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.

Advertisements

The Toll of the White Mountains

image
Why I forced my eyelids open

Aug 25  It was slow going this morning as my knees were in such a bad state of stiffness and pain. I have begun to get worried about my end date to summit Mount Kahatadin. I have know since June that my son Kevin is running his first marathon on September 23 in Ely, MN. I had picked a summit date originally as September 15th, but with the Cape Cod adventure and low miles through the White Mountains I now have a September 21st deadline. When I have talked to various hikers about this some have told me he will understand if I don’t get home. This is unacceptable to me and I know that somehow, I now have to find it within me once I am through the Whites to do 20 miles a day.

image
The trial ahead

It feels overwhelming as the terrain is anything but friendly. At one point in time I thought I had seen the worst that this trail has to offer and as every day goes by and the trail is harder and harder it only brings me fear.

image
One step at a time

So, for today I must only look at the next step I need to take and not look at the larger picture of the next 4 1/2 weeks. I also got back all my winter gear and my pack is so much heavier. I don’t think that this would have been an issue a month ago, but I can sense that my body isn’t as strong as it used to be. At night when I lay down in my tent and my hand rests on my thigh, I can actually feel how skinny my legs are becoming. I have begun to dread going up hill when at one time it was actually fun to feel my muscles working. Now they are just straining and feeling exhausted. When I finally reach the summits now and look back it is with awe that I think a short time ago I was back there. It looks like an impossibility that I was there an hour ago.

image
I hiked from there?

I fell yesterday going down a large rock. I ended up scratching my arm on a pine tree that had broken branches. It is red and a little swollen today. I also have 2 blisters on my right foot on the toes. I am so glad that I am catching a break with the meals at the huts that hikers can take advantage of in the Whites. I had free pancakes and lemonade, coconut cake and tea at the Zealand Falls Hut.

image
Scratch from a fall

Aug 26-28  Being on the trail I have forgotten things back home. Like the fact my husband Tom turned 60. I was able to call him the day before to wish him a happy birthday. Two days later I had  cell service and called home to find out he had a surprise birthday party with the family and he thought I was in on the planning with my daughter, Andrea. I had to confess that I had no idea as 10 Bear laughed at me in the background. I’m sure this was no surprise to him as I have often forgotten our anniversary.

image
Injury on leg from a face plant

Tonight I discovered some sore red spots on my feet. I think I may have stepped on a poisonous plant the last two nights. I went out of my tent in the middle of the night without putting on my boots. That will teach me. I’m too close to the end to screw up my feet. I better be more careful.

image
Bare feet not an option, but did it anyway

Aug 29  I am having such a hard time opening my eyelids. It is like they are weighted down with lead. It is very hard to even describe. All I know is that I am awake, but my eyelids aren’t. It is like they are refusing to open just so they can stay in bed longer.

image
Yuri getting buffeted by the wind

I have seen the forecast for today and it is going to be very windy. 10 Bear and I are on our way to Mt. Washington. It is the place on the trail that has the most extreme weather in the world. I’m not looking forward to today.

image
Sookie contemplating the next few weeks

Let the Climbing Begin

image

I think when Paul, a fellow thru hiker, announced at camp the night before entering the White mountains, that we had only done half of our climbs to Everest, my heart sank. Documentation of the Appalachian Trail states, “Hiking this trail is like summiting Mount Everest 16 times.” It means the elevation changes are equal to that of summiting Everest 16 times. I had 2 states left,  New Hampshire and Maine. That meant that I had to summit Everest 8 more times in 4 weeks.

image

I crawled into my tent that night thinking, “How am I ever going to be able to do this? ” I didn’t loose any sleep over it. I have the uncanny ability to instantly fall asleep the minute my head hits the pillow. Well, in this case it would be when my head hit my sleeping bag stuff sack filled with my stinky clothes from the day’s hiking. I mean seriously people!  This isn’t a glorious life. I didn’t run off to Hollywood to become an actress.

image

When I entered the White’s,  it reminded me of a set off of the TV series MASH. A simple sign announced my location. There was a tarp under which sat an empty table and empty 5 gal. buckets. All the good trail magic was gone, but there was water. I filled up my water bottles and was packing up to leave when Puma and his crew rolled in and decided to have a “safety” (smoke pot) meeting.  I told them,  “See ya up the trail.” and I continued on.

