Saturday, October 14, 2017

Can't Stop - Oct 10

Back on the trail. Arrived home in VA on Friday, Oct 6. Awfully good showering whenever we want to. Snuck in a day hike on the AT from Snickers Gap (Route 7) to Ashby Gap (Route 50), 13.5 miles. Temps weren't bad but the humidity about killed us.

Best Wife dropped off Pappy 12 at Bears Den and then drove to the Ashby Gap parking lot. She hiked north to Bears Den. I hiked south to where she left the car and drove back to Bears Den to pick her up. We ate lunch together at the midpoint. We would rather hike together, but at least this way it's fun to compare notes afterward.

Met a northbound hiker who said the night before he had stopped for dinner at Rod Hollow Shelter and then hiked on for two or three miles before tenting in the woods. He got up the next morning and continued hiking "north" two or three miles until he ran into Rod Hollow Shelter. I don't get these U turn hikers. He confessed this wasn't the first time. Later in the day Best Wife found him sitting in the middle of the trail dehydrated. She verbally slapped him around to take better care of himself.

I talked to a guy laying in his hammock at 1 in the afternoon. He said he fell out of it the night before so was resting up. Ooooookay. It takes all kinds.

It was fun to give Scar and Bud (SOBO thru hikers) an apple. I wish I had brought more to give them. With the humidity they were dying. I felt deeply for them.

Off to see Utah grands, then back to VA for more hiking. Looking forward to both.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

It's All Katahdin - Oct 2

Our daughter Mackenzie (NOBO 2012) pulled into Millinocket, Maine Sunday evening right on schedule. So did the awesome weather. Best Wife and Pappy 12 are so glad that we did not push our schedule to summit Katahdin on Friday, Sept 29. After talking with hikers who did (and a few who tried but turned back) we want no part of 55mph winds. Saturday and Sunday were better weather days but we knew the summit would be full of day hikers, plus Mackenzie wouldn't be there anyway to summit with us anyway, not to mention three days rest at Appalachian Trail Lodge (hostel) was much needed. 

We got up early on Monday, Oct 2. Packed breakfast sandwiches, ham and cheese sandwiches, a ton of snacks, Poweraid, and chocolate milk. The three of us drove 40 minutes to the Appalachian Trail at Katahdin Stream Campground at the base of Mt Katahdin in Baxter State Park. 

The Penobscot Indians named this mountain Katahdin, which means "The Grestest Mountain". Best Wife, Progress and Pappy 12 were in great spirits and full of excitement to finally be climbing The Greatest Mountain. 

The first mile was relatively easy hiking through beautiful firs, but the wind was much more stiff than was forecasted. Being protected by the woods, we don't feel much wind. But it's roaring sound at the tree tops is a constant reminder of what may be in store for us above treeline. The second mile got good and steep to get us warmed up for the fun part. But as windy as it was I was worried we were headed for trouble ahead. Once out of the forest, above treeline, we climbed boulder after boulder, some included steel rods drilled into rock to make climbing without ropes possible. My concern for Best Wife having to endure strong winds above treeline ended abruptly as the wind simply vanished. Winds the rest of the day were as calm as they could be. 

The reward for climbing the steepest of the boulders was a rock path along a stunning ridge (see the last picture). The ridge led to another steep, mildly technical rock scramble that ended at a tableland about a mile from the summit. 

At this point we could just make out images of the folks at the summit. I had a tough time with the tears as the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail was within sight, physically and emotionally. Even though we still have 200 miles to trek in VA to complete our thru hike, reaching the summit of Katahdin will be the end of our six month, day in and day out, 2000 mile adventure. I'll explain the last 200 miles later. 

As we hiked that last mile I was back and forth minute by minute shouting with excitement, followed by a flood of tears as the summit drew close. 

When we were within 20 feet of the Katahdin sign at the summit, a guy my age, with a beard as full (and desirable) as mine, was standing on the sign for his photo shoot. There were 15 or 20 other hikers around, some quietly celebrating their accomplishment, others out for the day watching this parade of thru hikers. While this old guy was on the sign, he bellowed out for all to hear, "I've got a tent and sleeping bag for sale. I'll even throw in a slightly used Jet Boil."  Very good timing for a good laugh. 

He climbed down so it was our turn. As I grasped the sign, like a preacher grasps his pulpit, I read the words: KATAHDIN  Northern Terminus Of The Appalachian Trail. My fingers felt compelled to trace the white letters routed into wood. With my arm around the best wife I can imagine, together we tried to soaked it all in. It felt very good. 

As the three of us made our way down The Greatest Mountain we knew we had accomplished what we set out to do. Even though we are hiking to a car and headed home it still doesn't compute. I'm sure in a few days it will. 

The three of us will drive to Boston tomorrow where Mackenzie will fly home and Best Wife and Pappy 12 will spend a few days with two grandsons. We will be home in Virginia for only a few days before we fly out to Utah to spend time with those grand babies. 

We will have a great time hiking the last 200 miles in VA in November, no crowds, great temps, only fair weather days for us. Maybe even trade the tent for a motel on occasion if we feel like it. Then finally head down near the Chattahoochee River in GA to see more grand babies.  

Life is good. I am blessed way more than I deserve.  

