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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
31 but didn't sit because it was early in the run. There is also
information about the Creeper Trail on
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
About a mile north of here is the Audi Murphy monument (see
Photo Essay #4 and
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
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
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
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
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
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