Finding My Trail Legs, Just in Time for the Whites
So much has happened since I last wrote. I’m in Caratunk, ME, and I’ve hiked over 550 miles. The honeymoon period has ended but every day is still a new adventure and I continue to meet all sorts of characters.
When I last left off I was still in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It took everything I had to make it through the rest of the Whites. To be honest, that was the first time the word quit entered my mind. But as corny as it sounds, the trail always provides what you need just when you need it most. And in my case, I got my trail legs somewhere around Mount Washington. For those of you that don’t know, getting your trail legs usually happens four to six weeks into a hike when your legs reach a point where you can hike from sunup to sundown. It couldn’t have happened at a better time for me.
Shortly after crossing into Maine you hit Mahoosuc Notch. It’s a Notch (mountain pass) that is filled with glacier-driven boulders the size of cars and trucks. You have to climb through, over and under the boulders. It’s described as the most difficult and fun mile on the entire trail. It’s only one mile long but it took me over three hours to get through it!
A Birthday I Will Never Forget
Yesterday was my 60th birthday, and it turned out to be an amazing day.
After a midafternoon safety meeting I decided to play some Bob Marley music on my cell phone speaker. I rarely play music while hiking but I was feeling a little nostalgic and missing home, so I thought it might help distract me. When the song Kaya came on I started singing along, quite loudly. I was in a zone without a care in the world, drenched in sweat with my head down charging up a hill belting it out!
All of a sudden I heard something and stopped singing and looked up to see three guys dancing and laughing and telling me not to stop singing. So we had an impromptu dance party and it completely lifted my spirits. The trail provides.
But the highlight of my day was when I arrived at the shelter after a 15-mile day. I was hoping for some company and once again the trail provided. Not only was the shelter right on the shore of a gorgeous lake, but I happened to stop for the night at the same shelter as Pappy.
Pappy is 86 years old and is thru-hiking the AT for the second time. He first did it in 1994 and this year he will set a record for being the oldest to complete the AT. Eighty-six years old, it’s remarkable. He’s quite the character and it was an honor to sleep next to him and hear some of his stories. He even sang happy birthday to me and shared his bottle of Hot Damn.
Human Nature Hostel
I’ve stayed at some very cool hostels but my favorite so far was the Human Nature Hostel in Andover, ME.
It just opened this year and it’s a geodesic dome out in the middle of the woods. The inside is gorgeous and the place has a magical vibe. The owner’s name is Yukon and he thru-hiked a couple years ago. He’s an ex-Marine trained in extreme survival techniques and he’s been on Naked and Afraid three times. Quite the character. When he dropped me off back at the trailhead the next morning I realized I forgot my bandana, buff, and a pair of socks. When I mentioned it to Yukon he had it dropped off the next day at the next road crossing and I found it tied to a tree the next day. I’ve also had a water bottle, toiletry bag, and the same buff found on the trail and returned to me by hikers on a couple occasions. It’s a special feeling when a stranger walks up and hands you something you lost.
I’ve lost a ton of weight and six inches off my waist, but hiker hunger has now kicked in and I’m eating nonstop all day so I’m trying like hell not to lose any more weight. It’s kinda fun eating all I can but my backpack weighs a ton when leaving town.
I took a bad fall a couple of weeks ago and almost broke my nose and wound up with a hematoma on my right ass cheek. Other than that I’m about to lose my first toenail; can’t wait.
And finally, a huge shout-out to my amazing friends Ken Faber and Scott Borre. They came out to Maine and spent a week with me.
I can’t begin to tell you what it meant to me and how much I enjoyed the time we had together. We finished our hike a day early so we were able to spend a day on a pontoon boat on Rangeley Lake.
Keep on reading for guest blog appearances from Ken and Scott. My next stop is Monson, ME.
Roots and Rocks, by Ken
So our long-awaited week for Scott and I to meet Mr Maps on the AT finally arrived. We decided on the challenging Rangeley-to-Stratton section. I had naively envisioned packed dirt trails and switchbacks as we climbed through the mountains. Turns out the AT in Maine above about 2,000 feet is mostly tree roots, rocks, boulders, streams, and some muddy dirt in between. Needless to say I was challenged and took some spills (no worries, just scrapes and bruises). But the trail is breathtakingly beautiful. And the hikers you meet on trail (e.g., Zuzu, Small Spoon, Sublime, Shepard, Playboy, Vermont, to name a few) leave you with countless stories.
To my friend Mr Maps, I knew what you are doing would be extremely hard. After this short section hike I have even a greater appreciation for your commitment. Best of luck as you carry on. And to the thru-hikers, thanks for making me feel better by saying “can’t wait to get past the roots and rocks in Maine.”
Meeting up with Paul (Mr Maps) in Maine last week and hiking the AT with him was an experience of a lifetime.
It’s not only the spectacular views atop the gorgeous mountains but the whole experience of meeting the people and getting to know the culture that surrounds the AT. From the hikers themselves to the hostel proprietors and the trail angels.
The hostel proprietors welcome everyone to their establishments and find a way to accommodate everyone’s means, from pay your way to work for stay.
Then you have the trail angels who follow the circuit and provide support to the hikers at the trailheads by providing rides to town or simply handing out drinks and snacks.
Everyone I met was friendly and had a carefree attitude – no stress and no sense of urgency. What a relaxing atmosphere.
For the hike itself it was one of the most challenging, yet self-rewarding, things I’ve done in my life.
Special thanks goes out to Mr. Maps for sharing this great adventure you are on with us. You are an inspiration to us all.
Scott – no trail name as yet. May need to hook up with Mr Maps as a SOBO to get one.
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