Rae Lakes Loop

I’ve been wanting to hike the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park for about two years. I tried to take the trip before I hiked the AT, but an early snow storm closed the access road to the trail head.
Since I had four days off for July 4th, I figured it would be a great time to hike the 42 mile loop, known as one of the more beautiful backpacking trips in the US. A perfect way to celebrate our Independence Day.

RaeLakesMap
July 2

I drove up to Kings Canyon National Park and arrived around 4pm. I first stopped by a visitor’s center and bought a patch, which is a must do for me at every National Park I visit.
Half a mile down the road was one of the park’s biggest attractions; The General Grant Tree. The General Grant Tree is the third largest tree (by volume) in the world. Some quick facts on the tree itself:
– Estimated to be 1700 years old
– 268 feet tall
– Maximum diameter is 40 feet
– If the trunk was a gas tank on a car that got 25 mpg, you could drive the circumference of the world 350 times!

The General Grant Tree

I drove 35 miles on a road that weaved through canyons, had sheer drops to one side and followed a raging river for a portion. My destination was a place called Road’s End, which is literal. There is nothing there other than a ranger’s station and a few parking lots.
Road’s End is where my trail head was located. I parked my car in the overnight hiker’s lot, made dinner, tried to avoid the vicious mosquitoes and made camp in the back of my truck.

July 3

I woke up at 6:00, packed my gear and walked up to the ranger’s station. You need a permit camp overnight in the National Park, and I had yet to obtain one. The park allows a certain number of hikers to reserve a spot, but I had missed that opportunity. I was left to hope there was an open spot available.
The station opened at 7:00, so I figured I’d get there by 6:30, assuming I’d be the first one to arrive. My plan worked, and I was first in line.
The ranger opened up and delivered the goods news that there was an open spot for me. I filled out some paperwork, gave my itinerary and proved I had an approved bear canister (similar to DOT stickers on motorcycle helmets, a bear canister needs to pass certain restrictions).
The Rae Lakes Loop is not only known for it’s beauty, distance and elevation, but also for the amount of bears and rattlesnakes on the trail. Bears are highly active and have little to no fear of humans in this area. This is the main reason why the National Parks require a bear canister. When a bear learns it can get food from a human, it will then pursue humans for their food. This of course causes bears to lose their fear of humans, which in turn forces the park service to kill that bear. Bear canisters are designed to keep the smell of food low and impossible for a bear to break into it. The negative, is that you are left with a bulky, plastic container weighing about 2.5 pounds. Now 2.5 pounds might not seem like a lot, but considering my base weight for my gear is 10.5 pounds, adding another 2.5 is a big difference.

My plan for the 42 mile loop was to split it up into three days; two days of 16 miles and a day of 10 miles. The caveat to these miles is the elevation gain and loss of this hike. The trail head is at 5,035 feet and the highest point on the hike, Glen Pass, is 11,978 feet.
The highest I have been is on Mt. Baldy, which stands at 10,084 feet. I’ve hiked Baldy four times, and never had any side effects from the elevation. I was a bit nervous to hike up to 12,000 feet, knowing Glen Pass was at the halfway point. This meant I would have no option but to keep hiking even if I fell ill with altitude sickness.

I started hiking around 7:30. It was a bit chilly, but I still wore shorts and a t-shirt, knowing it would warm up within an hour. The first 2 miles were flat, as I was hiking on a dried river bed. I was on loose sand, similar to a beach, which made each step feel like 1.5 steps.
Mist Falls was the first notable view on the hike. It was a waterfall that cascaded down a granite slope. The way it hits the rocks created a mist in the air. Unfortunately, it was far enough away from the trail that I could not feel the relief from this cooling effect.

Right before Mist Falls, looking back at Buck Peak

Right before Mist Falls, looking back at Buck Peak

I next passed the first three campsites; Lower, Middle and Upper Paradise. These are primitive campsites, meaning a flat piece of ground near water. No amenities are provided. They are all separated by about 2 miles. Upper is 10 miles into the hike.
I then hiked through Castle Domes Meadow, which was about 2 miles long and 1/2 mile wide. It was surrounded by sharp peaks, known as Castle Domes, hence the meadow’s name.

Castle Domes are to the left

Castle Domes are to the left

The sun was reaching full strength and temperatures were rising to the mid 80’s. It was about 1:30 and I had not stopped for lunch yet. My original plan was to finish my day at Woods Creak Crossing, which was 15.7 miles from the start of the hike. I was about a mile away as I hiked through the meadow.
I approached a suspension bridge that stretched over a river. The bridge was about 100 feet long and 50 feet above the river. There was a sign on the bridge that read “One person on the bridge at a time”. While crossing it, I realized why. The bridge started to sway back and forth and only became worse with each step. The wood planks that made up the walking surface were thin, some were cracked and some were missing. I have immense respect for those who engineer these structures, and crossed it with confidence, burying the obvious feelings aside.

Rae Lakes Loop Woods Creak Suspension Bridge
After surviving the bridge that should have been in a carnival’s fun house, I had reached my planned destination for the night. It was only 2:00 PM and there were already five tents set up. Two older men were walking around and it looked like they had been there for a little bit. I first fetched some water and then sat down in some shade to eat lunch. It was still early, and I was considering to push on another 4 miles to Dollar Lake.
One man came over and introduced himself to me. We chatted while I ate lunch. He explained that a group he was with was hiking the loop, but one got sick the night before. They thought it was altitude sickness (we were at 8,500 feet), but he felt better in the morning. The little I know about altitude sickness is that the only way to get better is to go to a lower elevation. Either way, they had decided to not continue hiking the loop. Three of the members of the group had gone on a day hike and the sick man and the man I was talking with stayed at camp for the day.
After chatting for about 30 minutes, I decided to stay the night. From hiking the AT, I’m so use to pushing miles and hiking until late afternoon. It felt unnatural to stop hiking with so much daylight left in the day.
I setup my tent under a tree and took an hour long nap. I then sat around, shared stories with my new friend and greeted hikers as they arrived into camp.

July 4

I feel uncomfortable talking about my hiking speed with other hikers. Most of the topic from the day before was about the miles I hiked and the time I arrived at camp. I was looked at as a wonder child in most of the camp dweller’s eyes. What I had hiked in one day was what most did in two. Most hikers plan to hike the loop in 5 days and I had planned three. It reminded me of the “celebrity” moments I received while hiking the AT. I won’t lie, it’s a good feeling, but it gets old when that’s all someone can focus on.
The other hot (hut*, inside joke for Risscuit) topic was my pack weight. My pack was significantly smaller and lighter than everyone else’s pack. So much, that I would say it was half the size of the average pack that I saw. Hikers tried to figure out what was so different between my setup and and their own gear. I kept trying to tell them that other than not carrying a stove, I had all the necessary gear. The difference was all the luxury items that other hikers carried. For example, most hikers carry camp shoes, a cup, a bowl, a plate…etc. In my opinion, those are not needed. Most hikers cannot leave their home without those comforts, but the negative side is a heavier pack and agonizing miles. Those are the choices you need to make before leaving on a trip. Would you rather be comfortable while hiking for 10 hours or comfortable while being at camp for a few hours?

I woke up at 5:45 and was packed and hiking by 6:00. I tried a new method of packing my gear this trip which significantly reduced my packing up time. I only brought one stuff sac and used it for my clothes. My tent, sleeping bag, air mattress and everything else was just stuffed into my backpack. Normally, all those items are stored in their individual sacs and then placed in your backpack. I had brought a 35 liter backpack on this trip, (I carried a 65 liter when I hiked the AT) so every cubic inch of the pack was needed. By not using stuff sacs, this saved space because instead of trying to cram odd shaped items around each other, every item molded into the other.
The idea behind stuff sacs is good, it keeps things dry in case it rains and it keeps things organized. I lined my entire bag with a thick trash bag and rolled it up at the top. All the gear inside was now protected from water. This also meant I didn’t need to carry a pack cover, which saved a few hundred grams.

Early Morning on the trail

Early Morning on the trail

I reached Dollar Lake in good time. I stopped and had a quick snack and then kept going. The next five miles were what made this loop so beautiful. I hiked in and around meadows that were surrounded by huge granite peaks. Streams flowed through the tall grass, wild flowers lined the trail and animals dashed across the open field when they heard me approaching. There were about 4 or 5 lakes within these five miles. The water was ice blue in color and very clear.

Dollar Lake

Dollar Lake

Fin Dome in the background

Fin Dome in the background

Rae Lake with Glen Pass in the background

Rae Lake with Glen Pass (to the left, between the two peaks) in the background

I then started my ascent up Glen Pass. I knew I was in for some nasty switchbacks and about 1500 feet of climbing in 2 miles. I reached a saddle, which had some patches of snow still remaining. This was my only rest and it only lasted a few hundred yards. I looked up and could see some people standing on a ridge line that looked impossible to reach. The distance and the steepness of the rock seemed unmanageable. I was thinking to myself that those people must have got up there from another trail, but deep down, I knew that was where the trail was taking me.
The switchbacks were steep are short. They were only about 10 yards long and gained about 25 feet on each level. I was at about 11,000 feet and was feeling my body begging for energy. I needed to stop and take quick breaks after every two or three switchback turns. I would look up at the people and wonder if they were looking back down at me.
Once I reached the top, I approached a man in a red jacket that I had seen from below. I told him that I needed to apologize because I had called him some bad names when I saw him from down below. I told him that he was alright in my book now, though.

View from Glen Pass, 11, 978 feet

View from Glen Pass, 11, 978 feet

I sat on top of Glen Pass for about 30 minutes and ate lunch. It was around 11:00 and I had hiked about 9 miles and gained 3,500 feet in elevation. I had about 17 miles left to complete the loop. All 17 miles would be downhill or flat and I would need to descend a total of 7,000 feet. Since it was only 11:00, I did the math quickly and figured I could finish the loop by 5 or 6 PM. The thought of completing the loop in two days suddenly became appealing to me and I set out on the mission to do so.
I flew down the other side of Glen Pass, passing people as they sucked for air on their way up. This side of the loop was more arid and desert like. The heat was rising and by 1:00 PM I was needing a rest. I stopped off by a creak to fill up water, had a snack and soaked my shirt and hat. It is amazing how much you can drop your body temperate by soaking your shirt. After about 10 minutes, I put my pack on and started hiking again.

Ice blue lakes coming down from Glen Pass

Ice blue lake coming down from Glen Pass

I had a few trail junctions that I needed to keep an eye out for. Some were well marked and others were not. At one I had to study my map and look for identifiable points, then line them up with which way the trail was headed. I’ll admit, the crazy part was that I was not concerned with getting lost, but knowing if I made a mistake, that I would not complete the loop in two days.
I was coming down a grade and approaching a stream, when I caught something moving about 100 yards in front of me. A black bear, that was blond in color, was making its way up the trail towards me. (In western states that have mountain meadows and open park-like forests, over half the black bears (Ursus americanus cinnamomum) are brown, cinnamon, or blond. Light colored fur reduces heat stress in open sunlight and allows the bears to feed longer in open, food-rich habitats. The lighter colored fur may also camouflage them from predators in those open areas.*) I slowed my pace and kept walking toward it, keeping my eye on it. The bear kept its nose to the trail and did not appear to notice me. The wind was blowing into my face, so I knew the bear could not smell me. It was now about 75 yards away and as I was preparing to announce my presence to the bear, it took a right turn and went down by the stream. There was only about 15 yards between the stream and the trail, but I could no longer see the bear. I gingerly walked on the trail, and kept my eye out as I passed the area where the bear went off. I never saw it again and I figured the bear never knew I was there.
Once I hit the 20 mile mark on what I was hoping to be a 26 mile day, I started to feel the pains of long-distance hiking again. It was a flashback to hiking the AT. The bottoms of my feet were aching and my thighs were starting to burn from all the downhill. Remarkably, my knees were feeling fine.

Lower Vidette Meadow

Lower Vidette Meadow

I took a rest with 4 miles left to hike. I filled up on water and had a few snacks I had remaining. A family was sitting on a log next to the stream and looked at me wide eyed. I am not sure if they were scared of me or just wondering what I was doing. Looking back on the situation, I am sure they were very confused. I had come storming into their camp, threw my pack off, went down to the river, filled up my water, dunked my clothes, and then sat down for five minutes and shoved food in my mouth. I only said “hello” and “bye” to them.
With two miles left, I hit the final junction of the trail. I had hiked these two miles already, as this is where the trail split to start the loop. There were five hikers gathered at the junction and as I approached them I noticed it was the group with the sick hiker. They had hiked back the 16 miles and we just so happened to be at the same junction at the same time. It was such a coincidence to see them again. I had gone around the whole other side and met up with them. One member of their group thought I was lying when he asked where I had hiked for the day. He said I must have found a side trail that created a shortcut. I ignored his comment knowing that I had hiked the entire loop. I instead offered to show them views from Glen Pass because they did not have the opportunity to see it. Having shown I had made it up and over Glen Pass, proved to the naysayer I had hiked the entire loop. He rolled his eyes and pursed his lips when I was sharing the photos.
I strolled passed the rangers station at 5:30, which meant I had hiked the remaining 26 miles in 11 hours. My thighs were a little sore, but other than that, I felt good. I had kept up on my water and food consumption, so I still felt energized. I tried my best to wash up with some baby wipes, changed clothes and hopped in my car. I had a four hour drive ahead of me and I was ready to get into my bed.

*http://www.bear.org/website/bear-pages/black-bear/basic-bear-facts/16-black-bear-color-phases.html

 

 

 

 

Here is something I wrote before I left to hike The Rae Lakes Loop. It goes into the details about food, calories and weight:

 

As I was preparing for the 3 day, 42 mile hike on the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park, I was becoming curious about my food choices that I made. As I was driving back from the grocery store, having already purchased all the food, I thought “Am I getting enough calories? What is the real weight of my food? Am I just buying stuff that I like to eat or is it really helping me make my miles?”
I decided to break it all down and see what I was really taking in (calories) and what sacrifice (weight) I was making by carrying it all. I was pleasantly surprised by the results, knowing I had not planned anything other than thinking of my taste buds.
Below, I have listed every item of food I am taking, the amount of servings I will be taking and what bang for the buck the food offers. This is essentially what I ate while thru hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Food

The goal for a backpacker is to carry about 30 to 40 oz of food per day of your hike. This is of course an average, taking into the consideration your weight/height/pack weight..etc. The total weight of the food above (including the packaging) is 129.6 oz, which equals 43.2 oz a day. I am just a tad bit over, but again, I included packaging material in my weight.

What 3 days of food looks like

What 3 days of food looks like

The total calories of all the food is 11,520, which is 3,840 calories per day. I will most likely eat more food on days one and two because I will be doing more miles and gaining elevation. I figure I will eat around 4,000 calories on days one and two and 3,500 on day three.

I am guessing I will be burning around 5,000 calories each day. This is figured on my weight, height, pack weight, “strenuous” hiking conditions and total number of hours spent hiking. I used a few different calorie counting calculators I found from doing Google searches.

Smoosh your bagels to save space! Same amount of calories, but easier to pack.

Smoosh your bagels to save space! Same amount of calories, but easier to pack.

 

 

 

 

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Death Valley

After work on Friday, I went home, turned the Dodgers game on and packed my bag for the desert. After the game, around 7:30 (Dodgers were on the East Coast), I started my 4 hour drive to Death Valley National Park. I planned to sleep in my car whenever I felt like pulling over. I just wanted to get a head start to Saturday, as I knew how warm it was going to be in the park.
By 10:30, I was ready to stop for the night. I had found myself in the town of Trona, CA. Trona, with a population of around 2500, is an interesting place. It is desolate, isolated and arid. The high school football team plays on a dirt field because grass will not grow due to the heat and saline levels in the ground.
I parked in a “rest stop”, which was a large parking lot that had a bathroom at one end. I slept restlessly, expecting teenagers to interrupt my sleep by doing donuts in the lot or desert folk to get curious about my lone car.
I went unharmed during the night and work up around sunrise. I rearranged my belongings and began my last hour of driving to the park.

Trona, CA

Trona, CA, rest stop

 

I drove in on Interstate 190 and entered at Stovepipe Wells, a tourist attraction of sorts. There is a campground, some cabins, a restaurant and a gas station/general store. The gas was priced at $4.79, which I didn’t think was too bad, considering where I was.
I stopped by an information booth and paid my park entrance fee, a minimum of $20 which was good for 7 days. I planned on driving straight through the park, all the way East, and into Nevada. I planned on visiting Rhyolite, NV, which is a ghost town, located about 4 miles away from Beatty, NV. Rhyolite was one of the more intact ghost towns I have been to. I assume that it is watched over with a careful eye by the park services. The town was founded in 1904 and by 1906, had an estimated population of over 3000. Gold was the item of interest here, and it caused the town to boom and then bust. By 1911, the mine had shut down, and by 1920 the population was close to zero.
I was impressed with the size of the structures offered at this once bustling community. The bank was the most impressive structure. The outer walls were all that remained, no roof or interior structures were intact.

Rhyolite, Nevada. Cook Band building.

Rhyolite, Nevada. Cook Band building.

Rhyolite, Nevada. School building.

Rhyolite, Nevada. School building.

Rhyolite, Nevada.

Rhyolite, Nevada.

