Day 21 – Gorham

Today we had about  a 7 mile hike to get into town. The crows woke us up at 6 but we got up after 7 and on the trail by 7:40. Of course 7 miles and 2000 ft down to town elevation didn’t mean we didn’t start the day off with two ~500ft climbs first! It was a bit weird to be able to see town from up high around 6 miles away before dropping down. We hit the road around 10:30 then the AT actually followed the road to the highway so we had a bit of road walking (very unusual on the AT!). We had been advised to stay at the White Mountain Lodge and Hostel which is literally on the trail instead of hitching the 8 miles or so into town. I (Megan) had had a new watch sent there since I drowned mine during a rain day before Stratton, so now even if I have no idea where I am other than “on the AT” (Ryley carries the maps and I for the most part prefer to be kept in the dark since knowing whether we’re climbing 3 mountains or 4 doesn’t really seem to make any difference to me, it’s mostly just depressing), I’ll at least know what time it is! Also, I’d sent Jaimie the address on the off chance she might send me mail and she DID! It was amazing to arrive to real snail mail in town :)
The hostel is amazingly clean, the owner is super nice, their dog has already had 3 naps on my lap, we watched a movie, ate a pizza and a salad (I tried to order salad but all I could find was Ceasars salad, i.e. bagged romaine lettuce…).

OK many of you don’t know this but Clara Hughes is hiking the AT northbound right now (trail name Red Feather), and with the help of Jaimie I’ve been following her progress. She started in the winter and has had to leave and come back to the trail several times for work, but she is in the Whites of New Hampshire right now and I found out this morning only about 20-30 miles from us! I’ve been looking forward to running into her and meeting her since we started, but with us considering a slack pack or a day off in Gorham I was worried I’d miss her. So, my 15 year old self jumped out today and as I was telling the hostel owner, Marni, about her, Marni offered me a whiteboard and markers to make her a sign to see as she walked into Gorham, complete with promises of free Ben and Jerry’s for any Olympic Medallists! Very dorky, but I’m OK with that.

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We heard she will be slack packing the same route as us tomorrow and staying at the hostel tomorrow night, so, I’ll get to meet her sometime tomorrow! Very cool!

Random side note – there is a scale complete with bioelectrical impedance fat % measurement at this hostel (which I’m very sceptical about). When I accidentally plugged in I was a ‘normal male” it said I weigh 137 lbs. When I figured out the settings and said I was a “female athlete” it said I was 142.5 lbs. So with that knowledge and the owner saying it often reads 5lbs too heavy…who knows. But, I have a hard time believing I’ve gained weight after almost 3 weeks of hiking, even if I did eat half a pizza and half a pint of ice cream several hours before I weighed myself…

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Day 20

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Crossed into New Hampshire!

We slept in a bit late, but got to hiking at a semi-respectable 9:10. We were feeling the effects of yesterday though, and it was very slow going til lunch. We crossed into New Hampshire mid-morning, one state down, 13 to go!  We made it 6 miles by 1:30, and called a stop near the top of Mt Success, which turned out to be our best lunch spot yet.   Great views, a perfect rock backrest, and enough wind to keep the bugs off.  We lingered as long as possible but pushed off and quickly piled up some miles, leaving us with a reasonably short hike to town tomorrow.

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Lunch views

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Day 19 – Mahoosuc Notch

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Climbing in the Notch

We woke up early today due to rain starting and our neighbours leaving.  We climbed Baldpate in driving rain, and after we summited and were descending, we actually had rain being blow up the mountain at us. It was gross and kind of sharp! and we got very wet. Fortunately, once we got below the trees, things calmed down and we had a nice stroll down to Grafton Notch.  There, I used a picnic table to perform surgery on my trekking pole and replace its tip. Then, I found some delicious trail magic in the form of a cooler full of Cokes!

I powered up Old Speck on that soda, then the trail started to get ugly. It was very wet and slippery coming down and I fell pretty badly, deeply gashing my shin, which it turns out doesn’t bleed much, but does look pretty gross.  This was the worst section of trail yet, and it soon got worse as we entered the Mahoosuc Notch, which has a justified reputation as the hardest mile on the trail.  We climbed over and under giant boulders, trying not to slip on their slick sides. The trail is poorly marked and hard to follow as it often goes through very tight spaces. I had to take my pack off to squeeze through some spots, and we generally just went really slowly to avoid injury.  Unfortunately, I still managed to have my hand slip off a wet hold, sending me crashing down some rocks.  I magically landed on my pack though, thus mostly wounding my pride, and some bloody little cuts on my fingers.

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Megan crawling through a tiny gap

Megan was totally fine this whole time too, which really made me look bad :)  She was actually having fun, as there were parts of the Notch that must never get sun, because they had snow in them! There are weird air currents down there, sometimes it was freezing, some times warm, very spooky.

We finally hacked our way out of the Notch and climbed up out of of the fog into a nicer day, except for the rumbling of thunder which chased us the last mile to a shelter, which we wisely decided to stay in. Within minutes, the sky opened up and it poured, but we were able to watch it high and dry.

Overall, we put in 11 hours of hiking to go 15 miles, including over 1.5 hours in the 1 mile of Mahoosuc Notch alone.  We are tired but pretty happy with ourselves for getting it done!

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Day 18

We got up today to solve the mystery of Megan’s pants – they had been ordered and delivered to Andover, but not, as expected to our hostel. Instead, someone named L. Shirey had signed for the package… But in a town of 400, by asking a few people, we were fairly sure this person wasn’t a resident of Andover.  After all that build up, it turns out that the pants company had screwed up and FedEx’ed the package to General Delivery (a nono that Megan had explicitly told them not to do). Normally that would result in the package sitting at the local depot, in this case many towns away, but the FedEx driver was nice enough to take it to the Post Office, and Lee, the lovely lady who works there, signed for it. Mystery solved, and if only the pants had fit, the story would have a happy ending. They didn’t, and she sent them back. The pants saga continues…

So, we got to the trail at 11 o’clock, and climbed some more mountains! We missed a morning thunderstorm too and we were hiking in the sun.  The trail had some character today, with a couple miles of river trail that we splashed through, but also a couple more of welcome, smooth, knee-saving descent.

