Day 23: Katahdin and the Knife’s Edge

public.jpeg

Summit day had arrived. The Birches campsite lay quiet and still in the shadows of the dawn light. We were exhausted, nervous, energized and a little disoriented all wrapped up in the neat package of our regenerated trail selves. We were thru-hiking; we were thru-hikers. We stood at the bottom of a pinnacle of the Appalachian Trail, yet this was neither the beginning nor the end for us. However, it still felt surreal. This was a big day. We packed up our packs which had our gear and a days worth of snacks and water, so they were pretty light. And we did what we did every day, we started hiking.

public.jpeg

A fog sat heavy over trail, and we couldn't see the sky. We had heard weather was moving in during the day so we wanted to get up as quick and as early as we could to miss it. Trail led us through the campground where very little stirred. We were the only ones up and ready from the look of it. So we followed the white blazes into the corridor of conifers and rock. Trail didn't start to climb right away. We knew that the climbing would come. We had 4000 feet of climbing and as the mileage ticked down, we knew that the elevation would come. A bridge led us across Katahdin stream and then just like that we started climbing. Large boulders decorated trail. Tree line grew shorter and the trees began to be more worn down by the wind. Clouds still surrounded us but as the trail climbed up and up, we began to emerge. We emerged from the darkness; we emerged into the light. We emerged as the same; we emerged as different. We were above the clouds felling the euphoria pump through our veins. We put out poles away and took to the earth with our hands. In the distance, the rounded top of Owl Peak poked up from the milky white clouds. The sun was still cast behind the silhouette of Katahdin. We climbed and climbed pushing ourselves forward and pulling ourselves up. Trusting small foot holds with our weight and the rubber of our shoes. Following the white blazes up and up towards the top of Hunts Peak. This was the steepest part of the climb. We were practically rock climbing. Hand over hand.

public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg

As the large boulders became a field of smaller boulders we climbed up and over to the Gateway. Trail followed the ridge line through the alpine. Thin rope and signs kept all

foot traffic to a narrow path. While it is hardy, the alpine is fragile. Enduring relentless exposure to the sun, wind and cold is an adaptable trait. Withstanding the scruff of boots, however, is not. One more push upwards and the sign came into view. The Sign. The sign that reads ‘Katahdin The Northern Terminus of The Appalachian Trail’. We have seen many friends stand on top of the wooden step celebrating success and strength. Today we would to the sign celebrating our own journey. The sun was out but clouds still stretched below as far as the eye could see. There were only a few day hikers up top. The wind was low. The sun warm. It was perfect. Our weather window was too good not to go down the Knife Edge. With the little service we had, we called Wild Bill to let him know that we would now be coming out at Roaring Brook Campground. And then it was time.

public.jpeg

As we dropped below Katahdin’s peak clouds rolled over covering the trail behind us. In front of us, our path was clear yet trail itself was camouflaged against the rocks. The bends in the ridge lay as organically as a piece of yard dropped on the ground. The sheerness of the cliffs on either side left the serpentine line snaking through the clouds. We followed the blue blazes up and down, a rollercoaster of rock. Cautious footing was food by maintaining momentum, which seems counterintuitive. We moved graciously, trusting our bodies to keep us up right and stable. We used our hands to propel us along. In some parts trail wound around rock and sometimes trail went up and over rocks. We heard a crack followed by a crash as rocks broke off and went tumbling down. We weren't in the line of danger but the sound made our hearts stop nonetheless. In the final part of the ridge before climbing up to Pamola Peak, we down climbed to a small saddle. The footing was tricky so we lowered ourselves carefully. We had the upper hand when we climbed up the other side. It's always a little easier climbing up rather than going down. This was the most technical part. We trusted our hands and our feet as we moved vertically on the rock.

public.jpeg

At the signs for Pamola, we headed down the Helon-Taylor trail towards Roaring Brook. Trail was rocky and steep the entire way. Pamola behind us disappeared behind heavy clouds. We stayed just in front, our eyes on the speck of blue. Our knees were burning and achy. It seemed like trail went on forever, yet we moved without stopping or slowing. Once the rocky trail became soft pine, we almost hit a run. We were so close to seeing Wild Bill. And the excitement hit us hard. When trail hit the bank of Roaring Brook, it made a hard right turn down level trail. We walked up to a campground and then a parking lot. And just like that our day in the mountains had come to an end. Our feet were sore from the rocks and our knees stiff. That's when we saw a small black car with a Wild Bill shaped shadow in the drivers seat. His hand waved out of the window. We jumped in and drove over to pick up Milo from Katahdin Kritters. He seemed well-rested and happy to be back with the pack. Next up, Portland, Maine. We caught up with Wild Bill during the four hour car ride. He had now been a part of all three hikes for Garbelly.

public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg

Day 21: Antlers to Rainbow Spring

Just as the mosquitoes had chased us into camp, when morning came they were there to chase us out. We moved quickly, covered in our rain gear even though it wasn't raining. But the early morning heated up sweating us out of our protective layers. We were tired. We longed for silence and the privilege of standing still. We were also hungry and running low on snacks. Having to conserve snacks and have low morale is a recipe for disaster. So we longed for trail magic like we never have before.

IMG_7058.JPG
IMG_7083.JPG

Milo met Kirra, a southbound thru pup. She was beautiful. He was excited for her company and her owner even shared a few treats with him. There haven’t been a whole lot of other dogs out here and especially not friendly ones. Kirra was sweet and as excited to see us as we were to see her. We talked awhile with her owner before we both decided it was time to keep pushing. We said goodbye and that we hoped to run into them again down trail! They had southern Maine in front of them and we had Katahdin.

We kept hiking and realized we were getting close to White House Landing, a hiker friendly cabin that acts as both a resupply, meals and overnight stay for hikers. Signs hung on the trunk of trees noting the side trail to the lake. At the end of the trail supposedly was a dock where you radioed White House Landing to come pick you up and they would arrive with a boat to take you to the cabin. Since we weren’t staying the night, we decided to continue on. We almost could not believe how “grown up” we felt by turning down a chance at real food and choosing to stick to our original plan.

IMG_7067.JPG

Trail was steady and we were able to move quickly but we had little motivation. We had no exciting snacks waiting for us at lunch. We had no places we could stop and enjoy a quick break. And worst of all it was hot. The sticky kind of hot. We also were out of bug spray. As we neared a gravel road, we saw people sitting at a campsite with a stacked picnic table.

“Garbelly and Critter!” They yelled before we had a chance to recognize the group. It was Tom, Marie and Zeb from Monson.

We walked over fully taking in all the snacks they had spread out on the table.

“Go ahead help yourselves!”

IMG_7145.JPG

It was just what we needed. We grabbed some snacks and a cold soda each. We chatted with them for a little bit before we realized we had stayed for over an hour. With plenty of miles left, we said our goodbyes, even if it was a bit of a Garbelly Goodbye. Trail led us around Nahmantka lake and up Nesuntabunt Mountain. On the other side we took off cruising down and then up towards Rainbow Spring our stopping point for the night.

IMG_7138.JPG

The shelter was right on trail, but since it was full, we decided to set up our tent, which we did most nights. We were starting to run into more and more people. Camp each night was beginning to become crowded.

We set up our tent on a pine needle bed. As we made dinner, the lightest rain started to fall. It rained all night but it was soothing and cooled everything down. The buzz of the mosquitoes even fell to a whisper.

IMG_7131.JPG
IMG_7124.JPG

Day 20: White Cap & The Mosquito Marathon

public.jpeg

We left our small clearing that had provided us privacy for the night and began our climb up Gulf Hagas Mountain. Darkness still hung in the trees. The white bush tail of a deer flashed out of the corner of our eyes as it quickly disappeared into the shadows of dawn. This first peak was wooded and so was the next and the next. We climbed up and over West Peak and Hay Mountain. Beginning finally on our final ascent over White Cap. We exited the trees to find the summit post held up by a pile of rocks. A small side trail led us to an overlook on the other side of a patch of trees. Katahdin stood in the distance. Nothing around even compared and instead felt

public.jpeg
public.jpeg

like the mountains became rolling hills bowing to the greatness of Katahdin. We were so close. We stumbled over rocks back up to the summit post where trail followed a path on the other side, out of view of the North. We ducked down below tree line heading back into conifers and patchy sunlight.

For the most part that was our final climb of the 100 Mile. With some peaks like Nesuntabunt and Little Boardman, the rest of the walking would be a breeze. But then came the mosquitoes. First there was one then there were many. They seemed to be following us. We each had our own cloud of dense buzzing. Milo even had one. We sought an easy solution. Walk faster we thought, simple. So we did. Our hands swung behind us as we picked up our pace. With each swing of the hand, we both could feel the wall of mosquitoes still trailing behind us. Don't mosquitoes only go 1.5mph? We were going at least 3. Were we running into new groups of them? But we could see the cloud stay as the other walked ahead. They were large and meaty mosquitoes, too. The ones that you can hear crunch when you press them between your fingers. They bit us through our clothes. Our hands turned black from mushing them. Critter had black streaks down her shirt sleeves where she slapped at them. Milo tried to bury himself in leaves. The three of us broke into a run. Fortunately, the terrain had leveled out quite a bit.

