A LongTime Ago, in a State Not Too Far Away…

LongTime and Click thank YOU!!

…I was about to embark on the last 5.2 miles of a very long walk in the woods. Together through good times and bad, through rain and through heat, (not to mention some wind, snow, tornadoes, hurricanes and bear encounters), my dad and I had traversed the varied lands of the 14 states which are home to the Appalachian Trail. Having already ascended the equivalent of 16 Mt. Everests, we had just one more mountain to climb, Katahdin, the destination for which we had been heading for nearly six months. One year ago today, we climbed “The Greatest Mountain,” as named by the Penobscot Indians, accompanied by my husband-to-be. Along for the day, to help see us through that very tough climb, it soon became apparent that he was there for more — to help guide us back to the land of the clean, the connected and the employed. (This proved no easy feat.)

It was abrupt, to put it mildly, to go from arising to the sound of birdsong in rural Maine to being jolted awake by car horns and traffic outside of my Brooklyn window. After the utter appreciation and joy that a daily shower and on-demand electricity could bring began to wear off, the reality of needing a job and having to pay the bills set in. Had my natural pace slowed too much for city life? What did I really want out of life? My now husband was thankfully and eternally patient as I found myself yearning for that sense of calm, clarity and inexpressible metaphysical connection to nature that I had achieved on the trail.

But, like the miles on the AT, I muddled through the rough stuff. Step by step, I’ve regrouped, reconnected, made new connections and perhaps am finally learning that I have the ability to create my own career path. It will be a long journey, but you don’t get to Maine in one day either. It took LongTime longer to get back to work than he would have liked, but the trail taught him how to roll with it too, toting his new mantra, “I can handle it, I’m a thru-hiker. We can get through anything.” He temporarily relocated for a job, only to get a better offer back at home two months later. When you learn to resign to the hard stuff, the reward becomes that much sweeter.

It’s amazing how much my time on the Appalachian Trail has changed and continues to change me. Not a day goes by without me thinking about it, sometimes swelling with pride in thinking about the fact that I actually finished it, or sometimes it’s just a funny memory — like the time in Virginia when LongTime fell in a creek, or when we spent a whole morning coming up with a song about pizza, or when every word out of our mouth for the day was said in a mock Nebraskan (or was it Indiana?) accent of a fellow thru-hiker….

So much more than a physical feat, my journey on the Appalachian Trail was the ultimate test of will and determination, often bringing me beyond what I thought were my emotional limits, in glory, in pain and in love. I’m super grateful for my time on the Appalachian Trail, the associated friendships I continue to cultivate and the desire I have to introduce and share that joy with others. The time I spent with my dad will only become more meaningful and special as the years press on. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family at home, on the web and on the trail, and I certainly couldn’t have done it without Doni.

Thanks for joining in our experience!
~ Click! 2011 Nobo

Below are some pics of some hiking trips from this year: Harriman State Park, a trip with section hiker “Whim” to Fahnestock State Park to give trail magic, Big Slide Mt in the Adirondacks with our nephews, Grayson & Parker, The Devil’s Path in the Catskills with new friends Adrienne and Katherine and pics from Trail Days 2012, an annual thru-hiker reunion in Damascus, Virginia. I’m so happy when I can share my love of the outdoors with others!

Posted in Motivations, Off-trail | 3 Comments

18 score and seven days ago…

Practice hike in Brooklyn, January 2011

It’s been one year and two days since my first blog post here on Mel and Mike Hike. A whole year since my very first practice hike for that mystical path called the Appalachian Trail. I was contemplative, I was nervous, I was excited. And I was only carrying 15 pounds of gear! Of course, it was just practice, but that’s less than half of what I ended up carrying daily over the course of my 5 month and 3 week journey with my dad. And even though there’s a lot less snow this January, I can’t really say that it feels like a whole lot else has changed.

 

Well, that’s not entirely true. There are certain physical things that have changed — my legs are still stronger than ever (though the weight I lost while hiking all the way from Georgia to Maine is creeping back). And I’ve had a new accessory on my finger since October, when I got to marry the love of my life, Doni. What I do mean about not changing, is that one year later, I’m back to sitting in my office, staring at my computer, contemplating what’s next. Frustration with myself for not having yet edited all of the photos I could have by now sets in, concern about where to take my career, calculating how much the next round of bills will be and thoughts of the housework I could be doing instead are all at the forefront of my mind. Before I know it, hours have passed and I have barely moved from my seat. Out on the trail, I could have hiked 8 or 10 miles already. At least I’d feel like I was getting somewhere.

Is it really true? Is the same cynical New Yorker I was pre-hike, starting to creep back in to my life post-hike?!

Man, I hope not! Giving in to the power of stress and negative thoughts is like going over to the Dark Side. It sucks you up. It’s so massive and overwhelming, it seems like all of the goodness and selflessness I experienced along the Appalachian Trail, all of those life lessons, all of that strength I possessed and that kindness from strangers I experienced just vanish into thin air.

LongTime, at the end, after a long time on the trail

Until I start to remember — the names and the faces of all my fellow thru-hikers, the Trail Angels we encountered, the townsfolk and day hikers I chatted with, the encouraging and positive comments here on the blog, the memories of making it through a tough day (or week) in the rain, the laughs shared around a shelter, the mountains of food we consumed and the tears of joy and relief on my dad’s face at the summit of Baxter Peak on Mt. Katahadin in Maine.

 

Then I snap out of it. I remind myself that there will be ups and downs in life, just as there were out on the trail. But if I can make it all the way from Georgia to Maine on foot, then the best thing I can do at my desk on a cold January day in Brooklyn, is to just remember to keep on keepin’ on … the answers are still out there, the journey is the destination.

For those of you who don’t know already, I am now an official thru-hiker with my official certificate and patch from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. At the end of 2011, I went back and made up those missing 83 miles I skipped from Kent, CT to Lee, MA. It took 3 trips, but I have now finished every bit of the 2181 miles. My first trip at the end of October was cut short due to a freak snowstorm. On my second trip I was accompanied by my amazing husband (his first backpacking trip!) which we hiked over the long Thanksgiving weekend. For the final miles, I slack-packed over 3 days in early December because it was just too cold to camp out. On that very last day my great friend Darren came out for the last 11 miles and for the very, very last mile into Kent, I was also escorted by Long Time (who hiked backwards from where I parked my car until he found us). Thanks to all who helped along the way! Especially on this round, to Greg “Painted Turtle” Peters for some off season hiker shuttling and to Maria McCabe, an 83 year old Trail Angel who opened her home and heart to me in Salisbury, CT.

Kent, CT! My real endpoint of the AT.

Click here for Click’s final photos from Lee, Massachusetts to Kent, CT.

Posted in Preparation | 11 Comments

Know when to fold ’em…

Sometimes, when a song pops into your head, you should listen to it. Sometimes, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Like today. I had to fold, I had to bail on the trail. “What, so soon?” some of you may be asking. Yep, with a forecast calling for 6-12 inches of snow tonight, I’m no dummy.

No matter how much I want to get these lost miles of the trail done, it’s not worth it at this point. Forget for a moment about the impending storm and the thought of having to break trail through the snow — I didn’t have cell service last night where I camped. Any long time blog follower knows that lack of connectability is par for the course along the AT, but knowing that my family was worried about me and I couldn’t get in touch to let them know I was okay — that made me feel really bad and really selfish.

Until this point I had been hiking in warmer weather and hiking during thru-hiker season, when it was guaranteed I’d see others along the way. With a hiker community around me, I would have never truly been alone in the woods if I had decided to hike by myself. The majority of thru-hikers my dad and I met were on solo expeditions and hiked along with great success. But I didn’t see another sole out on my trek this time.

And though it felt good strapping that pack back on, getting my heart and legs pumping, setting up camp, crawling in that sleeping bag and not being afraid to be alone — it didn’t feel right knowing that my husband was concerned for my safety and couldn’t get in touch. At least when my dad and I were hiking together and had no cell service, our at-home partners could breathe easier knowing we had each other to rely on in case something went awry.

The threat of injury or bad weather is always a valid concern whether you’re hiking alone or in a group. But when you hike alone, you can’t be callous about it. I’m proud of myself for giving it a go and making it through a brutally cold night in the woods and not being scared, but I respect my family enough to know when to call it quits.

Lucky for me, I had some guardian trail angels named Michelle and Ber who happened to be at their weekend house in the Berkshires today. When I did get cell service today, I was able to give them a ring. They were kind enough to pick me up from the trail and bring me back to Lee, MA where I could catch the bus back to NYC.

So I’m on the bus, Gus. I’ll make a new plan, Stan. And I’ll make the rest of these 75 miles of the Appalachian Trail up at some point. But it doesn’t have to be in the snow and it doesn’t have to be alone.

Posted in Trail-time! | 13 Comments

Winter backpacking? What am I, crazy?!

The sky is blue, the air crisp, the leaves that remain on the trees are awash with shades of yellow ochre, brilliant orange and deep burgundy…by all appearances, a most beautiful day for hiking. But what grabs my attention most as I gaze out of this bus window on my way to the Berkshire Mountains, is the snow on the ground!! Are you effin’ kidding me?! It’s too early for this!!

There are 83 miles of the Appalachian Trail that have been hanging over my head like a prison sentence. At the time I skipped it, it seemed like such a short section of trail, easily made up over the course of a few weekends with a few friends. Well, guess what? Everyone is busy! And after not hiking all day every day for the last month and a half, 83 miles seems huge!

But today is the day I tackle my fears. I’ve decided to just go for it, finish it out, tie up the loose ends and move on. The sooner I finish the hike, the better for me to stop using it as an excuse to stay stagnant in my post-trail life. I’ve gotta get this monkey off my back in order to move forward. I’m hoping that once this is really over, I’ll be able to focus on figuring out what the next steps are for me in my career and to work on being the best half I can be in my new married life.

But real life or city life or regular life is not like trail life. One thing I’ve really missed since being home is the ability to just set out on a task and complete it. All in one fell swoop. Of course food, shelter and walking are the only things that need doing on the trail. Unless you’re injured or the weather sucks, it’s not so hard to accomplish!

What I need to remember at home is to not get overwhelmed with the little things. To not get bogged down by housework and paperwork and financial worries and is the phone gonna ring for a job today?? If I take lessons from the trail I will know that the only way to walk from Georgia to Maine is by taking one step at a time. If I learn to be diligent, my goals will become reality.

On my way to spend 6 more days in the woods by myself!

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Posted in Trail-time! | 6 Comments

Maine pictures added!

Looking out from Barren Mountain

3 1/2 weeks after we ended the hike, I’ve finally added “16 – Maine” to “Mike’s Galleries” (Click the “Mike’s Galleries” dropdown and scroll down near the bottom.)

After New Hampshire, we were happy to be into the final state.  There are about 283 miles of the trail in Maine, the first 150 or so are rugged and mountainous.  We looked forward to getting out of the mountains so we could once again do big miles (we had one day of 22 miles in Maine – the first time we could go so far since Massachusetts!).  Finishing was bittersweet – though I have to say a lot more sweet than bitter!

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New Hampshire Gallery Added!

August 6th sunset from Lakes of the Clouds Hut

I’ve added “15 – New Hampshire” under “Mike’s Galleries”.  Click the dropdown and scroll down near the bottom to find New Hampshire.  Hope you like it!

