The Whites

Beaker Into Maine

7/23/17 Destination White Mt Hostel, Gorham, NH     8.4 miles today

911Another pretty day: a little overcast in the early morning but, it soon cleared into full sunshine. Beaker was packed and on the Appalachian Trail little after 7:00 am. He had a nero (near-zero) day planned – an 8-mile hike into the White Mountain Lodge and Hostel. The nero-day included a climb Mt Moriah, the last summit in the White Mountains National Forest.

About a mile into the hike, Beaker came upon Sitting Bull and Hoop’s stealth camp site. He stopped to visit for a few minutes and found out that they were scheduled to stay at the same hostel tonight.  

Arriving at the hostel Beaker received new trail runners that his wife, Marguerite, had ordered from REI and had shipped to the hostel. His last pair lasted a grand total of three weeks… three weeks! I told you the Whites were tough! They were blown out at the sides and ends of the toes and big chunks were missing from the soles. The remainder of the nero-day involved a resupply, a needed rest for the legs, and watching the weather for tomorrow – heavy rain in the forecast.  

7/24/17 Destination: Carlo Col Shelter, ME    16.9 miles today

Overcast skies, but no rain in the morning. Beaker decided to head out rather than take a zero day so he was walking 7:30. Sitting Bull and Hoops were still eating breakfast when he left; he passed Ramsey Bolton’s stealth camp about a mile into the hike – Ramsey was still asleep when Beaker passed.

Around 8:30, it started to sprinkle. Before long, it settled into a steady rain that lasted the rest of the day. Beaker was quickly soaked to the skin. Anytime he stopped for more than a few minutes he would start to get chilled. The trail is out of the Whites; but not out of the mountains. Today’s hike proved to be pretty tough… up, down, mud, rocks, rain…. I managed to take several spills today. Nothing serious. Just enough to get me wet and muddy.

Beaker. NH.ME lineThe highlight of the day Beaker crossed the Maine-New Hampshire border! He reached Carlo Col Shelter just after 6:00 pm, a long, slow day on the trail. The shelter was packed.  All five wooden tent pads were occupied by what appears to be a French Canadian youth group.  Beaker set up his tent on a sloping piece of ground near the shelter. The temperature is in the low 40s, the wind is rattling the tent, and the rain is pelting down. It feels more like March than July. At least I am safe, warm, and dry in my cozy tent. I can’t wait to put on those wet hiking clothes in the morning…

7/25/17 Destination: Speck Pond Shelter, ME   9.5 miles today

For some reason, I thought that once we finished the White Mountains it would be a cruise to Mt Katahdin. Wrong! I hiked 9.5 miles today and it was a full day.

Beaker awoke to rain but by the time he hit the trail, the rain had tailed off and the clouds actually began to thin. By afternoon, he was hiking in full sunshine. The  trail was still a muddy, the rocks were still wet and slick, and Beaker lost count of how many times I went down. Most of the falls were slow and fairly controlled. I had one pretty bad fall on my left hip which left it pretty bruised and tender, though.

Mahoosuc Nothch

A Small Taste of Mahoosuc Notch

The climbs continued to be steep, with sections where rebar steps were embedded in the vertical rock face. Beaker stopped for lunch at the Full Goose Shelter. After lunch is when the real fun began – the Mahoosuc Notch and the Mahoosuc Arm. The Mahoosuc Notch is a mile long narrow gorge with steep, high boulders and rocks of assorted sizes and shapes creating a natural obstacle course on steroids. You have to scramble over, under, and around these boulders as you pick your way through the notch. Upon completing the Mahoosuc Notch, Beaker was immediately faced another obstacle – the Mahoosuc Arm.   It is a climb gaining over 1500 feet of elevation over 0.9 miles. There were many sections that were almost straight up. At the top of Mahoosuc Arm, it was a short hike to Speck Pond Shelter.

 

Mahoosuc Notch Photo found at georgiatomaine2012.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/710-mahoosuc-notch-trail/
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Moriah, New Hampshire, The Whites, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Hiking the Whites

Beaker the chemist from West Virginia continues his NOBO hike of the Appalachian Trail.

7/18/17 – Destination: Galehead Hut 14.1 miles today

Beaker, Above Tree LineBeaker woke up this morning at The Notch Hostel in North Woodstock, New Hampshire with 373 miles of trail before reaching Mount Katahdin. It was a beautiful day on the trail. Sitting Bull and Hoops had to wait for packages at the post office, so Beaker left on the 7:45 AM shuttle to the trailhead. It took him two hours to climb the 2.3 miles to Franconia Ridge. As he neared the top of the ridge, the trees began to thin out. He finally broke out of the tree line for the first time to a spectacular vista. “The ridge stretched out in front of me, with the AT running along the spine. It was rugged and beautiful. The White Mountains are the toughest hiking we’ve done on the trail; but, the views are spectacular.”

