Friday, August 31, 2012

Three's Definitely a Crowd

When we woke up this morning, we had an unfortunate discovery. A mouse had chewed a pretty good-size hole right through the tent down by our feet. We never heard a thing, but he managed to chew a tiny hole in Keith's food bag, and nibble on his cereal. We have avoided this so far, but this is what happens when you decide it's okay to keep your food in the tent and not hang a bear bag. Luckily, Keith is a wiz at tent patching!

I don't have too many pictures of views today. We had a total of four peaks to climb (three of them over 4000 ft.), and so when we reached the first (Lone Mt.), and you had to take a steep (optional) side trail to the summit, I opted to check out the views from the higher mountains that were yet to come. However, by the time we reached those later in the day, we were in the clouds, and there was no view at all.
Swamprat had texted us, and with things under control back at home, he was back on the trail, and had camped about 6 miles behind us. He would catch up to us when we reach Stratton, our next town.
We packed up, and went up and over Lone Mt., and then Spaulding Mt. We were making such good time, that Keith told me if we kept this up, we'd find ourselves hiking right into town instead of taking an extra day to get there. The trail is so unpredictable in Maine, we had allowed ourselves 3 days to cover the miles from Rangeley to Stratton.
We continued on, at one point passing a plaque commemorating the point where the very last part of the AT was completed. The last two peaks we crossed were Crocker South and Crocker North, and the first one, Crocker South seemed to take forever. I think it is now officially my least favorite mountain of this trip. You could never see the the top as you climbed, and so there was no real obvious destination. Very annoying. Just keep going up, and eventually you'll get there - or at least logic would tell you that! It was the never ending mountain! I FINALLY reached the top, and it was a mile over to the second summit, so not so bad. We knocked that out, and we realized we only had 5 miles to go downhill to town, and it was only 4:00. We decided to go for it. We finally reached the road about 6:50, and it was starting to get dark. We went to the road, and before long another hiker gave us a ride to the White Wolf Inn in Stratton, which we had heard gives thru-hikers rooms at a 50% discount. Keith's parents are also arriving today. We will see them this one last time before we reach Mt.
We ended up hiking 18.7 miles today.

- Steady and F100

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mary Poppins Gets a Ring Ding

Last night, I had no trouble falling asleep, but I woke up about 1 am hearing a man's voice. It kept me awake for a long time. I finally figured out that a TV was on in the room next to ours, which would be the office. I finally figured out it was on the weather channel. It drove me crazy. I kept waking up, and had the hardest time ignoring it. It did not seem to keep Keith awake. There were no phones in the room, or I would have called the office. It was still blaring when our alarm went off this morning. When we left this morning, it was very early, before the office opened, so I left a very polite but informative note for the manager. I wanted them to know that in six months of staying on the trail and in various hotels and hostels, that was the worst night's sleep yet.
We walked down a few buildings to a cute cafe called Moosely Bagels and ordered breakfast. They opened at 6:30, and we were there when the door opened. Swamprat joined us, but did not bring his pack. Things had gotten worse back home, with the hurricane damage, and he just didn't know what he would do yet. He decided to stay put, where he had cell coverage, and catch up to us later. He's a very strong hiker, so we knew he would have no problem doing that.
The couple who gave us the ride yesterday offered to take us to the trail today. They showed up about 7:10, and Maddie stayed with Swamprat while Dave took us to the trail.
We had great trail to begin with, and it was easy to hike fast. We did the first 1.5 miles in 30 minutes. After that. It began steadily climbing. We passed several ponds along the way, but no moose yet.

We would be climbing three peaks today - Saddleback, the Horn, and Saddleback Junior. As we got closer to the first one, all of a sudden the wind really began blowing hard over the top of the mountain. As we got above the free line, it got really cold. The wind had to be blowing 30-40 mph, and the wind chill had to be in the 30's. Brrrrr! We were both in shorts and t-shirts, so we stopped and pulled on long sleeves and hats, and I had some wool socks handy, so I put those on my hands. The sun was out, so that made it comfortable.

(For those of you who might think I wrapped a shirt around my head in this photo - it's not! That's called a buff (, and it has been the most functional piece of clothing that I purchased for this trip. Its basically a tube of stretchy fabric (mine is made of soft merino wool) that's made to be worn like 20 different ways. I've worn mine as a hat, ear muff, headband, turtle neck, and even to cover my nose on really cold nights. If I end up on Survivor, I may even wear it as a tube top!!!!! - NOT!)
Except for the high winds, it was a beautiful day, so we had incredible views. I love sections of trail like the one today, because when we were above the tree line, we could see exactly where the trail went over the next mountain. We could see hikers on the next mountain over, and when we met them, it turned out to be another pre orientation group, this one from Bates College. They were cold too, so we didn't chat long. As long as we were hiking, we were warm.

We sat behind a big rock on the Horn and ate lunch, and Keith discovered one of his socks was missing that had been hanging on his pack. I figured a gust of wind had taken it when we were on Saddleback.

When we reached the final peak, Saddleback, Jr., we had cell service, and we both called our folks and checked in. As we went down that final descent, a hiker named Mary Poppins (he used to carry an umbrella on his pack) caught us, and Keith asked him if he had seen a sock. He said that he had found one way back by the ponds. It turned out to be Keith's missing sock! Keith was thrilled. He thanked him, and Mary Poppins hiked on. He is young and fast!
After he left, Keith realized he was carrying a whole box of Ring Dings (childhood treat - its like a Ding Dong for those of us who grew up in the south) in his pack, and wished he had given him one. We decided that if we caught up to him again, he deserved a Ring Ding as a reward for returning the missing sock.
We had quite a long descent before we would reach our campsite that we hoped to reach. Keith got ahead of me, and I decided to take a quick break, take an Aspirin (my feet were talking to me at this point), pull off my boots, and have a snack. Just as I sat down, along came Mary Poppins. He had taken a break at some point, and we had passed him up without knowing it. I told him that F100 had a reward for him, that it was edible, and chocolate. He hiked on with a big smile on his face, anxious to find Keith.
It wasn't long before he found Keith, and Keith gave Mary Poppins a Ring Ding. Keith said he was very excited to get it.
We ended up at one of the coolest campsites to date, up a steep hill, right beside a waterfall. We even cooked right alongside the stream. Should be a great place to get caught up on sleep after my unfortunate night last night.

- Steady and F100

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hiking into Rangeley, Maine

Last night, we never did see a moose. The wind blew steadily all night, and it dropped into the 40's, which was actually perfect, because our sleeping bags were finally comfortable and not too warm!

At one point, I thought I heard a mouse in our tent! I heard some zip lock bags behind my head that were rustling, and I sat up and dug my headlamp out of my pack, prepared to freak out if I was going to have to somehow get a mouse out of the tent in the middle of the night. I searched and searched, and finally convinced myself that we were mouse-free, and that the wind was just blowing the side of the tent so hard, that it was rustling the plastic bags.

We woke up and packed up quickly, knowing that it was just under 10 miles into Rangeley, and that we had a burger and fries in our near future - and if we hiked fast enough, possibly for lunch!

The trail was kind to us- lots of level, not too much steep uphill, and nice and soft - mostly dirt - mostly NOT rock - yay!

We flew! It didn't hurt that it was probably about 50 degrees the whole time. After 2 hours we found ourselves at Little Swift Pond, and there were three canoes on the bank just for thru-hikers to use. I have no idea how anyone got them here - its in the middle of nowhere! I got in and paddled around. The seat was broken, so the guys opted not to join me. The wind had also picked up and it was getting colder! Not the best time for canoeing, but I was not going to miss out. We had heard the ponds here were shallow and warm, and I felt the water to test it. Sure enough. Nice and warm! The wind was way too cool for swimming though.

We hiked on, and made it to the road to Rangeley by 11:30! A nice man stopped to pick us up. He had hiked the trail when he was just 16. He shared with us that his son and dog had just passed away, and he was out here trying to recover. His name was John, and we tried to comfort him and assured him we'd pray for him. He had just adopted this huge dog named Clyde. He was only 9 months old, but huge! I sat next to Clyde, and by the time we got out, Clyde had laid his head in my lap, and was my newest best friend. I bet he'd love to hike with us.

We had lunch at the Red Onion, which had - wait for it - wait for it - gluten-free pizza!!! I love the northeast! We then split up - the boys hitched a ride with a nice couple who stopped to visit because they saw our packs. He had started the trail a week after us, but had to go home when a good friend died, and then his mom died! Pretty sad stories from both of our Good Samaritans today. They are both in our prayers. He took us all to the laundromat, where I did the laundry and watched the packs while he then took them to the grocery store.

This town is really beautiful. Everything on Main Street backs up to Rangeley Lake. There are sea planes out on the lake. We don't see that everyday. We found a room at the Town & Lake Motel, which is on Rangeley Lake as well. I don't think it's changed since 1955, but because of its location, that's just fine. There's adirondack chairs on the lawn out back - perfect. Sit and relax, and chill, as ducks wander over. There's a full moon over the lake right now - well, over the mountain which is over the lake - so pretty!

We walked down to the hotel from the laundromat. There's nothing like walking with a backpack and carrying stuff in plastic bags to make you appear truly homeless. There's a lot of younger hikers staying at the same hotel, but for some reason they appear much more scraggly than us. Their beards and hair look more like Tom Hanks in Castway - kind of scary, if you don't know they are thru-hikers, I suppose. At least I don't think we look that way. I could be wrong. Haha!

After showers and repacking, and relaxing around the lake, we walked down to Sarge's Pub, because they were having a twin lobster roll special. Both of the guys had that. It looked sooo good! The people in the pub were watching the Patriots play the Giants on TV, and they were yelling loudly at the screen. It was quite entertaining, and it felt good to be in civilization, even if for a short while.

The nice couple who took us to the grocery store and laundromat also offered to take us back to the trail in the morning, so that's one less worry. Right now, I can hear the loons out by the lake- a perfect end to a lovely day.

- Steady and F100

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Camping at Sabbath Day Pond

It ended up raining softly all night last night. We packed up, and hit the trail early, hoping to do as many miles as possible today, so we wouldn't have too many tomorrow, heading into Rangeley, where we will resupply next.
We started off hiking in the clouds, with no views, and occasional light sprinkles. We hiked up a few short roller coasters, and then started hiking across a ridge line that was capped with smooth rock. Even though it was wet, nothing was too slippery.

As the day went on, finally the clouds rose, and we got a nice view of a lake in the distance. Before we knew it, it began raining again, so we quickly hiked down thehill we were going down, sat on the side of the trail, and threw the tent fly over us and our packs. We looked like a couple of kids pretending to be ghosts.
After a while it let up, and we ended up at the bottom of the mountain at a dirt road where the three of us sat and had lunch. We also set up the tent to let it dry out. Swamprat had been on the phone a lot talking to his wife because of the hurricane that's approaching New Orleans, which is near their home. It's been stressful for him to deal with long-distance. It makes it worse that the cell coverage cuts in and out.
We hiked on after lunch, and as we did, the sky cleared, and we could tell the rain had been a cool front it was now windy and about 65 degrees. It felt great! We climbed up to Highway 17, and there was a scenic overlook with a bench overlooking a gorgeous lake.
We hiked past a couple of beautiful lakes, and ended up camping at Sabbath Day Pond Shelter. The pond sits right in front of the shelter. The sound of loons is now becoming a common thin for us to hear. We are also hoping to see moose here. There is scat all around the shelter, and moose tracks everywhere! If we do, I'll snap a picture!

I just returned from our evening moose hunt - no luck, but the moon over the pond was beautiful!

(Camped at Sabbath Day Pond, mile 1954.4, 229.8 miles to go)
- Steady and F100

Monday, August 27, 2012

Moose Tracks

Last night, just before dark, two older ladies hiked in and set up their tents in the space next to ours. One of the women was apparently some kind of expert on camping, and was giving nonstop verbal instruction to the other poor soul. She talked nonstop about every little detail of camping from the time they arrived until well after 9:30 when I finally managed to block her out and fall asleep. And she was not whispering either. Most annoying camper ever. We had a crowded camp, full of thru-hikers, and the only person out for a one-night camp out, claiming to be the expert, managed to annoy the rest of the camp, and keep us all awake.
Our day began with a long downhill, followed by a steep uphill, then another downhill, followed by a very steep 3 mile uphill, which took us to the top of Old Blue Mountain, which Keith liked, because sometimes he calls his truck that. By the time we reached Old Blue, we were really tired. The trail had a little something for everyone - boardwalks, rebar rungs, and ladders.

At one point, we were going through a boggy area on logs, and I saw huge moose track to the side. That's when it occurred to me - moose can't balance well! Theres a herd of them apparently hiking the AT, but when they get to the boardwalks, they always walk in the mud on the side. We can tell they are hiking the AT, because everyday now we see the evidence - scat (that's poop for those of you who don't get into the woods much), and tracks.

We also came upon a really cool little bench that someone had sat right at a beautiful view point. I sat there for a while and admired the view and took a photo. We made camp around 5:30, as rain is moving in tonight. Ahhh - the melody of rain on the tent - sweet dreams everyone!

