Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Maine, Man

That's right. We are in Maine and it is outstanding here. The leaves are turning into the most intense reds and oranges I've ever seen them turn in my life. We don't really have season in the South. It's hot, hot, cold, and hot again. Not here. As a matter of fact, the highs here haven't gotten above 55 degrees the last couple days and may not the remainder of the trip. That's kinda scary. It's cold. Especially the nights. Fires are a must, which is nice because we want to soak up as much camping camaraderie as we can. We are currently in Rangeley, ME and will be going over SaddleBack tomorrow. If it's clear, it's supposed to be our first peak at Katahdin.
Not even 2 and a half weeks left as we are shooting for October 10th. 2 mail drops left, Caratunk and Monson. Then, we are there. What are we doing to get back? Renting a car and driving. First stop, NYC to get the compiled footage from Chesley. Next stop, Tennessee to get Belch home and see our sorely missed friends, Patch and Sully. Then, home. Then later on, maybe next year, kayak the Mississippi River. Time will tell.
We are excited to get home. We aren't excited to leave all this behind, but it'll be nice to get to sleep in a bed again. We can't wait to not have to unzip a tent to get up and pee in the middle of the night. We look forward to seeing our family and friends and telling them all the stories we've been apart of. And I know Chaser, as much as he loves hiking, is ready to lay down in his double doggy bed and sleep for weeks.
It'll be weird going back to warmer Louisiana. We've been through so many seasons out here. Winter in La, then the beginning of summer in La. Then spring in Georgia, then winter in the Smokies. Then summer in VA and NYC, now fall in ME. Then back to summer/fall in La. We have learned to just take what comes at us.
We got the new camera a week ago and it's working like a charm. We are feeling healed up and loving the Maine. Hiking is strenuous here. They say by the Whites, you are 80% done with the Trail but only used 20% of the effort. They were right. It's been some tough hiking.
After Lincoln, we made it to Gorham, NH to say by to Cavemom. Gorham was nice. It had an excellent free stealth camp spot that we took advantage of. From there the weather turned so we hiked out short to shelter. Our team was Belch, Caveman, D Flap, and us. Perfect. It was the next day we made it into Maine and things started really getting dicey.
Chaser has held up well on the Trail. People ask all the time and we are glad to say how awesome our dog is. However, not a half a mile after entering Maine, we got stuck at a steep, sharp spot. Fortunately, Belch was there to help. Throughout the day, there had been spots Chaser refused to try and hop down or was unable to climb up. But this spot was bad. It was tough for us. Belch and I basically forced him down and the poor thing shaved two claws down to the vessel and began spewing blood. Not good because there was a lot more of that to come. Fortunately, there was a shelter half a mile after that where we decided to stay to let him rest. We knew the next day we were going to be going up against the "hardest" mile on the AT. It's called the Mahoosic Notch and it's basically boulders thrown everywhere that you must climb up, over, and under. We initially thought it would be no problem for him but after that incident, we realized getting him out of tricky spots was gonna be tough.
It just so happened we stayed at the shelter with an old friend, Gluten Puff. It also happened that there was a road two miles from the shelter that led to the town of Berlin, NH. The same place Gluten Puff had stayed the night before with a very kind couple, Hugo and Lin. So, Reverie, in effort to not put Chaser through the Notch, opted to head to the road in the morning in hopes of staying with same couple. I was to go on and video the toughest mile on the Trail and meet her in Andover a day later. So, that she did. It was the first time we gone opposite ways. First time I was tent alone. First time for real separation.
After she left, Belch and I got going and right off the bat, it paid off, her taking Chaser. There was some wild rebar climbing up a mountain with some steep rock that we would have struggled figuring our how to handle Chaser. Later that day, we D Flap, Caveman, Belch, and I made it to the Notch and we were excited. It is also called the funnest mile of the AT. It depends on how you look at it. It takes many people two+ hours to complete it. It takes time, patience, balance, and skillful maneuvering. within the first 10 minutes, I fell pretty good, as did Belch, as did D Flap(all on video).  It was a fun challenge. Over, under, and through the loop we went though the obstacle course. It took us about an hour and a half including filming each other. I'd love to do it again WITHOUT a massive backpack. Afterwards, we climbed the hellish Mahoosic Arm. An intense 1600 ft ascent up a steep rock face.
It was uncomfortable and cold not sleeping with Chaser and Reverie. Lonely, really. I didn't like it. I went to bed early with a poor nights sleep. The next day I hiked into Grafton Notch which was a gorgeous hike. Finally, a comfortable downhill. Not just a jarring, knee-suffering, steep, carefully planned-stepping rocky decent. It was nice. Good weather, good filming. Nevertheless, it was time to get to Andover and get back to Rev and Chase. Special thanks to Hugo and Lin for awesome place to stay for Rev and the ride. Y'all are amazing!
We made it to The Cabin and enjoyed the country there. We slacked around until we got to Rangeley, where we've done more slacking. We hiked to a gorgeous Maine lake in the mountains yesterday where people donated some boats to go out on. So, we did. It was so pleasant, aside from being cold. We wish everyday had a lake in the middle of it.
Next step, off to Stratton for some more slacking. Carrying 55lbs is too much and my back hurts constantly. So, again, we slack when we can. People keep saying in 2 weeks the foliage here is going to blow our minds. And considering the fact that it already is, we are excited to see how much better it can get.
Home in 3 weeks. Maybe one more blog entry before then. We miss you guys. And congratulations to our friends who have already completed their hike: Purple Rain, Two Pair, Gerber, Onkles, Sling Blade, Tantrum, and soon, Suds and Bunny! Way to go guys! We miss y'all already!


Gotta keep Chase warm too

I'll Try!!!

The boys, High Life, Belch, Caveman, and D Flap playing wallball

Belch rolling a cig

Top of mountain bog walking


Caveman's map that got Rev and Chase to safety

Caveman and D Flap way up there


Where we were headed after first summit of Maine

Camera time

Belch climbing it

Mahoosic notch start

After the Arm


Lake of clouds

St. Benard on the Trail

Waterfalls we get to hike next to

Sketchy logs we must cross. This one is particularly dangerous

Loner clothes while washing


Hitchin' to and fromTrail

Height of the Land

Location:Manor Dr,Rangeley,United States

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ups and Downs in the Whites

We are currently in Lincoln, NH. This is our... 7th day here, I think. Don't worry, there has been some hiking between there. We haven't been here this long by choice. It's not a bad city but it sucks being stuck anywhere. And that is what we are for at least a couple more hours. Maybe more.

Immediately after finishing the last blog and leaving the library in awesome Hanover, we ran into the amazing Miss Janet. Trail Angel of Trail Angels. We kept hearing she was in the area but she's a tough one to track down. She basically tracked us down. She was looking for a new bubble to help for a while and that was us. Immediately, she offered slacking options entering the Whites. Whaaa? Sweet! We hopped in her van and headed to a campsite on the AT down the road.

By this time, Caveman was back. The slackers involved Slash, FWD, Caveman, Dick Flap, Reverie, Belch, Central Booking, Frosty, and the whole Sunshine Gang. Miss Janet helped us knock out a lot of miles.

Chaser, Dick Flap, Caveman, Reverie, and I were gonna slack southbound over Moosiluake. Unfortunately, Reverie wasn't feeling well so she sat it out. Southbound was important here. Going up the mountain southbound was much safer and easier for Chaser than going down it. It was steep. It took us an hour and a half to go one and a half miles. Never has it ever taken us that long.

The weather wasn't perfect but it was trying to clear up. By the time we got to the peak, it was looking good. We ran into friends and enjoyed the views. Moosiluake was awesome.

