The Journey Continues and Maine Looms Ever Closer
I write this latest installment delightfully clean and indoors at the Hikers Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, NH. Yup, that’s right, we’re in our penultimate state – Eeeeeeee!
When we last left you, I was a couple of days away from finishing my course of antibiotics and Buck and I were planning to drive north to join the tramily and continue the journey from there – but that’s not quite how events have turned out.
Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-naaaah Buckman! (Read to the Batman theme tune)
One of the big things that both Buck and I want is to have that Katahdin moment. That moment when we climb to the top of Mount Katahdin and can go, “Yes, we did it babe – this is what the last six months has been about trying to achieve.” Sadly, our plan A wasn’t going to allow us to have that, although we’d be making up the lost miles together, and we’d be reunited with our friends, we wouldn’t get that – but that was all we had, so we were going with it. As we were sitting there trying to work out the logistics of it all at Gilly and Richard’s kitchen table, Buck had a brainwave! (*insert joke about Buck’s lack of brain activity*). Why not just make up my lost miles from the two weeks he continued ahead now, then continue north together where he left off – meaning we both get to finish our trail at the top of Katahdin. Bingo! This all sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? We’d hire a car (soon to be named the Buck-mobile) and Buck would slackpack me through the miles I’d missed (it’s when you only carry your food and water for the day – makes covering the miles a lot easier and quicker). We’ll be back on the trail in no time. The only downside to this was the loss of the tramily, which actually was the biggest con on this new plan. We’ve been with them so long and become so close with them it seemed difficult to even contemplate the trail without them being there too – but as they say, “Hike your own hike,” and so Buck and I had to do what was best for us. So it was decided and the Buck-mobile was hired.
The nine days that I slacked through Culver’s Gap, NJ, to Great Barrington, MA, were so much fun. A great way to ease my trail legs back in and it was fantastic getting to see the landmarks that I saw in the tramily photos while I was off. Actually, one of my favorite campsites and days was had during this time. It was a 21-mile day, Buck had met me at a road crossing for lunch and had packed out a real treat, which I wolfed down, and then we met at the Ten Mile River campsite – which was just breathtaking. We cooked dinner and went and ate it on a little island in the middle of the river and it was just idyllic.
Buck and Robin unite once again
Missed miles made up, and on the trail northbound we go. And what a few days. It was fantastic being back on trail together, and finally I had the confidence in my legs to carry me the miles we needed to go, so all of a sudden the weight on my shoulders to get the miles done each day was lifted and it makes for an even more incredible experience. A wise Stickman once said, “The trail can be separated into thirds. The first third is physical, the second is mental, and the final third is spiritual.” Well, I beg to differ, Stickman. The final third is just plain old fun.
First day back we hiked to Upper Goose Pond Shelter, this incredible little house with bunks that sits on the edge of a beautiful lake and has a caretaker who makes you pancakes in the morning before you set off. Not only were the pancakes a very welcome piece of trail magic, but canoeing is also available at this shelter and we lucked out with a beautiful morning to make the most of it. Who cares if we don’t get in till hiker midnight that night, we’re going out on this lake and making the most of it.
So after a successful morning canoe, we hit the trail only to stop just a few hours later at the Cookie Lady’s house. She on occasion gives out free homemade cookies to thru-hikers, so we thought we’d chance our luck and see if we could snag some. Sadly, she wasn’t there, but her house also sits on a pick your own blueberry farm. So we thought, why the hell not, and went blueberry picking. So much fun. Fruit is a treat when hiking so it was a nice surprise for our day.
Our next few days are filled with joyous little treats like this and it was fabulous.
Vermont: a state of two halves
Before we knew it we were crossing from Massachusetts into Vermont and crossing the 1,600-mile marker. Exciting! Sadly, this excitement lasted all of about an evening. Our first morning that we wake up in Vermont and it’s pouring with rain, and not only does it pour with rain for the rest of the day, but for the next five days. Vermont is sometimes comically referred to as Vermud, but to us it was more Verswamp. Muddy passages that are usually just frustrating, became heartbreaking as they drove us to wade through knee-deep water and up trail that could pass as a reliable stream. It just takes its toll. You’re wet. Your kit is wet. Your feet are just screaming out for a bit of dry. The water brings grit into your shoes and this rubs at your feet, step after step, until they’re rubbed raw. Thankfully, one evening we got to the haven of a motel – of course, that was the one day it didn’t rain.
The elevation starts to pick up in Vermont too, and after having a few states of pretty flat terrain it’s a nice warmup for things to come. We almost lost our climbing legs after hundreds of miles of just dodging rocks, so I welcomed the few testing climbs that Southern Vermont provides, but I’d have loved to have done that with dry feet and the sun shining above me.
Northern Vermont, on the other hand, was absolutely fabulous. The wet spell stopped and even the frequency of muddy patches seemed to have reduced. All of a sudden our days were filled with flat pine needle path (the equivalent of walking on cushy carpet for a few miles), glorious sunshine and albeit tougher, but some rewarding climbs. Yes. Thank you, Vermont, I feel like you’ve successfully taught us not to take the good weather for granted.
New Hampshire – the penultimate state
So from Vermont we move into New Hampshire, and I must admit, it’s all getting a bit real. Our flights home are booked, we’re starting to say things like “when we’re home” and life after the trail isn’t too far away to think about. We sit here about to go into the White Mountains (one of our last big milestones) tomorrow (of course terrible weather is forecast, go figure) and we’ve only got 398 miles to go. I know that sounds a lot, but when you average 110 miles a week, and have been out here for almost five months, that seems not a lot at all.
We’re excited for the Whites, but are very aware of the challenge that they present. Thousands of feet of boulder climbing ascent and the Whites are a small microcosm in themselves, they live by their own rules, and have their own climate that changes on a whim—but we’re excited. Having seen Hedwig and Squid go ahead through them, we can’t believe it’s now our time too.
Fingers crossed for incredible weather (wishful thinking, I know) and we’ll let you know how they go in our next blog. No pressure guys, but we need all your positive thoughts!
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