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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
 
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PHOTOS 12:  COME SIT A SPELL:
      BENCHES IN INVITING PLACES        
 
JANUARY 28, 2006
 
 
"No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one."
- Elbert Hubbard
 
 


Tranquil little pond with a bench in North Carolina.

I don't know who Mr. Hubbard is, but he makes an astute observation. Many times we take vacations to "get away from it all" but end up being so doggone busy or active that we're more tired than when we began! How many folks take a vacation to really rest and relax?

I knew I'd be worn out after my trip of a lifetime on the Appalachian Trail. It wasn't designed to be relaxing or restful.

But thru-hikers often achieve that blissful state of "R & R" that eludes those of us who insist on running the Trail or hiking the distance as quickly as possible. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it over again much more slowly (but not with a backpack, thank you!).

At times I envied the hikers I found lying back on a sunny rock with a good book, or sitting next to a gurgling stream writing in their journals. Nearly every time I saw the "OFC" ("Over-Forty Club)," three thru-hikers whose company I really enjoyed, they were relaxing by a pretty little brook or sitting on a great rock-with-a-view, snacking and reading. Remember "Pokey," "Gumby," and "Red Wolf?" I took this photo of them on Day 85 at Wolf Rocks in Pennsylvania:

Even though they made good progress each day, they also knew how to give their bodies and minds relaxing breaks every two or three hours.

One afternoon I passed a young man, propped against his backpack, just waking up from a nap on a bald on top of one of the Hump Mountains in Tennessee. Oh, how I wanted to just lie down, watch the clouds go by, and drift off to sleep for an hour or two!

Maybe next time . . .

See photo of the Humps on Day 27.

TAKING A BREAK

Nature provides lots of rest stops in the form of large, smooth rocks and trees that have fallen along the Appalachian Trail. Many are fortuitously placed next to pretty creeks or on high places with a view. Some are even conveniently located half-way up long or steep ascents, offering relief from tedious climbs.

And I gladly used some of them when I needed a break!

Everybody does. Jim found a rock "with his name on it" on Day 53 when he ran with me on Virginia's Blackrock Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. While I was photographing the view, he took it all in from a seat on one of the coal-colored rocks next to the Trail:

  

If a nice boulder, horizontal tree trunk, or mountaintop meadow isn't adequate for a hiker's need to rest and relax, there are places to sit at every shelter or lean-to on the AT. Many have picnic tables with benches. Some of the fancier ones have built-in seating around the entrance.

The attractive Jim and Dolly Denton shelter, shown below, is just north of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia (Day 57). It features both deck seating and a covered picnic table:

Most AT shelters aren't this elaborate, but all at least have steps or a wooden floor suspended off the ground for seating.

Although I didn't stay in shelters, I often visited them to read and sign the trail registers, enjoying a few minutes to sit down and relax in the process. 

OTHER INTERESTING A.T. SEATING

Many of the volunteer maintaining clubs have also graciously placed other kinds of seating, mostly wooden benches, along the AT. I'll show you some of the more interesting ones below.

Despite my usual haste to get from Point A to Point B each day, I did enjoy a few minutes sitting on several of these benches. As Jim says, it's a wonder I'm not still out on the Trail.

Come sit a spell, as they say in the South.

. . . BY THE LAKE . . .

Here are two benches that provided me with a little welcome break. One was near the beginning of my journey, the other near the end. Both had great pond/lake views, cooling breezes, and the sound of lapping water on the shoreline to soothe my soul. How could I pass them by??

The first is in North Carolina by a little pond between Pump Gap and the Mill Ridge wildlife habitat. (Or maybe this is in Tennessee? I wasn't sure many days, as the AT follows those state lines off and on for many miles.).

There are TWO nice wooden benches placed along the tranquil, unnamed pond for hikers to relax and listen to the birds chirping and frogs croaking. One bench is in  the photo at the top of this page. The one where I eavesdropped on the pond creatures is shown below. This location would be a great place to tent-camp and fish. (Day 19)

I think the bench below is on either Long Pond or Sabbath Day Pond in Maine. It is near a shelter but its juxtaposition so close to the water surprised me.

I sat and enjoyed the view for a couple minutes there on Day 132 before moving on. It's the only bench-and-table combo like this that I saw the whole way up to Maine.

. . . BY THE STREAM . . .

Another tranquil setting for wooden benches along the AT is near a creek.

One that I found appealing is located in the old Brown Mountain Creek Community near Hwy. 60 in central Virginia (you can read more about the history of this settlement in the journal on Day 49). The pretty little creek is just behind the informational board in the photo below:

Another idyllic creek setting with a bench is at one of the best-kept shelters along the AT, a double shelter at Quarry Gap in Pennsylvania.