LD_Galehead

Galehead Hut

Beaker had hopes of staying in the Huts along the trail in the White Mountains. The huts are manned by “croos” of college age kids. They also allow a couple of thru hikers to “work for stay” every night. In exchange for cabin chores, thru hikers get to eat leftover food and are allowed to sleep on the floor. There is a bit of an art to getting chosen for work for stay. If you arrive too early in the day, they send you on your way. If you arrive too late, they’ve already filled the spots. Beaker arrived too late at the Galehead Hut. The head of the croo did tell him about a nice stealth spot nearby. Beaker joined six others in their tents.  

7/19/17 Destination: Crawford Notch Campground, NH  14.6 today

Another beautiful day. Beaker was up and hiking by 7:30. His hike began with a near vertical climb to the summit of South Twin Mountain but he was rewarded with one of the most incredible views in the Whites. “In all directions, all I could see was row upon row of mountains. Mount Washington…was especially prominent on the horizon.

Around noon, Beaker arrived at Zealand Falls Hut and stopped in for a bowl of soup and some baked goods. The rest of the afternoon was spent on a painful descent each step pounding on his sore knees into Crawford Notch. Beaker realized that he was extremely tired, even though he had only hiked 14.6 miles. Mileage drastically slows down in the Whites.

He arrived with Jailbird, another graybeard hiker that Beaker has been hiking around with the past couple of days. They found out that the whole area was part of a state park and camping was forbidden. They were able to hitch a ride to a nearby campground. Discovering the camp had single room cabins, they chose actual beds, electricity, and a roof.  

7/20/17 Destination: Lakes of the Clouds Hut, NH     11.1 miles today

Beaker.Lakes of the Clouds

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Jailbird and Beaker awoke at 5:00 and were ready to leave by 6 am.  The problem was that they were 3.3 miles from the trailhead and on a country road. The owner of the campground came out and said he’d run them up to the trailhead. They were on the trail by 7:00 and started climbing immediately. It was a typical White Mountain climb – long and steep, with several portions of hand over hand climbing. At least, the weather was beautiful and the views were incredible.

Beaker reached the Mitzpah Spring Hut around 11 am and bought lunch. The next goal was the summit of Mt Pierce. The trees dropped away just before the summit and exposed the stark beauty of the alpine environment.  Beaker arrived at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut at 2 pm. It is located about 1.5 miles and 1200 ft below the summit of Mt. Washington. But it is another 7 miles to Madison Hut and there was nowhere to camp in between. Beaker decided to stay and inquired about work for stay; The woman at the desk said that he could pay $10 and sleep on the floor of the dining room. So, that’s what he did.

Photo Galehead: http://adventuretravel.about.com/b/2013/04/07/amc-huts-125th-anniversary-30-percent-off-hut-to-hut-hike-trips.htm
Other Photos from Beaker’s blog: http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/572461

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Galehead Hut, Lakes of the Clouds Hut, Mount Washington, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Into New Hampshire

20140816-172253.jpg

Dartmouth College

Beaker’s first day in New Hampshire (July 13) brought monsoon-like rain in the morning. He delayed his start until the rains stopped mid-morning. He then stopped at Dan and Whit’s General Store in Norwalk for a resupply and a deli sandwich for second breakfast. Crossing the Connecticut River, Beaker officially entered Hanover, New Hampshire. He enjoyed the college ivy-league town for awhile (Dartmouth College) by getting a free donut at the bakery and a slice of pizza from a hiker-friendly pizza shop. About 3:00, Beaker left Hanover and headed toward the woods of the Appalachian Trail. He still managed to hike a total of 11 miles before camping at a stealth site on Mink Brook.  

Sitting Bull and HoopsJuly 14 was a blustery, chilly day with lots of clouds but not much sunshine.”The trail was still mucky and muddy from all the rain we’ve been having and the trees were dripping water. All in all, another yucky day of hiking. It was also a pretty tough day of hiking. There was a lot of up and down….All the overlooks I passed were blank white screens – not a thing to see at any of them. The Smokies all over again.” Beaker’s diligence in hiking, however, produced 20.1 miles and he ended up in his tent close to the Hexacuba Shelter. Shortly after getting his transient home set up for the night, Sitting Bull and Hoops showed up at camp. This couple had been hiking with Beaker for several days in July but had gotten behind Beaker’s pace. They had cranked out a big-mileage day to catch him in the hopes of hiking through the Whites together. Beaker was elated.

July 15 started with a discouraging rain. “The day looked like every other day we’ve had lately – gray, overcast, misty, humid, wet, and drippy. I’ve actually given up on wearing my glasses when I hike because it is either raining or so humid that they immediately fog up… Don’t even talk to me about the views! Every time I’d come to a rock outcropping on top of a mountain, I’d see this great expanse of white clouds and know that there was a spectacular view hiding in there….The heavy rain left the trail a soggy, slippery mess. The mud was slippery. The rocks were slippery. The roots were slippery. And the logs were slippery. As a result, I took a couple of tumbles today.”  One resulted in a twisted knee and another caused a broken hiking pole. The trio ended the day at the Hiker’s Welcome Hostel.  Tomorrow the hostel staff will drive Sitting Bull, Hoops and Beaker’s non-essential hiking supplies to Notch Hostel in North Woodstock allowing them to hike over Mount Moosilauke with just the minimums for the day. The 10-mile hike over Moosilauke will take most of the day because of the steep ascents and descents. Total miles today – 14.8. Welcome to the Whites – the miles are tough and the terrain is challenging.

July 16 turned out to be a day filled with sunshine! Beaker, Hoops and Sitting Bull were all excited to have good weather as they headed up their first big mountain in the Whites. Slack-packing involves hiking while carrying only the things the hiker needs for that day. They loaded tents, sleeping bags, and extra food into a bag that the hostel transported to the next hostel. Beaker and friends carried a lunch, plenty of water, a first aid kit, and extra clothes, thus reducing the weight from around 30 lbs to about 10 lbs.

MoosilaukeThe climb up Mt. Moosilauke involved climbing 3793 ft in elevation over 5.5 miles. They experienced the summit in beautiful, clear weather. Lots of pictures were snapped and they all enjoyed a lunch on top of Moosilauke. After lunch, the descent began on the other side. It was much steeper than the ascent with several near vertical sections. Beaker’s knees were screaming before the trio were halfway down the mountain. They made it to the base of Moosilauke just in time to catch the shuttle van back to the Notch Hostel.

The plan for July 17 was to slack-pack again from Kinsman Notch, over Wolf Mountain and Kinsman Mountain, and down into Franconian Notch, and then to be picked up by a shuttle in order to stay another night at Notch Hostel. The day broke with more sunshine. 

Beaker was climbing up a slick, tilted rock about eight feet high. At the top, he slid down the rock, wedging his left hiking pole horizontally between a rock and a tree. He had his hand through the wrist strap on the pole. So, he ended up suspended in a prone position on the rock with his wrist trapped in the strap and his feet about a foot off the ground – stuck. Fortunately, Hoops rushed and pushed the hiking pole loose and allowed Beaker to Hailslide back down the rock face to the ground. After checking that all body parts were still functioning correctly, they all enjoyed a good laugh.

Beaker, Sitting Bull and Hoops reached the pickup point at 5:20 PM, just as the first big drops of rain began splattering around them. The shuttle driver, having seen the weather forecast, had arrived early. Just as they dove into the van, the skies opened up with a huge storm, complete with sheets of rain, thunder, lightning, and dime-sized hail.

Tomorrow, Beaker hopes to head up the Franconia Ridge.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dartmouth College, Franconia Notch, Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dulcigal is a Thru-Hiker

Dulcigal

Dulcigal in Georgia

Dulcigal, Karla Redman, has completed her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail!

Dulcigal began her journey on March 19 and hiked to her finish line on October 29 for a total of 231 days. I have never personally met Karla, but my admiration of her character, faith, and determination grew with every post of her journal. I counted her “out” at the end of June when she suffered a serious bout of kidney stones on the trail. She landed in the hospital including two days in the ICU with kidney and liver failure and septic shock. An additional three days were spent in the hospital before she was able to travel back to her home in Georgia.

But Dulcigal was not done with her dream. After a short two-week recovery, she returned to the trail. With her two sons at her side for a few days, she continued hiking with praise to God’s faithfulness and provision. It became apparent to her that she would most likely not make it to Mount Katahdin in Maine (the northern terminus of the AT) before the threat of winter closed the mountain, so she decided to attempt a flip-flop. She hiked to the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border, then caught a bus to Hanover, New Hampshire. From Hanover, she hiked over the White Mountains, through Mahoosuc Notch, and across the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine. She summited Katahdin and stood atop the brown sign on September 22. She then traveled back to Hanover and hiked south-bound

Dulcigal on Top of Katahdin

Dulcigal on Top of Katahdin

to Delaware Water Gap on the PA/NJ state border. Her finish line was a hostel in Delaware Water Gap located in the Church of the Mountain.

I have included a few lines from the last post on her online journal. Karla writes,

“2,189.1 miles — I’m still trying to digest it all. Today was fantastic…better than I ever expected. The weather was beautiful, the walk was extremely easy and relaxing, and the fun with my 2 sons, Danielle (a family friend), and a few thru-hikers in the area, was phenomenal. The joy of actually finishing the trail is indescribable, but I can understand the bittersweet thoughts as well. It will take some adjusting to adapt to “normal” life again, I am sure….. Though this has been the most challenging life experience, it has been the most rewarding. The question I was asked most often was, “Are you hiking all by yourself?” I was never alone. Other than the many other hikers and trail volunteers I had the privilege to meet and socialize with on the trail, my Lord and Savior was with me every step of the way. I never felt alone. I cherished my talks with God and fellowship with the trail community.”

Karla, the Thru-Hiker

Karla, the Thru-Hiker

I sent Dulcigal a short note of congratulations and my standing ovation for her diligence and bravery. I was surprised to get a response back from her so soon after her completion. Her kind response reflects her humility and the character that enables a person to hike for over 230 days and 2,186 miles through fourteen different states:

“Hi David.  I’m in the lost phase of just getting home and figuring out what to do next….it will be an adjustment for sure.  Although I was so excited about finishing, I’m already missing the woods.  😦  I plan to get out and do some short hikes nearby to feed my desire to being out in nature.  Yes, the reward of being able to complete such a journey is the ultimate gift.  You understand because you have been there, done that.  Thank you for following the journey and your inspiration as well!!   Karla”

My congratulations to Karla Redman – Dulcigal.

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, Delaware Water Gap, Dulcigal, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, The Whites, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Update from the Trail – Hen, Dulcigal, Peas

Let me provide a quick update on my three remaining thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that I have been following since day 1 of their adventures: Fat Hen & Rooster Talon (Dano and Beckie from New York), Dulcigal (Karla from Georgia) and the Two Peas: Big Cypress and Animal (Robert and Shawn from Florida).

Fat Hen in the Whites

Fat Hen in the Whites

Hen and Talon, Dano and Beckie last posted on September 13. They do not post very often so it was good to hear from them just last week. They have completed the White Mountains and have crossed into Maine. They shared that the weather through the Whites was almost perfect. With the exception of a little fog, their days were gorgeous and the mountain vistas took their breath away. They seem extremely excited about still being on the trail and having conquered 13 out of the 14 states of the Appalachian Trail adventure.

Dulcigal hiking up Mahoosuc Arm

Dulcigal hiking up Mahoosuc Arm

Dulcigal posted from Monson, Maine on September 14. Kara is making a flip-flop thru-hike, so once she reaches Katahdin, she will go back to Hanover, New Hampshire, and finish walking south to Delaware Water Gap on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey to complete the journey. She is about to enter the 100 Mile Wilderness. She and several other hikers have arranged a food drop about half way through the wilderness so food should not be a major factor for them. Dulcigal should arrive at Baxter State Park and the brown sign atop Katahdin within a week.

The Two Peas (Big Cypress and his son, Animal) have continued the hiking experience after Moonbeam broke her leg and needed to “retire” from the trail. Shawn has taken his mom spot as the second pea and the two men are booking it through New England. The boys had a tough go of it over Mount Washington. The weather was too severe on the day they reached the summit to continue [dense fog and 85 mph wind with gusts and as high 102 mph], so Moonbeam, who is supporting her men by following the hikers in a truck,

The New Two Peas in Gorham, NH

The New Two Peas in Gorham, NH

drove the scary, foggy road to the top and “rescued” them. After a nail-biting but successful road trip down off the summit, the trio arrived at Gorham, New Hampshire. They zeroed the next day in Gorham and then drove back the following morning to the summit of Mount Washington.  A two-day hike from the summit allowed the two men arrive back at Gorham on September 18th.  The Two Peas are now about a day’s hike away from entering the last state on the trail, and 283 miles of rugged trail in Maine.

The weather forecast for Millinocket, Maine, (the nearest town to Katahdin), seems very good for the next 15 days – mid 60’s during the day and low 40’s at night. This is great news for those trying to finish before winter makes the trek very treacherous.

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, Class of 2016, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Florida, Georgia, Hanover, Hiking, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, Rooster Talon, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Two Peas | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scarfoot – So Close!

Scarfot's Office Space

Scarfot’s Office Space

Scarfoot is a thru-hiker that does not provide his real name in his journal, but his real life before the trail was based in Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked at an investment firm. He decided to exchange his cubical for the canopy of the Appalachian Trail. This choice was not an impulsive decision, but rather one of advanced planning and preparation.

Scarfoot began by losing 50 pounds and addressing several other physical challenges. The Bostonian found himself with major allergies: tree, grass and weed pollen, mold, dust mites, dog and cat – pretty hard to avoid such things on the trail while occasionally staying in hostels/cheap hotels. He also discovered that he was allergic to bees and wasps. So Scarfoot found some allergy treatments – four shots at a time. Scarfoot also struggled with planter fasciitis causing severe heal pain and making hiking very difficult. He attempted to counter this challenge with custom orthotics and Strassburg socks (a sock designed to be worn at night that keeps the plantar fascia in a stretched position, helping to increase flexibility in the morning).

[Just a quick aside – according to the Mayo Clinic, plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases. It is particularly common in runners, people who are overweight, and those who wear shoes with inadequate support. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-fasciitis/basics/definition/con-20025664 ]

Scarfoot was also concerned about some emotional issues. He suffered from panic attacks and found that sleeping alone in the woods and major heights caused times of intense angst. This is quite a challenge for those considering a thru-hike of the AT. He purchased custom-fitted ear plugs for sleeping. In addition, Scarfoot is married to Ellie who expressed concern with his adventure. Although supportive of her husband, she worried for his safety. So, Scarfoot took a wilderness first-aid course and purchased SPOT, a Satellite GPS Messenger, used by many hikers to reach emergency responders, check-in with family or friends, share GPS coordinates and track the route of the adventure – all at the push of a button and at the cost of about $150.

Atop Mount Madison

Atop Mount Madison

Scarfoot researched trail gear for three years and was attracted to the ultralight approach to long- distance hiking. He organized and reorganized his summer pack until he reached a backpack weight of only 10 pounds (My pack weight varied but I think my lightest burden was 25 pounds).

Hikes of preparation were also part of Scarfoot’s three-year training program. Year one included a four-day hike in Massachusetts; year two embraced a ten-day hike from the Hudson River, New York to the Massachusetts Turnpike just above Upper Goose Pond (about 145 miles); and during year he three logged a 135-mile, 7-day hike through most of Vermont.

Scarfoot was ready. His last day at work April 6th and he was on the trail on April 10. He hiked the 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia on April 9th and began his actual AT miles from Springer Mountain on Sunday the 10th. All the training and preparation enable Scarfoot to make very good time hiking though the Appalachian Trail.

Then came this surprising post on Day 140 of his adventure, August 27th,

“Well this is it. No summit photo. No finish…. The trail becomes very technical with big boulders above tree line. Very dangerous and not what I signed up for. One more mile of very nasty trail remained then the ‘tablelands’. In the meantime it follows a ridge with shear drops behind and both sides in places. I could do it physically but would have hated every moment of it. I got what I wanted out of this. I was in it for the hike and that last 2.3 miles was mountain climbing to me not hiking. At the hostel met a woman who broke 4 ribs yesterday on Baxter. Seams I made the right choice at least for me.”

With 2.3 miles left to complete the journey, Scarfoot turns around. Over half way up Mount Katahdin, his hike was over. I continue to look for another post that shares a successful return and climb to the brown sign, but nothing appears.

scarfootI personally found the climb out of Palmerton, Pennsylvania a much more technical climb than Katahdin and yet Scarfoot journals (on June 6, 2016), “Rocks getting worse and lasting longer between breaks. Got stuck in the middle of a 40 person Korean hiking club on the rockiest toughest climb yet over the superfund site. Real rock scramble.”

I also wondered what his experience was over the Whites and into the first 100 miles of Maine. I wondered how he responded over Mount Washington, another nice climb on the trail. He simply mentions on August 3, “Was warm, sunny and practically no wind so fantastic weather.” Two days later (August 5), he climbs Mount Madison and descends into Pinkham Notch. His comments: Tough day for 13 miles. Two 2000 foot climbs plus the smaller ones. Very steep. The last down was incredible. Easily the hardest steepest down so far.

I also checked his journal on August 8th, the day he reached Mahoosuc Notch (one of the most difficult miles on the trail). He had completed the Notch and the major climb up Mahoosuc Arm by noon. The notch only took Scarfoot 1 hour and 45 minutes to navigate, compared to my 3 hours and 20 minutes. He noted, “The arm was very steep. Took 9 hours to do 12 miles today.”

I feel so badly for Scarfoot. He was so close and he conquered so much. He made the decision that he felt best and I admire him for his convictions. May he realize that he is indeed a thru-hiker. The sign is not the goal – the journey is the reward. He shared that he walked away from the trail with what he wanted – the true meaning of Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Mahoosuc Notch, Massachusetts, Mount Katahdin, Mount Madison, Mount Washington, Scarfoot, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on the 2016 Thru-Hikers

Wow, how the start of a new school year takes time. I have been so focused on the start of school with teacher orientation, student schedules, and administrative details that my blog had to take second place for a bit.

Let me catch you up on some of the thru-hikers still active on the Appalachian Trail. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon are in Vermont; Dulcigal has flip flopped and has just completed the White Mountains in New Hampshire; and Big Cypress (of the Two Peas) is back on the trail with his youngest son at his side and Moonbeam providing trail support.

fat hen in Vermont Cabin

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon – Dan and Beckie reported in on August 22 from the Yellow Deli Hostel in Rutland, Vermont. They posted on their 5 month anniversary on the trail. Beckie’s parents met them on the trail for a gear exchange, sending home the summer gear and loading up for the colder weather in the Whites and the wilderness of Maine. Cold weather gear adds weight to the pack but it is imperative for a comfortable hike through the northern states. In addition to the needed gear, they enjoyed some good food, a Chinese buffet, a gift of banana bread and chocolate cookies from home. They were headed out in high spirits to enter New Hampshire and the challenges of the White Mountains, including ever changing weather atop Mount Washington. Today on the summit of Mount Washington – 52 degrees, 30 mph winds, fog with 100% humidity, visibility 1/16 of a mile.

