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My name is Lori. In August, 2014, I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago trail. Feel free to join me on my adventure by following me on this blog.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Post AT update

It has been a little over 2 months now since I have summitted Mt. Katahdin, completing my Appalachian Trail journey. I think of the trail every day! I knew I would miss it, and I do. I miss eating lunch every day on the top of a new beautiful mountain, or next to a relaxing stream. I miss my trail friends. I have talked with several of my hiking partners over the phone, or online. I get so excited when I get a phone call or email from trail friends!

Arriving home was full of fun reunions. It had been 2 months since my last visit with Chris, so seeing him waiting for me in the airport really meant a lot. I desperately missed my dog while I was gone, so that was my first errand to run. She very eagerly jumped in my car to go home. I am glad that I was able to leave her with Cory, who she loves, and cared for her very well.
A week after I returned home to Florida, after completing the trail, I took a week trip to Utah to visit my family. It was so great to see everyone. The whole family spent the week at Mom and Dad's house. Many people know that when I made the decision to hike the AT, my parents were not too supportive. "Protective" would be a better word to describe how my parents reacted. By the time I actually started my hike, they were both very supportive, and by the time I was half way through they were my absolute biggest fans.
The day I started my hike, my dad made the decision to stop shaving his beard. He would grow it out until I was done. Instead of a full beard, he kept it to a goatee, so the further I hiked, the more my dad looked like a biker dude. He refused to cut the beard until I came to visit.

 Everyone in my parents community knew what the beard meant. Dad loves to tell stories, so every chance he got, he let his friends and neighbors know how my adventure was going. Dad works as a crossing guard, and all the children love him! He has been telling the kids my stories while I was on the trail, and I got to meet the kids one afternoon. Many of them had questions, and were excited to see that dad had shaved his beard, which meant I was home.
I had a great time and heard many congratulations. Two of my best friends, Nate & Debbie, traveled 4 hours to visit and stayed a few days with me and my family. I had a great time!

The day after returning from my Utah visit, I started back to work.
About 6 weeks before I finished the trail, I got a call from my previous boss. A couple months into my journey, my leave of absence was discontinued because my employer needed to replace me. Turns out they needed me to come back after all, and my boss was willing to hold the position until I was finished hiking.
It was nice to have a job waiting for me, but it was difficult to get back to work. I am a nurse who takes care of newborns at birth and in ICU. I was worried that I would be in a stressful situation at work, and not be up to par, after not working for the last 7 months. It only took about a week, and I was back into the swing of things, and confident in my nursing skills. Since then, my unit has been busy with changes, and I have been busy orienting new nurses.
I often need to take my lunch break at work in our unit lounge, so that I am close, in case I am called back for a delivery. The lounge doesn't have a window, and that bothers me. Sometimes, I am at work for 13 hours, and never see the sun, or breath any fresh air the whole day. That is quite the shock to my system. This makes me feel so lucky to have been able to spend every day for 6 months in fresh air, and viewing beautiful nature.
I feel like I have been so busy juggling work, housework, errands, social life, etc. It is a different lifestyle, for sure, from living on the trail. However, I feel that the trail has changed me, and I have a very different outlook on things. I hope to keep these changes with me, and live how I learned to live on the trail, as much as possible.

As far as my health: Things are great!
When I returned home, I felt like it was amazing that I was able to finish. For about a month, it hurt my knees very bad to just go up and down stairs. I was frustrated, because I felt like my cardiovascular health was incredible, but I wasn't able to test it out because my knees were preventing me from doing any hard exercise. I wanted to run!
I started back into hot yoga. My knees also prevented me from some of the yoga positions, but I was able to modify as needed. I agreed to give my body a rest and stay away from vigorous activity, and allow my knees to heal. I took glucosamine and fish oil supplements when I remembered. 6-7 weeks after finishing the trail, letting my body rest, and doing lots of hot yoga cured me! My yoga practice was going well, and I was able to get into all but one position as well as I did pre-hike. I decided to attempt a jog. I won't lie: It was not painless. My knees were tender as I jogged, but not pain enough that I felt I needed to stop. I felt energized and excited to test out my cardiovascular endurance. I jogged 4.5 miles. I was hardly out of breath, and felt great. My leg muscles were a bit sore by the time I was done, but overall, I felt awesome. Back in business!
I had a full physical exam with my primary Doctor and Dermatologist. All my labs were great, including a negative test for Lyme Disease.
I did have a sinus/chest cold for entire week last week, which only made me feel so greatful that I was healthy the entire time I was on the trail.

I have heard of some people talking about the "post-AT blues". A depression that starts after finishing the trail because of the shock of going from one lifestyle to another. I miss the trail and my friends, but I have felt absolutely no symptoms of depression since finishing. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to do what I did! I also remember how difficult it was EVERY day. The trail was wonderful, but not easy. Towards the end, I was ready to be finished. In addition to my knees feeling the wear and tear, I wanted to sleep in a bed (though I still can't sleep on much of a pillow without getting a stiff neck. Turns out my body likes the flat ground), and I wanted real food.

I lost a total of 40 lbs on the trail. I immediately gained 5 of those back the first week, which I felt my body really needed. I was a little bony for my own liking. I have since gained another 5 lbs back, and trying to maintain where I am at. It is no joke that a thru hikers appetite does not end when the hike does. It took a few weeks before my appetite calmed down. I still can eat more than I should if I don't watch my portion size, and eat faster than I use to. Gotta work on that.

As far as my gear goes: I have yet to send any of my gear back for repairs and such, but that will happen soon. I absolutely loved my Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 tent! the last month, the tent was a bit more prone to getting moisture inside with rain. I believe it is a problem with the wear and tear. I will send it back to have the fabric treated.
I used a regular thermarest prolite plus sleeping pad that I never had any problems with. It also acts as a barrier if my tent had moisture on the bottom. The thermarest does not soak up water and kept me dry in my sleeping bag. A lighter option would be the neo air. Thhe neo air was popular on the trail. Some people had problems with leaking and had to get replacements, and they are very loud when someone moves at night. That said, if I had to do it all again, my biggest change would be to get my pack weight lighter. I would go with a neo air. With food and water, my pack was usually about 38 lbs. I would definitely recommend trying to get a pack down to 35 lbs or less at its heaviest weight (full food supply and water).
My summer sleeping bag was the Kelty Light Year 40 degree F Down sleeping bag, weighing in at 1 lb 12 oz. My cold weather bag is the Mountain Hardware Ultralamina zero degree bag weighing in at 3 lb 12 oz. Both worked out great. I am a cold person, so I needed the lower temp rated bags. The zero degree bag was pretty bulky in my pack, but it worked. If someone could afford a down winter bag, you can get the weight down a little, and it would be less bulky.
I also used a 100% silk Cacoon sleeping bag liner. It is a must have, if you ask me. It adds warmth. Some people even used only a liner in the hot summer months to save on weight. I don't recommend that for safety reasons. You should always be prepared for cold nights. However, if you are not as cold susceptible as I am, you could go with a 50 degree bag for warm months, and a 20 degree for cold months, combined with a liner. The liner helps keep your sleeping bag cleaner and less smelly because you can wash the liner every time you do laundry, and you don't have to put your stinky body in direct contact with the inside of your sleeping bag. My silk liner started to tear at the seam after 4 months use, and the company sent me a new one for free. All gear companies were wonderful to deal with, and most will replace their products when needed.
Another must have is the granite gear event uberlight drysacks. I used these as stuff sacks for clothes (also had an extra for dirty stinky clothes), my tent, and my sleeping bags. You stuff your items in the bag like a regular stuff sack, close it, and then kneel or sit on the bag while more air is released with a one way fabric valve. It makes things so much smaller than other stuff sacks, and they are water proof, so if you have a malfunction of your water system and leak water in your bag, your clothes, and sleeping bags remain dry! Yes, this happened to me. Also, Backpack covers never keep your backpack from getting wet, they only prevent it from being drenched, so everything in your pack should be in a waterproof bag anyway. Trust me, they may be pricey, but well worth it!
For my ditty bags (one for first aid, one for toiletry, and one for safety and odd small pieces of equipment), and food bag, I also used a granite gear zip sack. They are very convenient. Also, for my food bag, I used a locksak. It is basically a large tough ziplock baggie that is smell proof. I put my food in my locksak, and the locksak in my granite gear zip sack. I still always hung my food from bears, but when other people had rodent issues with their food bag, mine never did. I also had a small locksak for my iphone to keep it safe from moisture. With wear and tear, I went through two of these. (I used one for my phone and one for my wallet. When the one from my phone was worn out, I switched)
My boots were the Keen Targhee II mid. They worked great for me. My backpack was the Osprey Ariel. Though it worked good for me, I really think I could find a lighter, more comfortable option. I did have a lot of shoulder pain, but that may also be due to my 38 lb pack. I saw a lot of Granite Gear brand packs out there as well as Osprey. There are also a lot of ultra light pack options, but you have to have the ultra light weight equipment for those to work. (pack weight under 30 lbs at max)
Hopefully my gear tips help those planning for a long hike!

Last, but not least!
I want to thank all my family, friends, and fans for all the support I got along the trail. Every blog comment was inspiring to me. You all kept me going.
Thanks to my family for the support and the care packages sent.
Thanks to Chris's family for the support, packages, and cards sent!
Thanks to Chris for the incredible support, and visits along the way!
Thanks Kay, Elisa, and Jose for being my drop box support! I received every mail drop, and had all the supplies I needed. I also got extra supplies for blister care when I got blisters half way through, and extra junk food packages! mmmmm!
Thanks Elisa, Brian, Sunny, Heidi, and Kelly for keeping my home checked on and safe! This was a bigger job than it should have been, with some major "squatter" issues I had at my home.
Thanks Jose for replacing my car battery when it died!
Thanks to Kelly and all the girls from work for your support and friendship!
Thanks to Chelsea with helping with my blog and technical difficulties! 
Thanks to my blog followers for all the comments and encouragement!
Thanks Matt and Leslie for my going away & welcome home parties!
Thanks to all my trail friends who made my experience what it was!
Sparky, Longstride, Silvergirl, & Voltron, we all started together, and finished together. You will always be family to me!
Just to name a few other unforgettable hiker friends: Robiticus, Chamelion, Hips, JDub, Crock Hunter, Ranger Bill, Snail, Turtle, Squatch, Kackles, Wobbles, Incline, Zig Zag, Wing Wing, Atlas, Cheeks, 30 Pack, Walk and Eat, Chickadee, Lobster, All Balls, Damn Yankee, Zip, Balls, Sunshine, Grundlehammer, 310, Zora, Captain Handy, Gus, Strider, Wanderer, Byline, Lady Forward, Cheesy Turtle, Float, Willie from Vermont, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Hopalong, Subway, Radio, Tyvec, Aimster, Scooter, Juggler, LB, Honeybadger, hobo Joe, Ragweed, Chiba, 4-Trees, Falling Turtle, Irish charm, G-Hippie, Star, Kazoo, y's Guy, Hippityhop, Being Here, Solo, Animal, NOLA, Miles, Talks Alot, Chunder, Yoko, Farnsworth, OG, Plant Man, Tater Tot, Oak, Kneife, Johnny Rocket, Gumby, Franklinstein, Video, Rael, Slims, Rhino, Rhyno, Spiceman, Socks, Mr. Breeze, Sipsy, Pick-up, Ol Smoke, Lt. Dan, Count Chocula, MRPH, Grandpa Detour, Wiffle Chicken, Claudia, Sleeping Beauty, Indy, Mission, Carver, Cheesit, FM, Medicine Man, Snot Rocket, Seminole, Charlie Brown, Pilgrim, Union Jill, Mountain Spice, Otto, Sonshine, Oliver Twist, Gingersnap, Perch, Swiss Tony, Prophet, Earthling, Heartfire, Gipcgirl, Funnybone, Frenchie, Slingshot, Boots, Arizona Rising, Rocket, Stobo, Pace, Hungus, Cheesewater, Towly, Dakota Dan, Warior, Flatlander, 230, White Wolf, Daystar, Gribbly, Roller, Sunkist, King of the Hill, Jiffy Pop, Canecutter, Gerber, Uncles, Bad Penny... just to name a few. I miss you all!!

It was brought to my attention that I forgot someone very important. I relied on and prayed to my God each and every day! Not only for my safety and health, but also for my fellow hikers and all our loved ones at home. I am thankful for prayers listened to!

Monday, September 24, 2012


As I write this, I am on a plane back to Florida. What a weekend full of many emotions!
At about 10:30am on Saturday, September 22nd, I made the summit of Mt. Katahdin!
The 100 mile wilderness was kind to us, overall. However, seven days straight in the woods takes a toll. We were tired and hungry. We hiked to the closest point to the base of Katahdin that we could, in Baxter state park. Sparky's wife, Janet, met us there with a car which we proceeded to quickly stink up as Sparky, me, Longstride, and Silvergirl piled in.
As we hiked into the park, there was a ranger at a checkpoint to check us in. I was the first to tell him my name, and he proceeded to say, "ah, you're Passionflowers group. We thought you guys would making it here today". We had been referring to Katahdin as the "Emerald City" for a while now, and his reaction to us just confirmed how magical it was!
Just before I made it to camp on my last night in the woods, I hiked to a peak where I got this great view of the Emerald City:
My last couple nights in the woods were cold. I slept in layers of clothes, including my down pants and jacket. I don't like the cold much, so the climate helped me feel a little more happy to be finishing.
With the colder weather, I was able to get a little taste of the New England Fall.
Since we hike so much with our head down, looking where to step, it was nice to see the beautiful color changes!
Before driving out of the park, we stop at the ranger station to sign in as an AT thru hiker. In Harpers Ferry, I signed in at #545. Here in Baxter state park, I am #496. We have seen a lot of new faces in the last three weeks, it seems. Many hikers have sped up to make it to the end before the cold. Some have slowed down to enjoy their last weeks. Also there are some who skip part of the trail all together to catch up with others, or make it before their visa is up and they need to fly back to their country. Myself, and the group I have hiked most with are proud to say that we have been able to hike the entire trail without missing a white blaze.
Janet drives us to the big moose cabins where her and Sparky, Longstride and Silvergirl with two of their kids, and myself will stay for a couple nights. Janet cooked us an excellent meal with appetizers, lasagna, homemade macaroni and cheese, salad, and pie for dessert. EZ and Gravity joined us for dinner as well, with four of their friends. It was such an exciting night. We were all excited and apprehensive at the same time to climb our last mountain the next morning. It was great to all be together. The weather forecast kept changing for Saturday, but we were hoping for the best.
Saturday morning came, and we were in cars by 5:30am, headed back to the park. It was cloudy, but seemed to be looking as if the fog was lifting.
Since I was the only one without friends and family who joined me, I hiked a little quicker than the rest. I soon caught up with Voltron, who we caught up to two days before. He had been ahead of us since reaching New Hampshire. The weather was looking up.
The first mile or so is not so steep, but eventually we start claiming vertical. It is 5 miles to the summit. 
Layers of clothes come off as we get warmer climbing. 
UP we go!
Soon, as we get higher, the weather turns colder, wet, and windy. By the time we get to ridge line, it gets less steep, but it is really cold and windy. I have few pictures of the rest of the hike because of the harsh conditions.
When I reached the summit, and saw the sign I have been walking towards for six months, tears rolled down my cheeks. It was so hard to believe that I had made it. I had been hiking for exactly 6 months, and today, my journey ended with a destination.
The weather made it difficult to bask in the moment of what was happening. I touched the sign, and couldn't stop smiling!
The day I decided to do this trail, I met a southbound thru hiker with the trail name of "Whoopie Pie". Her family met her at Springer mountain and was giving out homemade whoopie pies. It only seemed right that I celebrate my summit with a whoopie pie!
I waited for all my hiker family to arrive before I hiked back down. 
Here is: EZ, Gravity, me, Silvergirl, Longstride, Voltron, and Sparky. We beat the odds and ALL made it to the end! What a perfect ending!The five mile hike back down was difficult, to say the least. Winds were high, almost blowing me off my feet at times. Rain turned to sleet. It's difficult to climb rocks, but even more difficult to get back down, especially when they are wet and slippery. I had to slide on my butt multiple times. Some of our group was fearing hypothermia on the way down. Once we got down in elevation, the weather got more mild, and wasn't even raining at the bottom.
We headed back to the cabin, had dinner, and everyone crashed out early from exhaustion. I guess it's a good thing we had a little party the night before!
We did celebrate again with a big breakfast at the
Appalachian Trail cafe. They let thru hikers sign their ceiling tiles, and that we did! We have made history. Congrats to the AT thru hiker class of 2012!!
Miles hiked: 2184.2
Springer Mountain GA 3/22/12- Mt. Katahdin, ME 9/22/12
I just hiked the Appalachian Trail!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's day 4 of seven in the 100 mile wilderness. This is the first night that I have had service. It's raining, so I am in my tent early. Good time to catch up the blog!
We have really been enjoying the AT since I last wrote in Stratton. We have had to ford several streams, and now they are just getting annoying. I seem to waste too much time looking for a way to rock hop, then finally take off my shoes to switch to my water shoes and walk across. I never learn! Most streams have been easy to cross, and some have a rope to hold onto. There was one that was thigh deep, and a quick current, making it a bit difficult. 

One river, the Kennebec river, is one that we actually cross by canoe because it is too dangerous to ford. Hillbilly Dave runs the shuttle in the morning and early evening. 

We made a stop in the town of Caratunk half way from Stratton to Monson. We stayed at Northern Outdoors. What a great place! After two days of a cold front, we had a nice sunny day there. They have a huge hot tub and heated pool. It was quite the site because all us hikers were in the pool and hot tub in our underwear all day. 

It was a great little side vacation before the 100 mile wilderness. 

This was our welcome sign as we enter the wilderness, but we have been pleasantly surprised. The trail the first three days was tough, but well manicured. We even got trail magic one night. A sign at an old unused road instructed us to go a quarter mile one direction, and viola! It met with another road where there was a small old cabin, and a guy cooking steak, corn on the cob, and lobster! I have been vegetarian for 14 years, but have recently started to eat fish sometimes to help out on the trail. I have never had lobster before. I got the last one. I don't know about regular lobster, but this fresh Maine lobster was pretty good! (once I got over how gross it looked) the dude giving the trail magic was excited that it was my first, and helped me take it apart. 

The trail has continued to be as beautiful as can be!

I am really trying to take it all in these last days. I'm going to miss the endless scenery, and all the great people. 
Cutest couple awards on the trail: 1-Longstride and Silvergirl. Sometimes I hear them reading to each other at nigh in their tent. 2- Easy and Gravity. I hear them  giggling together in their tent. Both couples have the kind of relationship in their marriage that I hope to have some day. Also, 3-Chickadee and Lobster. Such a cute couple! Lobster helps Chickadee put her backpack on, just like Turtle always did for Snail. 
I have really enjoyed camping by streams and ponds in Maine!
Yesterday, we were on top of white cap mountain, and we could see our final destination. Mount Katahdin!

