Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 29

The rain and wind slacked off during the night; I got up at 3:30 to use the bathroom and the sky was clear. I knew it would be a beautiful day...and it was indeed! The morning was cool but the day warmed in the sunshine. At the base of the first climb we came to a spot in the trail that was like a swampy stream with no way around. We ended up taking our shoes off, putting our crocs on, and wading through it for about a tenth of a mile. We had lots of climbing today and it took a toll on my body...I was exhausted after the first climb, and we still had about 2300 more feet to go up! Smarts Mountain was a tough climb, particularly the last 500 feet...very steep trail and lots of slick rocks with water running down them. We finally got to the top and climbed up the fire tower for a spectacular view, but a cold one! We filled up on water at the shelter on the summit and wanted to put a few more miles in. The descent was frustrating as the trail was a mudhole practically the entire way. We came to a bog with a few planks spread across. Bear Bag crossed first, walking on a branch that was supported by a sunken plank and a plank at the end. He balanced his way across and only at the end discovered how deep the mud/muck was...
I started across nervously. The branch, only a few inches in diameter, shifted underneath my feet and I leaned onto one of my poles for support...except the pole kept sinking. If you want an adrenaline rush, try crossing a thigh-deep bog/swamp/mudpit on a wobbly log, and putting all of your weight down on a pole you expect to sink only a few inches. My weight came crashing down on my pole, offsetting my balance even more, until it finally hit bottom a few feet down. I had a couple more wobbles like that and breathed a huge sigh of relief to be on solid ground again...falling into that would not have been pleasant!
Lots of moose scat today as well...we've seen a lot and a few tracks, but no moose yet! It's the last animal on my list to see out here so I hope I do see one.
The forest was thick and we ended up walking until 7 before we found a place to camp. We cooked dinner sitting on the trail and went to bed right after. Doing a few extra miles today, as opposed to stopping at the shelter on Smarts, will shorten tomorrow to about 16.
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August 28 - 2

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August 28

The rain started around 11 or so last night. We were sleeping in the middle of the shelter to avoid the cracks in the walls. I woke at 12:30 to a drip on my head. My headlamp revealed a leak in the roof, so we shifted our beds over to one corner for the rest of the night. We woke again at 6 to more dripping. Seriously? A leak over here too? So, we moved to the opposite corner of the shelter and slept a bit longer. The rain was steady and the wind picked up throughout the day, with gusts about 40 mph. The wind blew the rain right into our corner so the feet of our sleeping bags were getting soaked. We looked around and decided the drip on the other side wasn't THAT bad, and figured we'd be dryer over there out of the wind. So, we moved again, and Bear Bag re-duct taped the leak in the roof. There has been a constant mist blowing through the cracks in the walls all day, but we've been dry for the most part. The shelter floor is completely soaked except for where our beds are laying; we've been sweeping pools of water out periodically to keep our stuff dry. I'm not sure that anyone was out hiking today; we haven't seen any hikers, and I haven't left the 20-something feet by 10 or so feet sanctuary of the shelter and its small overhang all day! We've been reading for most of the day, and eating, and napping. Everything calmed down a bit this evening but has picked back up again. Surely the trail will be littered with debris; there are branches down all over the place near the shelter. Hopefully tomorrow the rain will have stopped and the wind will have weakened, and we can get some good miles in!
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August 27

I had a great night's sleep in the hotel and we slept in and took our time getting packed. We ate our cereal for breakfast, checked out, and followed the trail through town. Bear Bag needed to stop at the grocery store on the edge of town so he ran inside and I sat outside with our packs. Several people asked what we were going to do in the storm...and told us to be safe! Hopefully we will be! We saw signs in town saying that the White Mountains were closed, and someone else told us that the entire trail in New Hampshire was closed in anticipation of the storm. But what were we going to do? So, we followed our original plan to wait out the storm in a shelter...much cheaper than staying in town, and we could get a few miles in as well.
The trail was fairly flat (until the end), but still rugged and a bit muddy. We were hiking along, Bear Bag in front, and singing "Highwayman" pretty loudly when we heard loud crashing up the hill to our left. We stopped and waited, and a small bear cub sprinted across the trail and down over the hill right in front of us! We still heard lots of noise and then we saw the mother bear come running down as well, just about 25 yards in front of us! They both disappeared over the hill and we were left standing there in kind of a shock. It was totally unexpected; I actually didn't think I would see any more bears on this trip. I think that puts the count up to 12?
We stopped about 5 miles in at a road crossing...my feet were killing me; it felt like I had walked 15 miles instead of 5! There was a sign at the road that said cold water was available at the house down the road so we walked there and filled up at their spigot. Just a few miles later at another crossing there were jugs of potable water for hikers...love trail magic water! It's nice to not have to treat water before you drink it. We headed up Moose Mountain to finish off the day, and are at Moose Mountain Shelter tonight. We are the only ones here so we can spread our junk out all over the place! The water here is a smelly mud hole (sadly not an exaggeration) and the privy has a roof but no walls! The shelter is nice though and looks fairly new.
The last we'd heard in town was that Irene was supposed to hit us early Sunday morning and throughout the day. We plan to hunker down here and hopefully stay dry until she passes. It's about 8 o'clock now and it's been raining lightly for about 20 minutes. We'll see what happens overnight!
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August 26

We slept in till 7 this morning and spent a few hours packing and organizing our gear. We shouldered our now enormous and heavy packs, checked out of the hotel, and headed to the post office to mail home all of our summer gear. At the PO, a man recommended we go across the street and get some gelato before we left town...why not? We shared some chocolate chip and got on the trail to follow it out of town. On the way we passed an Indian restaurant and decided to get lunch before we left. A delicious 45 minutes later, we were discussing turning our intended 1.5-mile nero into a zero. We headed to the grocery store for a few last-minute things and made the final decision to stay. We got some cereal and milk for breakfast in the morning and went back to the Six South Street Hotel. The afternoon was lazy and perfect and we watched the updates on Hurricane Irene...looks like we're going to get lots of wind and rain! To keep dinner cheap we ran to CVS and picked up a few things. Tomorrow we'll hike out of town for about 11 miles and find a spot to wait out the storm!
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August 25

We knew it was supposed to rain today so we were up early and out of camp before 7:30. We made quick time of the 6 miles into town. Almost 2.5 of those were road walking...easy but painful for the feet! We got into Hanover and stopped first at the Bagel Basement, which we'd heard gives hikers free bagels. The rumor was true! We each got a toasted bagel and split a free bag of day-old bagels. Next was the post office to get our cold weather gear! We hauled all of our junk over to Six South Street hotel, a very nice place which we'd heard gave a 50% off hiker discount...another great recommendation! We got settled and headed to the outfitter because Bear Bag has been having trekking pole issues...the locking mechanisms have been failing, and one of his tips got sucked off in the mud last week! Unfortunately they couldn't help; the outfitters anymore are very frustrating and don't have what thru-hikers need! Next was a short walk to Ramuntos Pizza where hikers get a free slice...love this town!
I forgot to mention yesterday that my camera got wet. It was in my waist belt pocket, and I set my pack down on my bite valve for my hydration bladder. The pressure opened the valve and all my water leaked out right onto my camera. Not working and not fun but a silly mistake on my part. So, the next task on the list was finding a new camera. We took the free bus to Lebanon and caught a connecting bus which dropped us off somewhere near a Radio Shack. We stopped at EMS and Kmart as well, and then walked to Radio Shack where I bought a new camera. We stopped at Taco Bell and then resupplied at a grocery store nearby. The rain started on our walk back to the bus stop but we didn't have to wait long and caught the two buses back to Hanover. Since we are planning to stop in Glencliff in a few days we didn't want to pay for laundry, so I got my Dr. Bronners soap out and washed the essentials, including our nasty, unbelievably dirty socks, in the sink. Dinner was Subway and now it's time to relax! Back to hiking tomorrow; we've been following Hurricane Irene and packed some extra food in case we get stuck in the woods somewhere!
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 24

We woke up soaked in dew this morning from sleeping in the field...the condensation in my tent was literally dripping down onto me and the foot of my sleeping bag was soaked. So frustrating. We headed uphill for an anticipated difficult day. We did about 15 miles but it felt like we walked uphill all day. Lots of steep climbs but none over 700 or so feet. We passed through an incredibly sloppy, soggy, muddy field where Bear Bag's and my feet got soaked. He actually stepped in mud over his shoes at one point, but I was lucky to avoid that section! We passed through lots of beautiful forest as well...sections of pines, mountain meadows, and thick hardwoods. We saw lots of maple tap lines as well, draining sap down the mountains to make syrup. Pretty interesting. The morning was slow going and we only had 6 miles done by lunchtime. We stopped to eat at Thistle Hill Shelter and continued down to West Hartford. The elevation profile showed this section to be about 5 miles downhill but it felt like half was uphill! We got down to the road and the trail passed by a deli so of course we had to stop. We each got a sandwich and sat inside for about an hour. Fur Bag, Bootlegger, and Square and Veggie showed up as well. We left the store with Square and Veggie for about 4 miles uphill to Happy Hill Shelter. We talked with them the whole way and it made the hiking seem much easier. We made good time and were here by 6:30. Lots of people here tonight, including a few southbounders and Magic Mix, who is hiking with a cat! Sir has been on the trail for about 2.5 months and 1200 miles and it's one of the cutest things I've seen out here. It makes me want one too!
Tomorrow we have 5.8 miles into Hanover and it's supposed to rain so we may end up staying in town. I'm willing to pay money to not hike in the rain!
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August 23

A perfect cool, blue-sky morning gave way to a great day. We left camp about 8:30 and in just a few minutes came to an 8-foot drop off that had an actual ladder against the rock face...made a technical section very simple! We took a break at a dirt road after 2 hours of hiking and a car pulled up as we were getting ready to leave. Two men were doing a short section hike and their wives were dropping them off. They gave each of us a pack of nutty bars...awesome! We headed up yet another hill--lots of up and down today--and took a side trail to The Lookout for a lunch break. We climbed the observation tower for a beautiful mountainous view and then ate lunch in the sunshine on some rocks below. The guidebook mentioned a farm store at a road crossing about 6 miles away so that was our next stop. On the way we passed through some gorgeous fields and farmland. On the Edge farm had a cute little general store and we bought sodas and cookies and other goodies and ate outside on the porch with Fur Bag and Bootlegger. We planned to do about 15 miles today so we got back on the trail for two more miles to Barnard Brook and we're camping in a field just up the hill. It's been a wonderful, perfect day...and it hasn't rained!...yet?
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August 22

