I had a hard time getting to sleep last night and consequently slept in until 6am, hitting the trail at 6:45. I climbed up Stratton peak and when I got to the summit I was able to climb up the lookout tower for a fantastic view. I met Jean, the caretaker who wished me a happy hike and I headed off down the mountain.
It was another day of saying, “Hey, how are you? Very well, thanks. Happy trails!” to the NOBOs. I have definitely hit the NOBO “bubble” which is the majority of the northbound thru hikers. I see about 30-40 a day. So many. There will be a time when I stop seeing the NOBOs. Then there will just be day and weekend hikers. Some sections hikers, folks who hike just parts of the trail at a time. I have a feeling the trail will be fairy quiet the further south I get.
Today was pretty uneventful; I was tired most of the day and pleased to get 15 miles in. And happy to stop in this lovely spot. Tomorrow I’ll camp near the highway and go into Bennington for a quick resupply Monday morning. I can’t believe that soon I’ll be hiking into Massachusetts.
It rained all night last night and I was ok with that. I had a feeling the sun was going to come out so I packed up and set off down the trail around 7am. These late starts. For a reason, lately. I only had 1.8 miles to hike downhill to the highway and I didn’t want to get there too early and not get a ride. Andy from the market gave me a ride to the laundry mat, which is next door to Mrs. Murphy’s donuts. I bought two fruit filled donuts for $2 and decided to pack them out. As I write this they are gone. I’m not a big donut fan but oh my, those were amazing. Just heavenly.
The ladies at the laundry mat gave me some loaner clothes (Bernie tee) and once my clothes were in the washer I plugged in my external battery to charge and walked over to Price Chopper for food resupply.
After I got back to the laundry mat I took my tent and pack outside to a sunny spot to dry. I organized my food and once my clothes were done, all my things were dry so I packed up and got a ride back to the trail from Larry, a self described ski bum and trail enthusiast.
What I’ve described I refer to as hiker chores. Laundry mats have become a kind of hub for my chore activities. I can do laundry, sort my stuff, charge my devices, clean up myself, clean out my pack. It’s not really very relaxing but it is necessary. I was back in trail by 11am which made me very happy. Town stops are necessary but I like to keep to my chores and get out as soon as possible unless I am going to take a nearo (nearly a zero) or a zero (zero miles hiked).
So here I am in my tent, happy for having met my goal for the day. The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow, which is good since I’ll be climbing Mt. Stratton.
A nice slow morning eating free breakfast at the Yellow Deli with new friends: Swagger, Mr. Whiskers, Smeller, Fern, Gully and the Counselor. The Yellow Deli Hiker Hostel is a nice place; some hikers give it a bad rap because it’s run by a Twelve Tribes spiritual community, but I found no fault in their generosity and openness. We took the bus back to the trail and summited Killington Peak around lunch time. I was cold so I did not linger after eating a Snickers bar, some peanut butter and a packet of fake maple syrup. I am in Vermont after all!
It was a gentle descent down to this cool old stone shelter by a creek. Plenty of tent sites so I set my tent up and inflated my new sleeping pad. It’s great; not noisy like the one I used on the PCT last year. So content. I think my sleep will improve.
Tomorrow morning I will hit 500 miles.
July 26 Mile 518.6 Little Rock Shelter
A good day. Pulled off an early start at 5:32am which is usual for me. I love the early morning. The sounds, the light, the air. Bluebird skies. All day I hiked in the green corridor, rarely emerging in natural open areas. Which was fine with me as I stayed out of the direct sun. Still, in this weather I drink about 5 or more liters of water a day. I sweat so much! When I got to the shelter I set up my tent, organized my stuff, drank my protein shake (this is my usual routine) and then I decided to go swim in the pond. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to swim. When I ran into Swagger this morning she highly recommended stopping here and I’m so glad I did. I stripped down and walked out into the water. Glorious. Once I was far enough out I swam for a bit and scrubbed the dirt and sweat off my body. So nice. I got out and cooked dinner with another SOBO, Nil, whom I met outside of Andover. A very nice young man. We chatted about life and careers and the trail; he complimented me on my lifestyle, which is not something I get very often and it made me feel good.