 

Next on the agenda, was to drive to another ghost town called Leadfield. To get there, I needed to drive off-road on a one way road up and over two passes. The town was about 15 miles in and then I needed to drive another 10 miles to get out the other side.
I was nervous the entire drive to the town. I was worried that I would bust my axle or get a flat in an inopportune area. Once I hit the steeper grades, I needed to keep my truck in 1st or 2nd gear. The turns were as sharp as switchbacks on a hiking trail and the loose rocks often caused my wheels to spin in a fruitless attempt to proceed forward.
Upon arriving at the town, I was stiff with stress. This town had a few structures but was mainly about the mines that were buried in the rocky hill sides. All the buildings were made of metal siding and were heavily rusted. One building in particular, had a bed frame and a table still in place. The mines were all blocked off, but I was still able to look into the dark tunnels, trying to imagine a daily life working in them.

Leadfield Ghost Town, Titus Canyon, the access road on the way in.

Leadfield Ghost Town, Titus Canyon, the access road on the way in.

Leadfield Ghost Town, Titus Canyon

Leadfield Ghost Town, Titus Canyon

 

Leadfield Ghost Town, Titus Canyon. Closed off mine.

Leadfield Ghost Town, Titus Canyon. Closed off mine.

“Where it’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,
Where the danger is double and pleasures are few.
Where the rain never falls the sun never shines,
It’s a dark as a dungeon way down in the mine”

 

Since I was on a one-way road, or path as it should have been called, I needed to keep heading in the same direction. The road did improve as the deep ruts and loose rocks seemed to lessen. I entered Titus Canyon, which was an old river bed, that water once carved and smoothed out the surrounding rocks. The canyon was just wide enough for my vehicle, which slowed my speed way down. The canyon walls were roughly 100 feet on either side and a feeling of claustrophobia was starting to sink in. The water that once rushed through this canyon, made a winding, twisting route. This caused many blind turns, which made me feel just a bit safer knowing I was on a one-way road.
Exiting the canyon was like being birthed into a desert. I came around one turn, and suddenly, I was free. The sun shown right in my face, as the rock walls were now behind me.

Titus Canyon

Titus Canyon

 

I then drove to the Northern part of the park to visit The Racetrack Playa. The Racetrack is home to a science mystery, where rocks mysteriously move across a dried lake bed, creating a path sometimes more than 100 yards long. In recent years, scientists have come to the belief that in winter months, water freezes under the rocks and strong winds then blow the rocks across the playa. These are still theories though.
The drive to the playa was a bit agonizing. It was 27 miles on a rough, rocky road. The rocks were small and sharp, so I had to take precaution not to stab my tires. The trip on the gravel road took about 1.5 hours and I was jostled around the entire time.
Arriving at The Racetrack erased the memory of the drive though. Being alone in a landscape so wide-open has a humiliating feeling. Knowing the natural history surrounding me, I of course treated the area with upmost respect.
Walking on the playa and trying to find the rocks was fun. The playa is 2.8 miles long and 1.2 miles wide. The rocks are spread out from each other, but their tracks lead you right to them. The name “racetrack” is perfect I thought, as I looked at a few rocks close to each other. It does appear they are in a century long race across the dried lake bed.
I leaned down and touched one of the larger rocks I had walked up to. I felt as though it should have some special healing powers or turn me into a superhero. Alas, it was just a rock, although one of the more famous rocks on our planet.

The Racetrack Playa, moving rocks.

The Racetrack Playa, moving rocks.

 

The Racetrack Playa

The Racetrack Playa

 

On my way back to the center of the park, I stopped by Ubehebe Crater for a quick photo. There is a trail that circumnavigates the crater, but I chose not to hike on it.

 

Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater

 

I then decided to drive to Badwater Basin, which is North America’s lowest point of elevation. It sits 282 feet below sea level. Just last week, I had views of the highest peak in North America, and now I was standing at the lowest point. Airplanes are an amazing invention.
Badwater Basin was hot. I mean, I know that is a known fact, but wow. It was around 6:00 PM when I arrived and it was around 110 degrees. The basin that is the lowest point, is one large salt flat, with pools randomly scattered around the area.
This area is of course a tourist attraction, since it is located right next to a paved road. The crowds were not unmanageable, but enough for me to want to take a few photos and get on my way. I drove a few miles up to Artist Drive, which is a paved road that winds through a bright, mixed colored canyon. I had planned to drive on this road about an hour before sunset, knowing the colors would be the best during this time. My timing was perfect and this also meant there were few people around me.
One point of interest on this drive is a turnout called Artists Pallete, which is a small canyon with green, pink and purple rock. These colors are created from the oxidation of different metals in the rocks. The canyon was a must see, as I had never seen such vibrant colors in rocks before.

Badwater Basin, lowest point of elevation in North America.

Badwater Basin, lowest point of elevation in North America.

 

Artists Pallete

Artists Pallete

By the end of the day, I was wiped out. I had planned to spend another night, but with only a few items left on my list, I decided to start my drive back home.

A little treat on my drive home.

A little treat on my drive home.

 

 

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Alaska: Last Frontier

I recently took some time off from work and flew up to Alaska for six days. Prior to visiting Alaska, I had traveled through 49 of our states. I had made a goal for myself to see all 50 states before my 30th birthday. Well, I stepped foot in Alaska 7 days prior to turning 30.

Priorities come first, so I first stopped to see my Mom in Portland, OR for Mother’s Day.

 

May 12

I took off from Portland, OR and landed in Anchorage, AK around noon. They are one hour behind PST, so I adjusted my watch properly. I promptly picked up my rental car and headed to a grocery store for some food and other supplies. I then hit the road and headed for my first destination.
Independence Mine, located in Hatcher Pass, was about an hour and a half drive. Since 1951, after accruing over 6 million dollars worth of gold, Independence Mine was closed and abandoned. It is now owned by the state of Alaska, and they make it open to the public.
Since I traveled during a shoulder season, the mine was open, but the road leading up to it was closed. It also had not been maintained all winter. This meant I needed to hike in, which was about 1.5 miles. The snow started off ankle deep, but by the time I reached a mile in, I was post holing. Most of the time I was able to not break through, but every 10th step or so I broke through the thin layer of crust and sunk to my knee or deeper. This was an exhausting experience.
I arrived at the mine, where there were roughly 20 structures still intact. As it may appear obvious, I was the only visitor that day. I made my way through the property, still going deeper into the snow. A few times I fell so deep that my entire leg was consumed and I was left to pry it out with my trekking pole.
I was worried I might fall through and a piece of machinery or a tool might be hiding below. The last thing I needed was a deep wound to nurse.
I then found a 2×4 that was about 5 feet long. I carried this around with me, placing it in front of me and gingerly taking steps across it. It was slow going, but I wasn’t falling deep into the snow anymore. Problem solved.
I hiked up a small, but steep hill that over looked the entire area. There was a footpath at the top, that was once a cart track. The path ended abruptly, as it turned into a dilapidated bridge. Next to the bridge, a stream ran that I assumed was their water source and maybe even hydropower at one point.
After exploring the mine for about an hour, I made my way back down the snow covered access road. I reached the car and plopped down in the back. I had worn jeans (a very stupid mistake) and they were soaked through just below my waist. I changed, ate some food and started to head back down the mountain.

I drove East on Highway 1 towards Matanuska Glacier, where I planned to visit the next day. I decided to check out the visitor’s center so I knew what time they opened and if I needed any permit for going on the glacier. On my way down a dirt road, I turned a corner and saw a moose feeding one some plants. She quickly hoofed her way into the woods and was hidden.
Glacier walking was pretty straight forward. The entrance was $20 and you walked at your own risk. They opened at 9:00 AM, so I had some time to kill the next morning.
I drove back West on Highway 1 to a scenic view point I had noticed before. The turnout looked out over a valley and had a spectacular mountain range towering over the other side.
I was not sure about the rules of parking in this area for the night. I had noticed other similar areas that had “no camping” signs and than others with no signage. I figured no sign: sleep away.
The sun set at 10:30 after what seemed like two hours of dusk. Even after the sun set, it remained light out until 1:00 AM. I woke up every now and then, but generally slept well.

Independence Mine, Hartcher Pass

Independence Mine, Hatcher Pass

Independence Mine, Hatcher Pass

This is the cart track, crumbling off the side of a hill.

Mine 08

 

 

May 13

I made my way back to Matanuska Glacier, paid my fee, and drove about 2 miles on a dirt road to a parking lot. The parking lot overlooked the glacier. At one end there was a marked trail that led down to the foot of the glacier.
My surrounding was similar to a beach, but the sand was dark grey and silty. It would be similar to walking miles through old campfires that had turned to dust. There were no trees near me, but looking up there were rugged, snow capped mountains.
I walked about 1/2 mile to the end of the trail. A sign informed me that if I passed this area, that I was on my own. I could see the glacier, but I was no where close to being satisfied. The silt turned to dirty ice, like what remains of Winter’s snow at the start of Spring. I was cautious at first, thinking I could fall into a crevasse, but after ten minutes, I realized there was no danger.
It took me about 30 minutes to get to the slabs of blue ice that I had been viewing. The wind would pick up and it felt like if you put ice cubes in front of a fan, but the ice cubes were the size of buses.
Streams ran through ice formations, making twisting, turning paths through the ice.
As I was digging into the ice with my Yaktrax (essentially tire chains, but for shoes) I was thinking about how destructive I was being. After spending nearly 6 months on the Appalachian trail, living by the “Leave No Trace” code, I felt uncomfortable.
I spent about a hour exploring the plates of ice, but didn’t venture much beyond my comfort zone.
I made my way back to my car and started to drive further East, away from Anchorage.
Highway 1 has to be the most scenic drive I have ever been on. I have driven across the US 6 times, up and down the East Coast 5 times and up and down the West coast 4 times, but these 200 or so miles beats out thousands of miles in the lower 48. Every turn is a larger mountain, a bluer lake, taller trees and more moose and caribou than would be needed to feed Washington’s troops on the way to Valley Forge.
My drive ended at the intersection of Highway 3, where Wrangell St. Elias National Park is. I stopped into the visitor’s center and bought a patch. The ranger working looked very bored, and by the amount of cars in the parking lot (maybe 4 including mine) I could see why.
I didn’t have plans on spending much time in the park, I really just wanted to see some views. From what I could tell, unless I wanted to spend multiple days in the backcountry, there wasn’t much for me to do anyways.
Since daylight is not an issue here, I decided to drive back to Anchorage for the night. My original plan was to drive North on Highway 3 to Fairbanks. I changed my plan because, to be truthful, I just didn’t feel like driving to Fairbanks.
I made my way back to Anchorage and got a motel room for the night.

Streams of melting ice.

Streams of melting ice.

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

 

May 14

I had made plans with two fiends I had met while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Tom (Pumpkin Head) and Kat (Sassy Pants/Peaches) had moved to Alaska a little over a week ago. They bought a van, found some jobs and made their home next to a river. They camp or sleep in their van. This is a very typical thing to do during the summer here.
They got jobs in Seward, which is on the coast, about a 3 hour drive South from Anchorage. When I arrived, I hopped in their van and they took me down to the beach. It was a pretty view, with mountains overlooking a teal colored ocean.
I wanted to hike above Exit Glacier, which is in Kenai Fjords National Park. They coincidently had hiked the trail yesterday, but said it was worth doing it again.
Exit Glacier is about 4 miles long. On the drive into the park, there were signs that had years on them; “1894” “1912” “1920”… These signs represented where the foot of the glacier was during  that year.
The trail was about 8 miles round trip. The first two miles were pretty much straight up. You then sort of flattened out, but you were then in a snow field. We were again stuck post holing for about two miles. It was easier going than when I was hiking in the mine because we switched off who was in front.
There was a view of the glacier almost the entire time we were hiking. We just kept seeing more and more as we gained elevation. About 1/2 mile from the end of the trail, there was an emergency shelter. If a storm came through, you were allowed to spend the night or if you were unlucky, a few days. The weather was perfect, sunny and in the 60’s. There was no storm approaching anytime soon.
Looking out over the glacier, I thought about people’s bucket list items, and a popular one seems to be “See a glacier before they’re all gone.” I can tell you, you will not outlive the glaciers in Alaska. That’s not to say we as people should not be conscientious of them receding. I’m just saying don’t think they’ll all be gone in five years.
The hike down from viewing the glacier was the most fun I’ve had all trip. There were hills covered in snow that we could slide down on our butts. Sometimes it took 20-30 seconds to get down. You would pick up a lot of speed too! There was little risk of falling off the edge and onto the glacier, which sat about 500 feet below. The thought could not be avoided though.
I took Tom and Kat out to eat so they could enjoy a good meal before their first day of work. We then attempted to make a fire, but the wood Tom purchased was not fully dried yet. We basically just burned a bunch of newspaper and then went to sleep.

 

Tom and Kat fetch some fresh water from melting snow.

Tom and Kat fetch some fresh water from melting snow.

 

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

 

 

May 15

We woke up around 9:00 and went down into Seward to get coffee. Tom and Kat showered and I went shopping for some gifts. We then said our goodbyes and I headed off to Wasilla to visit a customer. The drive would take about 4 hours, but the scenery made it go by so fast.
On my way I saw a bald eagle scoping out some prey on the edge of the ocean. I also stopped by Portage Lake, which is fed by a glacier. There were floating junks of the glacier in the lake. You can walk along the perimeter and almost touch the icebergs.
I spent about an hour with my customer and then headed out to Denali National Park. This drive was not as enjoyable until the last hour or so. Most of the scenery reminded me of upstate New York.
Once I got closer to the park, I had my first view of Mt. McKinley or Denali, as I’ll call it from now on. Denali sits at 20,322 feet, which is the highest peak in North America. If you have a desire to hike to the peak, most people need to spend 3-4 weeks on the mountain acclimating to the elements. You then have a 50% chance to actually summit. If you pay for a guide, the price can reach close to $10k, with no guarantee you’ll reach the summit. I viewed it from a free telescope, and was ok with that…for now.
I saw countless moose and caribou on my drive into Denali park. I stopped pulling over every time to take photos because it was getting so repetitive.
Denali opened the day I arrived, but I was one of very few visitors for the day. You are allowed to drive about 13 miles on a road into the park. To go any further, you need to get on a tour bus, which I did not find appealing. I took my time exploring the area I was permitted to.

Alaska has a feeling of what I’d imagine the Old West being like. In the same regard, it also felt like the world had ended and I was alone trying to find human contact.
A lot of times while driving these hundreds of miles, I would want to stop and take a photo. I stopped pulling off the road to do this. Not only was there not really anywhere to pull over, but I could see so far in each direction, that I knew there were no cars approaching.
I slept on the side of the road again. I had views of Denali in front of me and two other mountain ranges on my left and right. Since I was further North East, the sun set around 11:00 PM, but the sky remained light the whole night. It was basically dusk from 11:00 to 4:30 when the sun started to come up. I don’t know how people live with those extremes. It started to make me feel a bit certifiable.

I thought this iceberg looked like a woman vacuuming.

I thought this iceberg looked like a woman vacuuming.

 

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

 

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

 

May 16

In the morning, after not having the best sleep, I made my way back towards Anchorage. I had plans to stay at my friend Skip’s house. I’ve known Skip since high school but haven’t seen him in about 8 years.
Skip was going to get in touch with me around 5:00 PM, so I had some time to burn. I decided to drive on the Old Glenn Allen Highway. I saw a hill standing roughly at 1000 feet. The hill was rounded on the top and was full of trees and open fields of grass. I assumed this was The Butte, which my customer in Wasilla had mentioned I try to find.
Hiking to the top of The Butte offers 360 degree views of Palmer and the surrounding mountain ranges. The hike was about 800 vertical feet in less than a mile. This means it was essentially straight up. I reached the top in about 15 minutes and relaxed on some rocks, snapped photos and enjoyed the mild breeze and warm sun.
On my way down, I decided to take a different route. I noticed from the top that there were many trails on the hills, and they all looked to go to the same parking lot. About halfway down, I started to think I was not going to end at my car. In fact, I would be on the opposite side of The Butte.
I decided to continue down anyways, and hope the trail wrapped around the other side. It didn’t, and I was dropped out at the West side parking lot. I thought about my position and decided to take a left turn down a road and try to make my way back to the East parking lot.
I started to jog down a road to reduce my time out there. The area was all farms lands with mountains in the background. It was a good place to get lost.
I came across some power lines that cut through some woods. I could still see The Butte and had my sense of direction. I decided to follow the power lines and hope they went to the road I was looking for.
I ended up on private property, but I knew I was close to the trail I had hiked up. I needed to squeeze through some barbed wire fencing, but in about 20 minutes, I was back on the trail and at my car in no time.
I drove into Anchorage and decided to clean out my car and take a wet wipes bath in the back of the car.
Skip called me and we decided to eat at a local pizza place, that is pretty famous from what he told me.
I met his wife, Sara, who was very pleasant. She recently started getting into photography, and we chatted about shutter speeds and f-stops through dinner.
We went back to their house and Skip showed me his two trophies. One being an 800 pound Kodiak Bear pinned to a wall and the other a massive bust of a long horned sheep.
I showered and then got into bed. I slept great because they had dark blinds that I closed shut.