image

10 Bear and I had made a plan to stay at The Notch Hostel. We were going to do a 17.3 mile slackpack the next day. We were still under the false pretense of thinking we could do our pre-White Mountain miles. Which means that we thought we could do at least 2 miles an hour. We were to find out the mountain had other ideas.

image

The day started out sunny and warm at 8:30 am we were headed down the trail. My pack was very light, lunch,  water, rain gear, headlamp and camera. 10 Bears pack was her same pack, minus tent, clothes, cooking supplies and food bag.

image

She still carried significant weight due to the fact she is making documentary film and needed to bring camera and gear for the camera.

image

We started the day together climbing up Kinsman Mountain. The distance between us eventually grew and when I got up to where the mountain leveled off I waited for 10 Bear and we had a snack and she did some filming.

image

Let me say here that descents are steep and often dangerous and this was no exception. We headed down. The views were wild. We got down to the bottom and I continued on. I eventually stopped at the  Eliza Brook and had lunch. After half an hour I looked up and read the sign post that started we head 7.5 miles to get to the road to end out day. It was now 2:00 pm.  I did the calculation of miles and time and realized we had to get moving or we would be hiking in the dark.

image

A few problems exsisted:  1.  I didn’t know how far back 10 Bear was. 2. The weather was changing to overcast, possibility of rain. 3. I had never hiked with my headlamp at night on the trail. 4. I dont have cell service most of the time. I decided to continue on. I knew that 10 Bear was filming and would eventually show up. As was the case many days before.

image

When I got to the Gordon Pond signpost, I sat down to wait for 10 Bear. I waited an hour. It got darker and darker. I got cold from my sweat. It was misting out. I debated waiting longer in the woods. The road was .7 miles away. I was now thinking what if something has happened to 10 Bear. I  know nothing of mountain rescue. I decided to head to the road. Better to get help from someone who knows the mountains, than having to recur the both of us.

image

I got to the road and waited 15 more minutes and then I borrowed another hiker’ phone to call the hostel. (Once again, AT&T had no service) I got the hostel’ answering machine and as I was hanging up, the hiker asked, “Is that your friend? ” I turned and looked and sure enough, it was 10 Bear, much to my relief. We had missed our shuttle, but we were able to get a ride from a man from Warren,  NH who was giving rides to hikers.

I later found out 10 Bear had a horrible day filled with injury and mayhem. But that is a story she must tell. I learned, always expect the unexpected where the White mountains concerned and just know,  you will do more climbing than hiking. We were on day 1 and it looked as if we were in for a wild time.

image

Down Under

image

Can you imagine walking every day under leafy foliage for the past four and a half months. Sunlight filters through the leaves. The wind gently rustling the leaves sounds so calming. Hikers fondly refer to this canopy as the green tunnel. It sounds lovely, doesn’t it.

image

When I started hiking on April 2, 2016,the foliage hadn’t arrived on the trees yet. The rhododendrons seem to always have leaves. I could see sunrise and sunsets. Now though, the foliage has been here for a few months. Hiking through Massachusetts was really like walking through a underground tunnel. Literally there were times during the day I thought, “Did I just wake up from a hikers trance and hours have gone by and now it’s evening and I’m still hiking? ” I would look at my watch only to discover it was only 9:00 in the morning.

image

Then came Vermont. Add mud to the equation and rain and you have the state of Vermont.

image

Okay, in all fairness to Vermontians, we did hike through a few nice fields.

image

I did see how maple sap was collected on a larger scale. I did see chunks of their famous marble. The woods though are covered in moss of every kind and variety. They don’t call this the “Green Mountain” state for no reason.

image

Ten Bear and I have been able to avoid some of the recent rain by staying in a shelter or some hostels.

image

All I can really say about that is I stayed dry. Ten Bear want so lucky in the Cooper Lodge Shelter.

image

image

The roof leaked. We ended up using all the florescent green duct tape I had wrapped around my hiking poles for just this type of thing or gear repair. That green tape had been an identifying marker on my poles. Three days later I forgot my poles outside a country market. Good thing I only had a tenth of a mile hike to go back and retrieve them.

image

Two days ago was my last full day in Vermont. I woke up at 5:17 a.m. to heavy dew under the rain fly off my tent. I got up before it managed to rain down on me inside my tent and all my gear. Oh, don’t get me wrong, thing have been damp for months now. I just didn’t want them soaking wet. Even though I tried to wipe off as much dew as possible, my pack still felt heavier than usual. Though it could have been because the day before I was able to slackpack 19 miles thanks to the help if Miss Janet.

image

image

I entered Vermont in the rain and I left Vermont in the rain.

image

I was never so hap put that one of my great grandfather’s lief this state when he emigrated from Finland!

image

I’m now in New Hampshire. My husband Tom has sent back my winter gear. Ugh! The extra weight is killer. I look forward to entering the White Mountains and getting above tree line. There is unpredictable weather there, but hey, I may finally see a sunrise. As for the canopy, all I can say is, see you again in Maine.

image

Dog Ass Tired

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m sitting in the laundry room in the Vermont town of Bennington.

image

My first thoughts upon waking are how many more weeks until I can go home. Most people would tell me I can go home any time. I miss my family, my family misses me. It’s almost as if now Mt. Kahatadin stands in my way. I try not to voice it on the trail because such thoughts can become a norovirus and spread like a disease on the trail. I can’t go home until I stand like hundreds of others at the hand made wooden sign to mark the completion of the journey.

Other hikers have begun to talk of jobs, where they will live, what is next in their lives. I don’t have much to say because I live in Northern Minnesota, in a house my husband Tom and I built. The next epic thing in my life is our son, Kevin’ wedding to his beautiful fiancee Leslie and her precious daughter Audrey. Our daughter Whatever Works, Andrea, who hiked 423  miles of the trail this spring is busy re-establishing her life. She had sold her car to hike the trail and where we live there isn’t mass transportation. As for my job part of this, I have a few ideas.

image
Wiley Shelter

Now back to the trail. In a very short time from now, I will be heading into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The weather can be unpredictable. Winter gear is a must.

image
Cyclops my backpack

The weight of the pack is a concern. It feels heavy now. I have begun to struggle with the uphill climbs. I can handle the flat and I have learned how to jog downhill even when there are rocks and or roots. I have 5-6 weeks to hike less than 600 miles. The elevation changes a few thousand feet a day. My feet have healed from the 12 blisters from my old worn-out boots. I have the hiker hobble after every rest and especially in the morning. The hiker hobble is trying to walk on stiff, sore feet. My hiking poles become canes. Yes, we have aged our feet to the age of 90 years old.

image
Chair to rest my 90 year old feet

So, by now I’m sure you are asking yourselves, why do I continue? There is something magical about walking in the woods. The sound of leaves moving on a breeze, chirping frogs, singing birds. The smell of flowers and decay of leaves. Being able to see the sun dancing on the water or filtering through the leaves. Every day I encounter something I haven’t seen before.  Whether it’s a rock, plant, or critter.

image
Fern shadow

The trail isn’t very remote from civilization. I can hear the noise of cities or homes as the trail winds it’s way up the Appalachian mountains. So I  will leave you with this vision.

image
Heading into Dalton, Massachusetts

You are in your tent after a 20 mile day. It feels so good to crawl into your tent for the 128th night. Anything soft in your backpack is stuffed into the sack for your sleeping bag to make a pillow. Your socks feel damp and even though they smell real bad, you put them underneath you, in your sleeping bag so that they will be dry by morning. You then remember that you forgot to go to the privy and so you crawl back out of your tent.

image
Privy 128

When you get to the privy you try hard not to shine your light down the hole. The stench in the privy is so bad you try to hold your nose. You also hope that no spiders of the wolf family are present. You rush back out into the night for a gasp of fresh air and head back to your tent. You crawl back in and with a deep sigh your whole body relaxes. That’s when 3 fighter jets zoom right over your tent and you think your about to become wreckage in an aerial crash. Around 4 am you wake up to the smell of cucumbers and know a copperhead snake has just entered your airspace. You hope it isn’t close and you roll on it and get bitten. In 1 hour you wake up and start packing up everything that once was in your pack. Your day has begun. Now wasn’t that a restful night’s sleep.

image
Hiking through a swamp

Let’s Talk About Snakes, Shall We

I grew up in Northern Minnesota and had two snake choices to learn about. One was a Garter snake and the other was a small Redbelly snake. Out of those two snakes, I only handled the latter of the two.

