Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stats from the Trip

So, I've done a few calculations, and I've added and averaged a number of occurrences on my journey (... which may or may not confirm my dork status...). I was surprised by a few, but most seemed just about right.

Biggest mileage day: 30.6 (into Partnership Shelter)
Shortest mileage day: 1.9 (into Gorham, NH)
Average mileage, including zero days: 13.38
Average mileage, only hiking days: 15.69
Zero days: 24
20+ mileage days: 28
Most stumbles in a day: 29
Average stumbles on hiking days: 10.3
Average stumbles per mile: 1.5
Total showers: 57 + 2 outdoor showers
Showers on only the 139 hiking days (zero days almost always included a shower): 34 + 2 outdoor showers
Sponge baths: 18
Longest stretch without a shower: 7 days
Nights I slept in a bed: 42
Nights I slept in a bunk (no mattress): 11 + 2 tables
Nights I slept on a couch: 1
Nights I slept in a hotel (not the Ritz): 17
Nights I slept in a hostel: 14
Nights I slept in a home: 21 (thanks Jeanne, Wendy, the Byers/Footses, Abigail, Dana, Anita & Steve, the Wetzels, Renee & Tyler, Dan, Mom & Dad)
Nights I slept in a shelter: 30
Nights I slept in a tent: 74
Nights I slept in a hut: 4
Nights I "cowboy camped" (under the stars): 1

And that's about it! Also, I've FINALLY put a gear list together. The link is up in the top navigation...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Back Home...

Well, kind of home. I, sadly, said farewell to Scatters and left Rangeley on Thursday to drive Rorshach down to Hanover, NH. He's still got about 500 miles left to do, and he started back up in Rutland, VT. Since I was in Hanover, I stopped by Hanover Outdoors to see if there was a package for me. My friend Sarah sent me one back when I was hiking in the area, but it missed me by a day. I wasn't sure if she'd called to get it returned to sender or not, so I asked if they had it. They did! So, I got a box full of chocolate, trail mix, bars, ramen, ziploc bags, and lots of love. Thanks so much, Sarah!!

After I said goodbye to Rorshach, I drove on to Plymouth, NH to see and stay with Renee and Tyler again. I had a great time hanging out with them at the Holderness School where they work/live, and then I took off early the next day for the big drive south. It rained a LOT, and it took about ten hours to get to another friend's house. I stayed with Erin and Mike (the two who came out to hike in the Shenandoahs) at their house south of Baltimore. We all woke up very early to get to the Laxtoberfest lacrosse tournament in the morning. We didn't play (thank goodness), but we had to get to the fields at 6:30 to work at the score tables until 5pm. It was a long [sunny?!] day of lacrosse, followed by another long day on Sunday, but it was a lot of fun. I got to see my old teammates and watch a lot of great lacrosse. The tournament ended on Sunday afternoon, and I drove another 2 hours to get to my parents' house in Berlin, Md where I am now. I plan to stay here for a week before finally getting back to DC. I look forward to not driving more than ten minutes at a time!!

Being here has been nice, as it usually is. I caught up with my mom and dad, and I got back in the gym. I'll be sticking to the elliptical machine and light weights for a while, I think, and a few yoga poses. My body is still quite stiff and sore, but I've been stretching at least twice a day, and I think my joints should eventually heal. My appetite is slowly getting back to normal (smaller), and my diet has made the switch back to "mostly healthy" (though I already miss the Rangeley stint of huge, daily ice cream sundaes!!).

I've been in contact with a few hikers (Little Foot finally summitted with his Dad this past Saturday - congrats!!), and most everyone seems to be in transition. I've begun to dabble in online job searching and organizing my things. I have so many things!?! Quite a difference from temporarily only having 65 liters of carry-able, ultra-light items...

It probably won't be REAL real until I settle back into DC for a while with my friend Leah. Until then, I'll enjoy the down time. I've started a book. I've gone through all my mail. I take my time working out. I may even take a nap here and there...

Location:Berlin, MD

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Syracuse Alumni Article

About me!?

Thank you to Kate Holloway for writing such a nice article. Click the image to read the whole thing.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recovery Week

Almost a week since I climbed Katahdin. Seems like forever ago, AND it seems like just yesterday. I don't feel like I'm done, though. I feel as though I am taking a few zero days - like I'll need to go back out there soon and walk more. But I don't. It sure feels good not to have to walk, but I do miss the trail already and the hikers on it.

Right now, I'm still up in Rangeley, Maine with Scatters. Boss flew back to Atlanta on Sunday (and went back to work on Monday!!?!), and Rorshach arrived here yesterday. It's nice to have a few trail folks around still, to ease out of AT life. I don't think I'll realize that my AT journey is over until I am back in DC, and there aren't any thru hikers around. Then it should sink in, right?

Hanging out in Rangeley has been great. Just what a post-thru-hiker needs. A lot of sitting on the couch and eating. Showers and laundry are available at all times. And there are cars to drive places. It's very luxurious. The past few days, we have woken up to rain. Nothing better than waking up INSIDE when it's raining!!

So, what's next for me? I'm not sure. I've got a few distractions to keep me occupied for another few weeks. I'll be driving down to and working at the Laxtoberfest lacrosse tournament with my old lacrosse team in Annapolis this weekend, and then I have a family get-together at my parents' house in Ocean City, Md. Then it'll be my THIRTIETH birthday in DC on October 15th, and then it's basically Thanksgiving and Christmas... I suppose I'll need to hunt for a job somewhere in there. I'm not too worried. I'm confident I'll find something I enjoy, and it will probably be in another city. In a few weeks, I can see myself getting pretty excited about working again. For now, I'm fine to rest and recuperate.

I hope my body starts shaping up soon. Scatters (who finished a week before I did) and I are still very sore and tight and tender-footed. My knees really don't like to switch between standing and sitting - especially if they've been doing one of those things for more than ten minutes. My feet are very tender to walk on, mostly in the mornings, but rubbing them doesn't seem to help. My left ankle is still a little swollen, but I think it's getting better. Scatters and I even went for a 4-mile walk yesterday to loosen things up. It hurt at first, and we were slow, but it was nice to move around a bit. The scrapes, bumps and bruises on my legs and arms are slowly fading, and my skin is starting to clear up. It's nice to have soap around. I've started stretching two times a day, but I'm not sure it's been helping too much yet. I'll keep it up. I'm slowly adding fresh fruit and veggies back into my daily diet. It feels healthy and right. I'll keep that up, too.

So, am I glad I did this trek? Oh yes. Before I drove down to Georgia with my dad, I never knew for sure how far I would make it. I knew I was determined to go as far as I could. I knew I was physically capable to walk the 2000+ miles. I was pretty sure I could adapt to whatever conditions arose and challenged me along the way. But to realize that I got up every morning and walked, footstep by footstep, the entire 2,179 miles with my big ole pack, through rain, sleet, snow and blazing heat, well, it just blows my mind. When I look at the AT map, it doesn't seem real. When I get out of bed in the morning, though, it does, in fact, seem as though, perhaps, I did actually walk all that way...

So, what should I do with this blog?? I guess I'm not sure. I've had such AMAZING amounts of UNBELIEVABLE support for my trip and my blogging that I feel like I can't just stop writing. I like blogging (though, it's nice not to have to write about everything that happens everyday in my life anymore - sorry mom!), and I will probably continue to update this site on a not-so-regular basis. It will take me a while to reply to all the comments and thank everyone I need to thank. (I'm sorry I couldn't reply much while I was hiking, but blogging alone was way too much typing on my little iPhone keyboard...)

I guess, stay tuned...?

Location:Rangeley, Maine

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 163: Katahdin (THE END)

...and then it was GO TIME!

There was worry about the weather, but I woke up early to a pretty clear (and COLD!) morning. Tripper, Wizard, Stickbuilt, 413 and Scooter were all up, eating breakfast and packing up. We made some hot drinks and said goodbye/good luck to them as they left camp just after 7am. Master Chief and Backwards left soon after, and then Boss and I left, too, after our last pack-up from camping this trip?!?!

We walked over to the ranger station. Most thru hikers leave their large packs and poles at the station and take only a few snacks and water in a day pack. There's a pile of day packs for our use - it's quite nice of them to offer those. I decided to take my own pack up and take out everything I wouldn't need so it would be practically day-pack-sized. I just really like my pack, and without much in it, it gets pretty small.

And then we began the last 5.2 miles of the entire trip... Katahdin is a nice mountain on which to finish because the climb starts out VERY gradually. It's a flat mile, then a slightly increasing grade until it's straight up. Then you hit the table top, and then a really nice ramp up to Baxter Peak.

The weather was great. We couldn't believe how clear it was after such a cloudy peak day yesterday. We had been watching the weather forecast and felt very good about our decision to push to summit today. Boss was pretty excited to get up to the top, so he ended up taking off at a speedy pace. I was so "in my head" that I didn't even notice when he was out of sight. I couldn't believe I was climbing Katahdin, but it was all happening. Conditions were perfect. I felt good. The weather was good. I was going to finish this thing!

The ascent got tougher after mile 2 ended, but it was fun boulder-climbing. And the light pack made hiking so much easier. (So THIS is what slack-packing must be like!) When I got above tree line, the wind was howling. I caught up to On the Loose and her mom (Mama Loose - she came out just for this climb), who had both stopped to layer up. I did the same and put on pants, my jacket, hat and gloves. Much better. The next section was difficult to get up and around, and On the Loose asked me to lead her mom up while she stayed right behind her. Despite a slight fear of heights, Mama Loose made it past that dangerous section just fine. They stopped for another short break and I hiked on.

The wind died down a bit, but was still a factor when I got to the steepest part of the day. It was pretty much straight up, rocky and challenging, but adrenaline pushed me right up. I teared up a bit at one point here, thinking about getting to the sign on Baxter Peak which signified the end. It was a powerful day. Lots of emotions running through my head. It was hard to be "in the moment." I was thinking about other moments on the trail that had been super-difficult. About all the other thru hikers who had made this climb before me and what it must mean to all of them. What it means to me now. How this experience will stay with me forever. About what's going to happen next.... It was a lot.

I got up to the table top and enjoyed the break from climbing. I had about a mile and a half left... of the whole, entire trip. As I got closer, I could see a group of hikers near the Baxter peak sign. I was seeing the sign in real life, with my own eyes! I teared up again as I approached it and finally touched it. I was done. I was DONE!

2179.1 miles of white-blazed trail. Wow. Millions of footsteps, thousands of stumbles, hundreds of Clif bars, and dozens of mornings where I had to put on cold, wet clothes in the mornings. All leading up to this moment. It was magical. It was indescribable. It was surreal, but also quite normal, too. It felt like just another mountain, and it was... but it was THE mountain. I was on Katahdin. My AT trek was over. It felt amazing.

Boss had been up there for twenty minutes or so and was hanging out with Heads Up, Yahtzee, Stetcher and Eric the Red. We took photos and had snacks and enjoyed the GORGEOUS view. We completely lucked out with such good weather! Even though the ranger station declared it a Class II day (when they don't recommend going above tree line - because there was a chance of rain in the afternoon), it was beautiful. Lots of silly photos while other hikers showed up. The Aussies made it up, and so did Captain Slick who brought up and changed into his uniform from the Marines. There were a couple groups of day hikers, too. Lots of people - maybe 25-30? It was warm enough to hang out on the rocks in the sun, and the breeze wasn't too strong. Finally, On the Loose and Mama Loose made it up, too. We got a group photo, then it was time to descend. Goodbye Katahdin sign. I have dreamt of you for a while now, and I will continue to do so for many years, I'm sure.

The weird part of heading back to the ranger station was that it would be the same trail as coming up. The first time I'd be "back-tracking" for five miles. Going down was just as slow in the same places where it was slow coming up, but eventually, Boss and I made it back to the ranger station to sign the register and recover our packs. After a clothing change and casually repacking our bags, we left to hitch into Millinocket. We were done... and exhausted.

By the end of the day, Boss and I made it all the way back to Scatters' house in Rangeley, Maine, where we'd recover for a few days. Three hikers (Giggles, Special Needs and Vegan) were staying there another night - they were still a few weeks from finishing. We all chatted for a while before laundry, showers and tv sent us all to bed.

What. A. Day.

How am I going to feel in the morning...? More exhausted? In disbelief? Relieved? Proud and accomplished? Sore and broken? However I will feel, it sure will be nice not to have to hike! (and it's supposed to rain... :)
(5.2mi (10.4??) 5st)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Baxter Peak, Katahdin

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 162: Last Full Day in the Woods

Woke up early to a very warm and dry morning. I went down to the water to take early morning photos and see if there were any moose out, but I saw none. Boo. Back at camp, I was starting to pack up and pull everything together when Boss and I heard moose noises. To the water!

Boss headed back south on the trail, and I went out to where I had been taking photos. It was a large lake, and I didn't see anything right away. The noises were loud though, and from the other side...? Then I spotted them. Two moose SWIMMING across the lake. I got a few photos on my real camera, but they're a bit fuzzy because of the distance. One was a bull with a full set of antlers. The other was a cow. Very cool! It would have been nice to see a few a little closer than 200 yards, but I can't complain. I was watching two moose swimming! (ps: this photo is from the internet... but it's probably similar to what the scene looked like close-up, minus the cow...)

Boss came back from his expedition into the lake, and we had breakfast as Backwards left camp. We ate lots since it would be a long day of hiking and we would only need one more breakfast (what?!). Then we were off on our LAST full day of hiking in the woods. The terrain was nice and the weather was warm. Too warm? It felt more like the end of May than the end of September.

We got up to Rainbow Ledges and got a view of Katahdin. We couldn't see the top because there was a large cloud hovering up there and covering it up. I hope that cloud burns off for anyone climbing up there today. We continued on, to kill nine miles or so before our first break at a shelter. Master Chief and Backwards were there having a snack, and we all talked about what we'd eat at the Abol Bridge camp store a few miles away.

We hiked on and got to the bridge. Stunning view of Katahdin, but that big ole cloud was still there! I think Uncas and HD Mama were up there in it. A hundred yards past the bridge was the camp store where the guys bought lots of snacks. I ate a little out of my food bag and a Whoopie Pie from the store. It was so sweet it almost made me sick, but it was a nice, sugary treat. We took a long snack break in the shade and filled up on calories.

Then, we were off to conquer that last ten miles to get to the Birches camp at the Katahdin Stream Campground, which is 5.2 miles from Baxter Peak (the end). Luckily, it was really nice, flat trail that followed the stream. Before we knew it, we'd arrived and registered at the Ranger Station. It was getting so real!

After taking care of a few admin bits (I was #386 of the nobo's from this season), we walked back to our designated camp spot and found Tripper, Wizard, Stickbuilt, 413 and Scooter. Well, hey! It was so nice to finally catch those Aussies! We chatted with them, and then Backwards and Master Chief rolled in. We made dinner around the fire, and already-done-thru-hiker True stopped by to drop off a cooler of drinks! Our last trail magic! Just when I thought I wouldn't get anymore... Thanks, True!

We ate and drank, and soon we were all retiring to our beds for our last night in the woods. It's so crazy that we'll all be climbing Katahdin in the morning. Baxter peak - the distant, fabled myth - is right outside the tent wall. The summit sign that we've seen in countless photos of joy, accomplishment, and completion. This journey that seemed like it had no end will finally be complete. It's all happening, and it just feels great.

I can't wait.
(21.1mi 4st)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:The Birches Camp, Baxter State Park

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 161: It's Almost Over

Woke up early since I fell asleep before 8:30pm. It was close to 6am, and I wondered if I could catch the sunrise. I waited a bit, then layered up and took my camera outside. I went out too early and ended up waiting more, and THEN the sun was behind trees/mountains so it didn't come up above those for another twenty minutes, BUT it finally came up, and I saw it. Sunrise: check.

I hopped back into bed for a little while. Boss and Backwards were awake, but there was little movement. Finally, near 7:45, we all packed up and headed over for breakfast at 8 sharp. We ate everything that was put in front of us. We secretly wanted more, but we stopped after the second pizza tray full of pancakes. It was all very good.

While we were checking out and paying our tabs, we got to talking to Bill about the place and how they came to run it. Very interesting story (and a great guy). There was a big controversy about advertising on or near the AT, but they keep it pretty low key.

After a nice chat, we finally had to leave that haven to finish this hike. It was almost 10am when Bill dropped us off a mike up the river (so it would only be .2 back to the trail - yay!). The three of us waived goodbye and started to hike. It would be another long day, but not quite so rushed as yesterday.

Lots of roots today. We were glad it hadn't rained. Wet roots are very slippery. Boss put his book on whole we hiked, and I let my mind wander and think about lots of things. I thought about how this trail has institutionalized me in a non-institutional kind of way, and I hope I'll make a smooth transition when it's over. (Or at least come out better than Brooks did when ge left Shawshank...) I thought about all the hikers I've met on the trail. Who's off the trail. Who's done. Who's still hiking. I thought about how much I've gotten used to my body always hurting, and how long would it take to feel normal again. Will this be my new normal? Is this what it's like to be old? I thought about what it will be like to climb DOWN from Katahdin when it's all over. How will it feel when I wake up on Friday and have no where to walk?!?!

We stopped for lunch at a shelter and Backwards caught up. Then we hiked on for the next few hours and my mind wandered again. There was a bit of a hill to climb and a great view of Katahdin. It's so hard to believe I'll be there in less than 48 hours! I took a few photos and we hiked on. We finally made it to the next shelter around 4pm and made an early dinner. Tinkle Fingers and Bonne Chance were there making dinner. Backwards and Master Chief caught up and did the same. As we all ate, it began to sprinkle rain. Quick clean-up, then off to pound out another 3-4 miles before setting up camp.

We finally made it to the campground by the lake and set up camp. The sprinkles were on and off (but they left the roots nice and slippery), and luckily, it was dry while we set up. A small snack of hot chocolate and a brownie that Linda had made, and then it was time for bed (and blogging catch-up!). I hope all the rain comes out tonight so we don't have to worry about it in the morning!

Tomorrow is my last full day in the woods!!! Wow.

A call to action: Look at your hands. You're probably reading this from your computer at work or maybe a phone. Your hands are probably nice and clean, or only mildly dirty. Maybe there's a small bit of something under one nail...?

After only one day away from a sink, my hands are utterly filthy once again. It's amazing! Dirt under every nail. A slightly darker shade of skin on my palms. Just gross.

So, go... Wash your hands in honor of me. Because you can. Are you in the bathroom? Why not just go ahead and wash your face, too... Or, if you're at home, go ahead a jump in the shower. Be clean! Enjoy cleanliness!! I just can't wait to enjoy the luxury of sinks and showers and towels and soap... That will be quite nice... I can't wait for that again...
(19.7mi 3st)

-- Posted from the trail...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 160: White House Landing

Woke up to a chilly Monday morning moose hunt. Boss heard something and woke me up, and it sounded like a big old moose heading towards the water. Then it sounded like it was IN the water. It was very cold, so we weren't very quick to get out of our warm sleeping bags, but after a few minutes, we threw on our jackets, grabbed our cameras and went to find the moose!

Well, we couldn't see it from the water access, and we couldn't rock-hop around the bend in the steam, so we backtracked and followed the AT for a hundred yards or so until we heard it loud and clear. The brush was too thick to see through to the river, but it was only 20 yards away or so. It was making all sorts of weird sounds (maybe because it is rut season...?). Finally, I slowly blazed my own trail to the stream, but only saw a few ducks (and a gorgeous morning steam in the sunlight!). The moose must've crossed the stream and kept going. No moose sighting for us this morning... Just moose tracks in the mud.

We packed up and headed out on the trail to the stream that our books said we'd need to ford. I'd left my crocs on from camp. Boss took a chance and put his shoes/socks on. When we got to the crossing, it was an EASY rock-hop. Point for Boss.

The hiking in the morning was beautiful. The weather was brisk, but very pleasant. Bright sun. Flat trail. A lovely walk. We had to deal with a slight re-location of the AT going up to Little Boardman mountain. This slowed us down a bit with the new, unpredictable, unworn trail. After this mountain, however, our pace was fast, and we thought about maybe making it to the White House Landing oasis in the wilderness. It's a hostel on a lake that serves food and sells a few resupply items. It would have to be a quick, long hiking day, since we'd need to make it almost 22 miles to their boat dock before dark. I decided that we should go for it. Even if it was just for dinner...

We continued hiking at a solid pace, which was easy with the flat terrain. At least a mile of today, though, was walking on planks. They seemed to be never-ending! We stopped for lunch at a shelter where Master Chief caught up to us. We chatted a bit before taking off. We passed a logging road and watched a log truck go by (it's not too wild out here...). Later, we stopped by a bridge where we saw Prophet, his friend from home, Kim, and a ridge-runner, CJ. Prophet and Kim got a ride up to Katahdin and were hiking back to Monson. I guess I won't be seeing him again now that he's sobo. Weird.

We hiked hard and took another short break at Potaywadjo shelter to get water and check our mileage. We were going to make it! 2-something AT miles to an old road, then .2 non-AT miles east, then about a mile south to a boat dock. There's a bull horn there with a note and directions. I gave the horn a short blast, and five minutes later, Bill showed up from across the lake in his motorboat. Hi Bill!

After a quick 300-400 yard ride, we were docked out front of White House Landing. The sun was setting. The sky was dramatic. We knew we'd be staying the night. We met Linda inside as she took our orders for dinner, and we joined Backwards at a table. He was the only other thru-hiker in for the night. We each ate one of Linda's famous one-pound burgers (yum!!) and then we split a pizza. It was all delicious. Linda showed us to the bunkhouse where we dumped our packs and soon took showers. There isn't electricity in the bunkhouse (the lights all run off gas), but Linda said she would charge our phones at her house. (It was great, but it meant I couldn't blog till the next night. No worries...) Thanks Linda for sharing your power!

So, it was dark and getting cold, and there wasn't much to do without our phones. I couldn't blog, and Boss couldn't listen to his book. He ended up hopping into bed around 7:30pm, Backwards read a book by the dim light in the other room, while I took my camera down to the lake shore and took a few neat photos of the moonlight. It was SO bright! After it got too cold, I hopped into my bunk and soon fell asleep. All-you-can-eat breakfast in the morning!!!

[A few of you were concerned with my gps location! Yes, I was a bit off the trail, and this is why. I'm glad I've got you guys on my team!]
(21.8mi 6st)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:White House Landing

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 159: I Saw Katahdin

Woke up in our little stealth spot and soon got to hiking. We found out how lucky we were to find that spot in the dark last night after noting that there was nothing else that would've done for camping for the next two miles. We met a few day hikers and their dogs as we all crossed the Pleasant river, which was up to our knees and cold. We also met Threshold, a 2009 thru-hiker who was working as a ridge runner.

We hiked on in the nice day. There was a bit of cloud cover, so I was worried about the view of Katahdin from White Cap Mountain later on, but it seemed like it would burn off eventually. Boss and I hiked past the loop trail to Gulf Hagas, and we were sad to do that. It's supposed to be a wonderful trail of waterfalls and canyons, but we just didn't feel the need to do the extra, 5.2 non-AT miles. We both definitely WANTED to do it, but we are just so ready to stop the walking. We pressed on instead, to get up and over the four mountains coming up...

After a short break to chat with George, a VERY talkative weekender hiker who could've gone on forever (lovely guy though), we took a lunch break at the Carl Newhall shelter (2100 mile marker!!!!) before the climb. We went up Hagas mountain, then down, then up West peak, then down, then up Hay mountain, then down, then up to White Cap where we got our first, sure view of Katahdin. And the angels sang: AHHHHH!

There she was. The light at the end of the tunnel. The goal. The legend. The reason we began. The last mountain. The northern terminus. The end.

The cloud cover had cleared, and it was a beautiful day to see that mountain from the hill on which I stood. Seventy-something odd hiking miles away. Within grasp and waiting. It was exciting, and my flame for hiking was ignited again. Only three full days to go, plus the rest of this one, and then it's Katahdin time. So hard to believe I'm already here!!

Well, we took a short break atop White Cap and enjoyed the bright sunlight. Then it was down a few miles to a shelter. Another quick break before down again to the East Branch lean-to where we will sleep. We're the only ones here, so we'll sleep in the shelter for a change. Boss and I should've picked up more fuel before heading out. He's basically empty, and I'm running low. To save what's left, Boss made a fire and boiled water over it. We both made dinner and hot chocolate without using any isobutane. I hadn't done that except for a few hot dog nights. I felt kinda like Beaver Chief.

Something to note: we didn't see ANY OTHER nobo's today! We didn't pass anyone, and no one passed us. Weird. I think we must be in between two bubbles - we'll try to catch Uncas and the Aussies, but Xan, Neutron, Deetz/PP/Miles, One Life, Rorshach, and a few others are back in Monson, about to head into the wilderness. Perhaps I'll see them all after they summit, over the weekend...?

So, with White Cap mountain out of the way now, there are no substantial mountains left before Katahdin. It should be nice, easy hiking until the last climb, so we'll be covering lots of ground. I hope this great weather continues!
(18mi 8st)

Location:East Branch Lean-to

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 158: Maine is Beautiful

Lovely, cold morning. After eating a hot breakfast and fixing my bear line problems, we prepared to ford the river. It wasn't too deep or far across, but it was cold, and the rocks were a bit slippery. The key is to go slow and carefully (and wear crocs). So we did (Boss wore flip flops). And we made it fine. The cold water definitely helped wake us up more!

We stopped in quickly to the shelter nearby and said good morning to Rainbow, Stryder and Farmer John. After hiking a few miles and seeing a train, we rock-hopped and took a break at a stream. Then it was up up up to the mountain-before-Barren mountain where the view was excellent. We startled some sort of moose-like animal in the woods on the way up, but I was unable to determine just exactly what it was since the woods were so thick. (It seemed like a moose though.)

We caught up with Sourdough and Sweet Dough and had lunch there with them. Master Chief stopped in, too. We were all stunned by the gorgeous view we had up there. (The lake in the photo is the geographical center of Maine!) The sun was out. Soft breeze. Lunch. Freeman swung by, heading south (he had flip flopped in Kent, Connecticut - where I saw him last). We all chatted and stared out at the mountains and lakes in the sun. It was beautiful. And it marked the "100 miles left" spot. Wow.

We left and hiked up and over Barren mountain, then down/up/down/up over four little mountains. I slipped and fell at one point, but it wasn't too bad. Just stressed out the ole left knee again. We hiked through a bog where we saw a few pitcher plants (photo - they fill up with water and somehow lower the viscosity of the water so that insects that can normally float on the service will sink to the bottom. The pitcher plants digest insects, and they look pretty cool. Thanks to Freeman for the info!) We got to the Chairback Lean-to around 5:30pm and made dinner. We wanted to shave off a few more miles from tomorrow's mileage, and stopping to eat while it was light out made it easier to night-hike, if it came to that. We said goodnight to Master Chief after getting water and pressed on.

Up on Chairback Mountain, we caught a setting sun and a lovely beginning to the evening. We walked out on the ledge and got to see the silhouettes of the mountains on the pink sky. It was quite rocky for the next mile, so there was nowhere to camp. After we slowly made it down the mountain, it got muddy... and dark. We whipped out our headlamps for the second day in a row and hiked another mile or so through a lot of scratchy brush, then mud, until we finally found a good spot.

We had already eaten, so all we needed to do was set up camp and go to bed. Nice and quick and ready to sleep. Now that we know we want to summit on the 23rd, we've worked out our daily mileages for the rest of the trip. Tomorrow will be the biggest day in the wilderness with White Cap mountain (the last real mountain before Katahdin), but pretty big miles on the remaining flat terrain till the end. I think I'm ready to be done... Only 85.8 miles left...
(19mi 8st)

Location:Tenting near the East Chairback Pond Trail

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 157: Into the Wilderness

Woke up early and wandered out into the drizzles over to Shaw's for their famous all-you-can-eat breakfast. It was great - and it was French toast day! Boss and I sat with Master Chief, Ten Beers and Farmer John. I ordered a "three" which comes out with three of each: eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes (servings), and pieces of French toast. I got through it and had two more pieces of French toast! Gotta fill up before the wilderness.

We chatted for a while and eventually made it back to the Lakeshore House where we finished watching a movie we didn't make it through last night. Then we packed up and got our things a bit more organized. We resupplied at the general store and had lunch at the pub (they have games to play). We chatted with Rebekah, the owner of the Lakeshore House for a while and really liked her. She runs a good show there!

After some tinkering on the computer and a few last phone calls, we packed up six days of food and made it out of town. James, the cook, gave us a ride back to the trail head after ten disappointing minutes if trying to hitch. Soon after getting dropped off, we were OFF! Into the wilderness! The HUNDRED MILES of wilderness!!! ...at 3pm...

It was a mighty late start, but we were only going 10 miles or so. My pack was heavy, but I got used to it fairly quickly. The hiking was easy and enjoyable. We passed a few ponds, rock-hopped a few streams (I sunk a foot this time... Boss stayed dry) and a sixty foot waterfall. At one of the ponds, there were two beaver swimming around, splashing. And the weather was amazing! Though we woke up to rain, it was oh-so-clear and warm while we hiked. The moon was out early, but the sun went down by 7pm and we were still moving. I forgot how short the days were getting.

We ended up pulling out the headlamps for the last 20 minutes or so and camping next to a big river crossing. We didn't want to even try to get over this river in the dark, and luckily there was a small camp ground next to it. First thing in the morning will be the deepest, strongest river ford yet. Tonight was only dinner in the dark, then bed...

One final photo: moose poo. We see it all over the place, but still no moose!
(9.7mi 6st)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Camping next to Big Wilson stream

Follow My GPS Locations...

I just got a faint cell signal, so I thought I'd remind you that even though I can't upload my blog entries, you can still follow my GPS location on the link on the right. I'll send out 3-5 signals a day, then on my final climb up Katahdin (on the 23rd...?), I plan to switch my SPOT to "tracking" mode, which will send out a signal every ten minutes. You can "watch" me climb Katahdin!

All for now! Things are still going well out here!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:The 100 Miles of Wilderness

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 156: Reunited, and It Feels So Good!

Woke up after almost ten hours of sleep. It's nice not to have a strict schedule out here. I plan to enjoy it while it lasts... After a slow breakfast and pack-up, Boss and I left to hike the 6-ish miles to the road to Monson.

The trail was nice and rolling (a bit more uphill than I thought), but there was a really nice pond about halfway. We stopped to listen to the loons calling from far away. It was picturesque and lovely. We talked to a section hiker for a bit, then knocked out the next 3 miles. We got to the road and only waited ten minutes before Debbie picked us up on her way to Portland. She dropped us off at the Lakeshore House and waved goodbye. Thanks, Debbie!!

We self-checked in and said hello to Sour Dough (who I hadn't seen for a while), his wife Sweet Dough (who was back on the trail for the last week or so), Rainbow, Stryder and a group of three who summited yesterday - Stoker, Sour Tower and Boone. We all watched a movie and relaxed after cleaning up and throwing the laundry in. It was a relaxing afternoon. We had a bite to eat in the pub and walked over to the general store.

