Wednesday, September 28, 2011

homeward bound!

this will be my last journal entry for quite a while... i decided yesterday, in the midst of a particularly crappy day, that i would end my hike for this year. when i decided last week that we would skip new hampshire and vermont this year, i figured that we would get down to mass and pull consecutive twenty-mile days and be done with our hike in less than two weeks. well... our first full day in mass, we did pull twenty miles. it wasn't too hard, but by the end of that night, i was absolutely exhausted. my feet hurt and i misread my map and i walked a few tenths of a mile in the wrong direction, but there was a completely awesome end to the day in that we stayed at tom levardi's house and he made me the best ice cream sundae ever, complete with fresh peach cubes.

the next day, we had planned on staying at upper goose pond cabin, a pretty nice shelter on the trail, famous for its view, fireplace, and the pancakes that are often served each morning if there is a caretaker on duty. ugp is another 20-mile day from dalton, and we didn't get out of town until at least ten that morning. we had only made it a little over halfway when i decided to stop for the day so i'd have a little bit of sunshine left to cook and wash dishes with. it was pretty disappointing to not be able to pull two twenties in a row, but that night, i looked at my guidebook and planned for a 22-mile day the next day, figuring that we'd balance the big and little days out. 

yesterday dawned and we were out of camp by 730 or so, and things just didn't go as i thought or hoped they would. by 10, we had only done six  r seven miles, which was pretty disappointing. we stopped at a really pretty stream to get more water, clean up, grab a snack, etc. when i grabbed my aqua-mira out of my pack, i noticed that the bottle that part b was in had cracked, and i had no second part to my water purification system. basically, it was useless. i hate aqua-mira and won't ever purchase another set. i will forever stand behind msr's sweetwater drops. <3 so from that point on, if i wanted any water that i didn't feel 100% safe in drinking (such as from a spring, right out of a rock), i was going to have to boil every drop of it. which would have gotten to be quite a pain, considering i drink upwards of 3L a day.

i also discovered during our little break by the stream that my mosquito repellent had run dry. i got one final application out of the bottle, and three hours later, i had sweated off the 100% deet that i had applied and was being eaten alive. the next town with any sort of store was at least two days away, and it was five miles off the trail, which would mean taking an entire day to go walk to get bug spray, or hitching a ride, which i still haven't done and don't feel comfortable doing. 

so yesterday, i stopped on a bridge in the middle of the trail where the moquitoes couldn't get me, and i sat down and had a good cry. i pulled out my guide book and figured that if i bailed out in mass, i could just rent a car and drive down to virginia to pick up the 80 miles that i have left to do there, and then continue south to home. too bad car rentals don't do one-ways out of state?! what the heck?! i called enterprise and they were no use. basically, i was stuck where i was. so i cried some more. then i remembered that some good friends of mine from bristol were visiting their family in maine, and that they were due to drive back south soon. i called them, and it turns out that they are driving back tomorrow. perfect! i bailed off the trail, and i'm getting a shuttle to eastern mass tomorrow morning, and then i'll be bristol bound for some pumpkin soup and awesome friends, and then mississippi bound for catfish and awesome friends! =D

it turns out that yesterday, i was just PMSing. that may be a little bit too much information for y'all, but everything seems 10, and even 100, times worse when you're PMSing. maybe i blew everything out of proportion, but i missed everybody, i was tired, i was hurting, and i was annoyed as hell at the thought of having to boil my water and be a mosquito buffet. i can hike if i have to boil my water. i can hike with bugs. i can even hike through pain (i've done enough of that), but put it all together, and it just gets to be too much sometimes. i didn't come into hiking the AT with the thought that everything would be puppies and kittens and sunshine, but if i'm not enjoying myself, if i'm hating the thing that i'm out here doing, then it's time for me to do something else. 

i saw something painted on a wall in a sandwich shop the other day. it read, "the worst experience is not defeat, but regret." i may not have finished all 2,181 miles of the appalachian trail this year, in one go-round, but i do not regret a single step that i have made on this journey. i don't feel defeated: i will just come back next year and finish what i have not completed. i don't regret stepping off that trail yesterday. it felt wonderful to be able to buy full bottles of actual shampoo and conditioner last night in the grocery store and know that i will be able to keep both bottles after i'd used them once, instead of having to throw them in the hiker box because they're too heavy to carry. i know i will have a hard time adjusting back to the "real world," but some of those things will be welcome.

all in all, i am super thankful for all of my time out here. God has been wonderful to me, y'all have been wonderful to me, and i wouldn't trade these last five months for the world, even if it meant finishing the entire thing in one attempt. sometimes, you have to learn that not completing things doesn't mean you've failed at them. i will take these +/- 1,700 miles proudly. i have met too many people out here that have told me, "you're hiking the whole thing?! alone?! i could never do that!" i also saw painted on a wall the other day, "those that say things are impossible deem them so." 

you can only do what you put your mind to, and next year, i'll put my mind to ~481 miles in the northeast. :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

yesterday around lunch, after i posted my latest entry, swayze and i loaded into janet's (the owner of one of the most awesome campgrounds in the world) van and she drove us to pinkham notch, roughly 15 miles down the road. our plan was to get dropped off at pinkham and then hike northbound back into gorham by today and then wait out the really crappy weather that's going to hit the northeast tomorrow. there was about 20 trail miles we'd have to hike and that section included wildcat mountain, which has i believe four peaks we'd have to summit. we made it a tad bit over one mile into our hike when i decided to bail off the mountain. the first mile was pretty much flat and in that distance, swayze had already thrown a shoe at least six times. i had tried the vetrap and once she started losing her shoes, i even tried the baby socks and gorilla tape and nothing seemed to be working.

so i came to the conclusion, sitting on one of the rock stairs at the base of wildcat mountain, that she would not be able to hike the white mountains of new hampshire. if she can't keep her shoes on, she can't keep her toenails intact. and if her toenails can't stay in shape, she can't hike. i don't have time to fiddle fart around with this brand and that brand of shoes, as far as ordering her a few more pairs and waiting on them to come in and then doing test runs up the mountains. i did some more research last night and i found a few more brands that might work, but as far as ruffwear brand dog boots, caveat emptor.

i have decided that i am going to skip both new hampshire AND vermont this year and come back next year and hike them with my cousin. perhaps by that time, i will have found a pair of boots that will actually do their job and stay on and swayze will either be able to come with me, or maybe i can find a babysitter for a month or two while i complete the trail. so i guess, sadly, i'm not a thru-hiker anymore? =( i suppose i have become a lasher, or long ass section hiker. sometime this week, i am going to either rent a car or find a ride down to massachusetts and complete mass, ct, ny, and my sections in jersey (13 miles), pa (30 miles), and va (80 miles) that i have skipped. all that i will lack after that will be the 3 miles in maine that i didn't get to before we had to bail off the trail last weekend, the 163 miles of nh, and the 150 miles of vt for a total of 316 miles for next year. that'll mean that we'll have done 1,865 miles this year. i will definitely be sad by the fact that i won't get my "2000-miler" this year. but you gotta do whatcha gotta do, and if my dog can't hike, then i can't either.

but we still have hundreds of miles of adventure left, boys and girls, so hang on to your hats and stay along for the ride!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

variables in my new plan a

so i have a very flexible new plan a. swayze and i have been in gorham, nh for the last week waiting for her feet to heal up, relaxing, and gearing up for some damned cold weather. we were planning on hiking a few days ago, but i used that day to walk into town and sort of shop for cold weather gear and whatnot. i swear my clothes bag almost weighs as much as my food bag!

anyways, as i was walking into town that day, a friend that i'd met up here adn the owner of the campground i've been staying at drove by me and pulled over on the side of the road. they said they were going to drive up to mt. washington and wanted to know if i wannted to tag along. eager to scope out the territory that i will soon be hiking, i hopped in the backseat and off we went. however, when we got to the base of the mountain, the park employees informed us that the mountain was closed on top because of inclement weather conditions but that we could still drive halfway up.

the guy who was driving has an altimeter in his car that came out of an old airplane. mt. washington's peak sits at 6,288 feet, the second highest on the entire AT. i've already climbed the highest peak of the AT, so mt. washington should be no big deal, right? wrong. mt. washington boasts that it is the home of the world's worst weather. back in the 1930s, a wind speed of 231 mph was recorded atop mt. washington and held the world record until recently. so by the time we got to roughly 4,200' the other day, the temp was 37 degrees and a ~40 mph wind was hurling snowflakes through the air. i also got the first taste of what rime ice is. google it if you don't know what it is... it's rreally pretty, but i do plan on hiking today so i don't have time to fully explain it. we parked the car in a small parking lot when we got as high as we could and got out of the car. bob forewarned me to hold onto the car door while i opened it because the winds wrre so strong. we lasted maybe five minutes out in that weather. i tried to get my picture taken in the first snow that i've experienced on the AT, but i couldn't hold my eyes open long enough because the snow stung so badly. i lost my balance a few times trying to navigate the few rocks that were on the ground while dealing withthe wind. i've never had to lean into the wind to remain upright. it was quite intimidating.

