What do hikers do on a dat off? Simply watch hiking movies, talk hiking, and eat...
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Easing myself out of a Trail Angel's pick up, I thought nothing of the bad weather not forecasted. Up out of the parking lot I rose to the ridge line above. I pushed on under beautiful sky. The trail at times requiring the use of my hands on the rocks to pull me up. Other times I used the trekking poles to push or balance.
I made Lonesome Lake Hut past the hour to ask for work for stay. I went in anyways and asked. Two other thru-hikers already there meant a yes near impossible. I got it. I took a quick swim to wash off before coming back to the porch to wait for the call for us to eat and work. WFS at the huts mean we get to eat left overs after thr paying guests finish, do some kind of chore, and sleep on the dinning room floor between lights out and the setting for breakfast.
The chore, inventory and clean the chest freezer. The meal, pulled pork, the sleep, meh, I don't care to sleep on floors. This night I did get a view of the galaxy above through the window. To see the stars, wow. I'd like to say I see them often, in reality, I seldom do for the trees.
In the morning, I waited until after breakfast before pushing on. The forecast changed over night from not a problem & enjoy the views to be ready for rain and winds on the ridges. Today, the near the top winds pushed me around. I chose to detour from my goal and bail out to Greenleaf Hut. I got WFS of washing dishes. There ended up being six they'd that evening. Very late, a young family comes in and the crew took care of them. This family on a day hike realized they weren't going to get back to their car and detoured as well. Kudos to the dad and the croo's for taking care of the family.
The wind whipped all night long. A thick cloud blew on the mountain. The mountain I needed to get back on top of. I waited until the reading of the weather report and grabbed a little breakfast leftovers. The day more wind in exposed areas, damp with high chance of rain later on. I hiked a good portion of the day in rain gear while above tree line. Below tree line, I wore a long sleeved shirt, shorts, and a scarf.
I made a tired decision and bailed to a campsite where I did WFS again with the emphasis, I won't stir the privy compost. I picked up the little micro trash instead and talked with a host of weekenders. There are six tent platforms and a shelter that accommodates fourteen. It's all full, tally is 36.
I write in pieces. At this moment it is raining. Tomorrow, I'm sure more of the same. What's making the misery of the White's different from that of the Smokies is I'm dry. My feet down south were wet for 5 days. I've only had my feet wet once here due to muck. I'm sure that could change but let's hope not. More as I continue.
Aug 25, as the week continued, the weather improved. The sky I woke to on the next day, clear and bright. I'd like to say I made fast miles however the ruggedness of the White's kept me slow. I kept a pace that got me into the next notch in time to grab a bite to eat from a snack bar before they closed. After the quick bite of daily leftovers, six hot dogs and two slices of pizza, I found a stealth site to camp. Stealth camping is no trace camping amped up and typically done where not allowed. In this case not a lot of options so I did.
In the morning I climbed up the trail of Webster's Cliffs, over to the next hut and then on to Lake of the Clouds. Another WFS opportunity and an awesome sky of stars to see from the floor of the dining hall.
On August 25, the time came to hike over Mount Washington. This mountain's weather is known for being the worst in the lower 48 and can change instantly from being great to below miserable. I lucked out all day. It was sunny and slightly cloudy. The hike over to the next notch, harsh. Think stair masters on broken glass except after getting on top of the mountain, all down hill.
Now there's a lot of details I am leaving out as this post is bordering on being lengthy. As I lay again in the hammock, I think of the little stories the last week encapsulates. Little things like asking for leftovers and leaving full. Like asking how far the next land mark will take to reach and getting a snack. About hiking with a family of thru-hikers and learning of the lifestyle they've chosen for this year. Which story is my favorite? It's hard to say, other then asking which do you want to hear.
Tomorrow, more up and up as I hit the Carter Ridge. Soon the White's will come to a close.
I'm sitting in White Mountains Hostel, the White's officially behind me. I did WFS at Carter Notch Hut. Love the intimacy of the hut however the walls of the notch intimidating, steep beyond imagination. Once going, it wasn't so bad, steps most of the way with sticky slabs in other areas, up 1500 feet gain Plus. The ridge easy comparative, then the drop. The drop, at times I looked over a few sloping areas to see 'oh my!' Only to get halfway down and realize the drop was only half as bad, the next half added the punctuation mark. Thankfully those parts were few. I stayed at a shelter for the night before a quick drop into the hostel.
The White's took a lot out of me and gave me renewed sense if awe and wonder. The rumors of the White's being brutal are true as well as understated. My truth for the White's rugged awesomeness requiring huge amounts of humility. One cannot hike the AT alone, even less the White's. Don't try to keep up with people yet don't forget to enjoy them. Remember to look behind you as it may prevent you from hiking the wrong way and you may get views not expected.
As I wrap this up, I've left out a lot of details. Stories and details that just can't be added due to time and space.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
I've arrived at one of the last great challenges of the AT. This is also one of the greatest sections. This is the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
On Aug 18 I got a taste of them with a slack pack over Mount Moosilaki, okay my spelling is off. The day began from Hikers Welcome Hostel with breakfast and loading into cars. I hiked with Conductor, Blood Cookie, and Jolley Green Giant. These three I've stayed and hiked with over the last few weeks.
We went to the North side to hike back to the hostel. Up a rain slicked trail we followed a water fall. Steeper then what I want to come down with a pack. The guys spread out with the pace and soon I was listening to my own steps.
As I climbed, I met NoBo's with packs on. Several of whom I haven't seen for quite a while. One can oftentimes be half a day away from someone for weeks and never know it.
Nearing the top, the trees got shorter and denser. I tugged on my hat and made ready for the cold wind. The clouds hadn't broken yet for the day. I took a hit as the wind bit into my face. Visablity, but a few hundred feet, carins built to be seen, stood in the mist.
Nearing the top, rock walled wind pits held shelter against the bitterness. I hunkered down for a few minutes with two others hopping the clouds would break and the view open up. After half an hour I gave up and pushed on.
The way down, just as steep and slick as the way up. Shortly after making the tree line, I took off the rain gear I used to block the wind. A few minutes later the sky cleared. I'd have to see someone else's photos for the view. I wasn't going to go back up.
Carefully, I picked my way down. Past other hikers, I could see why after passing so many NoBo's, the SoBo's grunt at us. There's a lot of people going North.
At the roadway I walked back to the hostel to wrap up a few chores and kick back with other guests.
The morning after the wooded zero, I repacked my rucksack twice looking for things. First, it was for my journal then for my tent stakes. Later, I paniced as I went over the VT/NH bridge fearing I left my SPOT at the shelter. I even made contingency plans to try to get it without hiking 11 miles back the way I came. Most recently, I left two tent stakes behind.
Routine is the way I prevent loosing things out here. Everything has a place in the pack. Everything has a place in camp. It's when the routine gets up set that things go missing. Most of the time loss of something is only temporary. I'll find it because I didn't remember to place it in that spot instead placing it elsewhere.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
The deafening roar of rain on a tin shelter roof is the music I listen to right now, 9 am. I put in a 22 mile day to get within half a day's hike from my next resupply point, Hanover. The forecast called for 3 to 5 inches of rain in the next day, which is today. I took full advantage of the smooth mud free trail from Stony Brook to Thistle Mountain.
Last night, there were 5 hikers staying. One needed to push on weather depending or not. Two others decided to go in spite of the rain. I lay back thinking in need coffee but, will settle for tea since I ran out of coffee a few days ago. The last fellow hiker lays on his mat reading his kindle.
Puddles form at the roof's drip line. I ponder if there are hikers on the trail bound for this shelter or if they'll deli blaze and stay at a barn near the convenience store where the farmer let's hikers stay. There is one other older shelter that hikers may detour to about 2 miles back from where I'm at.
The rain continued to pour down until 6:30. Since then the water's been dripping off the trees. Tomorrow should be good Vermud hiking into New Hampshire.
As the day progressed the few hikers that came through stayed. Three SoBo's came in. Two of them married were excited when they crossed paths with their friend from earlier up north. Most had stopped for a break and stayed. Four NoBo's I've hiked with the last week planned to stay at this place. The NoBo's stayed at the red barn on VT 12 last night.
As folks came in with wet gear, drying lines began to criss cross the front of the shelter. At one point the lines looked like a yard sale.
We are 8 in the shelter. The shelter shuffle began hours ago as dinner and snacks came out, hot water boiled, and some shared goodies. The one drippy spot is on the foot of my hammock, arugh. I hope the morning shuffle will go quickly.
At this point in my hike, the saying "No rain, no pain, no Maine" holds little meaning as I can take a break for weather.
What do these numbers mean? Why should they come up? Will there be more like them? Surely this guy isn't into numbers? Actually, I like numbers. 17 holds significance in my life.
These numbers do hold significance in this hike. 500 is miles left on this journey. 1700 is miles I've hiked on the journey. Both came within a day's hike of each other. One was well marked. The other not.
