARMING NEW ENGLAND AREA
Jim got to enjoy some of Kent today, including Bulls Bridge, one of two
remaining covered bridges in Connecticut that still permit vehicular traffic. I
was hoping I'd cross it on the AT, but didn't. I love covered bridges. You can
see a photo of it at the link above left to "more photos."
The area around Kent and Cornwall Bridge is so beautiful. The neat New
England homes, well-kept yards and fields, and stone fences remind us of
Woodstock, VT and the area through which the VT100 runs.
Kent was incorporated in 1739. There are still some very old buildings here
and cemeteries in the area with interesting headstones dating back into the 18th
century. Kent is a center for winter sports, caters well to hikers, and is an
artists' colony. Unfortunately, this weekend's arts and crafts fair got soaked
this afternoon right after we drove through town. I'd like to return here
someday to enjoy some time in town. (There are lots of interesting places
along the Trail I haven't been able to see.)
I'm so happy to be in New England now! There are three major "regions" along the AT:
the South, the Mid-Atlantic, and now New England. I'm hoping that by going
farther north and up to higher elevations in the next couple weeks that the
temperatures start dropping and I have the energy to go farther each day.
I came to a sad realization today: I'm slowing down in comparison to
many of the hikers. Although I could walk faster than most of them back in May
and June when I was "peaking," now they are trail-hardened, strong, carrying
less weight, and routinely passing me up hills and other times I'm walking. I'm
glad they are in their essence and hope I'll get stronger again if I can stay
uninjured the rest of the way.
I believe I can make it to Katahdin but I need to do it by the middle of
September so Jim can get back to Roanoke for his Firefighter II class. Meeting
that deadline will take everything I've got the next 38-40 days.
Stay tuned to see if I can do it!