Dulci on Mt Washingtom

Dulci on Mt Washingtom

Dulcigal – Karla decided to flip flop her thru-hike attempt. She left Delaware Water Gap, a small community located on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey on August 11. She took a bus ride to New York City and then transferred buses for a five hour ride to New Hampshire. Her last post, August 27, finds her almost completing the White Mountains and looking forward to the grand state of Maine. She experienced the thrill and the adversity of the Whites. Here is a portion of her August 25th journal,

“I started off from Crawford Notch getting into Webster Cliffs and Mt. Webster. It was a beautiful morning with some winds but nothing serious. As I was climbing, the weather began to turn for the worse. When I reached the cliffs, I was faced with 70+ mph winds, dark clouds, and rain. The wind was blowing me into the mountain and not off the mountain, which was good! I was having to stay low to the trail to keep from being blown away. I was not properly dressed either. My hands and body were frozen. I finally made it down the mountain to the Mizpah Hut. The caregiver was kind enough to allow me to stay there for the night as a work-for-stay…I was very thankful to be inside out of the cold and wind! I found out after getting there that I somehow missed the “memo” about a storm coming through the area. I wondered why I didn’t see many hikers that day.”

Moonbeam and Big Cypress

Moonbeam and Big Cypress

Big Cypress – The Two Peas (Big Cypress and Moonbeam) began their thru-hike on February 14. Unfortunately, on June 27 Moonbeam experienced a serious fall resulting in a broken femur. They had just entered the state of Vermont when the accident occurred. Moonbeam had to be air lifted to a hospital in Albany, New York and surgery was performed to correct the severe break. After these many weeks off, Big Cypress has decided to complete the hike. On August 26, he arrived back on the trail with his youngest son, Shawn. Moonbeam will be providing trail support as her boys make their way north toward Katahdin. I am so glad to see the return of the Two Peas in just a slightly different pod. I will keep your posted as the hike continues.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Hiking, Maine, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rooster Talon, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Two Peas, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons from the Thru-hike – Passion is Often the Difference

HikeItForward-Final-SmallWhy are some hikers successful and others don’t complete the journey? There are lots of answers to this simple question but two basic reasons: one is a series of situations beyond the hiker’s control and two is the psychological/emotional reason within the inner-man (woman) of the individual.

For example, an injury due to a fail that make continuing impossible demands either a walk away from the trail or a commitment to healing before going on. A badly sprain ankle, for some, will send them home. For others, a week of R and R, an ace bandage, and a pizza will put them back on the trail. Sickness can literally take the wind out the hiker’s sails. The reality of spending multiple days in the sick bed and in the bathroom of regurgitation without friends and family to provide comfort and encouragement can crush the resolve of the thru-hiker wanna-be

Running out of funds can end a hike. Sometimes expenses are beyond a hiker’s control with equipment failure or an extended hotel/hospital stay during an injury/sickness. Sometime poor planning and spending too many nights in town can deplete the bankroll prematurely.

Weather is often a factor. Ten days of pouring rain verses ten days of clear skies can mean the difference between going home and reaching the summit. Cold snowy trails can challenge the resilience of the hiker while a dry, sun-warmed path can calm the anxieties of the long trail.

TicksEven bugs can be a reason to walk off the trail. The mosquitoes in July, the black flies of New England in early summer, and the ticks carrying Lyme’s disease can bring a hiker to his knees and cry uncle. In time of discouragement or physical challenge, these tiny pests can be the proverbial straw…the fingers on the blackboard…and the weight that tips the scale.

But the invisible, emotional, maybe even the spiritual aspects of the trail, are often the determining factor. I don’t know the actual percentages, although I think a scientific study would be absolutely fascinating in this area, but my hypothesis is that more hikers go home, not because of physical injuries or lack of funds but because of injuries to the heart: discouragement, homesickness, the need for comfort and normalcy, hunger and the call of civilization.

1178Some hikers hit the trail with the idealism of the wilderness without counting the cost of its reality. Some dream of the sign on Katahdin but fail to understand the five million steps to get there. Some see the beautiful wildflowers and gorgeous sunsets without feeling the sore muscles, the cold rain in the face, and the solitude of the wilderness. The trail will test your courage, your determination and your commitment.

One of my greatest strengths on the AT was just my love for hiking. If I only wanted a check mark on my bucket list I would have come home after the Smokies. If I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable, I would have caved before New Hampshire. If I wanted just to see the path and experience the fresh air, I would have baled in Pennsylvania. For me, I just love to hike. There is something about following a path through the meadows, under the canopy, and over the mountains that energizes me and makes me feel alive. I was so pumped to begin the trail realizing that I would never hike the same path two days in a row for over four months. Instead of going around in circles and doing loop trails, I was going on an adventure that was one continuous journey for 2,000 miles.

