The pillar of most ultra marathon training programs is the long run. For those of us with a relatively conventional Monday-Friday work schedule, the 4-5 hour jaunts are relegated to the weekends. Last Saturday I headed out bright and early (although not quite as early as I would have hoped) to run the 10-mile section of the Appalachian Trail between Clark’s Valley (Route 325) and the top of Peter’s Mountain. I parked the car down in the valley, and planned on running out and back, for a total of 20 miles.
I picked up the AT just below the Dehart Dam Reservoir, the catchment which supplies the drinking water for Harrisburg City. This section starts with a healthy 1.5 mile climb, made a bit easier with well-maintained rock steps and switchbacks. Since my Garmin was the victim of a forgetful owner (more on that later), I had to carry along my phone to track miles/pace. I also brought along two water bottles, one spiked with electrolytes, and a gel in case I really needed some calories. I tucked all this into the women’s small nathan running pack I borrowed from my lovely wife.
I was feeling pretty strong, despite putting in a longer week than usual, and in a bout of overconfidence tried to keep the pace up through a technical rocky section of trail Right around 2.3 miles, I stumbled, lost my balance, and went down hard (luckily I caught myself with a rock). I’m used to stumbling during trail runs, but I can usually manage to stay vertical. This time I was not so lucky. At only a little over two miles, I couldn’t turn around and waste the morning, so I pushed on.
After that initial rocky section, the trail evens out along the ridgetop and is much more runnable, with a few great overlooks and a spring or two on the way if you happen to run out of water. There are also lots of side trails jutting off into the State Game Lands and the Ibberson Natural Area to explore. As I approached Kintner View, some thoughtful hikers had been kind enough to leave me a note that instilled a slight hint of trepidation.
And Snakes there were. Keeping my eyes peeled in the rocky areas and overlooks, I saw plenty of sleepy black snakes, rattlesnakes, and copperheads. As the day progressed, they became more and more prevalent (or I became more observant). Luckily they all remained docile and uninterested in the sweaty, tired human lumbering past. I made the turnaround, and humped it 10 miles back to the car.
This was a great section of trail, and as long as you don’t mind seeing a few slithery friends in the summer, well worth the few minutes drive to get there. Next time I think I’ll start in the same place but head north toward Maine, and let the snakes guard the path to Georgia.