More AT Photos


Runtrails Home Page




Appalachian Trail Conference


Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club


Fueled by:


































































































































































Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
Previous          Journal Topics by Date            Next


"I’ve really enjoyed and am still enjoying your journal!  You write so well.  I like your descriptions, and your sense of humor.  The pictures are great.  Do you think you’ll ever publish it? I think a lot more people than read the internet would be interested in it.  Thank you!"   - Barbara in Ohio
"You really need to write a book on this magnificent journey you are about to complete."   - Graham in Virginia

Reflections on our journey through the White Mountains of New Hampshire on the Appalachian Trail, above and all photos below. August, 2005.

Lots of readers have encouraged me to "write a book."

My response has been, "But I already DID, and it's free on the internet!"

I have always enjoyed writing and I guess somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain I used to think it'd be really cool to write a book "some day."

But about what?? I'm not creative enough to write fictional tales and I didn't think I had enough expertise in anything factual to write about, other than professional newsletters for work, race reports to the internet ultra list serve, and long letters to friends and relatives.

I feel like this is the first time I've ever had a subject interesting enough about which to "write a book." (That sentence sounds silly. It sure is easier to end sentences in prepositions, isn't it??)

Writing a book about the AT Adventure Run was never a goal of mine. I gave the reasons I was writing about the experience in an early prep entry. My goals were to have a detailed account for myself and my family and to provide information and inspiration to a few readers who might be interested in our unusual way of traveling on the Appalachian Trail.

Well, the journal became more widely read than Jim and I ever dreamed, and we received letters like these that surprised and delighted us -and made me more than a little nervous that I'd disappoint readers if I couldn't keep it interesting the whole trip:

"I am a new reader to your journal, having just discovered it last night [May 28]. I stayed up till 3 am reading every entry up to May 29. . . What you're doing is amazing. However, what sets your journal apart from the many other journals available on the web, Sue, is your interesting writing style.  It amazes me that you have enough energy to write such thorough, informative, and entertaining journal entries every day. You have a new fan in me (I live in PA) and will follow every entry you write from now on."    - John

"I found your site and was so captivated I read it almost all in one sitting.  I finished last night [May 29] and one of the first things I did this morning was get on and see if you had updated!  I think your site will be what I read with my morning coffee all summer :-) "   - Kelly

I've had the same feeling about some adventure stories I've read. I get hooked on the tale and find it hard to put the book down until I've finished it.

But I was in near shock that people would consider my own journal to be that interesting a read!

I loved putting fingers to keyboard every night (hmm, "pen to paper" sounds more romantic), describing my days on the Trail. But I felt nearly as much pressure to write as I did to run each day!

Franconia Ridge


Later, readers began suggesting we "write a book" about our experience.

I joked in one entry that if I were to ever write a book about the journey, I'd use the title, "It's Not About the Miles" (a take-off on Lance Armstrong's famous book, "It's Not About the Bike"). This was after I knew I probably couldn't break the women's speed record on the AT and I slowed down to enjoy the journey. By that point, the process had become more important to me than how fast I'd get to Mt. Katahdin.

The Appalachian Trail can have that effect on you if you slow down enough to thoroughly appreciate all it has to offer an open mind and heart.

I have to admit that it's very flattering to have readers suggest that what I wrote in this journal has been entertaining, informative, and/or inspirational enough to warrant print publication. Wow!


We also appreciate all the compliments we received about our photography.

We both enjoyed taking photos along the way. I still haven't edited all of them (well over 3,000 shots). I think my one-day photo "PR" was 97 or 98 pictures in the Mt. Rogers/Grayson Highlands area in southern Virginia; I took 95 one day in the Smokies. Of course, not all of them are fit to print on the web site but there are more I can share in the "photo essays" I will write soon and on the Webshots link later on.

[Later: now you can take a "virtual tour" of the entire AT. Click on the Picasa link above left ("More Photos").]

Some readers suggested including as many pictures as possible with the journal entries if we publish a book. Peggy, who was wonderfully supportive during our trek, wrote,

"I think you need to seriously think about publishing a book about your journey.  With all the pix you took, I'm sure you could have a great coffee-table book with all the splendor of the AT (for those couch potatoes that just sit at home) but also have enough solid info about the trail that potential hikers could get a lot out of it, too. Most of the books I've ever seen are geared toward one or the other--hiker manuals but no real writing or photography, or just pictures of the gorgeous landscapes but no real information . . . Just in case you don't have anything else to do!"

I'd love to do that! However, it's very expensive to include more than a few black and white photos in a book. I'm afraid color ones would require that a major publishing house be involved.

Since we are only self-taught amateur photographers (with good photo editing software), we're pleased that readers have enjoyed our photos and think them worthy of publication or have asked us for permission to use them on their own web sites or as wallpaper on their computers.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who encouraged me to write a book and made suggestions about the content. 

Franconia Ridge


We also appreciate the valuable professional advice we received from three people after we got home regarding the publishing process: my sister, Nancy, who is the editor of a scholarly ecumenical religious quarterly; Neal Jamison, local ultra runner and friend who has edited and published books on ultra running and adventure racing; and Don Allison, ultra runner, writer, editor, and publisher of Ultra Running magazine. These folks all know their "stuff" and graciously shared information with us.

I've thought a lot about this over three months. I have mixed feelings about getting a hard copy published and at this point I don't intend to pursue it.

You weren't expecting that, were you?

My goal would be to inspire others, not self-aggrandizement. Too many other ultra and journey runners have done adventures just as special as (or more spectacular than) mine who have either written their stories or plan to do so. That was clear to me after reading all the web sites of the individuals featured in the November issue of Ultra Running. It doesn't mean they will all find publishers, but they have clearly stated their intentions.

