Defrosting Into Spring

Ethel, where’s the water you promised?

My mind is drifting through a fog as it registers that the sound I hear are birds singing. My eyes are closed tight and I try to open them and I can’t. They are just still so heavy with sleep.  As the singing becomes clearer and clearer, I think, “OH NO! GET UP! IT”S TIME TO HIKE.”  I start to really wake up, and as I push my hands down on what I think is my inflatable sleeping pad, I realize I am on my mattress in bed back in Minnesota. I’m no longer on the PCT trail. I don’t have to force myself to open my eyelids that seem at this moment frozen shut.  I can enjoy the moment, the birds are singing in the early morning light.  The singing is an indication that winter’s long grasp on our landscape is starting to slip away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese sounds take me back to a little over a month ago when I was out on the PCT.  The evening of March 2, 2020 brought the song of frogs in the evening and bird song in the morning. To think that I hadn’t heard frogs or birds singing for nine months.  It amazes me how I can forget certain sounds of nature, especially when those sounds are so beautiful to the ears. When I hear them, memories of years prior rush in.  Just like bird songs.  People may wonder why I continually head to the trails? My answer to this question, would be to immerse myself in the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of everything around me while I am out there. I can’t seem to satisfy my fascination of nature.

How low can I go?

As I hiked up the trail, I could just feel all the weight of winter just lift off my shoulders.  It was incredible. I just wanted to bottle it all up, for those cold, wet winter days of my future. I tried to imagine and memorize every detail. Therefore, I was carrying one camera and my iphone which were constantly being put to my right eye as I discovered more and more (unknown to me) plants with every step I took.  At the rate of picture taking, I figured it would take me years to cover the length of this trail.  

Oh the agony

Because most of the plants were low to the ground those first days, it wasn’t long before my right knee started to give me trouble. I was squatting and bending over a lot. By the 1:30 pm on my first day, my knee was having an issue.  I had to quit bending over and when I realized I was walking stiff leg, I sat down and had lunch and Vitamin I.  It helped to take a break. I hadn’t planned to hike 16 miles that first day, but my thoughts were, I would have less than 5 the next day and I could rest my knee the rest of the second day.  That extra push on the very first day, caused me to have a knee issue that would last the rest of my time on trail.

Sookie loving the trail even with an injury

When I got to camp on day 2, I text my sister-in-law Beth, a physical therapist, for some much needed advise on how to tape my knee with KT Tape.  It helped tremendously. My day 3 plan was to slackpack from Lake Morena to Kitchen Creek Rd., to get the weight of the pack off of my knee, which was a 10 mile stretch. I got up at 7 am, had my oatmeal and coffee breakfast. Taped my knee gobbled down some Vitamin I and I headed around Lake Morena. It was 8 am. The terrain was a lot easier than I expected.  I think I had the Appalachian Trail in my mind. The AT is grueling those first days. This was like a walk in the park and the temps were ideal at high 40’s to low 50’s and the sun. Oh that sun. Who could complain.


Trail in the distance

I so enjoyed this beautiful day. I only saw 5 hikers all day.  Tripod, from San Diego, and I struck up a few conversations as we passed each other throughout the day and when I was half and hour from Kitchen Creek Road, I sat down in the shade for lunch.  Tripod was behind me and as he passed by me without seeing me, I said hello.  He turned and stopped.  The first thing he said to me is, “Do you know you are sitting in a great spot for snakes?” I just about jumped up as I started to look around when he started to chuckle. “UGH!” I then chuckled too as I realized he was teasing me. Let me just say I have a healthy fear of rattlesnakes. He then joined me on the ground and we had a pleasant lunch. 

Indian Paint

We parted ways as I finished my lunch and in a short time I was at Kitchen Creek Rd.  The trail crossed the road and continued on, but this was my pick-up point.  I found a rock to sit on and waited for Tom.  It was 1 pm.  Tom had taken our trailer to Mount Laguna to the Burnt Rancheria Campground.  It was going to be cooler there because the elevation there is 5970. While I sat and waited, I talked to a road construction worker named Fred.  He told me that 3 illegals had died this winter from hypothermia, not far from here. As I looked up at the terrain from the elevation of 3999 where I was at, I tried to imagine such a horrible end to their lives. It was hard to imagine on this beautiful sunny day.  Fred lived near Campo and he told me how in the past 10 years, life around the border had changed significantly.  He has had to make multiple calls to the Border Patrol at night for illegal aliens trespassing on his property.


