Thursday, August 30, 2012

8.26.12 - Just Like Christmas Eve

I woke up and hit the trail with my headlamp clicked to the on position. Got an early start on the 3 or 4 miles into Abol Bridge so that I could make sure to get my name on the registration list and secure myself for a stay at The Birches lean-to. The Birches is the last shelter/lean-to on the trail heading north. It is at the base of Mt Katahdin and is only open to northbound thru hikers and long distance section hikers (100 miles at minimum). Got to Abol Bridge around 6:40am and got a great view of Katahdin with the rising sun illuminating it. I stopped at the camp store, but it wasn't open, so I walked the additional mile north to get to the kiosk where I had to register for The Birches. I got there to find I was the first to sign up to stay tonight. I put a few of the other guys' names on so they wouldn't have to walk there and back to the store. After signing, I walked back to Abol Bridge and had breakfast there with the others. More hikers filtered in and while I wasn't sure if the spots would be filled up, I wasn't worried, cause I was already covered. It was crazy...a caretaker that we met our first day on trail in Georgia, Jonathan, was here! Apparently he splits his time between various places on the AT. Juggles was there and I got to see some of his juggling. Very deserving of the name! Doing some crazy stuff I haven't seen before!

A big group of us sat around until around 11:30am when we started the hike over to Katahdin Stream Campground, where The Birches is. It was a fairly flat trail (with roots and rocks as usual), skirting along multiple beautiful lakes, ponds, and a waterfall. 9 miles got us to the campground. We checked in with the ranger and paid our $10 fee to stay there. The ranger, Betsy, was full of great info about the mountain and told some exciting stories of rescues and such. Went over to the lean-to and set up camp.

As we ate dinner and sat around, we continued to talk about the end of the journey and reminiscing of good times and bad along the trail. Jonathan came over and had 2 cakes for us! When the sun went down and about 12 of us were sitting around the fire, Houdini did a smudge ceremony where he lit cedar on fire and let it smoke, then used a feather to push the smoke onto each of us. He explained that it's a Native American ceremony of purification and to provide strength and good luck. After that he started the feather ceremony, where we passed around a feather and whoever had the feather was given the floor to speak and say something about our journey. All the guys had something great to say about the past and the future, related to the trail and life. It was great to hear different thoughts and perspectives. Something a lot of people said is that while we all looked forward to our initial goal of reaching the end, Mt Katahdin, it was more about the journey and people between the start and finish. So true. Things I'll never forget and moments I'll always cherish.

After the ceremonies, we all split off and went to get some sleep for the big day ahead of us. Odd thinking that this is my last night on the trail. Hopefully I get some quality sleep. Planning on waking up at 2am to hit the trail early.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

8.25.12 - Maine Terrain is a Pain

Long day today. 25 miles to Hurd Brook Lean-to. My body was still sore from yesterday's hike.

I think the trail is wearing me down, but the terrain in Maine isn't helping. Rocks and roots all over so that you can't keep up a steady pace or get into a rhythm. It's very frustrating. Pedestrian had a great theory today about how they planned where the AT would go through Maine. They attached a paint brush to the tail of a dog, then let a raccoon go. Wherever the dog would chase the raccoon and leave paint is where the trail would be. A little ridiculous maybe, but that gives you a good idea of how crazy it is.

Got a great view of Katahdin towards the end of the day on top of Rainbow Ledges.

18.6 miles to go.

8.24.12 - "Light a Fire Under Him, That'll Get Him Moving"

Last night consisted of a lot of mice trying to get into food bags and backpacks. While mine were hung properly and I didn't have any problems, the noise and aggravation it caused others prevented a few of us from sleeping. The shelter was packed a little tight, and I kept getting bumped and bumping others. At one point, when we heard mice, I had my light right on one that was on Pedestrian's backpack. He jumped up out of his sleeping bag, jumped over to another wooden beam, jumped over to a mobile bench just on the outside of the shelter (I thought he was going to fall at that point if it flew out from under him), and swung at the mouse! What a maniac! Haha. Those of us who were awake to see it were cracking up. So after all this ordeal, I moved my sleeping pad and bag outside the tent and cowboy camped the rest of the night.