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(L-R): ATown, Ryley, Vanilla Thunder, Rabbi, Dr. Banner, and Robin

We ended up just shy of a big mountain at a shelter with the usual crew plus Dr.  Banner and Rabbi. They have been telling us of some sort of massive storm coming tonight and/or tomorrow. We have storm-proofed our tent (if you saw our tent you would laugh at this statement – “storm proofing” basically includes pulling up the sides of the tarp footprint a bit so there isn’t quite so close to the mesh wall, and putting Megan’s rain jacket up against the uphill side she was sleeping on where we expected the most water might get in) as much as possible, so hopefully it goes well (probably not).

Thanks for all the comments and well wishes, they are much appreciated.

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Day 17 – Andover

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Nice trail

We woke up to more rain and it was coming down pretty hard all morning. We were convinced to bail a bit early into town as we slogged over a couple mountains and then very steeply down to the road. Megan fell a couple times and so did the other guys… By the time we all got down everyone was very muddy and wet.

Fortunately, the shuttle to town was waiting for us after our rough descent, so we were quickly into town, showered and off for a late lunch.

DBB
Atlantic Coal Porter (Atlantic Brewing, Bar Harbor, Maine)
While in Andover, Maine, we had the option of eating at 1 of 2 spots in “town” – the Andover General Store, or the Mills General Store, next door. Not much else to this town, period. Both places had 1-topping pizza on sale! We got a veggie pizza to go and were able to buy these beers in singles. Took it all back to our hostel (along with a green pepper I called “salad” from the 8-item “veggie section”) and had dinner on the swinging seats on the front porch of our hostel. Not my favourite Porter but hit the spot, cold, paired well with pizza, and gets a solid rating for the convenience of being sold in singles!

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Day 16

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We had a pretty smooth morning highlighted by meeting some new hikers – Dr. Banner and Rabbi. We hiked with them a bit, then met 3 more new hikers at lunch – Weird, Magic, and Web MD.  When we rolled up to the shelter for lunch they were just getting ready to start their day.  I guess we probably won’t see too much of them after the next couple days.

The late afternoon was a decent hike up part of Bemis Mountain, with nice views back the way we came and another beautiful sunny day. There’s talk of some sort of tropical storm rolling in over the next couple days, so hopefully we are in town by then!

We ended up all at the same shelter after 19.5 miles for us, along with our usual crew minus Fun Employed, who had to head into town for some reason…  Robin started a nice fire and everyone cooked and chatted for a good while. A couple northbounders showed up as well for a pretty full house.

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Day 15

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It rained over night but stopped just as we were getting up.  Good thing too, as we had a lot of mountain to climb and the opportunity for nice views!  First we dropped way down to a “ford” that we were able to stay dry by rock hopping.  Then the climbing started, first up Saddleback Junior, then the Horn, which we had great 360 views from in the sun.   One of our first real vistas since the first day of the hike.

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Find Ryley!

We then got to traverse a ridge to Saddleback Mountain, all above treeline,  ending with even better views.  We enjoyed the scenery on the way down until it was swallowed by the trees,  and a knee jarring descent into camp.  Once again shared with Robin and Funemployed, plus Vanilla Thunder and A-Town.  Vanilla is pretty creative with food – right now they have powdered peanut butter to add to Ramen,  plus parmesan.  They carry butter as well to add to everything (including coffee).  It’s always entertaining with this crew…

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Day 14

New, larger shoes and a much lighter tape job on my toes made a huge difference today.  Basically no pain left, fingers crossed!

We had breakfast and chatted with the hotel owner, Sue,  then she shuttled us up to the trail by 9:15.

3 mountains climbed, not much seen, but still a nice day of hiking, including a scramble up a ridge.  A bit of a short day but looking forward to more tomorrow.

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Day 13 – Stratton

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I ate a giant burger, with sausage patty, bacon, etc

Today was basically a day off, with a nice 5 mile walk to the highway, where we were quickly picked up by Boomerang, a southbounder who was just getting back on trail, but offered to take us into town first.  We picked up Robin enroute as he was walking and hitching (with Vanilla Thunder and Seth).

We got all our chores done and had a few good meals and snacks:

DBB 3 Smashed Blueberry, Shipyard Brewing Co. Signature Series (Portland, ME)
Hybrid between a Porter and a Scotch Ale. “Notes of coffee and chocolate accentuated with the aroma of blueberries”. Fruity, but not too sweet. Oh and did I mention 9% alcohol? “Smashed Blueberry pairs well with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s The Tonight Dough ice cream”.

Exciting times for my feet,  Megan convinced me to take all the tape off and soak them in soapy water,  then left the tape off for the day.  We shall see tomorrow.

We ended the night watching an acapella reality TV show to fall asleep to.  A good day off!

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Day 12 – Bigelows

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Last night we were visited by a bunny that was really interested in the dead leaves right beside our heads.  Kept us up a bit til we got a good look at it and realized it was harmless.

Big day in the Bigelows!  We started with some warm up climbs around Flagstaff Pond, then climbed 4 peaks in succession.  A tough hiking day, and unfortunately it was in the rain so we didn’t get to see anything for our efforts.  But the tops of the mountains were otherworldly in misty clouds and rain.  We didn’t linger and quickly dropped down to Horn Pond to sleep, with an early exit to town planned for tomorrow.

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