Sunday, June 13, 2010
The biggest negative of doing this move is that there is no way for me to move the subscriptions of those of you who took the trouble to subscribe to my blog. That being the case, if you would like to continue receiving my blog posts in your email, you will need to re-subscribe to the new blog.
So where is the blog nowadays, you ask? Right here:
I will not be updating the blog at this location anymore. If you are wishing you had never subscribed to my blog in the first place, you can breathe a sigh of relief. This is the last update you will receive. But if you still have some degree of interest in what Jodi and I are up to and what minor adventures we might undertake in the future that I deem fodder for the blog, you will need to go to the new blog and subscribe again. I apologize for the hassle!
Here's hoping I see you over at allenf.com/blog
Thursday, April 01, 2010
This is gonna be awesome!
Now I just have to get my lard ass in shape...
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Last year I greeted spring while hiking in the Blood Mountain Wilderness in Georgia. Today I greeted it while cycling through the Blue Hills in Massachusetts with Jodi. It was a glorious spring day with sunshine and temps of 70 degrees, very unusual weather for March in New England.
Being awfully early in the season, and not having cycled at all last year since I spent the summer hiking, I labored on the hills today. But we are determined to whip ourselves back into cycling shape this year and are determined to do a challenging bike tour this summer. We aren't quite sure where yet and are still discussing options. The one we are currently exploring is to tour some of the parks in the Canadian Rockies.It always feels good to have a physically challenging adventure to work towards and look forward to.
Tomorrow our weather will be back to normal; gray and damp with temperatures in the 40s. But you can't fool me; spring is here and I know it!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
AT Miles = 2.8
Other Miles = 8.8
Total Miles = 11.6
Today was a perfect day to start a thru-hike. After days and days of rain, today was warm and sunny with a bit of haze. After a hearty breakfast at the Hikers Hostel in Dahlonega, six hikers piled into the truck to be shuttled to the trail. Only two of us had chosen to hike the Approach Trail from Amicalola Falls State Park. The trail starts at the stone arch behind the Visitors Center, then follows the paved trail up along the falls, which includes seven hundred and something stairs. Whew!
After I got out of the state park the trail turned quiet and lovely. It is quite different than New England, which I think of as mud, roots, and rocks. Here the trail was dry and smooth for easy walking. It was only the elevation gain that made the hiking hard.
I left Amicalola Falls at about 10:20 and arrived at the summit of Springer Mountrain at 1:50, much faster than I expected. I hadn't yet picked a final goal for the day. I could have stopped at the Springer Mountrain Shelter just 0.2 miles from the summit, but with about 6 hours of daylight left it seemed that pushing on a little further made sense, so I continued on the 2.8 miles to here, Stover Creek Shelter.
It's about 6:30 now. We've got blue skies and a gentle breeze, and the evening is starting to cool off. My hammock is hung out behind the shelter, and I think it is going to be wonderful sleeping weather tonight; fresh and chilly.
There is a fire going started by one of the3 other hikers. There are a half dozen hikers in the shelter, a few in tents 50 yards away, and me in my hammock.
The weather forecast I saw this morning before leaving the hostel called for a 30% chance of rain tomorrow, then sunny and warm for the rest of the week.
While hiking today I was thinking that so far this feels like just another weekend hiking trip. I wonder how long it will be before it starts transitioning from a hiking trip into a life-style.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
Wow, it's New Years Day already! I remember last year on this day I woke up and the first thing I said to Jodi was something like "This is the year of my thru-hike."
Since I finished my hike I have tried to write about it a bunch of times, but I have a terrible time trying to find the words. As I think I said before, it seems to be the kind of thing that reveals itself slowly, over time. One not so great effect of my hike seems to be much less patience with the daily annoyances of life in a large metropolitan area. Aggressive drivers on the road really get under my skin. I don't deserve to be treated badly by someone who doesn't even know me. And I seem to have even less patience than I ever had for large crowds of people.
On the plus side, a lot of things just don't bother me the way they used to. I don't fret quite as much about a lot of the kind of stuff we all seem to spend too much energy fretting about; money, jobs, the future. I don't mean that I don't think about these things, and plan, and work to make those plans come about. But I don't fear them like I used to. I know just how much stuff I don't need to be comfortable and happy. That is really quite empowering.
Well, I said I have trouble putting these thoughts into words, and I still am. I don't seem to be expressing what I want to very well at all, so I think I am going to give up for now. I will mention one thing I remember someone asking about; how the hike affected me physically.
When I finished my hike, 6 months and 9 days after I started, I was the fittest I have ever been in my life. At the same time, I could barely walk. The ridiculously steep trail in New Hampshire and southern Maine destryed my knees. Jodi joined me on the final day to climb Katahdin, and when she saw how much I suffered descending, she told me that if she knew how bad my knees were she never would have let me get back on the trail after I had almost quit back in New Hampshire.
But my cardiovascular fitness was awesome. I could hike 20 miles per day, day after day, carrying a 35 - 40 pound backpack. It had been my plan to try to hold onto that fitness, and quickly transition from hiking to running after I returned home. Unfortunately, my knees prevented me from running at all for quite a few weeks; in fact, I could barely walk. Meanwhile, I continued to eat like I had on the trail. Many of my breakfasts included a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. I quickly gained back every one of the 20+ pounds I lost during the hike. By the time my knees would allow me to start runnign again, I had lost most of my conditioning. I have always had a hard time dealing with the cold and dark of winter, and just maintaining fitness is a huge challenge. I find it pretty much impossible to build fitness over the winter. So, the longest run I've done since my hike was about 6 1.2 miles, and most of my runs are 3 - 4.5 miles. Not very impressive for a marathoner. The good news is that my knees seem to be back to normal, I am running a few times a week, and once spring rolls around I plan to start training for another marathon. My feet actually got bigger during my hike, and they have stayed bigger. I have a closet full of running shoes that are a bit too small for me now. I think I can make them work by switching socks to something that takes up a bit less volume.
I think the basic thing I want to say is that the hike has made me a better person. I feel a bit more confident, and a bit less intimidated by life. I feel even closer to my wife, Jodi. I think -- but maybe I should ask Jodi -- that I am a bit calmer. And I have a lifetime of wonderful memories stored away in my head.
Happy New Year, and the best to all the aspiring thru-hikers in the class of 2010!
Monday, October 19, 2009
of numbers. Along my hike I kept track of my daily mileage and other
info, and it is all here. I imagine this holds absolutely no interest
for most of you, and that's cool. But it might be of interest to a
minority, and so my spreadsheet is included here. There are three
files here, but they are all the same spreadsheet, saved in different
formats, including Open Document Format, to try to accommodate the
different spreadsheet programs people may be using.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
thru-hike to a close. I think some folks are expecting -- and maybe I
have been expecting myself -- to see a nice, neat summing up here of
what this whole trip was all about; what meaning and insight have I
gained from my hike.
Sorry to disappoint, but I have no idea. Certainly, I think about the
hike a lot; every day in fact. But what I think about is mostly simple
memories of moments along the trail. I find I miss the simplicity of
trail life. I think about those days in southern Virginia when I was
gliding over the trail effortlessly, day after day (okay, okay, but
that's how I remember it). I think about how lost I felt when I got
off the trail in Waynesboro and was home for the first time. I yearned
for the trail so badly then.
But I have no idea what this all is supposed to mean. A smart friend
told me that I will be assimilating thing experience into my life for
years to come. I think she's right.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Katahdin, up on my website, They can be found here:
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
AT Miles = 5.2 / 2178.3
Other Miles = 5.2 / 68.3
Total Miles = 10.4 / 2246.6
Miles to Katahdin = 0.0
Jodi and I were up at 4:45, hit the drive-thru at McDonalds (I know, I
know) at 5:00 when it opened, and were at the gate of Baxter State
Park by about 5:40. It was much warmer outside than it had been on
Saturday, but the sky was grey and threatening and the air was full of
moisture. There was no line today, and in fact we were only the second
car headed for Katahdin Stream Campground.
It was not quite light enough to hike when we arrived, so we parked
the car and ate or McDonalds breakfast. I went off to use the privy,
then we started to get our gear together to hike. Just then I heard a
familiar voice say "Is that Monkeywrench?" Well damn, it was Slagline.
I had last seen Slagline at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon PA. At that
time he took some time off to spend with his fiancee. While I was home
letting my knees recover from the pounding they had taken in the
Whites, Slagline had gotten ahead of me and I had been seeing his name
in shelter registers which showed him 4 or 5 days ahead of me. I
figured he had already summited, but it turns out he had been hanging
out in Millinocket waiting for his fiance and another hiking friend to
come up and met him. He and his friend Gray were climbing Katahdin
After chatting for a few minutes we set off up the Hunt Trail, which
is the route the AT uses to get to the summit of Katahdin. We signed
in at the trailhead at 6:25. Jodi and I were moving a bit faster than
Slagline and Gray, so we soon left them behind. I let Jodi set the
pace, since she did not have six months of hiking to get her into
shape. We were trying not to push too hard, but at the same time did
not want to dawdle as we wanted to get up and down at least past the
worst of the rock scrambles before the rain came in. Jodi did an
awesome job, and we made steady progress up the rocks of the Hunt Spur
and finally over The Gateway until we were on the Table Land.
Amazingly it hadn't yet started raining. We took a short break and
pushed on the last mile and a half across the Table Land and up to
Baxter Peak. Just as we arrived at the peak the wind picked up and a
huge bank of fog poured over the ridge and enveloped us.
Jodi was very cold and we lingered only long enough to take a few
photos and then turned around and headed back down. As we got back
down to the Table Land the wind eased and before dropping over The
Gateway and starting the downclimb of all the rocks, we took another
short break for snacks and water. Climbing down the rocks is always
harder than climbing up, especially for me with my gimpy knees. For
most of the climb down Jodi was actually having to wait for me. We
managed to get down most of the tough parts before it finally started
raining lightly, around 12:30. We signed out at the trailhead register
at 2:18 in the afternoon. On the way down we met Slagline's fiancee
hiking up the trail a bit hoping to meet him and his friend Gray
coming down. Amazingly, she had had open heart surgery just four weeks
ago! When we told her that Slagline and Gray were at least an hour and
most likely an hour and a half or more behind us, she turned around
and walked back to her car to wait for them.
On the way up Jodi kept asking me how it felt, and I kept telling her
that we weren't there yet. Well, when we finally reached the peak it
felt amazing. I couldn't stop grinning, in spite of the cold. Some
other hikers that were already there congratulated me, and as we were
hiking down we passed several other thru-hikers on their way up. Lots
of high fives and hand shakes ensued.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Yesterday when leaving Baxter State Park Jodi and I made it a point to
ask the ranger what time we would have to be at the gate in order to
be sure to be able to park at Katahdin Stream Campground (KSC). The
ranger told us that KSC would not fill up, that at this time of year
the only lot that filled up is Roaring Brook. Well, that was great
news, as I had been thinking we would have to be up at 4:00 at
soitting in line when the gate opened at 5:00. Instead I set the alarm
on my phone for 4:45, and we were in town at the diner when it opened
at 5:00 for breakfast. By 6:00 we were approaching the gate to Baxter
State Park when suddenly we had to stop because there was a huge line
of cars ahead of us. It was well past 7:00 when we finally got to the
gate, only to find that all of the trailheads for the various trails
up Katahdin were all full! So much for what we had been told yesterday
afternoon. We were also told that we could not park somewhere else and
walk to the Hunt Trail (that's the route the AT follows) trailhead, as
the purpose of limiting parking is to limit the number of hikers on
the mountain, and thus we could not climb Katahdin today.
Disappointed, but with no options, we turned around and drove back to
town. Our only choice is to go back tomorrow and try again. The
weather today is absolutely perfect, clear and dry and cool. Tomorrow
there is an 80% chance of rain, and it may very well be a miserable
day up on the mountain. In fact, there is a chance it may be a Class 4
day, which means all trails will be closed and we may not be allowed
to climb the mountain. I sure hope that is not the case, as we have to
leave here Monday morning. Jodi has work scheduled the rest f the
This sure isn't how I envisioned my hike ending. If we end up not
being able to climb tomorrow I am still going to call this a
thru-hike. I have been up Katahdin twice before, the last time just
over a year ago, so it's not like I will have skipped climbing the
mountain, but I sure would prefer to get up there tomorrow.
AT Miles = 13.4 / 2173.1
Other Miles = 0 / 63.1
Total Miles = 13.4 / 2236.2
Miles to Katahdin = 5.2
See that? Only 5.2 miles left. Who would have thought I would ever be
From the moment I woke up this morning, I was in a giddy mood. It
rained overnight and was still raining a bit when I got up, but that
didn't dampen my spirits a bit. It usually takes a bit longer to break
camp in the rain as I have to do everything underneath my little tarp,
but somehow this morning it didn't, and I was on the trail a few
minutes after 7:00. From the shelter the trail climbs a bit on the way
to meeting the Golden Road at Abol Bridge. After cresting the first
little rise I saw a bull moose in the trail ahead of me. He sauntered
off into the woods 30 or 40 feet, then stood and watched me for a bit
to make sure I wasn't any kind of threat. I pulled my camera out to
take a photo or two of him, and when I turned it on I was met with a
"Lens error!" message, and the lens refused to open. Damn! Well, I
figured that was just due to the battery getting low, and figured once
I charged up the battery when in town, everything would be fine.
I continued on, whistling and sauntering through the woods, until I
came out on the Golden Road about 8:30. A few minutes walking brought
me across the bridge over the Penobscot River and to the small camp
store there. I was still craving orange juice, and was disappointed to
find they did not have any. The best I could do was a bottle of orange
flavored Gatorade, which I accompanied with a packaged danish. I
watched a few logging trucks go barreling down the road while I stood
outside the store eating my snack. Boy, they stack 'em high!
By 9:00 I had crossed the boundary into Baxter State Park and had
reached the kiosk where the daily weather reports are posted, and
where thru-hikers can sign in for a spot at The Birches, which is a
small camping area set aside for hikers only. When I got there a
ranger was just finishing writing up today's weather report, and I
spent a half hour standing there chatting with him. I also enjoyed a
few minutes of minor celebrity when a group from a local school hiked
past and the ranger told them that I had hiked all the way from
Georgia. That was kind of fun.
I was getting chilled standing still, so I soon left and continued on.
The trail follows the left bank of the Penobscot River upstream for a
number of miles before finally turning northeast to make its way to
Daicey Pond. On the way it crosses a couple of tributary streams, and
while crossing one of these my foot slipped off a wet rock and I got a
bootful of water. I hiked the last 4 or 5 miles with one wet, cold
foot and one dry, warm foot.
I reached the parking area at Katahdin Stream Campground a few minutes
before 1:00. I knew Jodi wouldn't be getting there until about 2:00,
so I put on some warm clothes, changed my boots for my sandals, and
settled down on a picnic table to wait. A couple of minutes later I
saw Gator and Tiger walking towards me. What a great surprise! I had
been expecting to catch up with them ever since I saw them back in
Andover, but had finally figured it was not to be. It turns out they
were only about 3 1/2 miles ahead of me when I camped last night, as
they stayed at the commercial campground at Abol Bridge. We had a
great visit while I was waiting for Jodi, and I told them we would
bring them some hot breakfast sandwiches from town tomorrow morning,
since they will be camping in the Park tonight.