 

View from The Butte

View from The Butte

 

May 17

Skip, Sara and I met our friend Jessica for breakfast. I know Jessica from high school as well. She moved here with her husband, who is in the military.
It was nice catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in about 8 years. There was a lot to share and laugh about.
I then packed my bags and headed over to the airport to catch my flight.

Visiting my 50th state was an experience I will always cherish. I spent a lot of time reminiscing about the other 49 states I have been to, my other travels and what I am looking to do in the future.
I’ve been traveling alone since I was 18, when I went to San Francisco by myself. I have always enjoyed the experience alone because I can do what I want, listen to my own music, sleep in my rental car and explore places most people would not enjoy venturing into.
I did realize that I do enjoy company when exploring. Trying to find the right person for these adventures has always been a difficult task for me (don’t take that as an insult friends, you know I’m a weirdo.) I think one day I’ll enjoy traveling with a companion, but for now, I’m flying solo.

Here’s to turning 30 years old today!!

– Salad Days

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Silver Screen

Hello!

It has almost been a week since I completed my thruhike. I have been spending time with family, eating real food, resting, shaving, and working on a video about my hike.

Here is the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx5QQyG-Z7s

Enjoy!!!

Categories: AT Hike | 2 Comments

The Salad Days; Forever Out of Step

8-17
Day 158
Mile 2071.4
Lakeshore House, Monson, ME

Meadow Flapjack woke up early and started hiking at 6:30am. Risscuit and I followed shortly after and started a 5 mile hike into Monson. We were at the road crossing by 8:30 and started to try and hitch. A few cars passed without luck. Then a woman driving a newer SUV whipped her car over to the side of the road to pick us up. Half her car was still on the road, which was on a curve headed downhill. It was probably the most dangerous place to pull over. A few cars passed her and you could tell they had slammed on their brakes to avoid her car. The driver rolled her window down and yelled to us “I’m going to pull into the parking lot to load you guys in!”
This was a much better idea. She put the car in reverse and went right up the road in the wrong direction. Keep in mind cars are driving about 50-60 MPH on this road. She pulls into the parking lot and we hop in.
The lady is a nurse that just finished her shift. She is headed back home for the day and said she was happy to give us a ride. I’m just happy her car was not demolished in the process.
We arrived in Monson and walked into the Lakeshore House, where we planned on staying. We were greeted by Rebekah, the owner. She was a firecracker for sure. She talked fast, made jokes, and was very inviting.
The Lakeshore House is a restaurant and bar, plus they have bunks, laundry and plenty of restrooms. The property is right on a lake, so they have outdoor seating, a dock and some inflatable toys for the water.
Rebekah showed us around and gave us our bunks. Since we were there so early, she asked if we could make our own beds, which was no problem at all. We each got a shower and did some laundry. The restaurant opened at noon, and all three of us enjoyed a fresh cooked meal from their kitchen.
After lunch, we discussed our next strategy. Since my family is meeting us on the 26th, we need to plan the last 114 miles by the day. We figured out that we had an entire day to waste. What a great location to be to take a zero day at.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing, watching movies and planning our trips back home.

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Lakeshore House, Monson, ME

8-18
Day 159
Mile 2071.4
Lakeshore House, Monson, ME

We are taking a zero day today. We only have 114 miles left on the trail. The last section is known as the 100 Mile Wilderness. A lot of hikers talk about how difficult this section is. It is one of the more feared sections of the trail. You have no option to resupply, so you need to carry two or three extra days of food. If you get injured, there is a good chance you’ll be waiting for help to arrive for a long time.
I am looking forward to it. It’s our final challenge. The last chapter.

8-19
Day 160
Mile 2085.9
Stealth Camping

We received a ride back to the trail by one of Rebekah’s friends. We hit the trail at 9:30 but took a few minutes to snap some photos of the sign at the start of the 100 Mile Wilderness. The sign states that once you cross this point, that you should have no less than ten days worth of food. We each have seven days, but we’re thruhikers, we’ll be fine…
At the trailhead we saw Java Man, who we’ve hiked with on and off. We also saw Great Legs, who was just getting off the trail and heading into town.
We hiked in a large group for most of the day. We had Gator, Tall Boy, Java Man, Puddle and the three of us. We all planned to hike about 15 miles to a shelter.
We passed about 10 section hikers while hiking through the day. This always gets me thinking about space availability at the shelters. We can out hike most section hikers, but that doesn’t mean they’ll settle down early in the evening. Not to sound like an elitist thruhiker, but I don’t want to be kept up until 10:00pm by some weekend hikers.
Risscuit and I made sure to keep our pace steady, and keep ahead of the pack. We crossed a few rivers that we needed to ford. They were not too deep, but we got wet, that’s for sure.
At the end of the day we crossed a logging road (no help in the 100 Mile Wilderness?? Hmmmm) and there was a truck parked. An older man came out and shook our hands. He asked if we were thruhikers. He said his daughter hiked the trail back in 1997. He was out looking at the road crossings because he said his son was going to run from Baxter State Park to Monson. He is going to meet him at certain crossings to provide him with support.
The man gave us some grapes, an orange and a whoopie pie! He even asked if we had any trash that we wanted to get rid of. It was a pleasure chatting with him.
Risscuit and I forded another river, which meant we were under a mile to the shelter. We noticed a nice spot to tent about two tenths after the ford. We decided to call it quits for the day and make camp. We didn’t want to deal with the mess at the shelter and wanted our peace and quite.

IMG_7708
The 100 Mile Wilderness Sign. I am eating a rock.

8-20
Day 161
Mile 2101.7
Stealth Camping

If you’ve wanted to know what a common morning is like on this trail, follow these simple instructions:

1. For one week, workout in the same clothes without washing them.
2. After the one week, take the clothes and shoes and soak them in the sink.
3. Place the wet clothes and shoes in your refrigerator overnight.
4. Wake up in the morning, do not shower, do no look in the mirror, put the wet clothes on.
5. Eat a cold poptart
6. Walk to work

We had a light rain shower around 5:30am. It’s one thing for it to rain all night, but for it to rain for thirty minutes before I’m about to get up, that just falls under the category of annoying.
My tent permanently smells like mildew. It has for about a week now. At first I thought it was me, but luckily it is just my tent. I guess it doesn’t help that I sleep next to my dirty socks and clothes. I’m sure my sleeping bag smells awful as well. Something about living with horrid smells makes your nose accustom to it. Only the really bad smells, like a privy roasting in the mid day sun, makes me scrunch my nose up.
Thinking about smells, I don’t believe I mentioned what happened to me a few weeks ago. When we were hiking through the Whites, I came down with something hikers call “The Stench”. The Stench comes from not eating enough calories or having your metabolism be so high, that no matter how much you eat, your body needs more. Since your body needs more fuel, it starts to eat your muscle tissue.
The Stench is first noticed when you pee. Your urine smells like battery acid. No matter how clear it is, it still stinks. After a few days, the battery acid smell starts to come out of your pores.
Risscuit first noticed the smell, because I had just peed on a tree and the smell wafted over to her. The next half dozen times I peed, the smell rose up and surrounded me. It was terrible.
We were only a couple days from town, so I was able to eat food and brought almost double what I would normally take on the trail with me. It luckily went away after two days of eating enough. Just something I forgot to share the first time around!
When looking at the elevation profile for today’s miles, I knew we were in for a rough day. It looked like a roller coaster track, dipping up and down. Although we only planned to hike 15 miles, it would take most of the day.
We were treated to some pleasant views of more mountains and lakes. We like to guess which mountains we’ll hike over next. Pretty soon, there will only be one peak left to guess.

IMG_7721
Early morning view

8-21
Day 162
Mile 2118.1
Tenting at East Branch Lean-to

The weather has warmed up the past few days. No longer am I wrapping myself in my Tyvec ground sheet when going to sleep. The mornings are refreshing with the cool, mountain air.
We started hiking at 7:00 this morning. We had our last climbs before Katahdin. There were four peaks, back to back, that we needed to climb. They would take almost all day to tackle.
The first climb started with a gradual uphill that then slammed us up against a mountain face. We climbed for about 700 feet, straight up. This was Gulf Hagas Mountain.
We then hiked down a few hundred feet and then had a similar climb up West Peak. On West Peak, I had cell phone service for the first time in days. I sent out some texts and headed onto the next peak, Hay Mountain.
Hay Mountain was covered in trees, so we had no views. It just felt like a rolling hill. The next climb was our final climb for the day and for about 65 miles. It was up White Cap Mountain, which sat at 3650 feet (we started the day at around 700 feet).
All four climbs were actually pretty easy. The local trail club put in dozens of stone steps to help aide hikers.
The view from White Cap Mountain was not the best on the trail but it was very satisfying. Knowing that this was our last climb before Katahdin was a relief. On the hike down White Cap, we had our first view of Katahdin. It was on the horizon and in haze. We could see it though. There is a light at the end of this green tunnel.

IMG_7722
The Rocks and Roots of Maine

8-22
Day 163
Mile 2137.6
Tenting at Potaywadjo Spring Lean-to

I could share the mundane details about the hike today, but it was nearly all flat, smooth trails. The kind of trail I’ve been dreaming about since Northern Pennsylvania. We hiked 19.5 miles, and they were a breeze. Instead, l’ll share with you some thoughts I’ve had during my time out here.
When I started this hike, the sun would set around 7:45. The latest I remember it being bright out was around 9:30. As I write this, it is nearly dark out and it’s 7:45. I’ve come full circle. It’s hard to believe that I’ve hiked through multiple seasons.
The first two weeks of hiking, I was faced with the hardest challenges. I hiked through freezing temperatures, I hiked through snow drifts up to my knees, I hiked on ice, I got Norovirus and spent a night with Risscuit who was sick with Norovirus. I’ll be honest, if those two weeks were the last two weeks on the trail, I don’t know if I would have pushed through. I’ve become soft instead of calloused. I feel like I reached a point in New England where I was sick of the rain, the heat, the bugs and the rocks. I still hiked all the miles and never took an easy way out though. There were times when cutting a corner was tempting but I knew I’d regret it in the end. I’m happy to be where I am tonight. I have about 45 miles left to hike.
My feet hurt. They feel bruised. Standing up in the morning is near torture. The muscles become stiff overnight. I prepare myself to stand when I leave my tent.
My knees have good days and bad days. Today was a good day. I had very little pain and I’ll be able to sleep on my side without hurting. Sometimes my knees hurt so bad, that the weight of one leg on the other is too much to take.
I’m 29 years old. There are people well over twice my age on this trail. I’m sure their bodies are throbbing with pain much worse than mine. It’s impressive to see any thruhiker put their shoes and pack on in the morning at this point.
My body feels like it becomes weaker by the day. There was a pinnacle to where I felt in the best shape of my life. Since then, I feel like I’m slowly dying. I am looking forward to resting and eating healthy foods. My body is craving nourishment.
With all the complaining I’ve done tonight, I don’t regret coming out here at all. I am also not in a negative mood, I am simply trying to explain what I go through daily. The flowers are not always in bloom on the AT.
With that being said, I look forward to another adventure where I can push my limits and see how far I can take myself.

8-23
Day 164
Mile 2155.8
Tenting at Rainbow Stream Lean-To

Nothing in me wanted to wake up and hike today. It started to rain around 9:15 last night. It rained most of the night. My knee also started to hurt, which made it uncomfortable to sleep. I tossed and turned most of the night. I was also visited by some four legged friend. It was of the small variety, and it tried to jump in my tent with me. Maybe it wanted to get out of the rain? Instead, it just slammed it’s feet near my head a few times and then scurried off. Whenever I hear a small animal, while I’m in my tent, I try to stay very still. I think “If that is a skunk, the last thing I want to do is make any sudden movements.”
I woke up at 6:00 and ate breakfast. I then fell back asleep and woke up at 6:30. Again, I had very little motivation this morning. The positive news was that all my clothes were dry, including my socks and shoes!
The plan was to hike 18.5 miles today. After hiking nearly 20 the day before, my feet did not feel up to the challenge. Just like the last 163 days, I packed up my bag and set out on the trail.
We had a great view of Katahdin less than a mile into our day. There was a side trail that opened up into a pond. On the West end, Katahdin sat there with puffy clouds covering her peak. She looked beautiful. We enjoyed the view, shot some videos for Risscuit’s AT movie and then moved on.
Risscuit and I played a few games of 20 Questions to help pass the time. We hadn’t played that game in a long time. It made three miles go by pretty fast.
We stopped and ate lunch at a shelter. We took an hour and a half rest. I laid down for a little bit and tried to rest my eyes. Unfortunately, I felt groggy when we started hiking again.
We had a 500 foot climb after lunch. At the top we had another view of Katahdin. This was a 16 mile, straight on shot of her and all her glory. The clouds had blown away and we could clearly see her peak. She looked fierce, intimidating and sexy all at the same time. It was like checking out the good looking, older woman in a business suit. She means business but damn is she fine.
We arrived at camp and made our homes. We only have a few more nights of doing our nightly routines together (tear).

IMG_7783
Katahdin looming in the clouds.

Here is a poem I wrote back in New Jersey:

While hiking today I saw a bear,
Although, it was just sitting there.
Not in a bush or up in a tree,
It was plopped down right on the AT!
I banged my poles and shouted real loud,
The bear looked at me and stood up proud.
It looked me in the eye and said with a grin,
“Would you like some berries, my thruhiker friend?”

And here is one from New York:

Swamps and mosquitos are nothing but shit,
New York, I wish you were put on a ship,
I’d sail you off to Germany or Turkey,
And feed you nothing but ramen and jerky.
I hope the next state will be better,
Dear Appalachian Trail, forgive this harsh letter.

8-24
Day 165
Mile 2170.8
Abol Bridge Campground

I was the last to leave camp this morning. I quickly caught up to Risscuit though. She was standing next to a pond and motioned to have me walk softly. I whispered “What is it, a moose?”
“She whispered back “Bigfoot”.
Bigfoot? What the heck? I asked back “What?”
She whispered again “A beaver!”
Ohhh that makes a lot more sense. Sure enough, there was a beaver doing its morning errands around the pond. It had built a very nice damn and it continued to find those perfect logs to fill more holes.
I wanted to hike by myself today. It will be our final full day on the trail. I wanted to get lost in the woods and be one with the ground. Now, I know that sounds very lame and unlike me to say something like that, but I’ve been in the woods for so long now, that I feel like it is a good friend of mine. I’ll miss the ever changing smells, the feel of soft duff under my shoes, the amazing and unusual formations that trees can contort themselves into. I’ll miss the challenging up hills and the painful descents, but fondly remember the views from the top. I’ll miss the way you feel when you come across a water source that you’ve been waiting for, or the stubbornness of a root that just won’t give when you trip over it. But most of all, I’ll miss stopping for a moment to stand still. To take in the busy world that is a forest.
When you start to look at the fine details in front of you, you see new worlds that you never noticed while rushing by. Every tree has an ant climbing up it in search for food. Bees fly past, birds scurry in the low branches, chipmunks poke their heads out of their holes and the leaves on branches sway in the breeze to create the base layer for the white noise that is the forest.
I’ll miss my friend that I’ve lived in for the last 5 months. It’s gives and it takes. You show it respect and respect is given.
So many hikers start the AT thinking they can muscle through the trail or overpower it. So many of those hikers went home early. Patience is the key out here. The forest is not a fast moving place. It does not rush to cover a rock with moss or grow a tree with vigor. Instead, it quietly plods along, making sure each step is planned. It makes no errors and always produces a masterpiece.

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The Forest, My Friend

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Kissing Katahdin

8-25
Day 166
Mile 2180.8
The Birches Lean-to

The plan was to sleep in this morning. We only had ten miles to hike to make it to The Birches. I woke up around 7:00 and Risscuit was already making a fire. Meadow Flapjack was at the picnic table talking with her.
We slowly packed up our belongings and started hiking around 9:00.
We entered Baxter State Park less than a mile into the hike. Baxter, which is home to Katahdin, has some interesting rules. You are not allowed camp anywhere inside Baxter unless you pay. Thruhikers can stay at The Birches, which had two shelters and a tent pad, for $10 a person. You are only allowed to stay one night though. Many hikers will try to avoid these rules and camp a little ways before Katahdin. We didn’t want to bother with the hassle, so we just decided to pay.
The hike today was relaxing. We all hiked together and went at a slow pace. The only challenging part about today was a deep river ford. The water went above my knee and threatened to hit the bottom of my pack.
We arrived at the registration desk around 1:00pm. Great Legs was sitting on the Ranger’s porch. He had just come down Katahdin. He was so thrilled. He gave Risscuit and I big hugs and told us about the climb.
We registered and paid for our spot for the night. I was thruhiker number 220 for the year. I was hiker number 216 at Harper’s Ferry. I thought the number would be much less when I reached Katahdin. I’ll be very interested to know how many people finish behind me.
We started at camp fire around 3:00 and kept it going until we went to bed. Chapin, Patriot, Dr. Pepper, Bird, Belle, Meadow Flapjack, Risscuit and I all sat around the fire telling stories about the trail for hours. It was a great way to spend the final night on the trail.

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The view of Katahdin from Abol Bridge

8-26
Day 167
Mile 2185.9
Katahdin

I didn’t sleep well last night. It felt like Christmas Eve. I was so giddy to wake up and start my day. My Mom, Dad and sister were all meeting me that morning. The plan was to hike Katahdin with me.
Meadow Flapjack, Risscuit, Dr. Pepper and I were up at the day hiker’s parking lot by 6:20. We ate breakfast and waited for my family. They showed up around 6:45.
It rained a little bit in the middle of the night. It was overcast when we started the hike, but you could see the peak. I didn’t care so much to have a view at the top but I wanted it to be an enjoyable hike for my family.
The first mile was very easy. We all stayed together in a group. We shared stories and I caught up on some family info. The second mile started to be more difficult. We started to come across large boulders that we needed to hop on or shimmy our way around.
By the time we were past the three mile mark, we were above the tree line, we were in a cloud, the wind was blowing between 20 and 40 MPH and the rock scrambles became near mountaineering obstacles. I felt terrible having invited my family along for the hike. I knew Katahdin was difficult but no one told me it was this dangerous. There were times when you have one piece of rebar as a foot hold and you need to finagle your body up and over boulders. The rocks were wet and everyone was getting cold. It came to a point where I didn’t want anyone to get injured. I made sure my family knew that I’d rather see them alive at the bottom, then celebrate with them for five minutes at the top. This is when my dad and sister decided to turn around. It was the right move on their part. My mom decided to keep going.
We hiked for another hour or more through rock fields, wind and the misty air. We couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of us. I stopped to go pee and I lost everyone, although I could hear them.
We came to one last little climb and I could see some people crowded around and then I made out the sign. The sign I’d been dreaming about for months. The sign that read “KATAHDIN”! I raced up to it, not paying any attention to the day hikers taking photos next to it. I jumped up and gave it a huge hug and then a kiss. I then turned around and put my fists in the air. A lady that was waiting to have her photo taken at the sign asks “Where did you come from?”, as if she wanted to brag about which way she hiked up Katahdin. Now, I’ve been asked this question a thousand times on this trail. I’ve always been nice with people and answered them politely. I have always wanted to give other thruhikes a good name, so I’d go out of my way to talk with people. My hike was over and I didn’t care what this woman thought of me. I answered her back, in a triumphant manor, “From fucking Georgia!!!”
She looked at me with a sideways head, almost like when a dog tilts it’s head and looks at you funny. She didn’t respond but then moved her camera towards me and asked “Could you take my photo with the sign?”
It took everything in me to say “No!” but I took her photo and handed her camera back. This lady had no idea what I had just completed. I don’t need another celebrity moment but I wanted a moment to myself.
Another family stepped up to the sign to have their photo taken. The same woman agreed to take their photo. Now keep in mind that Meadow and Risscuit have been patiently waiting next to the sign, but not having touched the sign yet. The family did a few poses and then wanted the picture taken again. Meadow and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Meadow said “Oh know, take your time.” And I said “It’s ok, we’ve only been waiting 167 days.” This hurried up the family and then had a discussion started as to what we had done. Again, I don’t need a stranger to pat me on the back but what I really wanted was to have all the day hikers give us some time. It was apparent that was not about to happen. We remained polite and shared the sign with the day hikers.
We started the hike back down, which we were all regretting. It would take about five hours in total. My poor mom had Jell-0 for legs.
Former thruhikers told me that reaching the sign at Katahdin would be life changing. They said that I’d feel such joy and relief. When I reached the sign, I felt happy, but it was not a godly moment. I felt this joy and relief once I walked into the parking lot at the base of Katahdin. To me, that felt like the end of the hike. I was done. I could get into a car and drive anywhere. There were no more white blazes, no more miles and no more pages left in my guide book.
My family, Risscuit, Meadow Flapjack and I all stayed at a hotel in Millinocket. In the morning we would say goodbye to Meadow and Risscuit and I would drive back to Vermont to stay with my dad for a few days.

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Risscuit climing up a tough boulder on Katahdin.

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Risscuit holding the map of the entire AT on top of Katahdin

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2185.9 Miles

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The last logbook with my final entry

Categories: AT Hike | 7 Comments

The Abby Singer

8-11
Day 152
Mile 1997.7
Stratton Motel

When I started this hike I felt like I was starting an endless adventure that would produce a new man on the other side. I am roughly two weeks away from completing this journey. The end is in sight. Have I changed? Have I accomplished what I set out to do?
I have joked in previous entries that I feel like an animal. The more I think about it, I do feel one step away from being a wild animal. My goal every day is to survive. I eat, I sleep, I walk. Life is seemingly simple.
I think I will have little issues with entering society again. Although hiking the AT is a utopian society, I am ready to live indoors, grab clean clothes from a dresser and go grocery shopping without checking the weight of the food I’m purchasing.
I am excited to start working again. I know that might seem like an insane idea to some, but I miss using my brain to problem solve.
I think my view on living has changed from this hike. I see myself living in a studio apartment with minimal appliances. I think I will value strange things, like evenly spaced stairs, trash cans and not carrying my bed on my back.
I came out here to thruhike. I wanted to start at the Southern end and hike to the Northern terminus. I have not completed this goal yet but I still think my goal is relative. I thought that I might lose interest or view the end goal as a pointless achievement. What does a patch stating I finished the AT from the ATC mean in the end? To me, that patch is a badge of commitment, strength and perseverance that I’ll wear with pride. It’s not a bragging right but a symbol that holds the miles I hiked from the South to the North.
Risscuit, Meadow Flapjack and I headed into town today to resupply. We planned to stay in town at a motel. We did laundry, showered and ate until our bellies were full.

8-12
Day 153
Mile 2013.0
Little Bigelow Lean-to

Sue, the woman who owns the motel we stayed at, drove us back to the trailhead. It was 11:00am by the time we started hiking. We planned to hike about 16 miles to a shelter. We needed to cross over three large peaks, South Horn, Bigelow and Avery. We had spectacular views all day but we paid a lot for them. We paid in energy and we were left with little to hike the next 10 miles.
The profile for the rest of the day seemed flat, but as Maine has taught us, flat is non existent here. We hiked up and down, left and right. We hiked into the night and needed to wear our headlamps to make it to camp. It was almost 9:00pm by the time we setup our tents and started to cook dinner.

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South and North Horns

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Taking a rest on Avery

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The sun setting, still hiking, looking back at Avery and Bigelow

8-13
Day 154
Mile 2014.4
White Wolf Inn, Stratton

My journal entries seem to have been on repeat lately. I feel that I write the same thing every day. It is difficult to think of new ways or adjectives to describe a view or how the trail has been. Now, I am no Bill Bryson, but I hope my entries are not as boring as listening to the NOAA’s weather report.
The day before we were discussing our finish date, which is Aug 26. We figured out that we are ahead of schedule and we will need to take a zero day somewhere. We then remembered that it is supposed to rain tomorrow, so what better day to take off? (We are sick of hiking in the rain.)
We called Sue, the motel owner, and asked her if she could pick us up at a road crossing in the morning.
At 8:00 this morning, Sue pulled up and we hopped in her car. She drove us to town and we enjoyed a massive breakfast and then a day of relaxing in motel room beds.

8-14
Day 155
Mile 2030.7
Tenting at Pierce Pond Lean-to

Sue dropped us off at the trailhead around 10:00am. Today was chalked up to be easy. We had two small climbs, one shouldn’t even be considered a climb since it was less than 400 feet in elevation gain.
We were able to keep up a good pace most of the day. My feet started to hurt about 13 miles in though. The bottoms feel bruised and my tendons in my toes are aching. I try to dodge as many roots and rocks as possible, but that is a losing battle while hiking in Maine.
We arrived at Pierce Pond Shelter and setup our tents right by the pond. A cold wind was blowing off the pond. It was so strong that it created 1-2 foot waves that crashed into the rocks. The wind blew up through our campsite and chilled us all.
I made a camp fire, a very rare thing for me to do, and cooked some hot dogs that I packed out from town. It was a great treat to have some dogs cooked over a fire. I just wish the general store had sold Red Snappers in a smaller package. I wouldah loved a Moxie and a Red Snappah for dinnah.

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A footbridge this nice is a rare sight in Maine. Most have been rotted out (no pun intended) or smashed by moose.

8-15
Day 156
Mile 2049.4
Tenting Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to

We woke up a little after 6:15 and packed up. We had about four miles of a hike until we needed to cross the Kennebec River. You cannot ford the Kennebec because the current is too strong, it is usually too deep and the water is too cold. A thruhiker drowned last year because he tried to ford it. The Maine Appalachian Trail Club hires a ferry service to canoe hikers across the river. The ferry service runs from 9-11 in the morning.
We reached the river at 8:15 and waited until 9:00 for the canoe to show up. A man pulled up to the shore and tossed our packs in and then brought us over to the other side. It was the easiest 70 yards of the trail. The canoe even had a white blaze in it so hikers didn’t feel cheated or robbed of a purist thruhike.
The terrain has been very easy the last two days. We’ve barely had any elevation change and the rocks and roots have calmed down a little bit. We have actually been able to hike between a 2.5 to 3.0 MPH pace.
After lunch, I was feeling tired. I have been getting bored while hiking. It feels one step away from being a chore. I am still enjoying myself but I think I am experiencing senioritis or as hikers call it “Katarded”. I am looking toward the end, counting down the days and the miles.

8-16
Day 157
Mile 2066.6
Stealth Camping

I woke up at my normal time of 6:00. I figured everyone was on the same page as me. I ate breakfast in my tent, like I normally do, and then changed into my hiking clothes. I then started to remove the items from my tent so I could pack the tent away. I noticed then that Risscuit and Meadow were not awake yet. I was five minutes away from hiking though. I continued packing and figured they’d catch up or I’d wait for them at a Shelter. When I was ready to leave, Risscuit popped out of her tent. I told her that I’d wait for her at the shelter 13 miles away.
The hike started with a 1200 foot climb up Moxie Bald. The view at the top was worth the climb. I could see The Horns, Avery and Bigelow on the horizon. I always enjoy looking back and seeing how far away a mountain range is. I like to give myself a pat on the back at the accomplishment.
I met up with Steady, an older man who has hiked the PCT and the CDT. He started his AT trip about 1000 miles South, in a sea kayak. He kayaked for a few hundred miles and then hiked to Georgia. He will continue to hike another 800 miles into Canada after we all summit Katahdin. He is a pleasure to hike with. He is full of knowledge and stories. He does not talk down to younger people and will answer any questions you have.
While we were hiking together, we came to a view of a pond and some mountains. A typical view in Central Maine. We both stopped to admire the beauty. Steady said “Now this is why we hike. Forget the knee pain. Forget the blisters. Forget the pack weight. This is why we hike.” We both shared the view for a minute and started hiking again. Steady reminded me why I was on the trail and why I love hiking. Over the past five months I started to become jaded with routine of thruhiking. I even dare say I became bored a day or two back. I hiked with Steady at the perfect time. He rejuvenated my interest that I left Springer Mountain with.
I reached the shelter that was 13 miles away. My right knee had started to ache and I had a slight limp when I walked up to the shelter. I arrived at 11:20. I cooked a hot lunch and reviewed some photos I took that morning. Risscuit showed up around 12:15 and then Meadow came in around 1:00. It wasn’t until after 2:00 before we left. My knee was stiff but it felt better.
We need to go into town tomorrow, and we were nine miles away after we left the shelter. We plan to spend the night there tomorrow, so we were going to find a place to camp a few miles away. We came across a manufactured forest, you know the ones with the perfect rows of trees. We decided to setup our tents in the rows, which worked out great.
My knee was really bothering me. Probably the worst it has hurt the whole trip. I remember planning for the trip and thinking that the only thing that would keep me from finishing would be my knee pain. Well, it took long enough to kick in.
I was happy to stop and have five miles to hike into town the next day. I am hoping that a good nights rest,
and mostly a day off tomorrow, will hopefully heal it.

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My new friend

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Our campsite for the night

Categories: AT Hike | 10 Comments

The Way Life Should Be

8-3
Day 145
Mile 1899.4
Gentian Pond Shelter

I woke up at 7:00am and hopped in the shower. I basically just stood under the warm water, enjoying the free massage.
Risscuit needed to go to the post office, which opened at 8:30, so Meadow and I stayed in the lobby until she came back. When she arrived, she informed us that she had found a ride to the trail head. We walked over and hopped in the man’s car. It was only a three mile drive, but it was better than walking.
The trail started off with about a mile long road walk. It then took a sharp right turn and headed up a two thousand foot climb. The climb wasn’t too bad, it was gradual and there were few roots and rocks.
In the next few miles, we passed by a couple of nice ponds that were full of lilliepads. The steep ups and downs continued, just like in The Whites. It’s frustrating knowing you can hike at a three mile an hour pace. The terrain is so unpredictable here that it’s hard to estimate how many miles you can do.
We arrived at the shelter and put our packs down. There is a pond next to the shelter and there is a gorgeous view looking straight out from inside. About ten minutes after arriving, someone said there was a moose in the pond. Risscuit and I walked down and watched a female moose eat and drink at the pond for about ten minutes. They are such an awkward animal to watch. Their heads are massive and they have such spindly legs. Later in the evening, we went to fetch water by the pond and the female moose had her baby next to her. We watched them both walk away from the pond and into the woods.
The shelter was pretty much full. There were half Northbounders and then a bunch of section hikers. There was also a snoring competition that I could have done without.

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Moose at Gentian Pond Shelter

8-4
Day 146
Mile 1909.0
Full Goose Shelter

We were woken up at 5:00am by two of the section hikers. They started to pack up, stomp around and talk. That’s not good shelter etiquette. I laid in my bag until 6:00, looking at the view and the sun starting to light up the valley below.
We started hiking at 7:00. Right out of the gate, we had a climb up Mt. Success. It was about two thousand feet in elevation gain and of course had rock scrambles, just like the last 150 miles. We then went up and down on a ridge line for most of the morning. Usually a ridge line is easy walking, but this was full of rock scrambles as well.
At 10:30 we crossed a huge milestone. We reached our final state, MAINE!! It’s been a long time coming.
Maine welcomed us with cool weather and dark clouds on the horizon. Within an hour of being in the final state, a cold, windy rain pelted us on an open ridge line. We were soaked in a matter of minutes. This of course made those rock scrambles even more difficult.
The rock scrambles seemed different today though. The ones that we had to climb down were slick pieces of granite. Most of the time we had to get on our butts and gradually lower ourselves down using our arms. We even took our packs off sometimes, threw the pack down and then inched our way down.
We hit a few spots where trail clubs had built stairs out of fallen trees. These helped, but were slippery. We also had a few areas that had rebar fused into the rock that acted as a ladder to step down. These were only on the extremely steep sections.
Around the eight mile mark, we were being chased by a thunderstorm. We were a mile away from a shelter. The race was on. Every time we had a view of the clouds, the storm appeared to be closer. Drops of rain started to fall as we walked up to the shelter.
There were three other thruhikers at the shelter. We all waited out the storm together. Around 4:00 we came to the conclusion that we’d all stay there tonight instead of going on another three miles that we had originally planned on hiking.
The temperature dropped to 55 degrees by 6:00. I’m thinking I’m going to need to winter bag back before the end of this trip.

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Maine border!!

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Risscuit tackling some rebar

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Meadow Flapjack in some fog

8-5
Day 146
Mile 1921.0
Baldpate Lean-to

Risscuit and I froze last night. Meadow seemed to do fine though. Around 4:00am, Risscuit and I pushed our pads together and stayed as close as we could to each other. The coldest temperature reading I saw last night was 48 degrees, but a strong wind was whipping around. It would blow under the boards of the shelter and come right through our bones.
Most of the shelter woke up around 6:00 and was hiking by 6:45. We stayed in our bags until 7:00 and were hiking at 7:30. We all wore our warmest top layers to start out. It felt like we were back in The Smokies again.
Today we had to tackle the “hardest mile on the AT”, The Mahoosuc Notch. The Notch is a one mile rock scramble that takes North bound hikers down into a valley that splits two huge rock faces. The boulders in the Notch are the size of cars. The trail meanders up, over and around these boulders. You need to take your pack to to under the rocks, you need to hoist yourself up and over and avoid falling into large gaps that fall 10 to 20 feet below. This one mile of trail took us one hour and thirty minutes to complete. Although it was difficult, it was also a lot of fun.
Next, we had to climb Mahoosuc Arm, which was only about 1000 feet, but it was steep and went up slippery granite. There were no assistants, like stairs, it was only roots and the grip on your shoes. Hiking up The Arm was far more difficult than The Notch.
We stopped at Speck Pond Shelter for lunch. We caught up with three of the hikers we stayed with the night before. We talked about in the Southern states it was so much easier to predict how many miles you could hike in a day. Now it’s a toss up. Now we’re happy when we get 12 or more in.
After lunch we had a short but steep climb (what’s new?) up Old Spec Mountain. The climb up was mostly exposed and the wind tore through our protection layers. I was chilled when we reached the top. The climb down was pleasant though. It was gradual, not too many large drops and the wind was not blowing on the side of the mountain we were on.
We reached a road crossing, which was at 1500 feet in elevation. The sun was out and it felt like it was in the 70’s. There was a trash can there, so i emptied out by quart size ziplock bag that i store trash in. I knew we had to climb back into the mountains to sleep, but I really wanted to set up my tent in the warmer temperatures.
We started a climb that was 2.3 miles to a shelter. We were going back and forth on if we should stay there or hike another 3.5 miles after the first shelter. It was already 4:00 and by the time we reached the first shelter it was almost 5:00. It was obvious where we were sleeping that night. We set up our tents and made dinner. I made four cheese tortellini with Alfredo sauce. I went into my food bag to find my empty ziplock bag that I had my bagels stored, in but finished that day. I poured the Alfredo sauce and dry milk into the bag and then put in hot water to mix it all. I then started to cook the pasta as the sauce settled. I would mix the sauce around on occasion to make sure I got all the clumps out. I noticed that the bag was very used, which I thought was weird because it just had bagels in it. I ate dinner, and enjoyed it a lot. It wasn’t until I was in my tent that I realized I had used my empty trash bag to mix the Alfredo sauce. I felt like throwing up on command when I realized that. Thinking about three day old tuna fish packets sitting in a bag, being warmed by the sun, didn’t seem to settle well with me.
Once the sun set, the temperature started to drop fast. It’s currently 58 in my tent and it’s 7:50pm. I know if it drops to 45 or lower that I’ll be pretty chilly.

