Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sketchbook 09.30.02

Trail Journal 09.30.02

DONE!  My AT thru-hike is complete.  Red, Gary and I reached Katahdin Summit at 11:00 AM today after a challenging, three-hour climb.  I wanted to run up to the the sign when it first came into view but was too tired and the terrain too rocky.  But I made it there anyway.  What a moment of relief and joy:  to know that this six-month odyssey is complete!  Of course, it wasn't entirely over on the summit; we still had to climb back down the way we came up which was not easy.  About a mile or so below the summit was a mile or so of boulder hopping and scrambling down a very precipitous slope.  It was hard enough coming up but even trickier going down.  Even after we were below that section, the trail was steep, rocky, and rooty almost all the way to the campground.  So our last day on the AT was as challenging as any.  But it was still fun, especially on the summit.  Now or Never, Dharma, Kali-Frodo, Polish Ninja and Cap'n  were already there.  We took photos, and congratulated each other on completing the hike.  I had not known the last four well but simply being together on Katahdin Summit made them special to me. 

So now it's all over.  I have fulfilled one of my life ambitions.  Now what?  Time to fulfill the other ambitions:  to write, to paint, to explore.  I have asked the spirits for the courage to dream and the confidence to make those dreams come true.  Now I will begin to use those gifts.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Trail Journal 09.29.02

Late, late on a long day.  Hiked 25 miles and are now at the base of Katahdin.  We go up tomorrow.  Got to Abol Bridge--our planned 15 mile day--and decided to push on the extra 10 miles to make sure we'd be able to climb Katahdin.  Tomorrow is a chance of showers; Tuesday and Wednesday are up around 60 percent.  So we walked.  Covered the last 10 miles in 3.5 hours.  Got in after dark.  Too tired to write any more.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Trail Journal 09.28.02

Man, did we ever luck out!  Rain started last night after dinner and kept up all night.  Very hard at times.  By dawn, however, skies were beginning to clear so we were able to head out without the drenching we had feared.  Hiked 15.9 miles to Rainbow Stream Lean-to.  Seven of us are camped here but no one in the shelter.  Got a late start since we couldn't get a boat ride back to the trail till after breakfast so we did not get going until 10:00.  Breakfast was worth the wait, though:  scrambled eggs, bacon, muffins, homefries and blueberry pancakes.  I stuffed myself but not to the point of discomfort (I've learned that one lesson on this hike).  Walking was good.  Weather was partly--sometimes very--cloudy with a steady breeze.  Made for whitecaps and surf at Nahmankata Lake.  Climbed Nesuntabunt Mountain.  It was steep--I worked up a sweat--but short and over quickly.  Saw Katahdin as we came down; the peak was clouded over.  Coming into the shelter we hiked along Rainbow Stream which was running very strong, crashing down its rocky chasm.  Made for a nice end to a long day.  Tomorrow we'll be at Baxter State Park.  Almost done.

Sketchbook 09.28.02

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Trail Journal 09.27.02

In at White House Landing for an overnight.  Easy 6 mile walk on good trail today.  The trail into the landing was a bit rugged but got us here.  Trail ended a boat dock where we sounded an air horn and the owner came across the lake to pick us up.  I'm sharing a cabin with Red and Gary, Loggerhead and Strongfish and a southbound section hiker named Lost in the Woods.  The camp is quite an operation:  it has private rooms, a cabin, bunkhouse and a lodge.  The owners serve good portions of food.  Had an immense burger for lunch and stew with biscuits for dinner.  And just before dinner, Montreal, Kutsa and her father arrived after a 22 mile walk.  Earlier I washed clothes in a laundry tub and used a hand wringer.  Seem to have gotten them clean.  Now they are drying over the wood stove.  It's good to be in under a roof; a big storm is supposed to hit tonight.  We are walking out tomorrow regardless.  Mother Earth and Father Sky, please watch over us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Trail Journal 09.25.02

Another long day--16.3 miles into East Branch Lean-to.  Climbed four peaks along the way:  Gulf Hagas Mountain, West Peak, Hay Mountain and White Cap Mountain.  White Cap was the last big peak (3,650') before Katahdin and gave me my first good view of that peak.  Katahdin is a ridge unto itself, rising out of lowlands.  Only a few small ridges and knobs lie between us and Katahdin now and if the trail and the weather are good, we should fly.  Which reminds me of a thought from yesterday.  We had it easy down south.  Sure, we had to contend with long climbs but not so many as in New England.  And the trail was much better in the south; I didn't have to watch every step like I do here.  Or maybe it wasn't that it wasn't so much that it was easy down south as it is that trail is much harder up here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Trail Journal 09.23.02