Once Jodi showed up we were off to town for a hot lunch, a shower, and
a nice meal out. It will be early to bed tonight so we an be up and in
town at the diner when it opens at 5:00, then off to Baxter to climb
Thursday, September 24, 2009
AT Miles = 19.9 / 2159.7
Other Miles = 0 / 63.1
Total Miles = 19.9 / 2222.8
Miles to Katahdin = 18.6
Orange juice. I have been craving orange juice for days now. Tomorrow morning I will come out of the Hundred Mile Wilderness at Abol Bridge on the Golden Road. The Golden Road is a private road owned by the timber companies, and Abol Bridge is where the road crosses the Penobscot River. At Abol Bridge there is a commercial campground and a small camp store. I sure do hope that store has orange juice!
Today was a gorgeous day. Last night's storm was caused by a cool high pressure system moving in, so today has been breezy, clear, and cool. I had another 20 miles to hike, and you don;t, or at least I don't, cover 20 miles by lollygagging, so most of the day I had my head down hiking, but once in a while I'd get a chance to look around and appreciate what a beautiful day it was. And when I was up on Rainbow Ledges I had a wondrous view of Katahdin, standing resplendant with bits of clouds stuck to its peak. The mountain was 20 trail miles away, but probably about half that as the crow flies.
It is going to be a cold night tonight, so I am getting my hammock rigged with extra under insulation, i.e. my down jacket.
Tomorrow morning I expect to be at the store at Abol Bridge around 8:30 or 9:00, chugging a quart of orange juice and eating something fatty and delicious. Then I will be off into Baxter State Park where if all goes to plan I will meet Jodi around 2:00PM. Then we're off to Millinocket for a shower, a real meal, and a night in a soft bed. The forecast for Saturday looks good, so we will probably climb Katahdin that day. We do, however, have Sunday in reserve if need be.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
AT Miles = 21.2 / 2139.8
Other Miles = 0.1 / 63.1
Total Miles = 21.3 / 2202.9
Miles to Katahdin = 38.5
For the first time I can remember, I was the last one out of the campsite this morning. Not because I slept late or anything, but because the three people that slept in the shelter were all up and out early. I was up at 6:15, which is about as early as one can see in the morning nowadays, and on my way at 7:15.
It was a long day, but mostly smooth, more or less flat trail made the going easy. It was almost like hiking in Virginia.
I stopped at Antlers Campsite, on Lower Jo-Mary Lake. This campsite is at the site of an old sporting camp, and is a beautiful spot on a peninsula jutting into the lake and is in a grove of large red pine trees. I very briefly toyed wsith the idea of hanging my hammock and spending the day there reading and napping. I could do that and still make it to Baxter Park on Saturday, but I knew that come Friday night when I am sleeping in the woods instead of in a hotel room in Millinocket with Jodi, I would regret thje decision. So, I pushed on.
There is a spot on Pemadumcook Lake where you are supposed to be able to see Katahdin, but it is overcast today and I couldn't see anything.
Right now I am camped on the shore of Nahmakanta Lake, just inside the trees overlooking a sand beach. It is ridiculously warm today -- in the mid-70's -- so I took a swim in the lake. It is so warm that there are even some mosquitoes about! It has showered a couple of times today, and I just checked the weather forecast. 90% chance of rain tonight, with thunder showers after midnight! I hope the rain stops before I have to break camp and leave in thew morning.
It is supposed to cool off tomorrow, with overnight lows in tje 30s tomorrow night. It looks like the best weather day for the weekend will be Saturday, so it is good that I will be reaching Baxter on Friday and we can climb Katahdin on Saturday instead of Sunday, when there is a good chance of rain.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
AT Miles = 18.9 / 2118.6
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 18.9 / 2181.6
Miles to Katahdin = 59.7
Man, oh man. I was tired when I woke up this morning! I pushed hard again today. I climbed the series of four peaks, each higher than the last, that culminate with Whitecap. From the summit of Whitecap you are supposed to be able to see Katahdin, and I tried to guess which blurry lump on the horizon that might be.
From Whitecap I descended down to West Branch Pond Rd, then continued north another ten miles to reach this shelter. This is the same shelter my brother Dana and I stayed at on the first night of our northbound section hike to Katahdin back in '96.
In the last couple of miles, after passing Crawford Pond, I saw 5 dead mice or voles or some such lying right in the trail. Not all in one place but rather scattered along the two miles. Very weird. It was almost as if someone were dropping dead mice along the trail. Vaguely disturbing.
If I can pull off 21.5 miles tomorrow, I will be exactly one day ahead of schedule, which will put me in Baxter Park on Friday instead of Saturday.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
AT Miles = 20.8 / 2099.7
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 20.8 / 2162.7
Miles to Katahdin = 78.6
I put in a hard day's work today, hiking from 7:15 in the morning until 6:45 in the evening. I started the day by climbing 1750' up Barren Mountain, then I traversed the entire Barren-Chairback Range: Barren Mountain, Fourth Mountain, Third Mountain, Columbus Mountain, and Chairback Mountain. From Chairback Mountain I made the long descent to the Pleasant River, fordede the Pleasant River, and hiked another five miles up past the cut-off for the Gulf Hagas Trail.
While coming down towards the Pleasant River I ran out of water. Hiking along, tired and dehydrated, I took the sixthe fall of this hike. It was really stupid; I caught the toe of my boot on a root and down I went.
I reached the shelter about 15 minutes before it got too dark to see the trail. I set up camp, fetched water (had to use my headlamp), washed up a bit, cooked and ate dinner, and went to bed, exhausted.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Sunday, September 20, 2009
AT Miles = 15.1 / 2078.9
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 15.1 / 2141.9
Miles to Katahdin = 99.4
Hey folks, look at that! Less than 100 miles to go! I can remember how thrilled I was when I reached the first 100 miles of this trek, and now here I am at the last 100 miles. It's all starting to feel a bit surreal.
Today was a great day; just perfect hiking weather. Clear skies, cool temps, a mild breeze. And instead of labring under my ridiculously heavy pack (43 pounds with 7 days of food aboard), I semi-slackpacked most of today. A former threu-hiker named Paddyo has been in the area ofering hikers shuttles and providing trail magic. I hadn't mat Paddyo before last night, but Rookie, who I've been hiking with the last couple of days, knew him and arranged to have Paddy shuttle us to the trailhead this morning, then we put a bunch of our heavier gear -- hammock, tarp, sleeping bag, most of my food -- in Paddyo's truck and hiked with a very light pack. Paddyo met us at a dirt road at mile 14. When I got there he pulled out the gas grill and fired it up to cook hamburgers and hotdogs. So after hiking 14 miles I had two cheeseburgers, two hot dogs, two cans of root beer, some potatoe chips, and three brownies. Paddyo is a big Johnny Cash fan and he showede us a DVD he has that includes some foot
age of a very young and very nervous Bob Dylan recording with Johnny Cash. It was awesome.
Once I tore myself away from all the food, I repacked my backpack with all the gear that Paddyo had shuttled for me and hefted my now very heavy pack to hike the one remaining mile up here to Long Pond Stream Lean-to.