Fred then went on to tell me about a 150 pound mountain lion that had been hit by a vehicle in the area.  He asked me if I was afraid. I told him I was trying to be aware of my surroundings.  He then went on to say that the population of the cats was getting out of hand and that a debate about hunting with a lottery draw was being discussed.  The cat he mentioned is on display in the office he works out of. He lifted up his hand and spread out his fingers and said the cat’s paw was the size of his hand.  How he expressed his emotions during the story about the cat, showed me he wouldn’t want to be in my hiking boots and come across such a cat.  A pleasant time passed talking to Fred about the area and his life.

Tom Metalweb
Tom digging for the lost gold of California

Eventually, Tom arrived and we headed up the mountain to Mount Laguna.  The rest of the day was spent with Tom metal detecting and I of course taking pictures.  To say my knee didn’t hurt every evening would be a lie, but it did help to be done with the trail before the day was half over. The slackpacking would be doing my knee good.

Spring buds

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

Oh Where, Oh Where Have I Gone?

Bright spot on the trail.

I apologize for the absence here on Beyond the Range.  A situation on the PCT and then in our country have led me to “listen to my gut,” and go home from the trail. After traveling across our country through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and finally Minnesota, I am self quarantined at home in Northern Minnesota.

When we left for the trail on February 26, 2020, I was aware of the coronavirus cases in China. The virus was on my radar. I wasn’t too concerned about the virus as I thought, “I’m going to be on trail. What’s to worry about?”  Then the cruise ship passengers were being allowed on land at San Diego, CA. No worries, they are quarantined.  I started hiking March 2. As I headed north, I became aware of San Diego County. In fact, I was hiking in San Diego County. If I was hiking in San Diego County, that means I’m near San Diego. Which means, I am near the coronavirus.

First days on PCT.

Being on a trail hiking, mostly means, I have a disconnect from what is really going on in the world, our country and my home.  On the Appalachian Trail, I remember going in to town for a resupply and seeing the United States flag flying at half staff. I had no idea why, but I knew in my gut something bad had happened in our nation. Five police officers were killed and 9 others injured in a shooting in Dallas Texas it was July 7, 2016. I almost dreaded doing a resupply after that, I wondered, “I’m I going to see our flag at half staff again?”

Last day on the trail.

I decided as I headed up the PCT that I wouldn’t be surprised by anything happening off the trail and so I watched and listened as the virus took hold of the world and then our country. I made a decision half way through the day, of what would become my last day on the trail. “It is time to go home.” I will get to that critical last day in a future blog. For now, I will write about our journey home.

During the day of March 14, 2020, Tom and I decided on a plan to drive home.  In my mind, it made the most sense to leave before the state had us sheltering in place and unable to go home.  Kyle, who I was hiking with, and his wife Amy wanted to hang out one day before we headed home and we made a plan to go to Joshua Tree National Park to camp for 2 nights and then we would go home. Kyle was making plans to hike north from Hwy. 74, as he was thru hiking.  We got to Joshua Tree around 3:00 pm on March 15th and drove to every single campground there.  The sites were all taken.  We drove out the the park and went to the city, 29 Palms and boon-docked in the Tortoise Rock Casino parking lot for the night.  In the morning we said our goodbyes.

Betty the dog, Amy, Kyle, Tom and Sookie

Sometimes, Tom and I like to take less traveled roads to see more of our country and to get off the freeways.  We headed out on Hwy. 62. The road had fewer and fewer homes as we traveled east. In fact, there were long stretches of natural terrain and empty road. To pass the time, I Googled, “Hwy. 62, CA.” I found out that we were now traveling along a road that was 3X more dangerous than the average. Studies have been done to try and figure out why.  I thought to myself, “Yup, that’s about par for the course.” I put the article away and help Tom with my backseat driving abilities.  (haha)

Hwy 62, mile marker 108, Shoe Fence

When we crossed the border into Arizona, I thought now it won’t be long until we are home. Let me just tell you, we were still a long ass way from home! We stopped for the night in Holbrook, AZ. Tom wanted to stay an extra night so we could have a decent amount of time to check out the Petrified Forest National Park. So, the next day we headed into the park.  Social distancing had become a thing. The signs posted in the park, stated 6-10 feet. Also, only 8 people at a time could be inside any structure.  We had an enjoyable morning in the park.

Petrified Wood

The afternoon was spent at  Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. There is a spectacular collection of rocks and minerals to enjoy looking at. I also wanted to check out the Navajo County Historical Museum. I knew our chances may be small as back at home our local museum, Minnesota Discovery Center had shuttered it’s doors. I was interested in the history of the town and the ghosts that haunted within the courthouse walls. Alas, the museum had been closed to the public.  Next stop, Geronimo’s Trading Post to see the largest petrified log in the world. It is pretty big.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That night, the wind howled like crazy as a winter storm blew through the area.  We came upon snow covered roads within 30 miles east of Holbrook.DSC01167webDSC01169web By the time we had traveled into New Mexico we had seen 5 semis in the ditch.  We also started to see digital freeway signs warning us of the virus. DSC01184webWe stopped in a few groceries stores on our way as I knew we had little supplies back at our house. These stops came with more signs, limits on purchases of certain items as well as empty shelves.  All cleaning supplies and toilet paper were gone as well as rice, noodles, canned goods. One store didn’t have any meat.