Woke up around 5:30 and began the normal daily routine. I went to take my food bag down that was hanging in te shelter using the 60lb fishing line contraption that Flosser (aka Brian, remember him?) made us. It slipped out of my hand when I undid the clasp, and dropped directly below me, which landed right on top of Pedestrian's cooking pot that he was heating water up with his homemade alcohol stove. I'm not sure exactly what happened or how, but to the best of my knowledge that knocked the pot over, which knocked the alcohol stove over, which sent burning alcohol onto my leg. My upper, inside thigh was engulfed in flames. I'm not sure how, but it seemed like I immediately reacted and began smacking the flames with my hands to put them out. When I did this, my right hand then caught on fire too. Eventually after some smacking and covering the flame with both hands, the flame was extinguished. It took some time for my heart to stop pounding and to stop shaking. I checked things over and I was alright. Singed hair, and a sting like a sunburn, but it didn't seem any worse than that. Everyone in the shelter asked how I was and was concerned. Houdini gave me some aloe to put on it. I guess when I look at how much worse the situation could have been or gotten, I was really lucky. Of course as soon as we realized I was ok, the jokes started flying. Last night, I said something about wondering if there's anyone who made it this far and then decided with 4 days or so left of hiking, they would quit for one reason or another. Pedestrian chimed in after the fire and reminded me of that, asking me if I was gonna be that guy. What a way to start the day.

Did 16 miles by lunch at 12:15, and ended the day with 24 miles. I guess the phrase "lighting a fire under him" just might work!

Had a great view of Katahdin from Pemadumcook Lake! Looks way bigger from there as we are now closer!

Stayed at Nahmakanta Stream Campsite.

44 miles to go.

8.23.12 - Last Big Climbs, and The First View of Katahdin

Woke up early this morning and crossed the West Branch of the Pleasant River. First time going barefoot. I didn't want to get my shoes wet right off the bat. It was cold and almost therapeutic. From there, I blasted off into the woods and set a steady pace. I wanted to get to these climbs and get up and over them. It was warm right by the river, but when I got about 100 yards away, it got considerably colder. I could see my breath for about 2 miles. Got the first 5.5 miles done in about 2 hours, then it was time for the climbs. Four mountains, highest around 3,600 ft. This was Whitecap Mtn and we got our first view of Katahdin! Looks like a beast sitting out by its lonesome. Hard to believe it's 70 miles away. As the crow flies, it's probably about 30.

Today I listened to a great song while I was hiking by myself. I really like Jake Owen's line "So I don't buy green bananas, cause I don't plan that far ahead". While I'm typically a planner, this trip has made me realize how much I enjoy random, spontaneous things that happen. I think that will roll over into life after the trail. :)

Ended the day with 16.3 miles, staying at East Branch Lean-to.

67 miles to go.

8.22.12 - Sluggish Day

Slept in later than normal today. Had my alarm set for 6am, but must have slept right through that. It was a chilly morning, as my temp in my tent read low 50s. Must have been in the mid to high 40s last night.

Was an uphill downhill kinda day today. I've heard numerous times how easy the 100 Mile Wilderness is and how flat it is. Maybe today was one of the sections they got to mention is an exception. Granted, we've seen tougher things on the trail, but I wouldn't call this a cake walk.

Late morning, Banjo and I decided to go 0.4 miles off the trail to a lean-to to get water. Turns out that maybe 2 miles or so after the trail to the lean-to, there was a stream. Wasn't listed in the book, so we had no idea it'd be there. Oh well.

It was a sluggish day. I wasn't moving quickly, felt worn out, and even slipped and tripped a few times. Luckily nothing was too painful or serious, but good reminders to pay attention and hike safely. One fall was ever so slight and even gentle. My butt landed in moss, but my thigh came down right on a small tree stump about 4 inches in diameter. Felt like someone gave me a charlie horse, then for the rest of the day it felt like I had a cramp in my thigh and calf. Maybe I bruised it or at worse maybe ripped some muscle. I think the party 2 nights ago caught up to me today and that's what made me feel tired and out of it. The other guys said they felt the same way.

Great views today, and tomorrow should be a last day of good ups and downs. The rest of the Wilderness looks pretty level. The terrain is pretty awful in spots. Roots and rocks which prevent getting into a rhythm with steps. Compared to California trails, these here are rough and pretty lousy.

Camped by the West Branch of the Pleasant River.

Hiked 15 miles.

84 miles to go.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

8.21.12 - Into the 100 Mile Wilderness and Double Digits!

99 miles to walk on the trail.
99 miles to walk.
Walk one more, then ends the song.
99 miles to walk on the trail.

(thanks thanks, wrote it myself. I'll be signing autographs when I get back)

Late late start to the day. May have something to do with a little party last night. I felt fine today, but others weren't really eager to hike early. Got to the trail around 11:30am, and hiked 15 miles from Monson to Long Pond Stream Lean-to.

Had 3 stream and river fords. Nothing out of the ordinary lately.

Heavy food bag with 5 days of food. The sign at the beginning of this section, known as the 100 Mile Wilderness, says to make sure to have at least 10 days of food. Haha. Ok. Maybe if they provided a Sherpa or pack mule to carry it! 5 days of food is plenty heavy. Can't wait to eat down the weight.