It rained off and on throughout the night...happy to be inside! We ate breakfast at the inn again and got back on the trail mid-morning. The trail went through a state park campground so we stopped to take a break. The air was chilly but the sun was warm. We ate an early lunch and then I laid down and actually fell asleep for a bit! I've never been one for naps but napping in the sunshine is quite enjoyable. The trail followed around Kent Pond a few miles later, giving us beautiful scenery but lots more mud! We also passed by Thundering Falls and afterward met a couple hiking south to the falls. They asked us the usual questions and the man told us as we were leaving, "May you have peace and safety and health." It made me smile.
We then headed up steep but surprisingly easy Quimby Mountain. It sprinkled on us a bit at the top but stopped after just a few minutes. We are at Stony Brook Shelter tonight and it started raining just as we were finishing dinner. The area around the shelter is of course nice and muddy and swampy. It's a chilly night too, with lows in the upper 40s. Looking forward to my cold weather gear!
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August 21

Speaking of getting sucked in...
Breakfast was included in our stay so we went downstairs at 7:30 when it started. We got our choice from the menu; I chose french toast and bacon and Bear Bag had blueberry pancakes and bacon. Amazing! We took our time getting packed up and decided to eat at the bar for lunch before we headed out. We each got a bowl of Guinness stew and then sat digesting on the lawn. And, we found out Hooper was camped across the street! Bear Bag had hiked with him for awhile down south, I hadn't seen him since Daleville, VA. So nice to see familiar faces lately. Hoop, Socks, Long Trail, and Lunchbox were heading inside to the bar and invited us to come...so, we did. Inside we heard the weather forecast...strong storms this afternoon and overnight, with large hail possible. So, everyone kind of convinced each other to zero today.
Someone had the idea to go to the Long Trail Brewery, about 15 miles away. The guy at the front desk actually had a sign he offered to us to use for hitching...it said "Long Trail Brewery" on one side and "Inn at Long Trail" on the other. So, Socks, Hoop, Long Trail, Lunchbox, Muldoon (also zeroing), Bear Bag, and I took the sign and headed down to the road...an epic 7-man hitch attempt. Splitting up would have been easier but sticking together was more fun. Things weren't looking good; lots of people honked and waved but no stops. I think they thought we were a carwash or something? We tried lots of formations: a blob, a 6-man pyramid, a single file line from shortest to tallest...a finally a lady in a truck passed us, then pulled over and started backing up...yes! She offered to take us to the base of Killington, just a few miles away. Good enough for now! So we all piled in the bed. She pulled over in a couple miles and as soon as we stepped out of the back, another truck pulled up. Chief had given trail magic to everyone else yesterday, and here he was again! He said he would take us to the brewery so we stuffed ourselves into the cab--five in the back seat and two in the front. We took a short tour of the brewery and ordered drinks and food. We were there for a few hours talking and laughing and enjoying Chief's magic tricks...he used to tour the country as a magician! He gave us all a ride back to the inn and the rain started...lots of rain and I was glad to be dry. A town nearby got hail and high winds as well. We got back and have been relaxing before bedtime. A great zero (when is a zero not great?), but now back to work!
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 20 - 2

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August 20

The sky cleared overnight and we woke to a beautiful sunny morning. The trail was still nice and gooey and we trudged through 3.8 miles to a side trail that led to the Inn at Long Trail. (The Long Trail split from the AT about a mile before) We took Sherburne Pass for a half mile down to the inn for lunch...a rough trail that I'm not looking forward to climbing back up! We got to the inn, dropped our packs on the lawn, took our muddy shoes off, and headed to the pub for a lunch of burgers and chips and a brownie sundae for dessert. Full of food, we relaxed inside for a bit, then out in the sun, and then we got sucked into staying...how does that keep happening? Haha, the inn has a hiker discount that includes breakfast so we took the offer. We needed more food since we have been doing smaller days so we caught The Bus into Rutland and visited the Walmart. I also bought a book to read...lately I've been craving something to get my mind off of the daily grind. We waited around until 5:15 for the bus back, and when we got back to the inn, guess who was there...Shepherd! I haven't seen him since southern Virginia! It was great to catch up.
Showers were next on the list, along with laundry. The pub had live entertainment scheduled for tonight so we headed down for a late dinner and got the last table. The guy sang and told jokes and we had a great time, and left around 11.
It's been another great day although another (very) short day. We've been doing small mileage lately and it worries me a bit about finishing. Not that I think we won't make it in time (Katahdin closes October 15), but I'm concerned what the conditions will be like as we get farther north. In many ways I feel I was stronger in Georgia than I am now...I've been beaten down mentally and physically over the last 5 months, and it's been difficult lately to maintain my fortitude and my optimism. Everyone says you get kind of a second wind in the Vermont area, but I haven't felt it. I know that the mental part is up to me, and this is the first time I haven't been able to control my mentality. It makes me feel weak.
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August 19

I slept well to the sound of the stream nearby and Bear Bag and I left camp around 8:30. We started out with a short but steep climb that got the sweat dripping right off the bat. From there the trail was relatively flat but we didn't make good time for all the rocks, roots, and mud we had to navigate. For all the mud we didn't have yesterday, we certainly got it today! We walked by a river and through beautiful pine forests...that's what I love about New England--all the evergreens! We took an early lunch break and then started the 4-mile climb up Killington. It wasn't steep but long and tedious; again the trail was rough and we had to pick our way through slick rocks and roots. It took more than two hours to get to the top but I enjoyed the climb. I like the long, gradual climbs as opposed to the short, steep ones...I just get in a rhythm and keep on going. When we neared the top we started hearing thunder so we quickened our pace to the shelter at the top, an old ski lodge. We hunkered down for awhile to wait for the storm to pass along with a section hiker and Powhatan. It blew over us, only dropping a few sprinkles. The sun came out again and we completed 4.4 more miles to Churchill Scott Shelter. The lower elevations got a lot more rain; everything down here is soaked! We're tenting tonight as there are several people in the shelter. Hope the rain is done!
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August 18

More free breakfast this morning and then it was time to pack up. Bear Bag contemplated going to the doctor but decided to hike; Rutland and other towns are accessible from road crossings within the next few days if he changes his mind. We walked along busy Route 7 for a bit before stopping in front of a Citgo to try for a hitch. Lots of traffic and lots of stares but no luck. After 10 minutes or so a lady who had pulled into the gas station asked us where we needed to go and offered to take us. Perfect! She drove almost 12 miles out of her way to take us back to the trail. We started up Bear Mountain slowly as we got used to the feel of our packs and the trail again. The climb wasn't difficult until the top when it got a bit steeper, but we made it up and over. I say it a lot but Vermont really is beautiful! And the trail had dried up significantly...still muddy sections but no river of a trail. The plan was to make it to VT 103 and walk half a mile to the Whistle Stop, a restaurant that everyone raves about, for a late lunch. Right before the road we crossed gorgeous Mill River on a very bounce-y, very high, and very liberating footbridge. We made it to the road and headed west to the restaurant to find a few other hikers there as well. We feasted on sandwiches, french fries, and onion rings, with delicious ice cream for dessert. We were stuffed so we sat outside digesting for a bit; I laid down in the sun on one of the benches and actually fell asleep for about 45 minutes! Hard to get moving again after a nap, but we had a mile of trail left for the day. On the road walk back to the trail we switched packs and poles; Bear Bag's Granite Gear pack is comfortable and his trekking poles have a luxurious shock absorber! I took mental notes for any future gear purchases. We had to switch back when we got to the trail though as I have a thing about carrying my gear the whole way. We had a steep climb for about a half mile and then it was smooth sailing to Clarendon Shelter for the night, a beautiful spot with a creek nearby and a grassy front yard! Several hikers here tonight; mostly northbounders with a few sobo section hikers. Tomorrow we climb 3928-foot Killington, a 2500-foot climb!
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August 17

The hotel had continental breakfast so we feasted ourselves this morning. Bear Bag has been having some digestive issues so he wasn't really in hiking condition...zero? I didn't object. Besides, with our detour to Rutland we would have arrived in Hanover on Sunday, so staying another day will save us having to pay for a more expensive place in Hanover while we wait for the post office to open on Monday morning. We walked across town to Walmart (1.3 miles in 15 minutes! So easy without packs and mountains) and Subway. We walked downtown and visited some of the local shops...very enjoyable! There was a movie theater in the plaza with Walmart so we checked that out as well and saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes... not really my thing but surprisingly enjoyable. McDonald's for dinner and Bear Bag is feeling a bit better this evening. Oh, and it didn't rain today! Hopefully things have dried out some! It's a long 12-ish mile hitch back to the trail in the morning...hope people are feeling friendly!
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 16

So much for bright and sunny! It rained steadily throughout the night and was still coming down hard this morning. We knew we had to make miles today so we packed up and got moving. The trail was an absolute mess--water and mud all over the place. The hills were like streams with 4-6 inches of dirty water running down on the trail; the flat sections were puddles of 6-inch deep water just covering the entire trail, and mud and wet rocks on either side. We were soaked and our feet squishy within minutes, and it was cold! The temperature was about 60 and the rain was cold. I had my full rain gear on but was still soaked. It was very slow going as we picked and slipped our way up the trail. We stopped for a quick break at a shelter about 5 miles away, and we got to thinking that drying out and warming up sounded pretty appealing...
We came to a water crossing, a stream that normally would have been simple rock-hopping, but with 36 straight hours of rain, it was incredibly swollen and the current intimidatingly strong. About 30 yards downstream was a 30-foot waterfall as well, just gushing with all of the runoff. Scary? I think so; for me it was the scariest crossing yet, and I shamefully admit I got the sniffles as I started across. I wasn't afraid of getting wet--I was already soaked--but afraid of getting hurt. There were rocks spread across to help with crossing but several were under the water. Bear Bag went first and I followed, picking our way across the water. The rocks were unsteady in the current and at times I couldn't use my poles as the water was so deep and the current so strong. Of course the rocks were soaking wet (some with water gushing over them) as well; I held my breath with every step.
Thankfully we made it across safely and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I've come to realize that water crossings are one of my biggest fears out here. The small ones I can handle but crossings like this definitely get my adrenaline pumping.
We got to a road about a mile later and Road Runner was there; he had a ride to town but was waiting on his hiking partner. The guy offered to take us as far as Wallingford and we couldn't resist the thought of a hot shower. He dropped us off in a few miles and we stood on the corner in the rain with our thumbs out. In a matter of minutes a truck pulled over and he even let us sit in the cab! He took us into Rutland and dropped us off at the McDonald's. He even gave us his number for a ride back in the morning! Amazing. We ate some food and ran into Radio who said he and Strawberry had stayed at the Comfort Inn for a good price, so we headed that way and got a great deal on a room. We took advantage of the swimming pool and hot tub as well! We walked to the laundromat to wash all of our dirty (dirty) clothes, and then ordered pizza for dinner. The day cleared off a bit but it's been raining off and on this evening. Hopefully the trail has dried up a bit..?
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August 15

The rain started about midnight--a steady, wind-driven rain that reverberated from the tin roof throughout the shelter. It woke me when it started and at several more times during the night. Dawn showed no signs of the rain letting up, and Bear Bag and I laid in our sleeping bags not wanting to brave the weather. I fell back asleep and woke again around 9, and again to steady rain. Our 17-mile plan was looking doubtful, so we decided to wait until the rain slacked off and do 5 miles to the next shelter.
Well, the rain never let up. And, we never did 5 miles. We figured up a plan and we can still be in Hanover, NH by Saturday morning to pick up our cold weather gear at the post office before it closes for the weekend. So, we stayed dry today. Several wet and weary hikers have come through throughout the day, and we have a full house of 8 tonight. The day was lazy and wonderful; there are not many feelings greater than that of being dry amidst a rain storm. I took a few naps, got some journaling done, and visited with Anna, the caretaker, and some of the other hikers. It's still coming down outside but I'm hoping the morning will be bright and sunny!
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 14

There was a slight chance of rain last night but we stayed dry. The morning sky was blue but turned quickly to clouds as we worked our way up the trail. We ran into Squatch hiking southbound! I met him back in NC; he's making a documentary about the trail. He stopped us for a few minutes and asked us some questions, and we were on our way again. The sky threatened rain all day but just barely sprinkled on a few occasions. A day hiker told us the brunt of the rain should come tonight and tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes! The terrain wasn't difficult today but the trail is getting rougher...full of roots and rocks and mud. Vermont is beautiful though; lots of firs and moss and mountains. We are at Little Rock Pond Shelter tonight, a gorgeous spot right by the pond! Unfortunately this is a shelter maintained by a caretaker employed by the Green Mountain Club (I assume), so we have to pay $5 to stay for the night. Kind of ridiculous if you ask me but it is a nice, clean shelter. Tomorrow will be either 17 or 19 miles, depending on the weather!
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August 13

Another relaxing morning and more McDonald's...
I took another shower this morning just because I could, and Bear Bag and I packed our food bags and everything else and headed to McDonald's for breakfast. We were only planning to go 2 miles out of town today so we weren't in any hurry and went back to the bookstore to sit around for awhile. I got all of my updates up-to-date using their Wifi (I haven't had 3G signal) and Bear Bag read for awhile. We then went back to McDonald's (AGAIN...only fast food in the area) for a late lunch before sticking our thumbs out along the road. We had walked for maybe 10 minutes when a guy in a pickup pulled over for us and we hopped in the bed...trucks make the best hitches! He drove us back to the trail and we headed up Bromley Mountain. We were going to stop at a shelter 2 miles in but were feeling good so we continued up the mountain. The trail followed a ski slope toward the summit which made for interesting hiking. We got to the top and climbed the observation tower for a great view of the ski lift! The views all around were beautiful though and full of mountains and sunshine. We spent about 15 minutes at the top and headed down to Mad Tom Notch where we planned to stop, making it a 5.5-mile day. There is a water pump nearby at the road and we found a little clearing to make camp. I wasn't very hungry since I had a late lunch so I just snacked for dinner. Bed time now as we have a 19-miler planned for tomorrow.
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August 12

Manchester Center is a very nice, cute town. Bear Bag and I took a short walk to Up For Breakfast, and each ordered the Hungry Hiker: 2 eggs, home fries, toast, 2 sausage links, 2 slices of bacon, and 2 pancakes. So delicious!...but unfortunately I couldn't finish all of mine. We then headed to the outfitter nearby and a local bookstore. In the afternoon we gathered all our stinky laundry and walked across town to the laundromat, and then visited the grocery store, seeing lots of hikers along the way. It feels like we're in the big bubble of northbounders now, and we're seeing lots of sobos as well.
We got some ice cream from Friendly's while waiting on the dryer and carried our groceries and laundry back to Sutton's Place. We decided to take a zero here since it's a nice, friendly place. To keep things cheap we got McDonald's again and ate in a park, and went back to the outfitter to buy fuel for our stoves. This evening we had a few Blue Moons and watched Man vs. Wild in the common area. It's been a great day in town; I'm clean and fed and laundered...now back to being dirty and smelly tomorrow!
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Saturday, August 13, 2011

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August 11

Another chilly night but a beautiful cool, breezy, clear morning in the woods. Bear Bag and I left camp at 7:30 for the big day into town. Stratton Mountain was a 2000 foot climb but spread over about 4 miles so it wasn't difficult and we averaged 2.5 mph on the way up...not too bad! It was surprisingly cold as we neared the top and very windy and cold on the summit...wind chill probably around 40 degrees. I don't have my cold weather gear back yet so all I had was my rain jacket to put on...not very warm! We climbed the fire tower for an incredible mountainous view...something we haven't seen for nearly 1200 miles or so. It was beautiful. We then headed down the north side with runny noses and numb hands. The lower elevation meant higher temperatures and it turned out to be a perfect day...passing sun and clouds and temperatures in the low 70s. We leapfrogged with Teapot and Shadow and Country Mouse all day...the terrain was great after the mountain and everyone was making good time...we held steady at 3 mph. I felt great today, better than I have for awhile, and it was wonderful. I feel like I've found my groove again. I feel strong.
We got to the road and waited 10 minutes for a hitch. A lady with 3 kids pulled over in her minivan to give us a ride. She took us to McDonald's where we took advantage of the dollar menu and then headed to Sutton's Place, a b&b without the b, where we had a reservation for the night. It's a cute little place in town and Shadow and Country Mouse are staying here as well. We had second dinner at a pizza place and now it's time for bed! Looking forward to a lazy day tomorrow of resupplying and doing laundry.
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Friday, August 12, 2011

August 10

No rain today!
The morning wasn't as chilly as I expected it to be considering the storm last night. It rained off and on throughout the night with gusts of wind that blew right into the shelter; with the wind the temperature was probably 45-50...we're not used to that! We were all bundled up but stayed warm packed tight inside. I didn't sleep very well though and got up a little before seven. Lots of clouds and fog but the sun broke through. We didn't get a view from Glastonbury Mountain but I climbed the fire tower anyway. After that climb the trail today was mostly downhill but so, so muddy from all the rain. A few times I thought my shoe was going to get sucked into the mud when I took a step! A few close calls today but thankfully no falls. We stopped at Story Spring Shelter for lunch along with Radio, Strawberry and his dog Kiwi, Firestarter, Rainbow, and Natty. We came to Black Brook a few miles later and saw a beautiful campsite right by the water...looks like a good place to stop for the day! So we did. We'll have a big 19.5-mile day tomorrow into Manchester Center but the trail profile looks pretty good after we get up and over 3936-foot Stratton Mountain!
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August 9

I slept surprisingly well and woke feeling good around 7 to a beautiful clear morning on the front porch. Bear Bag and I were the first ones up so we gathered our gear and headed out to the driveway to pack up. We had the luxury of toasting our pop tarts this morning! The guy who gave us a ride yesterday came by again and gave us a ride back to the trail. We were going to do 14 miles today but got a late start and shortened it to 10. We walked uphill nearly all day through lots more mud, but I felt good and enjoyed the day. We met several southbounders today as well; we're seeing more and more of them. It started to sprinkle as we neared Goddard Shelter and rained as soon as we arrived...just in time! The shelter is new and there is a beautiful piped spring nearby; unfortunately the privy is infested with flies! It's so disappointing to open a privy door and find it unusable...
It's a full house tonight as a lot of people from the hostel last night came here and everyone wants to be inside because of the rain. It's been rainy and windy all evening...going to be a cold night! We haven't been up this high, 3500 feet, in a long time. Supposedly we only have one more day of rain...
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August 8

Bear Bag: Do you want to stay at The Vortex so we can take showers?
Me: Well, yeah...*sigh*...we don't have any willpower
Bear Bag: We have tons of willpower; we're not at The Bird Cage anymore are we?

It poured down the rain last night and I wasn't soaked but there was definitely a small puddle in the corner of my tent. I couldn't figure out where it had leaked but apparently my second seam sealing job was insufficient as well. The floor was damp under my sleeping pad as well which I assume was condensation. Anyway, it wasn't raining anymore when I got up around 7. And I felt good! My left foot is finally feeling normal and I had energy and enthusiasm. It felt wonderful.
The trail was muddy of course but not too difficult and we took a break at Congdon Shelter and I took advantage of the very new and very nice privy...always a treat!
The trail was pretty swampy in some sections so there were planks to walk on. I stepped up onto a board, my muddy foot slipped right off the side, and down I went into a swampy mud puddle. My legs were splattered in mud but I and the bottom of my pack were more wet than dirty, and my arm was scraped up from falling on a rock. I expect to have some bruises tomorrow! So...we got to thinking that showers, laundry, and the chance to dry out our wet gear sounded great and decided that we'd stop at The Vortex hostel in Bennington. We've heard from several southbounders that it's a good place to stay, so why not check it out?
The descent down to Route 9 was steep, rocky, slippery, and slow. We got down to the parking area at the road and saw a pavilion set up. Hmm...could it be? We walked over to find exactly what we'd hoped for: trail magic! A couple who had thru-hiked before had lots of snacks and drinks; GPS, Spins, Baboon, and Still Steve were there as well and everyone was playing a board game in the parking lot. While we were there, a guy walking his dog offered to take us into town. Awesome! He took us to the Vortex, run by a unique couple, Chris and Arla, who welcomed us with a tour of their house and "the barn" where the hikers stay. Their house is full of paintings and little artsy things...very neat. They have bicycles as well and let us take them to the laundromat after we got showers. I haven't ridden a bike in months and it was wonderful! A bit scary at first but it was great to move so quickly! We went to Friendly's for dinner and both got delicious greasy hamburgers and fries, and ice cream for dessert. We're sleeping on the front porch tonight as there are a lot of people here. Firestarter and Rainbow and another hiker are on the porch as well. Hoping for a good night's sleep in the midst of all the traffic!
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Monday, August 8, 2011

August 7

The wind blew hard all night and it rained off and on. I woke around 5:30 this morning and it was still drizzling so I slept until 7. A cloudy, foggy, and damp morning, and I felt a little better but still not good. We headed down the steep mountain, and Bear Bag predicted two falls between us since everything was wet from last night...and he was right on! I was the first to fall; my feet slipped right out from under me and I fell on my butt and pack. I was a little dirty but uninjured. Bear Bag fell shortly after on a rock I think, landing on his pack. "A comfortable fall" is how he described it! We came to a road crossing between Williamstown and North Adams and took a break at a footbridge in town. While we were sitting there, Rob Bird pulled up in his van! He had dropped off some slackpackers who were staying with him. He gave us a ride to Friendly's in North Adams...we ate breakfast and walked the .7 back to the trail. We had planned for 17 miles today but with all the breaks we knew we probably wouldn't make it. We had another 1000+ climb that was slow going and included a poorly-blazed boulder field at the top...super slow going. We took another break, and then it was off to Vermont! We're FINALLY out of Massachusetts! It feels like we're making progress. We've heard Vermont is muddy and it certainly lived up to its reputation. More slow going as we picked our way through mudholes. We ended up at Seth Warner Shelter, and it's crowded here with Long Trail hikers. The Long Trail starts at the MA-VT border and goes 273 miles to Canada. It runs concurrent to the AT for 105 miles. Strange to think that these people are just starting their journeys; we're so far into ours!
Despite the forecast the afternoon was pleasant and full of sunshine. Some clouds rolled in this evening so we'll see how the night goes!
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August 6

