June 29. Woke up befor 6 and thought about getting an early start on the day. Around 4 it had started to sprinkle so my tent was a little wet...so I talked myself out of the early start and rolled over and relaxed. Then, before 6:30 the skies opened up and it poured rain. The tent was completely wet by the time it stopped raining and Rafiki and I both got up and put away our wet tents and started hiking by 8. It was a tough morning...some big uphills, lots more walking through itchy tall grass, and pesky bugs. At one point a few miles into the day I decided I needed a privy...now! I looked down an old side woods road to find a flat spot to hike into and noticed an old outhouse some 50 yards away. I have no idea what it was doing there, I was in the middle of nowhere, but it was opperational and I took advantage of using it! I made it to West Hartford, VT and walked right past a deli and stopped in. I needed a soda and a danish! I couldn't believe it when I saw Rafiki walk up, I thought he was in front of me! He had taken a break for breakfast at a shelter and I passed him. I also ran into a section hiker from Indiana who I hadn't seen since Virginia! He was out for a few weeks there, he said he went home and headed up to Maine and was now heading south. Rafiki and I left the town around noon and pushed for Hanover. We hiked a good 8 miles and stuck together the whole time. We dropped into a country road leading to Norwich, VT and found some trail magic outside a house, a cooler of fresh baked bread and watermelon! We hiked down the hill and hit the center of Norwich. I told Rafiki that I needed to find the Theta Chi monument and that I would see him in Hanover and as I started looking up the directions to the monument I looked across the street and found it! We went over and I got some great photos with the monument dedicated to the founding place of my social fraternity, Theta Chi. From there we hiked a good mile or two on roads to Hanover and walked directly into the middle of Dartmouth. While crossing the Connecticut River we left Vermont and entered New Hampshire! Less than 450 miles and only 2 states to go! Rafiki went to the post office and picked up his resupply box and I hit the local grocery store and bought 2 days of food. We walked around and visited the outfitter and got free Snickers bars then we hit the Ramuntos Brick Oven Pizza place where thru-hikers get a free slice of pizza! After that I ordered a BLT wrap and a local beer. We finished dinner and made our way around campus. At one point Rafiki had found an outlet under a tree on the curb of the road and was plugged in, sitting down, talking on the phone. One thing about thru-hikers, we are always looking for an outlet! Someone had told Rafiki that a fraternity opened its doors for thru-hikers. We didn't find it the first time around campus and we made a pass back to the main lawn and set up our tents to dry them out a bit. Several people thought we were part of the local Occupy Movement because they had been camping across the street recently. Since the sun had gone down the tents really didn't dry so we walked down to the gas station, Rafiki picked up some ice cream, and we took another stab at finding a place to stay. We walked down the road to the Phi Tau house and someone let us in and introduced us to the President. Let's put this into perspective first...the person downtown that told us about the frat house said "They are a bunch of nerds, you should be able to stay there." We got the rundown of the house and hiker rules from the President and headed downstairs while he went back to doing "logistical work". The President said that all of the brothers were downstairs for Movie Night...every Friday night is Movie Night at the house, and tonight they were watching one of the Star Trek movies. We got downstairs to a huge party room with a pool table and 2 ping pong tables (beer pong tables) but all of the brothers were in the TV room watching Star Trek...on a Friday night. Yup, we were in the right place! I quickly checked the Phi Tau website and found this on the homepage...word.for.word. "We're a fairly eclectic bunch. You'll find us playing board games, reprogramming microwaves, disseminating lawn decorations, solving mysterious challenges, throwing dance parties, being pirates, being mad scientists, keeping dragons, and of course baking lots and lots of cookies." I'm not kidding...it really does say that...don't believe me? Look! (http://phi-tau.org/public/index.php) But anyways, I digress...they were very nice people to let us stay in their house for the night. Since it was movie night though it seemed that they would be up late in the movie room watching Star Trek while we wanted to fall asleep under the stars so we could trek out early tomorrow. We asked one of the brothers where the hikers normally sleep and he said in the TV room where it was nice and comfortable, and at the moment occupied. We asked how late they would be up and he said in a nerdy voice "We are college kids, we will probably be up until 1 or 2 AM! Haha!" He was also a very nice guy...it was just a very funny interchange. We looked around the party room at the sticky, hard tile floor and Rafiki opened a door to find a side room with a bar, a few booths, and some floor space. Rafiki took the floor, I took a wood booth, and I found some beer in the fridge and relaxed for a while. Life was good, we made it to New Hampshire, Rafiki and I were having fun, and we were talking about the Whites and possibly trying to finish in the next 18 days! The AT has been a blast, and it is days like these that make it all worth it!
Friday, June 29, 2012
July 28. Woke up in the lodge...4 hikers and our gear in one room, it did not smell very good. The coffee brewing downstairs did though and we all headed down for a full breakfast in the dining room. The service at the lodge had been so nice it was hard to think about hiking again but I had to move towards Maine. Rafiki left before me, Rat Bucket and Rayo headed to a grocery store, so I set out on my own around 10 AM. Right off the bat I came to another section of trail closed due to Hurricane Irene. It said the walking boards had washed away...after laundry, clean socks, and drying my shoes in the morning sun the last thing I wanted to do was submerge them in water...I took the bypass. The first hill out of Killington was pretty killer...1,300 feet up in a mile. It was one of those climbs that worked up enough sweat to make the clean laundry and shower irrelevant, but I made it! The owner of the lodge said the trail to New Hampshire would be spectacular, and he was right. I passed through so many different settings today...thick, lush, green forest, then wide open pine groves with little undergrowth. Over each little hill I would descend down into a pasture looking over another country road, a few houses, and farms. I also passed several hillsides with syrup lines tapped into the trees, running down the hills to the valleys. The pastures were a little tough...they seemend to be hiker maintained. That means when we hike through, whatever we trample down is what is maintained. Some of the grasses I walked through were as tall as me! The hill climbs were tough too...they were more like Georgia, steep dirt tails straight up the mountain. I prefer this to the boulder scrambles, but at times I felt like the Alps mountain climber from the game show The Price Is Right, inching my way to the top as your guess on the price of the bleach was off by a few pennies. The tops of the hills though were rewarding and at 8 PM with the next shelter still 4 miles away I hit the top of a long climb and turned back to a panoramic view of the mountains, this would be my campsite. I saw a little head poke out from the brush, a coyote, but then he scampered off. I set up camp and had my dinner. Not long after I arrived Rafiki showed up! Somehow I had passed him during the day and he set up camp as well. It was an amazing sunset and as the light faded the moon lit up the mountains. This would be one of my favorite campsites on the whole trail. New Hampshire tomorrow!
Thursday, June 28, 2012
So what next? I know I am not even done with the Appalachian Trail, but as it is winding down (I still have 480 miles to hike!) I have been using the long hours alone on the trail to think about what I might do next.
First and foremost, I will go home and be a husband, help Amy around the apartment and with the dog, and most likely find a way to help pay the rent. But what about for fun? What about for adventure?
Mom and Grandma, you may want to skip this blog post...
These are just a few of the things I have been thinking about on the trail. Things that I might want to do or try when I get done with the AT...
- Hike the Triple Crown of hiking trails in the USA. That includes the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Only about 8 more months and just under 6,000 more miles of hiking
- Hike the John Muir Trail
- Hike the Tahoe Rim Trail
- Run down south rim of the Grand Canyon on the Kaibab Trail to the Colorado River and up the Bright Angel Trail to the south rim, in one day.
- Run the Tough Enough 65 mile ultramarathon in Santa Barbara as a solo runner
- Run the Western States 100 mile ultramarathon
- Qualify for the Boston Marathon (my brother Tyler just did a few weeks ago)
- Beat my high school personal record in the 5K (I think it is 18:58)
- Compete in a full Iron Man triathlon
- Ride a century (100 mile bike race)
- Run in the Bulldog 50K trail race (31 miles) in Calabasas, CA (registered for the race this morning!)
- Sit around home and do nothing and eat a bag of potato chips
I don't know which one I want to do first (the Bulldog run is first now!)...I think I want to do all of them! Or, maybe right now I would rather be doing just about anything other than walking north in New England! In any event, I have been daydreaming about these options quite a bit lately and I think it is safe to say that no matter what I do, I doubt I will be bored!
What do you think? Feel free to weigh in on the blog or on facebook! It is good to hear from you, makes the long days walking alone more bearable!
Mom and Grandma, if you are still reading this you can weigh in too, just give me a call! :)
Have a fantastic day!
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
June 25. We finally said goodbye to Sunshine, Nick, and Josh around noon and stopped by the local deli to get food before hitch hiking the 10 miles back to the trail. I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke...it was a lot of food, but just what I needed! We sat out in the parking lot and ate as we watched the dark clouds rolling in overhead. We walked down to the corner in front of the grocery store where the road takes off towards the trail head. We tried to hitch for about 20 minutes with no luck before the clouds above opened up and started dumping rain. Luckily the grocery store was across the street and we ran there to take cover. I was still hungry so I went in and bought a chocolate milk and a chocolate covered doughnut. The lady at the checkout counter said "We were all rooting for you guys out there" and I noticed that the huge picture windows in the front of the store looked right out at where we had been trying to hitch. Most hikers probably go to Manchester Center so the village of Londonderry may not be used to having hikers around. We waited a little longer as the rain kept coming down and I killed time by eating another honey glazed doughnut. When the rain passed we headed back out to the street and the first car that passed stopped for us and we got a ride back to the trail in a Westfalia bus from Toronto! When we got out of the van the rain had started again and we quickly put on our rain coats and pack covers. A few steps into the trail we found a cooler of drinks and I downed an orange soda. We hiked on in the rain for a few minutes and it cleared off. One section of the trail climbed up a ski run and that made for some interesting views. I wondered how difficult it would be to hike this section on the winter with people skiing at you! We hit a shelter at 5 PM and met a couple who were section hiking 100 miles in Vermont. They offered to make us some hot coffee as Rat Bucket, Rayo, and I debated about hiking 4.7 miles further to the next shelter. We decided to go on after much deliberation and around 6:30 hit the trail. We crossed a few areas where flooding had taken out the trail but found ways around it. About half a mile from the shelter the rain started again and we ran the rest of the way arriving soaked but happy to be there. With no one else in the shelter we could spread out and have dinner and hang out wet gear out. Another great day of stories, 15 miles hiked, and I was ready for bed!
June 26. Woke up cold! Freezing to be exact. Rat Bucket let the air out of his sleeping pad at 6:30 and Rayo said we should all sleep another 30 minutes, so I pulled my Tyvek over me and fell back to sleep. I finally strated moving after 7...it was cold and looked wet out but it wasn't raining. I got ready for the day, I thought about wearing my underwear today under my shorts for an extra thermal layer during the cold rain...but I am glad I didn't, I needed dry underwear to help keep me warm for another cold night! We left the shelter and started up the trail. Around noon we hit another shelter and stopped in for lunch. It had been misting most of the morning and I was cold and wet, but ready to keep hiking! We talked about stopping off in 8 miles to visit a restaurant 0.5 miles down the road. I headed out first and made good time to the road. The rain had really been coming down and I was soaked. I walked half a mile down the road and as I came to the restaurant a guy pulled over and offered to give me a ride into Rutland, 10 miles away. I said no thanks and walked up to the restaurant to see they had closed for the day at 2:30, it was 4 PM. I sat under their roof for a bit, out of the rain, and ate some of my snacks. I walked back to the trail in the pouring rain and waited until 5 PM to see if Rayo and Rat Bucket would be coming by so I could tell them the place was closed. At 5 I left because I wanted to make it to the next shelter and I was freezing in the cold rain. A mile later I made it to the shelter and found a note from the guys that said they moved on and would be staying at the next shelter 6 miles away. The shelter I was in was ok...big...but definitely had a leaky roof problem. There was water everywhere! It was 5:30 and at 3 miles an hour I could make the next shelter byh 7:30, but any slower and I would risk losing light in the woods...the rain cloulds made it dark pretty early, and my headlamp battery was running out. It probably wouldn't be the best idea for me to forge on so I changed into dry clothes and ate dinner alone in the spacious shelter. A little after 6 two other hikers arrived and decided to stay, which worked out great! One was from Illinois and the other from Indiana and we talked about the midwest, building our own gear, trail stories, and other hikers. We all found dry-ish spots to sleep in. I pulled out my Lafuma 600 sleeping bag for the last time...it is a 45 degree sleeping bag and I have been freezing in it the past few days even while wearing my silk long pants and shirts, silk socks, wool socks, underwear, wind pants, my Thermawrap coat, and fleece hat. My 15 degree sleeping bag was waiting for me in Killington and I would be there tomorrow! Today was a short day for me, 20 miles, and Killington was only another 20 miles away. We were all planning to stay at Kent Pond and sit in the hot tub tomorrow night, so I hoped to get an early start on the day, get to Killington and get my town chores done, and then relax!
June 27. I had a hard time waking up. I had stayed dry and relatively warm through the night but the brisk morning air made getting out of my sleeping bag and back into my wet clothes very unatractive. I finally started moving and put on my damp shirt and shorts and my cold wet socks and shoes. I was out of the shelter by 8 and making progress up the trail. I passed a sign that said "Trail Closed" from Hurricane Irene and a relocation map. I thought for sure it was an old sign so I continued on. I realized shortly though that the sign was current! I approached a stream and saw the damage and destruction from Irene...trees down everywhere and the river banks washed out. The trail was gone as well...but there were some rock cairns across the river, so I crossed the swollen river in knee deep water, I was wet! When I got to the other side I didn't see the trail there either and after 10 minutes of looking around I saw another rock cairn further up back on the other side of the water. I waded back across the rushing current and made it to the white blazes. I continued on to another washed out river but at least here someone had laid out a ladder of steps and built hand rails out of branches and limbs. I found out later that very few people hiked through the closed section of trail...oops! I didn't think it was that bad! Plus, in the closed section I passed the 500 mile sign to Katahdin, the end of the AT! I finally made it to the shelter where the guys had stayed the night before and started the long climb up Mount Killington. It was really cold on top of the mountain, the wind was blowing, the clouds were thick, and the rain was still falling. For a brief minute the sun poked through and I saw my shadow! I got really excited and started singing to myself and thinking today might be a good day after all! Then...the sun went away, the clouds came back, and the rain started falling. A few miles from town I caught up with Rat Bucket and Rayo and we headed into Killington. We passed the "Maine Junction" where the Long Trail goes north to Canada and the AT goes north-ish (more north-east-ish) to Maine. Rat Bucket and Rayo went to the Mountain Meadows Lodge and I walked into town to the outfitter to pick up my sleeping bag and then to the post office to send the other one home. I was glad to have my warmer bag...but it is a TON bigger! I took a before and after photo below...first is my summer bag...then the winter bag... I stopped by the Killington Deli to get some snacks and a delicious sandwich and soda and milk. I walked back to the Lodge and learned that we could do a work for stay! My job was to strip paint off a door and put a coat of primer on it. While I was working I was called to dinner...a plate full of ribs, garlic bread, veggies, fruit, and more! We ate until we were stuffed and I finished painting the door. We put our clothes in the laundry and all jumped in the hut tub out back to relax. My friend Rafiki also showed up and joined in on the work for stay. We were 4 tired hikers, sick of the rain, enjoying a nice place to stay...even with the rain clouds looming for the next few days, at least tonight we were dry and comfortable!
Monday, June 25, 2012
June 24. We woke up early and started out for a 28 mile day. I was hiking with Rat Bucket and Rayo and our plan was to get to mile 1,648 by evening. The morning started tough for me...I slammed my knee on a rock and banged my shin on a log. Not long after I slipped on some roots and fell down. We hiked up Stratton Mountain before noon and took a break. There was a fire tower and we climbed up for some great views. There were a bunch of people at the tower and they had taken the gondola from the ski resort at Stratton Mountain. We heard that hikers could get a free ride down to the resort where a yoga festival was taking place. We hiked over and took the ride down and found tons of people and vendors everywhere for the Wanderlust Yoga Festival. Single guys, I used to think a John Mayer concert was the place to go to meet girls (today it is probably a Justin Beiber concert), but I think a yoga festival might place a strong second. But, being very happily married and a very hungry hiker I was much more interested in the vendors giving away free food! We walked from tent to tent and tried organic energy bars, teas, drinks, yogart, and made it to the Ben and Jerry's truck and had multiple cups of ice cream! Everyone was talking to us...I think our backpacks gave it away that we weren't there for yoga. As soon as we got off the gondola Sunshine, a woman who did some event planning at the resort, talked to us and said she and her husband house ski instructors in the winter and they had a few rooms open if we wanted a place to stay tonight. The three of us guys walked down to the pizza place and ordered a beer and talked about our options. Another past thru-hiker came and invited us to a slack line yoga class later in the afternoon and that sounded like fun. We later leaned that people had paid something like $400 to attend the 4 day festival and take the classes and such, and we got in for free! The woman caught back up with us and we worked out a plan where we would finish the next 14 miles and find a way to their house 10 miles from the trail. She gave us the option to slack pack, where she would take all of our stuff and we would carry our packs, water, and a little food. I haven't slack packed yet, not that it is a bad thing, but I decided I would carry all of my gear and the rest of the day's food and give her my next 3 days of food, that was the heavy part. We took the gondola up the hill and started trail running just before 3 PM. We made some fast progress and took a break every 3 or 5 miles when we came to a side trail or shelter. We hit the final road crossing around 6:30 PM, a very fast 14 miles! We took a break and tried to get a ride with two hikers in the parking lot but they were going the wrong direction. We made it out to the road and put out thumbs up and the first car that passed picked us up! That may be the easiest hitch I have had so far! She drove us to the middle of tiny Londonderry, VT and we visited the shopping market and then walked to the house. We arrived and met up with Sunshine, her husband Nick, and another hiker Josh. We sat outside and had some beer and snacks while we took turns taking showers. Once we were clean we had dinner, some great leftovers from a catered event at the yoga festival as well as some home made rice and veggies...awesome! I got picked for dishes duty and as I did the dishes I thought about being back at home...Amy typically cooks the meals and I do the dishes. This was the first time in over 3 months I had done dishes but it was nice and it reminded me that I am getting ready to be home, back to doing the normal things in life. I really enjoy being on this adventure, but sometimes it is the little normal things in life, like doing the dishes for your wife, that make life worth living. I had a nice cup of tea after dinner as we relaxed in the living room. Sunshine had told us that the past few nights a fox has been getting into the chicken coop and stealing her chickens...we were going to stay up on patrol tonight and get the fox for her, but we were all exhausted. We split up the rooms and I slept on a very comfortable couch...probably one of the most comfortable nights of sleep I have had on the trail! It was a very random day...fantastic trail magic, and another great story from the AT!
June 25. Woke up on the couch after a great night's sleep. I checked the weather and it looked like rain for the next 8 days...fun! I headed downstairs and sat in the living room and Sunshine brought me some fresh french press coffee. I drank my coffee while she made me scrambled eggs. The breakfast was gourmet...fresh eggs from the chickens in the back yard! Sunshine told us that the fox got another chicken last night...maybe we should have stayed on patrol. We were not in a hurry so we sat around and talked with Sunshine about starting a hiker hostle. We actually were the first hikers to sign her hiker log book! It was a very nice change of pace for a morning on the trail and we enjoyed our time off with french press coffee! We still wanted to hike a few miles today...but in the meantime we enjoyed being off our feet! It would be hard to get back on the trail, but I was still looking forward to getting to Maine!
June 23. Woke up in the hotel...let me tell you a little about the Autumn Inn in Bennington. When the owner picked me up yesterday and drove me to the hotel when I checked in I didn't realize at first that my room cost was $98! I didn't expect much from the room, it was a hiker hotel. It wasn't as bad as The Doyle, but that only cost me $25 a night. This also wasn't as bad as Ron Haven's Budget Inn, but that only cost me $45 a night. I started thinking about past trips and I remember using Hotwire to get 4 Star hotels in Chicago for less than $98 a night! Once in my room I took a shower and realized there was no shampoo...only hand soap. I walked over to the grocery store and picked up shampoo there. The 2 mile walk back was tough and hot and my thermometer read over 100 degrees in the sun as I walked on the side of the road. I was glad I decided to do this walk before I did my laundry! Back at the hotel I started my laundry but had issues because the dryer was broken...the owner's wife took my clothes and did my laundry for me on their own machines. When she brought them back to me they were still damp, but at least they were clean, mostly. This was also the type of hotel where you don't want to sleep in the beds, I instead spent $98 to sleep in my sleeping bag on a hard bed. At least the hotel had internet...the sign out front said "AC - WiNet - Cable"...ha, no WiFi, but WiNet! In the morning I went to the office building to get coffee and the owner informed me that she couldn't make coffee because they were doing construction on the building and the water was turned off. She said I could walk down the street "5 stop lights" to a great breakfast place for coffee and food. 5 stop lights was a good mile or so each way, no way! There was another guy standing outside the office and when I looked at him he shrugged his shoulders and said "I just moved in here yesterday. Trifecta! Several of the hiker hotels have been 1, in very bad shape, 2, owned by Indians (people from India, not Native Americans), and 3, had long term tenants living there. This hotel had all 3! I went back to the building that I paid $98 to sleep in and used the water to take a shower and wondered why they couldn't use some of the water from here to make coffee...oh well, at this point I had given up. I ate the last 3 slices of cold pizza from last night, gathered my gear, and had the owner drive me back up to the trail. It had been a very interesting night in town and I wasn't sure if I was glad I had even stayed there, but in the end it was a good story! When I got back on the trail at 10:00 AM and breathed the cool mountain air I was glad to be back in the woods. I hiked through the day and at 2 PM I stopped in a shelter and visited the privy. While in the privy I felt the air temp drop and heard the wind pick up. Walking back up to the shelter I could see a huge dark cloud moving in. I checked the weather on my phone and sure enough a severe thunderstorm warning with hail, lightning, and rain...lovely. I waited a bit and decided to walk the 4 miles to the next shelter. I passed a lookout tower and thought as much as I'd like to see the views, being in a huge lightning rod in a thunderstorm was probably not a good idea. The rain really started coming down about a mile before I made it to the shelter. When I got there I found 3 guys already set up and I took the last bunk. It was only 4 PM but I didn't think it would be a good idea to walk the 4.5 miles to the next shelter in the rain, I could just hike that tomorrow. By the time I got my gear all out the rain had stopped and the sky had cleared...awesome. I could either hike on for another hour or so, or just wait. I had hiked 15 miles today and the trees, leaves, and rocks would all still be wet so I climbed in my sleeping bag, ate dinner, and tried to go to bed early to get an early start tomorrow.
Friday, June 22, 2012
June 22. Today was a trail Friday, and I was pumped! Trying to sleep through the night was like trying to sleep through December 24th when you were a kid. I kept waking up and checking my watch...finally at 4:45 I just got up and started packing my gear. I was on the trail by 5:15 and had around 16 miles, a few hills, and one state line to cross before headin into town. Only 2 miles into my hike I crossed the Mass-Vermont state line! This is also where the Long Trail of Vermont starts...273 miles to the Vermont-Canada line. Both trails run togethr for a little over 100 miles so I will be meeting a lot of Long Trail hikers in the next stretch.
Random Trail Thought: I think most modern cell phone ring tones are based off of bird sounds. As I walked through the woods and listened to the birds it sounded like cell phones ringing!
I hiked hard...but it didn't help that I started on an uphill boulder climb! At the state line I passed the other Tarzan and Fancy, fast asleep. Their goal yesterday was to make it to Vermont, and they did! They camped about 50 feet past the state line...sometimes it is the mental wins that count on the trail! Much like my mental win...get to Bennington and stay a night in a hotel! It was a warm morning, but I started rolling. I took a wrong turn at one point but caught my mistake about 5 minutes down the trail. I pushed down the last descent to the road to Bennington and made it there by 11:45 AM. A good 16 mile morning, and ready for town! I tried to hitch a ride for about 10 minutes and then called a hiker friendly hotel and they came up the hill to get me. I checked in, went upstairs and took a much needed shower, and then in my dirty clothes walked across town to the grocery store. It was a good 2 mile walk there in the heat and I stopped at McDonald's for a big lunch. After lunch and shopping I walked back across town to the hotel to do my laundry. Clean clothes, clean me, air conditioning, a 6 pack of Long Trail Ale...not bad! I had pushed hard since Amy dropped me back off at the trail on June 10th in Deleware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. In 12 days of hiking I had gone from PA, through NJ, NY, CT, MA, and into Vermont. In all I had hiked 320 miles with a few side trails for towns and such...an average of 26.6 miles a day. Not bad, but I could feel it! Not to mention that since Amy dropped me off I had not showered or done my laundry in 12 days, 320 miles, and 6 states...both of those needed to be done for sure! I was ready for a night off! But that quickly changed...after spending money on lunch, groceries, hotel, and laundry, and thinking about dinner and then breakfast, I started thinking it will be nice to get back to the trail. Towns get expensive fast, I will probably be shooting for hostels or cheap showers for the rest of the trip!
In honor of my 12 days of tough hiking I came up with lyrics to "The 12 Days Of Hiking", sung to the tune of The 12 Days Of Christmas, in H-Flat (H is for hiker, flat is for I am flat on my back in the hotel typing these out...)
* Hiking endless miles alone in the woods offers opportunities to do many unproductive things, such as this!
On the 12th day of hiking, the AT gave to me...
12 nights of camping
11 days without a shower
10 mosquito bites
9 stubbed toes
8 meals in towns
7 ice cold sodas
6 differrent states
5 roast beef sandwiches (no, not really, I wish I had found an Arby's!)
4 scoops of ice cream
3 black bears
2 achy feet
1 rattlesnake that almost bit me!
Not bad for 12 days! Now to order pizza and find something interesting on the History Channel...
Back to the trail tomorrow...I have only been in town for 6 hours and I already have this strange feeling that I would rather be in the woods right now...
June 19. I woke up late again, seems to be a trend since I got out of Pennsylvania! I had set up my tent on the tent pad the night before but it was a little slanted so I didn't get much sleep while trying to stay in the middle of the tent all night. One thing is for sure though, CT and MA have been much better on shelters and camping than NJ and NY were! In NJ and NY it felt like the shelter locations were oddly spaced and it made it hard to hit them at a decent hour at night. In CT and continuing on into MA there seem to be lots of options for shelters and tent sites, and even the tent only sites have a privy! As I packed my gear I noticed slugs crawling all over my tent and my shoes. They were leaving slug slime everywhere and I was trying to pull them off my stuff. As I got out of my tent I must have sat on one because when I put my tent away I noticed a big slime and guts spot on the bottom of the tent...lovely. Oh well, not much I could do! I folded it to the inside, stuffed it in my bag, and headed on my way! The first two mountain climbs were tough. On the way down I caught up with a guy I hadn't seen since Gatlinburg! We talked for a bit and then I headed on. He said he had been putting in some big miles but now he was slowing down...he wasn't sure he wanted to finish so soon. This would be a popular idea as I caught more and more people, lots of them seemed to be slowing down as to not finish too soon. I crossed a valley, only about 6 miles long, but it was an interesting mix of feilds, grass lands, river banks, pine forest, and road crossings. Twice today I started walking towards the nearest town to find a deli or restaurant and twice I talked myself out of it. It wasn't the food I was actually craving, I wanted a soda. I don't even drink soda at home, but out here on the trail I crave it bad. I told myself I'd be passing through Dalton tomorrow and could get one then. As I walk through the woods I can often hear the fast chirps of a baby woodpecker coming from trees along the trail. Today I stopped to listen and look at a tree with lots of holes and in no time I watched to mother woodpecker drop off food in the hole and fly away, pretty cool! On the last climb up to the shelter site I planned to hit I noticed that someone had dropped some granola on a rock. I looked closer and saw 3 ants, all hauling a piece of granola backwards in different directions. It was interesting to see the struggle to make progress with this huge piece of food...I wonder now as I am in my tent if they finally got it back to the ant hill... Just under 25 miles today and in bed early. Hope to get some good rest and get back at it tomorrow!
June 20. I woke up decently early today and hit the trail a little after 7. I am still not starting as early each day as I did in Pennsylvania but I am working on it! I started out on spider web patrol for sure...first one out of the shelter. I walked for a few hours and, as predicted, it was going to be a hot day. By 10 AM I was walking through a valley and my thermometer read around 90. Later in the day I'd see it in the mid 90's. I passed a group of people hiking to the Upper Goose Pond Cabin, a very nice shelter where hikers could take a swim in the pond and the caretaker makes blueberry pancakes for breakfast. A nice dip in the pond sounded nice but I pressed on with a goal to have a day off in a town by the weekend! After those hikers it was a bit lonely on the trail. I must be between bubbles of hiking groups, I knew several fast hikers were just ahead of me, including Tarzan, I had seen their names in the log books, signed from earlier in the day. It was a long lonely hike today. The only sounds were the birds, the trees creaking as the wind blew them and they rubbed together, and the flies buzzing around my head. When you are alone in the woods sometimes the trees or the flies can sound like voices, but if you look around, it is just you. I was lonely enough to give Amy a quick call from the top of a mountain, and that gave me some energy. I passed a shelter at 5 PM and the one lady staying there said I was the only person she'd seen today. I walked another 2 miles to the "Cookie Lady" and right on cue as I walked up to the house she came out with 3 fresh baked cookies for me. I talked with her a bit while her husband mowed the lawn, I filled my water, and headed out. I had about 7 miles to go to the next shelter. About half way there I was tired and decided to stealth camp. I started setting up my tent and realized there wasn't enough space for it. I moved on and finally made it to the shelter just before 8:45. It was a 33.5 mile day and I was beat! I was the only person at the huge 10 person shelter, I guessed that everyone else in the area had headed into town for the night. The shelter was nice, but the bugs were bad so I swt my tent up. It was a hot day and would probably be a hot night. I fell asleep thinking about a town day coming up soon!
June 21. Today barely felt like a day on the AT (except for that 3,000 foot mountain I climbed...). For example, typically on the AT I don't get to have a large coffee, a Coke, a root beer, an orange juice, an ice cream bar, and a BLT sandwich...but I did today, all in one day! I started out at the shelter 3 miles from Dalton, MA. No one else showed up after me so it was a nice quiet night. I woke up around 6 and laid there for awhile, looking at the guide book, weighing my options. Finally I started packing and I strolled down the hill and into Dalton. I stopped in a local gas station to get coffee and another day's worth of food. Before I did any shopping I scoped out an electrical plug behind the building and plugged in my phone to charge. I wonder if that will change when I am done with the AT... Will I still walk into restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and gas stations and instinctively look for an outlet? I looked through the gas station food selection and poured a large coffee and somehow purchased $27 worth of junk food! About the healthiest thing I could find was a pack of crackers...needless to say I was disgusted with my food, and even more disgusted with the price! Typically my food resuppy cost has been about $10-$12 per day, but this bill shattered the records! In some of these small towns you just have no other options. I walked through town and out on the trail, it was going to be another very hot day. The past two days were so hot that even the rocks on the trail were sweating, which made them very slick! About a mile into the trail I caught up with two other hikers taking a Pop Tart break, and one of them was the other Tarzan! We finally met and talked a bit, but as they started hiking again they really took off...man, these guys were fast! In a few short miles we came to another town, Cheshire. This was a much smaller town but I had caught up with Tarzan and Fancy and we all walked down to the local hardware, pharmacy, lawn and garden, candy, grocery, you-name-it store. I bought a Coke and an orange juice, an ice cream bar, and a box of raisens. I sat out on the front steps and took it all down and the guys left and started up the trail.
Random Trail Thought: If the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland appeared on the branch of a tree beside the AT, what would he say to me?
From town we climbed just shy of 3,000 feet up to the top of Mount Greylock. It was a long slow climb for me, especially in the heat. When I finally made it to the top around 4 PM I found Tarzan, Fancy, and Rat Bucket in the lodge dining room eating real food! I quickly ordered a BLT and a root beer before they closed the restaurant and loved every bite of that sandwich! Tarzan and Fancy left to shoot for the Vermont state line and I hiked a few miles with Rat Bucket until he stopped to stealth camp at a great lookout point with a fantastic sunset view. He was carrying a guitar with him and he has had thru-hikers signing the face of it so I added my "Tarzan" signature to it. As I left him the trail shot down 2,000 feet, fast. It was a pounding downhill but it brought me to Williamstown and North Adams. The trial dropped right onto a small town street and I walked through at 7 PM on a Thursday night. People were outside grilling dinner, a baseball team was practicing, everyone was out enjoying the warm summer evening. These are the times I miss being hime. It reminded me a lot of growing up in Berne, Indiana and the warm summer nights there. It also reminded me of the small town feel of Carpinteria, California where Amy and I were living at this time of last year. From this point I could have walked 0.5 miles either way for more town food and another soda but I decided I would pass, I wanted to make it to the campsite soon and get off my feet! A few miles up I found the campsite and pitched my tent. I was tired, a tough 28 mile day, but tomorrow is a town day!
Monday, June 18, 2012
June 17. As I left town and walked a mile back to the trail I ran into another hiker. We talked for a bit and I asked his name and I told him I am Tarzan. He said "Tarzan! I have been hiking behind you for weeks! I am glad I finally caught you!" I have been getting this a lot lately. There is another Tarzan on the trail and most of the time he was a good 2 weeks ahead of me. Recently though, he took a few days off and hopped back on the trail only 2 days ahead of me. This has created some confusion. I explained to this hiker that there are two of us named Tarzan and that he may mean the other one that was ahead of me. I knew that was who he meant because I knew his name from the shelter logs and I knew I had been behind him this whole time. When I mentioned that he probably meant the other Tarzan he responded "Ah, naw...that other Tarzan is way behind us!" Hmmm... Ha! I let him know that I really was the other Tarzan and for sure the other one was ahead of us and as I hit the trail I wasn't sure if I felt bad that people thought I was so far behind, or good that I would be surprising a lot of people, including the other Tarzan, when I caught them. I hiked on and ran into a few people I met several days ago including 2 Marines hiking to raise money for the Wounded Warriors program. One of them was my pace and we walked together for the afternoon and talked about gear and what we had started with, what we switched to, and what we still wanted. Around 7 PM I made it to my planned camp site, a 14 mile day with a 6 hour resupply in town. Most of the rest of the crew were hiking on 3 more miles to the next shelter. I didn't feel like I needed to, I made my planned destination and I really didn't want to tackle two more climbs today. I stopped and set up camp and talked to the ridge runner (an ATC employee who works all summer on the trail) for over an hour about gear, what he started with on his hike, what he changed to, and what he still wanted. All in all it was a great day! I got my town food, hiked some good miles, and talked about gear. Can't beat that!
June 18. I woke up a little later again today, I packed my gear and was on the trail by 8 AM. I walked up and over the mountain I debated tackling the night before and decided I was glad I had stopped! I hiked through the morning and by noon had come to the Falls Village, CT and could have taken a short walk into the small village and had lunch at one of the two restaurants. I decided instead to eat my cold mashed potatoes and pushed on. Just after lunch I caught up with the Marines again. We stopped at a waterfall to take some pictures and then I hiked on with the guy who is my pace and we talked about cars, jobs, school, business...and before we knew it in just under 2 hours we had covered around 8 miles over a mountain! That brought us to Salisbury, CT and they were getting picked up to do an event that night at the local VFW and I walked into town. It was less than a mile and I hit a town center with a few shops, bistros, and fancy places. I decided to keep it simple and bought a few slices of pizza from the deli in the grocery store, a root beer, and a box of oatmeal cream cookies for the trail. I ate the pizza and drank the soda and with nothing left to be done in town I headed back to the AT. The town stop was short, just about an hour, but it was worth it! I hiked on with the plan to get over Bear Mountain and to a campsite. Bear Mountain was not too bad of a climb up and it had some great views, but the descent down was tough! At the top of the mountain I passed 1,500 miles, not bad! At the bottom of the mountain I left CT and entered MA, another state down, only 4 to go! I walked about a mile along a mountain stream in a ravine and it was one of the best sections of the AT I have been on so far. I hit camp, set up my tent, ate some snacks, and crawled in, a bit tired from the 28 plus mile day, happy to lay down!
Sunday, June 17, 2012
June 16. Up early and on trail by 7. The guys who stayed in the shelter hadn't moved yet so I was back to spider web patrol. Since I had been having late starts the past few days I hadn't had to deal with that! New York has some pretty active squirrels. As I walked down the trail and spooked them they would take off running and make so much noise through the leaf litter. When they crunch through the leaves they sound a lot bigger than they are! The squirrels are also very acrobatic. I watched them shoot down falled trees, jump from tree to tree, and fly through the air like trapeze artists. Around 11 AM I passed the Appalachian Trail Railroad Station that would take me directly downtown NYC to Grand Central Station. I decided not to head into the city and instead took a break at the Native Landscapes Garden Center. I sat on the front patio and ate lunch and enjoyed some time in a rocking chair. The garden store offered free showers for hikers but with no soap or a towel, and putting dirty clothes back on, a shower didn't seem like a productive idea. After my break I continued north and passed an old wooden water tower that was pretty cool. I stopped at the next two shelters for short breaks and passed a big river as I made one last climb up a mountain to get to the shelter just before Kent, CT. I hiked up the mountain and caught up to an older guy hiking up. It is always hard when I catch up to people...I start hitting rocks with my trekking poles, breath heavily, cough, try to make noise so I don't scare them. Finally, I was right behind the guy and I said "This is a tough hill!" I must have startled him, he turned and yelled "Hey!" as loud as he could. I may have startled him but he scared the pee out of me! I walked past him, my heart beating fast, and continued up the hill. The last 3 miles to the shelter up and over the mountain were tough ones and when I hit the shelter around 7:30 PM I was happy to be there. Luckily one of the hikers had gone into town earlier in the day and picked up beer and I was happy to help him drink a few. It was a tough 29 miles and I was happy to be off my feet and heading into town in the morning. I had passed the New York - Connecticut state line, another state down and 5 more to go!
I recently heard from another hiker friend via email and he said he was at the Deleware Water Gap for the weekend. Meat is in Pennsylvania as well, and I have a few friends ahead of me in Massachusetts. It is interesting that every day we all wake up and walk on the same trail north, just in different locations.
June 17. I slept in this morning, woke up at 8 AM. The 29 miles had taken it out of me. I was just heading into town so I was in no hurry. I walked a mile or so to Kent, CT and stopped at a breakfast place. Kent is nice, really nice. Lots of nice cars, polo shirts and sweaters, and art galleries. I ordered a 1, 2, 3 Special...1 piece of french toast, 2 pancakes, 3 eggs, bacon, juice, and coffee. I was pumped! But when the plate came I realized I was in a pretty ritzy town...it was one of those restaurants that serves small portions, good for me normally, but now I am a hungry hiker! I easily ate everything and went to the IGA to get 4 days of food. I stopped by the outfitter/ice cream shop to get hot dogs and call everyone to wish them a Happy Father's Day! Soon it was early afternoon and I still wanted to make some miles. I got some ice cream and headed back to the trail. Kent was a nice little town, maybe a little too nice. I had heard it wasn't a cheap area, I spent a good $30 between breakfast and lunch, not to mention the $40 resupply. It made me miss the other small towns in the south where I could get a full meal for $6 and be stuffed! I was looking forward to the next week of hiking...through CT, through MA, and hopefully into VT by the weekend!
I realized this morning that Amy dropped me off at the trail a week ago today...which means it had been a week, 170 miles, and 4 states (PA, NJ, NY, and CT) since I have had a shower or done laundry. Maybe I should try to do that soon...maybe. We will see!
Friday, June 15, 2012
June 15. Before we went to bed everything in the field we were camped in was covered with dew. When I woke up at 5 AM one look at my tent and I knew it was soaked. I was camped by several other people and I knew if I got up early like I had planned I would wake them all up. That and the dew made me roll over and go back to sleep. When I finally woke up and started breaking camp it was well after 7 AM. I didn't hit the trail until after 8, a very late start for me. I made it to a road crossing and a building with water spigots. I stopped and made cold instant mashed potatoes for an early lunch. I filled my water bottles at the spigots. There were two of them and one had a huge dead snake under it...must have been bad water, so I got water from the other one. Naw, I actually got water from the other one not because of the snake, but for a more functional reason, it was higher up and I wouldn't have to kneel down to get it! I've learned to not make myself work any harder than I have to! At the Clarence Fahnestock State Park I read a sign on the road that said 1.5 miles ahead a side trail would lead to a beach and consessions stand. I didn't need more food, but a burger did sound nice, and I did need a bathroom. I pushed on for 1.5 miles and when I hit the side trail I needed a bathroom for sure! I took the trail, which happened to be a snowshoe trail, and it must be a lot easier in the winter with snow! I stumbled .25 miles down the trail to an empty beach. There was only one person there...an old guy with a metal detector. I guess every beach has to have one of those! I walked up to the buildings and first things first used the bathroom. They also had showers and I considered taking one when I saw that someone had left half a bottle of shampoo in it. I walked over to the snack stand to find out they were closed. Another hiking couple from New York City had arrived and when two workers pulled up to stock the snack stand for the weekend the other hikers asked if we could buy anything. There would be no hamburger, but they let us go in and buy ice cream and soda, score! The hiking couple even bought me a lemon freeze as well! We sat outside and ate our snacks and talked about kite boarding in NYC and surfing in California. While we were there a few other hikers arrived and bought snacks as well. I had eaten the rest of the sharp chedder I was carrying at lunch, and now I had more dairy in the ice cream, I needed to visit the bathroom again before hitting the trail for sure! I went back to the mens room and found that the workers had locked it! Uh oh... Luckily I am a smart hiker and I checked the womens room...open! I normally wouldn't do something like that but I really needed to go, and no one else was around! I hiked on for a while longer and came to the RPH Shelter. This place was nice! It was like a little house with 8 bunks and had a nice patio with chairs and a table. It was near a road and pizza could be delivered there. I was at the shelter at 5 PM by myself and there was no telling if anyone else was going to stay and order pizza with me so I decided to hike on 9 miles to the next shelter. I crossed under a freeway and noticed a lady with a flat tire. I walked on and headed for the trail. I missed the trail and had to walk back to find it and as I did I thought back to the times in Indiana when my step-dad Tom would see someone stopped alongside the road and he would stop and check to see if he could help. I wasn't sure if that was the same in New York but I decided to walk back and see if she wanted me to try to change her tire. She assured me that she had someone on the way to help but thanked me for checking. I really did it to be nice, but also I had been thinking maybe if I change her tire she might offer to take me to the closest McDonald's! Ha, hiker mentality! I raced the sunset to the next shelter and passed over a mountain just as a fire red sun dropped below the horizon. Just a tenth of a mile further and I made the shelter. I haven't needed my headlamp for hiking since back at Fontana Dam! I got in and had enough time to set up my tent and hang the bear bag before dark. Today was a tough day but I was feeling good! I felt like I had my mojo back! With the late start and the breaks I took I had done 28 miles in just a little over 10 hours of hiking! I think the biggest thing was the trail opened up a bit. There was no boulder climbing and instead of playing hopscotch with ankle breakers, the trail was more dirt and level than rocks. There was still a lot of ups and downs, but I was able to push through and have a good day. Looking forward to tomorrow!
Thursday, June 14, 2012
June 14. Woke up in my tent. Unfortunatley I had set it up on uneven ground and I was sliding down the hill all night. I was pretty tired still but figured it was light out and time to get moving. I packed up and hit the trail by 6:30. It was another tough morning dealing with the rocks and ups and downs. I made it up to a lookout point where if I looked far out to the east I could see the skyline of New York City. It was pretty hazy, but I could see it! Later I climbed Bear Mountain and went up in a big lookout tower and got some great views of the mountains and the NYC skyline again. Down the hill from there was Fort Montgomery and the AT Trailside Museum and Zoo. The guide book said AT Thru-Hikers got free admission to the zoo, which was good considering the trail goes right through it! I headed down the mountain and envisioned the scernaro. The hikers get free admission, I would walk up to the ticket line, they would see my pack and smell me and move me over to the special thru-hiker line. I would be let in a special hiker side door where I would enter a woods-like setting. All the while a guide outside the bear cage would be saying to the audience, "Now watch the thru-hiker in his natural habitat. See how he tried to scramble up the large rocks and boulders? See how he eats candy bars and drinks from the stream? See how he goes to the bathroom behind the tree? No! Don't watch that part. Now watch carefully has he runs in circles as the bear chases him around the cage. This hiker didn't bring his bear spray because it was too 'heavy'! Ha! Funny hiker!" And that would be how I would get my free admission! It didn't do down like that though. I came down off the mountain and into a recreation area. I walked through a tunnel and directly into the zoo. I don't know for sure but it seemed like everyone had free admission...not just smelly hikers. The zoo was nice. I saw bears, coyotes, snakes and frogs, and all of the other animals I have seen on the trail. The only animals they didn't have were deer...not sure why they got skipped. All morning I had been hoping for some good zoo food, but unfortunately there were no vendors. In front of the bear pen I hit the lowest spot on the AT, 120 feet above sea level. I passed through the zoo and walked over the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. Another 5 miles brought me to a busy intersection with a gas station and some great food and soda. I ordered a hamburger, fries, and a vanilla Coke and plugged my phone in to charge and sat at a picnic table outside. I talked to a local guy for a bit and after asking me lots of questions about the trail he said "You inspired me...it is 3:45 and I don't want to work any longer today...I think I will just go home now and spend the night grilling out with my family. Work can wait, you only have one life to live and I'm gonna live it!" So he took off and I went back in for a salad and orange juice. I stayed there for a good hour and a half and then took off down the trail. I didn't know how far I would go, New York had the rules about camping in designated spots only and I didn't want a ticket. A mile later I hit a church retreat park that allows hikers to camp for free. It was either this or another 9 miles to a 1 mile side trail to a state park. It was only 5 PM but I had hiked 22 miles so I stopped and relaxed for the night. I set up my tent in a wide open field and got off my feet to rest. I figured we'd take another stab at getting up early tomorrow and putting in a nig mileage day. We will see if the trail cooperates!
I may have forgotten to mention that when Amy came to visit I traded out some gear. My Fly Creek tent (2 pounds 9 ounces) was replaced with a ZPacks Hexamid tent, 1 pound. My shoes that made it 1,300 miles were replaced with Brooks trail runners. These were lighter and breathable. The other shoes had GoreTex but when they got really soaked they stayed wet for a long time. I like the trail runners now, they get wet easily but they dry quickly and don't beat up my feet so bad! I also sent home a few other items, including my second pair of underwear. I only have one pair now, and since my running shorts have a built in liner I am not even wearing that pair of underwear! We will have to see if I hang onto them as well or if I ditch them for the extra weight.
June 12. Happy Birthday to my wife Amy! I woke up in my tent this morning in the back lawn of the local tavern...guess there is a first time for everything! The tent spot was free, which was nice, but the thing about sleeping behind a tavern is that it is too easy to stay at the bar until late and just walk out back and go to sleep, and that is what I did. I had a burger and beer on my own, caught up on some things, then when I was getting ready to head out back and go to bed at a decent hour a local guy offered to buy me a drink. I turned down the shot but went with the beer. I stayed in the bar until almost midnight talking and hanging out with a lively crowd. It was really hopping for a weeknight, I was impressed! I went out back and set up my tent and until everyone left and the bar shut down I could hear music and people having a good time. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep. I was still up and moving by 5:30 though and heading back to the trail by 6. The trail this morning took a walk through a nature preserve, a big swamp area. It was early in the morning and really quiet and I had the opportunity to watch a doe and two fawns walk across the marsh, eating and playing in the water. That was pretty cool! I hiked on through the morning but by 11 AM I was not feeling well. My feet hurt, my pack was heavy with 4 days of food, and I had already gone to the bathroom in the woods 4 times! I stopped at a farm store 0.1 miles off the trail and ordered a 3 scoop cup of ice cream and a root beer. Lots of hikers came pouring in behind me and the lady running the store warned us that the forecast for the afternoon was rain storms and she invited us to hang out and stay dry in their pavalion as long as we wanted. I had only hiked 10 miles and I didn't want to stop but rain made me think twice. We had noticed a sign for a church hostel down the street, it said "3 miles down the road, the church closest to Burger King." Now that is some hiker targeted marketing! Unfortunately, with the New Jersey hitch hiking laws (it is illegal) and the rain and a 3 mile walk on the road, Burger King was not enough to entice us. I headed out and made the 5 miles to the next shelter by 3 PM. It was raining a little and I had a choice...stop there and relax for the afternoon in a dry shelter, or press on and make the next shelter 12 miles away. I decided to move on and started pushing it. I hit the New Jersey/New York state line and was happy about that, but now I was on the top of boulders and the rain and wind was really moving in. A note about the rocks. After PA the rocks never stopped...and the start of New York was on the top of a mountain of rocks! I don't know if I will ever get away from them! With the wind and rain the rock scramble/boulder hopping was a bit dangerous. I had to throw my poles up a few times and pull myself up ledges with my hands. It was more like climbing through a kids jungle gym at the school playground. I slipped and fell several times and this section was not one of my favorites for sure. What made it worse is that I thought I could make the next shelter before dark hiking 3 miles an hour. With this tough trail I was not going near that fast and I started worrying about losing daylight. When I hit some flat sections I started trail running and ended up making it to the shelter a little after 7. I had enough light to set up my tent, get water, eat dinner, and pass out! It was around a 28 mile day and I was exhausted!
June 13. It poured rain last night! Sometime after I fell asleep I woke up to rain dumping on my tent, and the good news is that the new tent held up and kept me dry! Everything else was wet in the morning...it was one of those mornings when the dripping trees made you think it was still raining but the foggy haze remided you that you were just in the clouds and the trees were covered in water. I packed up and started hiking. I was tired from the day before so I had a slow start and as soon as I hit the trail it was back to boulder climbs and dealing with slick rocks. It was a long morning. Yesterday on some of the tough rocks and boulders there had been blue blazed sections around as an easier trail. Most AT hikers stick to the white blaze, but in storms or if you don't want to take the hard rocks there is another option. In the morning I ran into a 69 year old guy who stayed at the shelter the night before. We were at a white blaze/blue blaze intersection. He said some other hikers had told him that the trail up ahead was rough and he decided he was going to take the blue blaze trail. We parted ways and as I was on the white blaze trail I noticed that it kept curving away from the blue blaze trail, and that it was actually an easy section of trail, no need for a go around. I pulled out my guide book and figured out that the guy had most likely taken a 5 mile side trail to a lookout tower. Oh no. I felt bad...I dropped my pack and ran back the quarter mile or so I had done and started running down the trail he took. The blue blaze trail was very rocky and I couldn't run fast but I went a good ways and called out his name a few times. I had no idea how far he had gone and the trail kept going down and my pack was laying beside another trail so I reluctantly turned back. I hoped later on that he had figured out it wasn't a connector trail and made it back to the AT, or that he at least enjoyed the view from the lookout when he got there. The trail did get more rocky and I scrambled over some boulder sections where I had to throw my poles up and pull myself up with my arms. It was physically challenging and mentally though and zapped my energy. Around lunch I came to some signs for "B Team Trail Magic" and picked up the pace. I reached the parking lot and found 3 guys with a tent and chairs set up, taking care of hikers. They said they had a couple of friends a day behind us and every year when their friends do a section hike these guys come along and give trail magic. I had 5 pancakes, sausage, eggs, and 2 sodas. It had been one of those mornings and I ended up staying at the trail magic for well over an hour. I decided it was time to move on and made my was up the hill and through the "Lemon Squeezer", a section where I barely fit through between two boulders, let alone me and my backpack! When I reached the next shelter around 4:30 PM I stopped, looked at the book, and called it a day. I had been dragging the past couple of days and thought it might be best to take an evening off. All in all it was 15 miles over some pretty tough terrain. I hoped to get some rest and get up early the next morning with some good energy! I went to bed after 8 PM and the sky was still bright. Yesterday it started getting dark before 6 because of the rain. I think the lesson there is I should have stopped early yesterday and hiked a longer day today in the nice weather...but oh well!
Monday, June 11, 2012
June 10. Amy dropped me off at the trailhead in Deleware Water Gap at 11 AM. We snapped some pictures and then she was on her way to the airport and I was on my way to Maine, via 900 miles of trails. I crossed a busy highway bridge over the river and passed lots of people cooking out in the park on a warm summer Sunday. As I headed up the trail it was more like going to the mall or visiting Disneyland than hitting the Appalachian Trail. It was the weekend and everyone was out enjoying the woods. After spending 3 days off trail with Amy in big towns I was feeling like I was missing the solitude of the AT, and this was not helping get it back. Along the trail in the hot afternoon sun I was making great time when I took a step and heard a rattling sound. Once I touched the ground after jumping about 10 feet in the air I turned around to see a rattlesnake laying on the side of the trail right where my foot had just been. I don't know if I just missed it, or maybe I kicked it or stepped on it but somehow it was laying right where I had just stepped but it didn't bite me. I waited for a long time for any hikers behind me so I could warn them of the danger I had almost stepped on. Eventually I tossed some dirt over it, hoping that once I left it would be uncomfortable with the dirt on it and leave too. I knew there were more hikers behind me and thought it would be best for everyone if this guy was gone by the time someone else hiked by. Not long after the rattlesnake encounter I passed a bush that was rustling. I looked closely and saw a big, black, beady eye looking up at me. I could see the outline of a turtle shell and as I pulled away the branches with my trekking pole the turtle jumped forward and bit it! In just a few miles I was starting to feel like the wildlife was coming after me! I passed a beautiful glacial pond and as I walked further into the woods the crowds started to shrink. Before I knew it I was back to walking alone and after several hours I started to actually feel pretty lonely. I felt like I really missed Amy's company and I wondered what I was doing out here in the middle of the woods without her. I had worried this might happen after she came to visit me. I pulled out my guide and decided I needed to push hard to make it to the next shelter before dark so I could see some hiking friends and get myself off being lonely and back into the thru-hiker swing of things. After crossing a mountain road I started up a hill and heard some noise. I looked up in time to see two bears running away from me, the first bears I had seen on the AT! As I approached the shelter I heard another sound off to the side and I looked over about 30 feet in time to see a bear stand up on it's hind legs and look at me over the bushes. He starred at me for a few seconds, plopped down, and headed off down the hill. It had been one pretty incredible day for me and the wildlife, I even saw several deer! I rolled into the shelter around 7:30 and saw some familiar faces. I set up my new tent for the first time, fiddled with it a bit, and crawled in. It had been a 25 mile day from 11 AM to 7 PM, and I was tired! The rain had been spitting on and off all evening so I was back in the woods, in my tent, falling asleep to the sounds of rain drops.
June 11. Woke up to a successful first night sleeping in my new tent! I think tomorrow though I should be more careful to not set it up on rocks, and I needed to crumple up my Tyvek sheet so it would sound like a thunderstorm when I fold it up in the morning. I slept in a bit today trying to catch up on rest. When I was with Amy we were staying in towns where there was stuff to do after the sun went down. We were in restaurants and lounges until midnight almost every night, and that is way past "hiker midnight"! I packed my gear and headed north. I ran into several hikers throughout the day and learned that Unionville, NY had a tavern where you can camp for free at night in the lawn behind the building. The town would be about a 28 mile day for me, but I needed to resupply on groceries anyways so I made that my goal. The resupply is interesting in NJ and NY since hitch hiking is illegal in these states. I passed several towns today, but they were all more than 2 or 3 miles off the trail, and with no hitching that could be a 5 or 6 mile trip. Instead I've been looking for towns closer to the trail and Unionville was only 0.7 miles away. I know some other hikers who skipped a resupply box because of the hitch hiking laws...at this point I am enjoying the freedom to resupply when and where I want and can! I hiked hard through the afternoon. The New Jersey trails were not easy...most were way overgrown and full of rocks, and when they are overgrown it makes it really hard to see the rocks...awesome. I passed lots of old stone walls in the woods too. With the thousands of rocks they used to build the stone walls I couldn't believe that there were any rocks left on the trail, but there were! In the late afternoon the trail passed through a marsh or swamp area and I was glad I could walk on an elevated walkway. I made it to the road into town around 6:30, stopped and picked up 4 days of food, and headed to the tavern for dinner. Today was a really tough day, I have been feeling pretty homesick since Amy left. I really miss her company and wish I could be home with her and our dog Pre, but, picking up the groceries, planning to make it to Kent, CT on 4 days of food, setting a crazy goal to do four 30 mile days, thinking about gutting it out on the trail...I started feeling better. I started feeling like I was getting back in the groove of things, putting down miles, and getting closer to home. I was getting the energy back!