public.jpeg
public.jpeg

Our goal was Antlers Campground on lower Jo-Mary Lake. A handful of people had told us that it was the best camp site on the whole AT. Someone even mentioned that there weren't that many mosquitoes. To us, it sounded like heaven. So we ran. The day was getting late and our twenty-seven mile day was coming to a close, but we couldn't stop. The mosquitoes were still tapping at our skin. We jump on the side trail that took us over to camp. With the buzzing close behind, we threw down our bags and starting setting up the tent. Critter was completely covered at this point, head net, rain jacket and rain pants. While they were still swarming her, she finally had a little bit of relief. Garbelly and Milo on the other hand did not. So they jumped into the tent first as Critter finished setting up the rain fly and moving the thrown packs closer to the tent’s doors. Meanwhile, Garbelly tried to kill all the mosquitoes that had made it inside when he got in. Some bursted with blood which was now splattered on the olive walls, other laid lifeless in a pile of little bodies. When Critter got inside, another round happened and the body count heightened. When nothing else buzzed inside the tent we sat there in exhaustion. Thousands surrounded the mesh of our tent. We couldn't hear anything over the hum of the low pitch buzz. We had envisioned a relaxing evening by the lake but we had instead been thrown into a fly-ridden hell. We felt defeated. We stayed in our tent until it was completely dark out. We had to get water and get to sleep. The buzzing still beat at the walls and doors. Garbelly jumped out and took off on a full sprint to the lake. After killing the bugs that had made it in, Critter followed. But when she came to a stop, there wasn't buzzing or the needle pricks of the mosquitoes mouth. Instead there was quiet and stillness. The stars were out and the Milky Way painted across the sky. The lake reflected the brightest stars, and the small horizon of silhouetted trees was the only distinction of where the lake stopped and the sky started. They were entirely one. Made of the same fibers. True darkness rest on the lake. Our mosquito worn hearts immediately filled. We wanted to remember this feeling forever, so we stood at the waters edge, eyes wide, afraid to even blink.

public.jpeg
public.jpeg

Back at our tent the mosquitoes were still swarming. We jumped in for the final time, hunting down all of the ones that made it inside. Our tent became still. We became still. Darkness fell on us, and the buzzing drifted us off to sleep.

Day 18: Entering the 100 Mile Wilderness

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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!


public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg

Day 17: Zero in Monson

Day 17: Zero Day at Shaw’s

public.jpeg

Shaw’s breakfast is one of those things you hear about way before you arrive. Whether your are headed North or South. You sign up on a sheet the day before, which was already 14 names deep by the time we added our names to the list. Three tables were set up, one in the large kitchen and two in the dining room. Everyone sat around filling up all three tables while Poet, Hippie Chick and crew ran around taking orders. Orange juice and water sat on the table. The eggs cooked to order were piled on a plate with bacon and the home-fried potatoes, which were crispy on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside. Once everyone had a plate, the fluffiest blueberry pancakes began to be passed around.

public.jpeg

As the food started to taper off and hikers started to disperse from the tables, Poet brought out a large plate of blueberry pancakes stacked like a cairn.

After breakfast, we started running errands. Zero days for us tend to never be relaxing. We went to the post office, organized our food for the next section, said goodbye to Rattles and Nomad and went by the Appalachian Trail Visitors Center.

We picked out a few things at Poet’s Gear Emporium such as a small Buff for Milo and some more bug spray. Hippie Chick had to step away for a few minutes allowing us to answer a few questions for some backpackers about stove fuel.

We even gave two southbound hikers a shake-down, helping them cut down more on their pack weight.

For dinner we walked down to the Lakeshore House again, but this time with Hawk, the yoyo hiker we had met near Stratton. We joked about him getting a triple crown made from roots and rocks since he was just over a hundred miles away from finishing the trail for the third time.

As the sun set over Hebron Lake, our rest day came to an end, far too soon.

public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg

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. 

public.jpeg
public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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. 

public.jpeg
public.jpeg

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. 

public.jpeg

Day 11: The Crockers into Stratton

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

Day 8: Sabbath Day Shelter to The Hiker Hut

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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

public.jpeg


Bunkhouse at The Hiker Hut

Bunkhouse at The Hiker Hut


Day 7: Old Blue to Sabbath Day Pond

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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. 

public.jpeg

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.

public.jpeg

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. 

public.jpeg

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. 

public.jpeg

Day 2: Gentian Pond to Full Goose Shelter

FullSizeRender.jpg

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.

IMAGE.JPG

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.

IMG_2258.JPG
IMG_2254.JPG

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. 

IMG_2217.JPG

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. 

IMG_2494.JPG
IMG_2229.JPG

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.

IMG_2232.JPG
IMG_2199.JPG