We all stay at an easily road accessible shelter, Jeffers Shelter, that night where Janet brings us for pizza. That was excellent, the campsite and the pizza. We also went through our last field on the Trail that day. Mountains from here on out.

The next day Janet brought us to a hostel in Lincoln to drop off anything we could live without for a day as a half slack. The plan was to be out one night and end up back at the hostel the next evening. So, Reverie, Caveman, Chaser, D Flap, and I headed out around 3:30 to do 7 miles over Mt Wolf to a shelter. Little did we know, 7 miles no longer was timed like 7 miles of the past. It's harder now. Basically, we underestimated the hike and did our first night hiking of the Trail. At least an hour of it. It was weird. Tunnel vision. You gotta feel the Trail and guess where it goes sometimes. My battery was dying adding a higher sense of urgency. Anyway, we made it. Set up in the dark. Cooked in the dark. It gets dark so much earlier now.

The next day, it was time to go over Kinsman. We woke up to a slight drizzle. Basically, the weather wasn't ideal for the climb to come. We climbed and climbed. Seriously, Climbed. It was hardly hiking most of the day. The higher we got, the higher the winds and no views. Spots where we had to either push or pull Chaser up. He's a beast, yes. But this mountain was unforgiving. You had to negotiate about every step. So many slabs of rock and the Trail says, "figure this one out". It was tough, I'm not gonna lie. I figured that's how all the Whites would be. Either way, we made it to the top in whiteout conditions. The decent was equally as challenging but we made it. We got a hitch back to the hostel where all of our friends were.

Chet's Place. An amazing donation-based hostel. It's treated us very well for the most part. That first night, a local who supports the Trail came and picked us up to bring us to a hot tub and heated pool. We even zeroed to watch the Saints lose their first game. But the weather was predicted to be amazing the following week so it was time to get a move on.

Caveman's mom, Donna(aka Cavemom), was coming to hike with him. She was set to arrive Tuesday and we were leaving Monday. Lots of miles to do. We got a ride by the generous, Hopper, to Franconia Notch to begin our adventure to long walks above tree line in the Whites. The weather was not shaping up to be as pretty as everyone was saying. It was windy, cloudy, and cold. But it's "supposed" to clear up. So up we went into 5000+ ft elevation to the top of Mt Lincoln into the clouds. Bad. Idea. ... Awful. Idea. At first it was just sorta disappointing that there were no views and the wind was bad. But then it turned into scary and disheartening that we are way up here and we have no choice but to fight through the two and a half miles of exposed hiking. It was miserable and scary. The wind was reaching 80mph and mid 30 temperature. We were getting blown all over the place. Thank god Caveman was there. All of our fingers were going numb and we were ready to be off that ridge. But we were stuck. We fought and battled the terrible conditions until we finally got below tree level. We almost immediately set up our tents and hunkered down for the night. By that point, I wasn't feeling very well. Feverish and overly sore. Some pretty day that turned out to be.

That night we talked about how crazy it would be to do that in the dark when suddenly, here come two "day hikers" who apparently work at the AMC Huts up the Trail headed up into the madness. We warned them not to but they said they had already done 42 miles that day and only had a few left to go so they wanted to take their chances. Suit yourselves, dudes. We go to sleep. An hour later, "you guys were right! We can't hike in that. It's freezing out here and we only have day packs. Can we sleep in your tents with y'all?" whoa. Ummm. Well. Uh. This is just a voice in the night. I wasn't sure but Reverie didn't want them to freeze so, yeah. Hop in. One got in with Caveman and the other with us. We knew one day our huge ass tent would come in handy. It was a rough awkward sleep. He had shorts on and no sleeping bag or pad. He got Chaser instead. In the end, morning came, they rolled out and we had a story.

The other thing that happened in the morning was that it was gorgeous out! Daaamn. Why couldn't it have been like this yesterday? What do we do? We'd been looking forward to Franconia Ridge for so long. Let's.... Southbound it. Yep. Let's turn around and do it again, except this time it'll be amazing. Aaaand it was. We'd never gone back rehired miles ever. But this was so worth it. All our NoBo friends were like wha? But everything about it ruled. It exceeded expectations by far. Could not have been happier we made that decision.