Now when I and my two siblings, Cheryl and Vern were small, our parents took us out to Montana to visit my mother’s aunt and uncle on their ranch. While there, my brother goes outside to play only to come in a short time later to report he had seen a snake. Well, all the adults freaked out and went running outside to see the snake but it was gone. We had remained inside at our parents request, wondering what all the ruckus was about. Shortly, they all came back in with nothing to report. Uncle Bill Arbuckle then went over to a shelf and took down a mason jar. Inside of the jar he showed us rattles from rattlesnakes tails, he had collected from snakes he had killed on the ranch.

image
Snakey boardwalk

I’m not sure if that is where the fear of snakes developed for me or something else. All I know is that the whole time I’ve been on the trail I have been dreading seeing my first poisonous snake. The first rat snake was huge, but I already knew that I had nothing to fear from that snake.  I kept asking Spirit for information about the copperhead, timber rattlesnake and a regular rattlesnake. Where had she seem them? What did they look like? What did they do? How big were they?  But most importantly, what did she do?  She reacted rather calmly to all my inquiries. Then she would look at me and chuckle. I wasn’t sure I knew how to take that. Somehow I knew I was in for it.

image
What me worry

Every day that I hiked alone, I would say to no one in particular, because hello,  I just said I was hiking alone.  “Please don’t let me see a snake today.”  It seemed for a long time that worked. Until I hiked into New Jerse and in one day I would see not one, but four poisonous snakes. So, let’s look at my snakenado day.

image

Snake 1:  I was hiking along the trail, minding my own business when I came around a curve in the trail. Out of nowhere,  a snake bolts off the trail, rattling it’s tail as it left. My reaction, jump back, say, “OH SHIT.” Then tell myself for the next half boy to calm down.

image

Snake 2:  I was hiking along the trail, minding my own business when I came around a curve in the trail. I was about to head downhill and had to put on the breaks immediately. There laying half on and off the trail was a copperhead snake. His tail half was on the trail. His head was up and facing the woods. After a minute of debate, I quickly moved past on the tail end and I kept moving well out of reach.

image

Snake 3: I was hiking along the trail, minding my own business when I came around a curve in the trail. Oops, I mean I it was 5 :15 pm and I was hiking uphill and I happened to glance up and think, “That’s funny. Look at that black stick moving down the middle of the trail.” SAY, WHAT! I look again and a rattlesnake is coming downhill, towards me, in the middle of the trail. Breaks,  put on the breaks. I toss a pebble to the side of it and it stops and looks. I start tapping my hiking poles together trying to get it to go off trail. No luck. The snake continues it’s downhill path towards me. Now thereare two trees in the path between I and that snake. So I get closer to the trees and I wait. As the snake gets nearer it veers to the outside of the left side tree. As the snake’s head disappears behind the tree,  I move forward. We pass each other with the tree between us. It is then that I take a picture as it heads into the bushes.

image

Snake 4: It is now 5:30 pm. I locate a camping area just past the fire tower, just like the guide book stated for a change. The path is downhill and rather bushy. Right away I think snakes. I move quickly through to the camping area. There is long grass that has been flattened by multiple tenting. I chose a flat spot and set up my tent. I find my bear food rope and throw that over a tree branch. Then I stand in one place for a minute or two trying to decide what to do next.

image
Snake bed

Cook or set up gear in my tent. I hear hikers talking up above and so I go up because I’m not sure I like my lonely, kind of creepy, camp site. A young hiking couple is up near the tower at a picnic table. I join them and try to talk them into staying the night. They are set on going .6 miles to the next camping are with water. I have stopped short of that camp because a previous thru-hiker told me locals might harass hikers who are camped there. We also talk about snakes and how the couple hasn’t seen a rattlesnake yet. I decide to go cook supper as they go and check out the fire tower.

image

I walk back down to my camp and stop and stand at the corner of my tent checking my cell phone for messages from home. I’m not sure what draws my attention, whether it was movement or sound. I look down and behind my right foot and it takes me a few seconds to realize, I have the biggest rattlesnake I have ever seen right behind my foot with its head drawn back. I quickly move forward and to the side. As I do, the snake continues it’s path along the side of my tent and then past me. In my calmest voice ever, I call up the hill to the couple.  ” Hey, are you done looking at the tower? There’s a rattlesnake down here if you want to see one.” They come and join me and film the snake as it heads across the camping area. When it has left, they tell me that if I wasn’t too come with them, they will wait until I am all packed up. Needless to say, I didn’t waste any time in taking down my tent or bear food rope and we were on our way.

