Wednesday, August 24, 2011

i'm still very much in maine. i finally broke down and ordered swayze a pair of dog boots in hopes of helping with her toenail issue. we picked them up from the post office this morning and then went on a 12-mile hike that wound up testing my nerves a little bit. she kept kicking them off and wanting to lay down instead of hike. she eventually got the hang of it with her front boots, but her back boots are too big and kept falling off on their own. i'm gonna call ruffwear tomorrow morning and see if they won't replace her two back shoes with a smaller size. God bless taylor and carolyn... i've been staying with them in their rv for the past five nights or so while i was waiting for the delivery of the boots. tomorrow morning, they'll drive me back to the trailhead and i'll take the ferry across the kennebec river and we'll hike into stratton, where we'll more than likely get picked up for another stay in the rv while we wait on irene to blow through. she's supposed to hit us sunday night/monday morning and in lieu of spending money for a hotel or taking a zero out on the trail (because the forecast for mon is a high of 65 with an 80% chance of heavy rain), taylor offered us another stay with them. :)

there has been quite a bit of bad news this week on the AT. two hikers have died and while both of their deaths bring sadness, one brings about a particular sense of uneasiness and concern. the first hiker's name was open mike and he was found up here in maine not far from where i'll be hiking in the next couple of days. the original theory of his death was that he fell and hit his head on a rock, but then the autopsy showed that he suffered a heart attack, which then led to him falling and hitting his head. he was hiking alone and no one found him in time. the other hiker to pass is a much sadder story. his name was stonewall and i met him roughly nine miles south of harpers ferry, west virginia. he was sitting on the trail rolling a cigarette and, as is usual when two hikers pass each other, we began talking. he was a southbounder and he loved the civil war; that's how he got his trail name. he said his pack was around 60# and that he wanted a pack that heavy to sort of experience what the soldiers in the civil war experienced. we didn't talk long... maybe ten or fifteen minutes. i gave him my aqua-mira (water purification chemicals) because he said he didn't have any purification method and i was going into town that day so i could get some more. we parted ways, and i learned this week that he is dead and the circumstances surrounding his death have been deemed suspicious and the FBI is investigating this case. he was found somewhere in virginia around roanoke. i heard through the grapevine that he was found half-buried. someone from the appalachian trail conservancy contacted me via facebook the other day because i commented on their link that they posted and they requested that i call the FBI and give them any information regarding stonewall. i can't really tell them much of anything, but calling them is on my to-do list before i hit the trail tomorrow morning. it's just so sad... it's one thing to die doing something you love because of natural causes or because of the inherent risks of the certain activity; it's a completely different thing to have your amazing adventure ended because of something that has nothing to do with you. both hikers died doing something they loved, but i almost feel like open mike's case is a cause for rejoicing, whereas thinking about stonewall brings tears to my eyes. it's so weird to feel the way i do because i only talked to him so briefly, but i find myself thinking as i hike now, "what if you'd just talked to him for ten more minutes? what if you hadn't been in such a rush to get to the post office for that mail drop?" thirty seconds can be the difference between being in the right place at the right time and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. these days, i try and not rush through my meetings on the trail. i hope and pray he his brought justice.

there's really not much else going on... i am almost through the mid-maine section, which means that my new england climbs are about to get serious. i talked to spice boy briefly last night via text. he went over mount washington yesterday and the actual temp was 38 with a wind chill factor of 28ish. what. the. heck. i can't wait to get out of the cold weather area. give this girl some heat! oh... and also let me see a moose.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

swayze and i hiked out of the 100-mile wilderness today and we still haven't seen a moose! we're 115 miles into our hike in maine, and it's been every high and low imaginable. the climb up katahdin was amazing... when we got to maine, the weather was really crappy, so we waited two days so that we could hike in good, warm, sunshiney weather. if i couldn't finish on katahdin, i was going to have sunshine for it, by golly! the climb was awesome... it was an entire-body workout and i could hardly roll out of bed the next morning. there were parts where you had to lift your foot up to your chest and plant it in a rock and pull yourself up on the ledge above your head and there were parts where if you weren't careful, you could have fallen off the mountain and died. the views were 100% amazing and i kept thinking to myself, "what's this mississippi girl doin' all the way up here in maine?" i cried when we hit the top... it's just such an emotional high! the only "downside" to our hike up to katahdin was the fact that by the time we got to the summit, there were at least 30, if not 50, day hikers up there and it was completely crowded. taylor and i both got our pictures by the sign, but all the groups were being so loud. i really wish people would treat katahdin like a library. i wanted to yell, "could y'all please be quiet? i'm trying to have a moment here!" :) if anybody's reading this that hasn't done katahdin yet, i've got two suggestions: get up EARLY, as soon as they post the weather forecast, and hike before the day hikers even wake up, and don't bother with your poles. i didn't use them at all... you can't, really, except on the tableland, but it's flat enough that you don't need them. 