The other thing was, my tummy was beginning to have issues too. So we figured we'd head back to Chet's.

We got to Chet's and I had a fever. It was packed with hikers and was getting grosser. Caveman's mom got in late that evening as well. I couldn't even get up to hug her.

The next day it was clear I had a bug and that a hiker hostel was not the best place to deal with it. We checked into a hotel around the corner. The worst part was, it was a gorgeous day outside. So so pretty. But I wasn't able to do anything. Said bye to Caveman and Cavemom. They were gonna be going slow so we figured we'd see em soon enough.

Good thing we were at a hotel. It wouldn't have worked any other way. Woke up the next morning to an equally amazing day and realized I still hadn't recovered. Shit. Reluctantly checked in for another night. We know every pretty day we don't hike in the Whites is a risk. We WILL NoT put ourselves through white out conditions again. So the timing has to be perfect. So does the weather. We watched many days go by and now bad weather is creeping up again. The LAST thing you want to do is be stuck in the presidentials in bad weather. Mt Washington has some of the worst weather on earth. Highest wind speeds. So, we can't go up there on a whim. However we can't NOT hike and just wait. It's a predicament, for sure.

So, upon the second recovery day at the hotel, I reviewed some film and realized, my cameras audio is NOT working. At all. It turned into a series of warranty phone calls and ordering another one. My camera has actually gone UP in price!!! It's a year and a half old technology but somehow went up in value. Never heard of that before. So, this was that much more stressful. Overnighting a camera and pretty days getting by us and the weekend approaching and sickness. Mixed awful things.

One last effort, I shoved the camera in rice. It was presumably water damage due to the moisture from Franconia Ridge in whiteout conditions. So, rice was worth a shot. We woke up, I was feeling better, for the most part, and the camera... WORKED! Excitement. Canceled the other camera. Cancelled the warranty. I was happy. Time to hike out on that beautiful day.

We realize my bug was getting popular. A lot of people have been getting it or have it now. We are really hoping Rev doesn't get it because it's not something you can deal with on the Trail. And the Whites are so difficult it would make everything miserable. We just found out a couple passed it to one another today. All the while knowing bad weather is coming up.

Anyway, we get packed up and ready to hitch. We get on the road and I chat to the camera which appears to NOT be working. Can't play that game. It can't be fickle. We turn around. Get back on the phone. And get the ball rolling on another camera while admitting to ourselves we are gonna be stuck in town a bit longer. Ugh. But the camera has come this far. I can't give up on this doc now. We went back to Chet's.

We set up our tent and hunkered down. It felt diseasey in the hostel. We set up a next day air for the new cam and sent the broken one to Squaretrade Warranty. They rule, by the way. Best warranty ever.

So, here we sit on a Saturday in Lincoln still. Ready to move but scared to start the Presidential range due to weather. We are behind everyone now. I foresee a much needed skip despite the fact we REALLY didn't want to miss any of the Whites. But we have a schedule. No decisions have been made but the camera comes in around 4 and then we need a plan.

No matter what happens, this is our adventure and we are still loving it. Homesickness takes over time to time. I don't want to say by to the friends or mountains but I also wanna see family and old friends.

Just got a call. Camera is in! We're out. But where too?

Bottom of Moosiluake

The Trail parallels so many awesome falls up here.

Yep, rebar.


D Flap's big fall

The Camel, FWD, Slash, and Croc


Drunk Flap

Thanks, Miss Janet!

Moose country

Franconia Ridge way back there.

"it'll clear up"

It only got uglier

The gorgeous next day. Up to Mt Lafayette

YouTube Video


- Spiral, Reverie, and CamDog

Location:Duck Pond Way,Lincoln,United States