which i suppose is why i've stayed so long in gorham... it was completely FUN being out in that kind of weather knowing there was the safety and comfort of a car available. but the idea of hikig in those kind of winds scares me. hiking mt. washington will mean i will be above treeline for miles and miles... hours of exposed, windy hiking. i have been checking the weather on mt. washington's website continually since our little escapade and the wind chill hasn't risen above freezing.

if y'all can do anything right now, please pray for an indian summer for new hampshire. i am super worried about having to hike in these conditions. i'm gon' be prayin' like never before these next 50 miles. just pray for good weather, please. :) love y'all and hope to see y'all soon!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

i heart wrenches.

i am currently writing (typing?) from the state of new hampshire!

we have been here in gorham for the last three days, and it's a wonderful little town. there's even a mcdonald's... i haven't seen one of those since millinocket! (not that i'm complaining... it's kind of nice to be so remote at times.) we're taking a break to let swayze's toenails heal up again. :( the granite rock here in maine just SUCKS. she feels fine and wants to play, but every time she starts to run around, her toenails open back up again and her feet start bleeding. i've been keeping her on pain meds and trying to keep her as still as possible. i bought her a rawhide this morning to keep her entertained while she's having her "down time."

i don't know how we're going to solve this problem. i bought her a full set of dog boots and we're having problems with them staying on, so i bought a roll of gorilla tape this morning at wal-mart that will hopefully help. i ran into guiness, a hiker who's got her dog with her as well, the other day on the mountain and she told me that she uses baby socks to help protect her dog's feet, so i'm going to combine the baby sock idea with the dog boots in hopes that the socks will help give the boots something to "grip" to and will keep them on. and by golly, if that doesn't work, i'll just superglue the boots to swayze's feet. :)

i seriously hope it doesn't come to this, but i may have to either send her home or just pull off the trail myself. i would hate to end my journey this close to being done, but if she can't hike, i can't either. =?

other happenings include seeing a moose in the wild, falling down a mountain, feeding feral chipmunks, and completing mahooSUCK notch. :) the moose that i saw was a really big bull moose and it was cool as heck seeing him on the trail. i didn't take a picture because moose tend to blend into pictures, so i just sat there and enjoyed the moment. when i went to move on my way, i startled him and since moose are pretty dumb, the only way he knew to escape was to retrace the route that he'd taken to get to where he was. too bad i was standing right where he'd come from! so here's this umpteen-hundred pound moose running right for me. my eyes got really huge and my heart stopped and my brain stopped and i was thinking, "omg omg omg what do i do? what do i do?" but my legs wouldn't work and i'm not sure i would have ran even if they would have. luckily, when he was about fifteen yards away, he turned north and headed down the AT in the opposite direction. i had to make myself breathe once i couldn't see him anymore and i laughed out loud because of how absolutely scary the situation had been.

falling down the mountain was rough. i've still got a pretty decent set of scrapes and scratches to show off that will probably stay with me for another week or so. i was coming down baldplate mountain the morning after it rained the whole day prior, and i knew it was still slick, so i was trying to be as careful as i could be. but i still managed to stumble over who knows what, and it was a fall that i thought i could run and catch myself on, but i didn't catch myself. so i kept running downhill on this slick rockface. when i realized i was not in a good situation, i yelled out a four-letter word and tried grabbing hold of a charlie brown christmas tree, but it wasn't big enough to stop me. so my brain told me that i should probably wipe myself out before the mountain did the job for me, so i sat on my left side and slid about ten feet and my hiking poles went in opposite directions and i had a big crybaby fit, mainly because i scared myself more than anything. my ankle was the size of a golfball immediately after my fall, so i went into town that night and RICEd (rest, ice, elevation, compression) it and now it's perfect. good. as. new.