I didn't feel good this morning either but I knew we had to get back to the trail. Mt Greylock was the big climb today, our first 2000-foot climb since Virginia (I think)! It wasn't very difficult as the climb was pretty gradual but I didn't have much energy and had stomach cramps and felt dizzy and lightheaded. We finally made it to the top along with Rainbow, Firestarter, and Natty, who were also at the hostel last night. There was a little cafe there so we had lunch together and sat outside for awhile. The wind was blowing and it was chilly up on top of the mountain! There is a tower on top (it's the highest point in MA), so Bear Bag and I climbed to the top for a great but cloudy view. Looking to the north there were mountains...it's finally starting to feel like we're back in the mountains! Very encouraging. There were lots of people there so we got all the usual questions, but it's always fun to talk about our hike. Some people admire us and some think we're crazy!
We kept it short again today, around 12 miles to Wilbur Clearing Shelter. It started to sprinkle as we got close and has been raining all evening, so we're sleeping inside tonight with Sky High and a section hiker. The forecast for the next five days is rain...hopefully the sun will pop out at some point. I'm making it an early night tonight in hopes that I'll have more energy tomorrow...
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August 5

What is wrong with me? I woke today and did not feel good at all and had trouble getting out of bed...what's going on? I felt nauseous too, a little dizzy, and had a headache that persisted throughout the day. Bear Bag and I got packed up, and I had my pack on when I decided hiking was not on the menu today. I feel so mentally weak...
We were still close to Cheshire and actually walked back into town to St Mary of the Assumption church hostel. No showers here (not that I really need one) but a bathroom to use and a couch to sit on does it for me. We ate pizza for lunch and got ice cream later; even walking around town was difficult. Why am I so lethargic?
I took out the rocks I picked up on Springer today and held them for the first time in a long time. I was so angry with myself for being weak, for not progressing, and for leaving my strength somewhere in the mid-Atlantic lowlands. When will I feel strong again?
I'm banking on feeling 100% tomorrow and blasting up and over Greylock...ha! Okay, no matter how I feel tomorrow, I AM going to get up and over Greylock!
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August 4

We finally escaped from the Bird Cage! Bear Bag and I left a little before 8 and backtracked through town to find where we left off on the trail. The blazes cut through town for nearly a mile before getting back into the woods again. My pack was uncomfortable and my feet hurt...my punishment for taking three days off? The terrain felt pretty good though and the trail felt good under my feet as well. The AT cuts right through Cheshire, MA, and passes an ice cream shop so of course we had to stop. We each got a cone and sat outside enjoying them. There were a couple of bikers there and they had lots of questions for us about the trail. The guy told us as he was leaving, "May the wind be at your back..." It made me smile. That's always been one of my favorite sayings; what more could you want than to always have motivation, encouragement, and nothing to hold you back?
The sky was looking a bit ominous so we decided to pull off for the night after 10-ish miles today...a good, easy transition. Glad we did too because it rained not too long after. Tomorrow we conquer Mt Greylock, the highest point in MA!
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

August 3

I stayed in bed until 9 this morning!! So much for hitting the trail early. Bear Bag and I finally left the Bird Cage around 10, with our packs, to stop by the general store for breakfast. We left our packs outside and when we came back out, Bear Bag's pack was wet...his water bladder (as he puts it, was "exploding") was leaking inside. So, we reasoned, it didn't make much sense to leave town at that moment, because he couldn't carry much water. So, we headed back to the Bird Cage; Rob was making a Walmart run around noon. Our intended 14-mile day was shortened to a possible 5-mile day. We jumped in the van with the 8 or so others to head to the plaza, ate lunch at Taco Bell (yes, again), stopped by Barnes and Noble, and went to Walmart...who was sold out of water bladders. A nearby sporting goods store didn't have anything either unfortunately. So, he decided he would use Gatorade bottles until he could find something else. We decided to spend the rest of the day in Dalton and continue with our original plan tomorrow. Yes, that means three zeros in a row. Do I feel lazy? Only slightly. It rained this afternoon and it's an amazing feeling to not be out in the woods when it's raining. After today, though, I'm ready to start hiking again; my legs are getting restless. It's been really difficult to get back into the swing of things but it's time.
Since we were staying with Rob another day, we bought him some soda and toilet paper and left him some more money in his donation jar...I imagine it's expensive to do what he does! We bought cereal, milk, and ice cream as well to eat for dinner and breakfast. I also texted Tomahawk to let him know we were staying again; he had hiked out this morning. We'll just have to catch up! We walked to the library early evening to use the internet, and watched Dumb and Dumber with everyone else while eating ice cream and Reese's Puffs. Lazy? Of course not...haha!
There are 16 or so people here tonight, including 7 southbounders! It's neat to hear what they have to say about the trail we're getting into, and to share our stories as well...we've done 75% of the miles; they've done 75% of the work!
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August 2