Starting to get some different feelings knowing there's less than a week and just under 100 miles to go til I'm done.

15 hiked today.

99.4 left to go.

8.20.12 - Hiker Trash Bash (and Chesty's Birthday) in Monson

Rebekah at the Lakeshore House Pub and Lodge was awesome and let us (Houdini, Banjo, and myself) hold a party at her place for other thru hikers. For a few weeks now, Chesty and Roadhouse have been telling people to make sure to be in Monson on the 20th so we can have a final bash before we all head into the 100 Mile Wilderness, summit, and all go our own ways after the trail, and to celebrate Chesty's 28th birthday.

We went to the grocery store 12 miles away to do our last resupply of the trip and to pick up food and supplies for the party.

When we got back in town, a bunch more hikers were getting in. We went back to the BBQ place we went to for dinner last night, Grille Master General's, which is an old tow behind home that was converted into a BBQ pit. Had lunch there, then headed back to Lakeshore House and set up for the party. Banjo and I took the kayaks out on Lake Hebron for a while. I stayed out longer and paddled around most of the lake. When I was going around a large island, I saw a bunch of loons swimming. I paddled near two of them, and as I got close, they dove under water. I paddled to the middle of where they were, expecting them to come back up there, but they didn't. Mysterious, but cool birds!

I ended up coming within about 7 feet of another loon and got to see it up close. It was an awesome looking bird and was making its typical loud noises. When it made its loud screeching sort of noise, you could hear it carry and echo into the forest for a ways.

After a few hours, I paddled back in and it was about time to party. It was a great time spending the evening with lots of people I've seen along the trail, and some who I've never seen or have only run into briefly. There was a lot of reminiscing of good and even bad times had on the trail over the past 2000+ miles. I can already tell it's going to be different going from the life I've been living over the past 5+ months, to whatever is next.

The 100 Mile Wilderness is next, then a few miles to Katahdin, and it's over. Not sure what my cell coverage is going to be like through this more remote area. I will post comments and pictures as I can.

Excited to see how things over the next week go!

8.19.12 - Trail Friday and an Actual Friday into Monson

Ugh. Just typed up this entry, hit save, program closed for some reason, and lost the post. Therefore... here's the abbreviated version. Oh the joy of technology :)

Got out of my tent early to catch the sun coming up over Moxie Pond. Awesome to see things come to life for the day and the feeling of the warm sun hitting me on the cool morning was great. Things like this, I'm really going to miss when the trail is over.

1 ford of a stream in the morning that typically wouldn't be a ford if not for all the rain recently.

2 actual fords of rivers, the West and East branches of the Piscataquis River. West was flowing good, knee deep with a static line to help from taking a swim. Trail magic after crossing east branch.

3 sodas for 3 of us in the trail magic cooler, which Houdini commented was serendipitous. He also reflected on how many things have been serendipitous along the whole journey and I agree. A lot of work and planning has gone into the AT, but there are many things you don't or can't plan for. Those things, thankfully, have worked out extremely well, which has been really cool to see happen time and time again!

18 mile day into the last town along the trail until finishing. Crazy to think about! Got a hitch after about 5 minutes.

114 miles to go.

Monday, August 20, 2012

8.18.12 - Sunny Day, Trail Magic

Had a delicious breakfast buffet at Northern Outdoors. We showed up at 7:10am (10 min after they open), and we were the last ones there at the end of the buffet at 9am. Champs. That's what we are.

The sun was shining and the sky a vibrant shade of blue. Looked like a nice day was in store for us! We got a free shuttle back to the trail and had some good, fairly flat trail for the first six miles, which brought us to Pleasant Pond Lean-to. There we met Pandora, who told us that her friend was up ahead at the road near Moxie Pond and she was doing trail magic. That got us moving even faster. We stopped at the top of Mt Pleasant and took in the great views. The Bigelows looked gnarly and we wished we'd had good weather and views over them. Moved on and got to the road. Met Brownie Brittle, who have us soda, bean burritos, hotdogs, pickles, cookies, and talked to us about the trail ahead. She was a really nice lady. We thanked her and moved on. Right away, we had to ford some water. Not listed in the book, but we still had to do it. We thought that maybe its not normally that high, and rock hopping would get us across without getting wet. Was the deepest and swiftest moving water we've crossed yet. Knee deep in some spots.

We hiked 7 more miles, up and over Moxie Bald (which was a really cool area up top with open rock) and down to Moxie Bald Lean-to. The guidebook says this area has a lot of moose. Hopefully see one!

