Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Only Perk is Better Weather

-Rangeley, ME-

It's official. It took five months of long days and painful steps, but it's official.

I have walked from Georgia to Maine.

A lot has happened in the past couple weeks, so I'll try and make this brief. I left Rainman's place in Manchester and met up with Fly-By, Hardcore, and Apache, and had an awesome four days with them up to Hanover. It was very tempting to skip some miles after my time off in Hanover and haul ass with them to Katahdin to let the good times roll, but it just didn't work out. They all finished the trail yesterday by the way. In the timeless words of Apache, fuck yeah dude!

I had five awesome days off in Hanover with family and friends and got some much-needed and I think well-deserved R&R from the trail. Got to see Gen's new restaurant, hang out with the Tilley family, go speeding around Little Sunapee in a speed boat, hang out with Jacquie a bunch, see my CITs over at Coniston, enjoy some good Grandma time, and answer all the same questions about the trail to anyone who would ask. Fantastic.

I got back on the trail, hiked 11 miles, and called it a day, not knowing that I would meet my new hiking partner Cloud. I think it's pretty ironic that I traded Rainman for Cloud, and I still joke that at least the weather was getting better. Trust me - I would kill to have Rainman back on the trail right now, but since he's got moves to make north of the border, I'll enjoy the better weather with a clean conscious. The funny thing is, the weather really has gotten better.

We stumbled into the Whites on a week of nothing but clear skies and sunshine. It was as if Mother Nature was saying, "Ahhh, you've been through enough shit on this trip, so I'll let you enjoy this part as much as you can. Have fun!" And boy did we ever. Cloud, a former Croo (that's how they spell it) member of the AMC Huts (Lakes in the Clouds for those who are curious) was looking forward to seeing some old friends he made from the past season, and hopefully, get some good treatment along with it. And since I was riding shotgun with him, he was sure that I could get in on the fun too.

In short, we stayed at 7 of the 8 huts, took zeros at two of them, and were taken on as temporary crew for 4 nights, helping with dishes. We sang Bob Dylan to wake up the guests. We did skits to teach the guests how to fold their blankets. We even got introduced to the guests as crew members. I wore a florescent mumu for two days at the Madison Hut. I put on a skin-tight spider print ski racing suit to dishes at Mizpah. I danced, I sang, I laughed, I played, and I kicked so much ass as a Hut Utility Nomad for the week, I have a couple hutmasters writing me recommendations that I must be put to work next summer. I even had a guest ask me if he could write me a general recommendation for future jobs because of my enthusiasm and general bright character. Yes, thank you, I know. I'm the greatest. And humble too.

Cloud and I took a couple more zeros, fell behind the crew we were hoping to meet up with, and got our asses kicked by Southern Maine. People talk up the Whites as being the toughest part of the trail. No sir. The Whites are beautiful, sure, and steep, yes, and the trail isn't always the smoothest, I get that. Southern Maine is all rock slabs, so their is no hope of decent footing, or boulders, which need to be vaulted over or scrambled under. It's humid at the time because the thick pine traps it all in, so you sweat buckets all day and it's impossible to get dry at night. When there aren't pines, you are exposed to the extreme wind that freezes the sweat in your clothes, so you're only salvation is to dive back under tree line, sliding down slick rock slabs, hoping and praying that a knee or ankle doesn't give out every step you take. And anything that resembles flat? It's either covered in moose shit or is a three-foot deep bog of mud. Fun, I know.

In seriousness, it has been fun. Sure, Maine is tough, but now that the sun has dried some of the puddled rain off, the true beauty has come out. It's one hell of a state.

Here are some highlights:

Mahoosuc Notch - Arguably the hardest mile of the AT and I did it in the pouring rain. Rainman actually warned me before I left to "set off half of my day to do the Notch" (it's bad enough to have moved from being "a notch" to "the Notch"). Thing is, it was the most fun I've had hiking in a while. Monkeying over boulders and squeezing through narrow passages for an hour was an awesome change of pace and made for a great time. It's slow, no doubt, but it's one hell of a mile.

Mahoosuck Arm - Note the change of spelling. This was no fun. One, big, giant rock slab that is as slick as I am. And hiking up it? No fun. One hell of a mile, but not in a good way.

Moody Mountain - Flanked by two notches, the trail goes straight over Moody Mountain, and is an absolute bitch to get over. It sure was moody that day - almost bi-polar.

Pine Ellis Lodge - Fantastic place where we spent a night off the trail in Andover, but their is one fact that you need to know about it. It's run inside the house of Ilene, a very nice old woman, and she has help from her son-in-law David. David gave us the tour of the place and what we were welcome to use. He then showed us that he also sells jewelery he makes in the garage. Thing is, his specialty, and, I'm positive, his monopoly of this particular jewelery niche, is making pieces out of moose shit. You heard right - nuggets of moose shit. There is moose shit earrings, moose shit keychains, and moose shit necklaces with diamonds jammed into them. He would then drop lines like, "Only hikers get to buy my shit," and "This is some of the cleanest shit around," or "Nobody else sells this shit." I can't believe that I was able to hold a relatively straight face when he was explaining his craft. I should just win the World Series of Poker, retire, and live on a yacht, selling lessons of willpower with videos of me keeping it together during this conversation. Amazing.

And now I'm in Rangeley, ME with 216 miles to go. Gotta keep on truckin'!

It's time to finish this trail.

Miss you all.




  1. Congrats bud - you made it through the tough spots, proved your mettle, and are in Maine! Make sure you keep stopping to smell the roses, and resist Katahdin Fever - you'll get there soon enough, and wish you had more miles!

  2. Shit, I posted the first comment all the way at the bottom of the page. Check it out. Damn it.