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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
 
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PHOTOS 17:  SIGN, SIGN, EVERYWHERE A SIGN, PART 3: WELCOME TO OUR STATE!
 
 (TERMINUS & STATE LINE SIGNS)
 
FEBRUARY 4, 2006
 
 
"APPALACHIAN TRAIL
GEORGIA . . . MAINE
A footpath for those who seek fellowship with nature."
 
- bronze sign, below, embedded in a boulder on Springer Mountain, Georgia
 


One of the bronze plaques at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain, GA.

The various signs identifying state lines on the Appalachian Trail are as varied as the directional and landmark signs you've already seen. It was always fun to enter a new state, and interesting to see how much fanfare was made - or not.

As it turns out, there wasn't as much fanfare as I expected! The signs were more subtle than I thought they'd be, or missing entirely. (Perhaps I just missed a couple.)

The southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail defines the very beginning of the north-bound thru-hiker's journey. Springer Mountain was the start, in runner lingo, of my AT Adventure Run.

For the south-bound thru-hiker, Springer is even more significant as the end (finish) point, like Mt. Katahdin was for me.

Our buddy Steve Michael took this photo of Jim, the dogs, and me at the Springer Mountain southern terminus sign on very foggy Day 1:

We were so excited to start! What a dream-like forest scene it was that morning:

This is an enlargement of the beautiful bronze "Southern Terminus" plaque embedded in the boulder shown above:

Silly me. I photographed my watch on the plaque to indicate the time I began. That was back when I thought I might be able to beat the women's fastest time on the AT.  As if.  

I forgot two important AT rituals that morning: signing the register (Jim remembered after Steve and I started running, signed it for me, and caught up to us in a few minutes) and picking up a small rock to put on the huge cairn on Mt. Katahdin at the end of the trek (I got one a few days later and carried it with me).

Hoorah!!! I was on my way after a 36-year wait!

MEASURING PROGRESS, STATE BY STATE

There are many ways to measure progress on the Appalachian Trail, and I recorded most of them in my daily journal last summer. There are mileage milestones, such as 500, 1,000, and 2,000 miles completed. There are trail town milestones, like Damascus, VA (about one-fourth way) and Harper's Ferry, the psychological halfway point.

Another way to measure progress is by clicking off the completed states one by one. How satisfying!

Since Virginia has nearly 25% of the trail, it took a while to get through the first four states. But after that, each went by pretty quickly. I made an effort to find the state lines all thirteen times (fourteen states = thirteen state lines).

Here's a rundown of the individual state-line signs I gleefully passed.

This little sign marking the Georgia-North Carolina line is pretty easy to miss unless you're looking for it, as I was. I expected something more dramatic than the 6x12 inch mildewed-green wooden sign shown below, tacked to a tree at the side of the Trail:

I described how happy I was on Day 5 to already be in my second state. I called Jim right away on my cell phone to share the good news with him. One down, only thirteen more to go!  (Ha!)

Although I saw this sign in the Smokies (at the Newfound Gap parking lot, I think) on Day 15 marking the line between North Carolina and Tennessee . . .

. . . I never saw any more NC/TN signs along the two hundred miles or so where the AT closely follows the line, passing back and forth from one state to the other.

I've got a lot of photos from that area that I can't identify re: the state - for days I wasn't sure which state I was in (state of confusion, mostly!). Sometimes one foot was literally in Tennessee and one was in North Carolina. Nor was I sure exactly when I got into Tennessee and stayed there all day. I didn't see a NC/TN sign at the north end of the shared trail, either.

The "sign" at the Tennessee/Virginia line is even easier to miss than the one between Georgia and North Carolina. You can barely see it scratched into the right post on the large Mt. Rogers NRA sign below (Day 30):

I was very happy to reach my home state so soon!

Because of the large number of AT miles in Virginia, I didn't reach the next state line, West Virginia, until Day 59:

Like North Carolina and Tennessee, there were some shared miles on Day 39 over Peters Mountain where the AT follows the state line between Virginia and West Virginia. The sign above marked the end of the AT miles in Virginia, however.

Little West Virginia, with the fewest AT miles, definitely has one of the nicest signs. Crossing into WV was fun because Harper's Ferry is the psychological halfway point of the Trail and headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. 

Four states down, ten to go.

We didn't see a sign to signify our entry into Maryland on Day 61 but Jim and I knew as we crossed the Potomac River on the Goodloe Byron Memorial Footbridge (below) that we had crossed into that state. This is one of three state lines on the AT that is in the middle of a large river.

The Maryland/Pennsylvania line was marked with not one but two signs.