One of many empty shelves through nine states.

It is interesting to see what people fear. I was always told on the trail, I would carry the most of what I was afraid of not having. I always had too much food. Since 2016, I have gotten better about not having a lot of food as I hike, but back to the present.  In Kansas people had bought up all the flour and sugar and butter. The middle of our nation went for products that they could make items with. The pizza shelves weren’t empty until southern Minnesota. Well, that is when I first noticed that item. The thing that I did notice, was that the fresh fruit and vegetables were always plentiful. We are a strange breed, us humans. Or is it WHAT the media and corporations have sold us on?

We (Minnesota) got meat!

As we drove through Minneapolis and St. Paul, it was eerily quiet. I think the only other time I remember it like that was in 1980 when I lived down there and drove through at 5 am. I am glad my state is taking this serious.

Through St. Paul, Minnesota

We arrived back home with snow falling all around us, but I knew we were safe. My hope is, that we weren’t unknowingly carrying the virus through the areas we came through.  I had Tom wipe his hands, car handle and steering wheel after pumping gas. If that isn’t a cesspool of germs, I don’t know what is. We tried to stay as far away from people as we could. We never ate a meal out.

Carbing up for the hike.

To the hiker community.  I hope you take the cautions to heart. We have all been asked to leave the trails by the trail associations across our country. Hikers who have posted on social media that they are heeding the warnings are being vilified. It is such behavior as this, that has caused in the past few years, hostels to close for good and trail towns and trail angels to stop helping us.  Think of it this way. A pebble is tossed into a pond. The initial plop seems small. Then you see the ripple and it expands and expands and expands until the whole pond is altered.  Personally, I don’t want to be a part of that cause and effect and I hope you don’t either. May we all work together for a change. It’s a time to be selfless not selfish.

“The trail isn’t going anywhere. It will be there the next time you can set your foot on it.” -AT hiker 2016

Petroglyph at Petrified Forest National Park


Make Hay While the Sun Shines

This medieval proverb used by English farmers, meant that when circumstances where favorable to cut, dry and store hay for their animals for the winter, to take advantage of that time.

More sun here than Minnesota!

The same can be said about my time on the trail hiking. I am trying to pay as much attention to the weather forecasts as the locations and miles on the trail. Sometimes weather can take me by surprise, as you read in the last blog about the hail. Since then, I have been on the Weather Channel app and the PCTA Weather forecasts trying to look for storms.

Brrr hail!

When I was on the AT in 2016, those around me watched the weather and so I would just listen to them. I also watched the sky. Around the time I arrived in Pennsylvania, I started hiking with 10 Bear, Little Bear and Saint Nick. As time went on, I noticed that 10 Bear has this uncanny (research and planning) ability to always find refuge out of the storm. In reality, what hiker wants to add more weight to their pack with wet gear? It was awesome!!!

Coming storm.
10 Bear studying the trail guide.

Turning the clock forward, this weather watching has fallen to me by necessity. I am in a dry camper tonight with my husband Tom, listening to the rain and possibly hail at times get blown against us. I can imagine what this would be like in a tent. I have spent many nights in a tent in such weather.

Port in a storm.
Safe and dry

I knew this storm was coming. A local said so a week ago. I have read the weather updates and so the sunny days which have been many, I have been on trail making my way north.

Under 100 miles P C T
Wind in my hair.

There was a morning I hiked in a drizzle, but I knew eventually the sun was going to shine that day and dry me out. I didn’t mind it. The wind that day and the day before was amazing as was yesterday’s. I know that wind can be a warning of things to come. I trying to get out of my hiker zone long enough to register in my mind, those kind’s of changes on the trail. For tonight, I’m grateful to be in a dry bed. I bet you are too.

Hiking in rain.

“When the sun shines make hay. Which is to say…take time when the time comes, in case time wastes away.” – John Heywood

Creature Comforts

Yes, we are on the road, for a reunion of sorts. Just like on the AT, I’m counting the states we are going through. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana… There is excitement as well as fear. Maybe they always go hand in hand. This hike with touch 3 states by foot. A few more by vehicle.