Rough day on wet trail.  Had some rain to start so everything was wet and morning walking was tricky.  Had two hard falls that left me with bleeding knees and a bruised cheek.  Nothing that kept me from walking but it sure made me uneasy afterwards.  But I made it to Long Pond Shelter anyway.  Now I'm in the shelter with Rocky Top.  Red and Gary are tenting behind us.  I was too tired to set up my tent. Plus I want to make sure I stay dry, although the sky seems to be clearing now.  Hope so.  Day started out well.  Big breakfast as Shaw's Boarding House in Monson:  2 eggs, 2 pancakes, sausage, bacon and ham plus milk.  Filled me up well for the day's walking.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Trail Journal 09.20.02

After a huge breakfast at Cartunk House, we hit the trail at 8:00 am on an overcast morning.  Gray skies and dark woods.  Pretty easy walking  and good trail.  Had a steep climb up Pleasant Pond Mountain but we did it in good time.  Afternoon was the long drop to Moxie Pond before climbing up to Bald Mountain Brook Shelter where we are actually camping in the shelter for a change.  Big event of the day was sighting two moose--a cow and a very large bull.  Saw the bull first; it was butt up kneeling, probably feeding.  It rose up when it heard us and checked us out as much as we did it.  It was very large with antlers that looked about six feet end to end.  Truly a magnificent beast.  A bit later, the cow loped across the trail and was quickly out of sight.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trail Journal 09.18.02

Sitting on the south bank f the Kennebec River at 2:00 pm waiting for the 3:00 ferry.  River is unpredictable and dangerous so the the Maine AT Club runs a twice a day ferry during the peak hiking season.  Got here around 1:00 after a 7 hour-14 mile walk.  Easy, enjoyable walk:  good trail, minimal climbs.  Something I've not experienced in some time.  Forest was pretty:  reds and yellows still on the trees suffused with morning light.  Red and yellow leaves carpeting the trail.  Pierce Pond Shelter was especially pretty.  It has a view of the pond and mountains on the opposite shore.  Large swaths of the forest there beginning to turn color.  Heard loons calling this morning as I walked past East Carry Pond.  Heard them last night, too.  Walk down from Pierce Pond  follows the stream as it drops forcefully over numerous falls.  Very nice. 

At the river it's sit and wait and chase off the biting flies.  The scene is pleasant (except for the flies):  silver-blue wahter peacefully flowing past, mostly green trees on the opposite bank interspersed with red, orange, yellow, yellow-green.  The far ridge is a mixture of green and less distinct shades of fall color.  The sky is blue with high wind blown clouds.  A good day to sit and observe.

8:00 PM.  Day is done.  The ferryman came right on time and we walked into Caratunk by 3:30 and bailed into the Caratunk Hikers' Inn.  Were able to resupply for the next two days into Monson, get dinner, shower, and laundry.  Even got to sit on the porch and drink beer.  The innkeeper also operates the local restaurant, Moose Crossing, which can be reached via footpath from the inn.  The restaurant is a trailer conveted to a kitchen with outdoor eating under a tarp.  Would fit right in a the Window Rock Swap Meet.  So we are all set to raoll out of here tomorrow for the 30 mile walk to Monson.  Our remaining AT mileage is rapidly dropping--only 150 miles now  Hard to believe after all this time--we left Springer 25 weeks ago today.  This hike is almost over.  Whatever will I do with myself? 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Trail Journal 09.15.02

Pulled in to Stratton, Maine on a wet, wet, wet day.  Had some rain last night but we were able to pack up dry and head up South Crocker Mountain.  Steady climb but not too hard going.  Made the summit in about 45 minutes and North Crocker about 35 minutes later.  Light rain started about the time we approached the north summit.  It looked like it would last so we pulled out parkas for the descent.  And last it did.  Mostly light to moderate as we made the initial steep descent and walked along a ridge.  But when we got to the end of the ridge the rain began falling hard.  Then harder.  Then even harder.  It was the heaviest rain I've seen this entire trip and drenched us thoroughly.  Got to Route 27 and--amazingly--got a ride right off.  Checked into the White Wolf Inn for $23 and got warm and dry.  Now I'm resupplied, most of my gear is dry and I'll be ready to head out tomorrow.  May still be raining in the morning but is supposed to clear in the afternoon.