As I am sure I mentioned before, my brother Dana and I hiked this section soiuthbound years ago. It was great fun reminiscing about that trip along the way today. I forded Big Wilson Stream today and remembered that when we forded it on that previous trip, Dana stepped in a big hole and went in nearly to his waist. And just north of Big Wilson Stream the trail crosses the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad tracks. When Dana and I hiked through here a small work car with two men aboard came down the tracks, and if I remnember correctly, Dana had a short, shouted conversation with the two men as they went by.
I had entertained vague hopes of pushing 4 more miles today to reach Cloud Pond Lean-to, but that four miles includes a 2000 foot climb, and there just weren't enough daylight hours left to make it. I hope to be able to get through most of the Barren-Chairback Range tomorrow. It all depends on how my knees hold up to all the climbing and descending. I would really like to get over White Cap by Tuesday evening. That's the last significant climb until Katahdin. From where I am tonight it is 29 miles to Logan Brook Lean-to, on the north side of White Cap. The mileage is certainly doable, it's just the climbing that has me worried. Also, the forecast calls for a 40% chance of rain on Tuesday afternoon, and 50% Tuesday night. Rain up on the bald peaks would make for dicey going on the rocks. Well, we'll see what happens.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
I didn't do much today, which is exactly what a zero day is all about.
I, along with Dioko and Rookie, went over to Shaw's for breakfast. We
had called yesterday to let them know we would be coming. Shaw's
serves an all-you-can-eat breakfast for $7.00. It starts with you
telling them whether you want 2, 3, or 4. This means 2 pancakes, 2
sausage links, 2 strips of bacon, 2 eggs, and homefries, or 3 of each,
etc... And that is just round one. After everyone gets served, they
start taking second orders. If one were a real glutton. one could have
8 pancakes, 9 eggs, etc. And the food was really excellent. I ended up
having 3 bluebery paancakes, 4 bacon, 2 sausage, 2 scrambled eggs, a
pile of homefries, and 2 glasses of orange juice.
After breakfast I went through the box of food Jodi had sent me and
combining it with what little I had left in my bag when I got here,
discovered all I needed to buy for the next and last leg of my hike
was some kind of snack to eat with my lunches. I also had a couple of
maps I am finished wwith so I took them to the post office and mailed
them home, then I went to the general store and bought a box of
"Chicken in a Biskit" crackers. I'm not sure I spelled that right. I
haven't eaten those since I was a kid!
That was all the chores for the day. I spent the afternoon hanging out
in the pun behind the laundromat, eating, drinking martinis, and
chatting with other hikers. I spent quite a bit off time chatting with
Banjo and her boyfriend. Banjo thru-hiked last year and they were at
Katahdin climbing the mountain to commemorate the one year anniversary
of her completing her thru-hike.
Later when I was back at the pub for dinner I chatted with Bison for
quite a while. It's kind of strange because everyone is starting to
reminisce about their hike. Bison and I spent a long time comparing
notes on who we had hiked with previously that had gotten off the
trail for one reason or another. There are so many! The attrition rate
for thru-hikers is about 75%. we talked about how amazing it is that
we are actually still here. When I started this hike I knew the odds
were against me actually completing it, yet here I still am, after
many ups and downs (both literal and figurative). Of course, the hike
isn't over yet. I still have over a hundred miles to walk, and
anything could happen.
Well, it's off into the Hundred Mile Wilderness tomorrow.
Friday, September 18, 2009
AT Miles = 9.0 / 2063.8
Other Miles = 0 /63.0
Total Miles = 9.0 / 2126.8
Miles to Katahdin = 114.5
Not much to talk about today. I got up this morning and hustled down
the trail to get to Monson before the weather closed in. Dark clouds,
cold wind. It's definitely good to be in town today!
I am staying at the Lakeshore House, which is a combination
laundromat, pub and grill, and lodging house! And the food at the pub
is way better than I would expect to get in a small town like this.
I will be taking a zero day tomorrow. After hiking every day for the
last 15 days, I need a little break. I will also get my food and other
supplies squared away for the final push through the Hundred Mile
Wilderness. I've made arrangements with Jodi to meet me in Baxter
State Park next Friday or, more likely, Saturday. The following day we
will climb Katahdin together, and the day after that I will be home,
and likely a bit lost and disoriented.
But for right now, there's dinner in the pub a bit later, and music
in, of all places, the general store tonight.
AT Miles = 13.0 / 2054.8
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 13.0 / 2117.8
Miles to Katahdin = 123.5
I often wonder how some of trhe other thru-hikers manage to have such small, light packs. Well, I found out at least part of the reason this morning. It was cold last night, and when I got up this morning a bunch of other hikers were talking about how cold they were last night. Not me. I was toasty warm. I am carrying my warm sleeping bag, plenty of warm clothing, and plenty of insulation for the bottom of my hammock.
First thing this morning I climbed to the summit of Moxie Bald. What a beautiful morning it was up there! The air was cold and crisp and still, the valleys below were filled with fog, and there were just enough puffy white clouds in the sky to give the sun something to shine on and to lend depth to the sky.
After climbing down the mountain I stopped at Moxie Bald Lean-to for an early lunch. The shelter is near the shore of Moxie Pond so I took my food bag down to the water and sat on a rock in the sun and ate lunch with a gorgeous view out across the water. It was so peaceful and comfortable that I toyed with the idea of staying there and spending the day sitting in the sun reading my book, but practicalities won out and I soon pushed on nine more miles to this lean-to.
Along the way I had to ford the West Branch of the Piscataquis River. As fords go it wasn't much; the water barely came to my ankles. But fords eat up time. You have to take your pack off, remove boots and socks, put sandals on, tie boots to pack, put pack back on, ford the river, then reverse everything. But, the cold water sure did feel good on my aching feet!
I will be in Monson tomorrow. I have been frantically trying to figure the logistics for the final leg from Monson to Baxter. The problem is that I need to know Jodi's schedule and cell phone reception is lacking around here. Right now I am planning to take a zero day in Monson on Saturday. I haven't had a day off since I got back on the trail in Gorham. Tomorrow will be my 15th straight day of hiking. If I leave Monson on Sunday morning, I expect I shouid be in Baxter Park next Saturday. I may be able to get there on Friday, but that would be piushing pretty hard. Once I get to Baxter I need one more day to climb Katahdin, and this summer-long quest will be over!
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Thursday, September 17, 2009
AT Miles = 18.7 / 2041.8
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 18.7 / 2104.8
Miles to Katahdin = 136.5
A full day today. It got pretty cold last night, and I was warm and snug in my bag, making it a bit hard to get out and get going this morning. But I was anxious to reach the Kennebec River. For some reason that felt like a big milestone to me. I was hiking a few minutes after 7:00, and I reached the river around 8:30. Dragon Breath was already there, having camped near the river last night. We waited until 9:00 when Dave, the guy that ferries hikers across in a canoe, showed up on the opposite bank. He soon paddled across, and after signing liabilty waivers and donning life jackets, we were off across the river. By 9:20 I was back in harness and heading up the trail away from the river.
After lunch I climbed Pleasant Pond Mountain, and for the first time since Monday got cell phone reception. I sent yesterday's blog entry and checked email and voice mail messages. I had two messages from my daughter Anju informing me that the event I was going to attend with her next Monday has been postponed indefinitely.
So, big change of plans! Instead of going home for a week or so from Monson, I will be continuing on into the Hundred Mile Wilderness and towards Katahdin. Only problem is, I had sent my bounce box home from Stratton, and had told Jodi not to assemble and mail a food drop to Monson for me. As soon as I heard Anju's message I called Jodi and luckily caught her at home. I asked her to put together a food drop for me and get it in the mail today if possible. A bit later I remembered that the last three maps are in the bounce box I sent home, so I called again and asked her to include those with the food drop.
If anybody thinks hiking the trail is hard, think about how hard it is being the at-home support person. Jodi had just gotten home from work today when I called and started issuing frantic requests: send me 6 dinners, 10 packages of oatmeal, a package of English Muffins, a jar of peanut butter, etc. etc. And I will be in Monson by noon on Friday so you have to mail it today.
Jodi actually asked me if it was alright if she had lunch first. Not sarcastically, either. She was actually going to skip eating lunch to go run around getting everything I wanted.
It would be far more difficult foro me hiking the trail if I didn't have Jodi at home responding to my every whim.
When I was down almost to the molttom of Pleasant Pond Mountain I rqan into Bookworm hiking southbound. I had last seen Bookworm in Shenandoah National Park, at Lewis Mountain Campstore where I had stopped to tqake a shower, eat some junk food, and drink a beer. Bookworm is doing some kind of art project about h=the AT and is interviewing hikers, so we sat down next to the trail and did a little interview for 15 minutes or so, then I said good-bye and pushed on the last 4 miles or so to this campsite. I had run out of water about three miles before reaching here, so I was really happy to arrive and get water from the brook.
It is about 50 degrees right now, with predictions of a hard frost for tonight. I am only planning to hike about 13 miles tomorrow, so I can take my time getting up in the morning. Usually that means sleeping until 6:15 instead of 6:05. :-)
I expect to be in Monson by noon on Friday. My next task is to figure out Jodi's schedule and when she can meet me in Baxter, figure out how long it will take me to get there from Monson (right now I am thinking 7 days) then figure out if I have enough time to take a zero day in Monson. It will be 15 days without a day off when I get to Monson on Friday, so a zero day would be very welcome.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
AT Miles = 22.2 / 2023.1
Other Miles = 0.3 / 63.0
Total Miles = 22.5 / 2086.1
Miles to Katahdin = 155.2
Yup, you read that right; 22.5 miles today. I don't think I've done that many miles in a day since back in New Jersey somewhere! Basically, I hiked the 5 1/2 miles I had hoped to do yesterday, then I hiked the 17 miles I had planned to do today.
That first 5 1/2 were up and over Little Bigelow Mtn, and I took my time with them. Once I got down Little Bigelow, the terrain really eased up. There were a couple of hills, but they were just hills, not mountains. One of them had about a mile of steady uphill, and the next maybe a mile and a half.
I stopped at West Carry Pond Lean-to, 12.5 miles into the day, and felt gfood enough that I decided to try to crank out the 10 miles to here. I left West Carry Pond at 1:15, and arrived here at 4:45; 10 miles even in 3:30. Sorry if I sound like I'm bragging, but I feel so good knowing that I could do this.
Okay, there's more to write about than just how great a hiker I am as long as the terrain is easy.
How about the weather? It was cool yesterday evening and I thought it was going to be a cold night. I rigged my hammock for frosty weather, and went to bed wearing my long johns. I got up about 11:30 to pee, and I was very overheated. I took off my long johns and crawled back into bed. A few minutes later it started to rain very lightly. There were very light, brief showers on and off during the night. It never did get cold, and in fact I think it was warmer when I got up this morning than it was when I went to bed last night.
It looked like we might get more showers all day, and in fact it still does, but so far no rain.
And how about water? It has been wonderfully dry weather for the last couple of weeks. That makes for great hiking. But it also means that the springs and small brooks that serve as the water source at many of the shelters and campsites are starting to dry up. At West Carry Pond, where I stopped for lunch today, there is a nice little spring that even has a spring house built over it. Only problem is, it's bone dry. That left the pond as a water source. It has been quite breezy all day, and the lean-to is sited at the down wind end of the pond, so there were quite large waves crashing into the rocky shore. The waves were big enough that they acted like surf breaking against the rocks, and while I was trying to dip my water bottle into the pond to fill it, a wave broke and got me full in the face!
From where I am tonigth it is only about 3 miles to the Kennebec River. The Kennebec is quite a large river, and the official way to cross is by ferry. Now, we are not talking about some big car ferry. We are talking about sa canoe. The ATC contracts with an outfitter to provide ferry service for hikers during the season. Right now, that means from 9 - 11 in the morning, and from 2 - 4 in the afternoon. I intend to be at the river waiting to be the first passenger of the day at 9:00AM. If I can do 18.7 miles tomorrow, and 13 on Thursday, that will leave me just 9 miles shoirt of Monson. That means I can be in Monson by noon on Friday. I am hoping Jodi is not working on Friday, and can pick me up then instead of on Saturday. Unfortunately I can't check her schedule, nor can I send this blog entry, as I have no cell service here.
Well, it is getting dark enough that I am having trouble seeing the keyboard, so I am going to go square everything away for the night, crawl into my hammock, and read for a while.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Monday, September 14, 2009
AT Miles = 10.4 / 2000.9
Other Miles = 0.3 / 62.7
Total Miles = 10.7 / 2063.6
Miles to Katahdin = 177.4
I was hoping, but not expecting, to make 15 miles today. That would have gotten me completely through the Bigelows, it would have positioned me to reach the Kennebec River in time for the morning ferry on Wednesday, and it would have gone a long way towards ensuring I reached Monson by Saturday morning, in time for Jodi to pick me up.
But my knees vetoed that plan, and I stopped here, at a campsite between Bigelow and Little Bigelow. That's alright. I am happy having covered 10 quite tough miles up and over the multiple peaks of Bigelow Mountain. After slack packing 6 of the last seven days, today I put my pack on again; and it was a heavy pack with six days of food in it.
It is about 63 miles from here to Monson. Tomorrow morning I have to go up and over Little Bigelow. After that the terrain flattens out dramatically so I expect I will still be able to reach Monson on Saturday morning. There is a shelter 9 miles south of Monson, and as long as I reach that by Friday night, I can scoot the last nine miles to the road while Jodi is driving up from Boston on Saturday morning. At least, that is what I am telling myself today. ;-)
It is quite chilly this afternoon. It is only a quarter to five now, and I am wearing my light weight silk shirt, my medium weight tops and bottoms, long pants, my doewn sweater, and a hat.
I was just thinking today, while hiking, that at the beginning of this hike I watched spring creep up the mountains, and now at the end of the hike I am watching autumn creep down the mountains.
This campsite is rather spread out, and there is now somebody in another part of the site making all sorts of noise. I can hear things crashing and banging. I can't imagine what they're doing. It often surprises me how noisy some people are in the woods. To me it seems natural to be quiet when out in the woods.
Brr. I think I will be breaking out my down jacket tonight! It's amazing how quickly I get chilled now that I am so darned skinny.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Sunday, September 13, 2009
AT Miles = 8.3 / 1990.5
Other Miles = 0.2 / 62.4
Total Miles = 8.5 / 2052.9
Miles to Katahdin = 187.8
I hiked a quick 8 miles over the Crockers today. 3 miles of uphill,
and 5 miles of downhill. I was at the Stratton Motel by 12:30. Even
with that short hike, after spending a couple of hours sitting on the
bed watching a movie streamed to my laptop from NetFlix, I could
barely stand. At least that reminded me to take some ibuprofen before
I go to sleep tonight.
When I got here today I found out that Gator and Tiger just left here
this morning, and so did Kiwi. I decided to skip stopping in Caratunk,
as from the book it looks like there isn't much resupply there.
Instead I will be leaving here tomorrow morning with six days' food in
my pack. I hope to get to Monson by next Saturday. I think I will
probably catch up with Gator and Tiger by Monson, unless they skip
ahead. They might do that because one or the other of them has a
deadline to reach Katahdin.
In any case, I have to get off the trail again next Saturday. I have
promised my daughter Anju that I will be somewhere with her on the
21st, and with Jodi's work schedule she will have to drive up and pick
me up on Saturday. I won't be able to get back up to Monson until next
Friday at the earliest, so I will be missing a full week on the trail.
That is a bit frustrating as I am starting to feel some momentum
towards the end of this hike, but that's life.
With the delay, that should put me starting the 100 Mile Wilderness on
the 25th, and at Katadin sometime around October 5.
So, does anyone want to come hike the 100 Mile Wilderness with me? Or
climb Katahdin? Jodi is going to drive up and meet me at Baxter Park,
but she has been battling running injuries all summer so she may not
be up to climbing the mountain with me.
Well, it's way past hiker midnight and I need to get some sleep. I
tackle the Bigelows in the morning.
stayed in Rangeley. I was using my cell phone as a modem for my
computer, but had only a marginal signal and a very slow connection.
Finally today, here in Stratton, I have a good WiFi connection and got
the photos uploaded. They can be found here:
Saturday, September 12, 2009
AT Miles = 10.4 / 1982.2
Other Miles = 1.2 / 62.2
Total Miles = 11.6 / 2044.4
Miles to Katahdin = 196.1
It rained a little bit this morning before I was hiking, and it rained
a little bit this afternoon after I finished hiking, but it never
rained while I was hiking. I must be doing something right.
Yesterday I started hiking at the Orbeton Stream and went south. Today
I started at the same place and went north, It was a nice day to be in
the woods; quiet and peaceful. No spectacular views or prominent peaks
today, just some good, honest work climbing up and down the hills.
I made good time and knocked out the eleven and a half miles in about
6 hours, putting me at the agreed upon meeting place about 20 minutes
before Bob from the hostel was supposed to pick me up at 2:00PM.
2:00PM came and went. 2:15. I tried calling the hostel and got the
answering machine. I told myself that was good news, as it meant Bob
was on his way to pick me up and that's why he wasn't there to answer
the phone. Between 2:15 and 3:10 I called the Lodge 7 times. Finally,
one the 7th call, Bob answered.
"Bob, this is Monkeywrench, you were supposed to pick me up at 2:00 o'clock."
"Um, okay, Where are you?"
So, it turns out that Bob had not forgotten THAT he was supposed to
pick me up, but he had forgotten WHERE he was supposed to pick me up.
He had been waiting for me at an entirely different trail head.
Once Bob drove out to Caribou Valley Road and picked me up, I had him
drop me off in town where I went to Sarge's Pub & Grub. I ordered a
beer and the bartender asked if I wanted a menu. I said yes, and told
her I would start with some of the beef stew they had listed on the
daily specials. A bowl of that went down fast and tasted really good.
I followed that up with a second beer, and a cheeseburger and french
fries. They have really good fries at Sarge's. When the bartender
asked me if I wanted anything else, I told her I'd like another bowl
of that beef stew. She came back from the kitchen with a cup of stew
and told me that was all that was left, and it was on the house.
Finally, I finished up with some apple crisp with ice cream and
whipped cream. That was about 2 hours ago, and now I am hungry again!
I called the Stratton Motel, which is in, of all places, Stratton.
They run a combination motel / hiker hostel. I reserved a room for
tomorrow night, and explained o them that I will be slack packing
tomorrow and made arrangements to drop off my backpack with most of my
gear there in the morning. At the end of tomorrow's hike I will be on
Rt 27, from where I will hitch into Stratton.
I asked Bob how I could get his daypack, which I have been and will be
using, back to him. He told me not to worry about it; that he has day
packs all up and down the trail. Apparently the hostels up and down
the trail get together once in a while and redistribute the day packs
that hikers use when slack packing.
Friday, September 11, 2009
AT Miles = 13.5 / 1971.8
Other Miles = 1.0 / 61.0
Total Miles = 14.5 / 2032.8
Miles to Katahdin = 206.5
Arrghh! Still more than 200 miles to go. When I got back on the trail
last Friday morning in Gorham, NH, it was just under 300 miles. 8 days
of hiking later, it is still over 200. This is so frustrating!
As I mentioned yesterday, I am back to slack packing today. And I have
compromised another one of my self-imposed rules. I hiked north to
south today. It was the only logical way to hike this section, as I
started out in the middle of nowhere at the end of a rough dirt road,
and hiked back to Rt 4 east of town. But it still rankles. Oh well, if
these compromises -- slack packing, southbounding -- help me get to
the end of this hike, then so be it.
I hiked over the three peaks of Saddleback today. Since I was hiking
north to south I crossed them in the order of Saddleback Junior, The
Horn, and Saddleback Mtn.
The high point of my day was running into some hikers I haven't seen
in a long time. First, I met McBride. I last saw McBride at the Green
Mountain House Hostel in Manchester Center, VT. Jodi even met McBride
the day she slack packed me over Mt Greylock in Massachusetts. A few
minutes later I met Kiwi, hiking with Stud The Dud. I last saw Kiwi
way back at The Doyle in Duncannon, PA, the night she ate an entire
half gallon of sherbet and went off on a fantastic sugar high.Kiwi
told me that her Dad, Papa Kiwi, whom I last saw eating lunch at Ten
Mile River in Connecticut, completed his thru-hike on Sept 4.
I made pretty good time hiking today. but it would have been a very
different story if I had been carrying my full pack. Even without it,
both knees were pretty sore by the time I got down to the road.I will
be slack packing for sure tomorrow, and probably the day after as
Once back to the road I stuck my thumb out and got a ride from the
first car that came by. I had the driver drop me off at the pub in
downtown Rangeley, and I had a beer and a decent dinner. Then I called
Bob at the hostel and he drove into town and picked me up. Now I've
showered and am doing my laundry. Since my shorts are in the laundry I
am walking around dressed only in my long johns. Fortunately, strange
clothing choices like this are acceptable among hikers.
AT Miles = 13.1 / 1958.3
Other Miles = 0 / 60.1
Total Miles = 13.1 / 2018.3
Miles to Katahdin = 220.0
Almost 90% done! 90% will be 217.83 miles, so I am only 2.2 miles shy.
I hiked with my full pack today. It was a pleasant hike, through the
woods on a pretty day, but nothing special. Fortunately, the terrain
was relatively mild. Still, walking downhill with my full pack is
tough on my tender knees.
When I reached Rt 4 I emerged right into the middle of a construction
site. In fact, they had even installed a huge orange "WORK ZONE AHEAD"
sign on the trail. The road was one lane with traffic controlled by
flagmen, and I thought it was going to be impossible to hitch a ride
there, but after about 10 minutes a really nice couple stopped and
gave me a ride. They told me they don't pick up hitch-hikers, but they
do pick up hikers. They dropped me at the IGA because I wanted to buy
a pint of Ben & Jerrys Phjish Food ice cream. They even offered to
wait for me and then drive me here to the hostel, but I told them I
would call the hostel for a ride.
I will be back to slack packing tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
AT Miles = 13.3 / 1945.2
Other Miles = 0 / 60.0
Total Miles = 13.3 / 2005.2
Miles to Katahdin = 233.1
Man, oh man, what a perfect day today was! Today was the quintessence of early fall in New England; a cold crisp morning followed by a day just warm enough to work up a sxweat while hiking hard, but cool enough that it felt good to sit in the sun when stopped. The sky was a deep blue, the air was dry. The light had that crystalline quality that comes in the fall when all the summer humidity is gone. The landscape is beginning to take on the look of autumn, although if you look you can't find any particular item that singly looks like it.
I saw a moose early this morning. I was hiking north on the trail, and a bull moose was walking south. When he saw me, or more likely heard one of my hiking poles strike against a rock in the trail, he spun around and took off at top speed into the forest. He whirled so fast that he actually left a divot in the trail. It was amazing to see such a large animal move so quickly through the tangle of trees.
Later, while walking along the ridge that connects the three peaks of Bemis Mountain, I was reveling in the whole atmosphere of the place. The colors in the lichen and mosses on the rocks were amazing. The foliage of the evergreens was set off by the deep blue of the sky. I was walking along thinking how quiet it was, and a bird started signing. It was just such a perfect moment I actually got choked up a little bit.
And at the end of my hike I came out onto Rt 17 and the road was half way up the hill with an amazing view down across Mooselookmeguntic Lake. It was SO beautiful. Somebody has installed a bench there and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting there taking in the view for a half hour or so while I waited for my shuttle to arrive.
A good day, well done.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
AT Miles = 10.1 / 1931.9
Other Miles = 0 / 60.0
Total Miles = 10.1 / 1991.9
Miles to Katahdin = 246.4
Ah, what a lovely day to be hiking in Maine! I set off early this morning and had a wonderful time slackpacking along easy trail through the cool of the morning. I covered the 6 or so miles to Hall Mountain Lean-to quickly, so ended up eating my lunch there at 9:45 this morning. It was so nice to just cruise along enjoying the forest instead of fighting for every foot of forward progress.
After lunch I did have to climb down into Sawyer Notch, and then make the steep climb up Moody Mountain. The trail up Moody Mountain washed out (last year, I believe) and there is a temporary reroute while a permanent reroute gets built. As I was starting up the climb I saw some blue falgging tape and followed that. It was quickly evident that the trail was a work in progress, with stone steps here and there and trailbed leveled in some places but not others. For much of the way the trail was just a new, raw scar which presented very challenging going. Then I got to the top of the relocation where it joined back to the existing trail, and I noticed two routes, one flagged in blue, which I had followed, and another route flagged with orange tape. There was also a sign here for southbound hikers which said to follow the orange flagging and not to follow the blue flagging until there were white blazes on the trail, which would indicate that the relocation was completed. Oops! Well, I ne
ver saw any orange flagging as I approached from the bottom of the hill. I don't know why that is; whether I just mised it, or whether it was absent.
Tomorrow will be my last day slackpacking from here. I have really enjoyed my time staying at Pine Ellis. Ilene (I misspelled her name in a previous blog entry) and David are wonderful hosts. Tomorrow I will slackpack from South Arm Rd northward for 13.3 miles to ME 17. On Thursday I will start at ME 17 with my full pack and hopefully hike the 13 miles to ME 4 and then get a ride into Rangeley. I hope to base in Rangeley and slackpack a couple more days until I get through the Saddleback Range.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Monday, September 07, 2009
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
AT Miles = 10.3 / 1921.8
Other Miles = 0.1 / 60.0
Total Miles = 10.4 / 1981.8
I haven't slackpacked since those two days back in Massachusetts when Jodi came out and slackpacked me. Boy, is it nice!
I had arranged for a 7:00AM shuttle from the hostel back to Grafton Notch, so I set the alarm on my cell phoneto go off at 5:15. By 5:30 I was seated at the counter of the local breakfast place ordering up a hot, cooked breakfast. So much better than the cold cereal or instant oatmeal I eat when I am camping.
By 7:45 I was starting my hike up the south side of Baldpate Mtn. With only a light day pack on even climbing a mountain was almost a joy. I stopped at Baldpate Shelter to look through the shelter register and see when some of the people I know came through here, and to refill my water bottle. Pushing on, I got to the summit of Baldpate around 10:00. The mountain is aptly named as the top is mostly a dome of naked rock. It was fun walking up it on this nice dry day, but it surely would be a different story in wet weather, or something like a freezing fog! That would make it suicidal.
Somehow I ended up being the only person at the summit and I stayed there for about an hour. It was wonderfully quiet. All I could hear was the wind blowing, and the occasional fly buzzing around. I could hear no cars, no trucks, no lawnmowers, chainsaws, or airplanes. How wonderful!
I took advantage of the cell phone reception up there and spent some time talking to Jodi back home while lazing in the sunshine, then I called the hostel and told them I estimated I would finish the hike by 3:00PM and arranged for them to pick me up at that time.
Leaving the summit of Baldpate I had to negotiate a few tricky sections going down the north side, but mostly I was actually hiking on a normnal hiking trail. How refreshing!
I soon reached Frye Notch Leanto and stopped there for lunch. Lunch was a ham & cheese grinder I had ordered while I was earting breakfast this morning. Yum! It was now 12:30 and I had 4.6 miles left to hike. Based on my experience over the last few days, there was no way I was going to make it in time. But those standards didn't apply here. I made great time on the relatively easytrail, and by 2:00PM I had reached the stream crossing in Dunn Notch. At the same time, I caught up with another hiker staying at the hostel, and since he had a car parked at the road I called the hostel and canceled the scheduled shuttle. Half an hour latedr we were at the road, and another half hour after that we were back at the hostel, I was showered and changed into (relatively) clean clothes, and I had walked to the general store to buy beer and Ben & Jerrys ince cream.
I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the front porch chatting with some of the other hikers, and with David, one of the proprietors.
As a sideline, David makes jewelry out of moose droppings. Anybody out there want a nice pair of moose pellet earrings? David tried to convince me to buy a pair for my wife, but I am quite sure Jodi would not appreciate them.
Maine is really beautiful, especially with the ideal weather we have enjoyed lately. I am afraid my fixation on my physical difficulties is overshadowing that and I am not giving youy a fair picture. In spite of all the difficulties, I do appreciate the beauty all around me. I guess I just wish it didn't hurt so much to get out there sometimes. Slackpacking takes a good deal of the physical difficulty away, and let's me appreciate it all the more. I expect to stay here at least another two days and get about 24 miles of trail done by slackpacking. I could keep slackpacking from here beyond that, but the shuttles get more and more expensive as I get farther away. I'll figure that out when the time comes.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Sunday, September 06, 2009
AT Miles = 9.7 / 1911.5
Other Miles = 0 / 59.9
Total Miles = 9.7 / 1971.4
Miles to Katahdin = 266.8
Whew! What a day!
The weather was perfect today. It was cold last night and I slept SO good all snugged down into my down sleeping bag. I was awake a few minutes after six and after packing up and eating some hot oatmeal (first time in months), I was hikin a few minutes after 7:00.
A mile and a half into the day's hike I reached the south end of Mahoosuc Notch. Mahoosuc Notch is a tight notch between two mountains that has filled up with gigantic boulders that have come down from either side. The trail winds around, over, and under these jumbled boulders for a mile. It is known as the toughest mile on the AT. It took em 2 hours and 10 minutes to make my way through the notch. Several times I had to take my pack off and either push it ahead of me or pull it behind me as I crawled through some tight passages. It was actually quite fun although I was getting tired of it by the end of the second hour.
After the Notch the trail climbs very steeply up Mahoosuc Arm, and by the time I gbot to the top of that it was after noon. 5 hours for 4 miles of trail! From here I climbed down to Speck Pond, where I stopped at Speck Pond Shelter to get water and eat lunch. While here I finally got a cell signal and called Eileen at Pine Ellis Hostel in Andover to ask about getting a shuttle from Grafton Notch and a bed for the night. Eileen told me to call her again from the summit of Old Speck Mtn, which I did when I reached there at 2:30. I told her I expected to be at Grafton Notch by 5:00, although to be honest I had doubts that I could make it. It is 3 1/2 miles of downhill from the top of Old SPeck to Grafton Notch, and after the terrain of the last couple days I envisioned myself climbing down ledges and over cliffs for 3 1/2 miles and thought I might never make it down. Much to my surprise and delight, the trail down was actually a regular trail and I made it down by 4:40. It was still 3 1
/2 miles of downhill and it took a toll on my knees, but all in all it was a pleasant way to end the day.
