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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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MARCH 6, 2006
"Ah, Hope! What would life be, stripped of thy encouraging smiles,
that teach us to look behind the dark clouds of today,
for the golden beams that are to gild the morrow."
- Susanna Moodie

Misty forest on Mt. Moosilauke in New Hampshire.

Are you getting tired of optimistic quotes?? I hope not. I deliberately chose that quote over a more obvious one like Carl Sandburg's "little cat feet" description of a foggy day.

In Photos 25 I  mentioned how tough it was for me to get out on the Trail on rainy mornings. It wasn't so bad if it started raining DURING a run, but the thought of getting out of my nice, warm, cozy bed first thing in the morning and onto a muddy trail in the driving rain was cause for great pessimism.

But usually I did it anyway. I had an agenda - to get to Mt. Katahdin in a reasonable amount of time.

But FOG has never bothered me that much. Many times it was foggy in the mountains early in the morning, from Georgia to Maine. Although I miss the views when the atmosphere resembles pea soup, some of my most memorable runs and hikes on the AT and other trails around the country have been on very foggy days.


There is a mystique about the woods in dense fog. I feel enveloped, secure, in a little world of my own. I've described it to people as feeling like I'm in a dream-like state.

Most days on the AT the sun would eventually burn off the fog. Within a few hours my little world would again expand to more than a few feet on either side of me and I could see, sometimes, for miles and miles.

In this essay, I'll try to give you that sense of mystique from some of the photos I took of foggy days on the Trail. I'll also include photos of low-lying clouds that blanketed the valleys while the mountain tops poked through to the sunshine above.

It was like a metaphor on life. The fog in which I was running and hiking at ground level was actually the low cloud I so admired viewing when I was up on the next mountain, basking in sunshine and blue sky! Sometimes the "fog" you're in is just a matter of perspective.

Here we go again, optimistically, from south to north on the Appalachian Trail . . .


My very first day on the Trail was foggy, as you can see from these photos on Springer Mountain from April 30, 2005:

Our buddy Steve Michael took the photo above at the southern terminus of the AT. I took the one below a few hundred yards down the Trail - talk about pea soup!

I took very few photos that day because there weren't any views much farther than this and because Steve and I were too busy talking and running. (When I was running with someone else, even Jim, I didn't take nearly as many photos as when I was alone.)

Because I'd already covered most of the AT in Georgia in training runs when I lived in the Atlanta area, and I was running with Steve the first two days, I didn't miss the views much on Day 1. I was too psyched up about the newness of the journey run and busy talking to care about the fog, mist, and rain that day. The next day we got great weather.

Day 12 in North Carolina was one of those special times when I started out in the fog at a low level, in this case a little bit above the Nantahala River in a beautiful forest full of mountain laurels . . .

. . . and climbed above the mist on Swim Bald to see this glorious "sea of clouds" spread below me:

I was pretty much awestruck, as you can see in the journal entry that day. Here is one more in the series of photos I took from that location:

This is one case where the almost-surreal view I had of this valley was probably more interesting than the view without any clouds at all. I felt like I was running on an island.


I've already whined enough about the rain two of my three days in the Smokies. As you saw in Photos 25, some of the cloud patterns were pretty dramatic then and I would have missed them on a clear day.

Making lemonade out of lemons . . .

The fog was intense on Day 15 when I left Clingman's Dome. Jim took this photo of me (smiling, even!) in the parking lot as I began that day's adventure:

I just put on a cheerful smile and tried my best to enjoy the forest shrouded in the mist.

The rather eerie photo below reminds me of a  scene from Lord of the Rings. I took the shot as I descended the north side of Clingman's Dome. There is another photo in the same area in the journal on Day 15.

Virginia had only a few misty mornings, including this one on Day 38 when I crossed the stately suspension bridge over Kimberling Creek. There is another interesting bridge perspective in the journal that day.


Fog will often hover just over the water in streams and lakes when the water temperature is warmer than the air above it. Although it can obscure your view at water's edge, if you're a little higher up you can often get an interesting view looking down on the "fog."

I took the next photo on Day 91 in New Jersey along a ridge overlooking a layer of fog over the Delaware River. There is another shot farther up the Trail in the journal that day.

This phenomenon is even more pronounced in the photo below (shown out of sequence) in Vermont on Day 110:


I remember most days on the Trail very clearly (pun intended) even months later, especially when I view the photos from a particular day.

I thoroughly enjoyed walking through this farm in a literal fog the first thing in the morning on Day 98 in New York. I was raised on a farm and loved walking through pastures on the Appalachian Trail.