image

Once at the new camp I sent a picture of the snake I had just had in camp. My mother called right away. She asked, “How much longer will you be in Pennsylvania?” I said, “I’m not in Pennsylvania, I’m in New Jersey.”

image
Pennsylvania where shoes finish dying

She then asks, “Well then, how much longer will you be in New Jersey.” I now know what she is getting at, so I just tell her. “Mom, there are rattlesnakes until New Hampshire.” There is a long pause as that sinks in and then she says “Well, be careful.” I reassure her I will and the conversation ends.

image
Back on the trail

So, I will be careful and watch for snakes. I’m glad I’m not one of those that carry a machete. There would be a lot of chopped up snakes behind me in the trail. Not because I want to kill them. It would just be my knee jerk reaction. I have hiked through areas where the rattlesnake is close to being on the endangered species list. I know that as long as they don’t rattle they’re not mad.  Just use caution at all times and just be glad they have a warning signal to let you know your too close.  Goodbye New Jersey. Hello New York!

image
By Sookie, I will miss you

I leave you with an interesting fact to look up about sharks attacks in New Jersey.  I couldn’t resist since it is summer and the story helped create the movie JAWS.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/150702-shark-attack-jersey-shore-1916-great-white/

And for my Minnesota friends and family.

http://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/4077138-another-alligator-captured-2nd-alligator-found-lakes-area?utm_content=bufferb5a08&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

OH, THE HUMIDITY!

image

Day rolls into night, rolls into day, and my skin remains the same throughout.  Just one big sticky mess. I can wipe down with a wet one or jump in a creek it won’t matter, within minutes of any type of movement I’m a sticky mess. I asked local people “How do you get used to the humidity?”  Their response is, “You don’t.” While in Port Clinton, I stopped in at the barbershop. No no, not you remove my beard but to charge my phone, have a cup of coffee, and get assistance to travel to and from Port Clinton to Hamburg.

image

As I opened the door, besides being greeted by the owner Frank and his father Rocco with the mighty hello, I was greeted with a blast of cold air that was so cold I thought I had entered a frozen food locker. Not a barber shop. Within minutes I settled in with a cup of coffee and bakery, a local guy named Steve had brought in.  Rocco was in the corner fanning himself with a piece of newspaper and complaining it was still too warm.

image

So Frank went to the window where a fan sat and turned it on. I hated to go back out in the weather as this particular morning had started with a light mist  but I had resuppling to finish.

image

By noon I finally had a total resupply thanks to Steve. It had stopped raining and I had no more reason to delay. I swung up my pack, picked up my poles and headed out the door. My next stop would be near PA 309 in 2 days. That’s where last year fellow hiker Crackers was picking me up for some trail magic.  I charged up the multiple switchbacks I thought I would never get to the top. Around 2 p.m. I was sticky from head to toe because of the humidity and the sweat of hiking. As if I wasn’t wet enough, I heard thunder in the distance and within seconds I was hiking in a downpour. This time though, I didn’t pull out any rain gear.  Why should I, it is just like wearing a sauna suit. Yes, that rain gear becomes an instant sweatbox. When my shirt, shorts, and now it looked like my boots were totally drenched. I started to regret my idea of no rain gear. I tried to find the ever-present canopy of leaves to protect me but of course it was  non-existant when I needed it.

image

Instead, I loosen my backpack rain fly and tried to pull it up in over my head and I hunched as far over my feet as possible to keep as much rain from filling my boots. When the rain stopped, I was drenched.  My boots weren’t completely wet, but would become that way within minutes of hiking through puddles and streams in the trail. Wet feet equals blisters and right now I have 10 throbbing, painful blisters.