The sky was really clear, so Houdini and I went out to the water's edge and checked out the stars. It's gonna be sad to leave this stuff behind when I'm done. Nice cool night as I hop in my tent. Should sleep like a baby.

19 mile day.

132 miles to go.

8.17.12 - Crossing the Kennebeck

Trail was still a mess from all the rain. Water running down the trail and in other places you wouldn't expect it to be.

We got to the most beautiful body of water I have seen so far on the trail. Pierce Pond was amazing looking. Unfortunately, about a month and a half to two months ago, thru hiker "Parkside" went for a swim here and ended up drowning. They say he did a 20 mile day before the swim, and his legs cramped up in the water. When we arrived today, there is a tree stump with "Rest in Peace Parkside" carved into it, and his picture in the lean-to. It's a sad reminder that anything can happen, even to good people. Life is too short, one big reason for me and my buddy Tarzan for coming out here. A prayer goes out to you, your family, your trail family, and your friends tonight Parkside.

In the afternoon we made it to the Kennebeck River. It's about 75 yards wide, and the official AT is followed by hopping in a canoe with a guy that takes you across. There is a white blaze painted in the bottom of the canoe. The guy told us that if you were to try and ford the river after the amount of rain we've recently had, which was currently about 10 feet at its deepest, you would most likely either be drug under water and nearly drown after being swept downstream, or you would just simply die. We had already planned to take the ferry, so we hopped in. Houdini manned the front paddle spot, and I hung out in the middle, not doing a thing but enjoying it!

When we got to the road after a short 0.3 following the ferry, we walked a mile to Caratunk to the Sterling Inn to get a few snack items to get us a few days further. We were then shuttled to Northern Outdoors in The Forks, ME where they do rafting trips and have a restaurant and their own brewery. We took free showers across the street at the campground, set up tents, started laundry, ate some food and sampled some beer, then called it a night.

It was a great day with sunshine and no rain until we were finishing eating and finishing up laundry. Stopped as we were leaving to go to our tents, which is fine.

15 mile day.

151 miles to go.

8.16.12 - Rain

Went over the Bigelows today. Rained from 6am. Still raining slightly at 7:15pm. Trail was a river. Mud and water over ankle deep, some water knee deep at creek crossings.

Not an enjoyable day on the trail.

18.5 miles.

Stayed at West Cary Pond Lean-to.

Here's to a better, drier tomorrow.

165 miles to go.

8.15.12 - 2,000 Mile Milestone, and Today I Took'a Me Fishin'

Decided to do a short mile day today. 5 miles from Stratton, up a couple thousand feet, to Horn Pond Lean-to. Left town around 10:00am, got in around 1pm. Decided to MacGuyver some fishing equipment and go to the pond to try to catch us some brook trout. Fishing hooks made from safety pins. Line made out of upholstery thread I had and dental floss. Trekking pole for, well... a pole. No luck catching any, but it was a good time hangin out with Banjo and Houdini. Houdini also made a spear using his walking stick with three sharp sticks he whittled to sharp points attached to it.

We knocked out some good elevation today and got some more rest in, which should put us in a good position to do some of the last tough climbs until Katahdin. There will be a few more climbs, but they don't look anywhere near as big or tough. We will knock these Bigelow Mtns out tomorrow, rain or shine (supposed to rain like it did today again).

Today was also a milestone day. I hit the 2,000 mile mark!

About 183 miles to go.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

8.14.12 - Unplanned Zero in Stratton

Decided to wait for Houdini and a couple other dudes to show up. Took care of some stuff. And things. Library time working on the resume and talking to some companies. Productive day.

8.13.12 - Push into Stratton, and 200 Miles To Go

Woke up around 5am to a few hikers being loud as they got ready. As I guessed, they were the older folks who went to bed at 7:30pm. I can understand not being able to be completely quite when packing up hear, but they were just talking loudly back and forth and joking around. Granted I usually wake up around 5:30, but I didn't want to be woken up any earlier, as I'm sure others didn't either. I guess that's all part of staying at shelter areas. You just never know what you'll run into.

It looked like it would be a nice day. Things were a little soggy from the rain last night, but the sun was shining now. Packed up a slightly wet tent, and a soaked and muddy footprint. Had a gradual uphill climb to Lone Mtn. Passed 4 of the older people who woke me. Cruised on a nice section of trail leading up to Spaulding Mtn Lean-to. Had an early lunch and dried out my tent in the sun. I took a look at my guidebook and realized that in 1.7 miles, I would hit the 200 miles remaining mark. I immediately got a feeling of excitement! When I go to Spaulding Mtn, I took the blue blaze trail to the top, hoping for a good view. The summit had a lot of trees, which prevented getting a good view. Carried on and made my way to Sugarloaf Mtn which is also a ski resort.

