2006-10-15 - AT Familiarization

~12 miles @ ~18 min/mi

Comrade Ken and I are on South Mountain, getting a taste of the JFK 50 Miler course. Enthusiastic MCRRC ultrarunner Cathy Blessing (who six months ago persuaded me to attempt the JFK) has organized a series of practice runs. KS & ^z arrive at the Weverton Cliffs portal to the Appalachian Trail [1] at 7am, before anyone else. We figure we're the slowest, and Ken needs to get home by noon, so we set off immediately, climbing ~500 feet to the ridgeline during the first half-hour via a series of ~15 switchbacks. This segment of the AT is rocky in the extreme, and it's hard to imagine running down it — though the fast JFK runners clearly do it, and at least some survive. We follow the white blazes and after a mile or two divert to admire the Edward B. Garvey Memorial Shelter [2], a magnificent structure. I photograph it from various angles and we chat with the campers there who are just rising. Trail humor ensues, as the upstairs occupant of the building warns, "Don't climb up unless you want to see a fat naked guy!" I reply, "Stay away from the window please!" and then add, "By the way, this camera can take pictures through wood." His reply, not suitable for family audiences, caused the rest of us to shout, "Too much information!"

Ken and I return to the AT and continue north, meeting a variety of hikers and runners en route. My fantasy is to buy a soda at Gathland State Park, but after 1 hour 45 minutes of Ken's aggressive speed-hiking we're half a mile short of the goal and I'm feeling exhausted. I take a GPS waypoint at our turnaround point [3], which coincidentally is the same hilltop that I reached from the north on 10 Sep 2006 during my prior AT run. The return journey features several incidents of ankle-rolling, toe-stubbing, and near-tripping for each of us — but fortunately nothing disabling. After 3:34 on the trail we emerge from the knee-jarring switchbacks and are back to the car. I get Ken home with 15 minutes to spare.