This is one of the many reasons why I hike. Not to get compliments but to have real conversations with people. I do not mean to imply that I only have real conversations with people while I am on the trail. Far, far from it. It just seems to me that the trail brings out the genuine nature in folks, and it is infectious.
Tomorrow I’ll do 17 miles to a shelter that will set me up to get into Manchester Center Friday mid morning. Which is nice.
July 27 Mile 536.4
I shared the Little Rock shelter with a mom and her 8 year old last night; such a spacious shelter it was nice to have all that room just for us. I slept in hoping the rain would stop, which it did. I rolled onto the trail at 7:30am. I made good time over soft single track and made it up to Bromley peak around 4pm. There was a little warming hut up there but I decided to push on one more mile to get here. The shelter looked pretty full so I pitched my tent and am happy with my choice. I did go over to the shelter to cook my food and met Commando. I kept thinking, why does that name sound familiar? He started talking about the PCT and I mentioned that I hiked it and soon we figured out that we had a friend, TimTam, in common. Such a small word! Then I remembered TimTam telling me to keep an eye out for him. That’s why his name seemed familiar! Such a small world. I love it.
So now I’m in my tent all cozied up ready to eat another pop tart before brushing my teeth and reading for a bit. I hike 2 miles to the highway tomorrow morning where I can get a ride into Manchester Center. A quick resupply and download some more podcasts then I’ll be back on trail by midday. Soon I’ll be out of Vermont.
My face looks normal again. I realized that I didn’t explain in my previous entry why I had skipped ahead to Hanover. I got stung or bitten on the forehead by something nasty and my eyes swelled almost shut. I got a ride to the hospital in Hanover from some trail runners, and then a botanist from Dartmouth. The doc told me to hang around for a couple of days just to make sure it didn’t get worse. That was Wednesday. Fortunately, when my friend Skyman got into town on Thursday the swelling had gone down significantly. And now it’s gone. Thankfully. So today Skyman and I went from our motel two miles south of town to the co-op to get food for lunch and dinner. Salad, veggies, some local Brie, salami and some fruit sounded good. We spent the day laying around eating and talking. I washed some of my hiker clothes in the sink and put them out in the sun to dry.
July 22 Mile 456.8 Thistle Hill shelter
I have a lot to think about.
July 23 Mile 478.3 Stony Brook shelter
A big day today. According to my Fitbit I climbed 567 floors today which is a record. Lots and lots of ups and downs. I felt good until about 2:30 (9 hours after I started hiking) and then I felt tired. But I met my goal, and tomorrow I hike 8 miles to highway 4 which goes into Rutland. I have a box of food waiting for me at the PO that I sent ahead from Hanover. And my new shoes are not working out, so my mom sent me another pair of the old shoes, only new! Confusing! I’ll stay the night in Rutland at the Yellow Dei, which is a donation based hostel. They have free showers and laundry so that will be nice.
Exhausted and ready to sleep. Soon!
July 24 Mile 484 Rutland
I woke up to some sprinkles so I packed up my stuff quickly before it really started to come down, which wasn’t long. I hiked uphill in the rain for some time, listening to season 2 of Serial. I’ve really gotten into podcasts lately and they help during the times when I just need to hike to make miles.
I did not sleep well last night and I decided that I had had enough of the thin foam mat I’ve been sleeping on. I walked into Killington and went straight to the gear shop and bought an inflatable mat. I am so happy.
So here I am at the Yellow Deli Hiker Hostel, showered, waiting to do laundry. It’s a good place to be in cold, rainy weather. It feels like April. All the locals say the weather is not usual for this time of the year.
So I’ll download some more podcasts, eat and rest.
Even though I got a good long day of hiking in on Tuesday, I still had to skip some miles to get to Hanover yesterday. I could go back and hike them but I know I won’t and I’m totally ok with that. For the most part I love my hiker brethren but damn sometimes some people can be very judgemental about miles hiked.
Sometimes I see this strange competitiveness going on between NOBOs and SOBOs and I have zero tolerance for it. It’s mostly early 20 something males who engage in this kind of thing. Maybe they have something to prove? Or maybe it is linked to the entitlement that many younger hikers display? I don’t know and frankly I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it unless I am confronted with it head on. I got super lucky with my tramily but all of them are off trail now for various reasons. Pepper will be back and catch up with me somewhere, hopefully. Lays had to go see his gran and Silky Pete went back to New Mexico. So. I’m waiting for Skyman to get into town, it will be fun to see him despite my puffy appearance!
As I was relaxing in my motel room I watched TV and was bombarded by all the bullshit on the news. It sucked. When internet and media are not an active part of my daily life it is something of a shock to be reintroduced to it in town.
It’s very tempting to say that ignorance is bliss. However, I don’t view being unplugged as a kind of ignorance. I view it as a kind of active non-participation. A refusal to be a receptical for the garbage on the TV and internet.
The trail can be a privilege for sure. I work hard not to take it for granted. Which is why I do my best to take care of it and minimize my impact on it. I know how lucky I am to be able to spend this time doing nothing but hike for months on end. To live in a country where this hike is an option. Especially as a woman. I get it all the time. For the guy sitting next to me in the diner. From the woman in the grocery store.
“Aren’t you afraid to do that all by yourself? Aren’t you scared?”
Of what, I usually ask. I’ve always felt safe in the woods, since I was old enough to remember. Not feeling safe is something I have a hard time wrapping my mind around.
But I wonder; do these people ask the same questions to men who are hiking alone? No, generally not.
I think this fear I should be feeling is just a tendril of entitlement that I refuse.
The last two days were accidentally erased from my blog and I do not have the energy to rehash them in detail. Recap: July 11 was a wonderful zero day and July 12 was gorgeously sunny and we ended up hiking 14 miles to Zeta Pass and camped with our tents all cozied up in a tiny space.
Today I woke up early and got to the Carter Notch hut by 8:30. It was rainy, cold and windy up on Carter Dome at almost 5,000 feet. Pepper and Silky Pete showed up and I told them I was going to take a blue blaze trail (side trail) down to Pinkham Notch instead of following the AT over the Wildcat mountains to Pinkham Notch. Silky Pete hiked with the me and I am so glad I made that decision. We got to the visitors center and had hot coffee, salad and sandwiches. I bought rain pants for the Whites. I tried out my tent. When Pepper arrived she confirmed what I suspected; the descent down to Pinkham Notch from the Wildcats was really brutal and rather treacherous. I’m glad I made the right decision for myself.
I’m at the base of Mt. Madison and Silky Pete, Pepper and I are going to wait to see what happens with the weather; if it’s nice we’ll push to Mt. Washington and if it’s rainy we’ll just do Madison. Either way, right now I am exhausted so it’s lights out.
July 14 Mile 334.4 Lakes of the Clouds Hut
Yesterday evening before bed Silky Pete came down to my tent and said, “If it’s nice tomorrow, I’m gonna go for Washington, and then get work for stay at Lakes of the Clouds hut.” “I like it,” I said. “We can push hard and do it.”
And we did! I got to the summit of Washington and went into the visitors center and found SP charging his phone: “I just ate two slices of pizza and a hot dog and I had some coffee!”
This morning I was on the trail at 5:40, which felt good. The sun was up and I knew that once I got above the treeline I’d be hiking in sun. Sure enough, after about an hour of climbing up and up, I had some sun and incredible views of Mt. Washington, Edmands Col, Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison, which I was about half way up. I was so happy to be in an alpine environment again. I kept stopping and taking photos but the more I looked at the mountains around me I knew I’d have to move it to summit Washington as soon as possible. Afternoon thunderstorms are always possible and I didn’t want to get caught in one.
I summited Madison and stopped in at the Madison Spring Hut. There are a number of huts in the Whites and they are run by the Appalachian Mountain Club. They are usually booked solid in the summer, but for thru hikers like me, they offer work for stay. I’ll do some dishes in the morning in exchange for a spot on the floor to sleep and I’ll get to eat any extra food (there is always extra food).
Silky Pete and Pepper are here, we’re not sure where Lays is, hopefully he is safe and dry somewhere. It was raining when I left the visitors center to hike the 1.5 miles here to the Hut. I’m exhausted but I will wait patiently until 8:10pm when we get to eat leftovers.
So happy. So tired.
Well, we just ate dinner: chicken, rice with green beans and apple cake for dessert. We all had seconds and did a good job of eating all the food; the folks at the hut have to pack out all waste, so our job is important!
It dawned on me today while I was hiking that the White mountains are named for the massive deposits of quartz. It is beautiful, and knowing that I see the Whites in a different light; they are more magical somehow, in a way that a place never previously visited can be. I’ll sleep good tonight.
July 15 Mile 345.4 Crawford Notch
I woke up around 2am and looked out the windows of the dining area where we were sleeping and saw stars, the moon and some clouds along with some distant glittering lights. In the other direction up towards Mt. Washington there was a lightning storm. Amazing to have such different views from the same window. Lakes of the Clouds Hut is right on the shoulder of Washington and it was foggy when I woke up again at 5am. We waited around drinking coffee and talking trail until 8 when we got to eat the leftovers from the Hut guests: scrambled eggs, oatmeal, bacon, pineapple, chocolate pumpkin bread and some kind of muffin with brown sugar topping. Amazing. We all had seconds and were complimented by the “croo” for doing our jobs well. We chatted with some Hut guests and then I did my work: straightening up the bunk rooms and sweeping. Good deal!
We didn’t hit the trail until almost 10am (!!!!) but it was worth it. We hiked through the mist until around 1pm when we took a break at the next Hut. We all got free bowls of soup and the sun came out so we lounged around while Silky Pete played the house guitar.
The afternoon found us scrambling down Webster Cliffs in the rain. Words cannot express how happy I will be to be out of this terrain. I love the mountains but wet rocks and roots and having to look up to find the trail is wearing of us all.
I dream of flat trail covered in pine needles. Or leaves. Or just dirt.
It was raining as I pitched my tent by the parking lot here at Crawford Notch. I am dry, however, and I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to dry out my tent tomorrow; my primary objective besides making the miles to Galehead Hut. Hopefully I can get work for stay.
Another brutal and gorgeous day on the Appalachian Trail.
July 16 Mile 360.1 Galehead Hut
I woke up to blue bird skies and was in the trail at 5:15. Perfect. The trail was decent so I made good time to Zealand Hut, arriving at 9am to free pancakes, eggs, bacon and oatmeal. Amazing. I sat in the sun eating my food as my tent dried. The stretch to Galehead Hut, about 7 miles, was more difficult and I ended up breaking a trekking pole. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner! Fortunately there is an outfitter in Lincoln where I’ll be stopping tomorrow so I can get a new pair. I’m not keen on spending the money but trekking poles are essential.
Heard from Skyman and I’m planning on meeting him in Hanover on Friday. So exciting! I’ll take a zero there for sure and the usual hiker chores: resupply, shower, laundry, charging my external battery, phone and Fitbit. The Fitbit is so much fun on trail!
I got work for stay at Galehead Hut and there are three NOBOs who showed up shortly after me. It’s nice to talk Trail with them and share information. This is one of the things I love about the trail, meeting people from totally different walks of life. After an hour of hanging out it’s like we’re old friends. I feel I can be more open with people on the trail. I am certainly more assertive, which is a good thing.
July 17 Mile 373 (I think!) North Woodstock
I was lucky to have evening duties in the Galehead Hut kitchen last night so I was free to go in the early morning. I slept very well in the Hut but I was up at getting ready at 5am. With the afternoon thunderstorms I like to get hiking early as to avoid being on peaks during storms. Today I hiked Franconia ridge, which is known for it’s beauty and sweeping 360 views. Today was stellar. Once I climbed up and over Garfield I began the ascent up Layafette. From there the views were just delightful and I got a clear view back the way I came. This is particularly satisfying and it makes me feel good to see the progress I am making.
I got down the ridge to the parking lot at the trailhead where I met Supernova, a NOBO from Canada who has been crushing serious miles. He asked me when I started and I told him and he seemed impressed, which makes me feel good. I know that AT miles are different, especially in this area, but I still have this complex about doing more miles and I end up exhausted. So now that I’m hiking by myself I need to make myself stop and relax. I don’t have to go go go all the time. Tomorrow is going to be a chill day, I’ll sleep in and get a late start. Which is what I need. The White Mts kicked my butt.
So here I am in another laundry mat washing my stinky hiker clothes. Good thing I’m wearing my rain gear because it’s still raining, although the hail has stopped for now. I’m excited about better trail coming up, and things getting a bit easier and no more AT parkour.
First zero day. No miles hiked. None. I lounged around on picnic tables, did laundry, took a shower and enjoyed doing very little. I enjoyed every second. This tells me that I am finally into the swing of this hike; zero days are welcome and embraced. When I tried to take a zero in Monson, I was too excited and had to get back on the trail, even if it was just for a few miles. Now, the prospect of a zero day is a relief.
We got a ride 9 miles back to the trail from Stewart, a young vagabond hiker/canoeist who was helping out the couple with the baby. Sherpa and Kanga are a couple who are hiking with their one year old daughter, Ellie, whose Trail name is Roo. They are rather famous in the trail; they were featured in Backpacker magazine. We saw them at Shaw’s in Monson and it was nice to see them again.
We forded a small creek and set up camp. Lays and I were joined by Pepper, a young woman whom Lays had met a few days back. A very kind and genuine person, she’ll be joining us for the White mountains. Most hikers like to hike the Whites with company, which is smart. The weather can be very unpredictable and treacherous, from what I understand. I’m looking forward to them!
July 6 Mile 261.4
I left camp early, before Pepper and Lays. We agreed to stop for the day at Frye Notch shelter, which is where we are now. What a lovey day hiking. I cruised over Moody peak and up another ridge and felt great. That zero day really put the pep back in the tank! I did 10 miles by noon and reached the shelter around 3:30. A NOBO wearing only men’s underwear hiked up and plopped down his pack just as Pepper hiked in from the north. He was pushing on for another 10 miles but wanted to cook food at the shelter. Pepper and I talked to him for some time, all of us laughing and being the silly weird hikers that we are. As he hiked off, Pepper looked at me and said, “Did you see the abs on that guy?” I just nodded and said, “Oh yeah. And hello obliques.” We both decided that instead of Captain Underpants, his trail name should be Captain Abs. It’s really nice to be hiking with a woman again! As I was hiking today I thought of my friend Iron Lady whom I hiked with for about 300 miles on the PCT last year. I sure do miss her!
So I’m in my tent now listening to the father and son section hikers rented next to me. The son is reading out loud to his dad, I’m too far away to hear the words exactly but the ebb and flow of his voice is soothing, and soon I will be asleep.
July 7 Mile 271.8 Speck Pond shelter
A good day today. I slept in until 5am and was on the trail by 6; a bit later than I like but I took my time. The trail up to Baldpate was rocky like most of the trail in Maine. Lot of roots, mud and some scrambling. I’ll be glad when I am past this kind of terrain. It is emotionally as well as physically difficult. My right knee has been giving me some grief, but it is manageable, as long as I don’t push too hard. These 10 mile days will be good (today, tomorrow and Sunday) even though they will be tough.
I was coming down the side of Speck mountain when I met Silky Pete (named for his silky boxing style shorts and mustache) who was sitting at a viewpoint listening to music. We chatted a bit and I learned that he is a kind of programmer/mathematician, and one of those people who has an insanely high IQ. He’s here at the brand new Speck Pond shelter along with The Manager and his dog Ollie (a Burmese mountain dog/poodle mix) and Wizard. Lays and Pepper are not here yet.
The father and son who were camped next to me last night gave me four dehydrated meals; these are expensive and I am not buying them for myself on this hike. I had them last year on the PCT in OR and WA and it was nice, but I had a bigger budget then. So, it’s nice to have them. A treat I will share with Lays and Pepper once they arrive.
I am tired and I think I will sleep well here. Tomorrow will be a big day and I hope the rain holds off until I get past the Mahoosuc Notch (a mile long pit of giant boulders). I’ll find out!
July 8 Mile 281.3 Carlo Col shelter
I had just climbed up a nameless peak when I lost the trail and walked down a side trail for about 50 feet. Just as I was thinking about turning around my right leg sunk into a mud bog up to the middle of my thigh. I was shocked that the mud was so deep! I tried to pull my leg out but it did not move. I relaxed and tried to remember what to do in this sort of situation. My primary concern was getting my shoe to come out with my foot. Losing my shoe in such a deep big would be awful. So. I started moving my ankle back and forth, creating space. Then I leaned all the way back on my pack and pulled my leg with ALL of my strength. Finally it came out, and my leg was covered in mud. I was just happy to see my shoe.
Funny thing; the mud actually felt really good. My right knee had been a bit sore, and after the Mud Bog Incident it felt much better.
Previously, I made it through the infamous Mahoosuc Notch, then afore mentioned mile long boulder field. Wow. It took me 2.25 hours to go one mile. It was exhausting, pulling myself up over boulders and balancing, pushing against rocks to support my weight as I looked for handholds and footholds. About half way through I met Odie, the hiker who every year makes the AT Yearbook, which is exactly what it sounds like. He took my photo (my quads looked great due to the exertion they were getting, score!) and he made me feel good about being a SOBO (southbounder), saying that SOBO hikers hit all the difficult terrain right from the start and that they are badass. It was nice to hear that, the hiking lately has been pretty tough and it is easy to get discouraged.
Overall, it took me 11 hours to go 10 miles. A tough day. Tomorrow morning I hike into New Hampshire. I am giddy with excitement!
July 9 Mile 291.4 Trident Col Campsite, New Hampshire
I hiked into New Hampshire this morning! One state down, 13 to go! Today was a tough day. The trail is rugged and I was only on trail 10 minutes before I was climbing over boulders going straight uphill. After about 6 miles the trail improved and I stopped to eat a hot lunch, something I have not done yet on the trail. Hot lunch is a kind of self soothing; when I’m having a tough day hot lunch does two things; gives me an excuse to stop for more than 10 minutes and lightens my pack. But really I needed to rest my knee, which took a beating in the Notch yesterday. I think I’ve sprained it again. I’m hoping it will get better soon, and taking a nearo tomorrow and then a zero day on Tuesday is great and will give me a chance to heal. I hope! But, I can still hike and it is not a sharp kind of pain that I would have if something was torn. So you can see I am pretty good at talking myself into being fine! Ugh!
Lays, Pepper, Hemlock and I are all tented up and looking forward to hiking the 7 miles to Hwy 2, with Gorham a quick 3.4 miles away. We’ve heard stories of a Chinese buffet so we plan of investigating that for lunch. I’m staying at a hostel for 2 nights right off the trail. I’m looking forward to getting organized for the White mountains and figuring out my resupply strategy for that stretch.
July 10 Mile 298.3 Gorham, New Hampshire
We crushed 7 miles this morning to get to The White Mountains Lodge and Hostel and I am so glad to be here. We showered and hit the Chinese buffet in town before getting our resupply at WalMart.
This has been an exhausting stretch, physically and mentally. It helps to talk to other hikers about these challenges we face, and I feel reassured about the emotional roller coaster that is the AT. There is nowhere else I would rather be, and I look forward to some rest here in this great place with my new friends.
I camped by myself for the first time on this trail last night. I never met up with Lays when I went into Rangeley. I got a ride back to the trail with a self confessed Old Timer, Al Grafton, 85 years old. He was at the laundry mat and asked if he could give me a ride back to the trail after I had a burger at the pub across the street. Very nice guy, very talkative; I told him I was from Astoria and he began a narrative about John Jacob Astor and the fur trade, Québécois who live in the area and the handmade bar at the pub. “You know who made that bar, don’t cha? Kurt Russell’s brother, that’s who. He made that back when there were just two pool tables and a jukebox. Now there’s all those tables with those made to look rustic crappy chairs and I don’t know what else. But Goldie, you know, she was here with Kurt and they are just like regular folks.”
And so on. It was clear that he wanted someone to talk to and I was able to get a few words in here and there. I was grateful for his kindness and he wished me bon voyage as he dropped me off. I hiked a bit and found a flat spot next to water to call home. I was asleep within a half hour.
Today the rain had me up at 4:15am; I left my rain fly off and felt a few drops before I jumped up and threw my rain fly on quickly. It just sprinkled for about a half hour as I dozed. Once I got going it was a muddy, wet hike but it was a beautiful day and I am so grateful for the sunshine. It works wonders. All the hikers I came across were in good moods; I stopped and chatted with more than a few and then I ran into Chocolate Man, a Québécois I know from The Night of the Rain. We greeted each other like old friends, as hikers do. He was slackpacking northbound (slackpacking is when you just carry a day pack with snacks and water, someone meets you with all your stuff at the end of the day) and I told him to tell Lays that I would be at Bemis creek tonight. Sure enough, Lays rolled up about a half hour ago. It’s good to see him. Chocolate Man will be about a half mile behind us tomorrow so I’m sure we’ll see him in Andover.
July 4 Mile 246.5 Andover
Today was a beast. Beast! We started the day getting our shoes wet fording Bemis Creek, more like a river. As we climbed a series of mountains today I thought about how grateful I am to live in a country where I can hike by myself, meet people from all over the world and hike through some of the most amazing wilderness I have ever experienced. Although Lays and I really struggled today, it is a good struggle, a luxurious struggle, one that we allow ourselves, one that we have chosen, a struggle that we allow ourselves to embrace.
Exhausted with a full belly, I am relaxing in my tent as fellow hikers talk trail and listen to the Grateful Dead. We’re all camped out in the huge backyard of The Red Hen, a cafe who allows hikers to camp. For the third time today, I am humbled by the kindness of strangers.
What a day. I did not get a good nights sleep last night; I shared a bunk with a restless NOBO hiker (fortunately I was on the bottom bunk) whose pack was so incredibly stinky and right next to my bed. I had moved it away, but he moved it back and I was not happy about it. Anyway, there were six of us all together and one hiker had not even showered. Ugh! I gotta say, in my experience female hikers are way more mindful of that sort of thing. I’ve never come across a female hiker who would not shower at a place where showers were available. And granted, many men I know are mindful of being stinky and shower when they can. The Unshowered One also had to get up at 3:45 to catch a ride home. I got up early and had breakfast and coffee and basically waited to get a ride back to the trail, which didn’t happen until 8am. Late start. Right of the bat the trail climbed up and my pack was heavy and uncomfortable. I’ve been having issues with my pack for some time now and today I had had enough. I’ll be getting my old pack in about 100 miles, and I’ll send this pack home. I like it but it is just not the right pack for this kind of hike. If I was ultralight and always had a pack weight of 18lbs I’d be set. With food, water and fuel my pack is about 25lbs and that is too much weight for this pack to carry comfortably.
I was kind of upset about my pack and really struggling today and at one point Lays said, “Don’t worry, about your pack, cuz every little pack, is gonna be alright.” I laughed and did feel better about things. I also decided that I need to get some Bob Marley in my music library at the next town.
We stopped at this campsite on the banks of the Carrabasset river around 3pm; after the river is a huge climb and not much water or places to camp so we decided this would be best for today. Tomorrow will be a good day, just like today. Today was hard and I am grateful for the company of my friend. And I am grateful for the trail that shows me humility and reminds me that just when I think everything is going to fall apart, some simple thing brings everything back into perspective and I am back on track.
Right now I’m listening to This Must be the Place by The Talking Heads.
When I consider the depth and scope of this hike I feel like I am floating on the cusp of something incomprehensible. This is exactly where I want to be.
Indeed, this must be the place.
July 1 Mile 209.7
Made it to the Poplar Ridge shelter just before the rain started. Met Skyman and Smitty, who were already here, set up and ate dinner. Today was a tough day; 13 miles in 9.75 hours. Not bad. This is why I like to start early. I was hiking at 5:30am and right after I crossed the river I was climbing, literally. Bouldering uphill on wet granite. Fortunately it was only about a quarter mile stretch. Then it was just steep through wet overgrown trail.
Again, hard won miles but I am happy to be where I am. Lays hasn’t gotten here yet and there’s only one more space in the shelter and it is pouring rain. It’s going to be cozy in here tonight!
Later that evening . . .
It’s been raining harder than I have ever seen. All cozied up with everyone watching the creek rise and rise and rise. Amazing.
July 2 Mile 220.4 Rangeley, Maine
As I hiked over Saddleback mountain, which is a popular day hike here in this area, all anyone could talk about was the rain. Social hour on the trail. Skyman and I exchanged info and he says he’s coming to Astoria soon (he’s a medic from Switzerland, hiking NOBO) with his van for surfing, we’ll see!
Chatted with some locals in the grocery store about, you guessed it, the rain. One woman said she got 4 inches of rain in 90 minutes. I bought pop tarts, pepperoni, tortillas and Clif bars. Now I’m in the laundry mat washing all my clothes because I won’t get another change for 70 miles or so. Until New Hampshire. Wow! Almost done with Maine. And now I have to post this so I can charge my phone!