Along the way to Sugarloaf, I reached the 200 miles til Katahdin point. No sign to acknowledge this, but shortly after, there was a sign on a boulder stating that the area I was in was where the final link of the AT was completed back on August 14, 1937. There was also a temporary sign stating that the AT is celebrating its 75 year anniversary tomorrow. Back in 1937, the trail was 2,054 miles long. Today, after trail reroutes and modifications, it is at its longest length, at 2,184 miles. I signed the log book and took a lapel pin they had for thru hikers there.

As I got to the side trail to Sugarloaf peak, I decided not to go. A sobo said it wasn't really worth the additional mile. I talked to some section hikers for a bit, then headed on. If I wanted to get to Stratton tonight, I had 9.9 miles and it was about 2:30pm. I started trucking on and went down the steep grade of Sugarloaf, took a break down by the river, then it was on to tackle South and North Crocker Mtns. Some section hikers at the base of South told me it was really steep and tough. I pushed going up and kept a strong, steady pace, trying not to stop my drive. I made it to the summit, sweat pouring and heart pounding, but without stopping.

There was a downhill into a saddle, and back up to get to North Crocker. When I got up to the top there was a small summit clearing. I sat and took a short break, then began the 5 mile hike down to Hwy 16. The 5 miles seemed to go on forever, but eventually I made it to the road around 6:45pm. I had done the Crockers and not seen one person. I had them all to myself.

I got a ride into Stratton and grabbed a bite to eat. In this small town, all but a convenience store and a gas station stay open past 8pm. After my Wolf Burger (a huge burger with a sausage patty on top of the beef patty) from The White Wolf, I walked around town and low and behold, came across a little league field. As I was already familiar with using a dugout as a shelter, I did the same here. This one was nicer and larger. (I sound like a connoisseur, right? What's your specialty? "Oh, mine? Baseball field dugouts."). Anyway, I set up and went to bed after a challenging 21.5 mile day.

188 miles left to go.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

8.12.12 - Great Sunday With The Ferrara's and Sunny Trail Day

Slept like a baby last night. I was so tired and comfortable laying in the comfy bed that while I was typing up my blog, I kept falling asleep and dropping my phone.

Had breakfast at the house with The Ferrara's. The father, Rich, and I were talking about things we are both familiar with in the printing industry. He is an artist and graphic artist, so that was cool being able to chat about something familiar to the both of us. I heard Maryellen (mother) mention something to the kids about going to mass. I asked if they minded me coming along, and they had no problem with it. We went to St. Luke's Catholic Church, and during the first reading, there was mention of walking for forty days and forty nights. I was waiting for The Ferrara's to all glance over at me, making reference to a long walk. Then during the priest's homily, he made mention to the trek, and I envisioned him looking over at me and nodding and winking! Haha! Unfortunately that didn't happen, but after church, we hopped in the car and we were all talking about the reference to a long walk. Good times!

Having been so lucky to have been adopted for a short time by The Ferrara's, and being able to go to church, then go along with them to the grocery store so I could do my food reapply, and then them taking me back to the trail, it was already a great day. That short but great stay really left me with a great feeling and great attitude to get back to the trail and continue on. Once again, can't thank you guys enough for everything you did for me. I don't think you realize how easy you made a series of things happen, that can sometimes be done only through complicated logistics.

While we were going to church and even after getting groceries, it was drizzling slightly. Today was supposed to be a beautiful day weather-wise. Well, it ended up being just that. The sun came out and I had a great day of hiking. Checked out Piazza Rock just off trail that The Ferrara's had been to and told me about. It was a really cool, large rock that was hanging out, almost balanced on other boulders. Stopped to eat lunch at Eddy Pond, then hiked up and over Saddleback, The Horn, and Saddleback Junior. Took a little rest and laid down to relax on top of Saddleback. Some clouds were blowing over, but the sun was out too, and it felt great. Hiked down to Poplar Ridge Lean-to, set up my tent, made and ate dinner, just before it started raining (yet again!). At least it was great out while I was hiking and I didn't get wet. Only an 11 mile day, but I started around 11:30am after a great first half of the day. Still ahead of the crew I was with the past week or so, and they were going into Rangeley, so I'm not sure when I'll see them again. Maybe in Stratton. Wonder how close I am to catching up to Keeper.

Good day! And for now, goodnight!