the 100-mile wilderness was... sigh. long. i didn't realize how much "out of shape" i was for that kind of hiking... i think flipping from jersey kind of screwed me for making decent mileage. the last couple of hundred miles that i hiked before i flipped were relatively flat... va, md, pa, nj... with the exception of va, i don't think any of those states have peaks above 2,500', much less the 5,000'+ peak that katahdin is. they tell you to pack in 8-10 days' worth of food for the wilderness, and i took six and a half days' worth. it wasn't enough. i didn't sleep well two nights in a row, so trying to hike when i was pretty worn out wasn't a very good idea, but i didn't have enough food on me, either. the weather was pretty decent the first couple of days in, but a few days ago, rain was forecast with at least a 60% chance, and all i ate that day was probably 400 cals worth of granola for breakfast, then a pack of ritz cheese crackers when i realized my granola wasn't going to get me up the mountain. it started sprinkling around lunchtime, so when we got to a shelter on top of a mountain, i decided swayze and i were going to take a nap and catch up on our sleep and warm up (it's already cold up here!!). we didn't move for the next eighteen hours; we stayed in our sleeping bag until the next morning. that night, i rationed out my food and ate a nature's valley granola bar. my reasoning was that if i didn't hike much that day, i didn't need a lot of food... i ate less than 1,000 calories that day. good thing, too, because all that food i saved myself from eating then really helped me through the 15 miles we did today to get out of the wilderness. it's just really weird how i've been out here for so long, and i'm still not good with figuring out what to eat and when to eat it and how much of it to eat. i honestly thought i had enough food with me when i walked into the woods... and maybe i guess i did, had they been new jersey woods. but they were maine woods. and maine woods are different. 

maine has been good and bad and everything in between already. it's been gorgeous and sunny, but we've gotten a lot of rain, too. and rain makes things so slick and slippery. i've fallen countless times on wet, mossy rock and broken both of my hiking poles that i found on the trail in hot springs! my first register entry in maine (other than the one at katahdin) said, "maine is the place where poles go to die." there are even bogs up here where you can sink pretty deep in some pretty mucky, unrecognizable stuff. they try to place big logs across the bogs that you can step on, but all the moisture in the air eventually weakens the boards over time and they can break. and then you step on them, and they're not as sturdy as they look, and then your foot gets covered  in nasty black stuff. factor in the rain and the cold and muddy feet and slipping and falling into the mix, and it can put you in a pretty foul mood. but the views make up for it when they're there. 

and swayze is beginning to have trouble with her feet. she was absolutely fine in pennsylvania on the rocks, but these rock scrambles in maine have gotten the better of her. thank God it happened today and not three days into the wilderness, but i noticed that two of her toenails have gotten so short that they've started bleeding. her pads are fine; it's just her toenails. :( i don't know what to do about it, so i opened a forum discussion on whiteblaze, where hopefully i'll find some answers here in the next day or two. if anyone reading this has any recommendation, i'm more than open to them. i don't want to have to resort to buying those $65 dog boots because with one misstep into a bog, it could suck them off her feet and that would be money gone, but if that's what i have to do... ? 

we're going to take a 0 tomorrow and i'm going to an AYCE (all you can eat) breakfast at shaw's here in monson.... it's all i've been hearing about from the nobos for the last couple of days, and i'm super excited about it. i guess i should go to bed so i can wake up in time for it... breakfast bell rings at 7:30! 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

there are many ways to thru hike the AT... the traditional way to do it is to start south in georgia and head to maine and be northbound (or a nobo). the less common way to hike the AT iis to be a southbounder and start in maine and head towards georgia. then there's the flip flop and the yo-yo. flipping is hiking a section one way, then skipping ahead and hiking the remainder of the trail in the other direction. yo-yoing is completing the entire trail one way, then turning right back around and hiking it again in the opposite direction.

i have chosen to flip flop and will summit mount katahdin in the next few days, then head south to new york where i left off. i've decided to flip to avoid as much cold weather as possible. my friend joshua who started his thru hike in mid-march will finish his hike today or tomorrow and his weather reports for maine include temps in the 40s on a regular basis in the mornings. i also met a guy yesterday who did the presidential range in the white mountains a few weeks ago and said it was 42 degrees in the morning time. i am not a fan of cold weather and i have no desire to eventually have to hike in and/or pitch my tent in the snow.

i've spent pretty much an entire week off the trail and have turned into a marshmallow. my friends taylor & carolyn picked me up and we spent four or five days at lake champion, a young life camp in southern new york. it's a church camp that targets troubled youth and the program that they have going on is amazing. i was only planning on staying one day but even as an adult guest, i had a ton of fun listening to the messages and participating in the activities (i still suck at rock climbing). the food was amazing, too... everyday, an all you can eat meal that was fit for a king. there was even one morning where the adult guests had the option of waking up early to make the kids' breakfasts. i got to the kitchen @ 630a and was assigned to cooking eggs and by 830, our team of three had cooked more than 700 eggs!!

just as taylor was driving me back to the trail the other night after picking up my new pack, the phone call from joshua came in that made me question whether i wanted to remain on a northbound track. taylor and i had supper at a local pizza place where i had my first slice of NY-style pizza in the actual state of new york. chicken, bacon, ranch and delicious. :) over supper, the decision was made that i'd think my hike out over another night at the RV (tough call there!). in the next twelve hours, i thought and thought and thought about it and decided that i didn't want to hike in the freezing temps later on. also, my cold weather gear is limited, as are my funds for buying more clothes. and finishing in new york would put me that much closer to home, which will make for less gas (and thus less money) to get me where i'll eventually need to be.

so here i am! we're in maine right now and it's cold and rainy but i'm excited about katahdin and i'm really excited about possibly seeing a moose (the one animal left on my "gotta see" list) and we'll see how this all goes in the next few weeks to come. :)