I have tried hard not to think about the weather, but the month leading up to this hike has had nothing but weather in the news. We got snow a few days back, and not just a dusting. So, I think to myself, “We are going south, it’s got to get better.” Well if the drive is any indication, we are in for it.

This a.m. I decided to check the weather around Elk Park, NC. Tom has been telling me for a week we are going to be in rain. I’m thinking to myself, “Don’t rain on my parade.” It seems my mother’s voice always comes through with these little quips. Best to keep them to myself! (Also on of mom’s). Anyway, the rain is to start Thursday and continue on through to Monday.

It’s a wet year for the trail as we hikers like to say. 2015 was wet, 2016 was dry. So dry that I really don’t remember many bugs.

So, I sat on the edge of our hotel bed and thought about creature comforts.

Oh, that warm hot shower, dry feet, a comfortable bed. Then I think about cooking in the rain with drops of rain running off my rain hood into my meal and it makes me smile and almost laugh out loud. Something is definitely wrong with me you all might be thinking. But, during those moments for me, that’s all I have to think about. I don’t have to think about what’s in the news, or worry about my parents in the nursing home, my children and their families. I carry them all with me but the worries which do us no good just seem to slip away. I am just in that moment, letting the rain wash away the worries of the past three years and maybe, maybe a few beyond those.


Lindsey, Sookie, 10 Bear, St. Nick, Little Bear, Dad of Little Bear, Zuko

Lindsey and 10 Bear register for hike to Katahdin

It is 6:15  am and we are ready to hike up the trail to Katahdin. Tom, my husband is coming with us. There is 10 Bear, Zuko, Little Bear and her dad, St. Nick and Lindsey Taylor Jackson who is the film maker from the team for the documentary “Thru.”

Lindsey Taylor Jackson, Film Maker

(10 Bear is the other film maker)  I have concerns about Tom being able to keep up to us seasoned hikers, but I will do my best to cool my jets.  We log in and start the 5 mile hike to the summit. It is a beautiful sunny day. I have no idea yet what is to come. I just know that after today I can head for home.


It is nice not to be carrying my full backpack and I realize I will never have to carry it again for a very long time. Well, at least not until next year and on very short hikes. It is good to see everyone laughing and having a good time on this our last day.  I enjoy seeing Tom finally getting to experience what I have been doing for the last two states. Climbing.

He finds it incredible, that I am moving up the trail and not even breathing hard or sweating.

Tom enjoying the view

After the first major boulder climb he finally just waves me on. I move ahead, but constantly look back to keep him in view. I see hikers I haven’t seen in a long time returning from the summit. It is so good to see them and to know that they have achieved their goal.

Old Timer

The wind picks up the minute we get above the tree line. It is quite the climb through a boulder field with incredible heights and sights. I finally see the sign in the distance and can hear all the laughing and talking. Once arrive near the sign I hikers are already talking about the Pacific Coast Trail for 2018. I just want to get done and head for home. I think, “They can have this long distance hiking. I’m one and DONE.” I wait for Tom to get to the summit. Then pictures begin.

Once the picture taking is over, we find a little place out of the wind and have lunch. It is sunny, windy, and chilly at the summit. When we are done with our lunch, we head back the 5 miles that we had just climbed up.

I hate heights

Once again my height phobia kicks in. There is nothing to do but go down. At least I don’t have my pack trying to peel me off the rock surfaces like I have the last 2 months.

10 Bear chillin’

I wait for Tom now and again as he is struggles to get back to the parking lot. His muscles aren’t used to this kind of work out or elevation.

Tom going down

20160921_145033Once we are on a better part of the trail, I walk with my hands in my pockets and often stand and wait for him to catch up. 10 Bear stays with us for a while, but then she is off and no doubt running down the trail to catch up to other hiker friends and family.

Level ground

When we finally get back to the parking lot, it is 6 pm. I was beginning to get nervous about getting back in time to get my registration card. I am #834. My hike is complete. 


In the morning Tom and I head back to Minnesota via Canada. I will get home in time to see our son run his first marathon. After all, life can’t always revolve around my crazy adventures. Other people in my life have stories to tell too.

Back home in Minnesota

Post Hike-It has been almost 3 months since I finished this incredible journey. I am still trying to process all that happened along the way and to adjust to life post trail. I was never so happy to be going home and I really didn’t care if I ever saw a long distant trail again. Now, I sometimes wonder if the call of the Appalachian Mountains will ever leave my mind. For it didn’t take but two months, after my feet and knees felt better to once again hear the call of the wild. Maybe it isn’t so much as the trail calling, but the freedom of a simpler time. A time where my cluttered mind could deal with my uncluttered world. A world where one fork, one pot, and one stove, a sleeping bag, tent and backpack were almost all that I needed. I am now dealing with a house and life full of so many things that I  feel mostly overwhelmed. I as an american, bought into the material world, just like so many others.