Okay, okay, Dalton has officially sucked us in...this morning as we were getting packed up someone jokingly said "zero", our minds got to turning, and Tomahawk mentioned "movie theater"...and there it was: double zero all the way (haha)
The three of us walked down to the general store and got donuts for breakfast and spent a leisurely morning on the porch and cleaning up the house when Rob left to give a few slackpackers a ride. He then took Boom, Hot Sauce, Vlad, Tomahawk, Bear Bag, and I to the mall around noon. We ate lunch in the food court and headed to the movie theater. I wasn't much interested in anything that was showing but most people wanted to see Harry Potter so I tagged along. Not the greatest movie but at least it kept my attention for the most part. We had about an hour to kill after the movie let out, and there was an EMS store in the mall so we all congregated there. Bear Bag and I both bought new tips for our trekking poles; his were completely worn down and my were bent and we haven't been able to find tips for about 300 miles. Rob picked us up and we fixed our poles when we got back to the house, using an assortment of tools we found lying around.
For dinner we went to Misty Moonlight Diner, known for their Godzilla omelet, a 30-minute, 12-egg, meat, vegetable, toast, and potato challenge. GPS was the only one to attempt it and he failed with about an eighth of the thing left...still impressive and entertaining to watch!
So, it's one last night in a bed because we HAVE to get back to the trail tomorrow! As Rob Bird told us, "You won't get there if you don't leave here..."
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August 1

August 1? Unbelievable.
We intended to hike out today...isn't that always the plan? I was actually standing in Rob's front yard with my pack on when someone mentioned the word" zero." Tomahawk expressed interest in going to the library (yesterday was Sunday and everything was closed) and Bear Bag remembered something he needed to do there as well. The library didn't open until noon so we figured we would hang around for awhile, get to the library, and maybe hike out later. I walked down to the general store and ate popcorn and almost an entire box of powdered donuts for lunch, and got back to the house in time to catch a ride with Rob and everyone to the library. By the time we were finished there it was mid afternoon and who wants to start hiking in the hottest part of the day?...sooo, the day turned into a zero. Perfectly fine with me. I took a nap this afternoon and Rob gave us a ride for dinner again...and I ate Taco Bell AGAIN. Two crunchwrap supremes this time! A group of us sat in the living room and watched The Tourist, and just as I got in bed, Tomahawk came in and said I was missing the concert. What? So I go out to the kitchen and Rob and Terminator are playing guitars and singing. So awesome! Rob sounded great (so did Terminator), and they played mainly old country songs: John Denver, Waylon Jennings, Rocky Top, and lots of others. It was a great moment and everyone was laughing and singing along, about 10 hikers total. The sense of community was strong as ever.
It was another late but certainly enjoyable night, and it's back to the trail tomorrow...for real this time!
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July 31

It's so nice to sleep in on the trail! Tomahawk, Bear Bag, and I got up between 7 and 7:30 and took our time packing up. With only 2.9 miles to town, there was no need to rush! The leaders for the group that was at the shelter last night were making cinnamon bagels for breakfast and offered some to us! A great supplement to my pop tarts. We left camp for the quick miles into town. We stopped for breakfast at a sub shop and then headed to the Shell gas station to ask about the hostel where we were planning to stay. The Bird Cage isn't in our guidebooks but the word on the trail was to ask for Rob at the gas station and he would let you stay at his house. So we got to the station, the employee call Rob, and ten minutes later we were sitting in the guy's kitchen drinking sodas. Rob lets hikers stay in his house, and gives them showers, laundry, and shuttles around town. He also gives haircuts! Haha, we saw a couple of people a few days ago with mohawks courtesy of Rob, and Tomahawk decided to get one. Bear Bag started to get a buzz cut but the clippers died and he had to walk around with half a head of hair for awhile...
We all took showers and Rob did our laundry for us! He went to go pick up some more hikers so I finished Bear Bag's hair...another first for me on the trail! And not too bad if I say so myself. We then walked down to the Dalton general store and got sandwiches for lunch. Several more people showed up this afternoon so the house will be pretty crowded tonight! 21 is the total, which includes several southbounders as well.
Around 7, Rob piled a bunch of us in his van and shuttled us to a shopping center for dinner and resupply. Bear Bag and I ate at Taco Bell and Wendy's and headed over to Walmart. Rob picked us back up at 9 and we piled 13 people into his minivan for the ride back to his house. A great nero and we should be ready for a good day tomorrow!
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Time's Not for Saving

Lack of motivation?

Each day, each step even, puts me closer to Katahdin. Closer to the end.

It's been difficult for me to get up and moving in the morning...but not because of a lack of motivation, and not because I'm tired of hiking. (Yes, I hurt, my pack is still a burden, and some days the thought of walking 15 or 16 or 17 or 18 miles sounds incredibly unappealing, but...) Each morning I wake, I find myself one day closer to completing this journey. One day closer to Katahdin. One day closer to the end.

But wasn't that the goal? To hike from Georgia to Maine? And be finished?

It's hard, no, it's impossible, to not think about the end. When I started in March, my mindset was always that I had six months left, and I had five months left, four months left, and now I'm down to a month and a half. What happened to the early spring warmth of Georgia? To the first heat of summer in Virginia? The mornings now emit the goosebump-inducing crispness of early fall and I'm switching back to my winter gear in the next couple of weeks. Winter gear again, already?

I've realized that the goal was not to just hike from Georgia to Maine. The goal was to hike from Georgia...through North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire...to Maine. Those twelve states in the middle make a big difference.

The journey continues.


Mountains are the means; the man is the end. The goal is not to reach the tops of the mountains, but to improve the man.

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