- Steady and F100

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back to Better Trail

Today we totally enjoyed hiking back on dirt trail. There are still the occasional rocks, and plenty of uphill and downhill, but we are no longer on the steep rock faces that can be quite scary, and make our knees and feet cry "Uncle" by the end of the day.
For the entire day today, we traveled through the woods, passing a really pretty stream with waterfalls at one point. It was perfect timing for our break, so we soaked our feet, and it was icy!
Later, we passed by a really pretty pond, and saw no moose (always looking!), but did catch our first glimpse of autumn. There were bright red leaves on the trees on the far end of the pond.
The weather has been incredibly nice, with no rain. The highs have been in the 70's and lows in the 50's.
We had planned on hiking 15 miles today, because the trail was so nice, but Swamprat has come down with a cold and sore throat, so we stopped early today, right at 10 miles, so he can rest, and hopefully feel better tomorrow. A group of young hikers who were at the White Mountain Inn just arrived at this shelter, and they told us they had all been sick as well, but it only lasted two days.
I did not take too many photos today. We are getting some extra rest, which is always good. We hear the section we will hike tomorrow is really difficult.

(Camped at Hall Mountain Lean-to, mile 1933.3 - 250.9 miles to go!)
- Steady and F100

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Up and Over Bald Plate

We rested really well at the Victoria Inn, and woke up to a really filling breakfast that we had in the very pretty dining room of the Inn. We had eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, fruit salad, and some banana nut bread with chocolate chips in it.
We got to visit with Patti, the innkeeper, even more, and she offered to take us back to the trail, which was especially generous of her, since it was not as close as it usually is when we go in to a town.
We walked a few doors down and bought groceries, and came back and repackaged everything before putting it and the clean laundry back into our backpacks. If you are curious about what my food looks like for five days of hiking, this is it:

From left to right is bags of Chex packaged with powdered milk, corn tortillas and Jif, tuna packets packaged with Thai Kitchen Rice Noodle Bowls, Glutino Cereal Bars, and peanut M&M's. (My food is a bit different from the guys', because mine is gluten-free).
After we packed, we got a ride back to the trail, and on the way, Patti swung us by a BBQ place to pick up a good lunch. We got to the trail head, and the parking lot was full! I guess this section of the trail is quite popular. Also, today is Saturday. Patti gave us all hugs, and wished us well. She needed to get back to the Inn. If you are ever in Bethel, be sure and look her up - her inn is an awesome place to stay! (By the way, Bethel is also home of the World's Tallest Snowoman!)

We sat and ate our lunch with three other thru-hikers in the parking lot . As we sat there, a lady, who had obviously just dayhiked, came back from her car with a blueberry pie, a case of root beer, and a bag of apples. She said she hikes there often, and always brings trail magic. Her name was Misses Moose, because when she hiked, she always missed seeing moose. Clever name!
After the boys finished eating the pie right out of the pie plate (no one had plates or a big knife to cut it, but they all had sporks), we crossed the highway and found a huge AT symbol right on the side of the road.

After taking the required photos, we immediately headed uphill, and continued climbing Baldplate Mountains, both peaks, for several hours. Although it got quite steep, at least it was walkable trail. There was no climbing at all. As we hiked up, we met a lot of dayhikers, and quite a few had questions for us. We were only hiking five miles today, so out time and enjoyed chatting. We passed another pre-orientation trip with Harvard freshmen. We had no idea this pre-orientation backpacking trip was such a popular thing here. Yesterday, just before we left the trail, we had run into another group from Colby College. Another thru-hiker told us he had met a group from Harvard in the Whites.
We reached the top of Bald Plate, and when we started down the other side, had to go all the way down on that same type of steep rock face that we had to climb up yesterday. We just took it very slowly, and it never for so steep that we couldnt stay on our feet. The next mountain was made of steep rock ledges, but they were also so steep,that you almost could not stand. We finally reached the top of that one, and the view was really beautiful from the top. We could see a large lake in the distance.

We then baby-stepped down another steep rock face, and once down the mountain, finally reached beautiful, soft, dirt trail. My feet really miss dirt after walking on rock for so long. We hiked another mile of fairly level, soft trail, to a shelter, where we found a really large, level campsite on a hill high above the shelter. After we for here, many other hikers arrived and set up camp, so we have plenty of neighbors tonight.