First hike in Minnesota at Scenic State Park

I spent the first few weeks hauling boxes of stuff to Goodwill. Instead of throwing away broken gear from the hike and replacing it with new, I am contacting the companies to try and do repairs. If I am able to just keep the ideals that were re-enforced on the trail about how to live my life then all those miles will pay off. If the parts of my personality that I discovered on the trail that I would like to change and start working toward that change, then I have learned something. Before I left for the trail, I would also have called myself a cynical person, but hiking the trail showed me that there are still good people in our nation and the world. Since I have been home, I started to watch the news again. Every morning and every evening there is BREAKING NEWS! Really? I have to ask the question. Why would that be? Maybe it is because our nation is trying to keep our minds cluttered. Why? Only each of us can answer that question for ourselves. I just know there is a better way out there than what we are being told.

Second hike at home at West Two Resevoir

So, what am I going to do post hike? I have a few speaking engagements about the hike around the area. I will be having an exhibit called-“Hiking Without a Canoe: A Photographic Journey of the Appalachian Trail,” in March 2017 at the First Stage Gallery in Virginia, MN. Then I will also be teaching photography classes in the area. Once that is all done, I’m not sure what comes next but I know right now, you wont be seeing dust gather on these shoulders.

Thanks for everyones support throughout the planning, hiking and post Appalachian Trail adventure. I couldn’t have done it without you all.

Yup, deep in winter once again

The Home Stretch

I knew I had to get my pack as light as I possibly could and so before 10 Bear and I left Monson, ME for the last time, I unloaded everything I felt I didn’t need. I sent home extra batteries for my phone, a shirt, a pair of socks, and my sleeping bag liner. I hated carrying the winter gear, but one never knows when the weather will change and things could get deadly without that gear. So I sucked it up and continued North.DSC00274F.jpg

Sometime during the last 6 days, I started catching myself saying, “This is almost over. I never have to climb that hill or take that step again. Every step I take brings me closer to home!”  I just wanted to be done.

A strange thing happens when you hike with another person. You start to rely on them and they start to rely on you, but if there isn’t a lot of communication things can go wrong. Well, that is what happened 5 days out from Katahdin with 10 Bear and I. It was a sunny day full of climbing. Neither one of us paid attention to the water situation. I didn’t drink a lot of water in comparison to 10 Bear.  She drank A LOT of water and so when we got to Barren Ledges and realized the water sources were way off the trail, we knew we were in trouble. I had only one container and she didn’t have much more. I took off down the trail because I knew how much water 10 Bear needed and was afraid she was going to have trouble if she didn’t have any water. I thought it would be a short time and I would be happily filter water for us.

The rest of the my day was spent looking for water. 20160916_183603.jpgI could see it at every summit, but it was miles away. At 9 pm in the pitch dark, I reached a cross roads in the trail. I stopped and could hear water running just ahead. I put down my pack on the ground and as it was dark moved cautiously ahead with my headlamp and water container.  I was able to fill up a  2 liter bag and then I went back and retrieved my pack. 20160917_200209Then I headed east and started looking for a site to camp. I didn’t know if 10 Bear was still coming or not, but I found a place just to the east, and so I set up my tent and then went back to the trail with a note and placed it in the trail for 10 Bear to know where to find me. I then went back to camp and filtered 2 bottles of water. I was hanging my food bag when 10 Bear arrived. I gave her a bottle of water and then we cooked and ate supper and I drank 20 oz of water. We were reminded to never take anything for granted and to be especially vigilant so close to the end, for this is when accidental deaths happen.

The next day we had a great relaxing morning. I even took time for a second cup of coffee and we went on a photo adventure before we started hiking.

10 Bear with a lot of spiders

It was a beautiful day with awesome views.DSC00260.JPG

The last 2 days before summiting Katahdin were not enjoyable after that. The miles were taking their toll. I would need to do 26 miles and then 25.5 miles back to back in order to reach my husband, Tom by 11 am at Abol Bridge on the 20th of Sept. Those days Zuko joined us.

Zuko staring down Katahdin

We ended up hiking in the dark to make the miles. 20160917_195946It had become a marathon. In those last 2 days I also lost 10 Bear. (The good thing was, I found out later, she had found Little Bear and St. Nick. Hikers she had hiked most of the trail with and she was able to spend her last evening on the trail with them.)

20160920_080129My last night I spent chasing a mouse away from my gear, but in the morning discovered he had gotten into the last of my food.  Zuko shared some of his breakfast with me and we had our last camp fire and waited for 10 Bear until 9:30 am.