Tonight I lay slung in a shelter with others celebrating these miles in simple ways. There's not much to say beyond so far so good, let's finish strong.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
Knowing a fellow hiker's family was going to do trail magic on MA's highest peak, Mount Greylock, I made sure I got there. I hustled up from Dalton where I crashed on Tom L's lawn.
I got up to early, so I paid for an over priced burger and an ice cream. SoBo's and NoBo's are mixing and somehow a lot of weekenders as well. Stories floowed around outside on the grass.
Something caught my eye and I investigated. The eastern side opened up to a drop and good wind. Para-sails and hang gliders littered the field. Several guys watched the wind at various points.
I saw Pig Pen, a fellow hiker from my first month on the trail. He got off in southern VA to tend to matters at home. He's back on the trail picking up different sections.
Eventually the sun kicked up a few strong thermals for the fliers to take to the air. I watched in awe. In Utah, we have Point of the Mountain State Air Park with regular cycles daily. Here there's only a few good days of flight.
The family did come. They did have plenty of fresh fruit and cheap sodas. 15 odd hikers enjoyed the efforts.
I moved on down an old ski cut, now hiking trail.
The rain of last week refreshed the mud on the other side of the border. My feet slipped not on mud but on rock in MA. In MA majority of slippery rock is marble based. The MA/VT border, marked by welcome to the Long Trail, brought a sticky rock that is slip resistant. I pushed myself through the mud looking for the slip resistant rocks even on the downhill.
I can't say much is changing since I got into Vermont. My attitude is focused on doing miles. My mind does wander to what will the end bring. My MP3 player died and I replaced it with a cheap radio. I miss listening to worship music. I can picture the worship leader, Josh, at City Church getting excited on Sunday morning when I cranked to one of the albums loaded. For now, I'll listen to the air waves.
Saturday, August 02, 2014
Some folks on the trail are the folks who keep the trail moving, be they hikers or not. Over the last few days I've met two of the lesser known but more famous. They both started out by doing something good for a hiker and word spread.
Yesterday, I met the Cookie Lady. She's been serving fresh cookies to hikers for twenty-five years. Her place is on a little road crossing next to a cultivated blue berry patch. Her cookies are a treat and a treasure after a good long day. She also let's thru-hikers camp on her property.
Today, Tom L, in Dalton MA. He's on a quiet street just in town and let's thru-hikers camp in his yard. When I mean quiet, I mean keep the conversations to a whisper. He'll let hikers borrow a bike to run for errands for showers, library, and a variety of restaurants. In '79 he let a hiker stay in his yard, the next three more showed up.
Some of the more boisterous trail movers include Miss Janet and Baltimore Jack. I met both down in TN. These two follow the bubble up the trail. Miss Janet's van is easily recognized by the many AT stickers. She'll shuttle hikers around or help them find services in weird locations. Baltimore Jack is an expert on who what where and when of the trail. If you need advice on hiking he's the go to. Both, however, if you see then at Trail Days let them come to you for they are so well known they can suffer from celebrity over load.
Movers on the trail. These four are but a small percentage of folks who help the hikers move up and down the AT. Thousands of others could easily be highlighted as well. My appreciation goes out to everyone I've met.
A couple miles out of South Wilcox Shelter I ran into a familiar face I hadn't seen for 6 weeks, since central Virginia. We kicked up the trail chatter and hiked the rest of the day together. Seldom do I hike with someone for more then an hour. The destination, Upper Goose Pond an AMC facility.The day included only a few ups and downs through mud and once water floowed trails. Dodging mosquitoes easy with the chilly weather. At one road crossing, trail magic by Mother Hen, cookies and lemonade. Drying out happened the day before, now the trail is drying out with hiker boots.
The last mile is the hardest of each day. A sign said 'Thru-hikers keep to the White Blazes.' Easy enough, I knew the blue blaze would cut 2 miles off our journey. The trail wrapped around a beautiful calm pond, with no jump out places for photos. The final mile came to be with another sign 0.5 miles. Ah.
The cabin rivals any other I've seen and puts some hostels to shame. It's comfortable sized, clean, and well cared for by the AMC. Several hikers already there taking bunks inside and others camping out on the grounds. Stories of the day and other chatter ensued.
One of the last hikers to arrive, Sky Chicken (a helicopter pilot) brought stories and advice of the Whites. I listened with note taking on how to plan a day and what to expect for the weather. Those I hope don't play out to be bad weather and cold nights.