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The Moosilauke Monster

Approaching the summit of Mt. Moosilauke in New Hampshire (near the home of the Moosilauke Monster)

It sounds like it could be a mythical moose relative or bigfoot of the north woods, but no, the Moosilauke Monster is a pizza of gigantic proportions.  Named for nearby Mount Moosilauke, over which the AT passes, the monster has two crusts, layered with sauce, four meats (Italian sausage, ground beef, ham and pepperoni), mushrooms, peppers, onions and what might be a dairy’s daily production of cheese.  Weighing in at seven to eight pounds (depending on the chef’s mood?), if this monstrosity can be eaten by a team of two mere humans in under 90 minutes, it’s on the house!  “The house” is the Green House Restaurant in Warren, NH; not far from the Hikers Welcome, a hostel where several of us thru-hikers were spending a night or two back at the end of July.

Our Hikers Welcome hosts, Phatt Chap and Miss Janet, shuttled several of us hungry hikers from Glencliff to nearby Warren for dinner at the Green House, and when we got there, Twisted Tree (a section-hiker who had not been on the trail NEARLY as long as us) declared his ambition to have a go at the Monster.  I let him know that if he needed an eating partner, I was his guy!  We shook on the agreement, declaring ourselves a team.

Owing to my frail-looking stature perhaps, there might have been a bit of doubt in Twisted Tree’s mind as to whether or not I could hold up my end of the bargain.  He offered a side-deal; “Whaddya say that if one of use eats his share and the other doesn’t, then the guy who doesn’t has to pay the twenty bucks for the pizza?”

“I’m all over that,” I agreed.  A few minutes later, when Twisted Tree offered the means to develop the munchies, (“so we’ll be sure we have the appetite for it”), I began to doubt my new partner’s capability.  I was thinking, “If he needs to boost his appetite with artificial means, he doesn’t have what it takes; I’m glad we made the side deal!”

At last, after the rest of the dozen or so in our party were served, they brought out the Mooosilauke Monster, announcing to the entire restaurant that there was a challenge being pursued.  As soon as I saw it, though onlookers may have gasped, I relaxed.  I’d have no problem doing my 3 1/2 to 4 pounds.  Twisted Tree reacted differently.  In the end, he paid.  To top it off, I had a “Hungry Man’s Breakfast the next day before hiking.  Twisted Tree took another day off.

Posted in Eat it! | 3 Comments

Vermont Gallery Added!

I’m catching up!  I’ve just added “14 – Vermont” to Mike’s Galleries.  It’s a pretty state, and though it rained on us a bit too much there, I guess I kept my camera covered during the rain!

(Click and hold the “Mike’s Galleries” dropdown, and scroll down to choose the new gallery.)

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Massachusetts Gallery Added

Distant Massachusetts barn

I’ve added another photo collection (“13 – Massachusetts”) under “Mike’s Galleries”.  Check it out.  Now that the hike is done, there’s some time to catch up with the photos!  (Look for VT, NH and ME coming soon!)

Posted in Trail-time! | 2 Comments

It’s done!

First of all, thanks to all of you who sent us congratulations earlier today, when we still had 5.2 miles to go.

Now (as of 1:30 PM Monday) the hike is done. Doni, Melissa and I reached the top, and that famous sign on the summit. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, we took photos (we’ll post some soon), and we hiked the 5.2 miles back down in the pouring rain. It was slippery in spots, so we trudged down slowly, the trail having turned into a steady stream. Though our feet and clothes were thoroughly soaked, we didn’t really mind as we knew that when THIS day of hiking was done, we wouldn’t need to set up the tents and try to dry things out for another day. No, at the moment, Doni is driving us toward Portland, Maine, where we’ll all spend the night. Melissa and Doni will be heading back to Brooklyn from there, and I’ll be hopping on an AirTran flight back to Rochester via Baltimore, getting in in the late afternoon.

We’re all tired, and it’s coming up on my turn to drive, so I’ll end this here, except to say that we’ll both be adding some updates and photos in the coming days. Thanks to all of you for your interest and support. You really helped keep us going!

Posted in Trail-time! | 50 Comments