I came to the historically significant Mason-Dixon Line first on Day 62:

Then came this hearty welcome to the State of Pennsylvania:

Cool. Almost half way now! Those are two "can't-miss" signs, aren't they?

New Jersey also kind of snuck up on me. If there was a sign in the middle of this bridge over the Delaware River at Delaware River Gap to mark the transition between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I didn't notice it on Day 86:

One of the more interesting state line markers was this painted rock "sign" between New Jersey and New York.

It is easy to spot going south, but I almost missed it going north. The only reason I saw it was because I stopped to sign a "tree register" at the side of the Trail. From that angle, it was obvious (Day 92):

Connecticut welcomes hikers with this attractive sage-green sign at the New York line (Day 98):

At the north end of beautiful Sages Ravine, "Sundance" stands by the hiker register and welcome sign for Massachusetts at the Connecticut-Massachusetts state line (Day 100):

Wow! That's eleven states down and only three to go!

I was very surprised that classy Vermont had the tackiest sign, a flimsy sheet of paper saying "Welcome to Vermont" that was duct-taped to a post below a much larger, virtually unreadable weathered wooden Green Mountain National Forest/Long Trail/AT sign (Day 105):

Hopefully more permanent signs (plural) are in place by now, six months after I passed through. If not, could someone in Vermont please light a fire under the appropriate maintaining club??

The handsome sign on this bridge over the Connecticut River, which divides Vermont and New Hampshire, was quite the opposite, however:

Right in the middle is this beautiful stone engraving, which totally impressed me after seeing the paper sign at the other end of Vermont (Day 113):

Very classy, isn't it?

The sign below identifies the New Hampshire-Maine state line between the Whites and the Mahoosucs (Day 127) and even tells you the distances to Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mt. Katahdin in Maine. (Note that the distances between Springer and Mt. Katahdin add up to only 2,159.2 miles, and in 2005 the AT was officially 2,174.9 miles. I'm guessing it's longer than that with relocations done in 2005.)

Then you're greeted with this hospitable sign that welcomes you to Maine. I liked the welcome sign and slogan there the best of any state (Day 127):

Sure it's beat up, but it's downright cheery and appropriate for rugged Maine, isn't it?

HOW MANY MILES ARE LEFT?

There are several signs along the Trail that either point to Georgia and Maine (indicating south and north) or give the distance to both Springer Mountain and Mt. Katahdin, as the NH/ME sign above does. 

That is interesting information to have, especially as you near your destination.

At the top of each daily log I kept a cumulative total of miles completed until I got to Massachusetts on Day 100, when I also started putting the number of miles left to run (672.2). It would have been discouraging to me to list the remaining miles any sooner! Just as it was fun to see the number of miles accumulate at the beginning of the trek, it was satisfying to see the number of miles-to-go get lower and lower.

This simple-but-elegant granite post in New Hampshire (Day 114) indicates that it is only 412 miles to Mt. Katahdin, although it doesn't even specify the terminus. You just know what that number means by that point in the journey! The other side has the distance to Springer Mountain in Georgia.

Very cool, out in the middle of a beautiful forest:

However, because of continual trail relocations, the distances on every sign or marker that I saw like this were off by a few miles. The halfway sign in Pennsylvania is wrong, as are other signs in New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and other states.

Many thru-hikers (and runners) are anal enough, as I was, to know from their data books just how far they have gone, if not on a daily basis, at least weekly. The mileages I saw never added up to 2,174.9 miles. They were always less.

It was so satisfying to see this number painted on the line in the middle of Long Falls Dam Road in Maine on Day 137 even though I knew I'd already passed that milestone the previous day. This marker just made it seem more official somehow:

It really doesn't matter how far these sign say it is to either end of the Trail. Hikers either know the correct mileages - or they don't care!

My funniest story about terminus signs occurred along the Housatonic River south of Falls River, Connecticut, when I was looking at a sign that said Springer Mountain was 1,480 miles to the south. A fit 30-something fella said to me, "Can you imagine hiking that far?"

Ha! See my response on Day 99.

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

The very last AT sign had perhaps more significance to me than any of the others because it meant I had completed my journey!

The large brown sign on the summit of Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Trail, is a most-welcome reward for north-bound thru-hikers. For south bounders it's also meaningful as the beginning of a long trek. Either way, it's a BIGGIE (Day 148):

There you have it: The start. The finish. (That's runner-talk, not hiker-speak.)

Fourteen different states with fourteen different statements to make. Diversity rules.

Next up: "Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign??" (advisory and warning signs along the AT). These signs are some of the most interesting on the Trail . . .

Warning: now don't get that song stuck in your head!!

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

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil