August 15th 2014

I apologize for being so tardy with these posts! It’s been a crazy month and when we go into town we’re so busy getting stuff done I usually forget to post. So here we go - backtracking all the way back to Massachusetts!

Two back to back 20+ days make for tired feet!! We hiked out of Dalton freshly showered and ready for a flat day of hiking. Our destination was a cabin at Upper Goose Pond. The family who used to own it donated it for AT thru hikers to use. The day was long but we stopped at a blueberry farm and picked ourselves a pound of fresh blueberries! We were told if we brought them to the cabin, the caretakers would put them in our pancakes.

The cabin was beautiful and we met 16 other South bounders staying that night! It was the biggest group of SOBOs we’d seen in one place. I loved meeting people we’ve been following since Maine and others who had been following a day behind us since then too. We would’ve liked to take a zero there and spend the day canoeing and swimming but, alas, we had miles to make.

It ended up raining all day the next day anyway so the canoeing wouldn’t have happened. The hiking still did and it was not fun. If I could name the top 5 most miserable days out here that day might make the list. We hiked in hard rain for 14 miles straight. We didn’t even stop for lunch because we couldn’t find shelter. It was fun for the first few miles - like we were playing in the rain as kids. We made it to the shelter in record time that day.

With the rain brought the cold and it was a nice change. We felt we deserved a half day after pushing so hard so we stayed snuggled dry and warm in our sleeping bags with a good book. Later that day we pushed through fields of corn and ended up popping out at a road crossing where a guy set up a grill and was passing out burgers and hotdogs and fruit salad and cold beer and everything a thru hiker wants at the end of the day. I couldn’t believe our luck! His son was on the trail and he wanted to treat other thru hikers as well - it’s the best trail magic we’ve got so far!

A couple days later we needed another half day to rest up. We were heading into town the next day to resupply and figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to add a couple extra miles in the morning. We forgot the next day was Saturday and had a package to pick up at the post office before noon! We had to hike 12 miles that morning - of course Drew treated it like a race and made it there in 3 hours!!! We won’t do that again.

The next three days were very pretty through Connecticut. We passed through little villages along the Hoosatonic River and had long stretches of flat next to the river. We’ve been taking nice 2 hour lunches and mid day naps if we got tired. But we had miles to make to reach NYC!

It took some major pushing each other, and my first blister and raw toes, but we finally made it to Wingdale, NY what felt like 3 days overdue. It was a romantic way to get off the trail for a few days - walking through a covered bridge to get to the train station - but that’s for the next post.

ugust 11th 2014

Vermont ended in a muddy tease. Not as muddy as Maine was but still enough to slow us down a bit. It was slated to rain for 5 days straight and we didn’t even see a drop! The mountains make the weather we’ve been told and it’s taken us a few weeks to get used to that.

It’s been a leisurely week. The miles really do melt beneath you when the terrain is nice. We’ve been starting late and taking 3 hour lunches and still doing 15 mile days. What a wonderful way to hike!

We made it to the Massachusetts boarder and things started to feel like Maine again. The rocks came back. Oh those rocks!

We stopped in the first town we passed called North Adams because they had a Chinese buffet half a mile from the trail! Our planned 16.5 mile day suddenly turned into a 9 mile day. Fine with me! After refueling on Chinese food we conquered Greylock Mountain - the highest peak in Mass. Ha! We ended up camping on a rocky outcropping with a view of North Adams below and a beautiful pink sunset.

We decided to make it to Dalton Mass the next day to resupply which meant our first official 20+ mile day. So far, we’ve done a bunch of 18 and 19 miles but haven’t done 20. It wasn’t too bad. We got to a small town called Cheshire by lunch time and bought sandwiches which helped us finish strong. The last mile was a walk through town which felt more tiring than hiking the trail!

We camped in Tom Lavarti’s backyard - he lives on the trail and has been a legend for 35 years. The nicest guy who just loves doing trail magic. He had a bunch of bikes for us to use to take around town. It felt great riding a bike! We felt so fast!

We met a small SOBO bubble at Tom’s finally! It’s been almost a month since we’ve seen another SOBO and now we’re catching a bunch of them. Most we haven’t met yet. It’s nice to hang out with all these SOBOs amidst the huge NOBO bubble.