While we were doing all this, Scatters and Powder had finished up with Katahdin. They were DONE! Scatters' brother, Jonathan, had come out from Colorado to pick them up and drive them back to Rangeley. On their way back, though, they stopped in Monson! Happy 30th Birthday, Scatters!!! And congrats!! She managed to summit on her birthday! I knew she would :)

It was great to see Scatters again - Boss and I hasn't seen her since Hanover?! - and it was good to see Powder again, too (and nice to meet Jonathan!). The five of us went down to the pub to enjoy all-you-can-eat taco night and catch up on EVERYTHING from the last few weeks. It was excellent, and so were the tacos. Boss and I had hoped they'd spend the night with us in Monson, but they were on their way to Rangeley by 8pm. I'm so happy I get to hang out with Scatters some more, back in Rangeley after I finally summit, too. Only 114.5 miles left, and most of it will be in "the hundred miles of wilderness." It sounds daunting, but it shouldn't be too bad. We just need to bring six days of food or so. Heavy packs.

With that said, I will probably not have any cell service or internet (or battery left?) until after I summit (on the 23rd or 24th?). I will still be blogging everyday and will upload everything I've got as soon as I can. It should be a great last hundred miles, but I'm definitely looking forward to being done now.

I can't believe it's almost over...
(6.7mi 2st)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Lakeshore House, Monson, Maine

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 155: Ford Tough

Woke up early to raindrops that came and went. Fell back asleep for a while, but was up eating breakfast by 6:45 in the shelter. Today would be an easy hike with only one mountain, first thing in the morning. Moxie Bald Mountain.

We climbed the 1000 feet of elevation in one mile and were met with fierce gusts of wind and a chilly temperature. On a clear day, you can see Katahdin, but neither Stryder, Uncas, Boss or I knew what we were looking for. It was pretty clear out, and it wasn't raining, but there are a lot of mountains up here.

On the way down, the sun really came out and warmed us up. It was especially nice since the forecast called for showers. We made it down and took a snack break at the Moxie Pond Lean-to. A really nice spot and a beautiful pond. Other hikers had noted in the register that moose come out to the pond everyday around 5pm. Unfortunately, we would miss it since it was only 10am, but perhaps another pond will have moose for us to see.

It would be nine miles until the next shelter and our next break, but when Boss and I came up to a gravel road at the halfway point between the two shelters, there was trail magic! Uncas was sitting in a chair with BJ (thru-hiker '96) and his wife Glenna. Well, hey! They had hot coffee, donuts, fruit, sodas, and lots of chocolate candy. What a treat with a warm drink! We sat down in the chairs they brought and chatted about the trail. It's really nice to hear stories from thru hiker alumni and to get advice on the last bits of trail. Thanks so much, BJ and Glenna!!

After our unexpected snack, we were powered up for the next few miles. It was really nice, mostly flat terrain, and it was right along a river. At one point, we had to ford through a swamp/bog. Boss was convinced that he could build a bridge of trees across the bog, but it was six inches deep at the shallowest point, so I just took off my shoes and socks. I slowly worked my way through the cold water to the other side, then found out there was a deeper section 15 yards away. I made it across that part (and noticed a bunch of other bare footprints), when I heard a kur-plunk and a splash, then laughter. Boss had slipped on his bridge and stepped into the bog with his shoes on. Whoops! (If he had had the time, I'm sure the bridge project would've worked out just fine...)

We hiked on and got to the Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to for one last snack. Then it was more river path walking until we crossed the east branch of the Piscataquis river on a beaver dam. There was a small campsite and a cooler full of cold drinks. More magic! We sat and had a soda, then Hat Trick showed up and did the same. He was going to push on to Monson, 6.5 miles away, but Boss and I decided to camp there and roll into town in the morning. We made a fire and ate dinner, and while we were hanging the bear bag, a beaver was splashing his tail on the river. I saw him swimming around then kur-plunk! I had never seem that happen before. Very neat and bizarre.

Lights out before 8pm again. Tomorrow = Monson. Hopefully I'll have cell service so I can upload these blogs. Last town before Katahdin, what!!?!?!

(Again on the ankle - I've never seen it look so bad! My finger is on my ankle bone in the photo, but that other bump is a hard, swollen lump of scar tissue, I think. (And yes, I will be losing my pinky toenail.) The ankle hurts a bunch, but it should last another week. Some time off in Monson should help, too. C'mon ankle!)
(15.3mi 5st)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Campsite on the east branch of the Piscataquis River