When I visited on Day 63 I was impressed with the beautiful landscaping - huge old rhododendrons, hanging baskets of blooming flowers, attractive rock work, a little creek and spring, and a bench next to the water. The shelters had other nice touches, too. (I spoke more about the "innkeeper" and the shelter's features in the journal that day.) I imagine this is a very popular place for hikers to stay overnight.

. . . ALONG A SHADY TRAIL . . .

Some benches are located where visitors are more likely to be day-users than thru-hikers. Here are three examples:

The first wooden bench is along the very popular multi-use Virginia Creeper Trail northeast of Damascus, Virginia. Probably as many cyclists use this 34-mile rails-to-trails pathway as hikers, runners, and equestrians. The AT follows the Creeper Trail for two or three miles in two different segments. I saw several inviting benches on Day 31 but didn't sit because it was early in the run. There is also information about the Creeper Trail on Day 30.

  

Farther north in Virginia, at the top of a long ascent from Craig Creek, is a sharp left turn from the single-track trail onto a nice grassy abandoned forest road that follows the ridge of Brush Mountain for a couple miles.

This convenient bench sits at that turn, inviting tired hikers (and runners) to "come sit a spell." I did, on Day 44.

About a mile north of here is the Audi Murphy monument (see Photo Essay #4 and Day 44 for a photo and information). There is a bench facing the monument. Both of these benches are handy for folks who just come to visit this monument, as well as hardier section-hikers and thru-hikers. It's easy to succumb to their invitation!

Come sit a spell . . .

Talk about succumbing. Check out these popular picnic benches! Remember seeing this photo before?

This is the famous store in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Pennsylvania, where thru-hikers celebrate the half-way mark by trying to consume a half-gallon of ice cream!

This crowd of hungry, motivated hikers was already in place when I got there. Fortunately, the ice cream hadn't run out (actually, it had run out earlier, but a new supply was brought in shortly before I arrived). This was the stopping place for me that day so Jim and I could also indulge. We each got just a pint of ice cream, and even that was hard for me to get down in one sitting on a hot summer day (Day 63). I'm just a grazer . . . I would have really regretted consuming a half gallon at one time.

I had to smile when I saw the chairs below (especially the unusual wooden one) near a little road crossing on my last day in New York (Day 98). Although the trail magic (food and drinks) was all gone by the time I got there, the thought was nice. Sometimes it is a trail angel that provides the seating for tired and hungry hikers!

 . . . BY THE RAILROAD TRACKS . . .

Now THAT sounds real inviting, doesn't it??

Well, this little bench IS inviting. I've shown it to you before. It's the AT "train station" at the Hwy. 22 trail head near Pawling, New York.

Metro-North Railroad operates passenger train service on these tracks, but stops at the AT "station" only on weekends and holidays. I waited at a rest area nearby for Jim for perhaps 45 minutes and didn't hear any trains go by on Day 97. I'm not sure where AT hikers would be going if they hopped on this train, but the station is cute.

. . . OR WITH A VIEW . . .

Two of my favorite seating arrangements had great views of scenic valleys. The first is cool on a hot day (albeit hard on the butt) and the other made me laugh out loud.

You may have already seen this large rock bench in Photos 5 re: rock structures. Volunteers spent a good while building this bench-with-a-view. It overlooks a valley of patchwork-like farms and fields in Pennsylvania and provides a shady respite for tired hikers. I took the photo on Day 65. I don't remember if the bench is on Blue Mountain or Little Mountain. You'll just have to hike and find it!

Finally, here is my favorite seating arrangement on the entire Trail. If you read the journal through Virginia, you've seen this photo before (Day 53 again).

I love folks with a sense of humor, and this is an example of what amuses me:

About eight tractor seats, shown above, are firmly cemented into the ground on Bear Den Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. The AT goes right between the seats and some rather unattractive police radio towers. Perhaps the tractor seats were put there to distract hikers and encourage them to notice the nice view to the west instead of the ugliness to the east . . .  

I'd read about the seats in hikers' journals, but they were still a delightful surprise. They aren't mentioned in the ATC's guidebook and I don't know who put them there (park staff?). Whoever it was, thank you for tickling my funny-bone!

As you can see, there are many places, some quite unique, to sit a spell along the AT when you need a break. Just use your imagination and plop right down in a relaxing spot for a while - a rock, a log, a shelter, a real bench somewhere.

You'll be glad you didn't rush through every day so frenetically that you need a vacation when you get home from your "vacation!"

Next up in the structures category: the view from on high - towers to climb (as if there aren't enough mountains to climb on the AT).

Happy lounging,

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

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil