Refresh and recharge!

We’ve stayed overnight with friends, June and Scott, whom we met way back SOMEWHERE.  I think it was maybe Tennessee or N. Carolina; they were doing a section for about a week, and they said (way back then) that if we made it to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, give them a call – they’d love to put us up overnight, give us a good meal, let us do laundry – all that good stuff.  June’s house is in VT, just across the line from NH.  Well, Scott hiked with us yesterday (it turned out to be a rather long day), and it’s very pleasant to be here.  It’s the rejuvenation I need.  Makes me long to get off the trail a bit, but rather than that, it’ll be a great recharge of my ebbing batteries.  With only 373 miles to go, I’m ready for the final push!  It’s getting exciting as the end is getting nearer!

We have a bit of town business to do (Post Office, small bit of shopping, etc.) so we’ll take care of that today, see some local sights with June & Scott, and either spend the night here again (a real zero!) or hike a few miles out to the first shelter; we haven’t decided yet.  We haven’t had a single zero-mile day just to rest during the entire hike.  We had several for family things (a funeral and a wedding) and we took one when CLiCK! injured her ankle, but none just to relax and recharge.  This could be one!  We’ll see how the day unfolds!

(Thanks, June and Scott!)

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New pics from Click (7/27/11 on the gallery page)

Hello to all! I just got kicked out of the public library in Hanover, NH while trying my best to upload a boatload of photos. Guess that’ll happen when you spend most of your town time enjoying all that a lovely New England college town has to offer and not sitting inside on a computer. ( And when you meet up with old trail buddies for a couple of beers…). Oh well! I was able to get all of the pics up from when my friend Diana hiked the section of northern Mass and southern VT with me. But beyond that (or before that actually as they appear in the gallery) the images are sometimes sideways and not all captioned. Alas, please bear with me. There’s just never quite enough time for me in town. Guess I just roll at a different pace!

~Mel, Click

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I’d love to do more, but …

For you photo lovers, I’d love to have triple the town time in Hanover, New Hampshire today, so I could select, resize, upload, and caption photos from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.  After all, we arrived in New Hampshire, and I’m at a real computer keyboard!

But alas!  There’s so much more to do.  My hydration bladder has a leak and needs replacing.  I need to buy duct tape and batteries.  This town is hiker-friendly, and there’s a place that gives hikers a free pizza slice, and another that gives free coffee (REAL COFFEE!). Then there’s grocery resupply to do, and I have to pick up my pack at the outfitter that’s storing it for the day.  I’ll upload more photos another time!  Here are a few very recent shots:

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What a day!

The AT passes right through Hanover - first stop: rec center for a shower and laundry!

So, I hiked into Hanover, NH today, and while I hiked, I was thinking about how great it would be to cross another state line.  Finishing Vermont makes twelve states completed and just two to go!

As I hiked, I thought about the contrast between a day at work (at my last job) and a day at work hiking the trail.  There are some similarities (believe it or not)!  I’ll use “AT” and “JOB” to distinguish the trail and the job:

AT – 4:55 AM – Ignore the first time my alarm watch buzzes.  I can sleep another 5 minutes.

JOB – 6:15 AM – Press the snooze button when the alarm goes off.  I can sleep another 9 minutes.

AT – 5:00 AM – Alarm again!  Better get up!  Remember, you want to get some hiking in before the day gets hot!

JOB – 6:24 AM – Hit the snooze button again – you know you can use ANOTHER 9 minutes in bed!

JOB – 6:33 AM – Okay, okay!  I’m getting up!

AT – 5:02 AM – Wander into the woods to pee.

JOB – 6:34 AM – Stumble into the bathroom to pee.

AT – 5:05 AM – Mix cold water into two packets of instant oatmeal (that’s right!  directly into the packets!) and dump a couple of teaspoons of instant coffee and Cremora into the water bottle.  It’s breakfast time!

JOB – 6:36 AM – Shower, shave, get dressed in clean clothes.

AT – 5:06 AM – Shower?  Shave?  Clean clothes?  What are these things?  I’m already dressed, since I slept in my clothes!

JOB – 6:50 AM – Head downstairs for coffee (brewed automatically) and breakfast.  Maybe toast and eggs today.

AT – 5:30 AM – Breakfast is over, roll up the sleeping bag and start packing the pack.  Looks like rain today – I’d better put on the waterproof pack cover!

JOB – 7:00 AM – Ready to go!  Hmmm… looks like rain today; I’d better not drive the MG.  I’ll take the other car.

JOB – 7:05 AM – Curse the aggressive drivers!  Whay do they have to weave and tailgate??!!

AT – 7:05 AM (I’ve been hiking for an hour already.) – Curse the wet rocks and wet slippery tree roots (or the mud if this is Vermont, or the mosquitoes if this is New Jersey)!

JOB – 7:30 – Start the day with a department morning meeting.  Listen to the boss, listen to co-workers report the overnight failures and the problems expected during the day.

AT – 7:30 – Listen to the mystical, musical, morning melodies of the wood thrush.

JOB – 9:30 AM (break time) – Head into the break room and pour some coffee.  Oh!  Someone brought donuts today!  Eat one, but think about eating less and exercising more. These pants are getting way too tight!

AT – 9:30 AM (break time) – Sit on a rock or fallen log.  Pull out a granola bar or bag of trail mix.  Think about ways to eat more.  These pants are getting way too loose!

JOB – 11:30 AM – Lunch time!  Get the brown bag out of the fridge (oh goody!  it’s a roast beef sandwich today!), have more coffee, work on the daily crossword.  Chat a bit if someone else is eating lunch.

AT – 11:30 AM – Lunch time!  Get the green food bag out of my pack.  Eat peanut butter and M&Ms on tortillas.  Drink some Kool-aid mixed into the water bottle.  Work on the plan of how far to hike the next couple of days.  Chat a bit if another hiker comes along.

JOB – remainder of the afternoon – work on stuff, answer phone calls and emails, talk to co-workers, take another break sometime.

AT – remainder of afternoon – walk, take another break sometime.

JOB – 4:15 PM – Call home.  Tell Susie I’ll be 15 -30 minutes later than usual.

AT – 4:15 PM – Call home.  Tell Susie I’ll be another 4 – 5 weeks.

… and so on, ending the day at:

AT – 9:30 PM – My gosh!  It’s past hiker midnight!  I’m too tired to read another page of my book.  I’ll just sleep.  Tomorrow’s another day!

JOB – 11:30 PM – The late local news is over.  I’m too tired to stay up and watch Letterman. I’ll just sleep.  Tomorrow’s another day!

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New York Gallery Updated!

Well, folks – I’ve finally been able to add captions to the photos in “Mike’s Galleries” – New York.  It’s best to view these full-size; just click on a photo and then page through them!

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It Must Be the Beginning of the Opposite Sketches!

Over the last week or so I’ve been seeing an increasing number of hikers going the opposite direction than me. And by the looks of things they’re not weekenders or sectioners – their gear is way too expensive. And they certainly aren’t day hikers – no cotton clothing or scent of shampoo. By all appearances they look (and smell) like thru-hikers. But they act so, I don’t know, strange and different from us. They even use skewed and opposite trail terminology. Ah-ha! It must be the beginning of southbound thru-hiker season!

Long Time and I are just north of Killington, Vermont. We’ve come 1703.1 miles northbound on the Appalachian Trail. We’re 78% done and it feels so surreal. Suddenly the end is in sight. In 2 or 3 days we’ll cross over the New Hampshire border, and after that we’ll just have Maine to go. (But of course, as you faithful blog followers know, I’ll still have 83.3 miles in CT and southern Mass to make up). But what I really think is nuts is the amount of southbounders we see every day now. They’ve been where we’re going. They’re going where we’ve been. And they’re doing it all backwards!

For the most part they’re helpful in letting us know about places to stay and to eat in the upcoming towns, what to expect when going over the White Mountains in NH or how best to go about fording the streams in Maine. And it’s nice that we can share info that’s helpful to them.

But what baffles me is how some of them think they know so much already about the trail after having only been walking for a month. Ha! A month. Try living outside for four! Its as if some of them have a chip on their shoulder for going against the grain, or for already having completed “the toughest part of the trail.” I look back to my early days in North Carolina or Tenessee and think, “I hope to God I didn’t act like them!”

Sometimes, especially in the beginning, I’ve equated this whole thru-hiking thing to my freshman year in college. (Well…sorta…) It’s a slew of like minded individuals who have the same end goal in sight and they’re all trying to figure out how best to go about it, to find out what works for them. There’s comraderie in that, there’s excitement in it, there’s even sometimes a rewarding beer at the end of the day. It’s also a lot of hard work and occasionally you want to just sleep in and skip class. All of those things have remained consistent throughout the trip. But now we’re approaching the end of the semester. It’s time to put our heads down and push to the end. Us NOBOs are the senior class now. We’ll soon be on our own, back in the “real world.”

Last week when my friend Diana, (trail name “Whim”), was hiking with me, she asked me how I think this trip will affect me when I get back home. What are my goals for my career, for my upcoming marriage, for life? Have they changed and how?

I couldn’t really quantify them with any answers because I really don’t know yet. There hasn’t been a lot of time to reflect on the experience as a whole. Or maybe I should say there’s been plenty of time, but it hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind. I’ve been too busy watching my feet, trying to avoid the mud, the roots and the rocks to think about what’s next. But now that we’re seeing so many SOBOs on the trail it emphasizes the reality that there really is an end to this thing, and it’s just about a month away.

So I may not know where I’m going after “graduation,” but I know I’m ready to finish this thing!

On a side note – we met the oldest thru-hiker on the trail yesterday, “Cimarron,” who is 88 years old. About to turn 89. He’s hiked he trail before, but this year he’s out to grab the title for oldest hiker ever. Lesson? Keep on movin’ and shakin’ and your body will be strong enough to hike 2,181 miles when you’re almost 90!

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Another photo gallery

View from the tower on Bear Mountain (Hudson River in the distance)

I’ve added a gallery of NY photos under “Mike’s Galleries”.  Sorry the pictures aren’t captioned now (use your imagination!) – I had some trouble with the computer I’m using.

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LongTime’s Tuesday – 7-12-11

The day started out around 6 AM, too light to sleep any longer, though I was looking at just a 7.9 mile day into Great Barrington, Massachusetts.  Time for the classic “hiker-in-town” day (resupply food, shower, laundry, maybe some computer time, a bit of relaxing…).

There was a nice downhill average to those miles, and as I walked along, I thought about hown nice it was to hike downhill, with a light pack (almost no food left, and just a liter of water instead of the normal two).  I decided to enjoy that, rather than thinking about hiking uphill out of town tomorrow, with a 3-day food supply and 2 liters of water.  Try as I might, you see, I’m still working on trying to live in the moment!

There was a refreshing bit of trail magic left for the hikers, and welcome it was as today was hot and humid by 9 AM.  I got to the road about 10:50, and a few minutes later had a ride to the motel where I had booked a room.  As I was a bit early for normal check-in, while waiting for my room to be readied, I went across the street to Friendly’s and had an early lunch.

Then it was time for the routine to begin – SHOWER NEXT!  Then laundry, then inventorying the food supply and figuring out how long until my next drop or shopping after this one, then shopping (buying also 1/2 pound of potato salad and a roast beef sub for a second lunch), then off to the computer.  My hotel doesn’t have a computer for guest use, but the Comfort Inn, just next door (same owner) DOES, and I conveniently assumed the same policy applies to computer use as for laundry (they gave me the okay to come over here for laundry, so here I am at Comfort Inn’s computer).  I’ll cut this short, wishing I had time for more about the actual hiking and what it’s like to hike alone for a week or so, but I’ll hold off until another time.  It’s time to go enjoy a couple hours in the town!

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New Gallery

Hey all! I finally got a new gallery up, “07/12/11” under the Click’s Gallery page. Check it out. Time for me to get back to the trail. Enjoy!

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Brooklyn-Blazing for the Weekend

Manhattan skyline as seen from Brooklyn rooftop

So when you’re out on the Appalachian Trail, you know you’re on the right path when you see that the trail is marked by 2X6″ white blazes. Known as “white-blazers”, there are some hikers that follow every single white blaze, even if it means going back south on a side trail out of a shelter or tenting area in order not to miss a step of the 2181 mile trail, when they could instead just take the northbound side trail back to the AT. I feel like you’re still doing all the mileage, so that’s a-ok. A blue blazed trail is a trail that intersects the AT and often provides an alternate loop around a particularly tough part of the AT. Taking these trails instead of the AT is known as “blue-blazing” and is generally looked down upon, unless of course the weather prevents you from doing a rock scramble or the hiker is injured or is really old. A “yellow-blazer” skips entire sections of the trail, usually to catch up with their fellow hiker friends after spending too much time partying in a town. It’s called yellow blazing due to the fact that they have to get a ride via the yellow lines of a highway. Yellow-blazing is not kosher among true thru-hikers. Brooklyn-blazing is something I just made up.

I hit a wall last Friday and decided that I needed to come home to Brooklyn for a few more days. I was walking along, focusing on all the negative stuff – being tired, being rained on, carrying a heavy load, feeling like I didn’t get a chance to relax or see many friends while I was home for the 4th, frustrated that I hadn’t uploaded any new photos in a month, bummed about the mileage that we had to do that day and stewing about a comment Long Time so callously had made, telling me to just buck up and go faster. (Really though, he didn’t use those words and was only trying to help by saying that if I didn’t take as long of breaks, I’d be sure to be to camp before dark.) But I was done, I’d had enough, I was spent. What can I say, I gave up. I called my fiance crying, asking him to come pick me up.

I have no intentions of not finishing this thing. I left trail for the weekend from Kent, Connecticut, 1458.5 miles along or 66.9% finished. Why, on Friday I couldn’t focus on the positives, like being two-thirds done, crossing the border into yet another state, having had beautiful weather the previous two days and getting to swim in lakes both days, is beyond me. I chose instead to focus on the negative and let things get to me. And it sucked. Maybe I could have worked through it out on the trail, but I really felt like a weekend away would be my chance to get it together.

So here I am, in my office in my apartment, sweltering in the already 90-degree heat. About to head back out there. Over the last three days I’ve gotten to hang out with my man and my cats, my friends on their rooftop on a hot summer night in Brooklyn (cue P.J. Harvey & Thom Yorke), I walked to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, got fresh veggies and baked goods from the farmer’s market in Prospect Park and enjoyed lots of delicious local beer. And I bought a ton of new gear. When I get out to the AT this time, I’ll be with a new and lighter backpack, a new and lighter stove and cookset, a new and lighter sleeping pad…do you see a pattern here?…And hopefully a new and lighter attitude.

Long Time hiked ahead on Friday. He’ll be to Great Barrington, MA today. My amazing friend Diana is going to come out on the trail with me for a few days. Since she’s a newbie, we’ll be doing a few less miles a day than usual. So we’re skipping ahead a bit more north than LT to Lee, MA. She’ll be on with me for around 60 miles so by the time we get to Bennington, VT, my pops will have caught up. But don’t you go thinkin’ I’m yellow-blazing! No sir-ee, I’m coming back after Katahdin to finish up the 83.8 miles of CT and southern MA that I’ve temporarily by-passed. As long as you get all the miles of the Appalachian Trail in one calendar year, it’s still considered a thru-hike. It doesn’t matter if you go north or go south, flip-flop it or do it in sections — it still counts and I’ll still have trail cred.

Going back with this positive attitude, I’ll be looking even more for the silver lining in things. My first thought is that it’s lucky for me to have hit my wall close enough to home that it won’t be too much trouble to get back out to the trail to make it up. I’ll have to do those miles in mid-September though, since I have a wedding dress fitting on the third. My second thought is that hey, what better way than hiking to remain fit enough to fit in that dress come October!

Thanks to all as always for the support and comments. I was able finally to comment back on a ton of comments from the previous month. Looking forward to New England!!

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