FKT: Dan Grip - MA Appalachian Trail (MA) - 2020-11-09

Gender category
Route variation
Standard route
Start date
Finish date
Total time
1d 2h 16m 19s
GPS track(s)

This was an unsupported northbound trek of the MA AT.  I started around 11AM and finished around 1PM the following day.  It was late to go for this, but it was my final goal for the year, and the weather worked out to make it possible.  November is not a great time to do this.  I had some nice warm and sunny days (a bit uncomfortably hot at times), and the nights were perfect at high elevations but right around freezing at the low spots.  Going through Dalton at night, I wanted to stop but was too cold, even with a puffy jacket.  Going through Cheshire after dawn there was frost in the fields, but 1000 feet up it stayed around 50 degrees.  The wide temperature variations made it very difficult to stay comfortable going through the night.  The biggest factors of difficulty though, were the deep leaf cover (at times extremely difficult to even walk on in daylight), and the 14 hours of darkness.  My goal was to do this in under 24 hours, but given the conditions and my inexperience at running this distance, I'm happy with the results.  

Making it through the night was difficult.  I was unaware that rechargeable batteries have a much lower total output then alkaline.  My headlamp (Silva Ultra 4) has a 3 AAA pack and a rechargeable Lithium Ion to interchange, both with very long burn times.  4 hours into the night the AAA (with new fully charged high-end batteries) ran out so I was left with only the other battery.  I left it on low and used the extension cord to tuck it into my belt to keep it warm.  It lasted the night and was still bright enough to power-hike/jog at a 15-20 min pace.  I figured this was a good plan because the leaf cover made it dangerous to go any faster even with more light, and staying at this speed would leave me in better shape for the following day.  I had a backup charger as an emergency plan, and a phone light that could at least get me out to a road, but it all worked out ok.

I did about 25 miles in the first daylight, 40 miles in the dark, and 25 in second daylight.  Total daylight around 12 hours, darkness around 14.

I was experiencing some early fatigue with all the extra weight I was carrying.  I've never brought a puffy jacket or poles on a run, but was very happy I did.  The poles were a constant companion after 25 miles and it brought me back to my AT thru-hike of 2010, where I spent many an hour speed hiking with poles.  Lots of food, estimated around 6000 calories.  A mix of real food (rice+bean quesadillas, nori/miso rice balls, PB+raison sandwich, potato chips, almonds, almond butter), and runner food (tailwind, Muir gels, Clif blocks, HS waffles). By the end I couldn't stomach any more sweet stuff, and took quick breaks at water spots forcing down whatever I could to keep fuel in the engine.  Plenty of water along the way.  Springs were still dry from the dry year, but streams were all flowing well.  Lots of water stops, filtered some of them.  I may have been a bit dehydrated a few times but kept drinking and staying on top of it.   

No noteworthy hallucinations (often saw stumps as people or animals on first glance), but I did see the biggest porcupine of my life, and a fisher cat the size of a small bear.  I heard plenty of big animals scrambling away in the darkness.

A note on the southern terminus: The CT/MA sign is not the actual border, being almost a mile north.  From looking at the previous FKTs, people have started/ended at various locations close to the border.  If one wanted to be exact they could pinpoint it with GPS, but I think it's good to have a landmark, so I propose using the Sages Ravine kiosk, at the Paradise trail junction, which looks to be less then .05m north of the actual border. I also want to note that when I finished at the MA/VT border, I was at 89.91 miles, so I HAD to round it up!  I'm including that little ramble in my elapsed time in case anyone thinks I cheated off 20 seconds!

I'd like to give this another try in better conditions and break the 24 hour mark.  It's definitely possible.  Overall it's a beautiful route and I highly recommend it for running or hiking.

Happy trails!

-Roots Rock SOBO 2010