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How 'bout Goats - Sept 29

Hiked out of White House Landing hoping to make 15 miles today and 15 tomorrow in order to get to Abol Bridge Campground and Store in two days. Only hiked 12.5. We made 15.5 the next day and 3.5 early the next morning to Abol Bridge Campground. 

All we could talk about the whole 3.5 miles was a hot breakfast, hot dogs and pizza. All our wildest food fantasies were dashed when we arrived at 9:15 and found out they stop serving breakfast at 9. What idiot stops serving breakfast at 9?  Morons. 

Okay, we are okay eating pizza and hot dogs for breakfast. What? You don't serve hot food until 11?  Idiots. Morons. I settled for cold Hormel chili out of the can and sardines on crackers.

10 miles from Abol Bridge to the foot of Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park. We had planned on camping at Katahdin Stream Campground that night and making the last five mile climb up Katahdin to end our hike. Now with the lousy food selection at Abol Bridge I knew we couldn't buy food to last us through the day and get us up and down Katahdin the next day. 

The weather forecast for the next day is cold and windy so we decided another couple cans of chili and sardines would get us through the day, then hitch a ride into the town of Millinocket until the weather improves and Mackenzie will show up to summit with us. 

This plan is a winner. Mackenzie will arrive Sunday night. The forecast for Friday through Sunday is for cold windy weather. Mackenzie and a beautiful sunny calm hiking day will arrive concurrently. 

We never slept on the baseball bat shelter floor in the second picture but heard it was not so comfy. My sleep number in not baseball bat. 

We saw several canoes, like in the third picture, near a pond and chained to a tree. I guess that's one way to do it. 

This lady in the eighth picture was hiking with a dog and two goats. I asked her why. She likes goats. Go for it. 

The Abol Bridge store is also a game checkpoint. A lady shot this 750 lb moose in picture 10. The only moose I saw on the trail. 

Best Wife couldn't quite make the ford across this stream in picture 11. She went down and got herself good and wet. Once across she stripped down naked right on the trail and put on dry clothes. Picture 12 shows her wet bra and panties that I looked at for the last 5 miles. 

Feels so good to only have five miles up and down Katahdin left to go. We are holed up at Appalachian Trail Hostel in Millinocket, Maine full of anticipation for the last summit. It's going to be awesome. 

Sent from my iPhone

Boat or Sea Plane? - Sept 26

We made it 70 miles into the 100 mile wilderness. 45 beautiful miles to enjoy to the Katahdin summit. It's weird that the six months we have been trampin' in the woods seems like two or three. In a week we will be okay sleeping in a bed most nights but we'll miss the hiking. Actually sleeping in a five degree bag on a cold dry night is really good. Too bad so many nights are damp or too warm.

Our five days of food got us to White House Landing. That normally would be good except that food resupply at WHL is limited and expensive. Oh well. It's only money. And tha Abol Bridge store is 30 miles away and has a breakfast buffet and offers hot sandwiches after breakfast. If we can manage two 15 miles days to Abol Bridge we will be in Fat City.

We hiked a 10 mile day to the .2 mile side trail to the WHL boat dock, called the phone number on the paper plate sign, and waited three minutes for the boat pictured below. The boat ride was so beautiful across the lake. Just like a postcard. Right away Shauna started washing clothes with a hand pump in a washtub full of lake water. I stripped down for a swim in the lake. After cheeseburgers for dinner and a large pizza to go for tomorrow's lunch we settled in to our cabin for the night. Linda overheard Best Wife telling the other four hikers it was my 62nd birthday (come on SS checks) and surprised me with a birthday treat.

Below are a few pictures of Best Wife tying a rock to the bear bag rope so she can chuck the rope up and over a tree limb. She almost got the rope over the limb but not quite.

Pictures 4 and 5 are before and after shots of my trail maintenance.

Picture six is at Antler Campground. Trail Angel Miss Janet talked a sea plane pilot into taking her, along with pizza and soda, to land on the water at this Campground for a pizza feast for eight lucky hikers. We missed it by a couple days.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

100 To Go - Sept 21

100 miles to go to reach Mt Katahdin. This is so close I can't stand it, so exciting.

Not so exciting is the anxiety over how much food to carry into the Hundred Mile Wilderness. In order to lessen the load a little we slack packed to a logging road the first 14 miles of the 100, so we only need to figure food for 86 instead of 100. Another factor is there is a hostel 30 miles from the other end of this 100 miles (some wilderness this is if a hostel is in there). Well, sort of a hostel. When we get to a certain side trail we plan on hiking .2 miles to a lake where we will call the hostel and the guy drives his boat across the lake, picks us up and drives us in the boat to the other side of the lake to White House Landing Camp. More on this after we get there.

Back to the food. I have no idea how rough the terrain is to estimate hiking miles per day. I also have no idea what kind of food we can buy at White House Landing. Oh well, I decided we will leave Monson with 5 days of food and hope we don't end up like the Donner Party.

The further north we hike in Maine the more beautiful it is. Breathtaking. Water Everywhere. Best Wife saw a moose. Of course I didn't, I was in the privy. She thought the beast was going to run her off the trail, but he went the other way. At least the 100 miles to go sign was made of moose dung. What else should we do with it?

The couple with us in a picture are The Travelling Foxes. Before they hiked, they logged 15,000 miles on bicycles. Note the bandage on his hand. He fell and sliced his hand on sharp rocks, 12 stitches, two internal to keep a tendon in place. Yikes.