Monthly Archives: September 2016

Hiking like a “Maine-iac!”

Rangeley, ME – mile 1969 – 89.9% of the trail complete –

 

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Sabbath Day Pond – mile 1958

 

September 19th – Crawford Notch to Mizpah Spring
Total miles on AT – 6.4
Elevation gain – 2791ft
Elevation loss – 268ft
Start time: 11:30am
Finish time: 4:25pm
Total time hiking: 4:20
Weather: Early morning showers, low clouds in the afternoon, mild –

It was pretty dismal this morning and I just didn’t feel like hiking in wet conditions. I made very slow time up to Mizpah Springs Hut. I had hoped to get to Lakes of the Cloud Hut and I might still have been able to but I also might have been stuck without a work-stay there. The weather and my grogginess told me to quit for the day.

There is a huge school group of 60, but Pocahontas is also here. Haven’t seen her since the beginning of Virginia I believe. Sleeping in the library. Hoping for good weather for Mt. Washington tomorrow.

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Lake Mooselookmeguntic – mile 1956

 

September 20th – Mizpah Hut to below tree line after Mt. Madison
Total miles on the AT – 13.5
Elevation gain – 4111ft
Elevation loss – 3500ft
Start time: 8:35am
Finish time: 6:55pm
Total hiking time: 8:05
Weather: sunny with increasing clouds and winds late, warm

Gosh did I get lucky and get a good day to do 13 miles of walking above tree line from Mt. Pierce to beyond Mt. Madison with Mt. Washington as the midday highlight. The trail also skirts the sides Mt. Eisenhower, Franklin, Monroe, Clay, Jefferson, and Adams. I made decent time to Washington where I stayed longer than I had planned but there was a lot to see (or eat) including an old hotel and the visitor center. I had been warned but it was still strange to see hundreds of tourists at the top who had either driven or taken the cog railway up, especially considering its in the middle of the week of September. But they couldn’t have picked a better day.

The walk from Mt. Washington to Madison Hut was brutally slow and coming down from Madison to get to treeline took¬†forever. My watch alarm would go off every five minutes to remind me to look at the sky all around me for developing weather – things can change in the Whites pretty quickly and a sunny warm day can turn into a deadly blizzard in a blink, even in summer. I read a book last night at the hut that lists all of the deaths on the Mt. Washington basin. Many have died of exposure but there have also been a lot who have died of falls. I arrived at tree line just after sunset and am “stealth” camping in a spot that barely fits my tent. Reminds me a bit of when Dad, Craig, and I stealth camped in the Mahoosic range of Maine in the rain in 1993. This spot tonight however is much better and drier.

It’s amazing how much free food the huts give away to hikers. Today I got free peach cobbler from Mt. Madison, free apple sauce cake from Lakes of the Clouds Hut (they were shutting down for the season), and two days ago lots of free food from Zealand Hut, this is not to even mention the dinner and breakfast as part of work stay in the huts. I bypassed Madison Hut to give other thruhikers a chance to do workstays tonight.

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Surplus Pond – mile 1934

 

September 21st – Below tree line on Madison to just after Carter Notch Hut
Total miles on the AT – 12.2
Elevation gain – 3037ft
Elevation loss – 3987ft
Start time: 7:30am
Finish time: 5:30pm
Total hiking time: 7:35
Weather: sunny, warm in the valley, mild and windier at higher elevation

Not a good start to the day. I discovered that my long underwear is missing. I must have left it at Mizpazh Hut. Then after I had just finished making coffee I tipped the pot over and it spilled on me and all into my tent. Things got wet but I was lucky not to get scalded. I had the displeasure of smelling my hiking shirt all day, a combination of spilled coffee and four day-old sweat. They say things come in three and I tripped and tried to catch my balance by sticking a hand out against a tree and drew blood when I poked myself on a small sharp stub sticking out of the tree. All this before taking down my tent.

I had lunch at the AMC Center at Pinkham Notch on Route 16. After lunch more rugged trail particularly up the first Wildcat Mountain (peak E). It’s been the steepest climb yet. Up 2000 feet in 1.7 miles and that included a flat part halfway up. Then up and down over peaks D, C, and A. I felt more tired today.

I stopped at the last of the AMC huts at Carter Notch. Its summer season is over but there is a caretaker and you can stay in a bunk for a price. But I’m camping up the way about a quarter mile or so. To end the day (not one of my best) I forgot a couple of pages of my AWOL guide at the hut while refilling water, but I’ve got the Thruhiker’s Companion as a back up.

My hands kill from putting so much pressure on my hiking poles throughout the Whites.

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Grafton Notch – mile 1922

 

September 22nd – Just after Carter Notch Hut to Route 2 (Gorham, NH)
Total miles on the AT – 15.0
Elevation gain – 3160ft
Elevation loss – 5720ft
Start time: 7:50am
Finish time: 6:05pm
Total hiking time: 8:15
Weather: sunny, cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon

I found my long underwear. It was in my sleeping bag. I have found so many lost items in there – that thing is an abyss! I came down with a bug last night that lasted through the day. I did not sleep well – I was awake between 12 and 4 am. I felt lightheaded, and had some chills; I was not at full-strength. It’s the first time I’ve been sick on the trail and it was such a brutally long day. But I made it to Gorham, NH where I am staying in the “Barn,” a hostel for hikers in town. Gorham marks the end of the White Mountains! Todya I completed the most elevation loss I’ve done in a single day, but my knees feel good. I took lots of breaks on the downhills.

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Mahoosuc Notch – can you tell which way to go? Look closely – mile 1914

 

September 23rd – Route 2 (Gorham, NH – “The Barn” to Trident Cole Tentsite
Total miles on the AT – 6.9
Elevation gain – 1881ft
Elevation loss – 641ft
Start time: 1:15pm
Finish time: 5:30pm
Total hiking time: 4:10
Weather: cool, rain in the morning tapering to clouds in the afternoon

My bug has continued through today, which automatically makes me think I might have giardia, caused by drinking bad water. The incubation period is up to three weeks so I’m immediately thinking about that pond water I drank in Massachusetts even though I treated it. Hard to know. I hope I’m wrong and I feel better tomorrow.

It was raining this morning and everyone else at the hostel seemed to be staying another day – guess they’re not worried about Baxter State Park, where the trail ends, closing on October 15th. I’ve hear rumors they’ll keep the park open for thruhikers until the 22nd despite what all their posted signs say, but I don’t really want to chance it.

I resupplied, waited till the rain stopped and then hitched out of town. Both guys, the one who drove me in last night and the one who drove me out today, were super nice.

I made excruciatingly slow time up Hayes Mtn. Feeling very weak and my spirits were down thinking that I wouldn’t be able to find the strength to pick up my pace and get to Katahdin in time. But I have to keep in mind that I just finished the Whites, and that clobbered us all. At least I got myself out of town. I really hope I don’t have giardia.

A raw night. I’ve got all my layers on and my hands are a little cold in my tent.

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Maine/Nw Hampshire border – mile 1907

 

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Mahoosuc Notch again. See the white marker? Where the heck’s the next one? ¬†– mile 1914

 

September 24th – Trident Cole Tentsite to Full Goose Shelter (Maine)
Total miles on the AT – 14.5
Elevation gain – 3215ft
Elevation loss – 2277ft
Start time: 7:20am
Finish time: 4:10pm
Total hiking time: 8:20
Weather: chilly, windy, mix of sun and clouds

This has got to be the coldest “dry” day I’ve had on the trail since I’ve started. The wind whipped me off balance a few times up on the Goose Eye Peaks and the windchill was biting. It’s cold in camp. Even with my boots on my toes are cold.

I am happy with my progress today and how strong I felt (coffee helps). I could have kept going but I wouldn’t have made it through Mahoosuc Notch before dark and there’s no way that would be a good thing. Best to tackle it starting fresh in the morning.

My “giardia” symptoms subsided some today although I had no appetite. The only thing I ate before making camp was a bagel w cream cheese for breakfast and 5 to 10 handfuls of peanuts. I was able to get some food down in camp so I am happy about that. Perhaps my strong immune system is actually fighting this thing off.

I’ve been having a lot more anxiety of late. I ran out of CBD a few weeks ago and it’s not like there’s a health food store on trail that is going to carry it. I’m really starting to worry about “life after the trail.” I’ve read some horror stories of folks who’ve had a hard time adjusting and even heard of a number of suicides, including a friend of a friend. My anxiety really scares me and I’m afraid it will only get worse post-hike. It’s just a known fact that your body gets used to hiking all day everyday and chemically it doesn’t know how to cope once that all comes to an abrupt halt. It can take another six months for your body to readjust.

I’ve actually heard of some folks who have done a post-hike “cool down” by doing some other hike albeit not as intense. I have to admit, the idea is appealing. I wouldn’t have thought so. I would have thought that all I would want to do post-hike is lounge around and sit on the couch. But that might get old quickly.

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Looking back at Mt. Washington from Mt. Hight – mile 1878

 

September 25th – Full Goose Shelter to Frye Notch Lean-to
Total miles on the AT – 15.5
Elevation gain – 4976ft
Elevation loss – 5621ft
Start time: 7:20am
Finish time: 6:00pm
Total hiking time: 10:00
Weather: mostly cloudy, chilly, windy

Gosh, where do I begin? I broke a number of PRs for my thruhike today. First, it’s the longest day I’ve put in with a total of ten actual hiking hours flat. On my second longest day I did 23 miles and on my third longest I did 21. Both of those were hard days. That must give you a sense of how rugged today was because even though I hiked for ten hours almost continuously, I only made 15.5 miles. Other PRs? It’s the most elevation gain and the most elevation loss I’ve done in one day.

But I think I might pay for it. My shin splint started hurting again today. It’s the first time it’s given me any problems in weeks and weeks. And near the end of the day the tendinitis in my left knee decided that doing over 5000 feet in elevation loss wasn’t a good idea.

I’ve got to start stretching and massaging again. I haven’t done it in a few weeks because I’ve felt so good. And well, you don’t mess with a good thing.