image

So, back to the topic of  humidity. It is ever-present.  At night all clothing, my sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner are damp. My skin is sticky and it is hard to get comfortable eniugh to fall asleep. If it is material, it will be damp. If it is a rock in the trail and the sun shines on it, it looks damp. I am constantly trying to wipe the fog off my glasses and my camera lens. Yes, it is moisture in the air.  Damp  damp, damp, damp. I think the dampness could actually drive a person mad.  I’m so grateful I live where there is, at the most, maybe 14 days of humid weather each year. For any northern Minnesotan, all we have to do is jump into one of our 10,000 lakes. But don’t get any ideas of moving North. Everyone who lives in our state will tell you, we also have 9 months of winter.  Our winters aren’t for the faint of heart. I’m talking sixty below zero temps. I often have wondered why none of my Finnish ancestors, when they emigrated from Finland, didn’t go to a slightly warmer climate when they had the chance.I think I found that reason, it’s called humidity. KIITOS!

image

Hiker Hunger…It’s For Real

A funny thing starts happening on the trail where food is concerned. Every hiker goes through it at one point or another. It is called, hiker hunger. What is it you ask? Well, for me it first started in the middle of the night. I had eaten breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, second lunch and supper. Seems adequate to us hikers, and for those not hiking, it may seem excessive. That M&M we first dropped on the trail and didn’t pick up, is now found along the trail dropped by another hiker, and we pick it up and easy it. It seems that all day long we think of food. At night we dream of food. In camp we have fantasies about food we will eat once we get to town. If we have left over food on the trail, (we usually don’t) someone is sure to consume whatever it is when offered.

image
Don't eat me

One evening we were at Over-Mountain Shelter, a boy scout troop had passed us and were set up when we arrived. We were in the process of coming when a young scout walked up to his fellow about friends with a whole package of oreos. You would have thought he had gold the way we were acting. Whatever Works, Lambo and myself couldn’t stop looking at that package. Finally, I got my courage up and asked the about who owned the cookies and if they would be willing to sell 3 cookies for fifty cents a piece. He didn’t even hesitate in telling me, “No, I’m going to need them after supper.” The 3 of us were very disappointed. It was about ten minute later when the scout came to me and opened his package up and told me, “You can have just one.” He then did the same to Lambo and Whatever Works. I asked him if he wanted the $1.50, but he said, “No, that’s okay.” Lambo ate his right away. Whatever Works was shortly after and I saved mine for after supper. Those were the best cookies we ever had.

image
Whatever Works & Lambo trying to decide about where to have lunch
image
Lambo and Whatever Works contemplating the menu in Bland

We can hardly wait to get to a town to gorge ourselves with real food. Not that our trail food is fake, it’s just not that appealing when you eat the same thing for months on end. I have been eating oatmeal every morning for breakfast. I even added it to my beans and rice the other night because I had put to much water and didn’t want to waste fuel boiling it out. Then I have tuna or peanut butter every lunch. I’m really getting tired of the lunches. Supper had a little bit more variety, but not much. I eat soups that I doctor up with chicken and veggies, spaghetti I add veggies also, and last but not least beans and rice. Sometimes, I also have mashed potatoes that I’ve added veggies to. You get the picture.

image

So, when I get to town I just want to gorge myself with fresh veggies, fruit and meat.  Oh and also a great cup of coffee.

image
BLTA Wrap
image
At the Anvil on Harper's Ferry
image
And coffee please

The problem with this is that my stomach isn’t used to this type of diet and can’t always handle it. I know I’m in trouble when the old stomach starts to grumble and bubble.  Have you ever tried to unsnap a backpack waist belt, chest strap, throw off the pack, open the pack, search for the tp you thought was right at the top and discovered it wasn’t, and then hi-tail it to the woods all before the shit hits the fan. It isn’t a pleasant experience. Trust me, it’s happened twice.

image

I now watch what I eat in town. Plus I have a good supply of Imodium and anti- diarrhea tablets close at hand. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

image
MoMo waiting on us for a new trick

Strange But True!?!?

