Day 18: Entering the 100 Mile Wilderness

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We woke up early as usual and headed to the main house for breakfast. We walked to the back room and took a seat at an empty table by the windows. As hikers trickled in to eat, we met a hiker named “Over It,” who looked familiar. After he introduced himself, we realized he had come into Cumberland Transit and introduced himself early in the spring. Next to the table came Grizzly, Cold Chill and finally Hawk. We realized that besides Hawk, everyone seated at the table was from Tennessee. We talked about the last section of trail and a few remarks were aimed at us as we were about to head into the one hundred mile wilderness. We tried not to feel cocky or over confident, but the name did not invoke as much fear into us as it did most of the hikers staring it in the face. Most of our sections on the CDT were over one hundred miles. We each tried to imagine these sections with more roots, rocks and rain. It did not seem entirely fun, but we were excited to be heading out into it.

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After Breakfast, we rushed outside to throw our packs into the truck for the shuttle. There was a big group of hikers heading back to trail and we wanted to make sure we were among them. Once everyone loaded up, there ended up being two trucks full of hikers. For the most part, they were all heading south. We were the only ones headed into the 100 Mile Wilderness. As we rode up the winding roads to where trail crossed over, Poet addressed the hikers heading south. He reminded them that the big food carry was behind them. Heading into southern Maine they needed to treat each step like a couple overnight trips, trying carefully not the carry too much. The terrain was hard, but they were capable. His words spoke volumes yet were simple. The southbounders weary eyed from being thrown into the wilderness, most of them were in their first thru-hike, sat quietly in the back. For us, the words felt needed. It was both reassuring and our first reminder that we were thru-hiking and to take each day as it comes.

We all lined up and got a picture before heading to our perspective entrances of trail. Not too far down trail were we greeted by a wooden sign airing us caution on the terrain we were entering. Warning us of the 100 mile stretch. We took a picture of Milo by the sign and continued on. Rollercoaster climbs led us by Little Wilson Falls and through three different fords. As we climbed up on to a granite shelf, the first of the day’s popcorn thunderstorm appeared. We simply got out our umbrellas out not caring too much about the light rain.

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We walked for a couple hours over roller coaster trail, forded a couple streams and even passed waterfall. As we walked across a giant scree field, the sky opened up and began pouring again. We saw a sign marking trail magic 0.2 miles down an old Jeep rode. It was dinner time and we were already thinking about food so we figured why not. We walked up to an old hunting cabin sitting alone in the woods. Scout, Birdman and their big friendly dog, Chasky, welcomes us onto the porch. Birdman started up the grill and asked us what we would like. Hot dogs and hamburger for Garbelly and a heaping plate of grilled veggies and potatoes for Critter. Milo even got some snacks and treats in between playing with Chasky. After dinner, biscuits and strawberries and a large dollop of whip cream on top. Milo and Chasky were having a blast chasing each other around the property. Milo with a little bit more agility and Chasky with more weight to knock around. At one point Chasky walked up to Milo who was sitting at Critter’s side, and starting love biting on the fur around Milo’s neck. Soft little nips to show his affection for his new pal. Milo froze in bewilderment. He has never had this happen to him before. When Chasky finished he wandered off to lay down. We were so lucky- Scout and Birdman were leaving tomorrow to head back to town. Any other day and the cabin would have been empty and the grill cold. Fed and happy, we thanked them profusely and headed back to trail.

We made the climb up Barren, a steep slope with little trail as we followed mud and rocks straight up. We found the perfect tentsite on a flat earth spot just above the Barren Slide, a rocky clearing. Our view from camp was incredible.

We could still see the Bigelows behind us in the distance.

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With the slight chirp of frogs in Lake Onawa down below, everything else was quiet. The sun was setting in front of us. Purples and reds consumed the sky. There was very little human construction as far as our eyes could see. No lights in the distance except for the tail lights of a car winding through the trees. We were tucked away from the wind, but the evening air was still crisp and clean.

Here are a few more photos from the day!


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Day 15: Pleasant Pond Mountain

We woke up pretty comfortably to catch the 7:00 AM breakfast at the Caratunk house. Bob and his German Shepard came out to let us know it was time to eat. Inside we were seated in the kitchen with Paul, a large cast iron stove and a plethora of antique signs and appliances. In the dining room, twelve others sat around marveling over the huge spread of food that Paul had fixed us. As we ate our eggs, potatoes, bacon and French toast, we talked to Paul about life running a hostel. Unlike some hostels, Paul fully refused any help from hikers or other guests staying there. We both asked him why this was the case. He told us he planned on living to be 100 years old and staying busy was key to this. He then let us know he had twenty years left. We were both astonished! He was at least fifteen years older than we would have guessed and moved around like most humans in their prime. 

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Garbelly quickly retorted, “What’s the key to being so healthy at eighty?” 

“Long distance hiking,” Paul exclaimed. 

“That’s good news for us,” Critter replied.

We talked to him more and found out that he did not even start long distance hiking until his early sixties. As he washed dishes we were now jabbing our forks into the French toast. Hikers from the main dining room came in and joined the conversation for a few minutes but then quickly packed up to return to trail. On the other hand, we took our time packing up and were not ready to hike out until around ten. Just as we were about to leave, Milo began barking at two hikers walking towards the house. As Garbelly looked up, he realized it was Rattles and Nomad! He met these two hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail back in 2015. He ran over and gave each of them a hug and we spent the next hour catching up. Knowing they were hungry after just making it to town, we told them we would head out and recommended Paul’s famous milkshakes and pulled pork sandwiches. We picked up our packs and began our walk down the road towards trail.

Rattles and Nomad were currently hiking the Continental Divide Trail, but made it to the San Juan mountains and ran into pretty impassable snow. Because of the high snow levels, they began thinking of ways to let it melt a little bit. This lead them back to the Appalachian Trail. Last year they attempted a fast pack of the trail and made it to the Maine border in around sixty five days. Unfortunately, Rattles got injured in the Mahoosuc mountains and they had to stop their journey in Andover. So the high snow forced them onto a plane to Maine and they caught us in Caratunk.

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We knew they were faster hikers and would catch us before the day was over. We quickly climbed the eight miles up to the summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain and took a forty five minute lunch. We packed our bags up and heard Milo let out a few excited barks at an oncoming southbounder. He then began running up trail south and let a few barks out at an oncoming northbounder. It was Rattles. 

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We then spent the rest of the day scrambling down the mountain, hopping creeks and climbing up towards the Moxie Bald Shelter. We now considered climbing Moxie Bald and camping at a different shelter on the other side of the mountain. However, a few minutes before getting to the shelter, the sky opened up and we quickly decided it was better to camp sooner. When we got to the shelter, we were greeted by three older men who appeared to be ready to get to sleep. We assumed we would be setting up our tents in the rain tonight.

“We can make room for all four of you if you want to sleep here tonight,” one of the men exclaimed as he packed his food into a roll-top stuff sack.

“Well we have a dog, so we do not mind setting up our tents,” Critter replied.

All three men let us know they did not have a problem with dogs and kindly began moving their things aside. Before we knew it, we were all friends laughing and telling stories in the shelter. The three men were retired teachers from Knoxville Tennessee and were about to finish up a section hike they had started almost thirty years ago. The men were comprised of Storm Buzzard, Cold Chill and Grizzly. We continued to tell stories as we are our dinner and then crawled into our sleeping bags as the air around us became darker.

A voice in the dark asked us, “do any of y’all snore?”

We all replied that we did not.

“Well we all do,” he said and they all laughed a bit. 

Rattles and Garbelly got out their earplugs and we went to sleep. 

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Day 12: The Bigelows & The Leapfrog Cafe

We were in no rush to make it back to trail. We waited until check out time to pack up and head out to the road to start hitching. Excited about hitching this time because we were on the proper side of the road with a proper pull off, we stuck our thumbs out. Milo, well rested, sat up beside us. Many many cars passed us. Some waved. Some didn't. Some just shook their heads. We would see a Subaru or truck that looked like a sure bet. We would smile, and they would drive by without even slowing down. Finally, a car pulled over just as the late morning sun began to get hot. We threw our packs in the back and climbed in.