Today's storm was awesome in its power.  It dominated the landscape, casting a gray mantle over the forest and filling the plants, rocks and earth with water.  Tremendous volumes of water poured from the sky, casting a sheen on all surfaces and turning ht trail int swift flowing streams and expanding ponds.  The power of nature to unleash vast amounts of water diminishes mankind's pretensions and demonstrates that we are simply a part of creation.  We hikers today were simply creatures scurrying for shelter.  And I was scurrying --getting out of that wet was all I could thing about as I came down the trail.  That thought informed and guided my every step.  It worked.  I covered the 7.3 miles in about 3.75 hours, or 1.9 mph, good speed for a wet descent.  I got off the mountain on a wet day with no injuries.  That made for a good day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trail Journal 09.12.02

Beautiful fall day today.  Wind blew the clouds away by mid morning.  the sun came out and we walked down good trail withe fall colors all around us and thick on the trail, too.  Yesterday's storm  nd winds blew a lot of leaves--mostly yellow beech--on to the trail, so we had a colorful walk.  Some maples were mixed in.  Today's winds sent more leaves flying by us  It was all very peaceful. coverd the 9.2 miles to Route 4 in just over four hours and got an immediate ride into Rangely where we resupplied, ate, and I talked to Maggie.   Red and Gary left town ahead of me while I phoned.  Also went to the library to check email.  Very nice small library.  Very nice small town.  Hitched back to the trail and walked to Piazza Rock Shelter in about 40 minutes.  Ate a sub sandwich I brought from town for dinner.  Good end to a good day.

Walkilng is easier now, even when ther terrain is difficult.  I know I;m getting close to the end and will finish.  I can always take that next step.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Trail Journal 09.07.02

Hiked through Mahoosic Notch--"the toughest mile on the AT"--today.  It was slow going over, around and under the large boulders but actually fun.  Even with blazes and arrows, finding the route was a challenge and I enjoyed picking my way through.  Like all the other "dreaded" stretches of trail, Mahoosic Notch succumbed to my willingness to keep moving forward.  The climb out of the notch was harder-a long, steep, straight shot up about 1,500 feet.  Hard going.  Then the tail dropped into Speck Pond and climbed steeply up Grafton Mountain.  On Grafton, I could see all the way to Mount Washington--my last week's worth of hiking--in one expansive view.  Then down, down, down to Grafton Notch and up, up to Baldpate Shelter where I was happy to find water and tent sites.  Unlike last Saturday, there is plentyof space.

I am enjoying the walking more these days.  Maybe it's because I know it will end soon but what ever the reason I'm happy to be here.  Fall is tarting to come to Maine.  'm seeing more and more trees beginning to turn colorr.  Green still dominates but its days are surely numbered. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sketchbook 09.02.02

Trail Journal 09.02.02

I realized today that all the obstacles on the AT ultimately succumb to my ability to take that net step.  The much feared, rugged and challenging White Mountains of New Hampshire are now behind me simply because I kept going.  The trail was hard but I made it through  Maine will be no different.  Today's walk was a good example.  Started out witha 2,000 foot, two mile climb out of Pinkham Notch.  Very slow going bit it still went.  Step by step.  Once up, we were on Wildcat Ridge where we crossed five peaks before dropping into Carter Notch.  Five miles in four hours.  Had lunch at the hut there.  Then had another steep climb to Carter Dome (1,500 feet, 1.2 miles).  All because I can grind out yet another step.  After Zeta Pass I picked up the pace--trail was good and elevation change was minimal--and reached Imp Shelter in just over  two hours for 4.8 miles.  Was one of the few times I actually broke 2 mph in NH.  Day was overcast.  Has a sprinkling of rain in the morning but none since and even had a bit of sun.  Later in the day fog rolled over the ridges but blew right off.  Could see Mounts Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison, swathed in clouds off and on.  Tomorrow:  eight miles to Route 2 and a zero day in Gorham.