June 7. Amy called and said that she was at the post office waiting for me...unfortunately I was also at the post office, just in one town over. Once we got that worked out she picked me up and we went to the Water Gap Diner for a big breakfast. I was still in my wind pants and sleeping shirt, but at least I had showered and I wasn't wearing my smelly clothes. After breakfast we drove to the town of Jim Thorpe and started walking around. It is a nice old town with lots of history and Amy found an authentic English restaurant that served proper English tea. We stopped in and she had tea and I had an IPA from a brewery in Breckenridge, CO. The owner of the place came out to meet the guy who ordered his strongest IPA for breakfast and we started talking about weddings in England, the trail, and the town. Another couple in the restaurant from Florida joined in on the conversation and we had a blast swapping stories and hanging out. After breakfast we walked up to the Harry Packer Mansion and took the grand tour of the house. If you ever have the chance to see it, do it! We really enjoyed the tour and our guide was an incredibly nice guy. After the tour we left Jim Thorpe but we really had fun meeting a lot of nice people there. We drove over to Hamburg, PA and walked through the huge Cabela's store. The place was giant! There where stuffed animals all over the store and there was a whole room dedicated to deer and with more than 50 stuffed deer, some world record setting deer, I think I may have seen more wildlife in Cabela's than I have seen on the entire trail! I looked over the camping and hiking gear...they had an ultralight tent, only 5 pounds! Hard to compete with my new 1 pound tent! If I was hunting and fishing along the AT I probably would have bought a lot of gear, but long distance hiking is a little different. We stayed in a hiker hotel in Hamburg and I loaded up on a hiker hamburger and fries for dinner.
June 8. Woke up and headed to Potsville, PA to take a tour of the Yuengling brewery. Before we left I did my laundry so the car wouldn't smell so bad. The brewery tour was fun! And, it was really Amy's idea! I know what you are thinking mom, let Amy do what she wants to do on her vacation to see me...I told her I didn't need to see the brewery! She insisted we should! We actually did have a lot of fun, learned a lot, and met a guy who graduated from Ball State in the 70's, small world! After the tour we headed north to Scranton, PA, which I guess is where the TV show "The Office" is based. I am not sure what else the town does...something about an electric railroad. We stayed in a hotel downtown and spent the night at a seafood bar with live music and great food!
June 9. On our last day together we took it easy. Amy drove me to Wal-Mart so I could buy groceries. We went to a park so I could test out setting up my new tent, and we went back to the hotel and spent some time relaxing in the pool and hot tub. This was the life...I didn't have to carry a backpack or hike anywhere...but I would tomorrow. I thought that could be trouble.
June 10. We woke up in Scranton and packed my gear and Amy's suitcases. I had new shoes and a new tent. I hoped to have a new backpack but the one I ordered just wouldn't work. We drove down to Deleware Water Gap and had breakfast at the Water Gap Diner again. Amy had a flight to catch so she drove me back to the trail. I also had some trail magic from our friends Nick, Kari, and Kat...they sent me some Fairytale Brownies! I grabbed the brownies and stuffed them in my food bag and got a picture with the box and the AT sign. I hugged Amy, I wasn't ready to see her go, but every day we spent together now was one more day longer until I would be home. I grabbed my pack and she got back in the car to head to the airport. We both had to cross the same highway bridge, she in the car, me walking. I saw her go by and she called me later and said as she drove by she thought "That looks like a pretty legit hiker...oh, that's Chris!" So I guess that is good...at least I look legit, I was happy to see Amy for 3 days, and I had less than 900 miles to go. Back to the trail!
Friday, June 8, 2012
June 2. I woke up early and packed my gear and headed across the street to Goodies when they opened at 6 AM. I ordered another big breakfast and headed to the trail at 7. The trail takes the scenic route through Duncannon before crossing a large freeway bridge and heading back up into the mountains. Lots of people were setting up for a city-wide garage sale and a few people were preparing for a Trail Festival later in the day to celebrate Duncannon as an official AT Trail Town. I crossed the bridge, ran through a ton of very sticky spider webs, and got squawked at by a big hawk that was sitting on a light pole. Every time I took a step forward it made noise, if I stopped, it stopped. Later in the day I found out that other people had worse problems as it nomrally dive bombs hikers as they tried to cross the bridge. It was a long climb back up to the ridge but the rain storm the night before had really knocked down the temperatures. I ran into Jeff, the guy I hadn't seen since Springer Mountain, at the first shelter and we hiked together for almost 30 miles, and he did it all in Chaco sandles! Later in the day I ran into two hikers that I hadn't seen since Georgia as well and hiked with them. It has been a lot of fun to catch up with people now 1,000 miles later and see how they are doing! The day rolled along pretty easily, I sat down and took a break at 2 PM, wondering why I felt so tired. I looked at the book and I had already hiked 18 miles, that was probably why! We hiked on through the rest of the day and around 7 PM found a flat spot to camp. It was another 12 hour hiking day and a 30 mile day for me. My ankle hurt most of the day but I was able to push on. After dinner I crawled in my tent, happy to take some time to relax!
The gnats the past few weeks have started to become annoying. They like to fly in little circles in front of my face as I hike, which isn't a problem. Every so often though, one takes a kamikaze dive into one of my eyeballs...and that is a problem! The other problem is when the fly directly up my nose...they typically don't come back out!
June 3. It was chilly last night! I woke up twice during the night and added layers until I had on everything that I have with me, including tights and a long sleeve shirt I plan to give to Amy when she visits later this week! Maybe getting rid of those will be a bad idea... I slept in until a little after 6 and I got up and broke camp and filled water and was on the trail a little after 7. It was a chilly morning so I started in my wind pants, rain coat, and fleece hat, but it didn't take long to shed the layers. Not long after starting I passed a sign by the river showing how a new filtration system there helps to reduce the pH values of the water so it doesn't kill off the fish. So the water below the filter is where the fish can live...but I had been drinking the water from above it, where the fish die. I sure hope my SteriPEN works!
The trail was though today. Most of it was flat and boring. It was boring because we started to hit the rocks of Pennsylvania so I had to constantly be looking down to see where the rocks were and try to place my foot on a flattish spot. I was on a ridge and off to the side there were views of the PA valleys, but all I remember seeing was rocks and dirt as it passed under my feet. In the afternoon it got even worse! Now it was a flooded trail! The trail must flood often because there were numerous side trails blazed along both sides of the flooded trail. The problem was that with all of the rain recently even most of the side trails were flooded! I crossed one tough section and lost my footing and fell sideways. Somehow I caught myself with my hands as they sank a few inches into the muck and water. The weight of my pack shifted and I could hardly hold my face above the water! Luckily I got through that with only muddy shoes and a muddy leg...I am glad I didn't fall all the way in! After that I thought to myself maybe it would be better to deal with the rocks again. Well, soon I did have to deal with the rocks again, and the water, all at once! To add to it we were back in an afternoon severe thunderstorm warning, great! I did get rained on a little around 5, but I kept pushing on and at at 7:30 I arrived at the shelter, a 32 mile day and I was beat! I set up my tent and had dinner. I crawled in my tent and used my emergency blanket under me and layers over me, it was going to be another chilly night. All in all it was a good day though, I passed 1,184 miles (which means I have less than 1,000 to go) and I camped at mile 1,202!
It is a good thing Amy is coming to visit me this week! I think my gear knows it too, it is all starting to have problems! My watch has a leak and I can barely read the time through the water drops inside it. My shoes have 1,200 miles on them and have seen better days. My socks have all acquired holes in them in the past few days. My tent even has a few holes in the rain fly! It looks like burn marks from ashes from a camp fire but I haven't had a fire for a long time, so I'm not sure how they got there.
The trail kept stretching on and I passed a guy I hadn't seen since the Smoky Mountains around 5 PM camped near a spring. The spring was a half mile down off the trail and the next shelter was still a few miles away, so I pushed on ahead. As it grew closer to dusk I started to feel delirious from a full day of hiking, constantly looking down at my feet and the rocks, and just being tired. My shoes were starting to dig into my ankles and rubbed the skin raw around the tops. Every step hurt, but every step got me closer to camp. The rocks had taken a toll on my trekking poles as well and now both of the metal tips on the ends were gone. I had lost one a few days ago, so instead of "tap, tap, tap, tap" it was "tap, thud, tap, thud". Well, now it is just "thud, thud, thud, thud", oh well! I finally rolled into the shelter around 7:45 PM and a trail angel had hiked in three 12 packs of soda! I drank one quickly, filled up with water, pitched my tent, and crawled in. I was exhausted, the day had been a 33.5 mile day! I was happy though, town was only 20 miles away and the next day Amy would be there to pick me up!