There are so many people on the trail right now it’s a bit overwhelming. I don’t like it very much but I try to take time to talk to people because I know we’ll miss seeing people in about a month when the NOBOs dry up and back-to-school starts.

It’s predicted to rain all day tomorrow so that means we’ll have a dry hike ;)

Next stop (and maildrop) is Pawling NY! We’re taking a trail-cation in NYC a week from tomorrow!!

August 5th 2014

Vermont has been such a joy to hike so far! I love it because we aren’t climbing up and down mountains all day and the trail is so nice! There are stretches that are just pine needles covering dirt and it feels like walking on carpet! I don’t want to jump the gun (because I haven’t lived through a New England winter!!!) but I think I would love living here!

The first day back on the trail after 3 lovely zero days in Hanover went so fast! We slack packed 14 miles which means we only carried small daypacks with us. We hiked so fast we could’ve done a 25 mile day if we wanted. (Thank you Shelby!)

The shelters in Vermont are some of the oldest on the trail. Most that we’ve seen are at least 70 years old and are made of stone. We saw one with a covered porch and a fireplace.

Vermont weather is so weird. This whole past week was predicted to have thunderstorms and we haven’t seen a single drop. The sky could look cloudy all day and we would get to camp dry. (I’m not complaining!!)

The first day out with our fully supplied packs was a bummer - especially after our slack pack! And so we took our time. It’s nice not to have a time line so if we’re tired we can take an early day.

We hiked through a state park that had showers and a ranger station with outlets so we took a slow morning reading in a hammock and just relaxing in the beautiful weather. Oddly enough, we ran into our friends from Hanover again! They came to swim in the lake at the park so we joined them and stole a few more hours of their time. It was a wonderful surprise!

The AT joined up with the Long Trail once we passed Rutland and now we’re seeing more LT hikers than AT. However, just in the past day we’ve started meeting the beginning of the NOBO bubble.

We found a cool spot on top of Bear Mountain (?) where hikers built a bunch of stone pyramids all over like a cemetery. It came out of nowhere. They looked cool contrasted against the bare trees and orange pine needles on the ground. We built our own little pyramid I hope survives a while.

Everyone has been talking about the Green Mountain House hostel in Manchester Center so when we finally got here we had to check it out. Cleanest hostel we’ve seen yet and a free pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream comes with our stay! When in Vermont…eat as much ice cream as they give you!

(Side note - I find it odd that Vermont, such a cold winter state, is home to a big ice cream brand. Who made that risky start up investment? That’s like starting a hot chocolate company in FL)!

I’ll be sad to leave Vermont in a few days but I’m equipped with new shoes and a new pack so I’m excited to try them out tomorrow! I can’t believe how fast we’re going thru these states now!

Next stop (and mail drop!) Dalton, MA!

July 28th 2014

Part 2: Our 7th day in the whites found us on one of the most beautiful sections yet. The Franconia Ridge is another stretch above treeline that gives you 360 views of the surrounding area. It was a perfect day - cool enough for hiking but the sun was out to keep us warm on our breaks.

I was feeling really tired from all the climbing we’d been doing and we decided to stop in Lincoln for a night of pizza and ice cream. We found a cool hiker hostel called “chets place” and met some of the SOBOs we’ve been chasing for a while. Chet is an awesome local who opens his home to hikers because he loves the trail so much. We were told to go down school street and take a left at the rainbow house - you’ll know it when you see it. Ha! What did that mean? It literally meant a rainbow house.

When we left Lincoln we only had two more mountains in the whites and 4 more days until my friend in Hanover. I was stoked.

On our way up to Kinsman peak we met another Jetpack from 2011! She and her friend told us about a killer stealth spot with a view of the Franconia ridge in the background. As you can see from the pictures, it was a beautiful sunrise and my favorite spot we’ve camped so far.

We slack packed our last day into Hanover which was SO NICE! We did 17 miles that day and it felt like nothing! Got to do this more often. The trail clearly cleaned up - pretty much pine needles the whole way which felt like carpet - once we officially left the whites.

It’s been nice to relax the past few days and be indoors when it’s rainy. I’ve loved eating fresh food and dairy again but alas it is time to hit the trail. Back to cheese itz, honey roasted peanuts, honey buns and dark chocolate m&ms as our favorite snacks.