Zuko and last fire of the trail

A half an hour past what I told Zuko we would wait, she hadn’t shown up and so we started hiking the last of our miles to Abol Bridge.

At 10:40 am. we got to the road and saw Tom waiting in our vehicle. As he heard us, he got out to greet us. I was never so glad to see him at this moment. I knew the end of my hike was near. He quickly opened the back of the vehicle and started handing us food, cookies he had made and Subway sandwiches, chips, pop, and candy. At 11 am, 10 Bear wasn’t out of the woods. I told Zuko, “We will wait 10 more minutes and than we will go and Tom will wait for her.” And within seconds, I hear Zuko say, “THERE SHE IS!” She came running across the road, fell to the ground and told us she had just run 11 miles in 2.5 hours with a 40 lb. pack.

10 Bear’ marathon

We all sat there stunned that she had made it. With smiles we watched as she devour the food. When 10 Bear had finished, the 3 of us got up to hike the last 11 miles to Baxter State Park. TOMORROW WE SUMMIT KATAHDIN!

The goal

Broke Down

What the hell…my stove just stripped out trying to attach it to the canister for breakfast. Really!!!!! I only have the 100 Mile Wilderness to go and my stove strips out. Unbelievable! I pull out my AWOL AT Guide and see that I can go to Shaw’s Hostel in Monson, ME for a repair and if not that, I hope I can find a used one in a hiker box or purchase a new one somewhere. I really didn’t want to be spending money on gear at this stage of the game. UGH! 

I’m on trail by 6:30 am the next morning, while 10 Bear was packing. My day was spent alone going to Moxie Bald. It was a fun morning on boulders and bedrock. Once I got to the top, it was a little confusing to where to go, as the summit sign had me go in one direction and then from there it was kind of vague. After wandering around a little bit I eventually figured it out. Before I got back into the tree line I noticed the sky looked like rain as fog began to roll in.  I haven’t seen 10 Bear yet and wonder how far back she is. The minute I get to tree line, I stop and strip down and put on my rain pants. I am so afraid of getting wet feet. I put on my rain jacket next and by now the rain has begun. The rest of the day is climbing over wet roots and rocks.20160914_071312

I roll into Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to at 5:30 pm. Zuko, GI Jane, Joe and Coral are already here. I go to set up my tent and as I am doing so, I snap a tent pole at the Y junction. We all try to work on it to fix it with a stick, but the stick just cant hold up to the pressure. I set up my tent anyway and instead of it being a dome it is a pup tent. Next, I have to borrow GI Jane’s stove since that is also broken. 10 Bear has arrived and is busy setting up her camp. As I climb into bed I hope that it doesn’t rain. I should have know better than to think such thoughts.  The minute I was horizontal, I could hear rain hitting my tent.

20160915_073623.jpgI woke up early, 5:00 am and packed up and told 10 Bear I was heading to Hwy ME 15 to hitch to Monson so I could go to Shaw’s to get my gear figured out.  I would meet her there.  By 10 am I was on the Hwy trying to hitch a ride. Let me just say that a lot of cars, trucks, semis passed by without any hesitation. I was beginning to think I would be there for a long time when Shaw’s Shuttle Service showed up. The driver asked me if I wanted a ride and I said, “You bet!”

20160915_110847Poet, the owner of Shaw’s, didn’t have a fix for my stove, but he did have 1 stove left to sell and so I bought that. The tent was a little more complicated. We couldn’t get replacement poles from Big Agnes in time for me to finish by the 21st. He had a tent for sale, but I didn’t want to by a new one at the tune of $400. Another hiker had a tent he was thinking of selling, so I thought about that. In the meantime, Poet mixed up J B Weld, got a screw and took apart my poles and glued the screw and a pole together. It would need 24 hours to set.

In my determination to still summit on the 21st, I decided to stay the night, this would allow me to be brought 11 miles North on the trail today and then be able to slackpack back to Hwy ME 15. In the midst of this, 10 Bear arrives and I let her what know what my plan is. I tell her, she can hike ahead and I will try and catch her tomorrow or she can stay at Shaw’s. She decides to stay at Shaw’s and within 10 minutes we are headed up the road to start our slackpack.

The first thing that happened heading SOBO is that we had to hike a good mile just to get to the trail. 20160915_132549.jpgDSC00179.JPGNext we came upon a river that we had to ford and neither one of us brought our camp shoes. We ended up taking off our shoes. I grabbed the rope above my head and started across. I stumbled once and got wet. I was sure glad that I didn’t have a full pack on my back. We made it back to town by 6 pm. I was glad we had slackpacked this section as it was a lot of up and down over ridge lines.

