Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 102: Bigelow Bubble

July 27th
ME Rt 27/Stratton(1997.1)-Safford Notch Campsite(2007.5)Maine

Elevation chart courtesy of Guthook's AT Hiker app. He has apps for many trails including the PCT and CDT.

Despite being in a hotel, we were both awake at 5:30am. Squatch was staying in the room next to us and had his big 27" Mac computer with him for the film editing. He said I could use it before we all went to breakfast, so I lounged and waiting for Squatch to let me know he was up. Jett Cat had her first breakfast and also lounged. Our plan was to relax and leave around noon or later to do about 10mi. Squatch called at 7am and I was able to get all my computer things done. It was wonderful and a relief to catch up on emails and blogging since there wasn't another public computer I could use in town. It was heavenly and it was fun to see the blog on the big screen. Here I am hugging it. THANK YOU SQUATCH!

We had breakfast with Squatch and Mary Poppins, but I forgot to get a picture. The diner in Stratton was great! We ate there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and all agreed it was pretty great. We found out rain was on the way, so we decided to leave earlier to get some dry miles in. Most of the gals we met yesterday had decided to slack pack. The motel will shuttle hikers 17mi north so they can hike back to the road to Stratton without carrying full packs over the last major climbs for awhile, the Bigalow Mtns. With the rain, many found that option appealing so that they could stay at the motel another night. As you can see from the elevation chart, the Bigelows was a lot of ups and downs today. Everyone is pretty excited because it's really flat after the Bigelows and we can finally cruise again. We got started around 11:20am and soon hit the 2,000mi marker. Luckily, a section hiker was there to take a picture for us.

Soon after that, the sky got really dark and it started to rain. We were close to a lean-to and had plenty of time to get to our destination, so we booked it to the lean-to to sit out the rain. We made it just before the downpour started and were quite happy to make it just in time. Other hikers came in/out and we stayed for at least an hour until the rain stopped.

While we were there, so many hikers came by including many northbounders. There were tons of hikers and it was kinda overwhelming. We've finally broken into a bubble(as they call it on trail) in which most hikers have overlapped and leap frogged each other for months. With our more relaxed pace, we are actually keeping pace with the bubble and seeing people multiple times so it was new for both of us to know so many of the hikers and have seen them before. We saw Shakespeare and Ramshambo and it was fun to see them again. We also saw Grace who is a shelter caregiver that we chatted with at lunch a few days ago. Coincidentally, we saw her in town this morning and she was now at this shelter with a group doing trail work. Plus, we knew we were going to see the gals slack packing southbound. It was just fun for us to feel the community a bit since we both have moved up the trail in a way that we haven't overlapped much with the same people for extended periods. We headed on north once the rain stopped and we were the only ones that timed it to not be soaked so we felt very lucky. We soon ran into the gals on top of a climb and it was fun to cheer them to the top seeing that they had been caught in the rain and probably needed a pick me up. Here they are atop a fogged in North Horn.

The next couple hours were dipping up and down along a ridge line and our timing was perfect once again. As we broke out of the trees, the fog would roll in and out making the views much grander.

The forest in between the climbs was unique and quite dense. With plenty of moss and pine needles.

Our final peak for the day was fogged in and quite windy, but we were happy that no more rain came all day and we somehow dodged it!

The final couple miles were slow going with slick rocky downhill and we made it to camp just after 6:30pm. It is a dense forest and it is quite foggy and quiet. We heard voices and saw another tent far away, but had the rest of the place to ourselves and that was nice. I am totally struggling to stay awake and type tonight, so I'll say good night.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 101: A Half Day To Stratton

July 26th
Viewpoint S of Sugarloaf Mtn(1986.3)-ME Rt 27/Stratton(1997.1) Maine

Elevation chart courtesy of Guthook's AT Hiker app. He has apps for many trails including the PCT and CDT.

Today was a town day after a six day leg with difficult terrain. We were surprised that our bodies didn't feel it more, but we did feel like the break was perfectly timed and were nice and relaxed on the 11mi hike into town today. We had camped higher up along a ridge, so it was pretty crisp out this morning and we wore our puffy jackets for the first mile of hiking. I don't know that I've done that since the beginning of the hike. We soon dropped steeply down to the Carrabassett River where we were expecting a ford. The view was nice of the river valley.

It was slow going on some of it with large jagged rocks to hike down.

When we reached the crossing, it was really low and had a board to cross on. After all the hype, we were relieved to keep our feet dry.

As soon as we crossed, we came to a campsite and a hiker was packing up to leave. We struck up a conversation and he mentioned his name was Ishmael(71yrs old!) because he is a big fan of Moby Dick. We told him that was a funny coincidence because yesterday morning we were quoting Moby Dick. He said that he is a flip flopper that originally started NOBO and jumped up to Katahdin and is now going south to complete the trail. He then said that when he was in the Smokies he ran into a family and the kids recited Moby Dick for him, which was of course the Kallins. We told him of our closeness to them and how Cartwheel's voice inspired us to ride in the boat yesterday and that we Skyped with them last night. He was so moved that it brought tears to his eyes and we all got choked up at this wonderful hiker world and how we all overlap and impact one another. It was quite the moment we shared and we just had to get a picture. The best part is that since he is hiking southbound, he should see the Kallins again in a week or two. So wonderful!

As we hiked the second half of the morning to town, the trail went through some old growth and had many roots and rocks that made for slower hiking. I felt like the trail was saying, "Hey! Slow down and look at me!" I took the hint and tried to take in the uniqueness of the Maine forest with roots, rocks, old trees, and thick layers of moss covering everything. I was getting sentimental and tried to take some pictures to capture the nuances, but it doesn't do it justice.

We got to the parking lot by noon and waited for Down & Out who did amazing trail magic for us the other day and offered to shuttle us to town today. When we arrived we saw other hikers and realized we had broken into a new bubble after the last month of seeing few other hikers. This was a high energy and spunky group and they were good fun. Here are Thin Mint, Mary Poppins, Dinosaur, and Da Vinci.

Down & Out came and were also able to shuttle the ladies heading to the same motel as us. They had also brought us Raspberry Lemonades and we indulged in those. The girls were saying goodbye to Thin Mint for the last time as he was heading on north and they had an emotional goodbye. We got to talk to him more as we waited for Down & Out to return and it was moving to feel that shift of people finishing and the transition ahead after months of life on the trail. Down & Out returned and got us to the motel with added gifts of kindness. Unbelievable! THANK YOU Down & Out for being awesome people!

Then we had lunch with the other female hikers at the motel. It was quite an energized and entertaining lunch as these ladies are quite a handful soaking up every moment. It was great to see such spunk and fun, but was quite the shock to the senses for Jett Cat and I who have had such a long stretch of solo time and time around few others. We noticed that we had hardly seen any women thrus in the last month and now we were surrounded and that was pretty cool. Pictured here is myself, Jett Cat, Dinosaur, Lady Moose, Da Vinci, and Mary Poppins.

We had some time to do chores and Squatch arrived to film more for the documentary as he had filmed both of us further south independently. We had dinner with him and he interviewed us and he videoed our resupply. This is how it looks when Squatch is filming you as the camera is very close. Seriously, that's how close it is. Cracks me up!

So the big bummer is that there isn't a computer I can use in this town. The plan is to get some time on Squatch's computer before leaving tomorrow, so I'm sorry if I don't get to emails. I'm also trying to take all this in and be a present as possible these last two legs. We think we are finishing around Aug 5th and just want to enjoy our limited time left. Can't believe it's coming to an end so soon!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Day 100: See The Watery Part Of The World

July 25th
Piazza Rock Lean-to(1966.7)-Viewpoint S of Sugarloaf Mtn(1986.3) Maine

Elevation chart courtesy of Guthook's AT Hiker app. He has apps for many trails including the PCT and CDT.

This is a long entry, but totally worth it...We woke up to a nice cool morning and got our regular 6:30am start. It was an exciting day because it is Day 100 for me on the AT. 100 Days! We each ate a Subway cookie we got from Down & Out yesterday with our breakfast and were very happy to do that. We had an ambitious goal of over 22mi to a campsite, but we felt like we could pull it out and be set up nicely for a nero into town tomorrow. We are more limited in campsites through Maine. It is very dense forest with rare stealth sites that aren't official campsites or shelters. Last night there were three other thru hikers camped in the same area. Three guys in their 20s named Newts, Bagels, and Stretch. All three were aiming to do a 17mi day today to the next shelter, but we knew that would have us stopping too early. Like most other hikers near us, they started a month before us and they tend to do shorter days and think we are flying. We talked to them about our plans to slow and take it in. Bagels was a very laid back dude (who wears a sarong) and he mentioned that he had found boats along a couple of the lakes and ponds we have passed and highly encouraged us to get out on one if we find one.

Flash forward to this morning as we were in morning bliss hiking and started passing ponds. Jett Cat and I both love morning hiking with how new the day is and how the light shines as the sun is rising. I tried to capture it this morning.

Seeing the ponds, we started dreaming aloud of boats and going out on the sea. Jett Cat is from a small island in Florida and when she was a kid her family even spent 6 months living on a sailboat and sailing the Bahamas. She remembers it fondly and has a great nostalgia for boats. It's fun to think up outrageous life adventures for the future while on the trail and Jett Cat mentioned one of her own involving sailing. We both recalled the whimsical way in which sailing is introduced in the beginning of Moby Dick because I had recorded audio of little 7yr old Cartwheel(from the Kallin Family hiking the AT) reciting it and we love to quote her saying it because it makes both of us so happy. In particular this morning we were saying, "I thought I'd sail about a little. See the watery part of the world." If you missed my original posting of the audio of Cartwheel reciting Moby Dick, it is a must listen for pure joy. Here is the link. So adorable!!! So as all of this was happening and we were in our morning bliss, I saw the sun hitting the rocks along a small island in Eddy Pond. We talked about how if it was hot out, we could swim to the island or even row a boat. The AT was a good 20yds off the pond, so I saw a light user trail and paused to possibly go down the trail to take a picture. I checked with Jett Cat saying I didn't have to do it if she wanted to keep forward momentum, but she was okay and needed to stop to get something out of her pack anyway. So we took the small detour and the trail weaved to the shore to the most magical moment when we saw a row boat! It was like it was out there just for us at that very moment.

We just had to row it to the island! We got all ready to sail our and grabbed the boat in excitement and found that it was chained and locked to a tree! It was such a bummer after we had gotten so inspired and psyched. We hiked on dejected and 1/4mi later the trail started to turn away from the pond. I sadly turned to go up the hill and Jett Cat saw something in the woods along the shore. Another row boat and it wasn't chained to anything! We were so happy! I hiked back and got the oars to "borrow" from the other boat and we got in the boat to set off toward the little island. As we did, Stretch hiked up and got our picture. Perfect timing!

Jett Cat used her GoPro to take a photo as I paddled toward the island. We were so happy to be seeing the watery part of the world. We loved how the morning sunlight was shining too.

When we got there, we got to lay on a big rock in the sun and just take it in. We could have laid there all day and it was quite heavenly and relaxing. We laughed accepting that we were probably accepting a 17mi day to the shelter and it didn't bother either of us one bit.

Jett Cat paddled us back and we were hiking after at least an hour detour. So worth it! We then hiked up to Saddleback Mtn, Horn Mtn, and Saddleback Junior. LOVED the flat rock ridge walking with panoramic views and perfect weather with a cool breeze. We could even see Eddy Pond down below.

There was a good deal of slick steep flat rock so it was slow going and by lunch we had only done 8mi and we had to laugh at how little we care about the mileage. We had a great lunch along a stream and ate the second half of our Subway sandwiches and cookies. THANK YOU Down & Out!!!

The rest of the day had forested hiking and it got a bit hot and muggy. Both of us were sluggish and the trail was rocky and rooty with some steep ups and downs that allowed for little cruising.

We felt like we weren't doing much, but just kept a fair pace and we ended up doing ok. We hit the shelter at 5pm and decided to just gamble and see what stealth camping we could come across if we hiked another hour or so. We ended up passing a great spot that was a few minutes before our water source. When we saw there wasn't camping near the source, Jett Cat got the water for us and I headed back so I'd have time to blog about this awesome day! The wind picked up and it cooled significantly, so we ate from my tent which was positioned to block the wind and it was the perfect comfy way to end Day 100. We also noticed that we are now just 199mi from finishing, ahh!

So as if this day wasn't great enough, we got a call from the Kallins after dark and they were in town and able to Skype with us. We got to bring the day full circle by telling them how Cartwheel inspired us to "see the watery part of the world." What a great day and the perfect way to celebrate my 100th day on the AT!

Day 99: Motivating Magic

July 24th
Beamis Mtn Lean-to(1947.2)-Piazza Rock Lean-to(1966.7) Maine

Elevation chart courtesy of Guthook's AT Hiker app. He has apps for many trails including the PCT and CDT.

We awoke to a nice cool foggy morning. Neither one of us was looking forward to putting cold wet clothes back on, so we did all we could to pack up in our warm dry pajamas. Once everything was packed up, we quickly changed out in the open hoping no one would walk by and started hiking to warm up. It was much cooler, so I was able to wear my long sleeve until lunch instead of my wet short sleeve. It wasn't as bad as we anticipated and we warmed up quickly with a bit of uphill. We hiked up to the second peak of Bemis Mtn and got to see the view that we missed in the rain yesterday. It was a perfect way to start off the morning hiking on smooth rock and taking in the view as the misty fog lifted to reveal a lake and rolling mountains in the distance.

Soon after that, we dropped down to our first of many fords in Maine. The hike down was very slow going on steep slick rock and roots and we were quite happy when we got through that. The ford wasn't major and we didn't mind it since our shoes and socks were still wet from the rain yesterday.

The big event of the day was that some blog followers from Maine were going to be nearby and offered to provide some trail magic at the end of the day today. This is the middle of a six day leg for us, so the opportunity to get some real food and add a bonus to our food bags was really motivating! We talked about it yesterday and all day today as we inched toward some real food! We want to average 20mi/day this leg, so when we looked ahead and saw a lean-to(shelter) and campsite at 19.5mi with a nice side trip to explore rock boulders, we set our sights to end there. We know we could do a bit more, but we are enjoying this so much together that we are happy to stretch it out and do shorter days to relax more and take it in. We came to a road crossing with a bench at a viewpoint overlooking Mooselookmeguntic Lake. We sat and took it in. The picture doesn't do it justice, but it was a memorable view for us and we thought the name was great, so I've thrown it in.

Speaking of taking it in, we had lunch at Sabbath Day Pond and took a long relaxed lunch to dry out the wet tents from last night. We met a caretaker hiking southbound for the day and she said she had see nine northbounders, so we are actually near some thrus. We've hardly see any thrus since entering the Whites. The caretaker kindly gave us some dark chocolate and took our photo at the pond.

The rest of the day, we were on a mission to hit the road for trail magic by my guesstimated time of 4pm. There was some rooty and muddy trail, but then the last four miles or so opened up for some great cruising! There were even stretches without roots and rocks!

I finally convinced Jett Cat to try listening to some music while she hiked and she used my extra MP3 player I had in my bounce box last town. I absolutely love having music and audiobooks to hike along to and I'm really amazed that Jett Cat has hiked this far on the AT, much of it solo, without listening to anything. As soon as she listened, she really enjoyed it and it even brought tears to her eyes. I know many judge it, but I have to say that the right music can really enhance the hiking experience from time to time. She said it helped her today because she was having knee pain and it took her mind off of it so she could enjoy the hiking more. It also brings an element of emotion to your thoughts rather than cycling through many of the same thoughts or focusing on discomfort. I know many don't understand listening to music and it is a personal preference, but for long hikes out many months, I find it to be very inspiring and motivating at times.

We were motivated to get to our trail magic and somehow arrived just one minute before 4pm when I guesstimated that time this morning 17mi away. The planner side of me was very proud of that. When we hit the parking lot, we met Cheryl aka Out. Her husband Kirk aka Down, was off getting us burgers and fries, but Out already had chairs setup for us with huge cups of chocolate milkshakes, Subway sandwiches, and cookies. It was great! There was even some resupply foods we were short on and raspberry lemonade in which the cap read, "Consuming this product may cause joy." While we were there, two section hikers arrived leaving a car for a shuttle. They were 78yr old twins section hiking the AT and they only have about 300mi left. They said they're known as the Trekking Twins and I just had to get a photo with them. Love it! Then Down arrived with burgers and fries. Jett Cat and I ate one of them and hiked in with the rest. We had two miles to get to camp and were well fueled. We will hopefully see Down and Out again in a couple days when we go into Stratton as they may be able to shuttle us to town. THANK YOU Down and Out!!!

We got to camp around 6pm and it was one of the most popular shelters in Maine, the Piazza Rock Lean-to and campsite. It was pretty full, but we fortunately found a campsite removed from all the noise and action that we could squeeze our tents into.

This shelter is popular because it has a side trail to climb around boulders and reminded us of Mahoosuc Notch a bit and we got a couple photos. It was just fun to hike up a trail without our packs! I swear we really feel like we are on a weekend trip and that we aren't thru hiking with how relaxed we are.

The shelter is also popular because there is a unique privy for two with a cribbage board in the middle. Of course we had to photograph the privy! Notice the sign that says, "Your Move" on the outside.

We got back to camp and ate our remaining burger and fries before doing chores and retreating to bed. We each still have half a Subway sandwich for lunch tomorrow. Again, I'm getting to sleep before 10pm, so I'm really excited about that! Another great day and a nice cool night for a perfect night of sleep. Doesn't get much better than this!