Our next stop is Manchester Center VT in 6 days where we’ll chow down on Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

July 25th 2014

Part 1: The Whites Mountains were BEA-Utiful! I don’t know what I was nervous about.

We took on the Wildcats in rainy, foggy weather which made our visibility about 50 feet. We felt strong coming out of Gorham but tried to slow our pace to let the weather pass us. We got lucky the night it rained when we did our first work for stay at the Carter notch hut. The hut system is a series of huts with bunk rooms people can rent to stay in while hiking thru the whites. They are staffed by college kids and provide breakfast, dinner, and hot soup for visitors. As thru hikers, we did work for stay, ate the left over food for free and slept inside. We did this 3 times in the whites to hide out from the rain or cold and to get a free meal. It’s a cool idea but we liked the smaller huts the best.

After the wildcats we got to the famous presidential range we kept hearing about. We camped at the base of Madison (giving us a 3000 foot climb first thing in the morning ugh) at a camp site called Osgood. We had read there was reported bear activity there in seasons past so we were being pretty careful about our food. What we ended up seeing surprised us! As we were unpacking for the night to set up camp we saw a momma moose and her baby eating about 150 feet from our site!! Drew grabbed the camera as we quietly watched them not wanting to scare them away. It turns out they were more curious about us and the baby started walking closer to investigate! We didn’t want momma to get mad so we kept backing up to keep our distance. The baby got the message eventually and went exploring elsewhere while momma followed. They came back later that night after we had gone to sleep and started making a ton of noise knocking over trees and stomping around. Those crazy moose.

The hike up Madison to Mt Washington was a gorgeous day! I’m glad we took the time for the rain to pass. We had a 12 mile stretch above treeline. All day long we could see the trail snake it’s way toward Washington. Drew decided to do the presidential challenge and peak all the president’s which I was more than happy to skip.

It was weird getting to the summit of Washington (and really the whole time we were in the Whites) because we saw SO MANY PEOPLE out on the trail. Some NOBOs started calling all the day hikers Muggles and it stuck. ;) We’ve been so secluded the past month I wasn’t sure how to react when we got to the top and had to wait in line for a picture! That hasn’t happened to us this whole hike.

We stealth camped once we got below treeline again just to get away from the crowds (the NOBOs are starting to come in droves and fill up the spots near the shelters - I think we are approaching the bubble). And saw a beautiful red fox with a few chipmunk in its mouth. I wanted to make it my trail pet.

July 13th 2014

I apologize for the delayed post! I tried posting TWICE from Gorham, NH but for what ever reason the tumblr app failed me.

The hike from Stratton to Gorham was the hardest stretch we’ve done so far. We were warned about southern Maine - some say it’s the hardest part of the whole trail. I’d have to agree so far.

Our first day out of Stratton was the day the hurricane decided to visit the north. Of all the things I was expecting to deal with on this trip, a hurricane was definitely not one of them!

We had 2 days of rain and another 3 days of wet gear and wind. Stuck at another river ford. We were just getting into the mountainous section so the days were getting tougher. One of my favorite days was actually hiking the Saddleback ridge but the wind was blowing us around like rag dolls and it was hard to enjoy it.

At the end of the day we found some cool caves to explore right by the lean-to. We also met a NOBO fresh out of Rangely who gave us an extra turkey sub trail magic we saved for lunch the next day - I firmly believe it’s the reason we were able to pull off our first 19 mile day.

Despite the fact we had a great couple days, I was defeated about day 7 out from Stratton. We had just descended a really steep mountain the day before to immediately climb the most deceiving little mountain yet. I was done for and wouldn’t have made it into camp that night if Drew hadn’t been so supportive.

We met a couple with a dog that day (more SOBOs) and decided to go into Andover with them just to get a hot lunch. It was the best decision we made that day. I had a Philly cheese steak that was delicious! Much better than the one we had in Philly. I think it gave me the reboot I needed because we made it the rest of the way to Gorham a day early! (The fact we wanted to catch the World Cup helped light a fire under our butts a little too).

We met The Wizard on our way out of Andover, a charming fellow with what looked like a part dog, part bear for a pet. He had thru - hiked in 2010.

