Monson To Gorham: Banjo Tunes, Rock Scrambling and Lean-To Liquor Parties

       Well the title says most of it. Oh yeah, there is some hiking and nice scenery in there too of course. Since my last update I have walked 183 miles through Maine and I write to you now from Gorham, New Hampshire. The name Gorham sounds like it should be straight out of a Tolkien novel so everytime you say it, it has to be said in some kind of sinister way, or your best Gandalf impersonation. Anyways, that’s where I am, Gorham. Maine is behind me and the White Mountains are in front of me. I have so much to say about these passed couple weeks. I can’t say it all, but i can say a bit. I’ve made new friends, played alot of tunes, walked alot of land, and chilled out on top of alot of mountain peaks. I will do my best to give you a good quick run down.

A Day In The Life

Hikers wake up early. I am usually awake by around 6am. My hammock tent is extremely comfortable and opens by a velcro slit from the bottom. It’s like I birth myself out every morning (Picture Ace Ventura exiting the mechanical Rhino’s butt). I always stay at shelters but I never sleep in them. I prefer the personal space of my hammock over being crammed between snoring and farting hikers. I mean I stink and fart too, but I don’t mind my own fragrance.

I eat breakfast and start walking. I prefer to walk alone. I don’t like having someone on my tail and I don’t like trying to keep up with someone. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life. The mileage varies between 8 and 14 miles a day depending on the terrain. I usually get to a shelter or campsite in the evening. I set up my hammock and build a fire every night. I seem to be the fire starter guy. After dinner I pick the banjo until bedtime. It’s a nice routine.

Once we decided instead of hiking a 15 mile day, we should grab a bottle of whiskey and hike 4 and have a party at the lean to. It was great until the end of the night. I thought I screwed the cap on the bottle and put it in my bag. But the cap was just sitting on the bottle. It fell off and all my shit got soaked in whiskey. So I smelled of whiskey and B-O for the next few days. Lesson learned, always finish the bottle.

Embracing This Lack Of Solitude

I learned quickly that hiking the AT is more of a social life and a sub-culture than a solo journey through the wilderness. This trail is busy!

I am ok with this though. I’ve been hiking with a good bunch of fellas lately. Stretch, Flatlander, Mojo, and White Walker. The first three are from Florida, and White Walker is from Conneticuit. We all seem to be on the same page with this journey. We have a similar philosophy. We don’t guage the success of our day by how many miles we walked. When you do that you forget to stop and enjoy your time on this trail. Especially in Maine. The terrain is tough and the scenery is unbelievable. My average daily milage right now is only 10 miles. Not because we suck, but because we chill. We stop at the mountain peaks, talk about life, like why we’re here and what we believe, we enjoy the views, goof around, sing songs and make stupid jokes. Then we go to town, drink beer, indulge in pub food and take a zero. I’m not working, I’m on vacation. Solitude is good, but I enjoy these people.

Enjoying a few pints with the fellas. (From the back- Flatlander, Stretch, White Walker, myself, and Mojo.

Enjoying a few pints with the fellas. (From the back- Flatlander, Stretch, White Walker, Clawhammer, and Mojo.

 

Folks Actually Like The Banjo!

Bringing the banjo has been the best decision so far. People seem to get stoked every time I bust it out. Sure it’s a little heavier, and makes shit lobsided sometimes on my pack, but if I didn’t bring it, I would regret it everyday. I play it everyday and the reception has been amazing! Hikers are the best audience. Sometimes I am just background music picking fiddle tunes without lyrics, and sometimes everyone quiets down to listen to a sad old Hank Williams song or Woody Guthrie ballad. One night at a campsite I played Corin Raymond’s “Take Me To The Mountain But Not Yet”. A long conversation followed about what the lyrics meant. Everyone had their own similar interpretation. Music is a powerful language.

Overall, I feel I am taking on a role as an ambassabor of Canadian folk music on this trail. As a representitave of Nimblefingers Bluegrass and Old Time Music Workshop, and the Pacific Bluegrass and Heritage Society, I play those bluegrass and old timey tunes that originate from the very mountains I’m walking through, but I also feel a duty to share the folk art that comes from my homeland. I play old classics by Stompin’ Tom but I play new stuff too like “Old Fort Mac”. I am also playing tunes written by close friends of mine like Tereza Tomek, Kiernan Anderson, and Sarah Jane Scouten, the people who are dear to me and deserve to be heard by the world. It’s a great feeling to have a bunch of hikers singing along to a song one of your best friends wrote. I don’t usually write songs myself, but ideas are definitely brewing.

Playing tunes on top of Bigelow Mountain

Playing tunes on top of Bigelow Mountain


The Last Day In Maine

It was probably the hardest day yet. The terrain was tough. We started with the infamous Mahoosuc Notch in which we took our time. It’s basically a mile of bouldering and crawling through tunnels. Stretch was a day ahead of us and White Walker was gone for a wedding. It was me, Flatlander, Mojo, and Mojo’s best bud, East, a very friendly and well trained husky/lab mix who got delivered to him in Rangeley by his parents.

East

East

East made it through the Mahoosuc Notch like a champ but it was a little too much for him. It took us 3.5 hours to get through this mile of the trail. There was alot of teamwork of passing him from boulder to boulder. It’s not easy for a dog to navigate up some of these steep rocky slopes. He had to leave the trail to rest up but Mojo is hoping to have him back after the White Mountains when the terrain is a little more forgiving. In the end, we crossed the state line and got to the shelter. It took 14 hours to go 12 miles that day.

Mt. Washington has been in my sight for over a week now

Mt. Washington has been in my sight for over a week now


Next Up are the White Mountains. I will be going up Mt. Washington in the next couple days.

Stay tuned … Unless you’re a banjo player, in that case just do your best. Bye for now.

– Clawhammer


 

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Comments 4

  • Avatar
    Rocky Horror : Jun 29th

    Yeah buddy! Nothing better then the soft sounds of your picking after a hard day on the trail.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Ashley Schellhase : Jun 29th

    We briefly met in the beginning of the hike! I’m excited to see you’re still going! I’ll be back out there in 3 week. Resting a knee injury. PS- tell Mojo I said hi!! I miss his guts. And dark humor. -Pringles

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jean Guitare : Jun 30th

    Hey Clawhammer. Great to hear your unique brand of humour coming through your writing. I bet a song could come from that tent birthing image!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Bugabear : Jun 30th

    Glad all is well. White Walker and Tesla are crossing the border today (Thurs 6/30). All the best in the White Mountains!

    ~W.W.’s sister

    Reply

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