8.11.12 - Rangeley, Fire the Cannon, Vacation Home

Got a late start out of the lean-to. I decided to sleep in a little after my rough push to there in the rain last night. Also, I'm never excited to put on wet clothes in the morning. Left around 9am and had to take my time going over the wet, rocky slab terrain. The constant slight downward slant made it tough to maintain traction and stay upright. I managed to only lose my footing a few times, but never actually went down. There was once again a lot of running water on the trail, and when I got to the steep downhill section, I had to really slow down and take my time to be careful. At times I was throwing my trekking poles down about 20 feet and using my arms to hold onto trees and sometimes scoot on my butt to keep from falling. It was a slow moving, tough morning. it was once again an eerie looking environment with all the clouds up where I was. Almost a mystical looking place.

When I finally got down to a flatter area, I ran into Houdini who was slack packing South again. He was talking to a lady who was heading southbound, but not doing the whole trail. I hung out down there for a while and chatted before I carried on. I had a climb up to Rt 17, where Houdini had been dropped off. Up there was a great scenic view of a big lake. The newly constructed area had a few cars with people stopping to take in the sights. I walked up to the area to sit and have lunch, and Juggles was there. He mentioned that Danish had gotten sick the night before. Sounded once again like what everyone else was getting. We ate lunch then I made a phone call home and Juggles took off. He's a very awkward and negative guy, so I wasn't disappointed when he took off and I'd be hiking by myself. I got back into the woods and the weather and terrain were good the rest of the day. No rain, and the terrain just did a few slight ups and downs, but could be cruised over a lot easier. I decided I would try and push the 19 miles (15 or so remaining, into Rangeley. The terrain remained good, so I made good time and hit the road before 6pm.

As I got to the road there was a parking lot. I saw a hiker and another man there talking. I asked if this was the road to Rangeley, and the man said yes, and that he'd give me a ride there as he was headed back. So easy! We headed out and on the way into town, we stopped at the campground he lives at. The owner was there and was about ready to fire off his homemade cannon across his pond. He loaded the chamber with black powder, shoved a 2 inch branch from a tree that was about 18 inches long, and lit it. The cannon blew the branch out over the pond with a huge bang! That was awesome! He got one to fit even tighter and it fired louder and harder. He offered for me to stay there and camp, but I needed to get to town, so we made our way in. Upon dropping me off, Gary asked me to do one thing. To do a random act of kindness each day. I thought this was awesome, and will definitely try my best to do so.

I went to the Red Onion restaurant in town to get some pizza. Ordered a large for myself and ate all but 2 pieces. Didn't want to feel miserable. While eating, a lady and daughter came over to ask me about the trail. They were excited to hear about it, which was cool! Then they came back over with another daughter, son, and the husband. They were all interested to hear about it, so I talked to them for a while. They asked where I was staying and I told them I didn't know yet, but I was eyeing the baseball field across the street :). They told me I should come stay with them at their vacation house. They were up from Jersey on vacation and just got into town today. Sounded great! I finished up eating when they went to get ice cream and they came back to get me. I got a shower, did laundry, and did a show and tell about what I carry on the trail. They are a family of athletes (the kids all swimmers), so they were really interested in my journey, being that it is a big physical challenge. I had my own bedroom and nice big comfy bed. Such a nice family!

Most random ending to a day on trail, but I love it! Started off kinda crummy with being wet and dangerous terrain, but someone had bigger, better plans for my day! Everything fell so perfectly into place that it's hard to believe.

8.10.12 - Rain, rain, rain, and Beating Temptation

I'm hoping not, but it's as though a trend is showing that it rains a lot in Maine. The forests are very think and lush, which must mean that they get a decent amount of rain.

It rained most of the night last night and I didn't sleep much. However, woke up to no rain! We packed up in the dugout and went over to The Little Red Hen restaurant. Sure enough, Houdini was there eating. He was going to be slack packing the next few days to take some pressure off his knees. I ordered French toast and a biscuit and gravy. It was really good! Roadhouse pounded a bunch of food, and when we were done, went to the intersection to try and catch a ride back to the trail. Took about 20 minutes until a truck stopped and picked us up. The guy who picked us up was headed out to his camp in the woods for the day.

Shortly after getting back on trail, it started raining (hard to believe, right?). The trail was really wet from last night's rain. Sitting water in some spots, and running water in others. I let Roadhouse use one of my trekking poles, as his broke. We had to cross over a swollen creek, which went well and we didn't get wet. I realized quickly that my feet were going to get wet today, so the first big spot with sitting water on the trail, I walked right through it. No sense in trying to avoid it all day. It makes for slow hiking, and sometimes more dangerous if you're trying to walk on and around things. Six miles after trudging through water and mud, we made it to the shelter, where Houdini was. He had started 4 miles from the north this morning and was slack packing south back to Andover. We stopped and took a break. It was already noon. I guess that's what happens when you have a far hitch and don't get on trail til 9am. Bandaid, his girlfriend, and Little Pot (German section hiker) were also there. Houdini told us that Chesty and Banjo were only about 10 minutes ahead of us. Chesty had gotten sick last night and was up all night throwing up. Sounds like the thing that's being passed around between hikers lately. Their plan was to hike the 4 miles to the road and go to Andover.