I remember waking up on the second day on the trail laughing at the reality that I was actually hiking the Appalachian Trail. Except of an extended stay in PA, I cannot remember a morning that I did not awake with the thrill of continuing the adventure. I was sore. I was wet. I was cold. But I was so alive. When I got close to the end, I was ready for the hike to be over. I was so excited about being reunited with my wife, about sharing my adventure with others, about re-entering my life of education, and about spending time of fellowship with my church. But my love for taking a hike in the woods never dampened.

20140827-170031.jpgI enjoyed the overlooks. I was thrilled with the summits. I longed for the flat sections (yes, there were a few). I was energized by fording the streams. I embraced the beauty and solitude of the wilderness. I loved the trail towns and the incredible menus they presented. I feared the White and the Presidentials in New Hampshire. But I remember seeing a fellow thru-hiker in Gorham, NH, that I had not seen for several hundred miles and giving him a big high five saying, “I am hiking in the Whites! How great is this!”

An injury in Pennsylvania was my dark hour (five days actually). I was frustrated with my inability to walk. My frustration lead to discouragement and my discouragement lead to doubt and my doubt lead me to considering calling it quits. I finally decided to stuff my backpack and attempt to climb the hill outside of Port Clinton, PA. If I could not make the summit, I would turn around and rent a car for home. With God’s grace, I made it to the top and beyond.

I love to hike! The gift that God has given me to enjoy a walk in the woods is the primary reason I stood on top of the Great Mountain in Maine.

 

Tick photo: http://centralmass.mosquitosquad.com/centeral-mass-lyme-disease-tick-protection/

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Maine, Mosquitoes, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Solitude, The Whites, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

January on Mount Washington

HikeItForward-Final-MediumJanuary is over and for the east coast it was filled with cold temperatures and several inches of White Christmas weather. I have grown over the years to tire of winter weather very quickly. After a day of frolicking in the snow and freezing my nose together with every breath, I am ready for spring and the flowers that reflect the renewal of the warmer season.

I have the responsibility in my school system to call off school due to inclement weather and during January my school in Ohio cancelled school twice and operated on a two-hour delay schedule on two additional dates. The wind-chill factor on those days was well below zero. For the protection of the students that have to stand at a bus stop and for teens driving in the darkness of early morning, the hours allow the sun to wake up and provide better visibility and a rise in temperature.

20140826-115040.jpgWhen I step outside and get blasted by a shot of arctic air, my mind almost always runs to Mount Washington and the weather that confronts the Whites in New Hampshire on a daily basis. When I climbed Mount Washington during my thru-hike in 2014 it was a beautiful day with blue skies dotted with white cumulus clouds. The temperature that August 26th day was a low of 49 degrees and a high of 61. The cool breeze that day was only 23 mph with gusts up to 41. I really enjoyed the climb, the view, and the weather.

January is a little different on the summit. The average high this January was 15 degrees and the average low was 0.8 degrees above zero. The hottest day on top of Mount Washington was 35 degrees but the low was a chilly -22 degrees (no wind-chill factor considered). The average wind speed during the month was 44.5 mph and the fastest recorded wind was 127 mph. This makes Ohio seem pretty mild. The total snow and ice for the month was 40.6 inches!

If you think this sounds brutal, the January of 2015 was even more severe: the average high was 11.2 degrees with the hottest day rising to 39 degrees; the average low temperature for the month was -8.9 degrees with the coldest day plummeting to -34 degrees; there was 63 inches of snow and ice; the  wind speed averaged 49.1 mph and the fastest day hit 129 mph.

888Okay, that’s two pretty cold winters in a row. I went back seven years and came to the conclusion that Mount Washington is a place of consistently cold January’s. Over the past seven years (2010 – 2016) the average high temperature was 13.8 degrees; the average low temperature was -2.7 with an average snow and ice fall of 38.9 inches. The wind is always brisk on the summit with the average wind speed during the month of January of 44.8 mph and the fastest day of wind speed averaging 122 mph.

Climbing up the south side of the mountain from the Lake of the Clouds there is a big yellow sign that tries to communicate the sobriety of the dangers ahead. The sign reads, “Stop. The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there from exposure, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad.” If the weather is favorable or if you ignore the sign and arrive at the 897summit another sign posted on the side of the weather station states, “The highest wind ever observed by man was recorded here. From 1932 to 1937 the Mt. Washington Observatory was operated in the summit stage office then occupying this site. In a great storm April 12, 1934 the crews instruments measured a wind velocity of 231 miles per hour.”

The next time the temperatures begin to drop or the cold wind stings your face, count your blessings that your house was not built on top of Mount Washington!

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, The Whites, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Rambunny – Part 2 – The 2004 thru-hike

RambunnyI discovered one of Rambunny’s trail journals on line at trailjournal.com. It was written in 2004 as she attempted yet another thru-hike (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=69015). This hike was a SOBO attempt that began on Katahdin, Maine on July 15, 2004 but ended 464 miles later at Fahnestock State Park, New York on September 29, 2004. I was curious to discover the why of Rambunny’s decision to walk off the trail. I doubted that it was her determination, or her physical ability to meet the challenges, or a sense of homesickness since she had hiked the hike three times before this 2004 journey.

