Adventure Travel Q4, What’s the funniest thing someone said to you while out in the backcountry?:
I said to my first NOBO encounter of 2013 on 3/21/13 in the Shenandoas, “You look like a bonafide hiker.”
I was looking for conversation with this 50s ish guy who looked worn and rugged enough to possibly be the first thruhiker I had run into since late October/early November. I had been thinking about this moment for a while now and discussing it with Napster. We decided we needed to stop whomever it was on the trail no matter how much of a power hiker they were because they had to hear our story. We had hiked through the winter to finish our 2012 AT thru hike. I even had gold star stickers in my pack for whoever the lucky guy/gal to meet us would be. See, after a while on the trail, you do start to develop a bit of a rockstar ego about your hike, in a way. And this, a meeting of some of the last thrus of 2012 and some of the first of 2013 would be the ultimate meeting of two very different kinds of rockstars. This fit, thin man with shaggy salt and pepper hair answered, “You look like someone who won’t get shot.”
See I was thruhiking the SOBO part of my flip flop and hadn’t changed my hat and packcover since the beginning of hunting season in October when Napster and I were in New Hampshire. It was funny to see myself through someone else’s eyes and know that upon first glance, it is odd to wear that much blaze orange in March. But it was my winter thruhiker gettup and I think I only had outfit variations about once per season. And once my second spring on the trail hit, I was too close to being done to update, upgrade, or repair any of my clothing or gear. I think in the world of hiking, most people setting off on a 100 mile hike would want to have their gear updated and in full repair. But for me, at the start of my last 100 miles, I was almost done! It would have seemed comical at the time to repair or replace anything I had with me unless vitally necessary.
Napster, his dad John, and I hiked to US 30 today. The trail went through a sweet little state park and had drinking fountains, picnic pavilions and even a metal porch-style swing next to it. Walking along what John called a canal tow path, I looked around and saw rhododendrons, flowing water, mud, rocks, leaves, etc. and they all reminded me of what the trail was like in Virginia before I flipped back at the end of July 2012. From there Napster went to Maine, which looks nothing like Virginia, and then have been hiking over a lot of snow and some rocks and ice. But today, near US 30, the snow and ice had melted and I could really feel how close we’re getting to where we jumped up from. I can’t believe I’m almost done. If I was still heading northbound, I’d be somewhere in Maine. If I were headed only southbound, I’d be around Hot Springs, NC or so. Only about 215 miles left.
The very nice people at The White Birches Campground and Hiker Hostel helped me track down the Salomons that I had shipped into another hostel in Gorham. That other hostel, White Mountains Lodge and Hostel, had closed for the season without advance notice and basically left anyone who was awaiting mail drops there to fend for themselves. Some one here, Bob I think is his name, called some people who he knew would be able to let us into the other place and look for boxes. He drove us there, and lo and behold, my shoes were there.
This stroke of luck and help from locals could not have come at a better time. I left Boston in a rush to get on the bus back to Gorham and had left my hiking shoes drying on the front porch. So now, I have shoes, and my old shoes and insoles are coming in the mail on Monday. The way the trail goes through the whites, in a few days when I cross Pinkham notch I’ll be coming back to Gorham to resupply. I’m leaving to get back on the trail shortly at mile marker 298 heading south.
This is the shoe model in which I have hiked over 500 mi. The soles are wearing out and starting to peel off a bit. This was a wear and tear issue and not a manufacturing defect, yet Salomon still offered me a complimentary pair. My new shoes will be arriving in Gorham, NH. Thank you Salomon!
I haven’t weighed my pack since at least Daleville, VA 2.5 months ago. I weighed it today finally and found that with about 2 meals and a few snacks plus a little fuel and water, it weighs 19 lbs. I haven’t consistently been able to hike faster because of a lighter pack, but have been able to hike at about 3 mph on an easy uphill sections when my friend challenged me to get to a shelter by a certain time. Then yesterday, coming into town, I was challenged to get to the road that goes to Stratton, ME before 7, and somehow had it in me after hiking 7 miles and two mountains to trail run the last 0.9 mi with my pack on in 12 minutes. It was so much fun! It makes me really miss running cross country, and I wonder how fast I could trail run w/o a pack on.
I’m now officially in southern Maine and finished the Bigelow mountain range yesterday. Coming up are Meheesics?? Mehoosics?? (I can not remember the name of the range.) They have the reputation for being very hard and have a notch that is supposed to be “the hardest or most fun section” of the entire AT. So I’m not anticipating a regular hiking pace much more than 1-1.5 mph until at least Vermont or Massachusetts. But I am hopeful, now that I know I can sometimes do 3 mph, that I’ll be able to hike a bit faster when I’m done with all of the awesome mountains that await. (southern Maine; the Presidential range in New Hampshire,including Mt. Washington; and the White Mountains.)
