July 5 Mile 246.4 Andover
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.
Thank you for reading!
Love, Cougar 💜🍫🏔