Monday, August 11, 2014

Culture shock

I've been looking up some fun facts about the AT that answer many of the questions I've gotten this week.
- The 2014 mileage, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, is 2185.3 miles.
- The total elevation gain of the AT is approximately 515,000 feet. 
- The total elevation gain is the numerical equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest 16 times

Sooooo as it turns out, it's really difficult adjusting back to everyday life. (Duh.) I knew to expect this, but seriously, I didn't think it would be this hard. I finished the AT one week and two days ago and my mind and body are finally starting to understand that I haven't been just taking a couple of days off. It's actually over. You'd think this would be a relief, right? Surprisingly it's not. I miss the trail really badly. It's hard being inside so much now and the sounds and smells of Denver are overwhelming my senses. Getting back home was quite the ordeal, too with delayed and canceled flights and over 14 hours spent in transit. 

New York State

On the plus side, it is good to be back in the presence of friends and family. I enjoyed much needed down time at Mom and Dad's last week. I saw some friends in Roanoke and went to Raleigh to see my sister's new house. Back in Denver, the open house for Chad's LoveBaum Bicycle Company was a HUGE success and I am SO proud of the work he has accomplished. Check out their website! (

The White Mountains of New Hampshire

I went back to work at REI yesterday with a very warm welcome. I really missed that place! Of all the jobs to return to coming off the trail, it's probably one of the absolute best. 

Bog boards in Jersey

So now that I'm back I am mustering up the motivation to work hard and save up for the next big adventure. I'm starting to research other long trails with much interest and excitement. The Pacific Crest Trail is definitely on my to-do list. Five years ago a long trail called the Te Araroa opened up in New Zealand, extending through both islands. As my friend Bobby put it, you hike straight through Middle Earth. (Or "tramp" through Middle Earth as they say there. I would like to be a "tramper".) I am also very interested in The Great Outdoor Challenge. It's a 15-day coast to coast hike across Scotland. There is not set path so participants of this challenge have to map their own routes and rely on their map and compass skills to get them across. Mountains, dangerous peat bogs and wet weather add to the adventure. 

So those are a few of the things occupying my thoughts at the moment while I'm not reminiscing the events of the past five months. On my days off from work while the weather is still favorable I plan to summit Long's Peak (14,259 feet) and some of the other "local" 14'ers. Maybe I'll start a new adventuring blog. 


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Trail Media

Here are a few of the YouTube videos that were referenced on the trail.

"Double Rainbow"


"Drip Drip Drop Little April Showers"

"Animals Yelling Like People"

Here are some videos of bird calls that I heard often.
This one is a Hermit Thrush. I heard one for the first time in Pennsylvania and continued to hear them as I went north.
I've never been able to spot the Swainson's Thrush, but I heard them all the time in the northern states.
I heard Pileated Woodpeckers frequently through all 14 states. I'll never get tired of them.
Good luck falling asleep with a Whipoorwill calling over your tent.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The final days

The last page. 

The last three or four days of the trail were really intense with many miles to cover to reach the deadline of August 2nd. My sister Claire and her husband Daniel and their two toddlers were going to be in Portland, ME waiting for me on Saturday afternoon. I had hoped to summit Katahdin on the first of August to have time to make my way to the coast. This was not possible, though which resulted in a final mad dash. 

The water filter debacle at Jo-Mary Road was a 10-mile set back. Poor Farmer! We realized at the road that we had forgotten the water filter 4.5 miles back. He made the split-second decision to run back for it. Nine miles of trail running is nothing to take lightly when you're already exhausted and dealing with aches and pains in the knees and feet. I was really worried he would suffer and pay for it the next day. If he did, he didn't tell me. I hunkered down in the rain with all of the gear and waited. 

The next day we put in 30 miles and suffered through the most difficult night hiking around Rainbow Lake. 

We got maybe four hours of sleep that night before waking at 5am to put in our last long day to the base of THE mountain. 

I was crying in my tent this morning as I packed the Gorilla for what I thought would be the last time on the trail.

If we had reached the base of Katahdin by 3pm we would have summited, but fortunately we did not. I wasn't ready to reach the end quite yet, especially after such an exhausting morning.

We stopped to sit at this view of Baxter Peak to discuss our options. We were too tired and it was too late to safely summit, as close as it was. The only problem was we didn't have enough food for another day and we didn't have a reservation to stay in the state park that night. We thought we would have to try and hitch into town (17 miles away) to get food and somehow get back as early as possible the next morning to summit. This was a horrible option and would have been an absolute disaster and we reeeeeally didn't want to leave the state park. While we were deliberating a woman and her father stopped to chat as they were walking by. They listened to our dilemma and said they could help! They had a lean-to reserved that night that they weren't going to use since they decided to get a motel in town instead. They offered us their gorgeous little campsite and shelter right next to Katahdin stream, complete with a big stack of firewood. Then they unloaded all of their leftover food on us and were joined by our neighbor, Sharon, who gave us all of her extra food as well, including two Mountain House meals. By 6pm we were eating next to a big fire, smoking cigars, and drying out all of our wet gear. As Farmer always says, "The trail provides!"

We agreed we needed the earliest start possible, so the alarms were set for 2am. 

Katahdin Stream

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Maine mileage with fine detail

Day 135: Carlo Col Shelter to Old Speck Trail (Campsite)
Day: 10.6 miles
Total: 1914.6 miles
(This day felt wayyyy longer than 10 miles. We did the Mahoosuc Notch. A one mile stretch of bouldering that took over 2 hours to complete. It was a lot of fun. The rain half way through was a little disappointing.)

Day 136: Old Speck Trail to East B Hill Rd
Day: 13.8 miles
Total: 1928.4 miles
(More rain. We made the decision this day that a zero in Rangeley was absolutely necessary. This was the day of the shuttle debacle from East B Hill Rd. Another section hiker had a shuttle scheduled for this low-traffic dirt road and offered to share the ride with us and another section hiker. We all arrived at 5 pm, as planned, but the other section hiker was an hour late. The shuttle driver had the radio in the van blasting this whole time which consequently killed the battery by the time we were ready to leave. The shuttle driver didn't have jumper cables (and when he did finally acquire some he didn't know how to use them) and there was no cell phone service for half a mile. I ran the half-mile to call his Grandmother to come help us. We didn't get into town until dusk which killed our chance to get back on the trail and do more miles as planned. The shuttle driver and his Grandmother like to make as much money as possible off of thru-hikers as opposed to trail angels who like to help out of the kindness of their hearts. Since we decided not to stay at their hostel (which was a total dump) they said the 8 mile shuttle ride would be $1.50 per mile per person as opposed to the $6 it cost for their guests. Long story short, we got our super expensive re-supply taken care of by dark and stealth camped off some snow-mobile trail at the edge of town. This trail was alongside a bog and I spent the night fighting for my life against little wing-ed bloodsucking vampires. It also rained, and rained, and rained and was by far the hottest night on the trail. This is when the zero day became crucial as morale hit rock-bottom.)

Day 137: East B Hill Rd to Bemis Mountain Shelter
Day: 18.8 miles
Total: 1928.4 miles
(Rain continued to fall until evening when we were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset from the summit of Bemis Mountain. Ran into a bunch of other hiker friends. "The Herd" plus some filled the shelter and we camped on the outskirts with Problem Bear. The end of this day, night hiking over slippery, wet rocks, was a real challenge. I fell asleep sitting up in the middle of eating my dinner. I don't think I've ever been so exhausted.)

Day 138: Bemis Mountain Shelter to Maine 17 (hitch to Rangeley)
Day: 4.6 miles
Total: 1951.8 miles
(The original plan was to hike 16 miles or so to the second access road to Rangeley, but having the option to get into town sooner was too good to pass up. It was a 17 mile hitch that went flawlessly. There was a pileup of hikers who all split to cost on rooms at the Town and Lake Motel. They had canoes and kayaks free for guests to use. This place was awesome. It was a little piece of heaven on earth. A nero and a zero wasn't enough, to we tacked on an extra zero. We all left feeling well rested and jolly.)

Day 139: Zero in Rangeley
(Laundry and groceries took up most of the day. Spent the evening canoeing on Rangeley Lake. The day ended with cigars and beer.)

Day 140: Zero in Rangeley
(Suuuuper lazy day with a trip to the coffee shop and library. Ran into Rocket Girl!! Met Dorothy and R2-DTour. Spent the afternoon and evening canoeing to the island and back. There were very vocal loons on the lake. There were also a couple of sea planes that came and went frequently.)

Day 141: Maine 17 to Sandy River (Campsite)
Day: 13.2 miles
Total: 1965.0 miles
(This day went by quickly and the terrain was much easier. The weather was also perfect. Met Prom Queen and Shy Bear this night. Camped by the river and woke up with a very damp tent and sleeping bag. The night was cold and the condensation was out of control.)

Day 142: Sandy River to Orbeton Stream (Campsite)
Day: 13.3 miles
Total: 1978.3 miles
(Went over Saddleback Mountain and Saddleback Junior this day. A very enjoyable hike, absolutely gorgeous scenery. Stopped a little short to join section hiker Marty near the waterfalls at Orbeton Stream. Lost sleep this night due to a very active critter that obnoxiously ran all around the campsite all night long. I don't know what it was, but it was extremely hyper and I couldn't catch it in my headlamp. It was so noisy in the leaves, it was crazy.)

Day 143: Orbeton Stream to South Branch of the Carrabassett River (Campsite)
Day: 10.4 miles
Total: 1988.7 miles
(Didn't start hiking until noon this day so the miles suffered. It was worth it though. My legs told me so.)

Day 144: Carrabassett River to Horns Pond Lean-tos
Day: 13.5 miles
Total: 2002.2 miles
(Passed Stratton, ME this day and went to town for a resupply. My energy levels had been so low and I was craving meat so badly I ate a turkey sandwich this day. It was like a magical transformation. I was a tired, old mule that magically turned into a shining unicorn. "Laaaaaaaaaaa!" OMG I felt soooooo good. I didn't care that a huge thunderstorm was rolling over town and the rain began to dump from the sky right as we started to hitch hike back to the trail head. I felt great and then we passed the 2000 mile mark. We made it part of the way up Bigelow and shared a lean-to with an awesome couple from England. Sarah, a professional clarinet player, had a ukelele with her that she played for us. We had a grand old time sheltered from the rain, eating fresh vegetables, singing along to the ukelele, and drinking Jack Daniels. The rain cleared up by morning. Putting on cold, wet clothes was still excruciating, though.

Day 145: Horns Pond Lean-tos to Long Falls Dam Rd.
Day: 14.4 miles
Total: 2016.6 miles
(The Bigelows were fantastic. I highly recommend that hike. The hike down between miles 2006 and 2014 is were I primarily took all of my mushroom pictures. We were supposed to do "big miles" this day but got so distracted by the beautiful mushrooms everywhere that the miles just didn't happen. We also got distracted by a sandy beach at Flagstaff Lake. I took my shoes off to stand in the water and played with driftwood for about an hour. We were melancholy at the thought of the journey nearing it's end. It was a shame that we felt pressured to put in so many miles in such a short amount of time when all we wanted to do was take pictures of mushrooms and play in the lake all day. We camped by a stream that night and the temperature in the morning was 45 degrees. There were ravens yelling early that morning so fortunately sleeping in would have been impossible.

Day 146: Long Falls Dam Rd. to Campsite near Holly Brook
Day: 20.2 miles
Total: 2036 miles
(The terrain seriously flattens out at this point and we planned to get over Pleasant Pond Mountain after taking the ferry across the Kennebec River. There was a brewery with blueberry beer and delicious sandwiches that was too tempting to ignore. There were other thru-hikers there as well, mostly South-bounders. Farmer and I ate a bunch of food and played a game of pool. Our stomachs were really unsettled when we started to hike again so we stopped short and camped past Holly Brook.)

Day 147: Holly Brook to campsite by river at mile 2061
Day: 25 miles
Total: 2061 miles
(This day we cruised. It felt good to do a big day. We wanted to get as close to Monson as possible for a resupply the next day. My third pair of shoes bit the dust so we had a lot of take care of in town.)

Day 148: River Campsite to Leeman Brook Lean-to
Day: 12.8 miles
Total: 2073.8 miles
(Got to a hostel in Monson by noon and did my last load of laundry and took my last shower on the trail. The hostel is located above a pub so we were able to have lunch while we waited for the laundry to be done. It started to rain and we had to hitch to the outfitter in Greenville in a downpour. So much for clean, dry clothes! We were picked up by a woman who owns a WOOFing farm and works as a midwife. She drove a big white van with no windows and had a mattress in the back. She was really nice but it was a little weird. I got a new pair of Brooks Cascadia 8's. The resupply was expensive, but I got four days of food to get through the 100 mile wilderness. It was still raining when we got back on the trail and we stopped 3 miles into the wilderness to camp because it was getting dark early with the clouds. There were two other really cool south-bounders at the shelter that night. Hulk and his wife whose name I can't remember. Hulk is 6'6" and was carrying an 80lb pack. Yeah, 80 pounds, bless his heart. They were going to do a big gear dump in Monson the following day.)

Day 149: Leeman Brook Lean-to to West Chairback Pond side trail
Day: 21.3 miles
Total: 2095.1 miles
(The first half of this day was lovely and beautiful. The second half was really difficult and slow-going due to the terrain. It started to rain again but there were no decent places to stop and camp and we had to nigh hike. I was tanked by the time we found a place to stop. I was so tired this night I didn't take care to pack up my food bag well. I left potato chips in a plastic grocery bag and hung them high in a tree but the mice still got into them. It was a party sized bag of potato chips and I was cursing the mice for the waste of calories and my main source of potassium. What a rookie mistake. This night produced one of the top three thunder storms I experienced on the trail.)

Day 150: West Chairback Pond to Logan Brook Lean-to
Day: 18.8 miles
Total: 2113.9 miles
(Got over the last "hump" of a mountain (3500' White Cap Mountain). Enjoyed the ford across the west branch of the Pleasant River. Just before the river we found a big yellow bag suspended 15' in the air that was full of trail magic. There was a lot of really good trail magic in the 100 Mile "Wilderness". We stocked up on two Mountain House meals each. Camped just past Logan Brook Lean-to as it was getting dark. Dinner was super easy thanks to the trail magic. I slept well this night.)

Day 151: Logan Brook Lean-to to Jo-Mary Road
Day: 15.4 miles
Total: 2129.3 miles
(We were sure to make it to summit Katahdin by the first of August until the water filter debacle at Jo-Mary Road. It was a discouraging situation that we tried to make the best of. This was the first day Farmer carried my water filter for us (since we both use it and he though it would be more fair). He accidentally left the dirty bag (the side with the filter attached) hanging from a tree a mile before the Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to. We didn't discover this until Jo-Mary Road, 5 miles later. I stopped to make phone calls and fortunately we figured out then what had happened. During this stomach-clenching realization it started to rain, of course. I pitched one of tents and waited with all of the gear while he spent a couple of hours trail running to retrieve the bag, bless his heart. He felt so bad and I felt so bad for him. This set us back 10 miles. He got back just as it was getting dark so I set up my tent as well and we called it an early night. The goal was to get an early start and make up as many miles as possible the next day.)

Day 152: Jo-Mary Road to Rainbow Spring Campsite
Day: 29.7 miles
Total: 2159.0 miles
(We did some big miles, but not enough. We had to do some night hiking, ironically through the most HORRIBLE trail that skirts Rainbow Lake. It's a gorgeous lake and there were multiple loons calling through the night, but the trail was completely demolished. Rocks, roots, and deep mud dominated the area and my head lamp was as good as dead. It was a really difficult night and we didn't make it to the campsite until at least 10:30pm. We were tanked again.)

Day 153: Rainbow Spring Campsite to Katahdin Stream Campground
Day: 21.1 miles
Total: 2180.1 miles
(I woke up with a knot in my throat and tears and my eyes this day. I cried in my tent. I didn't want the trail to end. Despite the challenge of Maine and the miles we were trying to accomplish I couldn't imaging the journey coming to an end. There were still miles to push and we would only summit Katahdin that day if we got to the base at 3:30pm. This didn't happen, but incredible trail magic did occur that I will write all about in a separate post.)

Day 154: Katahdin Stream Campground to summit of Baxter Peak
Day: 5.2 miles on AT (additional 5.5 or so miles down the Knife's Edge to the parking lot)
Total: 2185.3 miles
(Mission accomplished.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

New Hampshire Mileage

Day 119: White River to Norwich, VT
Day: 8.3 miles
Total: 1741.6 miles
(Stayed with trail angels near the White River in VT. Jumped off the bridge two more times that morning before hiking in super hot temperatures. Stayed with trail Angels "Short & Sweet" and Greybeard at their home in Norwich, VT. Elm Street was lined with trail magic coolers.)

Day 120: Norwich, VT to Trapper John Shelter
Day: 18.2 miles
Total: 1759.8 miles
(Excellent resupply from the co-op in Hanover. Passed Dartmouth college. Another warm day, happy to be in NH.)

Day 121: Trapper John Shelter to Wentworth, NH
Day: 16.9 miles
Total: 1776.7 miles
(Excited to begin bigger climbs in NH. Smarts mountain was rewarding with a view from a fire tower at the summit. Also *really* enjoyed Mt. Cube. Best evening break on the trail. The view was really hazy. Needed to pick up a mail drop in Wentworth but there was NO traffic on N.H. 25A. Managed to get a hitch at dusk, but the general store was closed. Camped at the farm of the retired orthopedic surgeon who picked us up. His wife made us breakfast and dinner. Amazing trail magic. "The trail provides.")

Day 122: Wentworth, NH to Jeffers Brook Shelter
Day: 10.8 miles
Total: 1787.5 miles
(Late start after a resupply got us to the base of Mt. Moosilauke.)

Day 123: Jeffers Brook Shelter to Beaver Brook Shelter
Day: 6.9 miles
Total: 1794.4 miles
Moosilauke was the bomb-dizzle. Spent over an hour eating lunch at the summit. First above-treeline hiking on the trail. Super sunny, awesome morning followed by afternoon thunder storms and rain that lasted through the night. Stopped short at Beaver Brook Shelter during a heavy part of the storm and ended up staying all night. Rewarded with an epic sunrise.)

Day 124: Beaver Brook Shelter to Kinsman Notch, NH 112
Day: 1.5 miles
Total: 1795.9 miles
(This day began my really bad UTI. Very disappointed to stop so short and hitch into Lincoln for a visit to the doctor's office. $200 later, got on a one week prescription that causes photo-sensitivity. Terrible timing for getting through the White Mountains. Stayed at trail angel Chet's house.)

Day 125: NH 112 to US 3, Franconia Notch
Day: 16.3 miles
Total: 1812.2 miles
(Happy 4th of July! By far one of the most difficult days on the trail. Pouring rain lasted all day with treacherous terrain. Nauseated by medication. Very slow miles. Got a hitch from French Canadians who took us back to Lincoln just in time for fireworks. Stayed at Chet's one more night.)

Day 126: Lincoln, NH to "stealth camp" at base of Lafayette
Day: Negligible
Total: 1813.5
(Difficult hitch back to the trail, kind of got lost for a little while on the side of the highway. Lots of time wasted. The weather report also showed 80 mph winds at the summit of Lafayette so after the nightmare task of getting back to the trail we decided to camp early at the base of the mountain, catch up on sleep, and climb the next morning.)

Day 127: Lafayette "stealth camp" to Mt. Garfield Summit
Day: 9.9 miles
Total: 1822.1 miles
(Phenomenal hiking this day- one of the absolute best days on the trail. Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Lafayette, Franconia Ridge, and Mt. Garfield were all incredible. Got to Mt. Garfield summit at sunset and decided to cowboy camp at the very top. Best night on the trail with clear skies and a superb view of the Milky Way. Pure magic.)

Day 128: Mt. Garfield Summit to Crawford Notch
Day: 17.8 miles
Total: 1839.9 miles
(Some rain this day. Ran into "M", very happy to see him. Almost stopped short for a work-for-stay at the Zealand Falls hut, but decided to push on for an early arrival at the Lake of the Clouds hut to ensure a work-for-stay. Surrounded by "The Herd". The trail feels crowded. Crazy hiker pile-up.)

Day 129: Crawford Notch to Lake of the Clouds Hut
Day: 11.1 miles
Total: 1851.0 miles
(Another one of the most enjoyable days of hiking. Magnificent trail mostly above treeline all the way to the base of Mt. Washington. Sunny skies with clouds building. Made it to the hut with perfect timing and secured a work-for-stay. We decided to do our work in the morning and spent the afternoon enjoying the lakes and the views. Did some planning for the upcoming weeks.)

Day 130: Lake of the Clouds Hut to Pinkham Notch
Day: 14.9 miles
Total: 1865.9 miles
(Thunderstorms made for interrupted sleep at the hut, very glad to be inside. Swept the bunk room floors and got a later-than-usual-but-not-too-late start. 24 hr Coin-op showers at Pinkham Notch was great motivation this day. Still feeling pretty crappy from UTI and medication.)

Day 131: Pinkham Notch to camp near Carter Notch
Day: 5 miles
Total: 1870.9 miles
(The Wildcat mountains sucked. I was lacking all energy this day and did not enjoy the terrain at all. Suffering from an accumulation of sleep deprivation. Stopped early to stealth camp to try to catch up on sleep, only to be disrupted at 11pm by some ass-hole hikers (ahem*TEXACO*ahem) that decided to pitch their tents right next to mine. Sooooo frustrated. Sooooooooo exhausted and soooo frustrated.)

Day 132: Carter Notch to Gorham, NH
Day: 19.2 miles
Total: 1887.0 miles
(Made it to a lovely hostel in Gorham where I picked up the big mail drop. Got in late and started to socialize with the huge pile-up of hikers. Ended up staying and tenting in the back yard. For $10 I was able to tent, shower, and have breakfast. Awesome!)

Day 133: Gorham, NH to Campsite at 1894ish
Day: 7 miles
Total: 1894.0 miles
(Moral and energy at an all-time low. Feeling the need for real rest. Stopped short to camp and sleep.)

Day 134: Campsite at 1894ish to Carlo Col Shelter
Day: 10 miles
Total: 1904.0 miles
(Welcome to Maine! So happy to make it to the last state, but still have many miles to cover. The rain started this day and lasted for way too long. Campsites are all full from large groups of campers and boyscouts. Crappy tenting on a slope in the rain.)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sneak Peak

I summited Mt. Katahdin this morning (Aug 2nd). 2185.3 miles. I can't believe it. I'm in a car on my way to Portland to be handed off to Claire and Daniel who are taking me back to Virginia. It will take a few days for my accomplishment to become fully realized, I think. Right now I seriously can't process the fact that I won't be hiking/walking tomorrow or every day after that. I hope I don't go into shock. We shall see what happens. I've not let myself think too far ahead, so we will just take one day at a time.  

The climb up Baxter peak is no joke. It is THE most challenging climb of the AT. The trail ascends 4000 feet in five miles, half of which is above tree line. In order to be down the mountain by noon we (Farmer summited today as well) departed the Katahdin Spring Campsite at 2:30am. We climbed a couple hours in the dark and were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise and clear skies at the summit.

I didn't know what my emotions would be reaching the sign for the Northern terminus. I really didn't think I would cry, I was in such a jolly mood all morning. It was uncontrollable when we reached our long awaited goal and we both ended up being choked up and teary. Then we took pictures. 

Still a little weepy...

The classic

The close up 

Congrats, Farmer!!

And the selfie

We descended by the Knife's Edge- considered the most difficult hike on the east coast. I believe this to be accurate.

Knife's Edge in the distance 

There is much more to come soon, so stay posted!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Magical trail decorations

Here are a few of the mushrooms that decorate the trail in Maine. I don't think I can choose a favorite.

This is actually not a mushroom/fungus. Indian Pipe is a flower without chlorophyll that gains nutrients from fungus on it's roots. It's one of my favorite plants and I'm always really excited to see it.

I've seen these in yellow... I think they turn black.

These mushrooms gave me a craving for cupcakes. Mmm.... Bubblecake....