Tagged: appalachian trail

It’s Official

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Climbing Katahdin

When you get to the end you expect the mountain Katahdin to be a simple punctuation mark on a long and sometimes painful journey. Once you start up you realize quickly that the climb up is going to be maybe the toughest climb on the entire trail. You start up from a nice comfortable riverfront campsite at the base and enjoy a leisurely but steadily ascending but once you start seriously climbing you realize that you are going to be in for a grueling day. The climb up incorporates elements from many other mountains we encountered along the trail. You can basically put your hiking poles away because your hike begins with a steep hands-on climb up with intermittent boulders lining the way toward what has been described by Spit Walker as a vertical Mahoosuc Notch which basically means that you take perhaps the most technically demanding mile along the AT. As you climb hand over foot up the face of huge boulders you realize you are hanging onto a huge rock for dear life as you look over your shoulder at the steep dropoff into the valley below.

I can not describe the feeling that came over me as I realized I would be taking my final steps. The Katahdin sign represents the culmination of a long, arduous journey that has been quite a drain at times. The relief that I can walk on my own for a while without the aid of white blazes gives me a sense of freedom believe it or not even though I will miss every single aspect of what the trail has to offer.

To make matters a little more perilous I was goaded into heading back down the mountain over the other side on a narrow, jutting, and mounding series of smaller peaks that are known as the Knife Edge. The name alone represents just how dicey the descent can be but since I came up one way (Hunt trail) I figured it would not be a wise idea to start backtracking miles now so I went up and over the peak and down the very ridge that conjured up the very intimidating name.

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Dartmouth boyyyyyy

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After a wonderful visit with family I got on the road to Hanover where I am currently camping out in the woods behind the University soccer fields. Met up with long known northbounder Hot Sauce and cool southbounders Nine Lives.

Started out on Amtrak heading towards a hostel run by the cult known as Twelve Tribes (look them up) in the Rutland, VT area. Paid half price ($10) because they had no more bed space so the couch in the main room suited me just fine. They run a restaurant called the yellow deli and have a place out in the sticks called the main house. I scrambled out before the brain washing could occur. The next stretch to Hanover was a rollercoaster series of ups and downs with very little view to speak of.

The Town of Hanover is a nice mix of hikers, prosperous college students, and the wealthy elderly crowd. Stopped at Anything But Anchovies for the all you can eat pizza and salad ($7) and $2 Sam’s. Cruised to see Vick and his three picks at the Salt Hut Pub. Had our tents set up ahead of time just so we could crawl right in after the game. I may stay in town for a short while and hit up the Indian restaurant I failed to visit my first day here while I watch some more of the mighty Dartmouth football team practice their all-white moves.

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North Carolina

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The end of North Carolina before the Smoky Mountains was very beautiful.

Got our first little bit of trail magic from a cute little hiking troop from Cincinnati who handed us Snickers Bars as we passed by.  They were my early inspiration for drinking water directly from the source as they mentioned drinking directly from a spring at the shelter below and highly recommended it.  I figured if a bunch of little girls from Ohio were tough enough to drink right from the source without treating than I could to.  Right after running into them I found an amazing source at Big Spring Shelter and from here on out it was on.

Big Spring was immediately after a lookout tower atop Albert Mountain which provided amazing 360 degree views.  Continued to Siler Bald where we bypassed the shelter and took the mile long blue blaze trail past the water and up the side trail to the very top where we decided to have dinner and camp.  The view from up here is indescribable  as you can see in any direction for many miles.  The surrounding mountains are uninhabited and completely dark while the lights from Franklin, NC shine on in the distance.  We were expecting rain that night and the clouds started rolling in at around 11pm.  The sky really got dark and the winds howled around me as the brothers hung in their hammocks along the treeline leaving me as the only one fully exposed.  This was not a good feeling being stranded 5200 feet up on an extremely exposed bald.  From the first crack of thunder I closed my eyes and braced myself as fierce winds rocked my little tent to and fro while varying rains pelted me from above.  As I held one side of the tent up a roaring wind would come from the valley on the opposite side and the tent would crash down on me from the force of the wind.  This continued all night.  I would hear the wind begin from miles away on any side and by the time it was upon me it sounded like a freight train bearing down.