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Risscuit in Mahoosuc Notch

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Risscuit and Meadow Flapjack hiking up Mahoosuc Arm

8-6
Day 147
Mile 1935.0
Tenting at Hall Mountain Lean-to

Last night seemed colder than the night before. Around 12:30am, I took my ground sheet, which is made of Tyvec, and wrapped it around myself and got back in my sleeping bag. It helped me get through the night without shivering too badly.
Most of the advice I read said I should get my winter gear back before The Whites. Since it was in the 70’s and 80’s leading up to them, I figured I’d be ok. I’m thinking I’ll need an extra layer or two to make it the rest of the way.
We started the day with a 1000 foot climb up Baldpate West Peak. A local club had out countless stairs on the trail. They had made the stairs from large, flat rocks. There was an immense amount of work done for that project. It made the climb so much easier.
Once at the top of the West Peak, we dipped down a little and climbed the East Peak. The climb up the East Peak was not as easy. It took us up a granite rock face that was exposed. Luckily, the wind was not blowing hard. We were treated to a 360 degree view at the top. It’s amazing to look around and see no towns, just trees. Ah, Maine. The way life should be.
We stopped and ate lunch at Dunn Notch Falls. The falls were a straight drop down. We ate at the top and had a view of the water racing up and bellowing over the rocks.
The terrain today was fairly easy, after the Baldpate Peaks. We didn’t have too many quick ups and downs. There were not as many rocks and roots either. We passed by Surplus Pond, which had an abandoned cabin on one side. The cabin looked like it was in good shape, other than the fact it didn’t have windows. All three of us daydreamed about owning it, putting a canoe in the water, fishing, swimming, BBQing and enjoying the peace and quite.
We made it to the shelter by 4:30. We plan on going into town tomorrow to resupply. The temperature has been unusually cold the past few days. I’m hoping it isn’t like this the remainder of the trip.

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Risscuit and Meadow Flapjack climbing up Baldpate

8-7
Day 148
Mile 1939.1
The Cabin Hostel, Andover, ME

We were visited by a bunch of deer in the middle of the night. I woke up at 10:30pm to something crashing onto or into my tent. I figured it was a branch falling from a tree above me. In the morning, there was no branch, no leafs or anything that could have made that much movement and noise on my tent. I could only deduce that a deer had tripped over my tent while walking by.
The day started with a steep decent and then an equally steep ascent up Moody Mountain. The climb was about 1400 feet in 0.8 miles. It was literally straight up the side of a mountain.
We then had a gradual downhill for about 2 miles until we reached the road that would take us into town. Once we reached the road, we became a little worried. This was a road that looked like a car drove by every 30 minutes. We could only hope someone would drive by and pick us up. Town is ten miles away, which we were not about to walk.
About fifteen minutes into our standstill, we heard a car’s motor coming around the corner. Risscuit jumped up and put out her thumb. It turns out that they were dropping a few Southbounders off at the trail. We asked if they could give the three of us a ride and they agreed.
The two ladies, who were on vacation, dropped us off at the main intersection in Andover. Now, I know these are small towns we are going to, but this was something out of a movie. The town in basically the general store. The store sells gasoline, groceries, deli meats, sodas, candy…etc. This is where we needed to resupply. A jar of peanut butter cost $6.00. That is not an exaggeration.
We did our overpriced shopping and made our way back outside to organize everything. We planned to spend a little time in town so we could eat lunch and charge our phones. It was nearing 2:00pm and we needed to hike a minimum of eight miles if we went back on the trail. We had heard there was a nice hostel in town that would pick us up. We decided to call them and take the rest of the day off.
We were picked up in about 15 minutes and brought back to The Cabin, which was a very nice log cabin home. They had a bunk room plus pop up campers in the yard that hikers could sleep in. They also had a full kitchen, laundry and a large selection of movies to watch.
We put on a movie, took turns showering, did laundry and then were treated to cheeseburgers from the grill, homemade potato salad, corn on the cob and brownies with ice cream for dessert. It was perfect.

8-8
Day 149
Mile 1956.1
Sabbath Day Pond Shelter

We woke up and had breakfast cooked for us. We had fresh blueberry pancakes, biscuits and gravy, fruit, bacon, juice and coffee. We were then shuttled back to the trail to start our day.
We planned to hike about 17 miles today, because we took a short day yesterday. We had a decent climb to start off with, but there were no slick granite slabs, so we didn’t have too hard of a time hiking up. Once we were at the top, we were on ridge lines for most of the day.
We stopped and ate lunch at a shelter. Clouds started to form and the sky became dark. We knew rain was coming for us, but we didn’t know when.
With five miles left on the day, we had stopped to fill up on water. It was tempting to stop there for the night. The rain hadn’t started yet, there was plenty of camping opportunities as well. We knew we had to push on though, so we put our packs back on and started walking.
By 6:00 rain started to sprinkle down. By 6:30 we were in the shelter. We were the first ones there but by the end of eating dinner, the shelter was full.
The rain never seemed to pick up, it just got everything wet and quit.

8-9
Day 150
Mile 1967.3
Piazza Rock Shelter

Rain started in the middle of the night. I woke up around 6:00am but stayed in my bag. Thunder and lightning came a few minutes later. This made me think the storm would pass through fast and staying in my bag for an extra hour would not hurt anyone.
We ended up getting on the trail at 8:30. The rain was on and off all morning. The forecast was for increasing chances of rain with thunderstorms in the PM. We had an option to hike about 11 miles to the next shelter, hike 17 miles to a campsite or hike 20 miles to a shelter. We decided that 11 miles would be a good day, since we need to average 12 miles to get to Katahdin by August 26 (my family is meeting me at Baxter State Park to hike the final day with me).
The trail was soaked today. Every place where there could be mud, there was a puddle of it. The places that had planks, that crossed the mud puddles, were broken or very slippery. The rain would pick up from time to time and drench my clothes. Rain would run down my face and cause a constant drip from my nose.
Today we hiked in the ten mile stretch that the hiker Inchworm is missing in. She has been missing for about two weeks now. There are signs posted around the trail with her picture, info about what gear she carries and where she was last seen. It made me feel uneasy to be hiking on the same trail where someone has been missing. I had moments of reflection thinking about her family and hoping there is an end to the search soon.
We reached the shelter by 1:30. I promptly put on dry clothes and instantly felt better. We hung our wet clothes on a line in the shelter and made lunch. After lunch I took a two hour nap, which felt amazing. The rain stayed consistent with the forecast, as it continued into the night.

8-10
Day 151
Mile 1984.2
Spaulding Mountain Shelter

It was a tough morning to put on wet clothes. The wind was blowing and the temperature was cool. My will to put wet clothes on is rapidly depleting. At the start of the trip it was something I sucked up and did with pride. I now look at my wet shirt and wish I had a dresser full of dry clothes.
Once my wet clothes were on, we began our day with a climb up Saddleback Mountain. Most Southbounders we have passed have told us that we’ll love Saddleback. There are actually three peaks in the Saddleback Range, The Horn and Saddleback Junior are the other two.
The climb over all three peaks was not terribly difficult but the wind was whipping us around left and right. It was so strong today that it almost pushed me over several times. The views were 360 over the three miles on the peaks. We were above tree line for most of the hike.
We stopped and ate lunch at a shelter that was built in 1961. It had a “baseball bat” floor, which is basically just branches laid down to make the floor. They are all uneven and extremely uncomfortable if you were to try and sleep on it.
After lunch, we had a climb up Lone Mountain, which is the last place that the missing hiker, Inchworm, was seen. I didn’t realize this until we reached the shelter we are staying at. Risscuit informed of this. We passed three State Troopers on the trail today. They didn’t speak to us, other than saying hello and to have a good hike.
It’s unnerving being out in the woods when you know one of your kind is missing. I asked myself if I should even write about Inchworm in my journal. I never met her and I never heard of her until she went missing. I feel it is ok to write about it because it has been part of the trail and my experience out here.

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On the summit of The Horn, looking back at Saddleback

Categories: AT Hike | 2 Comments

The Whites and The AMC. An Unfortunate Pair.

7-27
Day 138
Mile 1822.3
Stealth camping by Garfield Pond

We spent the night at Chet’s place last night. I slept alright except for some dreams I’ve been having lately. The past three nights I’ve had dreams about being back at home but I never finished the trail. I also cannot get back to the trail. My friends and family are all happy to see me and they want to celebrate. Although I feel guilty because I know I didn’t actually finish the hike.
As I knew we would, we got a late start to the morning. Whenever we sleep inside, there is no rush to get moving.
We packed our bags and walked down to a diner called Flapjacks. We of course had to eat there because of Meadow Flapjack being part of our group.
Breakfast was good but it left my stomach feeling like it was lined with lard, which it probably was. We then walked down to Price Chopper to resupply for the next few days. I also purchased two extra complete resupplies so I could mail them to Straton, Maine and Monson, Maine. I heard both towns have very limited options on food for hikers so I figured I’d send what I want to eat.
After mailing my food, we called a taxi to take us back up to the trail. Whenever you need to take a few different roads to get back to the trail, we usually call for a ride. Hitching is usually too hard because not everyone is going to go the exact route you need to go.
We started hiking at 11:30. We had about 3,500 feet to climb to get up to Little Haystack Mountain. The name of the mountain will give you a perspective of how large the mountains are in The Whites.
We ate lunch near the top and enjoyed some shade. Next, we had a two mile ridge walk along Franconia Ridge. It was above tree line and the sun was out. We were happy to have the views but the sun was on us all afternoon.
Franconia Ridge is now in the top five places I’ve hiked on the AT. We had views of the hut we passed by the other day, we could see Mount Washington and the rest of the Presidential Range. The only issue was that it was a Saturday and there were hundreds of day hikers out. Most photos were ruined with a string of hikers going along a narrow path.
Once we were up and over Mt. Lafayette, the highest peak on Franconia Ridge (5291 ft) the crowd thinned out and we could enjoy the scenery once again. Again, it’s hard to not feel like an elitist after hiking 1800 miles. You start to feel like the mountains are yours and you should dictate who can hike on them. I do not like thinking this way, but it sours my day seeing day hikers fumbling along the trail, snuffing their noses at us because we stink and look homeless. This tends to be the case with most touristy places we’ve hiked on the AT though.
We hiked down to 3800 feet to find a place to camp. We heard there was a flat spot next to a pond. The Whites are hard to navigate because hikers are supposed to stay at designated sites that cost $8 per person (Thanks AMC). Well, we’re not doing that, so we rely on trail knowledge passed along from hiker to hiker.
We arrived at the pond and found a nice side trail to a huge campsite. Meadow, Risscuit and I set up our tents and were then joined by Dutch, Java Man and two section hikers who thruhiked in 2011.

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Risscuit walking on Franconia Ridge

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Meadow Flapjack and Risscuit looking back on Franconia Ridge

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Risscuit and Meadow Flapjack hiking down Mt. Lafayette

7-28
Day 139
Mile 1837.6
Ethan Pond Shelter

Our day started off with a climb up Mt. Garfield. It was a steep, 700 foot climb. At the top, there was a platform that use to have a fire tower on it. The wind was blowing so hard that it was difficult to stand still.
In about three miles, we came to Galehead Hut. We walked into the dining room and asked the workers if they had any leftover breakfast. They had about 5 pancakes left. One employee handed us some plates and syrup. He then said that once he was done mopping, that he could cook us some fresh ones with the extra batter they had.
Risscuit and I devoured the first serving and then waited patiently for the fresh ones. Sure enough, we were each served two, piping hot blueberry pancakes. They were delicious.
After we left the hut, we began a 1000 foot accent up South Twin Mountain. The accent was only .8 miles, so it was very steep. Every step was up a large boulder. My thighs were burning when we got to the top.
We ate lunch at the top of Zealand Mountain. We also waited for Meadow to catch up. We discussed our next few days and all the possibilities we could hike just in case bad weather came or the terrain was too much for us.
The Whites, specifically Mt. Washington, is known for bad weather to appear out of nowhere. We are two days away from Washington, so we are paying closer attention to what the weather forecast is.
After lunch, we headed down to Zealand Hut. On the way there, I experienced a burning sensation on my ankle. It felt like a bee sting but it was under my sock. I had a red dot where it hurt and it swelled up a little bit. When we arrived at the hut, I elevated it for a little and then put it in a stream flowing next to us. It seemed to help, but it hurt the rest of the day.
While at the hut, clouds started to form and we could see rain in the distance. We had 5 miles to hike to get to Ethan Pond, so we decided to race out and get to our destination as soon as possible.
The storm seemed to hold off the entire hike. We arrived at the shelter and spoke to the caretaker. There is a $8 fee per person, but we asked if we could do some work to makeup for the fee. The caretaker was enthused and gave us some chores to do. In 30 minutes, we were done and we could relax for the night.

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Tall Boy, Risscuit, Grandpa and Meadow Flapjack (hiding behind post) out front of Galehead Hut

7-29
Day 140
Mile 1851.7
Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Rain came in the middle of the night. It was relaxing to hear the rain hit off the metal roof of the shelter. By the time we woke up, the rain had stopped.
We hit the trail by 7:00 and started the day with a downhill that crossed US 302. We then started a climb that would last the rest of the day and the start of tomorrow. We had started The Presidential Range.
Our first climb was 2775 feet over 4.7 miles. Most of it was rock scrambles or hand over hand climbing. It took most of the morning.
We stopped at Mizpah Hut to see if they had any food and to fill up on water. We stayed there for a little bit and talked with a Southbounder about the trail in Maine. It’s always good to get as much trail knowledge before you hit the next area.
We had 5 more miles to hike for the day. Our goal was to do a work-for-stay at Lakes of the Clouds Hut, which is 1.6 miles South of Mt. Washington.
We left Mizpah Hut in good weather, but about a mile into the hike, dark clouds started to form and thunder started to clap. Rain started to fall lightly and we were forced to put our rain covers on our packs.
I’ve heard countless stories about novice hikers being stuck in bad weather in The Whites. I was now about to hike 4 miles, with elevation gain, on an exposed ridge line, during a thunderstorm. Here goes nothing.
There was one loud clap of thunder that shook the ground, but the rest of the storm seemed to be below us, in the valley. Every now and then, we’d turn a corner and there would be blue skies on our left side and dark, rain clouds on our right. We were literally on the dividing line of the storm.
We reached the hut without having our blood boiled by lightning. We were greeted by Emily, a member of the work crew. She said we could do work-for-stay, but it’d have to be in the morning.
We changed out of our wet clothes and laid them out in the sun, which had poked out a few minutes after we arrived. The hut was full of guests, about 100 in total. They were all in the dining room, playing games and waiting for dinner.
Dinner was at 6:00 and we had arrived at 4:30. Since we were doing work-for-stay, this meant we ate the leftovers from the paying guests. We sat and waited patiently, as did the guests.
At 5:55, the crew started to bang pots and sing. This indicated that it was time to eat. We decided to go outside, instead of staring at the guests and drooling like dogs while they ate. Once the guests had filled their bellies, the crew invited us into the kitchen to have our food. We formed a line and grabbed our plates. We feasted on chicken with pesto, stuffed shells, corn, fresh bread and brownies. We each ate two or three plates full.
It was around 8:00 at this time. Some of the guests went for short hikes to watch the sun set and some sat in the dining area talking and playing games. We were to sleep in the dining area, so we again, waited patiently for the guests to get into their beds. At 9:30, one of the crew members shut out the lights and the guests started to go into their rooms. This was when we started to claim our spots.
We hiked in during the rain to cozy people sipping tea, we watched them eat, we ate their leftovers and now we slept on the floor that was full of their crumbs. I was a shelter mouse, and proud of it.

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Risscuit and Meadow Flapjack taking a break. Note Meadow’s battle wounds on his legs.