i've also decided that the true spelling of the mahoosuc notch should include a K, to be correctly spelled as mahoosucK. it took us SIX HOURS to go one mile in the notch. it specificially says in my guide book that mahoosuc notch is the hardest and/or most fun mile of the AT. there's no and/or about it. it's the hardest and my fun ended about fifteen minutes into it. i kept having to lift swayze up and put her on top of boulders and then take my pack off and go back and help her and help her down a four-foot drop and then lift her up again. this went on and on and on and on. i never thought we would be done. the only good thing about being done with mahoosuc notch is that i've been told by everybody that's hiking with a canine companion that the notch is THE hardest section of the trail when you've got a dog with you. so we have overcome the hardest section in the 2,181 miles. yay us.

oh! anddd... the entire state of vermont is closed due to irene. i won't be able to hike it, so that'll cut out 150 miles of my trip. my thought about vermont is to skip it this year and come back and maybe hike it with my cousin when she thru-hikes next year. :) technically, we'll still be able to be "thru-hikers" since it's not our fault that we can't do that section of the trail. the ATC says so.

so those are my wrenches: swayze and vermont. i love new plan As! 

Friday, September 2, 2011

ah, hiking...

so irene didn't blow us away! we rode out the "storm" with taylor and carolyn in the rv and had a grand ol' time. granted, it rained a lot that day and the wind blew us around a bit, but it wasn't anything horrible. we watched a few movies and played a few games of phase 10 (a pretty fun card game, btw). the day that dawned after irene came through was absolutely gorgeous: hardly a cloud in the sky, sunshiney, and a breeze blew constantly to keep it at a perfect temperature... it even got kind of chilly later on that afternoon.

when taylor drove us back to the trailhead on tuesday, we learned that irene had flooded two rivers pretty close to the trail and one of the rivers had actually washed out two bridges that we had to cross to get back to the point where i was picked up. instead of asking him to take the seventy-plus mile detour, he dropped me off at the base of sugarloaf mountain. it was actually pretty interesting how things panned out from there... there's a ski resort on sugarloaf, and the only way to get to the AT from where he dropped me off was to hike up the ski slope. it was a pretty steep climb in parts: the peak of sugarloaf mountain is one of the highest peaks in maine, second only to mount katahdin, which we climbed a few weeks ago. definitely huffed and puffed to get up that one.

irene didn't have as much of an impact on the trail as i'd imagined she would, but there were a lot of blowdowns (fallen trees) just south of the spaulding mountain shelter. the northbounders were calling it "the mahoosuc notch of blowdowns." mahoosuc notch is known as the slowest mile on the AT because it's basically negotiating your way over, around, and through huge boulders. there have been stories of moose (i still think the plural of this should be mooses) falling into the notch and breaking their legs and, obviously, not being able to get out. sort of speaking of which, we saw a moose skeleton of the trail a week or so back. it was kinda creepy. anyways, swayze and i have mahoosuc notch coming up here pretty soon. i'm looking forward to it, but i know it'll be rough. i met two NOBOs yesterday with their dogs that said mahoosuc notch was harder than the whites for them. we'll see how it goes.

on the bright side of things, i'm running into a lot of my friends that i met down south now! it's kind of weird to think that if i hadn't taken so many 0s, i'd be close to finishing right now. granted, swayze does slow me down a lot, but i still don't think my hiking pace rivals those that i've been seeing these days. i ran back into spice boy, walking home, whistler, and so far... all of those guys, i hadn't seen since damascus. i also ran into moses this morning at a bagel shop here in town. it's so nice seeing familar faces, but it's so bittersweet because you know you'll probably never see these people again. i love the trail family, though. :)

that's really all for now... please keep us in your thoughts and prayers! i heard the temperature up on mount washington a week or so ago was in the upper 30s with a wind chill of 27. that's way too cold for me, so i'ma pray that i get a really nice, good weather week for the whites. once we've got southern maine and the whites out of the way, i won't say the AT will again be a breeze, but i will be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief in knowing that we've done the hardest section of the trail. :)

i miss all of my friends and family back home (all of my homes, btw... you bristolians and charlestonians included) so much! i finally got to talk to natalie, who is expecting her first baby in mid-november. i'm going to really try to be done with the trail in time for her baby shower in mid-october. and i'm looking forward to being home with everybody for mine and my mama's birthdays. love y'all and miss y'all! i want some catfish, dangit! <3