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Today was Father’s Day and the gentleman that picked us up had just taken himself fishing. We talked fishing all the way up to the trail crossing. He dropped us off on the side of the road and wished us luck. As we walked down the road to trail, a man waved us over from the gravel parking lot. We walked up to see a whole area set up with a table for cooking food, a hand washing station and lawn chairs. “Welcome to Fresh Ground’s LeapFrog Cafe!” the man exclaimed. He told us to put our packs down and asked if we wanted a grilled cheese or hot dogs. We nodded yes. He said, “All you have to do is wash your hands.” We walked over to the first table and dunked our hands in a tub of bleach and then rinsed them off under a spigot extending from a 5 gallon bucket. The man introduced himself as Fresh Grounds, and he had been on the road for 5 months cooking for hikers from Georgia to Maine.

He was setting up a camp stove. He sat out a plate of watermelon and a plastic bin of chips and cookies. He made hot dogs and hamburgers and a grilled cheese for Critter. Milo even got a hamburger and some cheese.

Fresh Grounds threw potato wedges in a fryer. They were ready when they puffed up, he noted. He was from North Carolina and had a soft southern drawl. We watched him move around stirring the French fries, flipping the burgers, turning the hot dogs and welcoming new hikers, who had just walked up, to the feast. His moves appear choreographed. Five years of perfecting his efficiency. “My job is to love you and feed you. With no hidden agenda.”

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The grilled cheese was as unique as it was delicious. He put the shredded cheddar directly on the skillet with the bread on top. He didn't close it until the cheese was well cooked and crispy in the edges. When we asked, he just said he had gotten tired of the cheese not being fully melted by the time the bread was ready. “One for now. One for later,” he exclaimed as he handed Critter a plate and grabbed a bag for the second one.

“This setup is yours so use it as you see fit!”

Fresh Grounds had setup here in anticipation of running into a particular thru hiker. Hawk, we would come to find out, was finishing up his third thru hike of the Appalachian Trail and planning on turning around at Katahdin and hiking south, a yo-yo hike.

Fresh Grounds had made a special burger just for Hawk, and like clock work, Hawk emerged from the trail head with a big smile on his face.

More hikers were walking up as we decided to start back up trail. We were full of food and each had a ziplock with another grilled cheese and burger for later.

Hitting the 2000 mile sign as a SOBO is more overwhelming than exciting.

Hitting the 2000 mile sign as a SOBO is more overwhelming than exciting.

The trail was easy of the highway before starting to climb. We had a view of Horn Lake and the Horn, which we were about to head up next. After climbing the South Horn, we ran into two couples southbounding. We stood and talked a moment, each of us wearing our head nets and moving our legs in place as to keep the mosquitoes off. Soon we all get worn out and couldn't handle the amount of swarming mosquitoes so we said goodbye and hopefully we met them again down trail. We didn't say this often to hikers we passed, but the times we did, we really meant it. It was tough passing hikers that would be fun to hike with especially when they were heading in the direction we would eventually be heading in. We didn't fit into a trail family. We weren't northbounders yet we were heading north and we weren't southbounders yet we would be eventually.

Soft trail gradually became rocky until we were stepping boulder to boulder following cairns over the granite bald of Bigelow. The weather was absolutely perfect. We had the peaks to ourselves. The sun was starting to go down but we still had a few hours till sunset. The greens of the lichen on the granite and the rich purples of the shadows were vibrant with the softer light that blanketed everything around us.

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We had a short and sweet climb up to Avery peak. We stood on top admiring much of the same as we had on the previous peak. This all was perfect. This was one of our favorite climbs yet and such a good end to the day. We climbed down to Safford Notch campsite. Big boulders framed trail and there were many little caves and rock houses among them.

Milo took off after a red squirrel, surprisingly the first time since being on trail. Pissed off, the squirrel climbed a tree just above eye level with us and starting barking so consistently and aggressively, Milo didn't know what to do but stand there and smile. The squirrel barked even as Critter passed by. Milo was content. Somehow it had seemed he accomplished something.

At camp, we enjoyed our packed out town food, and eventually went to sleep as the sun was already down.

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Day 11: The Crockers into Stratton

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Morning by the creek was cold and damp. Garbelly woke up just as the sun threatened to come over the horizon. He yawned and then reached down and removed the sock on his left foot. Expecting the worse, he saw some dark purple bruising but was able to move it back and forth without much trouble. We moved slowly to pick up camp. It was earlier than we usually were up, motivated to get to town. Once we made the final moves to leave, a low grumbly growl came from Milo. Two women dressed in T-shirts, pants and snow gaiters came walking up. To each other they chatted in French but to us they asked which car was ours down in the parking lot. We replied with “none of them.” They were headed up the Crockers but were currently heading the wrong way. We showed them on our maps and together we headed back to the white blazes.

The climb up the first Crocker was immediate, our sleepy state jarred alert by our heart rate bringing to wake up. We crossed over areas of land slide where we jumped rock to rock moving quickly to trick our balance.

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We descended down to the saddle before climbing up the second Crocker, a less intimidating climb having taken care of most of the elevation gain from camp. Then we began our long descent down to the highway. We passed an alarming amount of Southbounders plus a number of day hikers.

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Trail shot us out at a trailhead and from there we began to hitch. This place was difficult because there was not an adequate shoulder on the side from which we needed to hitch. So we stood sticking our thumbs out on the side with the pull off, making eye contact with the cars heading in the right direction. It took about an hour before a car heading in the right direction finally stopped to pick us up. We had plenty of offers just headed into Carabassett Valley instead of Stratton.

A guy named Chris finally picked us up and dropped us off next to Frotters Market. We grabbed lunch at the White Wolf Inn, voted high on Garbelly’s burger list and Critter’s veggie burger list. We also had the specialty side, fried frons.

Next we began our walk to the Spillover Motel. Town miles are the hardest, and after our stay in Stratton, Critter would rack up an additional 5 miles from walking back a forth to purchase resupply from Frotter’s and do laundry.

Milo and a Garbelly were on strict rest orders.

When Milo finally woke up in need of going outside, we headed out back of the motel. Out of nowhere came running up a few chickens. They took a liking to Milo and followed him around as he marked his spots.

For dinner, we walked to Backstraps for pizza. And we saw the guy whom recommended it to us when we were in Rangeley. We also saw a handful of southbounders hut by the time we were done the streets were quiet. We walked back to the motel and went quickly to bed.

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Day 9: Saddleback Mountain to Popular Ridge Lean To

Falling asleep and waking up here felt like a dream. Before our eyes could even open, as darkness still lay awake in our minds, pure tranquility kept us still. The blanket we slept under was heavy, yet comforting on our worn out bodies. No other sounds broke the steadiness of the stream. Our eyes fluttered awake, bringing to our attention the sun, whose light slowly seeped in through the lace curtains. Our little hut, just big enough for a full sized bed, two wooden chairs and a small bed side table on which sat a oil lamp, was perfect but hard to leave.

We started packing up our things, and we straightened and cleaned up the space preparing it for the next lucky hikers. We walked away from the hut by the river, looking one last time at the sign that hung on the front, “to the poets n’ pilgrims and lovers n’ seekers...” Sometimes when you leave a place on trail, there is a feeling that you will be back at some point. We both had this feeling.

Steve made Garbelly a fried egg and cheese sandwich and had tea and coffee laid out as well as his sister’s delicious coffee cake. Critter was allowed to make her own sandwich, being the picky one and all. And together the three of us just sat watching Milo get in a little bit more sleep before heading out.

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While on trail impressions are often short and sweet, but also there are a handful that pack such an impactful punch of generosity and kindness that it makes our hearts beat. Our brief time with Steve was not dull or lifeless, even though we heard briefly about his story. Spending the summer here at the Hiker Hut taking care of hikers is followed by him spending the second half of the year in India fully immersing himself in their communities. Money for the Hiker Hut goes to these communities in India. And while he has only been running the hut for 8 years he has been going to India for 23 years. He treats every visitor to the hut as if they are cold, tired and hungry. He doesn't ask a lot of questions and he doesn't expect a lot outside of respect and kindness.

As a parting gift he offered us a necklace with the AT logo on it, that his friends make in India. In a way this gift felt needed. We haven't quite felt like we belong on trail yet, but now with a token of the trail in hand, we carried the trail with us. Thank you Steve for the most appropriate and important gift.