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Climbing Mountains, Stepping on Clouds

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Meadow Flapjack on top of Mt. Pierce

7-30
Day 141
Mile 1861.8
Osgood Tent Sites

The guests seemed to shuffle around all night. The dining room was next to the bathroom, so guests kept walking, or should I say “stomping”, to the bathroom. They also all wore headlamps and wanted to take a look over at the smelly hikers sleeping on the floor. Lets say just say, I didn’t sleep well.
At 6:00, one of the crew members came out to the dining hall and woke us up. He wanted to make sure guests could come out and sit at the tables, which I understand.
Breakfast was served at 7:00 and we all watched in anticipation for the guests to be finish. Just like dinner last night, we were served the leftovers, which was chocolate chip pancakes, fresh pineapple, bacon, oatmeal and juice.
After breakfast, Risscuit, Meadow and I were put to work to pay off our stay. It was pretty much a joke though, because all they had us do was fold blankets and sweep the floors. It took about 30 minutes. Well worth the food we ate.
The weather outside felt like it was late November. It was cold, the wind was blowing and there was a lot of moisture in the air. We started a 1.6 mile accent up to the top of Mt. Washington. The wind kept blowing the whole way up. My beard was full of droplets of water that were near freezing.
We reached the top of Washington in about 50 minutes. Visibility was only 10 feet and with the windchill, the temperature was 31 degrees. A huge difference between mid 70’s in the valley down below.
There is a tourist center at the top of Mt. Washington that has a museum, food, a gift shop and some seating. They also have a hiker room, which is located downstairs. We stayed in the hiker room. We charged our phones, threw away trash, used flush toilets and ate food.
We ended up staying there until 12:30 and then decided to hike out. We finally had a view about ten minutes after starting our decent.
On the way down Washington, the AT crossed The Cog, which is the train that tourists can ride to the summit. There is an old tradition that thruhikers are supposed to moon The Cog and all of the tourists riding it. We made sure to give The Cog riders something more to look at than the mountain scenery. We showed them our own white mountains and kept the tradition alive.
We hiked on, through some wind that would push me to the side as I took a step. We were pushing to make it to a hut to hopefully get some more food and maybe a place to stay. We arrived at 4:00, but the crew member was not too impressed with our total miles for the day and how early we wanted to stop. She said that we could stay, but she was very reluctant. We ended up pushing on another three miles to a campsite. In the long run, it’s a good move because we are only two days from Gorham, where we plan to take a day off.

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Lakes of the Clouds Hut in the morning. Mt. Washington is the peak on the horizon

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Sleeping on the dining hall floor

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Summit

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Meadow Flapjack on the decent from Mt. Washington

7-31
Day 142
Mile 1872.3
Stealth camping

We slept in this morning. The climb down Madison yesterday killed our knees and energy. We got on the trail at 8:30 and got moving. We had an easy five miles until we arrived at Pinkham Notch, which is a park that is a popular starting point if you’re hiking up Mt. Washington (The easy way that is, 4.1 miles instead of the roundabout way the AT goes).
We purchased some sandwiches from their restaurant and took a two hour lunch break. We chatted with a couple of thruhikers who planned to hitch into town. This was good news for us, because we had a better chance to find a place to camp.
We plan to go into town tomorrow and then take a day off. It was tempting to go into town today but we all wanted to get Wildcat out of the way first.
Wildcat is a climb that we started after leaving Pinkham. Just like most of the steep climbs in The Whites, we had a lot of hand over hand climbing. The climb also has four peaks on it, which each have steep downs and then steep ups. We spent all afternoon tackling this mountain.
We finally began our decent and planned to go to the last hut in The Whites that we’d pass by. We arrived at 6:00, but they already had three hikers doing work-for-stay. We needed to hike South on the AT to find a place to camp, since ahead of us was a 1000 foot climb. We only had to go backwards about .3 of a miles though. We found a peaceful spot with room for all three of our tents.
It is 8:30pm right now and I’m already cold in my tent. I’m hoping it doesn’t get much colder.

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Some Thrush looking for an easy snack

8-1
Day 143
Mile 1887.6
Royalty Inn, Gorham, NH

We woke up at 6:00 and packed up as fast as possible. I was on the trail by 6:30. I walked down to the hut so I could use the privy. We all met outside of the hut and started our day.
We planned to make it to town today so we could take a zero day tomorrow (Have I mentioned we’re taking a day off!!??). This meant no matter how many miles we had to hike, they were going to feel like they never ended. In reality, we had 15 to get done. Again, too many.
We started by climbing 1200 feet to the top of Carter Dome. We then had a steep 800 feet downhill to Zeta Pass. To compliment our climb down, we of course had a climb up right after. This climb was up Carter Mountain and it seemed to never end. It felt like we peaked five times until the mountain dropped us down a trail that felt like a roller coaster.
We stopped to eat lunch around 11:15. We had only hiked about seven miles at this point. The climbs up and down early in the day slowed us down a lot. The rest of the day I was thinking about what I was going to eat in town and not the five miles of downhill I had in front of me. Please keep in mind that downhills are feared much more than uphills. Our knees are sick of the steep downs.
We arrived at the road into town at 3:30. We stuck out our thumbs to hitch a ride into town. In about ten minutes, a woman pulled her truck over and flagged us over. She opened the back of her truck and told us to figure it out. There were a bunch of tools and other random objects in the back. Meadow managed to fit in the bed with our packs and Risscuit and I hopped up front with her and a Scottish Terrier. She asked if we were in a rush and we told her that we were not. She said that she needed to go feed her horses, but it was only a mile up the road.
The woman was one of a kind. She had a filthy mouth, she drove like a maniac, she wore a low cut shirt that barely held her oversized breasts and she was of course hilarious. She drove us to the farm where she worked. She had a beer in her lap as she disobeyed traffic laws. She took a left turn onto the left side of an island dividing the road we had turned onto.
We made it to the farm and she fetched some hay for the two horses. She then asked us if we wanted some fresh vegetables. She gave us two buckets and showed us the rows of veggies. We picked big tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, zucchini, snap peas, green beans, eggplant and onions. We ate as we walked back to her truck. Everything was so fresh and sweet.
She drove us back through town and gave us a mini tour of the town. She knew everyone who lived there and would tell us if she liked them of not. She finally dropped us off at the post office, gave us the peace sign and drove off.
I’ve figured out that the AT is not about hiking. The AT is about meeting people, pushing yourself and letting the experience take you to uncomfortable places. If you only want to hike, call the AT the Appalachian Trail. That might not make sense to people on the outside reading this, but it makes a whole lot of sense to me.
We checked into the Royalty Inn for two nights. Risscuit and I then hitched a ride to Wal-Mart and back. We then spent the rest of the night watching TV and falling asleep on a comfy bed with too many pillows.

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One of the many hand over hand climbs in The Whites

8-2
Day 144
Mile 1887.6
Royalty Inn, Gorham, NH

Today is Risscuit and I’s first zero day since Virginia where we had nothing to do. This is no offense to anyone we spent a zero day with off the trail. We enjoyed those days immensely. Today we planned to literally do nothing though. Eat food, take long showers and baths, lay on a bed and eat more food was our only agenda.
I’ll sum up today with one word; success.

Categories: AT Hike | 5 Comments

Counting Down the Miles

7-17
Day 127
Mile 1697.6
Avg miles per day 13.3
Yellow Deli Hostel

Risscuit, Meadow Flapjack and I all woke up at 6:00 and started hiking by 7:00. I was nearly out of food, so I planned to head into Rutland, VT to resupply. Risscuit was going to follow me but Meadow was going to hike an extra two miles on the day and go to The Long Trail Inn.
We hiked together until lunch, which was a fairly easy hike. There was a section of trail that had been washed out from Hurricane Irene and still hadn’t been fixed. It wasn’t bad though, we just needed to hop some rocks to cross a few brooks.
We took a snack break at a shelter and planned where we would meet back up tomorrow. Risscuit and I then headed out at a faster pace. We had a five mile climb ahead of us and then a six mile decent into town. I knew my knees would be hurting by the end of the day.
We reached the top of the climb at 11:20 and ate lunch. Meadow caught back up to us at the end of our break. We said goodbye and that we’d see him tomorrow night.
Risscuit and I then headed out for our six mile decent. The heat was picking up and every time the shade went away, you could feel how strong the sun actually was.
We were at US 4 by 2:00. Cars were whipping by and I figured it’d be a long time to get a hitch. We crossed the road and stuck out our thumb. No luck. Car number two picked us up! It’s amazing how fast we get rides.
Two young girls picked us up. They were so excited to have picked up hitch hikers. We were excited we didn’t have to stand on the asphalt for an hour.
Risscuit and I checked into the Yellow Deli Hostel (They have a 24 hour deli downstairs). We then went to Wal-Mart to resupply on food.
The hostel is wonderful. They have AC, coin op laundry, clean showers, clean beds and a nice common area. Plus, hikers get 15% off at the deli down below.
We relaxed in the common room and I tried to show Risscuit my guitar skills. She acted impressed, which was all that mattered.

7-18
Day 128
Mile 1707.6
Avg miles per day 13.3
Stoney Brook Shelter

Last night made me not want to stay in too many hostels from here on out. Lights out was at 10:30pm, but people were stirring around until midnight. Even after midnight, people were shifting around, farting, coughing and making other manly noises. I barely slept on my mattress full of pointy springs.
The hostel served us free breakfast, which was very tasty. It was a banana smoothie and granola. You mixed it together like a parfait. It filled us up so much.
The hostel and deli was a great experience other then the sleeping arrangements. The people who ran it were a bit strange, we think they were part of a cult. The men all wore circular sunglasses, like John Lennon, and they tied their hair back in pony tails. They were all very nice and never mentioned anything religious to us.
Risscuit and I packed up and decided to take a bus back to the trail. It was only $2 and much easier then hitching. The ride only took a few minutes and we were back to hiking.
Vermont has become more and more steep as we get closer to New Hampshire. Today was full of hiking straight up and straight down. Vermont has a lot of roots that cannot be avoided. I just try to keep my feet off the slippery ones.
We stopped for a snack at a waterfall and heard from another hiker that Meadow Flapjack was not far behind us. We planned to stop in four miles at a shelter to eat lunch. We figured Meadow would catch up to us while we ate, and sure enough he did.
It was very hot and humid while we ate. All three of us looked like zombies. The initial plan was to hike another seven miles to a cabin that lets hikers stay for free. We then figured out that we were only 36 miles from Hanover and we needed to be there on Monday for the post office. It was Thursday afternoon, so we decided to stop for the day and then hike 10 miles the next three days. With the heat and the climbs, I think this was the best option. The other choice would be to hike higher miles and take a zero in town. We’d rather take a slower approach.
A thunderstorm came through soon after we setup our tents. The thunder was the loudest I’ve heard on the trail so far. It was an intense storm. Around 5pm, the storm came to a halt, and we exited our tents to cook dinner.
After dinner we played a few rounds of Mad Libs, which is always a blast.

7-19
Day 129
Mile 1717.5
Avg miles per day 13.3
Tenting at Winturri Shelter

Once again, we slept in a little bit. Since we are doing low miles right now, there is no rush to get going in the morning. We planned to hike 10 miles to the next shelter ahead. There was a decent climb mixed in, so it wasn’t going to feel like a day off.
By 9:00am, the humidity was already very high, and we were sweating all over ourselves while climbing. We joked that our shirts have not been dry in three days.
Seven miles into our hike, we came across a cabin that had a lookout tower ontop of it. The cabin was conveniently named The Lookout. There was a sign on the front door explaining that the owners left it open for hikers to enjoy, but to please keep it clean.
The cabin was empty, except for a wooden bench in the middle of the room. There was a loft built that could sleep 4 or 5 people.
On the outside of the cabin, there was a wooden ladder built against the wall and roof. Ontop of the roof was a wooden platform and two small benches. We climbed up the ladder to take a look at the view. Vermont was below us, and to the North we assumed we could see New Hampshire. The mountains seemed to get larger the further back towards the horizon they were.
Vermont has been an enjoyable state. We only had two days of rain, so the trail had time to dry out. I’ve heard horror stories about how muddy the trails can become here. Overall, I think Vermont would be top five in my favorite states on the trail. It’s full of pine forests, views that go for miles and some of the best water I’ve had on the whole trail.
We stayed at the cabin for over an hour. It was cool I side with the windows open. The breeze came through and the sun couldn’t get to us. After our extended rest, we hiked another 2.6 miles to the shelter we were staying at. It was an easy 2.6 miles too, it reminded me of the flat, smooth trail in Virginia.
The water source at the shelter was beautiful. There was a small waterfall that created a few pools for the water to fill up. The water was crystal clear and ice cold.
I went downstream a little ways and took a bird bath. Risscuit and I joked about how cold the water was and how in the Smokies the water used to feel warm to us. It’s funny to think back at how long we’ve been on the trail and how we actually walked through ice and snow. Now we are dying of heat and struggling to stay hydrated.
The evening was like many others on the trail. We set up our tents, cooked dinner, chatted, saw familiar faces of hikers we hadn’t seen in hundreds of miles and then went to our tents to lie down and soak in the wilderness that surrounds us.

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Meadow Flapjack on top of The Lookout

7-20
Day 130
Mile 1729.1
Avg miles per day 13.3
Tenting at Thistle Hill Shelter

One of the things I love about hiking the AT is that you never know when your day is going to be turned upside down, tossed around and spit back out the other side. Today was one of those days.
Risscuit, Meadow and I woke up, packed our bags and started hiking. We hiked about three miles and came to a road crossing next to someone’s property. There was a country store to our left that opened in an hour. We discussed waiting for it to open because we heard they sold fresh, homemade pies. As we were figuring out our next move, a man walked across the street and asked us if we wanted a cup of coffee. We all said “Yes!” and he invited us onto his porch.
There were two other hikers that we knew and five other people in their 20’s there as well. The five other people didn’t look like hikers though. We later found our that one of them had hiked the trail in ’09 and had come back to visit. He worked at a summer camp close by and he brought a few of his friends from the camp.
Dan, the owner of the house gave each of us a cup of coffee and we chatted about the trail, other hikers and The White Mountains, which are steadily approaching.
We then received a tour of his barn that was built in the late 1800’s and still had most of the original structure. It was massive as well. It was four floors and crammed with everything an old barn should be crammed full of.
We then went back and sat on the porch. Dan said that he was going to a lake about 10 minutes away, and that we were more then welcome to come along. Risscuit, Meadow and I had only planned on hiking 11.6 miles that day, so we had plenty of time to kill. Meadow decided to keep hiking and Risscuit and I agreed to meet him that night at the shelter. We piled into Dan’s truck and we drove off to the lake.
The lake was at the main corner of town. There was a corner store and a park across the street. Dan pulled out a canoe and Risscuit and I took it around the lake. It was strange to use a different set of muscles. I realized that my upper body strength was drastically weak, not that I had any to start with. It was still very enjoyable to cruise around a lake and admire all the homes.
We docked the boat and I ran across the street to get some snacks. It was a full market that you could order sandwiches at. I went for the fresh fruit, a fresh load of homemade bread, local milk and Cape Cod chips. It was a great lunch. As I was checking out the young lady at the register asked if I was thruhiking. Now normally this is not a strange question because I’ll have my pack with me or be right next to the trail. We were a little ways off the trail and didn’t have a pack. I answered her “Yes” and the asked “Just curious, how could you tell?” She looked back at me and said “You have a bit of an aroma about you.”
I then felt a little embarrassed because there was a line of people behind me. By this point in the trip, I can’t smell myself, so I usually think I don’t smell. Oh well, the local marker had a taste of hikers. Or should I say smell of hikers.
We spent another couple hours at the lake, swimming, eating and sun bathing. Dan planned to BBQ later and he invited us to stick around for that as well. It was tempting, but we had to meet Meadow back up the trail.
Dan drove back to his house and Risscuit and I decided to check our the homemade pies up the street. We walked away with local Vermont soda, a pint of ice cream and a blueberry and peach crumb topped pie. The pie weighed 2.8 pounds and we know because the lady at the store weighed it in front of us.
Risscuit and I each ate about a pound and then she stuffed the pint of ice cream down as well. I don’t know where she puts it all.
Around 3:00, we said our goodbyes to Dan and we were on our way back up the AT. We had about 9 miles to hike, but there were four climbs we needed to get over. Each climb was short but steep. We managed to reach the shelter around 6:50. Meadow had picked out a campsite and we set up our little homes for the night.
Today was one of those days that makes me understand why hikers keep going back to the AT. People have told us that the trail will call us back. Maybe not right away, but one day we’ll find ourselves back on the AT in some regard. After today’s adventure, I believe them.