20160915_151130Early the next day I got up to try my tent poles. I set up my tent in the driveway at Shaw’s. The poles held. We resupplied, had a great breakfast and continued our hike into the 100 Mile Wilderness.  We were now in the home stretch.dsc00164

Still Outside the 100

The last 2 days have been filled with climbing and more climbing. We, 10 bear and I climbed through the Mahoosic Notch and then climbed up the Arm. It took hours upon hours to go through and then up and up and up. My toes and knees have been hurting for the last 4 nights. The climbing has gotten so steep the hiking poles are useless. We have packed them away. I am using hands, elbows, knees, hips, shoulders, head, toes all just to reach the next summit. Then down, always back down. I am running out of energy and am becoming concerned about the finish. I have fallen 3 times in less than 24 hours.

Worn Out

It looks like I have finally gotten the packing of my food quantity down. Only took 2,000 plus miles. Tonight I will eat my last supper and tomorrow my last breakfast. We will be heading into Rangely, ME to pick up my resupply at The Farmhouse Inn. We won’t be staying in town and this is how it will be to the end. Into town to resupply and eat a lot of calories at a restaurant and then right back to the trail.

10 Bear Filming at Sunset

The day we headed out of Rangely, we headed up to the Saddleback Mountain. Once again we had wind. Some of the gusts almost blew me over but I managed to remain upright. When we climbed up The Horn the sun was beginning to set. Once we reached the summit we put down our packs and dug out our headlamps to make the descent. It was steep and rough. Needless to say I was mad at myself for descending again in the dark. If we didn’t need to do the miles, we probably would have camped at the top, but this was not meant to be. I tried hard to keep calm as the trail was lit only by our headlamps. If I looked to the left all I saw was a void of darkness. That alone made the hair on my neck stand up.

We gradually made our way down in the dark. Eventually we found a camp. Set up our tents. Ate supper. I finally got to crawl into my tent by 10 pm. As my head hit my bundled of clothes pillow I think, “My night’s sleep will be way too short.” Within seconds I am sound asleep.

Supper in the dark

The next morning I am up at 5:30 pm. It hasn’t been a restful sleep. My knees and toes throbbed all night, my hips have also started to hurt at night. I have run out of Vitamin I. During breakfast 10 Bear found a couple Vitamin I of which she shared with me. It helped ease the pain and get me to my feet and moving.

dsc00024The next few days were treacherous. Climbing, descending, rain and wind making everything more dangerous. We are only 1 day out from Monson, ME. 10 Bear has now calculated that we have to do 20 mile days to be able to summit by September 21. The thought of that makes me want to just sit down and cry. The terrain has been so challenging that I’m not sure I have it in me to do so. I can feel my body resisting the climbs especially. My legs are feeling pretty skinny when I rest my hands on them at night. I’m glad there is only a week left of this torture. I am so ready to go home.

The next few days were treacherous. Climbing, descending, rain and wind making everything more dangerous. We are only 1 day out from Monson, ME. 10 Bear has now calculated that we have to do 20 mile days to be able to summit by September 21. The thought of that makes me want to just sit down and cry. The terrain has been so challenging that I’m not sure I have it in me to do so. I can feel my body resisting the climbs especially. My legs are feeling pretty skinny when I rest my hands on them at night. I’m glad there is only a week left of this torture. I am so ready to go home.The next few days were treacherous. Climbing, descending, rain and wind making everything more dangerous. We are only 1 day out from Monson, ME. 10 Bear has now calculated that we have to do 20 mile days to be able to summit by September 21. The thought of that makes me want to just sit down and cry. The terrain has been so challenging that I’m not sure I have it in me to do so. I can feel my body resisting the climbs especially. My legs are feeling pretty skinny when I rest my hands on them at night. I’m glad there is only a week left of this torture. I am so ready to go home.

North, always North

Did I Say It Was Windy

dsc08749The climb today from Saco River to Webster Cliffs was hair raising. If I haven’t told you yet, I am afraid of heights.  Well today was one of those days I tried hard not to look back. Mostly because I would have only seen wide open space. It was only if I looked down, that the full implication of what could happen to me if I got vertigo came into realization. That thought alone was all I needed to spur me onward and further upward.dsc08750

When 10 Bear and I stood at Webster Cliffs with gale force winds I was more than happy to quickly move on after taking a few pictures of her near the edge.  The rest of the day was spent trying to stay upright in exposed areas and when the wind would gust. By the time we arrived at Mt Franklin the clouds had moved in. It was to cold and windy that I rolled my pant legs down and put on my rain jacket so any warmth I generated wouldn’t just get blown away. dsc08692

It is an eerie feeling to hike in and out of clouds as they are blown by you. You can see the landscape ahead of you and then you can’t. All you see is white. No trail. No markers. No hiking buddies. By 4 pm it was starting to get dark because of the cloud cover and as we hiked out of the gloom appeared the Lake of the Clouds Hut. We were never so glad to see shelter. Ok, that is a lie. There were a few other times I had thought the same thing prior than today.

We grabbed the door handle and got ourselves blown into the interior with a gust. At the front desk was a worker and immediately we asked for “work for stay.” This is when you can do some work in the huts to help out the staff with the paying guests. Since the weather was such as it was, there were a lot of hikers seeking shelter. We were told yes and so we went to relax, charge phones and wait for the assigning of the tasks once the guests had eaten.

We ended up being able to eat and then it was cleaning time. 10 Bear and 5 Star swept the floor and I went in the kitchen and got a tray to scrub.  This would be the first time that I meet Zuko. We had our sleeves rolled up and we each had a baking sheet that we were assigned to scrub all the charred food off of.  When it was 9:30 pm it was lights out for the guests and we were able to finally set up our mats and bags on the dining hall floor for the night. It wasn’t a very restive sleep as many guests and hikers were up during the night making their nightly hike to the bathroom. The squeaking and banging of the door was ridiculous. At 6 am all the hikers were woken up and asked to quickly pack. We could stay and help with breakfast or we could head out. We had had enough and headed out the door.

dsc08893We only had 1.7 miles to the summit. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we could see the summit from the Hut.  I was half way up to the top when I turned around and looked back. I’m not sure what about this day, this moment struck me, but something did. I just stood there feeling humble, small and grateful. I didn’t want to move from this spot. I knew in this moment, that this was the reason I had hiked the AT. This was the moment. It brought tears to my eyes. I could go home now, if I wanted to and be satisfied with my hike. (At the writing of this, I wish now I would have just sat down and enjoyed the moment more). As I turned to continue up towards Mt. Washington, I knew I would never feel this way again. It is like that with all firsts, isn’t it?

dsc08870We got to the top of Mt. Washington to discover that yesterday’s winds were clocked at 91 mph. That hikers that were to…were told they couldn’t hike beyond the summit and were taken back down the mountain by the workers at Mt. Washington. I believe it cost them $35.00 down and $35.00 back. Sometimes, it is best to just hunker down below the summit for better weather.dsc08932

Tomorrow we have a 1000 ft. elevation drop and then a 2500 ft. elevation gain. In 2 more days we hope to be out of the White Mountains. Then hello 100 Mile Wilderness and hello September.

Oh My…YURI!?!?!?!

At noon today, I went out to get our mail. Expecting the usual junk mail, I almost had a heart attack upon opening the mailbox door. There in all his glory stood Yuri.

To those who don’t know about Yuri, he has been hiking with me for the past few years. Last year when launching my epic journey on the AT, Yuri went missing. I was on day 1 of the hike. Yuri was right beside me on my pack.

At about mile 6 I sat down for a break only to discover Yuri was no longer riding high on my backpack. Heart break are the only words that come to my mind at the moment I realized my hiking partner was no more. I posted an article on Appalachian Trials of MIA Yuri. ( I kept hoping someone would come across him and let me know of his where abouts. But alas, this was not to be.

Now it is March 29th, 2016 and low and behold he shows up.

He had this fantastical tale of where he has been. I myself wonder about some of the details. (He tends to exaggerate a bit.) Here is the tale in all of it’s fine glory:

YURI. “So, there I was bumping along on your backpack enjoying the sights when out of no where there was a crash & the lights went out!!  I don’t know how long I was out but when I woke up…WOW!

Everything was white & I was in an unfamiliar place; white towels, the feeling was so soft & warm. Then this lady asked what kinds of treatment I wanted. Treatments!?! I thought, what the heck is this place. Then the woman explained to me I was at a Resort SPA! A SPA! I told them to give me the works & figured you’d be there soon to join…

But you never came…maybe spa’s aren’t for you. (ME. A lot of eye rolling)

Anyway after waiting a year, I figured I better get in the first box out of here and head home…and…HERE I AM!

ME. Unbelievable!

YURI. I know, RIGHT!

ME. Well, you are going to be so happy in a moment, I have big news.

YURI. You do?

ME. Yes, I got hurt coming out of the Smokies and had to get off the trail at mile 309.

YURI. Oh my…that is bad news. Not big news, but bad news.

ME. Oh, that isn’t the big news. The big news is that we leave tomorrow morning to head back to the AT.


ME. AND, I figured a great way to make sure you don’t jump, oops I mean fall off of my backpack again!
Story by Andrea & images by Sookie