Trail Update #14 – Joe Don the Megaladon, Ma, Pa, and D

So as I’ve said in some past posts, my buddy Neil (Joe Don the Megaladon) came out and hiked about five days of the trail with me. And I must say, he had no idea what he was getting in to. I’m going to try to not write too much about our journey, because his nightly Facebook updates make up one of the funniest, most accurate, and most amusing accounts of the Appalachian Trail I’ve ever seen.

But first, a few quick observations and anecdotes that I remember well from the trip. The first full day Neil hiked with me was honestly one of the toughest days I’ve had on the trail. There are a few reasons for that. Firstly, the terrain was rough. There were a lot of steep climbs and descents on exposed rocky surfaces.

Then there is also the aspect of having a visitor out on the trail with you. Before Neil came out, I told him I was doing around 20 a day, and his response was “Cool, I don’t want to hold you up. So I’ll be ready for that.” I knew that was a lie, even if he didn’t. 🙂 It’s just too difficult to come out of the real world and pull 20’s through multiple days. I still wanted to push Neil, but I also wanted it to be a fun trip for him. So it’s kind of a delicate balance between the two. And what makes it even more difficult is that most people envision the trail completely different than what it actually is. It’s hard work, and people just don’t really expect that for whatever reason, myself included!

So between the terrain and the shock of what hiking actually entails, we got through only 12 that day. I never told Neil this, but I was a little worried at that point. I thought it was going to take weeks to get him to his destination!!! But I need to give Neil all the credit in the world. His goal, Pawling, NY, was about 80 miles from our starting point. I challenged him to do it in about five and a half days. And to his immense credit, he pulled it off. After day one, I would have never guessed we’d make it in the time frame we did.

But the funniest part through all this was the fact that Neil tried to quit on my multiple times. There must have been an extreme internal struggle going on with him to push on to Pawling, or to quit where he stood and head into the city. The best attempt at quitting happened around the third day. I was hiking about ten minutes behind Neil at that point, and as I came upon a road crossing, I saw Neil with his back to me, sitting on a guard rail, trying to thumb a ride into New York City! We were on an on ramp from a little traveled road to the highway above us. So the chances of him catching a hitch there were very low. So I came up to him, and the conversation went a little like this:

Me: Hey dude, what’s up?

Neil: Oh, hey man. I was just trying to hitch a ride into the city. It probably wasn’t going to work. But if I got one, I was just going to shoot you a text and say “Hey man, I’m in the city.”

Me: (laughing) Well do you want to keep trying to hitch, or you want to move on?

Neil: No, let’s keep going.

I’m glad he kept on going. But that was one of the funniest attempts at a hitch I have ever seen.

One of the other great parts that I’ll never forget is Neil’s water treatment method. I had told him the easiest and cheapest water treatment method for him would be drops (pretty much bleach). Instead, he comes out with a Life Straw. Whenever he wanted to drink, he would hilariously break out his Life Straw, put it into his bottle of dirty water, and drink through this oversized, cartoonish looking device. He looked like a little kid drinking out of a sippy cup a lot of times, and I never told him, but those were always bright spots in my day. So thanks for the jokes Neil!!

Anyway, with that, I’ll let Neil tell the rest of the story of his trip. And at the bottom are some pictures from the journey. Before I turn it over to Neil, I need to congratulate him on sticking it out to Pawling. Good work dude! I pushed you super hard, and you gutted it out. It was a blast! 🙂

Day 1: I started my hike on the AT today at greenwood lake, NY at 2:30 after some beers and ice cream. Knocked out a quick 4 miles to get my feet wet. Pack is surprisingly heavy ( around 35 lbs) so getting used to that. Learned to navigate my trekking poles which are really ski poles. Just watched toad cook dinner on an oven made out of a miller lite can. Tent is up. Belly is full. Feeling pretty dang good.