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Risscuit and Meadow meeting Dan in front of his house

7-21
Day 131
Mile 1742.3
Avg miles per day
Trail Angel Greg’s House

The weather finally broke last night. I actually zipped my sleeping bag all the way up because I was a little cold. We woke up at 6:00 and hit the trail by 7:00. It was nice to want to get walking because we were kind of chilly.
The day started off with a 4 mile downhill decent into some marshy lands. The mosquitos came back to visit but they were not nearly as bad as Massachusetts was.
We stopped at Happy Hill Shelter to take a snack break and fill up on water. We met two Southbounders who told us about the terrain in New Hampshire and Maine. I looked at heir guide book and saw how many pages they had left. I then felt mine and realized I only had about 30 pages left. I have hiked over 1700 miles. It hit me at that time as to how much I’ve walked. Just looking at the Southbounder’s book made me realize how far I had come. It then dawned on me as to how far they still needed to go.
We hiked on another 3 miles and came to a road walk. We passed a few houses and then saw one had a cooler by their mailbox that had a sign on it that read “Trail Magic”. We stopped and took a look inside. There were fresh bagels, which is a rare surprise. There was a log book and a list of locals that allow hikers to stay at their house.
We called one number and it went straight to voicemail. The second one we called had a man named Greg on the other line. Greg offered to pick us up where we were and take us back to his place.
Ten minutes later, a black sedan pulled up and Greg stepped out and introduced himself. We piled out packs in his trunk and then hopped in his car. It was a short drive to his house, which was built in the early 1900’s I’d guess.
Greg showed us where we could drop our packs, which was on the side porch. He told us that we could hangout in the livingroom and to make ourselves at home in the kitchen. He had soda and beer waiting for a thirty hiker to stop by. He let us shower and do laundry as well.
Greg then said he needed to step out for two hours and when he came back, he would drive us into town so we could buy dinner. Not only was Greg allowing us to stay at his home free of charge, use his amenities but he was also going to let us stay inside his home while he left for two hours. I’d like to think I am as trusting and kind as Greg, but I think living in Los Angeles changed that.
When Greg came back, he drove us to the grocery store where we bought our dinner. We went back to his house and made salad, sandwiches, snacked on grapes and then topped it off with some chocolate cream pie.
All three of us were ready for bed at 8:45, which surprised Greg. I’m guessing other hikers stay up and enjoy the comforts of home a little while longer.
I went to sleep in a very comfortable bed with a box fan pointed at my feet. It felt amazing.

7-22
Day 132
Mile 1754.7
Avg miles per day 13.2
Tenting at Moose Mountain Shelter

Greg said that he needed to leave the house by 7:45 so we all woke up and were ready by 7:15. Greg was impressed that we were all dressed and waiting for him. I’m guessing that most hikers stay up late and are hard to get moving in the morning.
Greg had nicely bound books on his coffee table that had photos of the last two years of hikers that he had hosted. Before we left his house, Greg took photos of us holding a sign that had our trail names, direction, date and what number hiker we were to stay at his house. Last year Greg let 95 hikers stay at his house. Pretty amazing.
Greg dropped us off exactly where he picked us up the day before. Risscuit, Meadow and I started hiking down the trail, which was a 2.5 mile road walk, the longest on the trail. We crossed the Connecticut River and into New Hampshire. The trail then went through Dartmouth College and downtown Hanover. We stopped off at Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast and ate on some picnic benches on the sidewalk. Risscuit and Meadow had some errands to run, like go to the post office and the hardware store, so I stayed and watched their packs. I needed to purchase food at a grocery store, so we packed up and headed to the end of town. I resupplied and we were on our way back into the woods.
There was a slight climb out of town and then a lot of short ups and downs, which has been the usual thing for the terrain these days. Our miles of flat ground are gone for good I believe.
We ended up at our destination, which was a shelter that we planned to camp at. We arrived around 5:00, which was plenty early to get all your chores done.
After dinner, I had a hard time staying awake. I ended up falling asleep before 8:00.

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My photo for Greg’s 2013 book of hikers

7-23
Day 134
Mile 1772.4
Avg miles per day
Hexacuba Shelter

It started raining at 1:00am and kept going through the morning. I woke up at 6:00 and started to pack my things. Everything was soaked by the time I stuffed it in my pack. I was on the trail by 6:45.
We planned to hike 17.7 miles to a shelter. I stopped by the first shelter to have a snack and see who was there. Grandpa, Tall Boy, Tracker and Tracker’s dog, Dag, were there. We chatted for a few and then I went back into the rain.
Risscuit caught up to me when I got back on the trail. She said that Meadow wasn’t too far behind. We hiked on started a miserable climb up Smarts Mountain. The climb was about 2200 feet in elevation and it was covered in slick granite. Because it was raining, there were cascades running down the rock. We slowed our pace down and only managed two miles per hour for about six miles.
At the top of Smarts Mountain, there was a cabin that used to be used by a caretaker. Hikers now use it as a shelter. Risscuit and I stopped in to eat lunch. We also changed out of our wet clothes for the time being.
We planned to wait for Meadow and see if he wanted to keep hiking or stop there for the night. Two hours went by and he had not arrived yet.
Meadow and I both had chaffing on our backs and hips yesterday. Mine had become worse and moved to my inner thigh as well. I was wondering if Meadow was hurting bad and was taking his time.
About 2:30, Meadow walked into the shelter. He was all smiles and was ready to hike on. He stopped and ate a snack while Risscuit put our hiking clothes back on. We only had 5.3 miles left to hike, and most of it was downhill.
I left in some pain because of the chaffing. Risscuit had the idea for me to explain an entire movie to her so I’d keep my mind off the discomfort. She had never seen Jaws and I know every scene I’m that movie. It managed to take up 4 miles, which was perfect.
We arrived at the shelter around 5:30. It was already pretty full and we knew people were behind us. It would be a cozy night for sure.

7-24
Day 135
Mile 1787.2
Avg miles per day
Hikers Welcome Hostel

When I started this hike, I loved the idea of staying in a shelter. I didn’t have to setup my tent, you could socialize and sleep under a roof. My opinion of shelters started to change around the midway point. I now would rather setup my tent, in the rain, than sleep in a shelter.
I woke up at 6:00am to hikers starting to move around. I normally wake up around this time, but I find it annoying being woken up by someone else. This is the main reason why I prefer tenting these days. Half of the shelter started to cook and pack their gear and the other half stayed in their sleeping bags, pretending they were asleep.
I took my time getting ready this morning. I was being slow because everything I owned was wet from the day before. I was not looking forward to putting wet clothes, socks and shoes on. I had done this many times before, I have even put frozen shoes on many times. For some reason, I was not in the mood on this morning. The time finally came and I slipped my wet, muddy socks onto my feet.
The trail was soaking wet this morning. This means that there was mud coating the trail. Deep mud. The kind of mud that wants to steel your shoe and makes a sucking noise as you pull it out.
The chaffing on my inner thighs, back and hips was not hurting as badly as the day before. My feet on the other hand, started to get sore. They had been in wet shoes for two days straight. Again, I’ve been in wet shoes for longer periods of time, but the heat must be taking a tole on my skin. It cannot dry properly anymore. Luckily, the dark clouds above us did not let go of any rain today and make matters worse.
During our lunch break, I told Risscuit that I planned on stopping a mile short for the day so I could stay at a hostel. I wanted to make sure my feet and other sore areas would mend before we enter The White Mountains.
Risscuit agreed to come along and so did Meadow. We met at the road crossing and hiked up the road to the Hikers Welcome Hostel.
The hostel is nothing special. They give you a bunk, an outdoor shower, laundry and a chance to get a ride into town. Most hostels on the trail try to make their place unique by giving away ice cream or being on a working farm. This place was a roof over my head and a dry bed. It was all I needed to recharge my battery.

7-25
Day 136
Mile 1804.0
Avg miles per day
Tenting at Eliza Brook Shelter

I woke up around 6:00am and climbed down off my bunk. Meadow was in the bed below and was looking at something on his phone. He motioned “Good Morning” as I took a seat on the couch and started to eat breakfast. Risscuit woke up a few minutes later and we all started to pack our bags and get ready for our day.
Right off the bat we had a river to ford. We all took our shoes and socks off and put our camp shoes on to cross the water. When safely across, we put our shoes and socks back on and started a 3,800 foot climb to the top of Mt. Mousalauke.
The climb up Mousalauke is the second steepest climb on the AT. Katahdin takes the cake for the steepest. We kept at a slow pace for the entire climb. When at the top, we all felt as though the climb wasn’t that bad. The view was amazing. We had 360 degrees and soaked it in. Clouds were starting to roll up the side of the mountain and it gave us a chill. It put my rain jacket on for the climb down. This climb was our introduction to The White Mountains. Lets just say I’m looking forward to the next four or five days.
The climb down was straight down. Every step was long and every landing was hard. Most of the time we were stepping on granite boulders placed in the formation of stairs and other times there were wooden blocks secured in the rock face that we stepped down. All I can say is that I’m glad we didn’t have rain when going down.
At the bottom of the mountain we still had 9 more miles to hike. It was nearly 3:00 already. Judging by the first 8 miles, it was sure to be a late evening.
We still had one more climb to get over for the day. It stretched out over five miles and felt like it would never end. The terrain was full of roots, large rocks, bogs and short climbs up boulders. We were slowed to less than a two mile an hour pace.
At the top of the climb we had a view of the Presidential Range. We could see Mt. Washington in the far distance. There was a cloud looming next to it, which was fitting.
I jumped ahead and hiked alone for the last three miles of the day. I was starving and couldn’t wait to get to the shelter and eat.
I arrived at 6:45, which is very late for only hiking 17 miles in a day. I felt beat up. Today was one of the toughest days on the trail so far.
People say that when you reach this point, you’ve completed 80% of the trail but only used 20% of your effort. After today, I’ll believe it.
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Meadow and Risscuit on the South summit of Mt. Mousalauke

7-26
Day 137
Mile 1812.8
Avg miles per day
Chet’s Place, Lincoln, NH

I woke up at 6:15 and pretended to be asleep. If I moved around, it would signal Risscuit and Meadow to start waking up. I wanted to sleep longer, so stayed still as possible. Around 7:00, Risscuit started moving around, so Meadow and I started moving too.
We started hiking around 8:30, which was later than I wanted. I figured it was ok because we were only hiking 8 miles into town.
We started our 2 mile accent up Mt. Kinsman Mountain. We were on a rock scramble the entire way up. We hiked at a one mile an hour pace. The climb was tedious and drained our energy with every large boulder step we took. When we reached the top, we were above tree line. The view we had made me appreciate what we went through to reach the top. There were clouds moving in on top of the valley below. We watched the clouds form for about ten minutes and moved on.
The decent down Mt. Kinsman was borderline torture. The elevation was steep, the rocks we needed to step on were large drops or far apart and always wet. We all slipped at least once, luckily none of us fell down though.
The Whites have huts that guests can stay at for a hefty price of $125 a night. The fee buys you dinner, breakfast, a bunk, and a shared privy. We have been joking about these huts for weeks. We cannot believe that someone would pay $125 for a bunk. Thruhikers can stay for free and do work-for-stays. They eat the leftover food, after the paid guests have eaten.
We stopped into Lonesome Lake Hut, which is our first but visit. We have heard the huts leave leftover breakfast out for thruhikers passing by. We figured we’d tryout luck and see what was left out.
We entered the dining hall of the hut and were greeted by five employees. They showed us a pan of cold pancakes that we could eat. There were about 100 pancakes in the pan. I wanted to eat them all. I took a stack of eight and ate it like a sandwich.
During my second stack of eight pancakes, two women checked into the hut. It was them and two teenage girls. That’s a price tag of $500 for the night. One of the woman asked if there was anything they could eat. One of the employees showed her some soup and the woman jumped with joy, like she hadn’t had real food in days. All three of us looked at each other and made a “are you serious” face. The woman clearly had been in a town that morning. We sat there eating our cold pancakes in disgust.
It’s a hard thing to explain feeling like a second class citizen. I felt as though the scraps were good enough for me and I was excited to eat them.
The Whites have not only been tough but a little confusing too. We got turned around twice and had to backtrack. I was frustrated after leaving the hut. We still had three miles to go and it was already 12:15. I thought we’d be done by noon. The three miles were easier, luckily.
We reached the road crossing where we planned to go into town. We hitched and got a ride in about five minutes. We were dropped off in Lincoln and we walked up to the local outfitter. My Jetboil (stove) could not thread onto a fuel canister anymore. I needed to buy a new one, which are not cheap.
We then walked over to a guy Chet’s place, where he has outfitted his garage with bunks. We dropped our stuff off and then walked over to eat at a Mexican restaurant. Meadow treated Risscuit and I to dinner, which was awesome. Meadow and I then walked over to Subway to eat our second dinner. Risscuit went to Price Chopper to buy some desserts.
Chet’s place was packed when we got back. There was a good mixture of North and South bounders. I know it’s going to be a late night because everyone is having beer and chatting.

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Risscuit hiking up Mt. Kinsman

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Categories: AT Hike | 2 Comments

Heat Wave

7-3
Day 113
Mile 1517.7
Avg miles per day 13.4
Holiday Inn, Great Barrington, MA

Risscuit and I were meeting her parents in Great Barrington, MA today. We planned on hiking about 8 miles and meeting them at a restaurant.
The 8 miles was fairly easy. It was mostly downhill or flat. There was a one mile section with slippery, wet rocks that we needed to take our time on, but the second half of the day was flat trail with pine needles. The mosquitos were only bad a few times as well. We’ll go through these pockets where they swarm us and we almost need to run to get rid of them.
We reached the road crossing and walked up to the designated meeting place. Risscuit’s parents pulled in as soon as we were walking up. It was perfect timing.
We decided that we would head to West Hartford to an REI because Risscuit wanted to look at new packs and I needed new shoes.
It was over an hour car ride on small, country highways. Needless to say, we both became a little car sick. I got it worse though. This one downhill felt like I was on a roller coaster. I couldn’t imagine flying in an airplane right now. I’d be sick the entire flight.
We arrived at REI and purchased our new gear. My Brooks Cascadias had lasted almost 1200 miles. I was happy to get new ones but it was a bit sad tossing the dirty ones away. We had been through so much together. Risscuit ended up getting a new pack while we were there.
The drive back to town was long in the sense that I was trying to keep my car sickness at bay. I tried to sleep most of the way. We arrived at the Holiday Inn, where Risscuit’s parents had purchased a room for us to stay. It was beyond generous of them.
Risscuit and I unpacked a little, showered and then went over to her parent’s room where we ate and looked though photos of baby Risscuit. We then went to resupply, which her parents paid for (!!! Thank you again !!!) and then we did laundry.
After the long day with hiking, car rides and food eating and purchasing, we both crashed in amazingly comfortable beds.

7-4
Day 114
Mile 1524.1
Avg miles per day 13.3
Camping at Tom Leonard Shelter

Risscuit and I slept in a little and then enjoyed the hotel’s breakfast. We then packed our food into our bags and rejoined with her parents. Risscuit shared photos from the trip and we told stories about the journey.
We then packed up as much left over food as possible and headed out to the car. We bummed around downtown Great Barrington a little bit. We stopped into a toy store for about an hour then looked through an antique shop. Her parents then treated us to lunch, which was very nice of them, once again.
We then drove around for a little trying to find a nice park to relax at so Risscuit could share the rest of her photos. It was harder to find a park then we thought, so we settled on a parking lot next to some woods. It was perfect though, since we were barely out of reach from the mosquitos.
It was about 4:30 and Risscuit and I had planned to hike about 6 miles to a shelter outside of town. Her parents dropped us off at the trail head to say goodbyes and take some photos.
It was a pleasure meeting Risscuit’s parents. I felt like part of the family while spending time with them. They were beyond generous and helpful. They were also so proud and excited about what their daughter was doing. I think that was the most touching part of their visit.
After being dropped off, Risscuit and I started our 6 mile hike, which was mainly uphill. We arrived at the shelter a little after 7:00 and setup our tents near a cliff with a view. I am on a bit of a slant, but I’m hoping I won’t roll over too fast!

7-5
Day 115
Mile 1545.1
Avg miles per day 13.4
Stealth camping by Goose Pond

I slept poorly last night. The slant I was on was a little too much for comfort. I felt like I had to keep myself from rolling over all night. It seems that I always get my best sleep from 5 to 6am, but this morning some crows were my alarm clock and they decided to start being active around 5:30.
Risscuit and I packed up and were on the trail by 7:30. We didn’t really know what our plan was today, we were just going to hike. There was a free cabin about 22 miles away, but with the weather forecasting low 90 degree temperatures, 22 miles didn’t seem too appealing.
It felt hot by 8:30 and we were both covered in sweat already. We decided to take a rest five miles into the day at a shelter. I was exhausted already and Risscuit was hungry. We stopped for about 20 minutes so I could try to nap. We hiked on and had some tough climbs before lunch. The heat and my poor nights rest was taking a toll on my energy level. We hiked 11 miles before stopping for lunch. We took an hour and a half break in the shade. For some reason this made us more tired and we both dragged our packs back onto the trail.
Risscuit seemed less bothered by the heat today, so she got a little ways ahead of me on a climb we had. I was struggling to make it up Baldy Mountain during the hottest part of the day. It took me about twice as long as a similar climb like that should. Risscuit was waiting at the top for me. I was a little bit out of it. I knew I was a little dehydrated and suffering from mild heat stroke. There was nowhere to camp though, so we pushed on.
Again, we didn’t plan to hike 22 miles at the start of the day, but the closer we got, the more it looked like that was our future. There were no spots to camp, which is happening the further we get North. In the South, there are stealth spots every tenth of a mile it seems.
Risscuit was a good distance ahead when I was walking around Goose Pond, where the free cabin was. She was stopped at a campsite, 1/10th of a mile from the cabin. I dropped my pack in an exhausted manor and we decided to stay for the night.
After drinking 2 liters of water and eating my dinner, I started to feel much better.