After lunch, we headed downhill quite a ways to our first river to ford. It was swollen enough from all the rain that we would have to walk through it. Not enough exposed rocks to hop across on. My feet were already wet, so I walked right across. Roadhouse got there, took off his boots and socks, walked across barefoot, then put his socks and boots back on. We made the climb up the mountain from the river, then back down to the second road that we could get into Andover from. Just before the road, was another river ford to be done. We made it across and I contemplated what to do. Roadhouse was going in. We talked to a former thru hiker there waiting for his brother to come down to the road, who said that Chesty, Banjo, and Pedestrian all hitched into town. I wanted to go in and have a good time with those guys, and non trail food sounded so good, especially ice cream and coffee again. I decided I would hike on, as I didn't NEED to go in, so I started filling my water bottle. Part of the way through, I stopped, through my water bottle back up by Roadhouse, and said "screw it, I'll go into town!". A truck came down the road and pulled over to offer a ride. At that point, I changed my mind yet again, and said I would keep hiking and not go into town. I passed up the opportunity and hoped I wouldn't regret it. Talk about being indecisive! We had done 10 miles, and I felt like I had more in me.

Before I could even get all packed back up and hiking, it started raining. I was already wet, so why not stay out in it? There was a big climb up Ol Blue Mtn, then a stream about 6 miles from where I was. I aimed for the stream to camp nearby. Bandaid, his gf, and Little Pot hiked on too. I trudged up and over the tough climb in a slow, consistent rain, and through dark and gloomy, foggy conditions. Seemed like it took forever to get up to the top of Ol Blue at around 3600 ft. It took an hour and a half. I pushed on to get to a lower elevation. I made it to the stream I aimed for, but there wasn't anywhere good to set up my tent. The next shelter was another 3 miles. I didn't really want to, but I pushed on. I went up and over Bemis Mtn, then up and down and up and down until I made it to Bemis Mtn Lean-to just before 8pm. I hadn't fallen all day, but within the last 15 minutes of my day, took two slight spills. I was wet, tired, and worn out! Luckily there was room in the lean-to out of the rain. It started coming down harder. I guess if anything, I'm glad it waited until I got here to come down harder than it had been all day. The Birds, Pocahontas, and Achy Breaky were there and made room for me to join them.

While I was trudging through the gloomy, wet trail after leaving the road, I started feeling a little lonely and kinda wishing I hadn't left those other guys behind. It was fun hiking with them and hanging out. I may wait for them to catch up in Rangely. As I was making the push to the lean-to, I was craving cereal with milk, which made me think how nice it will be when I'm done as I can have normal food again on a regular basis. That, and not be soaking wet! Maybe it is good that I pushed in and did the additional 9 miles. Puts me that much closer to Katahdin. I'm not all about pushing big miles just to finish the trail, but tonight I got a little bit of that. I guess like my main focus in life right now, I'm trying to find balance in things. Work, play, bettering myself, helping others, etc. Same goes for the trail. Trying to finish up so I can get back to the comforts of life and all the things I miss, but also enjoy the remainder if my time out here.

When it rains, sometimes I just get a case of what I call HDH. Head down hiking. Not much to see while it's raining, so push some miles. 19 miles over tough terrain, with a 9am start...I'll take it. Just hope the weather improves.

Couldn't help but sing the song When it Rains, by Eli Young Band in my head. "When it rains, some people get down, their sportin' a frown, so I fit right in."

8.9.12 - Andover, and Sleeping in the Dugout

Started off as a nice day, until we got to the Baldpate Peaks. The climb up Baldpate West Peak was tough! I kept having to take breaks. It was long, steep, had a lot of steps (which you may think would make it easier, but I think it's tougher), and I kept feeling like I was running on low energy. We got over West Peak but as we were in the saddle of the two, we could see some nasty, dark clouds rolling in and hear thunder in the distance. Roadhouse and I decided to lay low in the saddle and let the storm pass. It didn't seem like a safe idea to be up high on the exposed bald in a storm. We waited it out as the rain came down. Where I was sitting turned out to be a bad spot. Water running down the rock face funneled into the area I was in and the rocks I was perched on quickly became a disappearing island. I had stayed pretty dry, but I had to move out of that spot, and when I did, my feet got a little wet. The rain stopped after about 20 minutes and we decided to head up Baldpate East Peak as it looked like the storm had passed. There were small streams running across the open rock face, but luckily the granite is rough enough to provide grip to walk on, even in those conditions. Took our time to carefully climb, and the sun started to poke out. When we made it to the top, it was an open rocky area that somewhat flattened out, and almost felt like we were on the moon or some other planet. The sun was out and we were hungry so we stopped to eat and dry out our raincoats and any other wet gear.