Our last bit of Maine I felt really strong and like I was getting the hang of this hiking thing. We stuck with the other couple and their dog and started consistently doing 14 - 16 mile days.

The Mahoosuc notch was a blast and the perfect way to end our month in Maine. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, the “hardest mile of the whole AT” was so much fun. I would do it again tomorrow if I could. There was still ice and snow in some of the caves, I was able to peg Drew with a snowball - which he caught and threw it promptly right back!

Man did it feel good to get out of Maine. The trail changed slowly the closer we got to the border but I think just knowing we had one complete state under our belts is what made us feel the best. We started a game of blaming every little thing that went wrong on the state. We are giving it a bad rap, Maine is truly beautiful and I’d love to come back to visit the costal cities and ski maybe. But it’ll take a lot to get me to hike there again.

We stealth camped with the other couple and their dog just outside of town so we could get an early start and a proper breakfast! We had our first real encounter with wildlife that night (it only took 300 miles!) We were rudely awoken about 2:30 am by a coyote howling about 50 feet from our tents! I’m not sure how many were out there but the guys went out with their headlamps and trekking poles to scare them away. All was well but it left us on edge the rest of the night.

We had a wonderfully big mail drop waiting for us at the Gorham post office! Some were boxes we beat to Stratton and had to forward to Gorham but they finally arrived! Thank you everyone who sent us something! We LOVE receiving mail and knowing you are following us and supporting our adventure. :D

Because of all our mail, we only needed about half as much food as we thought, so we made the trip to the Gorham Walmart - our first big chain supermarket in over a month! Talk about overwhelming!! That is something I do not miss by being out here.

Onward to the White mountains and Hanover!

July 3rd 2014

We have a bridge! This is a new development! Thank you M.A.T.C.

July 3rd 2014

This is “Bones” fording a small river. Most of them have ropes and are ankle deep. Unless it just rained, then expect currents! We like to clip our packs onto the rope and push them across. It’s safer if we fall and any chance to take off our packs is a good one! I swear they just get heavier as the day goes on.

July 2nd 2014

Happy early 4th of July everyone! We will be in the middle of Maine wilderness on the 4th (probably on top of a mountain somewhere) so we won’t get to shoot off fireworks this time around! I was really hoping to get invited to a small town American Bar B Que (are you listening Mainers?). Actually, Caratunk looked like the perfect town with only 68 residents but alas we had a resupply to make in Stratton.

We were delayed a day just outside of Monson because of the rain. So far it’s not too terrible hiking in a drizzle but when it rains, that means all the run off flows into the rivers. We were stuck for a day waiting for a river to lower because it was way to high and fast to ford for us newbies. It turned out fine waiting back at the lean to with new friends and stories all around. The next day the river was 2 feet lower and the ford was not an issue. We were able to make up time with an 18 mile day later on.

The lean tos and camp sites we’ve been staying at have all been beautiful! We try to make it to a lean to for the night because they are usually in very worthy locations and all have a reliable water source as well as a privy. As you can see from our pictures we like to camp next to lakes. They make for buggy nights sometimes but it’s nice to wash up after a day of hiking. Sometimes we make a fire and the smoke drives the bugs away for a pleasant evening.

We usually meet a lot of hikers at the lean tos and I love hearing their stories! We are starting to meet about 4 to 5 north bounders (NOBOs) a day now and some play up the fun rivalry but they are all friendly and helpful (not to mention fast!) It’s amazing how fast news travels on the trail. We like to check the log books at every lean to - it helps us leave notes for those behind us and keep track of how close we are to those in front. We have fallen behind some of our friends but we’ve caught up to a few people too. I miss camping with the small group we made in the 100 miles but it’s fun to meet new people every night.

Now that we’re out of the 100 mile wilderness we can see the trail is better maintained in some parts. More bridges, less roots, switchbacks, etc. It’s still tough hiking sometimes but there is clearly more effort to keep the trail tidy.