7-6
Day 116
Mile 1556.3
Avg miles per day 13.4
Camping at the Cookie Lady’s house

We decided to sleep in this morning. I knew I’d need more sleep because I was so exhausted from the day before. When I got out of my tent to retrieve my food bag, I felt almost the same as I did from the night before. It’s slight nausea mixed with lethargy.
I got back in my tent and ate my breakfast, even though I really didn’t want to. I also drank about 1/2 liter of water. We packed up and started to hike. About 30 minutes in I felt almost as bad as I did from the day before. I knew then that I’d given myself heat stroke the day before.
I don’t know what it is about me, maybe stubbornness or not wanting to lose my pride or maybe it’s stupidity, but I kept on hiking. I think every true thruhiker has this personality trait though. We don’t give up at the level of discomfort. We think “Well, someone else has been in the same situation or worse, so why should I give in?”
I finally told Risscuit that I wasn’t feeling well and she said we should stop to take a rest. That’s why you hike with someone you trust, they will always tell you when you’re being stupid and not try to push you more.
We ended up stopping a few times to fill up water and eat. I started to feel a little better but not 100%. I will add that we could not simply stop hiking and setup camp, because there was nowhere to setup. The area we hiked today was either dense woods or rocky and rooted areas.
We finally made it about 9 miles to a shelter. I ate a little then took a 45 minute nap. I woke up around 2:30 with the intention of packing up and heading out to hike. When I woke up my stomach was bothering me a little though. I went to the woods and had diarrhea. I then had it three more times, spread out over the next 30 minutes. “Uh oh…is my system shutting down?” I thought.
Risscuit decided to try to find a place to camp around the shelter but there were no good flat spots. Our only option was to hike another two miles to a road crossing where a woman and man own a blueberry farm where they allow hikers to camp for free. I waited a few more minutes, drank some more water, ate a snack and then we headed out.
About 15 minutes into the hike I had to pee. “It’s clear!” I shouted out, and turned the stream so Risscuit could see it. She was clearly impressed and I was very excited. Clear pee meant I was getting better, in my mind anyways.
We made it to the farm and we plopped our stuff down. We were greeted by the man and woman who own the house. She brought out fresh baked cookies for us and the man spoke to us a little about our hike. We asked if we could setup our tent on their lawn and they agreed.
Risscuit and I fell in love with their property. They have about 20 acres with a barn for chickens, the blueberry bushes and lots of freshly mowed grass. We talked about taking a half day tomorrow and offering our labor to pay them back for letting us stay.
We spoke with the man and he said he could use some help with mowing the blueberry patches, so tomorrow morning, Risscuit and I will be put to work!

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The Cookie Lady’s House

7-7
Day 117
Mile 1565.8
Avg miles per day 13.3
Tom Levardi’s House

Risscuit and I met up with Roy, the owner of the house we stayed at, and told him we were ready to work. He said he needed help mowing, so we walked over to the garage to fetch the mower. Roy pulls out a classic looking red mower, that every home owner had in the 80’s. I notice the safety bar under the handle has been removed, so I’m wondering how to stop the mower.
Roy explains that he needs us to cut the grass between the blueberry bushes. He hands Risscuit a rake and tells us that it’s easier to pull the grass away from the bushes and then mow around them. He moves the mower towards me as if he is passing it off and “Chop, chop! Onto the days work, kids!” Before I could ask how to turn the mower off, if I needed to, Roy pointed to a black wire coming out from the motor. He told us to just touch the wire to anything metal and the mower would shut off. I looked at him with a “You want me to do what?” face. He responded back “It won’t shock you.”
Risscuit and I walked over to the bushes and began our morning of raking and mowing. It was 8:30am when we started. Roy didn’t ask how long we would work and we didn’t tell him how long we planned. Risscuit and I planned to work until noon, then eat lunch and then hike 10 miles to Dalton, MA.
Mowing the bushes was harder then we anticipated. The grass had grown in a lot and in some places were up to my waist. This is why we needed to rake the grass down and away from the bushes, and then mow it. It took us about 30 minutes to get the first row done. Roy had done 4 rows the other day and after our first one, we had 6 more to go. We figured we could get all 6 done by lunch.
Risscuit and I switched back and forth from raking to mowing. We worked almost nonstop until 12:30 when we completed all the rows.
Roy came out and was ecstatic. He told us he didn’t think we’d stay that long and do that much work. After doing the work, I realized that he would have struggled a lot with it. It felt good to have helped him out.
He brought us each a Coke and a Klondike bar to split. He also brought us another basket of fresh, baked cookies, of course.
Risscuit and I ate lunch, said our goodbyes and then headed onto the trail. A thunderstorm was approaching as we were leaving but we thought we could dodge it. The rain came about 30 minutes into our hike but it never poured. It really only rained for about 30 minutes, but it dropped from the trees the rest of our time hiking.
We strolled into Dalton around 5:00pm. Our guide book explained there was a house that the owner let hikers set up their tents at. We planned to stay there and walk into town to get dinner and resupply for the next few days.
We arrived at Tom Levardi’s house, which the AT went in front of, literally in front. The AT was on the sidewalk in front of his house. We walked up his front steps and knocked on his door. He was on the phone and asked us to hold on a minute. We stepped down off the porch and waited for him to come out. When he was off the phone, he came out and we asked him if we could set up our tents in his yard. He told us he had some room inside the house if we wanted to stay there instead. This was an easy answer for us, so we said “Yes!”
Tom went over the rules of the house and told us we could use the shower and he was going to do laundry as well. He showed us all the rooms upstairs where we could stay.
I didn’t know when he planned to do laundry, so I asked him if it would be alright if Risscuit and I walked into town to eat dinner, then showered and then passed him our laundry. He said “Well, I’m actually planning on making dinner, so you can eat with me if you’d like.”
It was amazing, Tom had not named a price for anything yet, and he kept on giving. I then asked him how late the market would be open on a Sunday night to which he said “Don’t worry, I’ll run you down to Price Chopper after dinner.”
Risscuit and I both showered and then Tom told us that dinner was ready. He had baked potatoes with carrots, peas, bread, kielbasa, pork chops and sweet potato pie and ice cream for dessert. It was amazing.
Tom shared stories about other hikers who he had met. He said he had been letting hikers stay at his place for almost 30 years. He also said that he only puts that he allows camping in the book, because he would have hikers lined up at the door if he even mentioned the word “free” at all.
After dinner, we ran up to the grocery store and then Risscuit and I went upstairs to go to sleep. Tom refused any help with the dishes or any other household chore.

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The Legend, Tom Levardi

7-8
Day 118
Miles 1579.7
Avg miles per day 13.3
Mark Noepel Shelter

In the morning, Tom had made coffee and he put out bagels, breads and donuts. Risscuit and I spoke to him about our stories on the trail and he told us more stories about his hiker encounters. After breakfast, we packed up and were on our way. I offered Tom a donation but he wouldn’t take it.
I cannot say enough good things about Tom. He has been helping hikers longer then I’ve been alive. He seems to love the daily company and to hear our stories. I think that is what he considers his “pay”.
Risscuit and I were going to hike about 15 miles up to a shelter. We have our first serious climb today since we left Virginia. We are tackling the first part of Mount Greylock, which is Massachusetts’ highest point. The shelter we plan to stay at is halfway up the climb.
We ate the first ten miles of the day up really fast. We stopped for lunch and then started our climb. The elevation in our guide book looked a lot worse then it actually felt, or we’ve slowly worked our way back up to the climbs. Either way, I was happy to have hiked 15 miles in a relatively fast pace.
We arrived at the shelter and it had been commandeered by a group of Boyscouts. They had taken all the good camping so we decided to sleep in the shelter. Luckily, the bugs were at bay in this area and the shelter looks in good shape.

7-9
Day 119
Mile 1596.2
Avg miles per day 13.4
Camping at Seth Warner Shelter

Risscuit and I started out on the second half of our climb up Mt. Greylock. It was a little foggy out and when we reached the tower, it was barely visible. There is an inn at the top of the mountain so we went inside to see if they sold patches (which they didn’t), use the restrooms and get rid of some trash.
We then walked up to the tower and met a couple in there mid 50’s, I’d guess. The man was working on completing the high point in all fifty states. Being on top of Mt. Greylock was number 35. Awhile back on the trail, I had the same idea, so it was interesting meeting someone working on that same goal.
The climb down Mt. Greylock was like taking two steps forward and one step back. We’d decent for a few hundred feet then climb one hundred feet. It wasn’t until after three miles of uphill that we went straight down. This is normal for when you’re entering a town, which we were.
We had a one mile road walk which led us to an intersection that we could go West to Williamstown or East to North Adams. North Adams had a Friendly’s restaurant 0.7 miles away, so we decided to take a rest and get out of the heat.
Two hours, a burger and a root beer float later, we were back to hiking. There were thunderstorm clouds forming overhead and we had a climb back out of town. We figured we were going to get soaked but we hiked on anyways. We passed a trail called “The Bad Weather Trail”, which usually means its a bypass trail of a peak that you’d want to avoid during a storm. Those trails are also usually longer and skip the view at the top. It had not started to rain yet so we stayed on the AT.
There were a few loud booms of thunder and one good strike of lightning, but that was it. We made it over safe and dry.
A few miles later we passed into Vermont and started a 105 mile section where the AT meets up with The Long Trail, which is one of the oldest long trails in the US.
The last few miles before we reached the shelter where we were staying, we noticed it had rained a lot. We must have missed the storm by an hour or so. The shelter was full and there were a lot of people camping. It was the most crowded I’d seen a shelter in a while. A lot of them were starting The Long Trail and were in the shelter. Risscuit and I had no issues with setting up our tents though.

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Mt. Greylock

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Vermont!!

7-10
Day 120
Mile 1607.7
Avg miles per day 13.3
My Dad’s place

My Dad was picking Risscuit and I up at a road crossing in Bennington today. It was about a 12 mile which is close to a full day for us lately.
It rained in the morning before we woke up so the trail was full of mud and deep puddles. We couldn’t avoid the mud so we just walked through it. There were a few times when the puddles were deeper then our shoes and we had a foot full of mud.
When we reached the road crossing where my dad was, we were covered in mud.
From the start of the trail, I had been looking forward to seeing my dad. Since I’ve been living on the West coast, I only see my dad about twice a year. I felt like I’d never reach Vermont when I started in Georgia. A little part of me felt like my time on the trail was going fast and I’d be in Vermont in no time. Week after week, I felt like I was getting farther away rather the closer. Needless to say, it was a relief strolling into the parking lot where he was parked.
My dad, Risscuit and I packed into his car and drove back to his place so we could shower. We then went grocery shopping and filled up on some treats.
It was nice having a roof overhead, a flush toilette and a fridge stocked with food if I wanted it.

7-11
Day 121
Mile 1607.7
Avg miles per day 13.2
My Dad’s place

We planned to take a zero day today. I made a toasted bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. It was amazing. We then went up to the local book store which was a cafe inside of it. We sat for about two hours as I planned the rest of the hike up to Katahdin. I was trying to figure out an end date so my family can come spend the final day with me. As of right now, that date is August 21st.
We had plans to meet up with some of my dad’s friends for dinner. They have been following my blog, so I was excited to chat with them and answer questions they might have.
We drove over to Erin and Scott’s house to enjoy a fabulously cooked meal of fresh venison sausages, cheeseburgers, salads and amazing homemade dressing. Cindy also made the trip over for the dinner. Cindy had helped out a few hikers before and it was fun hearing her stories.
Dinner was very enjoyable, not only because of the food and company, but because it was a change of pace from how we normally eat. Risscuit and I shared our horror stories and then our best days on the trail. After dinner we were treated to ice cream with maple syrup from their sugar house. It was splendid.
We then walked around their property and views the pigs that will be bacon soon and their blueberry bushes. I was very jealous of their home and land.
It was passed hiker’s midnight by the time we left. Risscuit and I planned to hike 23 miles the next day, so we needed to get some rest.

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Erin and Scott’s property

7-12
Day 122
Mile 1630.3
Avg miles per day 13.3
My Dad’s place

My dad dropped us off at the trail at 8:45am. Risscuit and I both planned to slackpack today. It was our first time doing this and it took a lot of back-and-forthing before we decided to hike without our full packs. When I started the trail, I swore I wouldn’t slackpack. After having hiked over 1600 miles, I figured I owed myself a treat of a lighter pack on a 23 mile day that included a 10 mile climb to start. What a treat, right?
The 10 mile climb was tough even without our packs on. We managed to keep a 3 MPH pace up it though. We stopped and ate lunch on top of a fire tower that had an outstanding view. We were above all the tops of the pine trees and it looked like an ocean full of them. They were all the same height and the forest stretched forever.
With three miles left on our day, we stopped at a shelter and had a great surprise. Our friend Meadow Flapjack was there, which was an unexpected reunion. It was a pleasure seeing him again. After catching up for about 30 minutes, Risscuit and I continued our hike and met back up with my dad. We went to a Mexican restaurant and then went back to his place to shower and watch a movie. What a tough few days on the trail this has been…ha-ha!

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View from the fire tower

7-13
Day 123
Mile 1647.8
Avg miles per day 13.3
My Dad’s place

After slackpacking yesterday, Risscuit and I decided to hike with our full packs, minus our food resupply. We didn’t want to get use to a lightweight pack and then strap on our full packs after leaving my dad’s.
The plan today was to hike 18 miles and be picked up in Manchester Center. We only had one climb, and that was over Stratton Mountain. There was a fire tower at the top but the view was fogged in a little. We could barely make out some lakes below us.
Leaving Stratton Mountain, we passed by about 5 Southbound thruhikers. It was our first large group we had run across. We stopped and chatted with the first two we saw. They were so excited to be passed the 1/4 way point, which meant that we were close to the 3/4 way point. Our excitement level was not nearly as enthused as theirs was but I remember how thrilled I was when we passed our 1/4 way point. I think after being on the trail for so long, that milestones tend to mean less and the final goal of Katahdin is what we are really looking forward to.
Risscuit and I stopped at a pond to eat lunch. We ate quickly though, as we still needed to hike 11 miles. I had told my dad that we would be finished by about 4:00pm. I walked into the parking lot where my dad was meeting us at 3:58. Not bad timing I must say. As he had done the previous three days, my dad had ice cold cans of Coke waiting for us. What a guy!
We drove into town and dropped Risscuit off because I needed to go to the outfitter. After picking up what I needed, we saw two hikers heading back to the trail, so we picked them up and drove them back to the trail.
My dad planned to take us out to dinner that night so we showered and put on our best hiker clothes.
We stuffed ourselves and then made another trip up to the trail to pick up Meadow Flapjack, because he hiked in late and needed a ride to the local hostel.
My dad, Risscuit and I then went back and watched a movie and went to bed.

7-14
Day 124
Mile 1658.4
Avg miles per day 13.3
Camping by Griffith Lake

We got a late start to the morning because we planned to pick Meadow Flapjack up at the hostel and take him to the grocery store and the outfitter. My dad dropped us off at the trail head around 11:00am. We said our goodbyes and walked down the trail.
It was great to breakup this hike by seeing my dad. He was a huge help, not only to us, but other hikers along the way.
Risscuit, Meadow and I hiked almost the entire day together. It was so much fun to be back with Meadow again. He is good company.
The views we had today gave me confidence that the White Mountains will have spectacular views. It’s been awhile since we have had consistently good views, and Vermont is making me realize how boring the Mid-Atlantic sections were for vistas.
We only hiked 11 miles today because we started so late. We found a great campsite right next to a lake. The air was cooler and the frogs sang all night.

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Campsite for the night

7-15
Day 125
Mile 1672.4
Avg miles per day 13.3
Tenting at Greenwall Shelter

All three of us slept in this morning. We didn’t start hiking until 8:30. It was ok though. The view we had in the morning was worth a few extra minutes in camp.
We walked at a slower pace today. Meadow Flapjack joked that we had slowed down for him and that we were going at his “geriatric pace”.
The day before we heard from a local that we would cross by a pond that had rocks we could jump off. We figured out that we would pass by it around our lunch time today. We stopped for two hours to swim and jump off some rocks. It was a perfect temperature, both the air and the water.
We only had five more miles to hike before we reached the shelter we planned to stay at. On the way there, we passed by two areas that hikers had made hundreds of cairns at.They ranged from large structures with bridges to small, creative ones. There were even some in trees. Both areas gave me strange feelings though, as if aliens had placed the rocks there.
We arrived at the shelter and setup our tents. It’s been so much fun hiking with Risscuit and Meadow Flapjack. We are all on the same page about having a good time while still getting some miles done.

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“Give me your funny face!”

7-16
Day 126
Mile 1681.2
Avg miles per day 13.3
Tenting at Clarendon Shelter

Once again, we slept in and did not start hiking until 8:30ish. We believe it’s the heat that is making us lazy and tired.
Risscuit and Meadow both have mail drops waiting for them in Hanover, NH, which has been causing issues for us. Our scheduled arrival date for Hanover is Saturday night or Sunday. We’ve been trying to figure out the best way to approach the problem.
Yesterday, we agreed to hike lower miles and arrive in Hanover on Sunday, take the rest of the day off and then retrieve the package on Monday morning. With the weather as hot as its been, we didn’t want to increase our mileage to get there by Friday.
Today was an easy day. We had planned to hike about 15 miles to a shelter but the shelter we stopped at for lunch was so nice that we decided to stop here for the day. We only hiked 8.8 miles.
The shelter has green grass out front (very rare for shelters), a perfect stream running next to it and pine needle blankets to setup our tents on.
We all took about four hours worth of naps this afternoon, which makes me think we all needed the rest. Lets hope we can still fall asleep tonight.

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Clarendon Shelter

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