We made our way down toward Frye Notch Lean-to (same as a shelter, just what Maine calls them). When I got there and was pumping water, it started to rain again. I walked back up to the shelter and waited out the rain. Roadhouse and Pedestrian showed up, and after about 15 minutes, the rain stopped. I finished filtering water, then we carried on. Had a decent climb, which was making my legs burn. Lately, I have been feeling really worn down. I think it's the constant elevation changes, tougher terrain, steep ascents and descents, and me not eating enough food. I would have to go into Andover as initially planned. The others had planned for enough food to get to Rangely, but for some reason, I didn't. I thought I could stretch my food to make it last, but I quickly learned that doesn't work for me. Not a good idea. Working as hard as we do to climb these mountains really requires a lot of energy from calories, and you just can't do without.

I pushed ahead of the others and wanted to see how it looked to get a hitch from the road. We heard it's not an often travelled road. As I got close to Dunn Notch and Falls, it started to rain again. (Ok, now it's just getting a little ridiculous). I made it to a spot just before the road where it was fairly dry. I was hungry and not sure if Roadhouse was going to go into town or not, so I stopped, and started cooking dinner. As I was getting dripped on, Roadhouse walked up and said there were two guys behind him that had a car parked at the road and maybe we could get a hitch in from them. As they showed up, Roadhouse asked which way it was into Andover on the road, and they told us to the right and said they were going and could give us a lift. I grabbed my almost completed (delicious) dinner of pasta side and instant mashed potatoes, and we loaded up into their vehicle. We got lucky with this hitch. The towns in Maine are a further off the trail and trying to hitch in rain can be tough. Picking up wet, dirty, stinky hiker trash...not everyone's desire in life.

We got into town 7 miles later and were dropped off at the center of town, which consisted of a general store, The Little Red Hen restaurant which we heard was good but was currently closed, the fire department, another gas station, and an ice cream stand. We went into the general store, which also had a deli and grill. Danish, and 4 other hikers were also there. The Birds, and two others I didn't meet. We both ordered the double bacon barbecue burger specials and put those down quickly. The rain was coming down like crazy now, mixed with thunder and lightning. We had to buy more snacks and things for the next 2 to 2.5 days into Rangely, so we took care of that, then went and sat outside. Like he also was does, Houdini walked up out of nowhere with Yosemite. Houdini had been ahead of me, but was having knee issues and was going slow. He got off at the same road I was an got a ride from the hostel in town. They were coming over to the general store to eat for the second time today. I got some ice cream and a cappuccino and sat outside enjoying that, talking to some locals, and trying to figure out where we would sleep. It was still pouring rain, so we sat there and waited it out. One local clued us in that in this town of about 400 people, there aren't any police, and that the dugouts on the baseball field just next door might be a good place to sleep and stay dry. After the store closed and the rain slowed to a slow sprinkle, we made our way over to the ball field and set up shop in the one of the dugouts. Kinda looked like a shelter on the AT!

As they say on the trail... No pain, no rain, no Maine. Definitely have all 3 right now!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

8.8.12 - Entering Maine, and the Fun Mahoosucs!

Woke up to a great sunrise! Filtered some water out of some puddles in the rocks, as the next listed water source was kinda far away. Hikes about 2 miles and made it to the New Hampshire, Maine border! One state remaining til I'm done! We took quite a few breaks today whether because we were tired or to get water. Made it to Full Goose Shelter and had lunch there. We also rested up a little before leaving and heading up a climb, then about 1000 ft down to get to the start of Mahoosuc Notch. The guidebook I have states "many call this scramble under, around, over, and between boulders the most difficult mile on the Trail". I had a blast with it. It took about an hour and a half to get through, but we took our time and even took our packs off and put our headlamps on to go into some of the very cold cave sections.

After making it out of the notch, we had the Arm to climb. It was about 1,600 ft of ascending steep sections, some of which were open rock slabs and faces. Eventually we made it to Speck Pond Shelter where we got water and made dinner. Most of us moved on to find a free place to stay. Chesty, Roadhouse, and Pedestrian, and I made it up almost to the top of Speck Mtn and found a spot to stealth camp. Pretty tough day today, but a lot of fun in the notch!

Scored a free, full fuel canister from a day hiker who didn't need it anymore. He had a full one, and one that was about 2/3 full. He gave both to me, so I shared one with Banjo.