We are hoping for good weather this weekend so we can climb the big one!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

It's about 10 o'clock here in Monson, Maine. I got to the Shaws hostel this afternoon and have had a ton of chores to do to get ready for the 100 mile wilderness. Since its late, and I need to get some rest, I'm not going to tell you what a GREAT week I have had....yet. Just know it has been great, and we are all excited to enter the 100 mile wilderness tomorrow. We will have a 100 mile stretch without any civilization, but we are prepared. At the end of the wilderness, we will have one last mountain to climb. You may have heard of it.....Katahdin!!! I can't wait to tell you all about it. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I remember my first zero day. I was in Hot Springs, and couldn't help but think  "I should be hiking". I also remember how much my body hurt once I did take a day off. It was like my body telling me, "it's about time you stop for a bit so I can show you what you're doing to me!" I listened, and proceeded to take an hour long soak in a hot spring filled tub. 
That was almost 5 months ago. 
Today is my last zero day. There is no hot spring here in Stratton Maine to soak in, but I do have a bath tub, a soft bed, and a market across the street. 
It's hard to believe this is my last day off before my AT journey ends. My body feels the stress of the last 171 days. My muscles are strong and my joints are sore. My body craves calories this week as the last few days hiking seemed to deplete my energy stores. 
I love Maine like I loved New York. It is very difficult, but it's exciting and beautiful. There is water everywhere. Unfortunately much of it is mixed with dirt, making deep sludgy mud. 

We aren't the only ones slushing through it though. It's bear hunting season, so the bears seem to be hiding well, but we still see their tracks every now and then. We also see a lot of moose tracks, but still no moose sightings for me. 
Luckily, Maine has a lot of board walks so you can stay out of the mud a little. The problem is, most of the boards are old. They get slippery, they break, and sometimes they just float on top of mud and sink when you step on them. This is when it pays to hike behind someone! Hahaha. We have heard many stories of people having boards break, or slipping off them, and falling into mud hip deep. Yuk!
The top of the mountains in Maine turn again to rock, much like New Hampshire. The views of the woods below are spectacular!

There are several places in Maine where we have to ford rivers. Bridges get washed out every year, so they don't rebuild them. Hikers are expected to walk through the water. When rainfall has been low, sometimes you can rock hop across. When rainfall is high, so is the water. We forded our first stream a couple days ago 24 hours after a rain storm. The water was up to our thighs. If we had been there the day before, it would have been higher. However, the day before we were hiking the saddleback range, that itself had turned into a river. There was flowing water on the trail the entire day. I had a tough time this day. I wasn't feeling well, and to add to it, the sun never came up. We hiked all day in a cloud making visibility slim. It was actually pretty dangerous conditions, as we had some steep areas going up and down. It was windy and wet, so I have no pictures from my phone. Along with many, those pictures will remain unseen until I can download them from my go-pro camera. 
Here is the second stream for us to ford, but luckily a board was in place so we didn't have to get wet. 

The "fun" part was that once you step on the board, you see that it bends down almost into the water. That got my heart pumping!
Nothing against New Hampshire and its lovely views above tree line, but I love being in "the woods" again!

I love how the trees, the plants, and the mushrooms greet me as I go by. 

We were excited to get to Stratton yesterday. It was Silvergirl's birthday! After about 5 minutes of trying to hitch a ride, a lady came and picked all five of us up. 

Turns out it was the same lady who owns the hotel we had reservations for, so it worked out great. 
We got Silvergirl a giant whoopie pie and a Maine blueberry pie to celebrate. 

After dessert, we went to dinner. That's right. I said dinner AFTER dessert! When you hike for six months, you earn the right to eat like a ten year old boy who was just left home alone for a weekend with an endless supply of junk food. 
Dinner was enjoyed at the karaoke bar across the street. 
Life is good hiking the AT!

Two weeks left of this journey. Exciting and a little sad at the same time. 

Miles hiked: 1996.0
Miles to go: 188.2

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I'm in Maine!! 
Don't we look like a bunch of bad-to-the-bone backpackers?

So far, Maine is difficult, but beautiful. Though the terrain is rugged and steep, I don't feel like it is quite as dangerous as new Hampshire. This makes it a lot more enjoyable for me. We have planned out some pretty conservative miles for the remainder of our hike so that we can enjoy our last weeks. Good thing we did that, because the miles are still exhausting ones. 
Some people refer to Maine as "water world". There are so many ponds and lakes, even high in the mountains. 

I have been wanting to see a moose, but still no sighting for me. Hopefully I'll get to see one before Katahdin. 
A couple days ago, we went through Mahoosuc notch, which is labeled in the guidebook as "the most difficult, or fun mile on the AT". I guess it was fun, but my body sure hurt afterwards. All night, my knees were aching despite taking plenty of Motrin. This mile took us two and a half hours to do. It is a huge rock scramble where you are climbing over and under big boulders. Many times we were squatting down or even kneeling on our knees. At one time we were laying down scooting like a worm! Sparky might kill me for this pic, but obviously I don't have one of myself, nor would I post such an embarrassing pic of myself! Hahaha

The next day, we climbed the Mahoosuc arm, which is a half mile of flat sheer rock face to climb up. Actually, there has been a lot of that, and my calves are screaming at me. The shins don't appreciate going down them either. One southbound hiker told me that she thought that Maine was like one big obstacle course. I guess she is right, so far.  

Yesterday, we had some unexpected rain, and a lot of it. I managed to take a pretty hard fall walking down some slippery rock steps. At first, I was afraid I broke my arm, it hurt so bad. After sitting a while, the pain condensed down to my right hand that tried to catch my fall. For the rest of the day, I had difficulty gripping that hand and was worried it was injured. I went to bed at 6:30 pm with a cocktail of pain remedies. By morning, it was much better. A little bruised up, but no big harm done. My trekking pole didn't fair too well though. It is now nicely bent until I can get it to an outfitter for repair. I am in Andover for the night at the Pine Ellis Hostel. It is simple, but cozy. 

Sometimes you camp in a cloud making everything a bit wet and cold. Then you hike up, and see how beautiful it is. 

Miles hiked: 1927.3
Miles to go: 256.9

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Me, Sparky, Longstride, and Silvergirl finished the White Mountains yesterday. We feel very accomplished, but a bit beat up. Today we are taking a zero at the White Mountain Lodge & Hostel. It's a great place to celebrate not getting killed in the Whites!
For many thru hikers, the Whites becomes their favorite section. The views are spectacular, and the feeling of accomplishment is great when you succeed getting through each tough climb. We had awesome weather for this entire section, which is almost unheard of. I can't imaging doing some of those climbs in inclement weather. I loved the views, but this was definitely not a favorite section for me. Some of the days were confidence builders, but some were true confidence breakers. I knew it was going to be tough, but I had no idea just how dangerous it would be. Our mileage was cut in half and our exhaustion doubled. 

All four of us stayed at the Lake of the clouds hut, as there weren't other camping options, other than hiking out of our way off trail to get to. This hut is the highest in elevation, and just over a mile before the summit of Mt. Washington. Longstride and Silvergirl got the last two work-for-stay slots, and Sparky and I payed $10 to stay in the "dungeon". This is an emergency shelter that is always open due to dangerous weather conditions at any given time. People who get stuck on the mountain can go there for shelter. It is a rock building with an iron door, connected to the huts basement. It was musty down there and smelled bad. I got permission to just sleep inside the hut on the floor. I was afraid whatever the smell was in there would be bad for my asthma. All other hikers followed suit, except for Sparky. He stayed in the dungeon alone, by choice, and the hut floor was littered by hikers by 9:30pm. 
The next morning, we made it to the summit of Mt. Washington by 8 am. It was a little windy, and 40°. Pretty much the best weather this peak ever gets. 

We were on a ridge above tree line most of this day. Our final hurdle of the day was Mt. Madison. I hiked with a woman in the Shenendoahs who broke her foot on this mountain, and it ended her thru hike. I thought of "talks A lot" quite a bit on this day. We had lunch at the Madison Hut, then started up Madison. 

The climb up was only 0.5 miles up from the ridge line we were on. The climb down the other side was 3 miles and 3000 feet of steep boulders. The mountain is like a huge pile of rocks, nothing else. The rocks are large enough the make each step down tough. It took 3.5 hours to do the last 3 miles. Everyone was in a lot of pain by the end. We made it to a crowded campsite where we all crammed onto one tent platform. 

It was a cozy night. We had contemplated taking a short day the next day, and decided we would get off trail for lunch, and then hike on. Our friend Squatch met us after hiking five miles the next day to Pinkham Notch. We visited Wing Wing (who Sparky and I stayed with a few nights prior) She works at the Pinkham visitor center.  She offered up her home again, and I told her we had decided to hike on. On the way to lunch with Squatch, everyone decided to nix the plan to move on, and take Wing Wing up on her offer. We were still so tired from the previous day. 
We had another great night at Zig Zag and Wing Wings home! I am so lucky to have made such great friends! We had good food, laughs, and enjoyed watching Squatch's film he made on the AT last year. It gave us the boost in morale we all needed at this time. 
We felt much better the next day and climbed the wildcats and finished the Presidential range. 
We only had 8 miles to hike to Gorham yesterday, so we took our time. It was nice to have the anxiety of the Whites off our shoulders, and just enjoy the last day through them. On the peak of Mt Moriah, we could actually see Maine! We had lunch at the last shelter in the whites, the Rattle River Shelter. There was a nice swimming hole where we all soaked our feet and knees in the cold water. This will always be a great memory. 

The hostel was a short, nice hike past the shelter, and is right on the trail. Everyone is catching up on their journal, eating real food, and enjoying a comfy bed. Next up: Maine!

Miles hiked: 1885.9
Miles to go: 298.3

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I am in the Whites of New Hampshire! In the first month of the trail, I almost wanted to quit because of the horror stories I was hearing about "The Whites". I have been a little terrified about them ever since.
Here's what the deal is... The whites are full of very tall mountains that are tough to climb. Much of the mountains are above tree line, putting hikers very exposed to the elements. The weather in the whites can be extreme, making it very dangerous to hike. People get injured or even killed in the Whites every year.
The shelters in the Whites can be spaced far apart at times, making camping options tight. Many of the shelters have an $8 fee to stay. In addition to shelters, there are huts run by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club). These huts are little cabins in the middle of the woods with a bunk room, kitchen, and dining room. Guests at the huts pay $80-$125 per night. Each hut has the option of taking in two thru hikers per night for a work-for-stay. The hikers do chores, or help the small crew in some way in exchange for a place to sleep on the dining floor.
There have been stories about huts turning away hikers in bad weather or late at night. Stealth camping is common in the whites, but can also be difficult, or mean the hiker has to hike several miles off the AT to get to a spot.
So, now you see why I have been a little anxious, yes?

To kick off my hike through the Whites, I stayed at the Hikers Welcome Hostel at the base of Mt. Moosilauke. It was not as nice as I had hoped. I was really spoiled at Dave's home, and this hostel was a bit dirty for my liking. However, after I sat down with some good food from the nearby market and let myself relax, I had a great time. There were four hill-hippies (hillbilly hippies) all watching Jeopardy. These men were screaming out answers after every question, and they knew all the answers. It was amazing! Baltimore Jack was the quickest in the group. I had read many books that mentioned Baltimore Jack, but I never knew he was so intelligent. It was so entertaining!

The hike up and over Moosilauke went well, but we were exhausted after 10 miles. The next day was even tougher. Mt. Kinsman was a vertical climb. It was a long stretch of hand over hand rock scaling. This was the toughest climb I have ever done, and I know there is more to come. I couldn't even stop to take a picture on the way up because I needed both hands to hold on. This is what it looked like when I was near the top looking down.

This difficult climb was part of a long 17.5 mile day where we hiked our last mile in the dark. Our destination was a parking area where we could get picked up to go to a motel.
Three miles before this destination, we came to our first hut, Lonesome Lake Hut. It was 6:30. We were curious, so we asked what our options were as hikers to stay there. They already had their two thru hiker work-for-stays. There was no discount and we would have to pay $100 each to stay. (I was with Sparky) Paying $100 to stay in a bunkhouse with a bunch of other people did not entice us. I'm glad we had a back-up plan only three more miles away.
As we started walking down the path around the hut, I was startled to see a very large bear sitting in the bushes eating some berries. I pointed it out to Sparky and the two hikers on the balcony just above the bear come over to take a peek. I quickly posed to get a picture of me with the bear. Other guests started coming out to see, and I told Sparky we better leave before it gets scared down our way. No sooner did I say this, than the hut workers came out banging pots and pans together, sending the bear running right for us! It had to be about 400 lbs. I screamed and the bear slowed down looking for another route. I yelled to the hut workers to let us get down the trail a bit before sending it our way. They gave us about a ten foot head start. The bear went off the trail, into the woods, but went the same direction as we did. Needless to say, we hiked our last miles pretty fast.
First impression of the AMC huts: turned away for work-for-stay, no discount offered, and then they chased us off with a bear. Not good! Luckily, we had better experiences later.
We hiked our first presidential mountain, Mt. Lincoln, along with Franconia ridge. It was another perfect weather day!

We didn't check out Greenleaf Hut because it was a mile off trail. We stopped short of the shelter this night because it was late and we were tired. We weren't alone though in our stealth camping site. Many thru hikers have the same "secret list" of stealth sites along the whites.
Yesterday, we had another difficult day hiking Garfield Ridge and South Twin Mountain. We stopped in at Galehead Hut, where I bought some soup and cookies for lunch. This is what a typical bunk room looks like at the huts:

and here is a dining room:

We made it to Zealand Falls Hut by 5 pm. We had planned to go 5 more miles that day, but I was tired. I asked, and we were lucky to score a work-for-stay. I cleaned up the stock room while Sparky cleaned trash around the back of the hut. They fed us dinner, and we got to sleep on the dining room floor. They also fed us pancakes before we left the next morning. It was a fun experience.

Today we had a short day and met our friend Zig Zag at Crawford notch. He and his wife, Wing Wing hiked the trail until around Damascus. Actually, the whole neighborhood took care of us. Zig Zag's hot water is off due to some remodeling. One of the neighbors let us shower and do laundry at her house. A different neighbor had us and some other neighbors over for a big dinner. It's been a great day, and I'm ready to sleep now, and head back to the trail tomorrow. While we have such great weather, we don't want to miss a good hiking day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It is so hard to believe that I am in New Hampshire! When planning this trip, I really wanted to be able to finish, but I never really knew if I could. I didn't really think I would last longer than a month. Here I am now with just over 400 miles to go. I will start hiking the white mountains in a couple days and am both excited and nervous about it. They are difficult and at times technical climbs, and we have heard warnings about them from the start of the hike. At this point, we have all switched into our cold weather gear to prepare for the unpredictable weather to come with high elevations. We are all complaining about our added pack weight. Weather is considered the most dangerous part of the whites, so at least our heavy packs can give us the peace of mind of being prepared. 
I mentioned in one of my blog posts that New York wast favorite state thus far. Vermont now holds the gold medal! It has been beautiful hiking! It has become more mountainous, but it seemed that each tough climb had a prize at the end. Sometimes we were gifted with a great view, sometimes a field of ripe blackberries, and sometimes just the awesome scents at the top of the forest were enough to make the climb worth every step. 
I was able to meet a special trail angel this past week. Anyone who has anything to do with long distance hiking on the AT knows Miss Janet. She is one of the AT's biggest angels. She travels along the trail by car, offering help and rides to hikers. She helped us by shuttling us one day as we did a day of slack packing. It was rainy weather, so it was nice to hike with a lighter pack, and then go stay a second night in the hotel we stayed at. Putting away a wet tent in the morning from rain isn't fun, and adds more weight to your pack. In fact, I will be doing that tomorrow morning, as it is pouring outside this very minute. Luckily, we stayed dry all day while hiking. 

The first town we came to as we crossed the New Hampshire border was Hanover. It's a cute little town, and the home of Dartmouth University. It's a very hiker friendly place, in fact several businesses give free stuff to hikers. There is a list of host families who take hikers in for the night. I had arranged to stay with one of the families, but at the last minute, decided to go with Sparky to his friend, Dave's house. I grabbed a free slice of pizza from a nearby pizzeria, and jumped in Dave's car. We spent two nights with Dave, making it a very relaxing zero day. Dave was a great cook, and he spoiled us the whole time! It wasn't easy to leave there today, that's for sure!

Thanks Dave! Also thanks to Sparky for sharing your buddy with me! It's good to have people who have people. :)
Of course, thanks Miss Janet too!

Friday, August 10, 2012

I confess, I have been a little lazy with the blog lately. It's a combination of  having too much fun/hiking till exhausted/poor cell service. After my last post, I entered Vermont. In a couple days, I will be finished with Vermont. It really is amazing how pretty the trail is in New England! It just keeps getting greener and greener. It has been wet lately, so the moss all over the trees, rocks, and logs is so bright and lush. 
We have become seniors on the trail, meaning, we are are in the last quarter. Graduation is getting close, but all the more difficult. We are in great shape, but also our bodies are a little torn up. Our spirits, however, are higher than ever!
The "walking wounded" as we call ourselves were reunited, and once again have split up in a couple smaller groups. Spiceman had some vertigo problems in the morning a couple days ago. He ended up with a ride on a stretcher being pulled down the mountain behind a search and rescue ATV. All tests in the ER found him healthy, but he needs to take a rest. 
Before the group was separated, we all had a great time at the Green Mountain House hostel. 

This place definitely goes in the top 3 for places to stay along the AT. There is a full kitchen, so we got in early and did some shopping. I made a huge lasagna, and Spiceman and Sparky grilled steak and veggies. For desert, I made cookies and the hostel provides a pint of Ben & Jerry's for each hiker. 
It has been awesome hiking with Sparky again. We make a good team! (these old fashioned water pumps are fun)

Sparky, me and Voltron all started the same day, and met on Springer Mountain.
As we get closer to New Hampshire, the trail is starting to have more difficult areas, and it's great to be in a good group for the climbs. It has been really wet the last couple days, as we have hiked through some areas that last years hurricane Irene destroyed. Bridges were taken out and the trail washed away. There are detours to route the trail around these areas, but we chose to hike the real trail, as southbounders have told us it can be done safely. 

Here is a fallen over tree that the trail walks across now. You can see the cairn of rocks to mark the trail. There are also areas we hopped rocks to get across streams. One bridge was replaced with a ladder. 
Last night, we made it to a stone shelter that we were told leaked in the rain. It rained hard, and there was water going everywhere. I stayed comfortable in my tent, after making ditches around the tent for the water to drain from the ground, that is. It was fun standing in the shelter watching the rain before bedtime though. 

The rain sure did make the next morning beautiful!

Tonight I am in the Greenbrier Inn. It's a great hotel, and giving me some rest I need. Turns out I may be developing a little allergy to bee stings. I am nursing an ankle that got stung 36 hours ago. It looks and feels like a really bad sprain. Hopefully tomorrow it will be a little better. Thank goodness for Benadryl and Ibuprofen!
Even though this July was the hottest on record in the nation, I received my cold weather gear today. Sounds strange doesn't it?  We are going to be going to higher elevations soon and in areas with unpredictable weather. Time to be prepared! 

I haven't missed tv since on the trail, but I have missed watching the Olympics. It is nice to watch tonight! Go USA! Also go Brazil, as my friend Joao Schwindt competes in London!

Miles hiked:1700.9
Miles to go:483.3