Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Danby, VT

Another night with just me in the shelter. I must have gone to bed too early because I woke up near midnight and couldn't fall asleep. I was up for 3 hours (or so) tossing and turning but eventually I fell back asleep. As usual, I was back up and running by 6:30am. 6:30-10:00am are definitely my best hiking hours. I love to get up and going. I feel strong, I move quickly, and I seem to feel the rhythm of the earth. The already calm woods seem even more serene and I feel like the only person in them. All of this does come with one big caveat though....... spider webs! When you are the first person on the trail you have the joy of clearing all the last nights cobwebs primarily using your face.... I hate that!
Anyway, I was out of the woods by 10:30am and after a few phone calls I finally got Pop. He was 45min away so I began the 3 mile walk to Danby but after about half of it was able to hitch a ride (a first for me). While waiting for Pop I got a drink and a couple pieces of pizza!! (nice breakfast)

It is weird to be out of the woods and I miss it already. Next year I will come back and finish the last 77 miles of VT. For now, it is time for Gill's, a shower, some laundry, and then maybe a movie.

Bye, AT. I will be back next year!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Peru Peak Shelter

William Douglas Shelter turned out to be a nice spot. The shelter was made with logs and not all the joints were filled so it had an ole' timey feeling. Then I read the register and the entry before mine was from the previous day. It was the only one that day and it was a shelter inspector.... Needless to say, nobody else showed up and I fell asleep as the coals of the fire were still glowing. I must have slept well too because I woke up a little later than usual. I had packed the night before though so within 15 min, I had hit the trail... probably before 7:00am still but I can't be sure.

The morning's hike was pretty uneventful but I found myself thinking of Anne and the boys. It will be good to see them in a couple of days. Bromley was pretty cool. The clearing for skiers at the top along with the observation deck made for some nice views. I pressed on and stopped to have my lunch at the base of Styles Peak on Mad Tom Notch Road. That ended up being a good thing for two reasons. I had just run out of water (bad planning).....

...... and the hike up Styles Peak was a kick in the nuts. It reminded me of the hike up Maple Hill coming out of VT-9. I was dying by the time I got to the top. I also noticed that my feet started hurting a lot sooner today. I should see a foot specialist before coming out on to the AT again. The pain is enough to really slow me down sometimes. In the end I still averaged around 2 miles/hour and arrived at Peru Peak Shelter around 3:00pm. First things first, I dropped everything and headed over to Griffith Lake for a dip..... tired feet or not, I was walking the 1/2 mile for a swim!

When I got there there was a couple. The guy was in the nude (getting dressed after a dip) and apparently I had just missed the wife doing the same. They were a very nice couple from New Hampshire up here for the weekend. Turns out he is quite the mountaineer and had lead groups up Mt. Rainer. We had a good conversation and they seemed to know something about feet and suggested I needed support for my "transverse" arch. Sounds good to me!

This shelter is a good one for my last night. There is a stream running about 20ft from the shelter and the sound is completely calming and hypnotic. It will be fun to fall asleep to that tonight.

I will be hiking out tomorrow (7.5 miles to the trailhead, and another 3.2 to Danby) and based on my pace, I will be there before lunch. I don't think Pop was expecting such an early arrival. Hopefully I will be able to get a cell call to him to minimize the waiting around. First thing I am going to do is shower (at the VAC?) then go over to Gill's for a veggie with bacon. I can hardly wait!

I still have a few hours before I am going to go to sleep but so far the day has been great.

Lost items:
- Headlamp (crap!)

Monday, August 13, 2007

William B. Douglas Shelter

So when I got in my hammock the weather was gorgeous. I fell asleep listening to the group of diabetes kids having agroup exercise around the fire. I was pretty comfortable but I was actually able to sleep better in the shelters. Good thing because at 4:00am it began raining! I rushed myself and my gear into the shelter and crashed for the next couple of hours. Once again before some of the others in the shelter were up...I took off. My goal was 20 miles.

My feet started hurting a little bit sooner today but I was able to manage. When I go up my legs and lungs hurt. When I go down my feet hurt! I enjoyed the mental challenge of the day again. The first real challenge was Stratton Mt. After 9 miles it was time to ascend >2000ft in 3 miles. I attacked it but was dead tired when I got to the top. Right as I got there it started raining again.... I forgot to mention, my first 6 miles had me ascend out of the rain and into the clouds. That was awesome. Anyway, I ran up the tower, took a couple of pictures and ran back down to find my bag already wet. I couldn't quickly find my pack cover so I assumed I left it with Pop and I headed down. That was a mistake. My bag and I both got pretty wet.

The highlight of the day was mile 15 when I finally reached the Stratton Pond Shelter. The thing is the Hilton of shelters, a loft, bunks for 20.... Of course, you have to pay $5. I used this shelter to eat a good lunch (a little late) and swim!! That's right. I jumped in and had a "bath." It was great. I also met a dad and his twin boys. They were backpacking but you could tell they were in over their heads. One son had had an upset stomach for 2 days. They all thought the VT trails were too tough and on top of it all they got lost on their first day (like 7 miles lost). They were from NY (near Larchmont) and you could tell they had had enough.

After all of that rest, I decided to make a shot at getting to Douglas Shelter (5.3 miles away). I finally made it but was wasted. My feet hurt and I had slowed to a snail's pace. Luckily the 4 college kids occupying the shelter were upbeat and had a fire going. Nothing like a fire to recharge the batteries. I have had a good time listening to their banter (it reminded me of college). They are studying biology, geology, religion/history, and neuroscience.

I am going to try and turn in early tonight because tomorrow is another long day.... 16 miles. If I can accomplish that it will leave a short final day to hike out.

All day I have been going through the exercise of choosing my first meal once I get out. Here is what I have developed.... Gill's for lunch (veggie with bacon) and taking the Page's out for steak for dinner. Sounds delicious.

Animals I have seen:
- Red tailed squirrel
- Chipmunks
- Frogs/toads
- Garter snake
- Lots of birds
- A bear log.... would have been embarrassing if I hadn't been all by myself!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Kid Gore Shelter

Once I opened my eyes and saw light, I jumped out of bed. I thing we hit the trail by 6:30am. I am sure I fell asleep before it was dark and sometime in the middle of the night I was awoken by the conversation of the thru-hikers. It was fun to listen in on the dialog going on between them.

Here are a few things I learned:
- NOBO = Northbound
- SOBO = Southbound
- LT = Long Trail
- AT = Appalachian Trail
- Slackpacking = hiking without your pack and having your pack moved ahead for you
- Birdcage = Rob's home in Dalton, MA where he puts up thru-hikers (room, shelter, food, etc..) all for free. You have to go to the Shell Station and ask for Rob.
- Taking a Zero = no miles hiked that day
- 4 state challenge = Start in Virginia, head into West Virginia, then Maryland, then Pennsylvania, all in one 24 hour period. It is something like 45 miles.
- 1/2 gallon challenge = Not sure what this is but it has something to do with ice cream.
- Through Connecticut, Pennsylvania, etc... you can eat from delis a lot and only pack 1-2 days of food at a time.
....Anyway, it was fun to listen and learn.

The morning hike was great. Harmon Hill had raspberries on top. The hike down the hill was tough. Basically a big stone staircase. When we finally made it out I unloaded my tent and other extraneous gear before saying bye to Pop. Rich Congdon was going to pick him up after church.

It was sad saying bye to Pop but hitting the trail hard felt good. The first mile was tough (about 1000ft in that first mile). The rest of the morning and early afternoon continued the theme of up, up, up. I had a strong mental day for the most part. I kept myself motivated and strong. It was great to finally make it to Goddard Shelter (10 miles in from VT-9) an then Glastenbury Peak. On the peak was this old fire tower which you could climb up and get above the trees.... beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

The hike down to Kid Gore was tough on me though. 4 miles down and my feet had had enough. My left foot's metatarsals started feeling sore and it made me nervous. By the time I made it to the shelter I was starting to loose the mental game. I was happy to see Connie when I arrived. There was also a group of 12 or so kids who are doing a wilderness survival/leadership trip for kids with diabetes. It took me a while for my legs to recover but I can finally walk. It was a lot of fun to sit at the picnic table and chat with Connie and John (new). They are both retirees and are NOBO on the LT. I am impressed with them and am jealous too. John is 60 and has retired from his career as a school teacher. I also learned that Connie was able to retire at 48 with her house paid off and enough $ to retire! Congrats to her!

Anyway, all in all a great day. 18.x miles and tonight I am sleeping in the hammock. Tomorrow looks like it will need to be either 15 or 20 miles. It will be another tough one.

Trail names I have heard:
- Tina Dean
- Faithful
- Danger Mouse
- Stickman
- The Breeze
- Dr. Ninja
- ... and many others

It seems for a lot of people there is a tradition of having someone else give you your trail name. I am going to use the trail name Squeakers until I am given another.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Congdon Shelter

Pop must have not slept very well because when he woke up he complained about having been cold all night. He slept in a hammock about 20 yds from the shelter. On top of it from 10:00pm - 5:00am there were a bunch of kids having an ATV rally or something about 1/2 mile from the shelter. It only kept me up for a few minutes but I think Pop and Connie were kept up a little longer. The only thing that kept me up was the little mouse that kept going in and out of my pack. He did pretty well for himself as I discovered a hole in the trail mix bag this morning.

I let Pop sleep in a bit and by 8:00am we were on the trail. Much to Pop's dismay we began another 2 miles of more or less up. I think it discouraged him pretty badly and he was soon talking about hiking out and leaving the trail at VT-9. I can tell he is physically tired but this morning he showed mental fatigue as well. In the end we decided to do a shorter day and stop at Congdon Shelter. At one point he wanted me to call patrol and tell them there was a hiker in distress. I told him we weren't at that point yet. I gave him a rice krispie treat and some water and that seemed to help. I also think he gained a mental edge one he realized VT-9 would be his exit point. I have decided not to try and change his mind. I don't want him to feel more guilty than he already does. I don't feel like I pushed him at all but I think it was a little too much for him.

One very cool thing we saw during the hike was a beaver dam. It was probably 75 ft long and we were actually hiking beneath the level of the water. Pretty amazing. Those beavers make for pretty good engineers.
The hike was pretty muddy most of the day today and we covered about 7 miles. When we got to camp I noticed that Connie had signed the register and was moving onto the next hill. We made it to Congdon Shelter around 1:30-2:00pm and Pop immediately crashed which was good for him.
There was another guy sleeping there when we got there. He was a character. When he finally woke up he had a joint and then he began thinking about how many miles he was going to do tonight. Around 5:00pm he packed up, smoked another joint and headed out with a plan to hike 20 miles arriving around 2:00am! He had been hiking since Georgia (4 1/2 months), he had also run out of $ so his dad was sending food and $ every 100 miles. Pretty funny guy. Turns out he used to live in Leander, TX. He also had been robbed in Juarez and has successfully hitchiked from El Paso to the Grand Canyon and back!

We passed the time making a fire, playing cards (rummy..... I won 370 to 170) and talking a little. I am disappointed that Pop is hiking out but I also look forward to covering some more territory. Mostly I hope he doesn't feel bad. I actually think he could go on but I don't think he would win the on going mental battle.

Anyway, I have 14 miles scheduled tomorrow and most of it is up so I am trying to turn in early and get up early too.

- A camera (not sure what to do with it though)

- I also met a guy from Connecticut who used to manage the apartments just behind NI! Small world.

Friday, August 10, 2007

North Adams, MA to Seth Warner Shelter

My plane landed in Boston @ around 12:30 am (I should have flown into Albany). It was good to see Pop. His hair has gotten more white and I was reminded how jealous I am of the white hair. After a very late McDonalds dinner we made our way to Springfield, MA before renting a hotel room for the night. I was in a furry the next morning as I tried to tie up loose ends from NIWeek. We had a late breakfast (11:30 am) at Cracker Barrel and made it to North Adams by 1:30. We bumped into the trailhead by luck (we didn't know where it was) also were lucky enough to find a nice business where the ladies let us fill our water bottles. After calling the police to let them know where we were leaving our car, we did a quick pack check and took off. Pop had a few extra things but for the most part we were good to go.

I picked a heck of a first day! I think we did somewhere around 2500 ft of elevation gain and about 7.1 miles to Seth Warner Shelter. Pop and I were both very tired but I have to say Pop impressed me. He never gave any sign of giving up even though I could tell he was hurting. As for me, although my body started to wear I was constantly fresh and excited mentally. I was finally out there! I could have pushed the body further just because of my frame of mind. I had forgot how beautiful it is here.

It rained all morning but by 2:00 it was done so it was wet but probably around 70 deg so it was cool/fresh. When my legs brushed the ferns I could feel hundreds of droplets on my legs which were chased by the cooling rush as my motion blew air over them. We followed a gorgeous stream for the first couple of miles. The forest here is so comfortable for me. Your are completely embraced by the trees. the canopy, the vegetation the thick moss on the ground, the muffled sounds as they are quickly absorbed. I immediately felt a million miles from civilization and content with my decision to be here.

We arrived at the shelter around 7:00 and were glad to be here. We have a shelter buddy (Connie from upstate NY, used to be in the Air Force but is retired and she started the Long Trail today! She plans to finish all 270 miles of it in 26 days.... more power to her!)

I am grateful to be out here. Grateful to Anne for letting me go. Grateful to Pop for coming and grateful to our Heavenly Father for this place. At one point we actually had a break in the tree cover and I was able to see the valley covered in a dark green blanket of trees. This place is full of life and I feel it too. I look forward to tomorrow. My goal is to cross VT-9 and camp at the shelter just past that. I will have to see how we do.

Things I forgot!
- Butt paste (for treating chaffage)
- Cell phone charger (for when I get out of the woods)
- A watch

- To keep the critters off of food, the shelter has a little contraption which is basically an inverted tin can suspended from the roof. The rope used to suspend the can extends through the top and below the can where a stick is attached and where you can tie up anything you would like to. The can keeps opportunistic "mini-bears" from getting your food.