It’s cool to be doing the same 100 mile section again that I did when I was 18 years old. One thing stands out that wasn’t here before – windmills, lots of them on a ridgeline not far from Andover. The Whites had them too. I saw saw some tree cutting patches. Sort of takes away any wilderness feel.

I hit the infamous Mahoosuc Notch, considered the toughest mile on the AT, at just before 8:30 in the morning. Even with taking pictures, stopping to change and put my poles away, and having to take my pack off five times to push it through tunnels in the rocks (this is no joke) I still made it through the 1.1 miles in an hour and 20 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised. It takes the average seasoned hiker 2 hours.

I was also surprised when over halfway through I saw a man lying on the notch floor and I thought “Oh, my God, this man has fallen. I hope he’s ok. Then I saw that he was in his sleeping bag and I said to myself, “this poor guy has been lying here since last night. How in the heck am I going to get him out of here?” Well it turns out he had been there since last night. He got caught in the dark, but he did not fall. He just planted his sleeping bag in the best available spot. Not how I would have done it, but hey.

There was ice on the trees at the top of Old Speck. Over the cold and windy Baldpates in the afternoon to Frye Notch Hut. Long day.

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Mt. Madison directly to my right (top of Washington out of the picture to my right) Pinkham Notch below, taken from Wildcat Peak E – mile 1873

 

September 26th – Frye Notch Lean-to to South Arm Road
Total miles on the AT – 14.6
Elevation gain – 3038ft
Elevation loss – 3921ft
Start time: 9:05am
Finish time: 6:00pm
Total hiking time: 8:00
Weather: sunny, mild

A good day. The sun felt so nice. And it wasn’t a very demanding day at all especially compared to what I’ve done over the last two days.

I really enjoyed the company of some southbound flip floppers. They made two big fires on the coldest night and subsequent morning of the trip, it was a piece of awesome. They had all sorts of stories and were laughing a lot. It was tough to pull myself away to get back on the trail. 21 years ago I also had a good time at this shelter. Two guys cooked up spaghetti bolognese and shared it with me. Seems to be a lucky spot for me.

I heard another bear. It saw, heard or smelled me before I saw, heard, (or smelled) it and scurried down a tree and skedaddled. I thought that it might have be a moose at first but I would have been able to see it over the brush and I could tell by the sound and speed of how it took off that it was a bear. Moose don’t really retreat in any kind of hurry.

In mid afternoon I stopped at Hall Mountain Shelter where I spent a lonely night by myself 21 years ago. There was no one there when I went by today. I passed a few southbounders today. 21 years ago I didn’t see or pass anyone for a 24 hour stretch. It was lonely and one of the reasons why I quit 100 miles into Maine instead of completing the whole state as I had planned.

I had hoped to get a ride into Andover at South Arm Road but traffic was sparse. I waited 20 minutes and not a single car went by in either direction. By that time I had decided to camp across the other side of brook below the road. I think I can ration my food to get to Rangeley in a day and a half. I just have to borrow someone’s phone and let everyone know who expected to hear from me in Andover that I’m ok. – I broke my new phone – it won’t charge. I sent it home in Gorham.

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Madison Hut with Moint Madison beyond – mile 1862

 

September 27th – South Arm Road to Sabbath Day Pond Lean to
Total miles on the AT – 17.0
Elevation gain – 3725ft
Elevation loss – 2668ft
Start time: 7:35am
Finish time: 6:15pm
Total hiking time: 9:30
Weather: rain early clearing to sunny, mild

Tough. A lot tougher than I thought today would be. Lots of tree roots to maneuver over. I took a naked swim in Sabbath Day Pond before sunset. Memorable. Why not? Didn’t want to get my clothes wet and freeze tonight.

It’s almost too easy to manifest what you want on the trail. I asked for trail magic at the shelter and I got it. A nice local middle-aged guy out with his 25 year-old son shared all sorts of very tasty jerky with me, gave me a bag of breakfast trail mix, and offered me batteries when mine failed on me. We spent some quality time talking about life while staring up at a sky full of thousands of stars and a Milky Way so defined you could have licked it out of a dish.

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Cog railway up Washington, helicopter practice beyond – mile 1857

 

September 28th – Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to to Route 4 (Rangeley, ME)
Total miles on the AT – 9.4
Elevation gain – 536ft
Elevation loss – 1300ft
Start time: 7:25am
Finish time: 11:45am
Total hiking time: 4:15
Weather: rain before dawn, low lying clouds, damp, cool

A quick, not too painful jaunt to route 4. Too many ups for my liking but overall I shouldn’t complain. It the easiest 9.4 mile stretch in Maine so far. I relaxed the afternoon away in Rangeley. And my parents came up from Phippsburg to visit me. They took me out to dinner and we had a nice stay at the Rangeley Inn. I’ve been so lucky to see so much family on this trip.

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Inside of old hotel on top of Washington – mile 1856

 

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Top of Mt. Washington 6288ft, highest peak in the northeast – mile 1856

 

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Mile 1855

 

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Lakes of the Clouds Hut, season over, time for repairs – mile 1855

 

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Mt. Washington taken from Mt. Pierce with Franklin, Monroe, and Eisenhower in the forefront – mile 1851