In the meantime, I think I am hitting the north end of the thru-hiker bubble of people who are still NOBO. My friends Micro and Desperado just crossed into Vermont, I met the famous “All Balls” yesterday, and ran into Jim Bob, Crawdad, Bookbag, Trekking Pole, and Jay Bird today in town. All Balls, from Baltimore, has the greatest trail register entries. I met Trekking Pole near the top of Pond Mountain on my way to Hampton, TN when I was in camp greeting everyone who passed by. Also we chatted at Kinkora for a bit and I had fished his rain skirt out of the hiker box there. I’m still using it though may retire it for rain pants again soon. He works as a Jeep tour guide by Palm Springs in the winter. Jim Bob, Crawdad, and Bookbag I met when I was walking into Hot Springs, NC. I also saw them in town a lot during the festival there before Earth Day and at trail days. They seem to be college buddies who decided to hike together and all three bought pretty much the same exact gear. Watching them all climb into matching sleeping bags and wearing matching balaclavas was hilarious. Especially because they are two guys and a girl. So I’m pretty psyched to be running into the north end of the hiker bubble and be getting a chance to talk with people who have passed me along the way as they get close to finishing their thru-hikes.
Wed. 8/1/12: Road trip from North Adams, MA to Baxter State Park
Thur. 8/2/12: 9.4 miles summit attempt #1 of Katahdin up and down the Hunt trail (A.T.) (rain and thunder at top)
Fri. 8/3/12: 9.9 mi slack pack from The Birches to Abol Bridge
Sat. 8/4/12: Up the Abol trail ~3 mi? and 5.2 mi down the Hunt trail. Summited Katahdin.
Sun. 8/5/12: Zero at Abol Pines campsite.
Mon. 8/6/12: 11.4 mi from Abol Bridge to the Rainbow Lake Campsite. (start of the 100 mile wilderness southbound=SOBO.)
Tue. 8/7/12: 3.6 scenic miles with lots of swimming holes. From Rainbow Lake Campground to the Rainbow Stream Lean-to.
Wed. 8/8/12: 11.4 mi from Rainbow Stream Lean-to to campsite after sandy beach on Lake Nahamakanta.
Thur. 8/9/12: 4.5 + 1 mi from beach site to White House Landing (early rain)
Fri. 8/10/12: ~9.9 mi from White House Landing to Jo-Mary Road campsite. (rain all day)
Sat. 8/11/12: 11.9 mi from Jo-Mary Road site to East Branch Lean-to.
Sun. 8/12/12: 7 rough miles up over Whitecap Mntn. And camped on Hay Mntn.
Mon. 8/13/12: 7.2 mi from Hay Mntn site to site near Gulf Hagas Trail Cut off.
Tue. 8/14/12: 8.7 mi from the Gulf Hagas trail cut off to the Third Mountain Monument Cliff.
Wed. 8/15/12: 10 mi from the Third Mntn Monument Cliff to the Vaughn Stream campsite. (rain)
Thurs. 8/16/12: 4.5 from Vaughn Stream to Thompson Brook. 3 river fords in the rain and had to stop before Thompson Brook to wait for water level to drop. The next morning it was about 1.5 ft. lower.
Fri. 8/17/12: 9.2 mi from Thompson Brook into Monson, ME (end of the 100 mile wilderness. Phew.)
Sat. 8/18/12: Zero in Monson. Quick trip into Greenville, ME for supplies.
The 100 mile wilderness and Katahdin were so much more rough and rugged than anything I have seen before on the AT down south. Even when it’s flat, the trail can still be made of mostly roots and rocks. Maine is full of beautiful rocks, mountains, streams. It reminds me a lot of northern Ontario, only with bigger mountains. But just add some weather other than clear and sunny and it can turn into a slippery, boggy, mean mess with raging rivers to ford instead of lovely little brooks. So it’s gonna take some patience to finish this state.
Went from Buena Vista, VA to Waynesboro by foot arriving 7/18/12
Walked a bit in the Shenandoahs. Aquablazed about 40 miles of the Shenandoah River from Port Republic to Alma, VA starting about 7/22/12. Had a tornado scare and got off the river for a night and ended up at the Massanutten resort for a night. Wow. Check them out. Their outfitter, Mass Adventures, helped my canoe partner and I a lot.
Dubois dropped Napster and I off and picked us up from the river and yellow blazed us up to Harpers Ferry where we took the train to D.C. and then to Rhodes Island. Spent a day there and got to see David and Amberly. Then Napster’s parents drove us to North Adams, MA to go to MASS MoCA and see Wilco. Both were an amazing time.