I'll include more of the cows (and sheep) in a "critter" essay later on.


I saw more fog and low valley clouds in the three most northern New England states than in the other eleven states combined. I'm guessing part of the reason was because there were more bodies of water and the temperatures were cooling off more at night in the early fall when I passed through there.

It was misty all day on Day 107 in southwestern Vermont as I climbed Stratton Mountain and headed north. The lush green woods were thick with moss and ferns, indicating plenty of moisture, as shown in these photos and other ones in the journal from that day:


Despite the rain and fog, I enjoyed Day 113 as I crossed from Vermont into New Hampshire. I wasn't up high enough for really spectacular views, so I reveled in the mystique of the mist.

Here are three more photos from  that day (I already showed some in Photos 26 and elsewhere). The first two are on a hill full of thick vegetation, including heather and other wildflowers:


The whole day was shrouded in mist: through the wet vegetation, past the rowers under the Connecticut River bridge, through the town of Hanover, New Hampshire, and north to the Velvet Rocks area.

I think I know why New Hampshire has such brightly-painted signs!

Guess where we took our most dramatic fog photos??

You guessed it, New Hampshire and Maine. All the weather and scenery drama seemed to be magnified there because of the bigger mountains and miles above tree line.

Day 114 in New Hampshire was misty off and on as Cody and I trekked north to Lyme-Dorchester Road. This photo shows how part of the forest looked that morning. There are other shots of the foggy woods and a misty swamp in the journal that day.

The morning Jim and I ascended Mt. Moosilauke (Day 116) started off fairly clear at the lower elevations but we got into the clouds closer to the peak and were completely socked in at the summit, as shown in the photo at the very top of this page and the ones which follow:


I was so fascinated with the terrain and fog that I took over twenty photos on top of Moosilauke! There are a couple more in the journal on that day and in post entries.

The next day in the Kinsman Range was foggy at high AND low elevations. These photos were taken well below the summit. See Day 117 and Photos 26 for more pictures of gnarly, misty trail.


Can you see why I made such slow progress through New Hampshire??

No, I don't mean all the photos I took, although that took time, too. I'm talking about the rugged trail conditions.

My second most harrowing day was Day 121 on top of Mt. Madison in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire. Read all about the high winds, fog, and sleet in the journal, where there is another fog photo halfway down the page. It got so foggy I just put the camera away after a while.

My last day in New Hampshire began in a fog but cleared up by the time I crossed into Maine around noon. This photo is on top of Mt. Success. There is another view in the journal on Day 127.

There were at least eight days in Maine with fog and low valley clouds that were as dramatic as New Hampshire. I'll show you photos from a few of them, starting with views looking down at low clouds in the valleys and ending with foggy summits.

I had many interesting views of fog in the valley on Day 129 as I traipsed over the east and west peaks of Baldpate Mountain. You can see other views that day in the journal and in Photos 3 re: cairns. Here's a new one:

Jim took some great shots from Hwy. 17 one morning near the trail head overlooking large Lake Mooselookmeguntic. You can see his photos of a moose at close range and one valley view in the journal that day (132).

Here is another view of the thick blanket of clouds in the valley:

There are some other photos of the mist I ran through in the morning on Day 140 in the journal entry for that day and in Photos 26.

Here is another swamp picture and a shot I call my "Monet" photo further along the Trail. Both have water spots from rain on the camera lens. I kinda like those drops there; they add to the "ambience."


Cody and I really enjoyed that day between Moxie Pond and Hwy. 15 north of Monson, despite the rain and fog. I was able to get some good views above the clouds on top of Moxie Bald. Once again, the fog was closer to ground level that day and the sun was shining higher up.

I paid for that rain on Day 141, however. That was "flood day," my most dangerous day on the Trail.

Conditions on top of Whitecap Mountain were almost as bad on Day 144 as they were on Mt. Madison on Day 121. The wind was howling, it was completely fogged in, and it was sleeting.

However, it was easier to follow the blazes on top of Whitecap. The Trail was rocky but not iced over and I didn't have to climb over large boulders, I was fogged in a much shorter time, and "Chainsaw" was up there, too. I was completely alone and even more exposed on Madison.

There are more photos from Whitecap in the journal entry on Day 144 (summit, steps going down the north side, and a foggy lake).

Here is one more new picture showing cool fungi growth on a log on the descent from the mountain:

"Fungus in the Mist," eh? (Just wait till you see the photo essay on the wide variety of fungi I saw all along the AT!)

Next up: cloud drama in black and white. It's time to play with my Photoshop software!

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

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil