Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 98: Maine In Rain

July 23rd
Frye Notch Lean-to(1923.9)-Beamis Mtn Lean-to(1947.2) Maine

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

I didn't sleep as well as I had hoped last night. My body was ready to sleep, but my mind was doing it's wired thing and wouldn't turn off so I was awake a lot and I was awake at 5am this morning and soon Jett Cat was up too. Our routine has become that I stay dozing and comfy until 5:45am while she has her warm breakfast. She is definitely a morning person and I am not in regular life, but I am on trail. It's been refreshing to be with another early riser who wakes up so energized and happy. She even sings as she gets ready somedays and today it was "Walking On Sunshine" and an Outcast song. The quote of the morning as we were packing up was Jett Cat telling herself, "Ok kiddo, carpe this diem!" Cracks me up and it really gets the day off to a fun start.

Most of today was pretty uneventful and I didn't take many photos. We were in the woods most of the day and the morning started off pretty hot and humid. The forecast had thunderstorms coming in by the end of the day and cooler weather tomorrow, so this morning it was at the height of its humidity. Our big events of the morning was Jett Cat catching a huge toad and a couple stream crossings.

Since we had done 4mi the first 4hrs of the day yesterday, we had fun checking today to see that we had done 9.5mi in 4hrs today. Much better! We were hopeful to return to mileage closer to the mid 20s and saw that there was camping 23mi from where we started today, so we aimed for that. Much of the hiking today was nice trail to stretch our legs and we were really thankful for that. It seems like it's been forever! There were still some climbs that were straight up and down and that was slow going just one step at a time. We pushed a bit longer in the morning to get a viewpoint at lunch to motivate us and we really enjoyed our lunch spot.

After lunch, the clouds moved in, the clouds got really dark, and thunder got closer and closer. At 4pm, it started storming. The hard rain didn't last long, but it continued to rain steadily the rest of the day and it just stopped around 9pm. The trail of mud, rock, and roots became slick in places and slowed us. As you can see, the trail became a bit waterlogged.

We weren't bothered by the rain at all and actually enjoyed the break in heat and humidity as temps dropped into the 70s. I used my umbrella and Jett Cat just hiked in the rain. I would have gotten too cold for that, but she enjoyed it.

We both had our share of slips and falls on the slick surface. We realized how much fun we were still having and were both grateful the other was there to keep the mood light. Even as the rain poured down, we talked about how we didn't want the trail to end now that we are enjoying it so much together. I mean who walks through rain for hours and says they don't want this experience to end? Somehow that's exactly what we were doing.

We made it to the shelter/campsite by 7:15pm and quickly setup our tents in the rain and did our camp chores from our respective tents.

It felt amazing to put on my warm pjs, sleep socks, and beanie. I'm Super comfy with my sleeping bag and sleep pad and struggling to stay awake as I type. We are both pretty wiped out from hiking in the rain and will sleep hard tonight. I have that feeling I get after snowshoeing for a day or skiing. Wiped out and ready to sleep. The rain has just stopped at about 9:30pm and tomorrow looks to be a great cooler day. For the first time since I can remember, I'm getting to sleep before 10pm, yay!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 97: Slow Motion

July 22nd
Full Goose Shelter/Campsite(1908.4)-Frye Notch Lean-to(1923.9) Maine

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

We awoke this morning to a nice sunrise through the trees.

Today was the day that we would hike the slowest mile(s) on the AT. Mahoosuc Notch is a 1.2mi section of boulders hikers have to scramble over and under and it is pretty time consuming. Even though we knew it would be slow going, we were looking forward to it. We left camp at 6:30am and had a mile or so to the notch. We had a good time going through it and I got plenty of pictures.

It took us about 1hr 20mins to go through those 1.2mi. Sweetfish easily hopped and scrambled through it. Jett Cat and I were more intentional in our steps and took our time. I am pretty slow through this kind of stuff with a constant fear of slipping and falling. My strategy had me on all fours and close to the ground for a lot of it. There were two places that were small enough that we had to pass our packs through.

A literally cool part of Mahoosuc Notch is that there is unmelted snow and ice under the boulders, so the whole section felt like it was air conditioned. As soon as we finished the notch, we climbed up Mahoosuc Arm and it was no joke either. Pretty much straight up. It was hot out and we did the notch and climb slowly as we dripped sweat. Below are Sweetfish and Jett Cat cooling off at a stream.

So slowly that when we checked our progress after 4hrs, we had only done 4mi all morning. Sweetfish was a real trooper and enjoyed the workout, but understandably needed to move slower, so we agreed that Jett Cat and I would hike on and he'd see us at lunch which was just one mile from where he planned to end his overnight visit.

When we stopped for lunch, I was totally in the mood for a nap, which I never do. The lack of sleep lately combined with the heat and terrain had me ready to sleep right there, but I didn't. After lunch, Sweetfish headed home (so great to have him join in!) and there was even more uphill for us.

We felt like there was a lot of uphill today, but the elevation chart shows differently. We found a slow and deliberate pace to hike up since we were both worn out from the heat and day. The views on top of the Baldpate Peaks were nice and we got a stretch of panoramic ridge walking. We could look forward and back and see the trail going over the mountain tops and where we came from and are headed.

The downhill on steep rock was almost just as slow and tiring as the uphill. Jett Cat's knees are not happy with the downhill, so sometimes I hike on ahead and then stop to blog while I wait. Our goal this leg was to make an average of 20mi/day. Today was the low day we knew was coming, so we tried not to feel like lazy bums when we hit a shelter just before 6pm and decided to camp early after doing just 15.5 miles. We felt better when we saw Shakespeare and Rohsambo hike in and they too did the same mileage as we did saying that they too stopped in the morning to realize they had done 5mi in 5hrs. We figured they were well ahead of us today. The quote from Jett Cat on that one is, "we're not inferior, we're just on par." Cracks me up.

It was glorious to have an earlier night in camp! I like to be blogging before 8:30pm and that has not been happening lately so I've been falling asleep while I blog and it's been taking longer. Even tonight I'm still falling asleep on and off. This pattern has added up over the past week and I'm very excited to crash hard tonight and catch up on some sleep. Jett Cat feels the same way. Both of us require little sleep, but then need to catch up on sleep every so often. Tonight is that night. We each laid on our tents before we pitched them to find a good flat position and it took a lot of motivation to get up and do our camp chores.

Of course we still found a way to pass the time by talking and slowly doing our chores and I'm still blogging a bit late, but it's totally worth it. We're having a great time. With how relaxed we are, it feels like we aren't even thru hiking. We heard the miles will come easier (still not easily at all) tomorrow, so we are still hoping to average 20mi/day this leg with a bigger day tomorrow...fingers crossed for smoother terrain...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 96: Maine Baby!

July 21st
US 2/Swinja's(1887)-(Full Goose Shelter/Campsite(1908.4) New Hampshire/Maine

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

I got way too distracted with socializing yesterday at Swinja's and ended up doing blog and email stuff until 12:30am. I was up at 5:30am this morning and made a mental note to go to bed earlier tonight. My eyes were burning and didn't want to stay open, but I was energized and it was a great day to hike. Sweetfish is joining in for 31mi since he has the next two days off work, so the three of us set off and started hiking at 7:20am. It's pretty entertaining to have Sweetfish along as he is a triple crowner that is full of fun trail stories. He loves to talk and can easily do so while hiking, so we just requested stories and/or jokes and he delivered. He is also the luckiest hiker ever and trail magic just follows wherever he hikes. We call it Sweetfish moments and are hoping it will rub off a bit onto us while he's here. We spent the first couple hours hiking uphill and were relieved that it wasn't too steep or rocky, so we made pretty good time. Once on top, there were nice views and hiking on top of a flat rock surface.

It was the same pattern of down into forest and then up onto a flat rocky top most of the day. The miles got much slower as many of the ups and downs were on slick and steep slanted rock or boulders.

Again, this hiking isn't as exhausting as it is just precarious and time consuming. There were some slips and probably more on my part today. The classic one from me today was when we stopped for lunch and when I absentmindedly stepped back into a large rock and tumbled back like turtle on my pack. No serious falls though so that's good. We've been spoiled by the ease of getting water at the huts last leg, so it was back to filtering today and a couple of additional breaks were required to do that.

We leap frogged all day with a pair of guys going northbound named Shakespeare and Ramshambo. We didn't hike a lot together, but conversed a bit as we saw each other. We all overlapped on top of Mt Success and got pictures. We did a pose of Captain Morgan at Sweetfish's request.

The fun after lunch was that we hit mile 1900 and crossed into Maine. There are just 281mi left to do in Maine and it was a very bittersweet realization that there are few days remaining.

Towards the end of the day, we had our campsite destination chosen, but the steep and rocky terrain was making for slower hiking.

I knew I needed to get there as soon as possible to be able to blog and get to sleep at a decent time, so I decided to kick it up a notch the last four miles and I told Jett Cat and Sweetfish I'd see them at the campsite. We've found that this is working for me and Jett Cat as she usually hikes later just slightly slower than me and then we both can hike our desired pace the last hour or two of the day and we tend to be within 30mins of each other. I was glad I chose to push because it was more of the steep ups and downs.

The tops of the climbs were great and there was a great view of the ridge ahead. When I got to the ridge, I was able to look back and see the others hiking down in the distance and we waved to one another. They were up on this hill.

It was along the ridge that I just got a burst of energy and had my first real hiker high of the AT! I get these often out west when I can cruise trail that has panoramic views and beautiful weather. I was so stoked to finally feel that energy and rush again today that goes all the way through my fingertips. I had my music on and felt like I was flying. It was a great way to end the day and I just had to take a picture of what I saw as I was feeling my hiker high. Just great!

I got to camp just before 7pm, Jett Cat arrived 30mins later, and Sweetfish came 30mins after that. Roshambo and Shakespeare also showed up. It was finally a day over 20mi and Sweetfish did amazing to hang in there despite not having done an overnight since the CDT last year. We all fit on the tent platform and are very content to be in our sleeping bags. Temps are nice and cool and perfect for sleeping again. Maine just might turn out to be my favorite state...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day 95: Back To Swinja's

July 20th
Imp Shelter(1879)-US 2/Swinja's(1887) New Hampshire

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

Notice: For these final weeks through Maine, I may have less service, so the posts may get delayed, but know I'll get them posted as soon as I can.

Today we got going at our regular 6:30am time. We had one climb to get over Mt Moriah and then it was downhill to Hwy 2 where Sweetfish's dad was going to pick us up and take us back over to Swinja's. It was a wonderful cool morning with low lying fog in the valley as we climbed up. Some of the views reminded me of northern Washington on the PCT and I was having flashbacks to the end of that hike as well.

I didn't even notice until Jett Cat pointed it out that the mountain laurel up there was pink instead of white. It was really cool.

We were just taking it all in and loving the views and wisps of clouds this morning. A great end to a great leg!

We got another view looking back on the Presidentials we were on two days ago. The one on the far left is Mt. Washington and we walked across that ridge. As we descended, we walked on a lot of planks throughout the morning.

We only had 8mi to do, but we couldn't break our slipping streak and I had a good one onto my pack on a slick angled rock. I was a bit like a turtle in getting up and Jett Cat kindly got a photo...

More stream crossings, but we've kept our feet dry so far.

It was still a bit of slow hiking on steep downhill rocks, but the last three miles were a flat wide trail and we loved it! We made it to the trail head by 10:15am as it just started to rain unexpectedly. Sweetfish's dad drove up a few minutes later and we didn't even get wet. We can't believe how great our timing was for this leg! When Sweetfish got home from work, he offered to take us on rides on his motorcycle. Of course, Jett Cat has owned a motorcycle and has her motorcycle license, but it is one of my fears. I haven't been on one since I was a kid. After some encouragement, I decided to just go for it and I survived! The group found my pommel horse mount of the motorcycle entertaining so I had to include it.

I also got to Skype with Rockin' who is section hiking the PCT and was at Shelter Cove in Oregon. Just perfect timing and it was great to see her on the trail. We went to town in the nearby town of Littleton where they have many things to honor the character and author of the children's book Pollyanna. We just had to get a picture of the arms flung wide at the Pollyana statue.

Then we had dinner at Sweetfish and Ninja's favorite Thai restaurant and had a great chocolate dessert to complete a pretty great day...

But the fun didn't stop there, we got to Skype with Burly and LoveNote, who we all hiked with on the CDT. They are now living together with their dog Huckleberry who they rescued at the end of the CDT.

So another pretty perfect day and I'm just really happy. Tired from lack of sleep, but very happy. I just wish there were more hours in the day! I have been having such a great time this past week with Jett Cat that I've been having to stay up much later to blog and haven't gotten to my emailing, so I'm sorry if I haven't gotten back to some of you. It's a big step for me to detach from the blogging enough to focus on others and it's been a work in progress over the last few years/trails. Others who have hiked with me know I tend to be around, but often retreat to my space to get blogging done often at the expense of the social experience. This is a big deal that I've found someone to pull me out of that shell and I know that what makes the AT special is that it's such a social trail, so I'm trying to find a balance with both the social and the blogging. Be proud, I'm growing!

Speaking of social, we are going to have Sweetfish with us these next two days as he has the next two days off work. It will be fun to hike with him again and have him there for some of the most difficult miles on the AT. There are still some days of very slow going over precarious terrain ahead, so our mileages won't be increasing much. We're excited to enter Maine soon and savor these final weeks as we hear Maine is beautiful. Difficult, but beautiful. Good night:)