Friday, September 26, 2014

Things that Changed Along the Way

I'm a gearhead.  I'll admit that I like to play with things and systems to find what works and doesn't.  I'm always asking questions of other's, poking around gear shops, and reading manuals or reviews.  Along the AT journey I was no different.  My last week at home I changed my system based on a friend's recommendation, a former long section hiker, and along the way I changed several pieces of gear as well.

My pre-leaving kit was based on the Gosamer Gear Mariposa pack and a Kelty 20' down sleeping bag.  I had a homemade under quilt under a Dream Hammock hammock.  My stove was the Caldera Cone wrapping a Snow Peak 700 Ti pot.

The week I left I went to my go to of the Go-lite Pursuit pack.  It held a bit more then the other.  I dropped to the ground in a Six Moon Design Lunar Solo single walled tent with a Therma-rest Z-pad and went with a Hammock Gear 20' top quilt.  I kept the cook kit as is.

My first night at the trailhead in Amicolola State Park GA, I forgot to tuck my ground sheet under the drip zone of my tent and consequently flooded myself out in the rain on April 7th.  From then on I shelter hopped spending only three nights in the tent.  I didn't find the balance between ventilation and condensation.  When I asked Uncle Johnny , at his hostel in Erwin TN, what to do about that issue he replied, "Burn it, single walls don't work in the East." I took his advice and sent it home.  This actually was my second gear swap.

My first gear swap came as my Pursuit started to part at the shoulder straps.  I called REI and ordered a replacement.  Long story short, I ended up with my Granite Gear Crown 60 from the NOC, which remains with me and it never complained about who much weight I put into it.  One benefit to this pack is the hip belt can be swapped out for a smaller or larger size.  It can also take on the optional top lid, aka brain.  The Gosamer Gear and Go-lites have weight limits close to 30 pounds, after that they complain and or start tearing a part.  These are okay for the occasional day or so of 30 pounds plus but, don't count on longevity with the heavier loads.

My second gear swap, I've eluded to already, that of swapping out the tent for the hammock.  I got my original Hennessey Backpacker sent to me during Trail Days at Damascus VA. The original has a bottom entry and is single layered. Later, that weekend I bought the Expedition double layer from Hennessey himself and has a side zipper bug net.  My tarp of choice is the Hex-tarp from OES - Outdoor Equipment Supply.  It sets quickly and is compact.  For the White's, I went to the 10 point  cuben from Hammock Gear for the all around weather protection.

My third major swap out was for the stove.  The Caldera Cone is plan bulky for my set up.  I had an older canister stove sent out.  The max flame setting was larger then my pot base and the most fuel efficient setting took as long as the alcohol stove I just ditched.  I went to a homemade cat food can stove with aluminum wind break.  I found I used 3 ounces of fuel to heat 20 ounces of water.  Someone had a Flat Cat Gear stove/wind screen he liked and I ordered one.  When I got it, my fuel usage dropped to 1 1/2 ounces for my water requirement.    The Flat Cat requires two wires for set up, I lost 'em promptly.  I grabbed a coat hanger and made a new set.  So don't loose 'em if you get a Flat Cat.

My fourth change out was with what I wrapped up in at night.  I'm a restless ground sleeper.  My quilt great for the hammock not for the ground.  I developed a grab and tuck every time I rolled over.  In Damascus I also picked up my 45' sleeping bag.  I did go back to the quilt with my winter gear adding in a 20' under quilt also from Hammock Gear.

Along the way somethings just need replacing.  Foot wear is crucial.  I know of a few who did the journey in two pairs of shoes.  I did it in 4.  My fourth pair will see life beyond the trail.  Sizing is essential to get right for each pair.  Every time get the foot measured to ensure proper fit.  Just cuz one pair fit good don't think the next pair based on insoles fitting will be the right choice.  I did have two good pairs, Moab Ventilators by  Merrell, wear out in the heal padding around 500 miles of my usage though I stretched it out to 600 odd miles.  My third pair, Keens, wore out quickly with the multi rubber sole parting in several places among other wear issues.  I'm doubious if I even got a hundred miles before wear set in with those.  I left them in a hiker box. My fourth pair is back to the Moabs however, I used the previous insoles to size them. This was a mistake.  My toe width was different, it became wider as I hiked.  I should have gone wider or gotten a size larger.  The place I got them though had limited selection.  Limited selection meant I may not have gotten a bettet fit.  Still I should have tried sever pairs instead of just the one.  Thankfully, I only walked away with sore cramped feet.  Am I the only person who did not have to fight major blisters?

Clothing is something to be replaced along the way.  My first shirt wore out from the pack rubbing on it.  My red t-shirt I picked up from, of all places, a laundromat.  I forgot to take rain gear with me to wear when washing my clothes and asked the attendant if she had something I could wear, thus I got my shirt.

Socks are a highly debated clothing option.  We all found our favorite brand and or pair.  I started with a brand I hiked comfortablely with for years.  When they crusted up I tried Smart Wool.  They too crusted up quickly and wore out fast.  I finally tried Darn Tough, the only sock endorsed by the ATC.  I can see why.  They rinse out easily, take longer to crust up, and have re-enforcement in critical areas.  Simply put Darn Tough socks are darn tough, a high quality brand of socks.  I actually tried close to 5 different brands of socks.  My gagging factor is to wear the sock as long as possible without washing and check the performance.  Since I might do laundry once every two weeks how long a sock kept my feet comfortable without washing was the deciding factor.  Periodically, I'd stream wash the socks and air dry on my pack.  Steam washing, do so only down from the water gathering area and don't use any soap, rinse a lot only.  A better practice would be to grab water in a bucket or large ziploc and rinse away from the water source area.

I've made a lot of references to companies and specific gear in this entry.  I am by no means endorsing them or receiving any sort of compensation by them.  The expressed is strictly my observations and what I experienced.  Please take what I've expressed just as that, someone's perspective.  Your needs and requirements will be different then mine.  Please take multiple views into account if you are gear shopping.  My opinion, check in return policy, but don't abuse them, and play with the gear until you are comfortable with it. Better yet,  if you are new to long distance hiking or hammocking please try to get to a local event and ask questions.  At an event one will see different set ups whereas a retailer may not have the experience or many options needed for you to make informed decisions about crucial gear.

Enjoy and hike strong.

No Changes

As an admitted gearhead surely somethings must have not changed.  The smallest of items remained the same throughout the epic travel. I'll highlight some here.  I'll also admit I traveled heavier then most with a base weight of 25 pounds or more.  I liked being more comfortable in camp and getting good sleep over hitting big miles and being uncomfortable at night.  One will need to find their own balance the implied question.

I carried and used the same small Bic lighter the entire way.  I kept it in a small prescription bottle with some strike anywhere matches.  I started with and ended with not striking any of those matches.  A flick of the bic is all that's needed to get alcohol or canister stoves going.

I carried a small tube of petroleum jelly.  It backed up my anti-chafing stick when it ran out.  The alternate use is as a fire starter when rubbed on small sticks or onto cloth.

I also had bug dope and a headnet.  I used the headnet twice.  The bug dope almost as much.  I didn't like putting DEET on my exposed skin.  I did pick up some all natural Bug Band brand stuff and used it more to ward away ticks.  I didn't find Bug Band to be all that effective.  Somehow bugs didn't like me as much as they did others.  I think I leave with only picking off fewer then 20 ticks and swatting at fewer then a thousand mosquitoes.

My water system included the Sawyer Mini supplemented by Aquamiria drops.  The Sawyer is just a filter.  It's up to the user to find their own right way of usage.  For me I blew out the supplied bladders, squeezing water through them as directed.  I tried it on top a Smart Water brand bottle.  That too did not work cleanly for me.  I finally found a screw on adapter to hose at a hardware store and went inline.  Attached to a Platapus brand two litter bladder, I sucked on the outlet for my water.  I'd use the Aquamiria drops when I got lazy or wanted not to wait for the inline to drip into another bottle.  Aquamiria works best over time, taking up to 4 hours to kill off all bad stuff in the water.  The Sawyer does not kill viruses wherein the drops will over time.

These next items are what packed on my weight.  I carried a 8x5 notebook for a journal.  I'm on my third of the hike.  Yes, I did write every night.  A sample of my journal can be found on my Flickr page under AT Journals.  I did carry and use an Olympus TG 2i Stylus camera.  It worked flawlessly until the end.  As advertised it's tough, though, I found out on Summit Day not unbreakable.  I cracked a corner of the case and it had fogging issues on my last week.  For being exposed to weather for the last 5 1/2 months I'd say that's a lifetime of use for many non-outdoor folks.  My last heavy item is the Anker 12,000 mAh battery pack.  It met my weekly field charge needs between my phone, camera, and mp3 player.  With the large capacity plan on an 8 hour or over night town stay was needed.  The weight of these three items is over 3 pounds, weight I chose to carry.

My phone worked great as a blogging tool and camera back up device.  Though I did have to get a new battery as the original did not want to hold a charge. Electronic device batteries do have limited life span so check with the manufacturer for details or replace them before the journey begins.

I loved my Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp.    I used only two sets of batteries the whole way.  I only night hiked twice but was often the last to sleep 'cus I was writing.  Expect your usage to vary.

My camp shoes where Crocs, the basic ones.  As a gear hack, tie a loop of cord through two toe holes to make attaching to the pack easier.  They work great for town and shower shoes too.  I'd flip the shoes toe up for regular carry and toe down to carry a piece of fruit for a day or so.

I carried a small 500ml Nalgeen bottle.  Nalgeen's plastic is heat resistant so one can pour boiling water directly into it.  This became my hot and cold drink cup.  My spork found its home in it too.  It doubled as a foam roller when I didn't have one.  On the colder gloveless nights I'd wrap my hands around it.

If something is heavy one does not need to ditch it to loose weight.  Ask these questions: do I use this item daily? Does it work for multiple functions?  Does it simplify what I do?  My answers varied from time to time especially with the little miscellaneous items.  I finally ditched things like nausea meds, sun tan lotion, and sun glasses yet, kept the bug dope and Dr Bronner's soap.  With Dr Bronner's bounce a larger bottle a head or just get a little bottle leaving behind what's not used.  I carried half an ounce the entire way, preferring to wash items in town only.

What worked for me and what works next hike I'm sure will vary.  If you are exploring long distance hiking or interested lightening the load, don't be afraid to mix up the weekend get aways or find a local outing of hikers.  Lightening the load honestly comes down to experience on finding the comfort balance.

Enjoy and hike on.


For the last few months my days were near identical except for the scenery, weather, or towns.  They began often with a chittering critter either a bird or squirrel waking me around 5:45 am, my eyes pry open somewhere underneath my quilt to bark at them.  Then I sought benefits to change clothes, hit the privy, and pack.  Packing would include taking down the hammock, tarp, and stuffing my variety of sacks into the pack generally with the clothes and quilt bags on the bottom and food bags near the top.  Somewhere along the line I'd mix up cold instead coffee and swallow two packs of oatmeal.  Why not boil water for breakfast?  It came down to time and fuel.  I didn't want to take the time nor did I carry that much fuel.

Once all packed, I'd pull on the shoes.  Normally, I'd save what ever was wet from the day before to put on last.  As I began to hike, I'd grab a selfie, a couple of white blaze, and trail photos.  Typically, I'd finish the cold chug around a view point.  My snacks were within reach in either a side shorts pocket or pack pocket.  I'd eat two 500 calorie snacks before lunch.

In the South, I often skipped lunch but, found that when I did eat lunch my energy levels would remain high.  When I recognized this I began scheduling lunch and making larger miles per day.  Lunch would generally be at a shelter or view in or around noon. I'd pull out my blue dry sack which held peanut butter and flour tortillas.  Not much for lunch but two or three rolls.  Occasionally, I'd have an extra power bar, shake on cinamon, or cut a chunk of cheese.  The harder cheeses last longer then the soft cheeses without refrigeration.

A snack sometime in the afternoon would happen around 3 ish and I'd be good until camp.  In the North, I lost my evening hunger so I made sure my last snack happened well before an hour I made supper thus ensuring I'd be sufficiently hungry to choke down what I prepared.

At camp, I'd first locate two trees about 12 feet a part for the hammock by holding out my hiking sticks.  Anything closer wouldn't do, much beyond not either.  The closest I hanged wad 8 feet and the farthest stretch close to 25 feet. I'd then start either by putting up the tarp or hammock, weather depending.  Once this is set, I'd gather water and clean up.  Finally, out came dinner.

Dinner, oh no!  This is one thing I will plan out a lot better.  Dinner is a Knorr pasta, rice, or potato side.  Occasionally, mac and cheese.  I preferred to cook in the bag and add stuff to it.  My most common add in is tuna packet and garlic.  For the mac and cheese I add a small amount of instant potatoes to thicken and help cook the noodles.  Cooking in the bag eases clean up, there isn't any besides licking the spork.  With boiling my water, I filled my pot to the brim.  I always made tea.  My tea got first dibs on the water.  My tea of treat is Egyptian licorice herb tea.  My least favorite is chai and green teas. I used untreated water so bringing my water to a boil, essential.  My fear with mashed potatoes was creating Albert potatoes.  Albert was a cook of mine on the Caribbean Mercy who once served dry & lumpy instant potatoes for dinner just before I left in '01.  My other dinner fear was noodle soup.  Since I cooked in the bag I didn't pour off the excess water and would add instant potatoes to thicken.  At the end of the hike, I stopped carrying extra potatoes and just drank the slurry.

After supper, I'd start to write in my journal.  Chatting around the shelters happens around supper time, at a campfire, and my favorite, breakfast.   The more involved with conversation the more chaotic my journal entries are.  I read a recent issue of Backpacker Magazine that stated quiet time is 10pm.  I'm sorry to report they are wrong.  It's hiker midnight or whenever it gets dark be it 6:30pm or 9pm or whenever hikers start to bed down.  Headlamps are often donned around the same tim as dinner prep is underway.  If you want to cut conversation short keep shining it in someone's face.  I ended many a conversation when someone put their lamp in my eyes.  Please wear it around you neck and dim it.  You'll be surprised with how little light is needed to move about.

When I stayed in the shelters my daily routine was the same.  As I passed shelters I photo logged the shelter books.  I began this when I looped back.through the NOC and wanted to record what my friends wrote about the experience of cold wet days from there to Fontana Dam.

In town for resupply I started off with just buying stuff hopping I got what I needed.  I found myself over purchasing.  Tim, another thru-hiker, who also had another long distance hike under his feet, introduced me to the gallon bag system.  It uses a bag for every day.  It worked.  I'd place a dinner, all my snacks, breakfasts, and drink mixes for the day including the instant coffee.  Only once under this method did I run out of anything and happened to be coffee packets when I got out of sync.  I left out lunch as it never changed. If I had less then half a package of peanut butter or tortillas I got an extra.  I did at one time carry pb over a hundred miles without so much as taking a spoon full to eat.Once I figured my meal plan out I stopped over spending and leaving so much behind in hiker boxes.

I found my daily routines an essential part of the hiking experience.  They helped me cut time in leaving for the day, forgetting/loosing things, and falling into sync with other hikers. With the amount of stuff I carried, the systematic approach worked.

I will say my time from wake to gone, less privy and breakfast, was close to half an hour if applied.  I'd like to cut it to 15 minutes.  To do that means for me to cut comfort somewhere.  The shorter time to gone translates to less exposure to bugs, cold, or adverse weather.  When I'm moving these things are less irritating.


Some may call it 'reentry', others 'reverse culture shock', others 'getting back to reality.' What ever one calls it, I can say it's a shake up of the senses.  The TV's flash splash at every juncture.  Speakers vie for attention of the ears.  Horns honk to the unaware like me.  Creatures of upright stature, all shapes and sizes, jockey for position.  A reversal of getting away from this all of modern living that happened 5 1/2 months ago is taking place.  My head doesn't know what to do.  I'm already missing the simplicity of trail life.  I'm caught in a whirling mass of sensory overload.  My ears long to hear the chatter of a squirrel.  A long time ago I wanted the presence of of traffic's hum to lull me asleep.

Staying true to exploring the country, I am taking the train out of New England.  To be honest and open, I didn't plan on getting this far.  I didn't plan on finishing.  Stastically less than one in five complete the Appalachian Trail each year.  I figured I'd be in the other four not be the one who finishes.  Can I say I'm successful at failing?  I planned something so huge I knew I wanted to do but didn't think it was possible.

I initially wanted to see how far I could hike.  Then,  I wanted to see who's inside this shell I've become.  I wanted to push myself beyond myself.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience something beyond.  Yes, I backpack and hike often but, never to this extent.  I can head out and come back as I please.  Once on the trail reaching Mount Katahdin became more then a mark on the papers I presented to everyone.  Reaching Mnt K became not a destination but a starting point.  When I worked in the 'Glades ( winter of '91 & '92) I'd stare at the horizon and think 'what's on the other side for me?' Mnt K's became that new horizon for me. 

The day I climbed that mystical philosophical mountain couldn't been better.  A hard climb that I danced up.  The wind reminding me of the unseen challenges.  The mist clouding the view showing me the beauty of the challenge upon arrival.  The summit, not ideal, nor clear as others wanted that day.  For me, perfect for my ending and new beginning.

With not having plans to leave New England, I winged it.  From the AT Lodge in Millinocket I caught a shuttle to the bus, fom there into Boston.  In Boston I had a 15 hour lay over so I asked around and got a number for a local hostel, Friend Street Hostel near the Garden's.  Now, I'm on Amtrak headed West.

Winging it is possible for the AT, though not recommend.  There are great resource planning materials on  I recommend downloading Baltimore Jack's resupply guide, updated in 2007, a bit old, it's close enough.  For mileage hikers check AWOL's Guide.  For landmark hikers get the set of maps from the ATC.  I used a combination of all.  I also did a lot of reading on and read personal blogs now like mine.

Getting experienced with your gear and knowing how you hike will be the best preparation you can do.  It took me a while to refine my gear even while on the trail.  It didn't help that I swapped out major components right before I left.

This extra time I'm spending on the train is giving me time to sort out the experience.  I've met a lot of folks some who have no clue about the outdoors to those who are well experienced.  Swapping stories and talking with them is helping me to figure out what is expected from others.  It's helpful to know which stories help me tie this trek into relatable clips.

I am reading comments on this site and within my social media content.  If there is something someone wants me to expand on please drop me a line.

I want to give a special shout out to some for their encouragements along the way in specific settings.  First to Hobs who found me at a hostel near Harper's Ferry.  He came out and gave me a pep talk when I seriously considered getting off trail for knee issues.  He encouraged me to do whatever needed to keep going forward.  Thanks to him I am looking at my summit photos as well as my trail family's.  Next to Jenn, who kept a wall map at work and tracked my progress, keeping the team up to date on how far I've gone.  Ross, also from work, who let me know he followed closely.  For the Van Clan, who adopted me in prayer and provided some encouragement along the trail - Oreo's have taken on new symbolism.  My parents of course need a shout out too, just cuz.

Literally there are to many one of encounters along the way that propped me up when I was down to name them all.  Some of these became stories I tell, others already fades away.

Over the next few days I'll stare out the window, try to catch naps, and review what I think are important highlights.

I can't believe I failed at failing.  Now that's a huge confidence booster.  What's next to take on?  Jokingly to Jimmy, who was doing a sweeping video interview, "the CDT in'19." Hum?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Summit Day

Waking long before my alarm rang '10,000 Reasons' by Matt Readman, I git restless.  The morning chill hadn't set to yet.  I tried to con myself back to sleep.  I couldn't.  It's summit day.  A day I'd look forward to long before setting foot on Springer Mountain GA 165 days ago.  I gave in.  I got up.  I packed with a chilly top in mind and lunch to eat in the go.

I left my crown 60 at the ranger station and used a borrowed day bag.  Loads of day hikers were at the Hunt's trailhead making their way up.  They'd never understand the emotions I hit: joy, elation, anger, pain, joy, elation.  Some gave me congratulates as I passed.  Many huffed and puffed up the trail.  I danced.

Along the way, I finally finished my coffee before hitting the tree line.  The wind kicked up a little at tree line.  I tugged a jacket in.  Above the tree line the terrain went from steep to even steeper.

Thr hardest trail on the AT?  Gecko no!  Don't believe the guide book that elevation chart lies.  The hardest part is still, for me, getting to the AT in Georgia.  The hardest trail I've ever hiked is Lone Peak in the Wasatch.

The trail began to require hands on the rock and in one part, a rebar hand hold.  I feared it but, in reality, easy, no worries up or down.  A mile of this class 3 climbing and that was over.

I hit the Table Lands and a mile less, Thoreau Spring.  The spring, iced over.  The emission kicked in again.  The trail reminded me of the White's.  Into the mist I hiked.  Passing more day hikers.

At long last, the a frame sign.  I busrst into tears.  I cried my self to sleep after my sister passed away but, not at her funeral.  I cried the joy of this accomplishment, over whelming, openly.  I handed my camera off to a hiker and asked him to take pictures.  This us my moment if AT glory.  I was the only Thru-hiker there.  The wind fought me as I got on top.  The mist swirling around.

Moments later I tucked in behind rocks to wait for others and for the wieather to break.  Bison and Kozi came 1/2 hour later.  I'd run into the Pope and his group to.  Jolley I saw 1/4 mile down from the top.  We are AT Thru-hikers I yeld at him.

On my way down, inching against the wind, even down thru the toughest steepest sections.  I fought the emotions.

At the trailhead, I made one last White Blaze pose.  I leaned against the tree, knowing this is the last few feet I have on the AT.

I heard a familiar voice, GunPowder of the Van Clain.  I ran and gave her a big hug.  The Van Claim will go up tomorrow with the Von Tramp family.  They showed up too.

My trail family, seeing my friends yesterday and today.  I grabbed photos of many.  Completors, finishers, thru-hikers.  What a feeling.

I found a ride into Millinocket with some day hikers and off I went.  I write but the writing doesn't do much.  The high of this accomplishment lingers and yet hasn't set in.

To all who follow this journey and those I've met along the way, thank you.  This is a journey not taken a lone.  Though I hike a lone, I travel not a lone.

100 Mile Wilderness

The 100 Mile Wilderness is not like what I think of out West: desolate, empty, vast.  It is actually busy with road crossings, abundant with lakes, and active with many uses. 

For me, it is the last hurdle in this epic journey.  It has mountain ridges to traverse, bogs to cross, and miles to move.  I don't like hiking dawn til dusk but, to pull in 20 mile days that's exactly what I've done.  Daylight is gone by 7:30 pm.  I've traveled much of this alone.  I found myself between hiker bubbles, again.  I've grown use to this.  I still prefer to hike alone yet camp with others.

The terrain in the guide book may show flat.  Don't let flat mean easy, some of the easiest is the up an down.  The rocks and roots give way to mud.  Bog bridges are often rotten under foot or moisture soaked. They can be slick traps over mud knee deep.

Did you know Maine is another word for wetland?  I'm joking, the land of Maine is truly stunning and words nor photo can describe what I see.  Next time I come I may sky blaze (take a plane) a section to view the many lakes I've hiked around from above.

The 100 Mile Wilderness begins at Monson and ends at Abol Bridge.  Monson a small town on a lake with two great hostels and an even better bakery, Pete's Place.   Abol Bridge a small convenience store with grill in route to Baxter State Park.

In this region, I've caught glimpses of Mount Kathadin.  I've watched the mountain go from a blue lump on the horizon to seeing defining features.  As one reads this, I'll be on Mount K celebrating this journey's end.  This journey is hardly over though, I believe it's just begun.

Last Night

The last night on the AT.  I can't believe I lay here listening to a few fellow thru-hikers talk by a crackling fire.  The Birches are the only designated shelters for us and space is limited to 12. Of the guys only one I've hiked with over several weeks, Jolley Green.  I met him in Dalton MA.  The others: Pope, Cruise, Potatoes, and Muffin Man, I've met since the White's

I signed the final registry as hiker 564 from GA.  This is only thru-hikers not any alternative style of hike.  Crazy, less then 1/2 my original thru-hiker number.  Where did everyone go?

As I made dinner, To Long - Sara, came thru.  She summited today.  She'd seen my entry in the Trail Log and came over.  She's trail family.  I've known her since who know's, Georgia?  Probably.  Good to see her one last time.

As I came into this area I caught another face, Forget Me Not.  I've known her only a few weeks.  While talking with her, Jim.and Roger aka Biscuits & Off Meds, came into sight.  I've hike consistently 1/2 day behind them for as long as I've know Forget Me Not.  This son & father team I've known also since Georgia.

We've made it.  2187 miles and a few more for good measure.  Each set out on this journey for a different reason.  I've forgotten why I came out.  I love to hike and see new places.  This hike's taught me a lot about myself in ways I can't put into writing.  One day I will try. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

I Slipped

Knowing I had two fords today, Sept 11, I knew I needed to exercise caution.  I like to take a lot of photos along the way and this day happens to be a rare wet day.  This year's journey is dry compared to previous years.   As I paused to look at the route across the creek, Moe river like, I lost my balance and ended up butt on the ground, feet ankle deep.  Problem solved, I picked myself up and waded across.

Two miles later, the fording, a bit different.  A wider and swifter river.  The rain added a little to the flow.  I pondered if anyone was around.  I whistled and got a response.  I put my SPOT beacon on my belt and turned it on just in case.  I loosed my straps and made sure my hip belt was not fastened.  A rope stretched between the shores.  I looped my poles over it.  My footing , not great but since my boots were already wet, I didn't bother taking them off.  I made the far shore without issue.

I tracked a few more miles for the day without further worries.  I was glad to see a few friends at the Horse Shoe Shelter.  I found a place to set up and dried off.  The slip did leave me muddied but the trail was misfired with the rain of the day.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

200 miles left

As I crossed over Sugarloaf Mountain, I passed the 200 miles left mark for this journey. 

I knew dropping into the cirque the rest of the journey wasn't going to be easy or may be that was for today.  I couldn't tell at the moment as the weather turned from okay to let's put wet on the ground.  I stared into the mist.  The trail guide said steep.  Ha, steep, I've seen that plenty.  What made this steep, steep was the lack of granite slabs.  It was rocky, wtf kind of down. 

I learned several days ago if you find a switch back in New England count yourself blessed.  In Maine a switch back is a frightening down, followed by some sort of traverse with a little up, then back down again.  This wouldn't be so bad of frightening if I didn't have 40 odd pounds on my back.  I think this kind of terrain is fun with lighter loads.  I'm committed at this point, no backing out

Next time I'll, is a common thought as I've refined my gear dozens of times in my head.  200 miles left, will I take the time to refit my ruck as I envision?  Will I begin to plan the next big adventure as many in Georgia wanted to?  Hey, where are those lofty dreamers?  Did they make it this far?

My knees gave way to gravity spills as the rocks seemed to distance themselves farther a part.  I groaned trying to figure out poles or hands.

Eventually, I made the 1100 foot descent in less then 7/8ths of a mile.  The stream at the bottom needed fording.  A Q&A sheet at the last shelter said Maine AT Clubs don't maintain bridges as ice jams in the spring often take em out.  A plank with a fat wire lay across the gushing gap.  I placed one foot then the next.  It held.  I wouldn't need to find an alternative today.  I shuffled my feet, the plank bowed and held.

200 more miles, hum?  What else does Maine have?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Rangeley ME

I haven't seen a mythical beast of Maine yet, better known as a moose but I have seen the line between the equator and the North pole...

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sawyer Notch

Laying snug in my hammock, I hear the sounds of the night all around. The beatles crawling through the leaves.  The owl hooting.  The creek of Sawyer Notch runs near by.  It always takes a while for me to settle down to the sounds of the night.  My mind plays games on me as acorns fall from the trees and bugs dance on my tarp.

I am alone.  Those I camped with last night at Baldplate shelter chose to call it short angle for into Andover ME via the southern route.  I'm choosing the northern as I have an extra day food supply.  In the morning I've got a 1200 foot climb in a distance of less then a mile and two miles of easy down hill.  If the up is like Carter Notch, I'll get treated with stone steps in sections and quick treadway in others.

The climb over Baldplate Mountain this morning included sections of scrambling on exposed granite slabs meeting with spectacular views.  Down the northern side once I hit tree line, is another story of expletives.  Chutes of lengths I don't like and they were wet.  The hope I had was to cling to the side trees.  Occasionally a ladder would appear, often on the other side of the trail.

Once clear of Baldplate, I made fast time and took long breaks.  A few to many breaks however, I find taking breaks with others is rewarding.  People make the trail what it's become, the outdoor aspect is another.  So I didn't make my destination today.  I did break the 15 mile barrier I haven't seen in two weeks.  I feel good laying here alone this evening.


I jokingly crawled into Maine from New Hampshire.  The White's behind me and the mud traps before.  They say not to discount southern Maine.  I've found this to be true.  Maine is a rugged as it is beautiful.

My first order of business, the Mahousuc Notch.  This notch is a boulder field in a tight canyon about a mile long.  I arrived after nearly a full day of hiking.  My goal was still 5 miles out.  I'd decide after the Notch not to continue.

I paused at the southern end of the space for water and to reset my gear.  I knew from the multiple climbs of the day two poles is a liability of safety.  One can help me balance, push up, and stabilize for other hops.

I felt over all the hardest mile was the funnest.  I can't describe the joy of rock hoping with a 40lbs pack over some spaces to make heart attacks a viable option.  To crawling through narrow spaces that make the Lemon Squeezer of NY seem like a 4 lane highway.  I hooted and hallered my way around enjoying myself as if I was playing on the boulder fields above Red Pine Lake (Little Cottonwood Canyon).

For the hardest mile, I think the last mile of each day is the hardest.  That day I did wrap up by pulling into camp with half a dozen other NoBo's who chose to call it short for the day.  I found a hang on a common tree with another hammocker.

The following day, I began the climb up the Mahousuc Arm.  I climbed up sticky rock chutes.  Not true chutes as one think of terrain traps of the Wasatch more like sections of treeless paths 5 to 15 feet wide and 100 to 300 feet long.  I'd place a foot one up above the other straight up 30 degree angle.  I loved getting to the top of each to see the view behind me except the view I had clouds and mist.

Loving getting to Maine.  I reached 1900 miles hiked, the final State of the hike, and the "hardest mile.". I can say that the trail's rewards are fantastic.