My favorite part of last week’s hike was going through Caratunk. We had to catch a ferry to get across the Kennebec River and it turned out being a guy in a canoe. I LOVED the fact that they painted a white blaze on the bottom of the ferry. We made it a short day and only hiked 4 more miles. It was a very pretty hike along some waterfalls and the lean to was just gorgeous. We had to stay by Pierce Pond because we were told to visit Tim Harrison and have his AT Hiker 12 pancake breakfast. It was SO WORTH IT. We split the breakfast of rasberry, blueberry and apple pancakes with eggs, sausage and juice. I was full till lunch which is rare for a hiker! That morning is my favorite part of the trip so far! He was the nicest guy and a legend on the AT - he’s been at this for 25 years now.

Now that we made it to Stratton, we are just starting the dreaded New England mountains. Yesterday we climbed the Bigalows and peaked 4 mountains. We had a 2 mile climb that really slowed me down but I promised myself a honey bun once I reached the top and that helped me keep going. I can tell I’m stronger than where I was 2 weeks ago and I think I’ll adapt to the mountains quickly.

The towns up here are so different than what I’m used to. I’ve traveled through towns like Waldo but I didn’t really get what it meant to be small town until I had to do some grocery shopping and the only option was a gas station. They have general stores up here instead of Walmarts! Yikes I wonder how that sounds. I’m enjoying my experience - I promise.

We are going to try to finish up Maine before we resupply (which will include the famous hardest mile on the AT!) so it will probably be another 10 days or so before I post again. I swear it will become more frequent soon! Just got to get past all these stupid mountains. Wish us luck!

June 24th 2014

Hello friends!

We finally made it through the 100 mile wilderness and decided to take a zero day to resupply and recover in Monson, ME. What a trip so far!

The first day on the trail we climbed Katahdin. It took us 4.5 hours each way - we were above 5,000 feet in a cloud by the time we reached the peak! I was not expecting how much rock climbing we had to do. I know how silly that sounds, but I thought the trail would be more well groomed in some places. Most of the other trails up the mountain are easier to climb, but the AT follows the hard way up. We were literaIly climbing up the middle of a small stream for about a mile at one point. It gave us a taste of pretty much everything we can expect on the trail except the bugs. It isn’t the tallest mountain we will climb on this venture, but it is the steepest continuous ascent we will have to face. Going downhill is way easier for me but requires a lot of jumping down rocks that are too tall to naturally step down. We’ve gone through our advil pretty quickly to combat our knee aches. Ten days in and I can’t feel one of my toes but I think we’re finally getting stronger.

Once we climbed Katahdin I thought it was going to be smooth sailing. Turns out I was wrong. The miles aren’t bad by themselves but add in LOTS of mosquitoes, some rain, roots, mud, rock hopping and cold nights, the days start to wear on you. We’re generally ready for sleep about 8 pm and up the next morning at 6 am. Sunrise is at 4:50 am here so we’re actually sleeping in. I like getting an early start to the day. If we can start hiking by 7:30 am, we can get half of our distance done by lunch. If it’s a warm enough day, we like to swim in the many lakes we pass. The water is really cold still so it perks us up enough to keep going.

I’m trying to enjoy the little things like having lunch on a mountain peak or brushing my teeth looking out over a gorgeous lake. That’s why we’re out here in the first place.

I have a hard time believing we’ve only been out here for 10 days or so. I feel like I’ve learned so much and grown as a person already. We’ve been keeping pace with another couple and that Australian kid we met the first day. We did the whole 100 miles together and I doubt we’ll stay together much longer but I’ll follow them in the trail logs and might catch up on other zero days. They (along with Magic Hands the massage therapist we met) are our first semblance of a trail family. The north bounders and south bounders we’ve met so far have been so friendly! Everyone out here is in it together. When you strip away all the distractions of daily life and frivolous problems and can go back to the basics, you see a lot about human nature. We stop and chat with people we see and the most impromptu viewpoint lunches turn out some really noteworthy conversations.

So far we have tentative trailnames. Drew has been deemed Bones because he’s been collecting moose and beaver bones we found. I quite like that name :) Mine is smooth sailor but I don’t think it fits so I’m holding out for a better one. I mean, we met a guy named cloudwalker. How cool is that name!

Tomorrow we’re starting back on the trail just the two of us. We have about 180 more miles to hike until we hit New Hampshire and the White Mountains - yikes! But we’ll be hitting towns every few days. Sometimes you’ve just got to have a slice of hot pizza for lunch!