So I have gotten a shower, walked to the general store / diner for a bacon cheeseburger and fries, and will sleep in a bed tonight. Tomorrow I will slack pack from Grafton Notch back here to Andover, and over the next few days will continue slack packing sections northward. Hopefully that will make things easier on my knees.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
AT Miles = 9.6 / 1901.8
Other Miles = 0.8 / 59.9
Total Miles = 10.4 / 1961.7
Miles to Katahdin = 276.5
9.6 miles. That must sound to you like I had an easy day. Ha! It took 9 hours to cover those 9.6 miles. I said the terrain was going to get tough, and it seems I am quite prescient. I'm not complaining; at least not much. It was a gorgeous day, and the views when I was above timberline were awesome. A cool front moved in today, sweeping away the lingering humidity and treating us to a dry, cool breeze. It is a bit after 6:00PM as I write this, and it is actually quite chilly. I am wearing long pants, both my lightweight and my medium weight thermal shirts, my down sweater, and a cap. It should be glorious sleeping weather; the kind of weather where it feels so cozy to snuggle down into the warmth of the sleeping bag.
Tomorrow morning I will go through Mahoosuc Notch, known as the hardest mile on the AT. I've no idea how long that is going to take. Someone fell in the Notch last month and broke a leg. I don't want to do the same, so will be moving slowly and cautiously. After Mahoosuc Notch comes the climb up Mahoosuc Arm, which is suposed to be very tough.
My plan for tomorrow is to hike the ten miles to Grafton Notch, then get the folks at Pine Ellis Hostel in Andover to come pick me up. I'll get them to shuttle me back on Monday morning, then I will slack pack the next ten miles north. I plan to base there for 4 or 5 days and slack pack all of the trail up to Rangeley, where there is another hostel and I may just repeat the same process there.
Oh, my knees. Thanks to the wonders of ibuprofen, my knees felt good this morning. I continued to baby them as much as possible all day, and they fared pretty good. The last couple of miles they were starting to hurt, but considering how tough the climbs and descents were, I was very pleasantly surprised. Here's hoping they continue to do so well!
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Saturday, September 05, 2009
AT Miles = 11.8 / 1892.2
Other Miles = 0.2 / 59.1
Total Miles = 12.0 / 1951.3
Miles to Katahdin = 286.1
First, a word about the mileages given above. You all know that I skipped about 15 miles of trail between Carter Notch Hut, where I got off the trail a couple of weekends ago, and US 2 where I started this morning. You know I missed that section, and I know I missed that section, so I am not pulling the wool over anybody's eyes. But those miles are included in the mileage totals I keep, as that is the only way to keep the mileage synced to the guidebook. To do otherwise would leave me in a constant state of confusion.
Jodi and I were on the road a few minutes after 5:00 this morning, and I was on the trail at 9:15. Skipping the section over Carter Dome was definitely the right decision. Today's hike was, for New Hampshire, an easy section. There was plenty of ascending and descending, but it was hiking on a trail, not climbing up and down rocks. Even so, it was a tough workout for my knees. The braces help A LOT, but I still move rather slowly, and even more so on the dowwnhills. I think I am moving at a normal pace on the rare flats and when ascending, but on the downhills I guesstimate I am making slightly more than 1 mile per hour. It took me 7 1/4 hours to reach this campsite today. With a 45 minute break for lunch, that makes it 6 1/2 hours hiking for 12 miles. I can live with that.
I spent the day telling myself that as long as I can cover 10 or 12 miles per day, I am fine. At ten miles per day I will cover the 300 miles in 30 days. That's doable.
But I am not out of the woods (metaphorically) yet. The terrain is going to get a lot tougher in the next couple of days, and it is going to stay that way for quite a while. I am still estimating that I have a 50/50 chance that my knees are going to stand up to the abuse.
I felt like I was moving oh-so-slowly today, but there are lots of weekenders out for the long holiday weekend, and I passed several of them. That just serves to remind me that I am not moving as pitifully slowly as I imagine I am. I hike slowly, but I still have great stamina and instead of taking all those frequent breaks that weekend warriors have to take, I move along steadily for 3 or 4 hours at a time.
I have my hammock hung over a tent platform here tonight. Just across the way is a large group of college kids from Colby College, on a freshman orientation trip. I am getting a big kick from listening to them play silly games while seated in a circle.
There is no cell reception here, so you won't see this for a while. Hopefully I will have reception somewhere tomorrow and I will get to send this. But I will say "Goodnight from Gentian Pond" anyway.
"Home is where I hang my food bag"
Thursday, September 03, 2009
When I think about it I think I have about a 50/50 chance that my knees are up to the hike. Until today I haven't felt a lot of confidence or anticipation about getting back on the trail, but now that my backpack is packed and I've been finalizing the logistics for the rest of the trip, I've started feeling and talking about it all much more positively. Instead of saying "If I get to Monson," I've been saying "When I get to Monson."
The weather for southern Maine looks great for the next week (see below). I think if I get through the next week or so I should be all set. That will get me through the toughest terrain, then things will start to ease up.
My plan is to get up at 0400 tomorrow, and be on the road by 0500. With a stop somewhere for breakfast that should get me on the trail by 1000 at the latest. Ideally I would like to make 12 miles tomorrow, but there is a shorter option. I've given up trying to estimate how many miles I can hike in a day anymore.
I will not be picking up exactly where I left off. I am going to start at US 2 near Gorham. This works out better logistically as far as getting to the trailhead, and it also allows me to avoid hiking up and over Carter Dome on my first day back, which is ridiculously steep and difficult. I do have a pretty good sized chunk of guilt in my stomach over missing the few miles from Carter Notch to US 2, but it might be the difference between completing my hike and not, so I think it's a fair trade-off.
* I just realized I am short one pair of socks. Looks like I need to do some laundry this afternoon.
|Forecast for Northern Oxford|
|Updated: 10:14 am EDT on September 3, 2009|
Sunny. Highs in the upper 70s. West winds around 10 mph.
Mostly clear. Patchy fog after midnight. Lows in the upper 40s. Light and variable winds.
Mostly sunny. Highs in the upper 70s. Light and variable winds...becoming northwest around 10 mph in the afternoon.
Partly cloudy in the evening...then becoming mostly clear. Lows in the upper 40s. Light and variable winds.
Mostly sunny. Highs in the upper 60s. Light and variable winds...becoming northwest around 10 mph in the afternoon.
Clear. Lows in the lower 40s.
Sunday through Labor Day
Mostly clear. Highs in the lower 70s. Lows in the lower 40s.
Monday Night through Tuesday Night
Partly cloudy. Lows around 50. Highs in the mid 70s.
Sunny. Highs in the upper 60s.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
report that hiking on a flat, smooth trail, with no pack, wearing
Cho-pat braces on both knees, and using my trekking poles, my knees
felt about 98%. How that translates into carrying a full pack up and
down mountains and over rough terrain, remains to be seen.
And James, you're right, I do miss sleeping in my hammock!
As for kicking the AT's ass, Ken, there is no such thing. Hiking the
AT is like climbing a big mountain. Nobody conquers a mountain,
they just climb it, or not. I'll either finish the trail this year, or I
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Hampshire that day. Plans are pushed back one day to Friday.