Carole’s hike was tough from the beginning. She attempted to climb Mount Katahdin on July 15, but a major thunderstorm forced her back down after a 3 mile climb. The next day (July 16) the weather still dictated an impossible ascent to the brown sign. So on July 17 she got a ride to Abol Bridge, 15 miles from Katahdin, and began her SOBO adventure. That same day, she tripped going over a rocky area and bruised her ribs. She writes in her journal on July 18 the she thinks her rib is probably cracked and she is in quite a bit of pain. Five days later (July 23), the rib is causing a great deal of discomfort, so she take a zero day in Monson, Maine to evaluate. Carole concludes that she needs some time off trail to heal, so she makes arrangement to stay and help Honey and Bear, owners of the hostel, The Cabin. She stays at the Cabin for 29 days (July 25 to August 22) allowing the ribs to recuperate.

Rambunny 2Carole decides to skip the Whites and jump back on the trail in southern New Hampshire, about 45 miles from the Vermont state line. The trail adventure goes well until August 22nd when she takes a faceplant, literally on her face. Her glasses bruised the bridge of her nose with a resulting major nose bleed. The next day Rambunny describes herself looking like a raccoon. With the soreness, she concludes that she might have broken her nose. On September 24 she records “I feel like someone has punched me in the upper chest. The purple and yellow are traveling down my left eye and I’m purple ½ way across each eyelid and across the bridge of my nose. The chest hurts not the face. Thankfully if you have to do a face plant I did it well.”Then on September 26 she writes, “At the end of the day yesterday I realized the fall has definitely re-injured the muscle around the broken rib. No big deal but ouch! Going to keep ibuprofen close.”

Here is a portion of her journal dating Tuesday, September 28, 2004:[brackets contain my commentary/information]

“Sometime before morning the backlash of another hurricane came in pouring all night. My chest hurt whenever I turned. It woke me up with an ouch. Then I put my glasses on my hurt nose. Ouch!…..There’s a shelter 9 miles from here then none for 20 some miles. I hate setting up tent in the rain especially with a wet dog trying to help…..This is the first time in over 7,000 miles I’ve thought about quitting. Since I skipped some earlier, this is a section hike. Just got the feel sorry for myself pity party going on. Hope it and the rain let up soon. Going to try to hike in the camp shoes. 9 miles it is. Yes, I’m a wimpy hiker.

Financially it’s not looking good either. Maybe hiking in the rain will help my attitude. I hope so. Carrying 5 to 6 days of food at time isn’t helping. I’m way over 25lbs with that dog food [Sobo is an Autralian shepherd making the journey with Rambunny] and cold weather stuff. Financially though it doesn’t make sense to stop and buy food between mail drops. Whine. Whine. Whine. Do I serve cheese and crackers with this whine?

Set out in the pouring rain. Couldn’t see 5 feet in front of you. Sobo kept shaking and looking at us like we’re nuts. We are….Fell flat on my butt twice. No injuries though, just splashed water and mud all over me and the bottom of my pack. All day I had fantasies of getting off trail renting a car seeing what I want to see and going home. I’m going to give it to Delaware Water Gap [135 more miles] and if it continues I will.

Aqua made hot raspberry tea. Yum! I do love the trail and all about it. I think I’m just tired of hurting. We got the pizza. All 3 of us appreciated it. Sobo’s still grumpy though.”

Then Wednesday, September 29, 2004: “Cobweb, Aqua and Sobo are still trying to sleep as the sun is just now waking up. Torch is making breakfast and I’m sitting here looking at another wet day with everything wet. Oh boy. Six miles later with the trail a pond in most places I confessed to Aqua my feelings. I’m done this year. Went through a week of weighing it out and I’m fine with it. I did a 455.3 mile section hike, enjoyed every minute of it and learned a lot. Sobo too. I’ll add my other three section hikes to it and continued filling in the blanks over the years to have a 4th End to End hike. Eventually I want own or run a hostel on the trail. It is my passion in life. [This is accomplished via the Hiker Hollow Hostel in Adkins, VA.] We got off and walked a mile to Fahnestock State Park to the Ranger’s Station. She called us a taxi that took us to Cold Springs, NY Countryside Motel. Nice little place.”

HikeItForward-Final-MediumAt least on virtual paper Rambunny writes with a positive flare reflecting a lot of grit and dogged determination. How does a three-time thru-hiker deal with an injury-filled attempt and having to walk away after a valiant display of diligence and determination? Often with guilt, and disappointment. Rambunny is no different but notice her ability to see the big picture and put the hike in a proper perspective.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

“Ok. I’ve walked 7,332 miles on the AT. I can release the failure feelings.”

 

Photo on porch: https://sites.google.com/site/sedentarysteve/may24.(continued2)

Photo on the phone: https://www.gofundme.com/yiaqk

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, New York, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Trail, Vermont, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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