5.2 to go

Hello to all our favorite friends, family, and AT supporters! The time has come to finish this hike. Hard to believe it, but in just a few hours this adventure will come to an end. Crazy!

Here are some things you may wanna know:

1. We got through Hurricane Irene in the 100 mile wilderness by staying put inside a shelter. We watched the rain come down all day long from the comforts of our sleeping bags and with the company of a few fellow hikers.

2. My wonderfully awesome man Doni, has driven to Millinocket, Maine to come day hike the last two days with us and to bring me home. Yesterday we all hiked the 10 miles through Baxter State Park to bring us to the base of Mt. Katahdin.

3. It is just 5.2 miles to the summit today, but there’s almost 4000 feet of elevation gain, so it’ll be a tough day. It rained last night and there are some showers on the horizon, so we’ll be getting out as soon as we finish our delicious bacon (and other breakfast foods), as to try to avoid getting too wet. It likely means we won’t have a view from Maine’s highest peak, but it’ll be magical nonetheless.

4. There is a feeling of accomplishment in the air here at The Appalachian Trail Lodge and Hostel as our fellow hikers have summited or are about to. We’ve met some amazing folks over the last week or so and have run into some old favorites too. Even at the end of the line, this hike is still a game of leap-frog. We’ve traded preliminary congratulations with our compatriots as we’ve made our way through the last 100 miles, and post-summit hugs with them here in town.

Gotta get to the trail head!

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The 100 mile wilderness

Well, we’re leaving Monson, ME this morning, and headed into a stretch called the 100 mile wilderness. There are a few logging roads, but no towns left along the trail. Monson was it. We tented last night at great hostel called Shaw’s, where we had an all you can eat breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, homefries, blueberry pancakes, OJ and coffee this morning. That’s the last real breakfast we’ll get for a while!
Now, about Irene; we need to use today’s beautiful weather to get past two big streams before they rise. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll end the day early, and hole up in a shelter until the storm passes. Most other hikers are doing the same. We’ll play it real safe! Time to go!

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Hurricanes & Hiking

Just a quick note to say that we know about the hurricane and are prepared. We’ve got extra food and are ready to bunker down if need be. So far there’s not a cloud in the sky. Please to all my NYC friends, be safe!

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Caratunk, Maine

Here we are in Northern Outdoors Resort (The Forks, ME, near Caratunk), where we picked up a drop box (thanks, Susie!), showered, ate a great meal, and now we’re hitting the trail again.

This morning we were ferried across the Kennebec River in a canoe (too dangerous to ford; the canoe is marked with a white blaze and is officially part of the AT).  This afternoon, we’re off to a lean-to, and expect now to wrap this thing up on the 4th of September.

We’ve got a mere 151.2 miles to go!  Subtract that from 2,181 to figure out why our feet want to go home!

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It’s the Final Countdown!!

A mere 187.9 miles to go until we summit Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park and come to the end of our 2181 mile Appalachian hiking adventure. And though we’ve been out here for five months and one week, and though it’s exciting to know we’re 91.4% done, and though we’ve managed to survive the toughest stretches of trail, I can downright assure you that these last 14 days on the trail cannot and will not pass quickly enough! ‘Cuz I just wanna go hooooome!!!

It’s interesting to see what’s happening to the morale of the Nobo thru-hikers out here. You can tell by the looks on our faces that we all feel the same — tired. And not just tired but downright exhausted. Mentally and physically kaput. So close to the end, but miles still measuring in the hundreds to go. We should be thrilled to have walked two thousand miles and still be in one piece! (Albeit many of us with ankle or knee braces). But being out here day after day after day has become, I don’t know, simply tiring.

Deep down we know we’ve done something big. We know that not many have the strength and determination it takes to have gotten us all the way from Dahlonega, Georgia to Stratton, Maine and onto the next 187.9 miles. I mean, holy crap! We’ve walked almost the entire length of the country!

And we’ve done so in the heat, the rain, the snow…and unlike the post office, even on Sundays! We’ve spent over five months living outside with mosquitos, black flies, deer flies, ticks, frogs, toads, garter snakes, rattle snakes, mice, bears, chipmunks, squirrels, birds, coyotes and supposedly moose (but I haven’t seen one yet)….

And we’ve survived. Survived slips, trips, falls, sprained ankles, bumps on the head, countless bruises, endless cuts and scrapes, poison ivy, bug bites, sunburn, windburn, rashes, chafing, pimples, jammed toes, blistered toes, sore and aching muscles, sore and aching joints, swollen feet….

But you know all this already.

What I may not have expressed in so many words in the past, is that though I may have had the tools for survival with me, the company of my dear dad and the comforts of town foods and beds every so often, I have really, really, really missed Doni and spending time with him and our kitties in our home. There is nothing quite like the feeling of coming home to someone who loves you.

So just two more weeks and I’m home free! Thoughts of such will be pulling me up that final ascent.

Thanks to all of our loyal supporters – your encouragement has helped move me along this whole journey long. Oh and I put up some new photos last week under the Click’s gallery page. Please check them out!

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This stuff is hard!

As we crossed the state line from New Hampshire into Maine, and push on through the final couple of weeks of this hike (we have plans to finish September 5th or a bit before), we find that even though the trail is not as tough as the White Mountains of New Hampshire, there is a lot of tough stuff left.

Some of the mountains here are as steep as the Whites in New Hampshire.  We also went through what’s known as the hardest, slowest mile of the entire Appalachian Trail, the Mahoosic Notch, which is a boulderfield playground if you’re in the mood for it and not in a hurry; it’s a cause for cursing if you’re one who’s trying to do big miles fast.  Some boulders you climb over, some you crawl under.  On occasion, you need to take off your pack and push it through a crevice ahead of you since you won’t fit through yourself with your pack on.  We took the Notch slowly, and still were not left entirely unscathed!  A good bumper sticker might read “I left skin in Mahoosic Notch!”  This stuff is hard!

We found ourselves on a trail detour, due to blasting for road construction.  It added about a mile to yesterday’s hike.  You try to make plans for the day so you don’t have to finish in the near darkness and someone adds another mile to your day!  This stuff is hard!

We had great weather yesterday and today, but it seems the warmth has brought out the mosquitoes.  Thought we had left those behind!  But Maine is so wet (so far), when it’s warm it’s probably as good a “skeeter” breeding ground as New Jersey.  The water makes the trail difficult.  “Roots, rocks, and mud” is all we heard from southbounders about what would greet us in Maine.  So far, they’re 100 % right!  “Bogboards” are installed on the trail in many places to keep you out of the mud, but they aren’t always where you need them, and woe to you if you slip off!  The mud can be deep.  This stuff is hard!

Then again, there are some delights, like wonderful views of the mountains and ponds, and being greeted at a parking area by two tiny Trail Angels (who already have trail names, Spartacus and Louweasel) with their dad, who thru-hiked several years ago.  The gave me whopping candy bars, and some to pass along to CLiCK! and Chainsaw.  And finally today, I got a great hitch into Rangeley from a guy named Chris and his buddy, Mike.  Chris was loaded with qustions about the hike as he is contemplating a thru-hike in the near future.  His most important question was, “Is it worth it?”  I thought for a few seconds and said, “It’s worth every minute, day, week and month on the trail, but THIS STUFF IS HARD!”

It’s hardest being away from home for so long.  I say that I can feel Katahdin pulling at me, but I think it’s home that’s pulling me.  Susan wants me home, and I miss her terribly.  It’ll soon be done!

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Out of the Whites! Hurrying out of town! (again!)

Well =- we’ve made it out of the dreaded (though beautiful) White Mountains of New Hampshire!  We had some tremendous views and some awful days.  The misery of trying to make progress when it’s raining sideways, and you’re on the steepest climbs (up or down), stumbling over boulders, where you can barely see the next rock cairn that marks the way because it so rainy/foggy/misty is something we’re happy to be done with.

We loved the views during the clear times, however, and we enjoyed remeeting our friends, June and Scott, during this New Hampshire stretch.  We’ve also had the pleasure of hooking up with a guy called “Chainsaw”, who started just around the same time as us.  Super guy, and retired Baltimore County fireman – a real ace at finding good stealth camping spots!

I just have time to post a few pictures – wish I had more time to update the galleries – we’re almost out of New Hampshire, and I haven’t even created a MA or VT gallery yet!  Oh well!

Under 300 miles to go!  Katahdin, here we come!  One state to go!

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My Favorite Trail Things

While hiking along, we often find ourselves singing, humming or just listening to tunes playing in our heads. Sometimes, the tunes that pops into my head are inspired by something happening in the hike (like “Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight, carry that weight a long time…”), while at other times it just seems random. With so much time hiking and being alone with myself, I find it entertaining to change the words to fit the AT experience. Here’s one from The Sound of Music that I’m sure you’ll recognize.

(oom-pah-pah, oom-pah-pah)
Raindrops that aren’t cold and trails that aren’t muddy,
Dry socks and dry shorts and snacks that are nutty,
Reaching a town where we all eat like kings,
These are a few of my favorite trail things!

(oom-pah-pah, oom-pah-pah)

Space in a shelter when it’s raining sideways,
Bright-painted blazes that serve as our guideways,
Meeting a hiker who also can sing,
These are a few of my favorite trail things!

(da-da-da-da-daaaaah-da, daaaaah-da!)

When black flies bite, when blisters sting,
When the food is bad…
I simply remember my favorite trail things,
And then I don’t feel….(toodle-oodle-oodle-oooh!)
So bad!

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Oops, I Did it Again…

This past Thursday, with a mere 356 miles left to walk to Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park in Maine, I fell down and twisted my ankle while traversing a boulder field…again.

I must admit that it felt a bit like Groundhog Day. I was enjoying a beautiful and sunny day, about to meet up with Long Time for lunch, I was stepping carefully along a path full of haphazardly strewn rocks, (damn glacier!), when suddenly my right ankle bobbled and down I went. Same weather, same ankle, same pain as when I fell back in Maryland. And though last time I fell on my left side and this time on my right side, it was immediately apparent that I’d be cutting my day short.

Lucky for us, Long Time and I are in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Here the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) operates a series of huts throughout the park. Now these aren’t the 3-sided lean-tos us thru hikers are used to — these huts are fully stocked, fully enclosed cabins with electricity, bunkrooms, food and a summer staff. Where I fell was just 4 miles from one of them and I was pretty sure they’d have ice for me to comfort my ankle. Turns out they had some frozen peas – perfect!

For paying customers, a stay in a hut with breakfast and dinner runs $100/night. But for thru-hikers they offer a nice work-for-stay policy where in return for 2 hours of some menial task doing, you get all the leftover dinner, dessert and breakfast you can eat, as well as floor space in the common area to sleep on. Not a bad deal! And due to my injury, the lovely staff at Zealand Falls Hut didn’t even make me do my share. It didn’t hurt that some fellow NOBOs told the staff they’d cover my work load. (A big thanks and a round of beers on me to Doc Boom, Trash Can and Marathon
if I ever see you again).

Portait, Doc Boom, Trash Can and Marathon

What continues and continues to humble me on this trip is the generosity of strangers. Yesterday, after having rested my ankle the previous night and then having cautiously walked the easy 8 miles out from Zealand Falls to a trailhead parking lot, our fellow work for stayers helped me again by getting me a ride with one of the hiker guests from the hut. Barry, a hiker from Mass who is well on his way to summiting all 48 of the 4000 foot mountains in The Whites, gave LT and I a lift to the closest town and back. In Littleton, I was able to get an aircast to prevent me from rolling my ankle again. Yahoozie! (Oh and a beer for Barry too, if I see you again!)

Barry - the hiker and super trail angel who gave LongTime and CLiCK! a lift to town and back - how many folks would be so generous with their time? (We like to think a lot!)

So now I’m sitting atop Mt. Jackson with just 340.3 miles left to go. I can step confidently and sleep soundly knowing the end is truly within our grasp. Plus after nearing the five month mark, I’m effin’ ready to go home! Gimmie daily showers! Gimmie a good night’s sleep in my own bed! Gimmie food I don’t have to rehydrate!

Thanks to all our readers and commenters as usual! We love the support. And an absolute special thanks to June and Scott, two section hikers we met back in Tenessee who at the time we met them said, “when you get to New Hampshire, you’ve got a place to stay!”. And their place was awesome!! Thanks again!!

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Connecticut Gallery Added!

Well, we’re in New Hampshire now, so Connecticut was a few states ago, but I’ve caught up just a bit!  Check out “Mike’s Galleries” for “12 – Connecticut”!

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