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.
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.
A METAPHOR ON LIFE
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
Here we go again, optimistically, from south to north on the Appalachian Trail . . .
INTO THE MIST ON DAY #1
My very first day on the Trail was foggy, as you can see from these photos on
Springer Mountain from
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
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
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.
SMOKIES IN THE MIST
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.
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
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
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
91 in New Jersey along a ridge overlooking a layer of fog over
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
COWS IN THE MIST
I remember most days on the Trail very clearly (pun intended) even months
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
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.
NEW ENGLAND IN THE MIST
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
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
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
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
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
The next day in the Kinsman Range was foggy at high AND low elevations. These
photos were taken well below the summit. See
Photos 26 for more pictures of gnarly, misty
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
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
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
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
140 in the journal entry for that day and in
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
141, however. That was "flood day," my most dangerous day on the
Conditions on top of Whitecap Mountain were almost as bad on
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