As far as inspiring the general non-running public . . . just because I'm 56 and have arthritis doesn't necessarily make my story salable to the masses. There are already so many other inspirational stories out there by cancer survivors and paraplegics and people with a wide range of disabilities who have accomplished more than I have against 'way bigger odds.

And there is already a wide variety of AT hiking books, speed hiking books, trail running books, and other adventurous sports books on the market.

I think the folks who are most interested in this type of adventure have already found our web site or will eventually find it when they do a web search. Or they'll learn about it from friends (hint, hint) or another web site's link to it.

Maybe I'm wrong and there's a larger market out there for this journal than I think. That would be nice, of course. But how do we determine that before publication??

I'd rather have no printed book than one that flops.


OK, let's say we decide to take the gamble and search for a publisher who is enthusiastic about this journal and believes it could make a profit for the company. Or one just pops up who makes us an offer. I still have concerns.

The biggest is that I would lose control over the contents. Surely it is too long to publish in its entirely. I wouldn't want to make any major changes to it, and I wouldn't want to take the whole thing off the internet (which I think I'd be required to do in order to sell more print copies).

This journal is very personal to me. I like it the way it is and I don't want to change it.

There are some other pitfalls to using a publisher, such as having little control over the length of time it is available to the public, where and how it is marketed, and other issues. I'd have to be very careful of the contract details. I don't have expertise in that area. I don't want to get "taken" by a publisher because of my naiveté, nor do I want to employ an agent or attorney to protect my best interests..

There is another alternative. It's been suggested that I self-publish my book, like David Horton did with his first book (I say "first" because he wants to write another one about his recent speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail). I have no interest in this process. It requires a lot of $$$ up front and rigorous selling.

I am not a salesperson. I hated selling Girl Scout cookies when I was a kid!! Fund-raising even for great causes is anathema to me. It would be easier if we had as much traffic on our web site as David does on his (he directs several ultras and has lots of other information on his site), or if we edited/published a popular ultra running magazine, like Don Allison, in which we could advertise free every month.

But we don't have those advantages, so not only would the initial expense to self-publish a book be prohibitive, we'd also have to pay to advertise and promote it heavily ourselves at races and other venues.

No, thanks. I want to move on to other adventures!


With modern technology (i.e., the internet) I can reach millions of people around the world with this journal in its entirety, including hundreds of color photos . . . and they don't have to pay a penny to read it! Isn't it amazing when you think about all the information to which we have access nowadays??

And look at all the trees and ink I'm saving by NOT "writing a book!"

I love books. Always have. I've sold or given away hundreds during my lifetime, and still have quite a diverse collection left. There's nothing like holding an interesting or beautiful or really old book in my hands.

And it would be totally awesome if I could hold my OWN book in my hands. But I don't think it's ever gonna happen, folks, unless a miracle occurs. Sorry.

My very supportive but techno-phobic brother hasn't read all my journal yet because he hates using the computer. He's "waiting for the book." Don't hold your breath, Bill. I promise I'll show you my multi-volume set of scrapbooks about the AT Adventure Run whenever I get around to compiling them . . . maybe when I'm retired! (family joke)

Southern Presidential Range


So please enjoy my journal on-line and tell others about it who might be interested. January is a great time to live someone else's adventure vicariously and dream of your own.

And a special thanks to Jenny from Ontario who completely made my day recently when she e-mailed this to me:

"I have finished your journal for the second time. Your style is the best I've found so far. Journey and journal I mean.  I have AT fever bad!"

As long as this journal is, I am in awe that someone has taken the time to read it twice! Thanks, Jenny. I'm glad it's been helpful.

Jenny asked my opinion about the pros and cons of doing the trail northbound versus southbound, and I wrote to her personally about that. I've responded many times to readers who had questions if I didn't immediately incorporate the topics into journal entries. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I'm sincere in my effort to give information about what worked for me and why, etc.

So if you ever have questions or feedback about something I've mentioned here, please feel free to e-mail us at the link below.

Jenny's letter ended, "I don't know when I will be able to do my thru hike but in the mean time I will live vicariously through your journal and others. Being a runner myself I hope to also read of some of your ultras and hopefully future thru hikes."

Jim and I have had so much fun with this journal and the friends we've made through it that we intend to write another similar one about our various 2006 adventures. We sometimes write race reports for the ultra list serve but we haven't been diligent about putting them on our web site. We'll also include training information and lots of pictures.

Rainy morning through the Kinsman boulder jungle


This letter was also quite flattering and brought up another subject re: sharing our Trail story with others - speaking to groups about our adventure. Dave wrote,

"Thanks for a beautifully penned AT Journal.  It's a wonderful read, that which I have completed to date.  I love your wit and delivery. If you ever schedule AT talks, I'd like to be on your mailing list."

I'll be blunt here - I write better than I speak! There is no speaking tour in the works. It's doubtful I'll ever initiate the idea of a talk to any group about my AT experience. (I might consent if a group indicates a strong interest and if Jim will help me out.) I did fine speaking to teenagers when I was a teacher in the early 1970s and in the 1990s when I trained several hundred adult volunteers for the Juvenile Court program I directed. I'm not afraid to speak about topics I know, I just don't have an engaging, witty delivery.

Sorry - but thank you for the wonderful compliment, Dave.


Next up: thank you's to all the folks who made our trip possible and/or more enjoyable through their support and encouragement.

Wishing you a tranquil week before Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and whatever other holidays I've inadvertently missed,.

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

Previous       Next

Send an e-mail message to Sue & Jim  

© 2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil