Well - this is the final leg. Made my way into Monson - last town on the trail - and picked up a hip crushing 7 days worth of food. Stayed at Shaw's hostel with about 12 other hikers. Wanted to catch Brahma, Sweet Potato, Hoot and Sundance - but they are a full 2 days ahead of me. I can't believe that I only have 112 miles left!!!! Getting ready to go into the 100 Mile Wilderness - they warn that you need 10 days of food - but I don't know any NOBO's that need 10 days to go 100 miles. I'm taking 7 so I can zero in the woods if I want to - will likely be at K in 5-6 days. Supposed to have rain for the next 3-4 days which I'm not looking forward to. I WON'T summit in the rain - will sit at the base for as long as it takes to have a nice day. Nights have been getting down to 32-34 degrees but supposed to warm up a bit - hence the rain. Would rather be cold, than wet - or worse - cold and wet. Physically in a good place, knees still hurt a bit. Emotionally - not sure. I am really ready to be done. I have been out here for 178 days, so ready to come "home". Don't have a job and will be terminated on the 7th if I can't find one, as my leave of absence runs out. Don't have a place to live, but friends have offered to let me stay there for a bit. I can live out of my pack for awhile and love doing work for stay! But at the same time, not ready for it to be over. In 6-8 days, it's done. Then what? Hitch to Millinocket, take a bus to Bangor, take a bus to Boston, then back to KC. Need some time to decompress from this current world and the home that I have known for over 6 months. Weird to be ready to be done, yet don't want it to be over. Not sure how to articulate it any better than that. Well - gotta go. Doubt that I will have cell service in the Wilderness - and the next post from me - should be from the top of Katahdin! This has been amazing. Peace and Godspeed on your journey as well.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Had to get up early to take the ferry across the Kennebec River. This is the most formidable unbridged water crossing on the AT. The dam is upstream and can let out huge amounts of water at any time - raising the level by over 4 feet. In 1985 a hiker drowned so the ATC added a canoe ferry service (free of charge) to get us across. Here waiting in line for the canoe. Saw a lynx or bobcat this morning - and going into town, Caratunk. Stayed at the Northern Outdoor Center. Rafters, hikers, a microbrewery, bunks, they took credit cards, and a 20 person hot tub. What a night! Gotta love town days.
I'm not going to lie - this pretty much makes me a stud! Hopefully, after another 176 miles - that status will be moved up to thru hiker. This felt amazing - to know that I have actually hiked 2,000 miles and still going strong - can't wait to touch that sign! It's real now. Only two towns left - which is a little depressing. I LOVE town days. Food that doesn't come in individual foil packets is great.
You would think that I would get tired taking pictures of me overlooking bodies of water - but I just don't. Here I am enjoying Flagstaff Lake (the one you could see from Avery Peak). The topo has been really nice lately. The great thing about hiking around lakes and ponds - is that for the most part - they are "flat". Nothing is really ever flat - but have just been soft, rolling hills and water is always available for view. Still haven't seen a moose yet - and if I was a moose - this is where I would be hanging out.
You will have to zoom in - but the mountain right in the middle - off in the distance - with the flat top - is Katahdin! Seen from Avery Peak - it's about 60 miles away via straight line, but 180 miles away via the AT. They always say that the longest distance between any two points - is the AT.
Everyone had been talking about how hard Saddleback and the Bigelow's were going to be. Guessing that I different perspective since I had already made it through the Whites - I didn't think that they were that tough. Had good weather - which does help. Several big peaks all back to back - Spaulding @ 4,000', South Crocker @4,040', North Crocker @4,228', Bigelow West Peak @ 4,145' and Bigelow Avery Peak @ 4,090'. This is the last 4,000'+ mountain in Maine (except K which is 5,268'). Kinda sad to see them go - there is simply nothing like the views that you get above treeline. This is Avery Peak as seen from West Peak, as well as me at the top.
This is pretty much what Maine looks like, everyday (when it isn't raining of course!). I take back about how hard it is, that was just in the south, and I was upset about all the rain. Now that it is dry - how can you not love this. If you have been following this at all - you know how much I love lakes and ponds. Pretty much at the base of every mountain range - there is a pond or lake. This was looking back from the trail head on ME 4 - opposite of Saddleback Mtn. Several tourists had stopped to take pictures from this vantage point. It actually made me a little upset - because I knew that this was the only perspective they would have - they wouldn't see if from the top of a 4,000 footer, nor would they see it from the shoreline. It really becomes beautiful when you see it from all three perspectives and you earn it. I know I shouldn't feel that way - not everyone wants to earn it, or cares about the 3 different views. Just how I was feeling that day.
This is what I love about the trail. Was hiking through the rain when I saw a laminated piece of paper attached to a tree. It gave phone numbers and was called the Riff Raff Friendly. Basically, 4 former thru hikers got together and rented this appartment. They would come shuttle you, and the only donation you had to make - was to buy beer for the fridge. I hitched into Oquossoc and they came and picked me up. About 16 hikers there! Took me back to 17 and I hiked to ME 4. They picked me up again! Stayed the night and then took a zero as I was picking up my winter bag and down vest in Rangeley on Monday. Long nights - but good times had by all. They were so well known - that while I was there - the AT Companion (my guidebook) called them to see if they wanted to be listed! Great group of people. Gotta love this trail.
After doing my first river ford (Sawyer Brook -only shin deep) I put my hiking shoes back on and started to climb Moody Mtn (2,920'). Midway up - there had been a giant mudslide - from those 3 weeks of rain that I watched from Vermont - and a huge chunk of the mountain slid down, right across the AT. It was dry at this point so not that big of a deal to do the reroute - but would have hated to do this in the rain - just rocks and tree roots to grab on to.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
well - I made it to the last state - which when I was laying in the hospital - didn't know if it would happen. Last day in NH was nice and easy hiking - think they were throwing us a bone after the Whites. Maine - on the other hand . . . . I think I'm going to replace the "the way life should be" with "Welcome to Maine - Seriously?". Because pretty much every climb or descent - I just stare at it and say - seriously? and with a pack? Fell hard the other day - right on the tail bone - that makes the tenth time. The trails here are straight up or down - all on slick, smooth rock, with water running on it. Neat. My water filter quit working - but was able to borrow some drops from Snackies. I called the outfitter and ordered some to Rangeley - but after taking it all apart and cleaning everything - got it working again. Won't hurt to have back up. Topo has taken a toll on mileage. First day was 9 miles. Wanted to get through Mahoosuc Notch (the hardest mile on the trail - all rock scrambles the size of cars - go over, under, and through!). We had to decide if go through in the dark or wait till the next day with 100% chance of thunderstorms. We chose the rain - and as soon as we got to the Notch - it opened up. Fun in the beginning - basically a giant 1 mile adult jungle gym. With everything being soaked and getting dumped on in the rain - got old after a while. (would love to do again without a pack and in the dry!). The Mahoosuc Arm was actually worse 1,600' of gain in a mile and half - after tired from the Notch. Took me from 8:00am to 3:00pm to go 5 miles!!! Soaked - stopped at a shelter at Speck Pond. Ended up getting down into the low 30's - and the decision to not change out to my winter sleeping bag - was a bad one. Had everything that I owned (and that was dry) and not enough. Left a message at home to send 10 degree bag and down vest - only going to get worse. Did a huge 15 miler today to make it to town - Andover. Wasn't planning on coming in - but wanted to dry out and needed more food - hadn't planned on the short days - so not enough to make it to Rangeley (and it is supposed to get below freezing tonight). Staying at a hostel and will hike out some time tomorrow. Might have to zero in Rangeley - depending on when my bag gets in the mail. Not smart to hike without it. Maine is tough so far - but understand it gets easier as we go north - well - until K. Have 9 stream/river fords coming up - should be nice a cold for those. Hope to get some pictures. Mad that I didn't get any in the Notch - too much rain - there was even a Moose that got in there last year - and couldn't get out - bones are piled up next to a boulder with prayer flags above it. (check out www.walkingtomaine.blogspot.com for pictures). Doing well 257 miles left to go. Peace.
well, well - is it just me - or is it turning to fall up here in the Northeast?!? Actually - making the trail pretty. This was one of my last views getting out of NH. Funny - as we run into SOBO's they say "thank God we made it to New Hampshire". The NOBO's are all saying "thank God we made it to Maine". Um - guessing both states are tough then - as I know I was looking forward to getting out of the Whites and into the last state.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Third pair is dead after 612 miles and the beating that the Whites gave them. I am in Gorham, NH - with just 297 miles left to go! Going to take a nero, zero to let the knees heal up. Have heard that south Maine is harder than the Whites - lovely. REALLY starting to set in that this journey is almost finished - just one state to go. Freebird left me a message that he finished on the 2nd - I would have been there with him. Love that he is done - he has earned the status of thru hiker - and I hope to be right behind him. Should be 3 - 3.5 weeks to the sign. Have my last pair of shoes ready (bought them in Rutland and broke them in while hanging out with the ol' Lyme disease.) Still seeing people that I know - and meeting new ones every day. The Whites were amazing - and glad my journey didn't end in that hospital bed - they have been by far the best views. The hut system would be a good option for you to see the Whites, while not carrying much food/gear - and still have a warm meal and a bunk every night. You should look into this. I can't believe that I am almost in Maine! Gone by so quickly. Getting scared to end it - to touch it - to have to walk south - to start the next journey. Body and mind are in good shape - trail legs back in order (though the knees are torn up). Not a lot of small towns in Maine - so not sure how much access I will have - hope to update you a couple more times - don't want you to just jump to the picture with me on top of Mt. K. That wouldn't be fair! Might have to wait to add that till I get back . . . . and get the tat . . . . Godspeed.
Here is a picture of the top of Washington as it normally is - socked in with clouds. I am midway up Wildcat Mtn. 3 hours to get up to the peak - just a little over 2,000' of elevation - but straight up rock scramble. We are going in a big horseshoe - and back the other direction towards Gorham.
Sitting at the top of Mt. Madison (5,363'). Crazy good view and still good weather. At peace with everything. Hiking down Madison and to Pinkham Notch has been the hardest hike so far. 7 miles, started at 9:00am and finished at 4:00pm. All rock scrambles and losing over 3,000' feet of elevation. Taking a toll on the knees.
I mean - does it get better than this??? Sunset at Madison Spring Hut. Didn't have the straight view to the horizon that we had at Lakes, but think it made a nicer effect - having it peek through the clouds and over Mt. Adams. Starting to hit me that this is almost over.
For the huts - some stuff is brought in by helicopter (cans, propane tanks, etc) the rest of the produce is brought up every other day on wooden packs by the croo members. As I was walking down to Madison Spring Hut - a chopper was making a few deliveries and starting to take things out for the end of the season. Way cool.
Home of the worst weather on earth! 55% of the time the summit is covered in clouds and 300+ days they have hurricane strength winds. Gusts up to 80 miles an hour today - but I only got hit as I was going down. (I think that deal with Mama Nature and the tick worked out to my advantage - considering 3.5 weeks ago it was raining every day. Isn't it neat how things work out. Locals were coming out of the woodwork to see the Summit - as the weather was unheard of. Over 140 people have died climbing this mountain - the weather just changes so dramatically due to the elevation and location.
Big mountains mean shorter days (10 miles a day is considered good), I am usually doing 12-14 miles tops (and that includes about four 4,000'-5,000' peaks). Stopped at the base of Mt. Washington to spend the night at Lakes of the Clouds hut (5,012'). Above treeline so you really don't have any other options. The croo was fantastic and check out the sweet sunset. If you zoom in on the sign - you can see just 1.4 miles up to the summit (and another 1,200' of elevation!)
Hiked an impressive 2.7 miles to the Galehead Hut. Everything was white out with fog and supposed to stay that way for 2 days. I downed 3 bowls of soup (all you can eat for $3) and 2 pieces of chocolate cake (all you can eat for $1) and decided to stay (did my work for stay the next morning). High pressure system was supposed to be moving in and pushing all of this out. Wanted to give myself the best chance for getting a view from the top of Mt. Washington. Mama Nature owed me one after the tick incident.
We spend a lot of time above treeline here in the Whites - so they build rock cairns (piles of rocks) to show where the trail leads. Here I was able to get a picture of both the cairn and a blaze. Very few blazes up here - get covered with snow, so the rocks work better.
This was my favorite day - and I am of the opinion - that if you aren't a purest - just skip everything south of New Hampshire! This was next day - climbed Little Haystack (4,800'), Mt. Lincoln (5,089') and Mt. Lafayette (5,249') back to back to back (the Franconia Ridge Trail). This is the view from the summit of Mt. Lafayette. Looking down below - you can see the lake of Lonesome Lake Hut - and if you zoom in, you can see a little silver spot - that is the hut itself - about 9 miles away. Just as I got up there - clouds rolled in, and a small airplane brought a glider up and released it. (a lake and a mountain view - I don't think I can top this!)
The biggest difference about being in the whites - is that you can see what is coming up - and what you have just climbed. Here - looking back from North Kinsman (4,293') you can look back and see South Kinsman (4,358') and Wolf Mtn (3,478'). Ended up staying the night at Lonesome Lake Hut - my first "hut" experience of the Whites. There are 8 huts (basically four sided cabins - $80-$100 a night and includes breakfast and diner). They are off the grid - generating power from solar and wind - and composting all left over food scrapes to make new top soil. Thru hikers are allowed to do "work for stay". Basically we do the chores of the "croo". Sweeping, dishes, setting the tables, cleaning the bunk rooms after the guests leave - in exchange - we get to sleep on the floor - and get all left over food. Sometimes enough food for everyone, sometimes not. Good to be there around 5:00pm or so (too early and they ask you to keep hiking). Works out well for all.