Day 2: started my day at 6:30 am after one of the worst nights of sleep I ever remember having. I guess that will happen when you sleep on the ground at a 30 degree incline. Nothing some dehydrated eggs and bacon couldn’t fix. Even had a cup of coffee. The 13 miles were way harder then I was expecting, especially given my recent “training” I had been doing, which consisted of taking my dog for longer then usual walks. To say I was ill prepared is an understatement. Surprisingly my feet are alright but it’s the pain in my shoulders and chest that is getting to me. Was also bummed out to find out that my super healthy bags of vegetable purée are really baby food. Got lots of it though. The landscape is very rocky through New York. I saw a couple deer today and took a bath in a pond. My legs feel like ramen noodles which proves that you really are what you eat. Gonna have some dinner and whiskey and a smoke and its lights out at 9:00 for me. Feeling exhausted but can’t wait to do it again tommorow.

Day 3: Woke up at 6:00 to the sound of rain drops on my tent which may sound kind of peaceful but instead I awoke frantically, decamped and found shelter till we could start our hike. Started out the day pretty optimistically but after the 4th straight hour of walking through a down pour morale started to succeed. The path became just one long puddle and my boots and socks were both soaked. At one point we crossed over a highway and I saw that NYC was only 35 miles away. All I had to do was extend my arm out and put my thumb up and i figured within the hour I could be eating a cheese steak on Fagans couch. I took the road less traveled though and continued into the woods. The clouds broke around 1 and I just zombie hiked through the rest of the day which totaled around 17 miles. We climbed Bear Mountain (1300 ft) crossed over the Hudson, tackled “anthony’s nose”, and just set up camp. We have a fire lined up for tonight. Everything hurts. Honestly wasn’t sure if I was gonna make it through today. Two more days coming up. Both 20+. Hoping I make it to Pawling by Friday morning. Joe Dohn “The Megladon”… Signing off.

Day 4: Boots were dry in the AM. It was on. Did 21.7 miles. Too itchy and exhausted tonight. Made a bomb Kippers and ramen dinner and glad to be off my feet for a couple hours. Until tomorow….

Day 5: I have a confession to make. I had full intentions of quitting today. Tried twice actually. What I had done yesterday was the most physically challenging thing I had ever done in my life. I woke up today bloodied, bruised, and blistered and at the first road I saw I tried to hitch to NYC. Tried to call a taxi a 6 more miles down the road. Toad talked me down off the ledge though. It ended up being another long day, barely making camp before the sun went down. The best part of the day out here is always dinner time. It means your done hiking. And that its just about bed time. Taking breaks and reading trail journals is probably the second best part. Today we found an entry from a hiker named YoTe but I think it’s pronounced “yo-te”. It’s mostly nonsense in there but its pretty entertaining stuff. Just finished a double portion of ramen and carried my tired bones into my tent for the last time on this trip. Finishing up in the AM tommorow… as planned.

Day 6: Woke refreshed. Realized last night you don’t fight the slant. You embrace it. Hiked just shy of a mile to the tree of life. My trip was over. Tried to hitch, again, into Pawling, which turns out not to be my forte. 3 miles later I’m on a train to NYC. This last week was so bitter sweet, but by no means any monumental achievement. The real take away I got from this experience was that what these hikers do during their 6 months on the trail is an unbelievable feat if they see it to the end, which only 1 out of 5 thru hikers will do. The trail mileage is about 2,148. To put that in perspective, that’s from Richmond to Phoenix, by foot, with 40 pounds on their backs. If you take into consideration the change in elevation, that would mean these hikers are walking the entire length of the country, and then some. You come to find out that everyone on the trail is there for a different reason, but all with one common goal. There is this delicate balance of camaraderie and self reliance. It becomes a way a life and I’m grateful I was able to see a small glimpse of it… Thanks for the feedback along the way.

Neil is up at the top. Then there’s me, D, and Ma. Mom, Dad, and D came and visited me for the day as well and hiked about four miles through some of the toughest terrain I’ve had. And the best part of it all was we packed out a bunch of awesome cured meats, cheese, and some artichoke hearts and olives and stuff. So at the shelter two miles in, we had an awesome dinner. Thanks for coming out guys! You killed that section! There’s a few pictures of us hiking that part below as well.

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Me and Neil

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Before we started our journey. There’s Indy on the left, then Neil, Ma, me, and D.

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I love this picture. There’s Dad!

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Here’s our awesome dining experience. We had all kinds of awesome stuff (and some whiskey)!

 

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You can see how rough the terrain is in this picture. As we climbed off this rock, we went straight ahead, down toward where you see all those other rocks. New York had some of the toughest terrain on the trail. It was fun, but it was rough.

 

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Awesome job again, to Ma, Dad, D, and Neil. You guys all killed it!!! 🙂

“You’re Not Going To Make It”

It’s pretty amazing how much we hear this line from people. A lot of times it’s dayhikers – “Ohhh, you’re at the end of the hikers. You’re not going to make it.” Yes, we’re toward the tail end of the thru hiking season. And yes, the trailhead to Kathadin closes on October 15 (sort of). But it is somewhat depressing when we meet people who really have no idea about us as hikers who immediately tell us we’re not going to make it in time. A lot of hikers get mad about it, I normally just walk away from it. It’s better not to deal with it.

The thing is though, they don’t see what thru-hikers put in every day. They don’t see the twenty mile days, they don’t see the twenty five mile days, and they normally can’t conceive of thirty mile days at all (let alone the maniacs who pull off 40 or 50 mile days sometimes – sickos). All they see at that point in time is a ragged, dirty hiker who is still hundreds of miles away from Katahdin with only a month and a half to go. Before I started this hike, I would have said there’s no way a person can travel by foot that far in that little time – there’s no way. And if you do it, you must be some kind of fool.

But after being out here, and meeting all the people who are pulling this off, and who will finish in time, the extraordinary has become somewhat ordinary for us. When people tell us we’re not going to make it, we take it as somewhat of an insult – because we can do it, and most of us will do it.

And you know what, sometimes stuff happens. And yes, we may not make it. I just heard of a guy who broke an ankle only 100 miles from Katahdin. One hundred miles!!! He was right there! And in a second, his thru hike was gone. So yea, we may not make it. And if we don’t, so be it. We can come back next year and finish it out. Or if we never finish it out, we’ve already accomplished something amazing. Some may consider it a failure to not reach the top, but I don’t see it that way at all. It’s a journey we’re on. We’re meeting new people, we’re seeing new things. We’re not out here to stand atop a mountain. We’re here to walk the country, to hit all the gaps and valleys, and then to climb up to all the high points as well. We’re here for the experience of months, not for the snapshot we get at the top (although I must say, that will be nice!!!).

So hey, if we make it, we make it. If we don’t, we don’t. It is not the end of the world if we don’t get to Katahdin. It’s just another page in all of our books. Everyone is out here for a different reason. The hike is not the reason, that’s just the way we make our personal reasons manifest.

Really all I really want to say is that it’s not anyone’s place but our own to say whether we’ll make it or not. Whether we summit at the end or not, most of us have already made it.

So next time I hear “You’re not going to make it,” I’m just going to turn to that person, raise my hand to shoo them away, and tell them, “Get out of here you weirdos.”

Trail Update #15 – Pawling to Dalton to Home

Solitaire! Post your blog entry! Had to get another threat in. Now on to the real blog entry:

So let’s see. I’ve recounted (with the help of Joe Don) my adventures with Neil. Following that, I only had about five days until I would take my longest break from the trail. So honestly, those five days to the town of Dalton MA were not the most entertaining. I hauled some miles though, completing 125 miles in five days. The first three days were good – I was feeling good and moving good. But by the middle of the fourth day, I began to turn into a zombie. Twenty five mile days are good and well, but doing them continually begins to catch up to you. Luckily I ran into Indy around the middle of that fourth day, and we hiked the last 30+ miles into Dalton the next day.

After getting into Dalton, I took my first shower and slept in a bed for the first time in probably about two weeks – I think my longest stretch of the trail! I felt pretty beat down physically at that point, but I was excited to begin my five day break.

The first day of my break, I headed to my Grandma’s on Long Island. I crushed a bunch of awesome food (I think I ate half the food at her house), and got to see cousin Nicky and Uncle Mike as well. It was a great visit, and only the start of my binge eating spree. The next day, I spent the night in Hoboken, visiting the old crew and the old stomping grounds. I must say, my party abilities have suffered since being on the trail, but it was a fun night. Weirdest part of the night was going to the old Whiskey Bar, which is some new terrible bar. Whiskey Bar was way better – they let you dance around like weirdos in the back. Or if you felt like choreographing dance fights, they let you do that too. But no more. This new place was Stooge City Central.

Next stop was home. I think I ate 75% of the time I was home, and the other 25% I thought of eating. I kid. I hung out a lot, saw everybody, had tons of fun, and of course, went to the Celli wedding. The Celli wedding was a blast. I got to put my hair in a ponytail and look like Neil for the day. However, the highlight of the wedding was the Monster Mash. I think we got about eight people to ask the DJ to play the Monster Mash before he finally relented. He must have thought we were the biggest group of idiots to populate a wedding. When the Mash came on, the party went wild. We had zombies, vampires, and weirdos galore. Then following the wedding, we of course went to Jay’s and hung out – awesome end to the night.

So that was my five day break. I had to drive back to Dalton early Monday morning and hop back on the trail. It was bitter-sweet to leave home, but the trail is still a’calling, and there are many miles to go before I rest.

Trail Update #16 – Dalton through Vermont

So let’s see what’s happened since Dalton. And yes, I am a little bit behind on my blog in relation to where I am in real time. But we’ll all have to deal with that!

So getting back on the trail from Dalton was a little tough after a five day break. It’s always tough getting back on the trail after any break. You do think about home quite a lot though. And it also didn’t help that I had a couple of fantasy football draft the week I got back on the trail! That led to me taking one of my favorite zeros of the trail so far in Rutland. I hitched a ride into Rutland with a very nice older couple in a matter of only minutes. They took me right into downtown Rutland to the Yellow Deli. This hostel is one of the coolest ones I’ve been to on the trail. It’s owned by a Jewish group who run hostels all over the world. They were super nice, the place was super clean, and they have some great food. Unfortunately I got there just a little bit too late for their Sabbath dinner celebration that they invite all the hikers to every Saturday night. One of my buddies, Munchies, went the night before and said it was quite an experience. So I missed out on that, but oh well. The atmosphere and the place itself was enough to make up for that missed opportunity.  The next day, I got a hotel room which I converted into my fantasy football draft war room. Needless to say, I have had a tough time following any football news, so I got some good help from Matt during the draft. So far I’m 2-0, so it looks like it’s turning out well! I beat the Show Ponies this week – stooges. Long live Ned the Misunderstood Vampire!

Then came one of the more frustrating experiences of the trip so far – my attempted hitch out of Rutland. A few things converged to result in my walking the 7.5 miles down the road to the trail. The first was that it was Labor Day (bad day to hitch!), the second was that the Vermont State Fair was in town (a lot of people on the road were likely non-Rutlanders), and I had to take two separate roads to the trail (normally it’s a straight shot down one road). And so I burned the whole morning walking out to the trailhead. It was not a fun morning! In hindsight, I wish I had hopped on that train that was rolling through town. I think it went literally right next to the trailhead. I probably would have been there in fifteen minutes had I done that. Missed opportunities galore in Rutland!

A couple of nights later, I had a fantasy football draft for my Son of SYN league. Paul helped me out on this one. Luckily, I had a little bit of service, so we were shooting texts back and forth. I also had a pretty awesome perch from which to draft my team. Check it out:

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They call it The Lookout. It’s a private cabin that the owners allow hikers to use. There’s not much in it, but the view from the top is awesome, even if it is a little scary climbing those steps. It was probably the coolest place I’ve ever drafted a fantasy team from before. J

I got a dropbox at the Long Trail Inn – a super cool lodge with a legit pub. Here’s the pictures Paul sent me with it:

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Overall, Vermont was a pretty cool state – although there were a lot of very muddy sections which was weird. But one of my favorite places in Vermont was Bill Ackerley’s house. This guy Bill is just an old man who lets hikers come hang out at his place, eat some ice cream, talk, get water, whatever. He’s got croquet set up in the backyard as well (me and him tied – some more hikers came up and a dog stole all the balls away). At first I was a little hesitant to stop there. Some of these guys on the trail who do similar stuff are sometimes sketchy. But Bill was a great guy. He opens up his home just because he likes to meet new people and talk about anything. I planned on staying there only a few minutes, but I got sucked in for about three hours! There were some trail magic beers there, and a whole crew of about 15 hikers showed up. So it was a nice little party for a few hours.  Here’s me and Bill:

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And one of the coolest things about the time at Bill’s was that we got to celebrate the engagement of two of my friends out here, Cannonball and Lady. They got engaged up on the mountain only about two miles before Bill’s house. And I was the first one to come across them after their engagement! I walked up to them, and I could tell something was a little strange. Lady was very giddy, and they weren’t talking much. So I never took my pack off, I felt like I was interrupting something – it was quite strange. So after about a minute of my awkwardness, they finally broke the news to me that they were engaged. I was much relieved, and of course happy for them. It was a neat experience. Then down at Bill’s house, we ate some coffee cake in celebration, and I got to take tons of pictures with Cannonball’s awesome camera. So I must say, I played a pretty big part in their engagement day!

And then it was into Hanover, and the start of New Hampshire. I was very glad to be out of Vermont quite honestly. It was a decent state, but by no means my favorite.

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In Hanover I also had to make the decision to miss Bahm’s wedding back home. I agonized over that decision for quite a while before coming to the conclusion that I was cutting it too close. I wish I could have made it. I’ll have to make it up to him and Doreen upon my return! J

So that was Vermont. I met some strange characters during that stretch as well. Most good, some quite strange. After entering New Hampshire, I had about a day before I summited Mount Moosilake and began my battle through the Whites. Oh, the Whites! That will be the next entry – stay tuned!

Here’s some extra photos too:

Me reaching the 500 mile to Katahdin mark:

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A really cool stone garden. Hikers take a stone and stack it – it was amazing looking:

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Me after one of my most dangerous spills so far. It was a rainy terrible day and I slid off that middle rock in a stream. It was a low point to a rough day (no blood was coming out of the wound yet) 🙂 :

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Trail Update #17 – New Hampshire and the Whites

The Whites! Since Harper’s Ferry, my eyes have been set upon the Whites. They were my next big goal and my next big challenge. I heard a lot about them – how different and how much tougher they are than the rest of the trail. And you expect them to be tough, but there is no way to truly prepare for them. Simply put, they have been both beautiful and brutal. They are both the best and the worst of the trail. The past week though has felt more like a month. They truly are something amazing on the trail, both in the grandest sense and the darkest sense.

So after leaving Hanover, I had a day or so of pretty easy hiking before I reached the base of Mount Moosilake, the first of the mountains in the Whites. The weather has most certainly taken a turn toward the cold. It feels like it’s the middle of fall up here. Gloves have been purchased, a hat has been taken from a hiker box, and cold weather gear is headed for Gorham, NH. I have entered the coldness, and along with that, I entered the Whites.

The elevation profile of the Whites is pretty drastic. The ascents and descents are steep and long. The elevations are as high as the Smokies, and many of the mountain tops are barren, open ridges. It is honestly a pretty dangerous place – much more so than I had originally thought they’d be.

My ascent up Moosilake was good. Nothing too tough, but definitely tiring and long. I summited to beautiful weather, and so began my trudge through the Whites:

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Over the next week or so, I experienced some breathtaking days, and some terribly harsh days. I probably saw the most impressive view of my trip so far when I walked the range consisting of Little Haystack, Lafayette, and Garfield. The pictures below do these views no justice at all. I was in complete awe of these mountains – it was beautiful.

Here’s Lafayette:

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And then here’s an image from off the top of Lafayette:

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These images unfortunately don’t capture any of those things. It truly is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen. The views rival anything I’ve seen on the trail so far. I wish there was a better way to describe or show you these mountains, but this is the best I have!

So after leaving those magnificent views, the darker side of the Whites began to show itself. That night I got some pretty severe thunderstorms, as well as the night following. And then, the following day, I had my roughest stretch of the trail so far. From Mizpah Hut, I summited Mount Washington (second highest point on the AT) around noon. After being disappointed in the view because of some heavy cloud cover, I went in to the cafeteria up there to grab some lunch. Upon finishing lunch, I looked outside to see rain, much to my dismay. Up on Mount Washington, it is cold and it is windy. And there is nowhere to spend the night up there. My only options were to take a $40 train ride down the mountain, or to hike down to Madison Hut, about six miles away. Needless to say, I was not getting off the trail by taking a $40 train ride. So I donned my rain coat, packed up, and headed out into the storm. It was terrible. In about ten minutes I was soaked through. It was windy and cold, and I was completely exposed. Luckily it was only six miles. If it were more, I don’t know how I could have gotten there. By the time I reached the hut, I was freezing cold, soaking wet, and completely miserable. I had originally planned to hike about four more miles beyond the hut, but that was not going to happen in that weather. It took me about four hours to do those six miles. That just goes to show how treacherous the terrain and the weather was. I took a pretty good spill, as did most people out hiking that day. I am so glad that other hikers were out that day though. If they weren’t, I would have felt as though I were walking through a never ending loop of fog, mist, and rain. Honestly, it was dreadful – and a little bit scary. I have no pictures from that day. I couldn’t even take my camera out because of the rain, and because I was too cold to stop moving. I was afraid if I stopped moving I’d have too hard of a time getting going again. So just imagine the top of Washington in your mind, or just look it up. J

I was so glad once I got to Madison Hut though. I was lucky enough to get a work for stay opportunity there. The AMC, who runs the huts, lets thru-hikers do work for stays at the huts. In return for some menial labor, you get to feast on the leftover food that the real guests can’t finish. And you also get to sleep in the common room of the hut. Can’t beat that! Otherwise you drop about $100 on a bunk!  My chore that night was just to talk to all the other guests about thru-hiking. Me and Coon got this job – by far the easiest. It pretty much started as Coon trying to run a class on thru-hiking (he’s a history teacher), but it quickly devolved into a Q&A session, which I enjoyed much more. The level of interest from the thirty or so other guest was pretty awesome. They asked a lot of good questions, and seemed genuinely interested in this insane feat that we’re trying to accomplish. So what started as a pretty rough day, turned out to be a nice night.

The next morning, after crushing some pancakes and sweeping the hut, I headed out into more rain. Putting on cold, wet clothes and shoes is never fun. But this morning proved to be one of the toughest. All the thru-hikers there (about six of us), were pretty down due to the weather. And the forecast for the day wasn’t looking good. So with dread, we trudged out into the cold and wet again to summit Madison, then descent down to Pinkham Notch. Again, there was more rain and cold and rock scrambling. The descent took quite a long time due to the level of difficulty. But alas! About a mile into the descent, the skies began to clear, and the weather finally was on our side! So in clear, cold air, I reached the notch around 3PM.

With all the dreadful hiking over the previous couple of days, I happily accepted the chance to stay in the camper of one of my former co-workers, Cindy and her fiancé Rick. Although my mileage through the Whites was not what I was hoping for, I couldn’t pass up a break. So from Pinkham, Rick and Cindy scooped me up, and we headed to Dolly Copp campground. It was a great night – whiskey, burgers, and lots of conversation. It was good to see a familiar face again, and they leisure time was exactly what I needed.

Trail Trio

From there, I headed into Gorham for a day off. I now sit at the Gorham public library, doing my civic duty to update you all on the progress of my trip. I still have a day or two in the Whites, but most of the really severe stuff is done with. I will honestly be thrilled to reach Maine in the next few days. The Whites were just such a different experience than anywhere else on the trail. It was both beautiful and dreadful, inspiring and demoralizing. I’ll always remember this stretch of the trail. With the Whites nearly done, I now look forward to the end of my trip as my final goal. Katahdin is only about 300 miles away! Paul comes out for a visit in about five days as well. Looking forward to that! I’ll be offline for a bit of time as I enter Maine. Wish me luck!

Oh, and I checked off the last big animal on my list! I finally saw a moose! Not the best picture, but here it is:

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And I also saw Bud at the hostel in Gorham:

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PS: I met one of the scariest people of my trip so far at the hostel in Gorham. I’d rather not recall that story here, but when you see me, ask about it. This guy rivals The Pilgrim in his bizarre level, but in a much scarier way. I had a tough time sleeping last night!

An account of Solitaire in Solitude

I apologize in advance for such a long entry…

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About a week before my tip to visit Sir Stooge I was pretty relaxed about everything. He gave me a great list of what I needed to bring, broken out into categories. I’ve never been “hiking” before so I had to scavenge around for all my supplies. The pack from my dad, the tent from a buddy, and underwear from Matt (I was positive his wouldn’t be stretched out, giving me nice support).

My plan was to get a good sleep Thursday night, wake up refreshed, go into work for a few hours, head back to philly, meet up with Scuba Springsteen (Steve Olson) then head to the trail.  Botched! So much for being relaxed. Thursday night I laid everything out on my bed ready to pack it all in the. Put about half my supplies in and it was full. I fit more stuff in my jansport. I started freaking out. Long story short I got about 2 hours of sleep.

Friday afternoon came, I grabbed my bag and me and Scuba were off! Meeting up with someone on the trail takes a bit of planning. What we had to do was drive past chris about 25 miles and park in the town of Port Clinton (more to come on this town). Here we met up with a woman who would taxi us back to where we were meeting the stooge. It was a very interesting ride to say the least.

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As we rounded the corner there was the stooge waiting in ski jump position (imagine hiking polls involved in this picture). Perfect form!We had a quick snack here and then set out on the trail!

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It wasn’t long before I was in shock. Id say it was probably about.. 2 – 3……..steps before I realized this was NOTHING like I expected! I have no idea why, but I pictured a trail? Obviously at different points the trail is wide, thin, rock and dirt but this was sure a shock, but an awesome one.

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The first day we only planned on walking a few miles. Stooges friend who was a little ahead of him told him that there was a sweet campsite not to far away. We got there checked out the campsite then decided we should head to the spring to fill up our bottles. It was only about 1.5 miles away from camp, so we all went to go check it out. About 2 miles in we realized it wasn’t looking so good. The blue blaze kind of ended… we thought maybe it dried out? After a bit more hiking we eventually we found it, Sir Stooge is a navigating machine! To fill the bottles we made some weird leaf waterfall/funnel it was really cool and just such a change from putting your cup against your fridge and having water coming out.

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When we got back to camp we decided to set up our tents before it got dark. While Stooge and Scuba set theirs up in about 2 min flat (Scuba hiked the AT last year and Stooge obviously has a ton of experience now) I was struggling to make mine look anything like a tent. In disappointment I took of sprinting into the woods. They found me about an hour later sitting against a tree. They asked me why I was crying to which I explained it was just water from the trees falling perfectly under my eyes. Stooge looked at me and said… Come back to camp and we will help you, you do not belong in solitude.

We got back to camp and collected a bunch of fire wood. We took turns getting the fire started while the other 2 ate some rice, peanut butter, protein bars, fruit and in Scubas case an entire box of nutty bars. I must say we created a raging fire!, So much that we burned through all the firewood way to quickly and ended up having to use flashlights to see but hey it was awesome while it lasted and kept the bugs away. We all hung out and talked for a while and before we knew it I was pretty late. We decided to turn in for the night.

Like I said these two are pretty experienced. I had a little bit of a weird night in my tent. I fell asleep instantly but I woke up to what I thought was my entire tent collapsed on me and I could barely move! After a minute of struggling and rolling all over the place I realized it was just the sleeping sack I went to bed in.. my tent was fine. I took a breath and shut my eyes. This is the point when I heard little animals running around and then voices. For some reason I thought there were witches outside the tent saying “Were going to get you paul!”. The pollen will get ya!

Morning came with rain. We packed our tents, had a light breakfast of some nuts, and the rest of the food our mom sent with me. At first I was a little bummed it was raining but it was actually awesome. Im glad I got to experience the conditions that Sir Stooge goes through while hes out there.

It was a great day of hiking. We made a few stops to snack and eat lunch throughout the day. One of the stops we actually got a chance to see a shelter. We hung out, all signed the book and got off our feet for a little bit.

We eventually made it to Port Clinton (where we parked ). Port Clinton is a very very small town, Their claim to fame is the barber shops $8 haircuts. We all jumped in the car and headed just up the road to Hamburg. Hamburg is a bigger town so we thought we could grab some food and get our hotel there so we could walk to the bars at night. We got some awesome food at arbys but were unlucky with the hotels. For some reason they were all booked so we found ourselves back in Port Clinton at the towns ALL IN ONE bar/restaurant/hotel. At night we all headed back to Hamburg to a bar. We crushed a ton of food, drank some beers, and played foosball and pool.

The next day was Sunday and Scuba and my last day with the Stooge. We decided we didn’t want to leave just yet so what we did was hike about 5 miles in with him knowing we would have to hike the 5 back to the car. Right when we got on the trail there was some trail magic! A bunch of sodas and a little note from the past AT Hiker. This was by far the hardest few miles I did. We basically walked up and down incredibly steep mountains. I was more tired in these few miles then I was the day before. The terrain was awesome and when we would hit the top of a mountain we sat and just looked out into the sky. We even saw a few hawks flying over us at one stop.

When we hit the end of mile 5 we all just sat down for a while and talked. I could tell none of us wanted the weekend to end.  It really sucked having to give him a hug and say bye but I knew I would make it out to see him again before he finished up and do this all over again.

When me and scuba made it back into town we stopped at the local fire house for a beer, pizza and conversation with the locals. Yes, Port Clinton has an oddly nice firehouse. Sir stooge said that there is only one firefighter and he just carries around a bottle of water ready for the day he needs to pore it on some flames. While there we actually had the chance to meet 2 other hikers that knew chris so that was really cool to hear.

Chris, thanks for an amazing weekend. I can honestly say I will never forget it and we both had such a good time hiking with you.

Just a few thoughts before solitaire signs off. I have no idea how chris does this every day. It was one of the hardest things ive ever done. The hiking, climbing, weather, sleeping and time it took to hike a single mile was something I was never expecting.

That being said, the trail was amazing! We hiked incredible rocky spots, muddy spots, overgrown spots, and steep spots.  We had a few amazing views, great talks, hilarious jokes and a ton of time to think and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way

Episode 2 of the adventures of solitaire and Stooge have now already happened. I will post a blog about my trip to Maine soon!

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Trail Update #18 – A Short Update Before The End!

So I’m at another one of those libraries that doesn’t let you access photos. Boo those libraries! So unfortunately I can’t upload pictures to this post. So instead of boring you with tons of text, I’ll save the good stories for when I have time and some visual assistance. Because right now it is 1:34 PM and I still need to hike about ten miles out of Stratton!

Anyway, I’m only 188 miles from my goal. I just sat down this morning to plan out the rest of my trip. I plan on summiting Katahdin on October 6th. The plans have been set, now I just need to hike my way north. Over the past week or so, I’ve had some fun times. I got out of the Whites, Solitaire came to visit, I’ve seen four moose, I almost inadvertently captured a moose with paracord (long story that will need to be recounted in another post), I’ve caught a lot of my friends, and I’m preparing to finish this journey.

It’s a bit of a strange feeling to be almost done. Although I still have 188 miles left, it feels like I’m closer. In some ways I want it to be over. The cold has been getting worse and worse. The weather has not been great. And hiking is hiking – it sometimes becomes a bit grinding. But then there is all the awesome stuff – the people, the towns, the amazing new places and things to see. It will most definitely be a bitter sweet moment to finish this trip.

Well, just wanted to give a quick update before hitting the trail. I have one more town to hit before the end, but not sure if I’ll have time to do any updating there. I’ll keep up with the blog even when the trip is done as I have several entries I want to put together. So keep looking for entries even after the sixth!

PS. If you haven’t read Solitaire’s account of his PA trip, do so. It is hilarious. And it’s true, Matt wears kid’s small underwears – it’s weird.

Mel Brooks Film

Anyone want to watch a Mel Brooks film when I get home?