It’s now been two weeks since I got a cold after sleeping in a hostel in Waynesboro,  VA. I slept in the top bunk while a young man with a cough slept on a couch next to and below me. There were actually 12 of us hikers sleeping in a small basement room with bad air exchange. Seriously it was wall to wall hikers. Then two sores developed between my toes on my left foot. They were so painful I started to limp. I don’t know if the sores were athlete’s foot, a poison weed, or spider bites. I don’t know if the combination of the illnesses lead to the peculiar sights of the past week or something else? Let’s see what you think.

image

The day began innocent enough. The sun was shinning. You can see it in the picture above. It’s what the picture says that gave me pause. “RESTRICTED GROUNDS; BREEDING CENTER; NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL PARK.” The sign Belo it was like a second warning.  “PETS ON LEASH; NO CAMPING; NO FIRES; STAY ON TRAIL.” Needles to say, I was beginning to get all kinds of thoughts of government experiments. Then came the gate.

image

And then the fence.

image

I wondered whether something was being kept in, or being kept out.

The trail got darker and darker as we worked our way further into the woods. As we rounded a tight curve in the trail, a smell so fowl hit me in the face. It was so awful, I sped up to get past and beyond this area. Then right before a powerline, I saw something fast, grey and large dart through the brush parrelel to the trail. I quickly caught up to Spirit and said,  “A bear just darted in the woods and are in that brush.” We looked at the brush, but nothing moved. Even as I had said it was a bear,  I knew the statement want true. I knew I hadn’t just seen a bear,  but something I couldn’t identify.

It is now that the sky got dark and thunder started to rumble in the sky. We were only a half a mile from the next shelter. I picked up my pace with Spirit coming behind me. It was up hill and soon I was alone as Spirit picked her way carefully along the trail. I heard something coming across the top of the trees. Not knowing if it was wind or rain, I stopped and threw down my pack and started to pull out my rain gear. Within seconds I was in a down pour, desparatly try to get my rain jacket on, curled in a ball trying to keep my shoes dry. As I was doing this, an older couple came walking by and asked me if I was okay. I replied, “Yes, I’m just trying to get my rain gear on.” Within minutes the storm had past and as usual, I was wet.

image

We got to the shelter and it would be two hours before we saw the next hiker. Pace came in telling us he had stopped to put his rain fly on his pack. The next thing he knew, a tree fell in front of him and then one feel behind him. It was then he got as small as possible behind another tree and waited the storm out. The next two hikers were an hour after him and they reported 20 downed trees. The following day we would hear that a tornado went through the area. We would be the last  people to go through the undamaged trail. It was now an obstical course.

The next day was overcast and threatening rain. We had areas of rock to hike over and around. While doing so, I came across this interesting print and water mark.

image

image

I’m not sure what kind of creature left this behind, but it reminded me of the story in an old Saga magazine about the Ape-man of the Whiteface Reservoir. http://www.bigfootencounters.com/articles/hansen.htm

I wasn’t sticking around in case the creature came back. It wasn’t much longer and we came to the infamous Roller-coaster of the Appalachian Trail. This is the part in the trail where hikers enter with anticipation, excitement and joy.

image

All kidding aside, we think that the person or people who put in this part of the trail was a sick, sadistic, bastard. It is 13.5 miles of ups and downs that only a lunatic would enjoy hiking.

image

Thankfully not too far away, there is a slice of comfort called the Bears Den. The outside is a little forbidding, but when all was said and done it was a safe haven.

image

image

The next day was actually the nicest hiking day in quite some time. We were at the top of a ridge and it looked and felt like it had been occupied before the civil or revolutionary wars. In fact, I once again found a point from an arrow. Then I found some thick, glazed pieces of pottery on the trail. All evidence of another time.

image

It really was peaceful.

Now we were on to Harper’sFerry, WV. I had just entered another state.

image

Now it was time to hike into the city and get my picture taken at the ATC headquarters and register my hike.

image

With that completed, we headed up to our hostel for a good night’s sleep or so I hope. I hope everyone hasn’t had a week like mine, but if you have I would like to hear it around my next camp fire.

image

PS-please don’t share this with my mother as she is already anxious enough. 

Hiking Through a National Park.

