Category Archives: Appalachian Trail
Once superstorm Sandy started to die down, I headed back to the trail. Sections through Jersey and parts of PA were ravaged with down trees and blown down branches. The terrain became progressively rockier in PA, then turned to into “rocksylvania”. Hiking on the small, sharp rocks and boulders all day in PA hurt my feet more than another section of the trail. Finally I reached my goal, US 11, Carlisle PA, and walked the highway into town with the sunsetting in front of me and semi trucks flying by on my side. I’ve completed my mission, after 8 months and over 2,185 miles, I hiked the Appalachian Trail!
The section from Connecticut to New Jersey was beautiful, especially with the fall foliage at peak! However hiking in rainy weather 70 percent of the time was definitely frustrating. The leaf covered ground makes navigating the trail tricky, as trail legend “Uncle Walt” told me as I was leaving Mt. Algo Shelter “you have to learn the way of the leaves”. Fall hiking adds new challenges such as shorter daylight, cooler temperatures, wet weather, consistently slick terrain… and Hurricanes!!! I’m currently stuck in Vernon, New Jersey waiting out the “Frankenstorm”, Hurricane Sandy, which is predicted to be the storm of the century.
Since summiting Mt. Katahdin, I feel finished with my hike. However, I still have some miles to make up to complete an official thru hike. My parents and brother met me in up Millinoket, ME with a rental RV, we visited Acadia National Park and coastal Maine towns and also stopped at the famously huge 24hr L.L.Bean store. Despite the rainy New England weather the family adventure was awesome, Acadia was amazing, the seafood was delicious and the company was great. After a brief visit with family in MA, I jumped back on trail in Dalton, MA and started my make up hike southbound, I kinda feel like a high schooler having to attend summer school to graduate. The trail is a lot different now, there aren’t other thru hikers around. I do enjoy the solitude of this section it gives me time to think and forces me to hike my own hike. It can also be very lonely out there cause I don’t have the camaraderie I’m so use to from past. I have met plenty of section hikers and day hikers to talk and share stories with. Section and day hikers are out to enjoy themselves and generally have very up beat and enthusiastic attitudes about their hike, which is refreshing. Autumn in The Berkshires Mountains of Western Massachusetts is gorgeous! The leaves are almost at peak color and falling to the ground in great numbers. Walking the trail through the leaves can be difficult, the rocks and roots are hidden and when wet the leaf covered terrain is slicker than slick.
“You love it and you fear it, It is wild and harsh and high, A mass of ancient granite towering into the sky. For Indians who revered it and climbers of today, A symbol of a spirit that will never pass away.”- Katahdin by Earl Shaffer, the first person to complete a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail.
In Monson, ME I ran into my friend Ranger Bill who I hadn’t seen since Atkins, VA. We headed out into The Hundred Mile Wilderness with ridiculously heavy packs, filled with ten days with of food. The beginning of “The Wilderness” was similar to Southern Maine, extremely rugged. My pack strap snapped five miles in, I had to jerry-rig it together with knots and duct tape. The weight distribution of my pack was off and causing a strenuous pull on my left shoulder. It was cold and rainy the second day in we decided to stop early and have a zero day at Cloud Pond Lean-to. When we arrived early at the shelter Flintstone and Grizzly were already there collecting wood and working on a building a raging fire, so we joined in, and they ended up zeroing with us. Climbing White Cap we had our first view of Katahdin. Periodically throughout “The Wilderness” Katahdin is in view, getting bigger and bigger everyday, seeming like a magnet pulling hikers in. The terrain in Maine is relentless, it’s rocks and roots, bog bridges, then more rocks and roots all day. My feet were killing me by the time I got to Abol Bridge Campground, the end of the Hundred Mile Wilderness. We stayed at the campground, kicked back by a pond and had a few beers while looking at Mt. Katahdin, which we were two days away from climbing. In the morning we hiked ten miles into Baxter State Park to check in with the park ranger and sign up to summit the next day. The weather report was fifty percent chance of rain, but we were determined to climb regardless. It turned out to be quite an adventure. The morning started off rainy which meant it was going to be slick. We hiked cautiously up the rocky mountain. To get up to Katahdin’s “table lands”, the less steep climb, requires a three mile boulder scramble straight up.The accent and decent of Mt. Katahdin was the toughest and most dramatic climb on the Appalachian Trail, it’s a great mountain to house the Northern Terminus. Reaching the end is bittersweet, months ago it seemed like this adventure was going to last forever. I’ve made great friendships throughout this journey, now everyone is parting ways to head back into society. I reached the finish line but still have a section of trail to make up to officially be a thru hiker. My hike will still continue, I’m jumping back on trail in Dalton MA and will walk south bound down to PA.
A week until the Autumn Equinox, the woods are changing daily. Brown squirrels, mice, and chipmunks are on the move forging for food and being little nuisances by stalking hikers, eating through unguarded packs, food bags and tents. Streams and river that would usually have bridges in other states, require fording. Mud, water crossings, rock hops and broken bog bridges are a big part of the terrain. Changing into my crocs every hour is pointless, my feet are bound to get wet anyway. I romp through the water and muck in my boots, stop periodically to ring out my socks, my feet look like prunes at the end of the day. Damn it Maine! Even the “easy” sections are a filled with uncomfortable obstacles. Waking up daily to the dreamy cry of the loon has been surreal. I’m sitting at Shaw’s a trail famous and awesome hostel in Monson Maine. The town is packed with excited hikers preparing mentally and stocking up on supplies for the next and for most final section of trail ” The Wilderness”. The Hundred Mile Wilderness requires delicate planning, food and supply restock, plus the awareness that there are no easily accessible roads or towns for a hundred miles. The Wilderness is the home stretch for most northbound thru hikers leading into Baxter State Park, home of Mt. Katahdin the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Southern Maine kicked my butt!
The Bigelows were the last 4000 ft plus mountains till Katahdin. The Bigelow Mountains were challenging, rugged and beautiful. It’s nice to have a break from the steep, high climbs. The terrain in the lower elevation of Maine has been nice, but very boggy also filled with rocks, roots and mud. I’ve passed countless serene ponds and lakes. While camping at East Carry Pond, I listened to the beautifully eerie calls of the Loon all night, it was amazing. The temperature has been cold at night dropping into the lower 30′s. Despite the difficulties, I’ve been enjoying slowing down to take my time experiencing Maine.
I have a love, hate relationship with Maine. The state is gorgeous when it’s not trying to kill me! I love a good challenge but I’m becoming worn down physically and mentally. The terrain is consistently exhausting and worse when weather adds a whole new set of obstacles. While climbing up Saddleback to the The Horn, rain clouds started to move in. I set up camp before it got bad but woke up freezing cold with a puddle in my tent. Everything was wet, I put on my wet hiking clothes and quickly broke down camp, shivering in the morning downpour. I hiked on to get blood flowing and warm up a little, the trail was a rushing river from all the rain. After tromping through ankle deep water on slick rocks over Saddleback Junior I’d had enough and decided to stop at Popular Ridge Shelter to put on my dry clothes and get shelter from the elements. I was very worried about hypothermia but there was no fast direct way out of the forrest to town so I stayed at the shelter all day in my sleeping bag waiting the rain out. Times like that are when I hate Maine. For all the negative emotions I have towards Southern Maine, it has been filled with some of the most exciting moments of my life and as many highs as lows.
Wow, leaving the White Mountain National Forrest and entering Southern Maine has been exhilarating, incredibly tough, and tiring on the body. The mountains are like one big rock. The miles go by slow due to non stop vertical scrambling up and down, from peak to peak which takes maximum effort from every part of the body. Hiking 10-12 miles each day feels like 30 miles. The wilderness is rugged, raw and beautiful! Autumn is slowly starting to creep in and definitely feels like it at night with temperatures dropping to the 40′s. I would say the terrain in Southern Maine has been a little tougher than the Whites so far but also has the one of funnest section I’ve encountered on the trail. A mile and a half, small car to semi truck sized bolder field maze located in the Mahoosuc Notch just across the border from New Hampshire it was amazing and very challenging. I also saw life flash before my eyes getting caught in extreme weather in the alpine zone on Baldpate mountain. Maine has officially welcomed me in.
Trail on Baldpate cliffs. This was the scariest section on the trail for me, I got caught in down pour which turned to sleet, the wind was intensely strong with the summit speed was predicted to be up to 70 mph. I was exposed above tree line for 1 mile trying to navigate the slick rock cliffs, drenched to the bone with sleet pelting my face making it hard to see and extremely high wind pushing me back and blowing me around. I was scared for my life and feel blessed to have made it safely through.
The White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire is absolutely amazing! The past week has been the most physically demanding hiking terrain I have ever encountered. One minute the mountains mesmerize with the beauty of 360 scenic vistas, the next moment life is on the line trying conquer vertical rock scrambles with a 35 pound pack. The rush and reward are both breathtaking. Deep concentration on foot and hand placement is mandatory while navigating these powerful mountains. Summit weather can change at the drop of a dime, making the long steep miles above tree line as nerve racking as they are beautiful. The Whites are very serious and require extra planning and strategy to cross. Most thru hikers have slowed their paces and daily milage significantly. A lot of rules and regulations are put in place by The AMC ( Appalachian Mountain Club) throughout the National Forest. Huts are set up that require thru hikers to do work for stay or pay $90 to stay, stealth camping is punishable by a hefty fine ( although still easily done), pay shelters and campsites are also available, which usually also have a work for stay option. I was very opposed to the rules before entering and agreed with the people that call the AMC the Appalachian Money Club, but after going through a majority of the National Forest my opinion has changed. The Hut workers called Croo are all very cool so far and have been more than generous so far with helping thru hikers out by giving free food, hot and cold drinks, a nice warm friendly lodging and shelter from elements. The Croo carry all the supplies and food miles in on their own backs with packs that way more than 80 pounds. My experience with work for stay has been sweeping out a bunk room floor and another was planting trees in a revegation zone, in return I received a warm place to sleep on the dinning room floor or a flat tent pad in a nice location plus all I can eat of leftovers from the formal dinner and breakfast which is a fest, because they cook huge amounts of food with hungry thru hikers in mind. The rules and Hut system seem to keep most hikers from pushing to hard and exhausting themselves, risking serious injury or death. I still don’t agree with paying money for a place to quickly crash, I have no problem doing some easy work to help out a cool environment and receive endless pancakes and coffee in the morning!
New Hampshire has been a whole new trail experience so far, filled with steep accents and descents, slick vertical rock scrambles, great views and chilly weather. I enjoy the maze of boulders, at points it’s like a puzzle figuring out a pathway to avoid falling down the mountain. Mt. Moosilauke was intense! The summit was a mile above tree, clouded in, very windy, wet, pelting hail and the descent was the steepest rock scramble I’ve encountered. Luckily for me, it was pouring rain making the rocks slick as ice. It was a fun challenge but there were points I was definitely a little nervous.