If everything he had done for us wasn't enough, he also took us to trail so we didn't have to walk the highway with Milo.

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The hike from highway was nice and well graded. We stopped at a pond, which is more like a lake. And Garbelly and Milo got into a tin boat and paddled around. Rain was moving in. We could feel it in the wind. We started to pick up our pace. As soon as we left tree line, it started to rain sideways and the cold wind picked up. Hail was pelting our faces. We moved as quickly as we could over the top. Clouds were moving in and reduced the mountains around us to shadows against the pale gray sky.

We descended and the climbed back up the Horn. More fog set in illuminating the white blazes in front us. Leading us cairn to cairn. Climbing down the Horn was slippery and dangerous because of the wet rock. We took our time but tried to move efficiently. We stopped for a quick break in between two peaks on a saddle sheltered from the wind and rain by thick trees. A blueberry picking trail. That sounded nice and sunny. A stark contrast to now.

Next up was Saddleback Junior. Climbing down This final peak was the worst of them yet. Wet rock and eroded trail led to very slow moving. The rain had picked up, and the temperature was dropping. Our rain gear began to soak through and the wind pierced our skin. Critters rain pants completely ripped once again, regardless of taping them in town. We were cold, dangerously cold. We passed by H2No and told him we would save him a dry spot in the shelter.

We made it to shelter just in time for the rain to pick up even more. Sitting and staring at the rain we sat numb for a few minutes, longer than we thought, before taking off our wet clothes and hanging them up to dry. We had made it to the shelter by 4pm, too early to stop on any other day, but tonight this was where we would stay. Out of the rain and cold. This shelter was the last place Inchworm, a thru-hiker from Tennessee, had been seen before going missing in 2013. An In Memoriam photo of her in a bright red fleece with a giant smile that wrinkled the corner her eyes, hung in the shelter. The photo had been taken right outside this shelter.

We set up our spot by the time H2No showed up. He did the same by shedding his wet layers and crawling into his sleeping bag.

Milo seemed chilled so we had him all wrapped up in our sleeping bags and jackets. And he was fast asleep.

For the rest of the night, we shared stories with each other as the rain fell on the tin roof. H2No is a great storyteller, sharing stories from his childhood, Hurricane Irma and his beloved and feisty mother.

Our voices slowed to a whisper and we wished each other a good nights sleep. The rain had stopped but the wind shook the water off the trees all night long

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Day 8: Sabbath Day Shelter to The Hiker Hut

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We both woke up at 5:30 to H2No grabbing his backpack which sent Milo into a low belly growl. We had already been awake, but it gave us the motivation to start packing up. As always we twisted the valves of our sleeping pads open and listened to the air spew out. This, like clockwork, was followed by heavy sighs and scurrying to get everything packed to get back on trail. 

The morning hiking was easy compared to the mountains we had just faced and we ended up hiking ten miles in under four hours. Our speed increased after seeing that we were right on the tails of a couple moose. Also because today was a town day. Even Milo had a pep in his step. On some days we crave the mountains and want to keep hiking without stopping, but today’s town day was very welcomed. We had a box of food for us and Milo. Part of our Nashville pit crew, Jess and Jarrod had also sent our non-leaky tent to Rangeley. Plus town day means we were about to eat a ton of real food.

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We heard about an off the grid hostel just a quarter mile from the trail called The Hiker Hut. We hugged the shoulder of the road as logging trucks rolled by, walking swiftly up the highway.

Tucked off the road and out of sight, sat the most wonderful little huts circled around a fire pit, garden beds, a picnic table and grassy emptiness. A brook babbled on the outside edge of the property and a certain peace reached from tree to tree.

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A fit, white haired gentleman dressed in off-white pants and thermal top greeted us. Steve ran the Hiker Hut and has been who Garbelly has spoken with when we made the reservation. He invited us over to the picnic table and offered us complimentary Gatorade and chips and salsa. He filled up a bowl of water for Milo. A similarly aged woman popped her head out of a hut that read ‘Summa Ira’. She asked if we baked and then asked for Critter’s opinion on subbing out a 9 inch bundt pan for a 2 inch sheet. Not quite the same but better than nothing. She was baking a coffee cake, and that alone made our mouths water.

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Steve showed us the outdoor shower and allowed us to pick out which but we wanted to stay in. Aside from the bunkhouse, the biggest structure on the property there were 3 private huts. One four-walled hut sat next to the bunkhouse and another much smaller hut sat diagonally across the lawn from it. The third hut was tucked up the gravel road down a small trail ending at the stream. As we walked up to it, a sign read “to a poet n pilgrim and lovers n seekers”.

Instead of a fourth wall on the backside, facing the stream, curtains draped down from the frame. “This one,” Critter whispered. We put our packs and sat them down in the hut and started pulling out our dirty laundry and starting our shower rounds.

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The shower was located down a trail marked by a pink birdhouse. A privacy wall blocked off the shower but the rest was open up to the stream. You filled the water bucket up with water from the stream and the gas tank heated it as water rained down over you. The perfect shower for us would had taken residence back up in the dirt of trail.

After our showers, we loaded up in Steve’s minivan and just as we were about to leave H2No showed up and hoped in to head to town with us. Milo was allowed to stay so that he could keep napping in the sun.

Critter fixing a rip in her rain pants.

Critter fixing a rip in her rain pants.

We had about 3 hours to take care of our town chores so after we were dropped off we headed straight to the post office. There we picked up our boxes of resupply food and boxed up our tent to send back to Zpacks. Next we headed to Sarges for lunch and to charge our electronics. We joined H2No at the bar and ordered so food. The pub food was tasty while much more expensive than we anticipated. Critter ran over to the library to print a return form for our tent. The library was made out of river stones and absolutely beautiful and quaint on the inside. After we finished eating, we packed up our electronics and headed over to the Ecopelagicon.

We sat on the porch of the Ecopelagicon for a little bit before grabbing some ice cream and meeting back up with Steve. After a quick stop at the grocery store, we headed back to the Hiker Hut. When we got out of the car, it took a few calls for Milo to bring out to where we stood. His head poked out from behind our hut and when he saw us he came running up, tail wagging. Single barks escaped his excitement. He ran up to each one of us before sitting for a treat that I had picked up for him in town.

When we spoke to Mary, Steve’s sister, she said that he disappeared while we were gone only to be found laying on our things in the hut. He must have sniffed our smell out and stayed with it as to know we would return.

He was happy now that we were back. And we were happy to be back with him. He was especially happy when we met Chippy and Ratty Tail two of the resident chipmunks. Milo sat in amazement watching them run around the yard.

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Garbelly chopped wood, and Steve started a fire in the fire pit. H2No and Steve headed to town to watch the final game of the Stanley Cup, and we sat around the fire until it got dark. Then headed to bed. We laid in bed as the light from the oil lamp bounced on the ceiling. Milo slumped into a deep sleep, and his snores and the bubbling stream were the only sounds coming from our hut

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Bunkhouse at The Hiker Hut

Bunkhouse at The Hiker Hut


Day 7: Old Blue to Sabbath Day Pond

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Waking up, we heard the gentle tapping of rain turn into heavy rapping on the roof of our dyneema mobile home. Garbelly looked down at his watch and hit the light button. The watch read “01:30.” The rain and heavy wind had started hours before the weather forecast had predicted. It initially was supposed to start around eight. There was a shelter exactly seven miles from our stealth camp. The original plan was to wake up at four and hammer out as many miles as we could to get to the shelter for lunch before the hardest part of the rain had started. This plan had obviously fallen apart now as we both lay awake to the jarring noise of each drop hitting our tent. This loud tap was instantly followed by a small spray of mist as the drop hit the fibers of our shelter and became divided so finely it had to have been just shy of molecular division. This mist and cold air along with the sounds of the storm made sleep tough. Garbelly laid awake on his pad until sunrise, but critter stayed tucked deep inside her down den. 

“Hey Critter let’s get going,” Garbelly whispered.

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It was now only six o’clock, but the rain had slowed to a sprinkle and it was the perfect chance to pack up our gear. After about thirty minutes, we were folding up our waterlogged tent as large drops continued to fall from the pine bows. We headed up Old Blue Mountain as the sprinkle returned to a downpour. We pulled out our umbrellas, but they had little effect due to the small new growth pines washing us from head to toe as we walked by them. 

Shortly after the summit, we ran into our first true SOBOs, Jon and Bottoms Up. He let us know that after the shelter, there was a huge dead bobcat laying by the trail. We assumed it was a lynx, but never ended up seeing it on trail. 

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After leaving these hikers, the rain picked up dramatically and we put our heads down and hiked harder. The trail consisted of long rotten boardwalks and more steep slick granite slides. Out of nowhere, we heard a dog scream twice.. Some hikers dog must be hurt. Or maybe it is a coyote. Then both of our hearts sank. Milo was nowhere in sight. He had been walking beside us the entire time and we had not seen him leave our side but yet he was gone. Garbelly threw down his umbrella and trekking pole and took off running through the mud somehow not falling in the process. Milo was two hundred feet back and had gotten his rain jacket caught on a broken pine tree and was stuck. Surprisingly he was absolutely calm and not afraid. His yip was not a cry of pain, it was a cry for one of us to help him out. We were slightly shaken from this and made Milo lead the way so we would not lose sight of him again.

We arrived to the Bemis Mountain Shelter for lunch and immediately got out of our wet clothes and attempted to hang them up to dry. We slowly ate our lunch due to the lack of dexterity in our cold fingers. Every task became harder, including those of Milo’s. Before we knew it, almost two hours had gone by and we knew we needed to head back into the rain.

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The descent from Bemis Mountain in the rain was easily one of the most difficult obstacles we have encountered so far. We both endured a couple hard falls and both cursed the trail. On a dry day it might even be fun, but today, the rock was dangerous. However, half way down, the rain turned to mist and then we saw the clouds raise higher in the sky. We were now left walking a river trail in the cold, but thankfully the rain had ceased. 

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At the bottom of the trail we saw something that raised our spirits high into the sky. Our first trail magic. It was a styrofoam cooler filled with kit kats and ginger ale.  We somehow instantly forgot how terrible the descent had been and now only focused on the five miles remaining to the Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to. Fortunately, they flew by. 

As we took the side trail up to the shelter, Milo let out a bark of excitement. There was another hiker at the shelter, a very friendly hiker named H2No. He was excited to see a dog as we were excited to be allowed to sleep in the shelter with Milo. We were happy to be distracted by good conversation as we cooked our dinner and set up everything in our backpacks to dry out in the shelter. 

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Day 5 & 6: Zero Day and East B Hill Rd to Below Old Blue’s Summit

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Mentally we were not ready for a zero day but physically we knew one would not hurt. We did not have huge miles coming into Andover but the quality of the miles made this zero day worth it. Milo needed it to. Even though physically he seemed ready to keep going, he seemed tuckered out after the Mahoosuc Range. We could tell because he was starting to get grumpy when other people were around. We woke up in the backyard of the Little Red Hen, and as much as we wanted to stay there for the day, with the delicious food and hiker area, we knew we would not be able to get anything done with all the bugs.

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We found the number for a hostel in town, The Cabin, that allowed dogs, and we gave them a call. Don, the son of the hostel owner, let us know that they had room and that he could come pick us up at 11. We took turns sitting inside of the Little Red Hen eating breakfast. When 11, rolled around Don showed up and let us load up in his minivan. From there we headed to the Cabin, where we ended up sitting around for the rest of the day. Around dinner time, Don offered to run into town to pick up some food for us. He also showed us around pointing out some photos of Earl Shaffer, the AT’s first thru-hiker, and various pieces of art made by previous hikers.

We went to sleep fairly early in the bunk room. Milo was snoring before we even got into bed.

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The next morning we ran by the post office and headed back to trail. Don dropped us off at the crossing of East B Hill Road. And up we climbed. Trail was soft with pine needles and only a few rocks. The sun coming through the canopy made small splatters of light on the forest floor, the empty space still hidden in the shadows cast down by the leaves. Our climb up Wyman Mountain was gradual. The air was hot and humid.

We stopped for lunch at Hall Mountain Lean-To before a steep slick downhill to a stream. Giant frogs would move on trail causing us to hesitate for a second before registering what and where it had moved.

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Our climb up Moody Mountain was long. The steepness took on many shapes, from large stone steps to rebar bolted into giant slabs of granite. It seemed as if we were just heading straight up, and when we had an occasional view of the valley below, it was confirmed that we were.

Once we reached the top, we were greeted with a 360 view of trees, and then we headed downhill, yet again. Another steep and slick climb down, slowing us down as we payed attention to each step. Each slipping and falling a couple of times but nothing injured just sped our heart rate up a bit. At the bottom of the climb, we were met by another stream where Milo swam and Garbelly filtered water. The black flies were so bad that we didn't sit still for long, and Critter finally caved in and grabbed fro the bug head net.

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Our climb up Old Blue was simpler, yet we were terrorized by bugs. We found a stealth site below the summit and set up our tent on a clear mossy patch. Rain was coming and we wanted to get settled in before it started. Tomorrow rain was predicted until the afternoon, but we were out here and there wasn't much we could do but keep hiking.

Our campsite was not completely flat but we made it work. Our morales were heightened over a tasty dinner of Forever Young Mac & Cheese and Lentils and Kale Pilaf with tortillas.

The bugs had died down, but the wind had picked up. We crawled into our tent, which was still expected to leak once it started raining.

And a very whimsical bird song sang us to sleep

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Day 2: Gentian Pond to Full Goose Shelter

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The rain that started as we hopped into bed lasted well into the morning. The more it rained the more it began to seep through our tent. Drops of rain would hit the tent sending a drop of moisture flying onto our faces. We know that condensation collects inside this kind of tent but there was just too much water coming this time. Every time a drop would drop, Garbelly would turn his headlamp on and look around. While Milo did not seem to mind too much, the two of us were guaranteed a terrible night’s sleep.

Finally as it began to lighten up outside, we were both awake enough to start making plans on packing up. It was 5:45am, the rain sprinkling now. Our camp neighbors began to sing once again. We begrudgingly starting packing our things, everything was soaked. Our down sleeping bags felt like heavy sacks of cooked oatmeal. “Welcome to the Appalachian Trail,” we both exclaimed.

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It stopped raining as we climbed up, but the trees continued to drip on us. Pine branches weighed down by water brushed us like the mitters of an automatic car wash. As we reached the summit of Mt. Success a fog surrounded us. We threw our rain jackets on and started across the boggy granite trail. This barren mountain felt like another world.

We hiked down wet muddy trail. Taking care with each step. Right before we got to the Maine border, we hit small patches of snow along a mossy corridor. Beams of sunlight shot through the trees, the temperature felt 20 degrees colder here.

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From the border, we saw Tarzan one last time and wished him luck on the rest of his hiking! Critters foot slipped into an ankle deep big right when we took our border photo.

We began our climb up the three peaks of Goose Eye. We had steep uphills with ladders and low key rock climbing. Milo scooted right up. Jump from rock to rock, he loved getting to the top first and then looking down at us, tongue hanging out. Places where the rock faces became too steep to scramble up, the trail builders had placed rebar rungs into the rock. We helped Milo up a couple of the sections, but as he impatiently waited on us a third time, he leaped strait up a sheer rock face leaving our jaws hanging. He did not need us as much as we thought he did. Every now and then, when he knew the trail had more that he could chew off alone, he would wait on us to hoist him up or carry him down the many wooden ladders. 

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The climb down Goose Eye was a tough descent. Muddy trails made it even hairier. We used trees and roots to lower ourselves with a little more control. This section was extremely slow going due to the wet steep rock and demanded everything the rubber soles of our shoes had to offer. 

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We ended staying in the Full Goose Shelter when the sound of getting to camp early sounded better than the alternative. We looked over our maps to weigh our options. There would only be three trail miles to the next campsite. However, one of those miles was the Mahoosuc Notch. This is notoriously the “longest mile of the AT.” We decided to stay in the shelter and save up energy for the next day. We laid out our gear to dry on a platform while we made some dinner. We slept in the shelter which was inhabited by a single section hiker headed south.

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