It's hard to think about the ending of the journey being just 550 odd miles away and yet the hardest part being the next section. I hope the miles don't mater to me. I hope the psychological/physical challenges of the Whites don't mess with my head. Every stage of the journeys had issues. What lay a head?
PS I am sleeping in the bunk. The last few night's the cold front on the East Coast is a bit nippy for me.
CT north of Kent according to Baltimore Jack's trail resupply guide is the worst place for bugs. When I read that I knew he didn't mean that. As I scratch yet another thousand mosquito bites. He didn't mean it after all he's the first person to hike the AT five or more times consecutively. May be he means Maine. I scratch again. No, there is no other place on the AT where the king of the hill isn't a TV show. They are little buzzing insects that bite everything and I mean everything.
In PA the saving grace was the people. Dido here too. The people I've talked to in Kent, Falls Village, and Salsbury are fantastic. They are open and friendly like no other. Who said there isn't hospitality North of the Mason-Dixon Line? They aren't hiking my hike. Warm and receptive. I've sat outside many a small town shop chatting with folks. At the IGA deli, the guy behind the counter asked why so many hikers order a particularly sandwich. I explained we've had the ham & cheese, the turkey clubs, the ruben's etc so this is a likely choice.
The AT in CT is fairly well maintained. There are parts that could use a little more help. The terrain is easy with a few steep sections of built stone steps. Lots of ferns and small creeks.
I'm meeting a fair share of South Bounders. They've summitted Mnt K already. Their mountain is Springer, personally anti-clamatic. They've got miles to do. I've got the Whites just around the bend of New England where 80% of the effort is said to be had. Effort okay but, the psychological aspect of miles of VA's mindless scenery, PA's rocks, NY's top of the mountain swamps, and CT's bugs will make that effort grand.
I lay in the hammock trying not to scratch, hearing the bugs swarm around my head. Baltimore Jack's words hold meaning. The worst pests are North of Kent.
PS: I lay close go the 1500 mile mark for this year's measurement. I have 687 left to go. Wow, I've just tripled what I typically hike every year. What challenges do I face in the last quarter?
Descending into the Delaware Water Gap PA I heard the sounds of traffic. The trail though getting steeper also got smoother and reminded me of Georgia, with the rhododendron bushes in bloom. I hit a rocky out crop to see I-80 below. Thoughts of hitching a ride to Utah flooded my mind. Two days ago with my attitude, because of the rocks, would have propelled me down the mountain side to try for that one lucky ride and be home in a couple of days. This day, July 14, however, my attitude flipped. Earlier in the day I crossed a seemingless landmark, a pipeline. This pipeline marked 899.9 miles left to Mount Katahdin. Less then 900 miles to go! I didn't race down, I tenderly let my feet down.
Pennsylvania's rocks took their toll on my feet. The shoes worn from stepping on pointy tips of rocks from little ones to basketball sized ones. The biggerones I can step easily on depending on the angles of slant. The worst ones were hinden under vines of various tormentors. The trail maintenance lacking greatly. Then the worry of snakes, added to it. I had two slither out under foot over the past 100 miles of rock. Thankfully those were garden snakes. Most of the rocks are contained in the sections north of Duncannon.
The people of Pennsylvania, fantastic. Most days I came upon folks they added to life. Serveral days, I didn't dig into my pack for lunch. Other days, I didn't ask for a ride, they happened. Other days, there was a restaurant along the trail. Several grocers offered a piece of fruit to thru-hikers.
In the southern regions I couldn't help but let myself be detoured by the history. Tracts of stone boundary walls marked ancient, to the US, farm property. Tiny cemeteries hide just out of site of farmer's fields with no established trails to them. A large monument, like a castle arch and tower, commemorates fallen Civil War war correspondents.
Rocks, rocks, rocks, arugh! They tenderized my feet, added shin splints, and added to the beating of my knees. I've added a foam roller to massage out the knots to my kit. My attitude sank as the rocks didn't let up. Stretches of rocks with little relief of forest duff or big ones. The big ones, that one can hop from one to another were fun without the pack however, the pack needed to bounce along with me.
Passing the 900 miles left mark lifted my spirit. This state really tested my tenacity to keep going, to keep pressing forward. This state showed different colors. I can't believe I've come within reach of the goal.
Each state brings a different lesson. I wonder what do the remaining states have for me? What lessons will I learn? What will I take with me from each state? Where and how will I apply each of the state's lessons?
Hike on. Let the lessons remain...