Spirit had been telling me for weeks about how much she enjoyed hiking though the Shenandoah National Park on previous hikes. She told me about easy hiking, waysides, and animal sightings. So, a week ago we left Waynesboro, VA and two days later we entered the park. Because we were on the Appalachian Trail, we had to fill out a backcountry permit. This permit tells the Park Service who you are, where you will be and when you leave the Park.

image
Backcountry permit

It is free for hikers to camp and pass through the park. This year our National Parks are celebrating it’s 100th birthday. To celebrate, the Park Service has picked 16 days for everyone to get a chance to enjoy the great outdoors.  There are still a few days left this year for you to plan a visit to one of our parks: http://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/2016-free-admission-days-national-parks

image

Our first night in the park we camped in a location other than the shelter or hut. It was a sunny evening and so we hiked further into the park than the first shelter. We had just finished supper when we heard a noise in the woods. It turned out to be two deer and the slowly worked their way into our camp. It was interesting to me to see how close they came. I guess animals in a park have nothing to fear. It made me wonder about the bears…

image

image

image

The next morning we headed out and hiked to Loft Mountain Campground.  We were able to take showers, do laundry and eat snacks before we headed to the Loft Mountain Wayside for lunch.

image
Shower time
image
Laundry time

Now because of bears in the park, Spirit wanted to hang our backpacks and not take them the .5 mile down to the wayside. I just didn’t want to do that, so I kept my pack on and watched the antics of the ever hysterical throwing of the bear rope over a tree branch. Before it was all said and done, Spirit had 1. Stepped on the rope then threw.   2. Just missed hitting herself as the rock came back to earth. and 3. Fallen to the ground. At this point I was trying hard not to laugh as I could see the frustration of the situation was getting under her craw. Finally,  the pack was in the air and we were on our way for cheeseburgers, fries and blackberry milkshakes.

image
Blackberry Lemonade

image

On the way back Spirit and I took two different routes. She went back the way we came to retrieve her pack, an uphill trek. I went back towards Ivy Creek. When I got to Ivy Creek, I remembered a ridge runner stating a day earlier about a possible bear problem in this area. I wasn’t too concerned until a hiker passed me heading north. He went around the curve in the trail and for the next 5 minutes I hear, “Go away bear, get out of here.” Then I think, “Well, the bear must have left? ” My pack is on the ground and I look south to see if Spirit is coming yet and then I look north and I see a black bear come around the corner and continue walking towards me. I grab my pack and put it on and I tell the bear, “Go on.” The bear stops, looks at me and then walks off the trail two whole feet.  The bear just stands there. I figure I better keep the bear south of me because Spirit won’t know it’s here if I go by it. I work my way south on the trail towards Spirit around a curve in the trail. Five minutes goes by and the bear is on the trail, coming around the curve. I repeat what I said before and the bear goes off the trail and I go south some more around another curve in the trail. Now there is a hiker coming towards me but it isn’t Spirit. I tell the young guy what has been going on and where the bear is. He goes a few feet and says, “Wow, it’s right here.” I take a step towards him and lean to look so I don’t get any nearer and I see the young guy is eye to eye with the bear only

image

three feet apart.

The guy yells and waves his arms at the bear and the bear just looks at him. The hiker edges by and leaves. Finally, Spirit shows up and I tell her what has been going on. We head down the trail and there is the bear in the trail. We both say, “Get out of here.” The bear walks into the brush next to the trail and we walk by and finally leave the area. We did see a lot of deer and seven bears

image

image

image

image

plus a lot of signs.

The next day we were visited by my husband Tom and his siblings

image

They were in the area for a family get-together.

They had brought us lunch and later Spirit said I devoured the sandwich in 5 minutes. Then I went to our vehicle and did a small resupply and then down the trail I went with family in tow. At one point Spirit looked back in time to see one in the group running to keep up with us. At the half mile point 2 in the group were heading back and in another quarter mile, Spirit, Tom and I were on our own. Tom turned back at the one and a half mile point. He was on his way home to Minnesota and had a long way to drive. Once again Spirit and I were on our own.

Of course the trail was super nice through the park at the time my family was with me. The park service makes sure that the park trails are people friendly.

image

The Trail Maintenance Crew works hard to see that it is so. My son Kevin was employed at Mesa Verde National Park on such a crew. I saw the hard work he did and so now I can appreciate the trails even more, knowing the hard work it took to make them that way. I make sure that every time I see someone working to maintain the trail

image
Trail Maintenance Crew

I tell them how much I appreciate their hard work.

Even though the park had been a great place to be, I was ready to be out of the park. Spirit always tells me, “Be careful what you wish for…” I had forgotten in a short time what the trail could really

image
No longer in the Shenandoah National Park
image
We just came down what trail?

be like. I’m beginning to dread the rocks of Pennsylvania.