April 13

I was very glad to see morning but the next day brought more rains and cold weather.  I hiked in long pants and a rain jacket and got soaked.  I couldn’t even use my gloves any more because they were wet and ice cold.  We were originally trying to get to the Cold Spring shelter but Dutch and the gang had it completely covered so we had to push on an extra 6 grueling miles to Wesser Bald Shelter.  Those were some of the most cold and tiring miles as I really was being pushed to the brink.  When you have a set number of miles in mind and you must push on an extra 6 at your worst possible moment and in the worst possible conditions you are going to be miserable.  And we were.

Hail storm at Muskrat Creek shelter

Early Days on the Trail

Posing with the plaque at Springer Mountain

In the early going along the trail you meet all kinds of people with varying levels of commitment to the completion of the trail. You may not see the most determined individuals but you sure meet some characters. I kind of started in a pack with the group out of the hostel and we all made it a short distance (about 8 miles) to the first shelter (Hawk Mountain Shelter) right out of the gate just to get our legs under us and to get our bearings for the rigors of the terrain. The early portion ran us right along a military training ground and you would hear the rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire and blasts from heavy artillery all through the night. It was a surreal feeling to be out in the woods and basically hear war games going on all around you. I often thought that there were soldiers training their unloaded rifles on unsuspecting thru-hikers as we walked along the trail in order to give them a sense of aiming at moving targets. I kept running into the ‘Fat Boys’ from Georgia who really had no chance at making it but I loved running into them over the first few days. Each time I saw them they would tell me what they were eating. The first night they packed out a lb of ground beef and meatloaf and they were using a portable stove to make biscuits. They next day they were a bit more winded but I bet their packs were a ton lighter. It was them who introduced me to the deliciousness of Oatmeal Cream Pies when I stumbled up to them complaining of my crumbled up poptart. We worked out a transaction right then and there where I traded my Tart for 2 Cream Pies and I think we both walked away extremely satisfied.

Everyone says that the Georgia section of the trail may be the 2nd toughest terrain in that there are a number of tough climbs and just as many descents. Most say that the White Mountains in Vermont are the most challenging but that Georgia really gets you prepared for what to expect. A lot of people drop out early because these first few days are no walk in the park. As you get further along you get much more efficient with your routine but that 1st morning from Hawk Mountain I was out at around 9:30. The shelter must have had around 50 people all around and our little group set up our own little tent city. Early on you pass many river crossings with crisp, cool, clear water flowing and immediately I began flirting with the idea of scrapping the whole idea of treating my water since it is kind of a pain in the ass to either pump or to wait for your chemicals to work themselves out. The water sources all look so nice and inviting but I resisted the urge for the first few days and committed to the cumbersome water filter. I passed a fellow hiker named T-Bone who initially planted the seed of not treating when I saw him amble up to a stream dip his jug in and pull it right out and drink while the rest of us waited on the shore for our respective methods to take effect.

I kept hearing about a storm brewing as I headed to Gooch Shelter which would have made it a shorter day so I was considering pushing on when I saw Spark Plug who mentioned that she was heading on back to the Hiker Hostel since it was technically at about that point on the trail. I decided to push on and walk with her to cover some more ground as the hostel sends out a shuttle everyday to Woody Gap at 5pm for pickups. We ran into Christmas and his family clan along the way to Woody Gap and they mentioned that they were considering getting out of the storm but that the hostel was full. They insisted that Spark Plug and I come back to a cabin that they booked for the night at Blood Mountain Cabins. Since it was day 2 and I already knew the sight of an extremely fortunate occurrance unfolding we took them up on their generous offer so we all went back to the cabin and raided the camp store and had a nice evening in the cabin talking by the fire. They bent over backwards to make us comfortable and they told us to come back the next day at the end since the Blood Mountain Cabins are on the other side of Blood Mountain and near the end of our hiking day the next day as well. Knowing a good thing when it comes up we both agreed and the stay was set for the next day as well. Sure enough just after midnight a violent storm rolled through as Spark Plug slept on the couch and me on the floor and we considered ourselves fortunate for our good luck. The next day we would push up Blood Mountain.

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