Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To the End. To the Beginning.

The shock still hasn't worn off. It may not have fully set in yet either. The journey is over. I know I left the viewers at Rangeley, ME and a lot happened between there. It's a shame I was unable to update between here and there as great detail dwindles in my mind the further we get away from those events. But here goes anyway...

After Rangeley was Stratton, ME where Miss Sue(aka Indy) ran an awesome hostel/hotel. The weather was getting bad so we stayed. It was well priced for the northeast and extremely clean and homely. We enjoyed the stay and the company of Crocatoeh who was a consistent friend throughout the Trail. The next day was pretty and it was time to hitch back to hiking.

Within 30 minutes we were headed back to the Trail the back of a kind Mainer's truck. He dropped us off and we headed north. We hiked an easy, beautiful 2 miles then a steeper, more difficult, yet still beautiful 3 miles to a shelter called Horns Pond Lean-to. The thing about Maine is it's nonstop gorgeous. The colors were exploding and there was no better place to be than out in the woods. And, for the most part, the Trail was getting easier despite some mild climbs. Plus, for this in particular site, there was a pond on 3000ft in elevation tucked between two mountains. It was amazing. It was also cold. It was September 27th and we set our tent up inside the shelter for increased warmth. There were two section hikers in the shelter next to us who offered a couple sips of whiskey that we quickly accepted. Next thing you know, as the sun was going down, Caveman shows up. Much celebrating. He slept in our tent in the shelter with us for increased warmth that evening. Man, I love our tent size despite the increased weight.

The next day was to be one of the last times we hike above tree line before Katahdin upon Avery Peak where we also hit the 2000 mile marker. We were very happy to have Caveman with us. Now if only we could find Belch. The day was pretty for above tree line walking. It was a sight. Maine is full of ponds(lakes to us) all over the place. You reach the top of a mountain and suddenly there are hardly any immediate ridges around. They are replaced with red, yellow, and orange leaved trees and massive bodies of water. Breath taking. It actually hurts writing about it when I just want us to be there looking out again over this gorgeous scenery. We conquered another mountain that day. It was pretty much all ours. The bubbles have gotten so spread out we didn't see many people hiking anymore. The seclusion of being on a mountain that possibly no one else will touch that day is an empowering feeling. We were loving every minute.

Suddenly, the weather turned on the way down. Clouds set in and rain was a threat. We still had another mountain to climb that day but we've learned our lesson about high elevation, in-cloud, white out conditions. So, the three of us took an amazingly well-kept and pleasant blue blaze that was supposed to cut out that mountain. After 2 miles and dark skies, we came upon Flagstaff Lake. It appeared to be a popular place when in season and on pretty days. Because it was neither of those that day, we caught it all to ourselves. It was a massive campsite on the beach of this massive lake. Firewood everywhere like it hadn't been touched in months. We set up camp and enjoyed the view before the rain came.

The next day we ended up in Kingfield, ME where people bought us drinks just for letting them pet Chaser. ... Chaser has been something else on this trip. For as difficult as he's been due to "No Dog" policies, he has gotten us an equal amount of rides and even places to stay. For every nondog lovers, there are two dog lovers. That evening we were offered a place to stay all because Chaser sat outside with Reverie's coat on and got attention. Sure! Pete was his name and he offered a ride back to the Trail the next day. Sweet. He had an amazing plot of land that used to have a Bed and Breakfast on it. Since his wife had passed he shut it down and now lives to look at the ridge line he owns off his porch on his couple hundred acres. What a place to own land...

The next day, the weather had turned really bad. Rained literally all day. He insisted we hang another day. But of course. I caught my first Saints game and got to check out a bunch of doggy cam stuff and charged a trillion things. He even brought us pizza and beer. The next day, we got to Caratunk were we had a not only a mail drop, but also a package waiting for us from our good friends, Ashley, and Jason and Lily, and their daughters Alani and Kylie. We were excited to get it. Included home baked cookies. A favorite on the Trail. Thanks, guys! We made it to the Sterling Inn where a load of hikers apparently have been held up by the rain, including D. Flap. Cool. We stayed and enjoyed the company.

The next day was pretty out. We were at a split on time and realizing our planned summit date, October 10th, was coming up really quick, D. Flap, Reverie and I decided to hitch to Monson and we are glad we did. Monson was really nice. It was a overwhelmingly pretty. Within our first couple of minutes there, a fella, Bruce, offered us a work for pay. Money and a place to stay? Yeah, sure! He needed a couple pallets of wood pellets moved inside the next day to prepare for winter. That's what you do in Maine; prepare for winter nonstop. Bruce and his wife, Nancy, had a big ole house lake side. It was surrounded by changing colors. Breathtaking, really. We set up tent in the yard and got a big fire going. Bruce brought out a bottle of his homemade whiskey he called Mon-shine. Some of the best whiskey I'd ever had. Too good. It was a rough next morning. Nevertheless, D. Flap and I managed to move the 250 40lb bags where they needed to go. We hung out by the lake, took some pictures and Bruce brought us into to town to grab our packages. D. Flap was waiting on a replacement backpack from SierraTradingPost and we were waiting on a massive food resupply for the oncoming 100 Mile Wilderness. But wouldn't you know it, Monson takes one extra day to receive parcels. Our two day package will take three days. Great... In addition, the next day was my birthday. So, again we did some extra work and stayed at Bruce and Nancy's again. Early the next morning we gotta to packing. It was my birthday and the clouds were angry. Poop.

We went into town and our packages were there. We had a TON of food. But all quite necessary. Again, the 100 Mile Wilderness was going to require roughly 6-8 days without anyway to a grocery store or restaurant. So, we resupplied and decided to grab some food at the amazing, amazing Lake Shore House that was a bar, and doubled as a hostel, tripled as a laundromat, and quadrupled as one of the most wholesome and delicious restaurants on the entire Trail. The perfect birthday lunch. We met the owner, Rebekah, who is one of sweetest ladies in the world. It was her son's birthday that day too, coincidentally, so she gave me a nice long motherly hug and I didn't get to hug my mom so I hugged her back. We then took a look outside where it was raining and decided to stay one more night. One last night before the 100 Mile Wilderness, but at the Lake Shore House this time. People had already started buying me drinks. So, ya know. The only problem was, we saw Caveman getting into a car headed to the Trail before we got to say two words to him. And for some reason, that boy sent all his electronics ahead to Millinocket, including his phone and camera, so there was no way to get ahold of him to tell him to come hang for a bit for my bday. Off he went. Nevertheless, Reverie, D. Flap, this fella named, TLB(The Last Boner), and a multitude of locals, including Bruce and Nancy, all partied at the bar. Great birthday, indeed.

The next morning it was time. Time to make miles into the 100 Mile Wilderness. I was October 5th and we figured we'd make it out by the 10th or 11th. Yes, the summit date got pushed back partially due to the weather forecast. It was looking pretty on the 10th. The 12th or 13th was looking much better. So, we set a new goal and headed into the woods, Reverie, Chaser and me. Flap stayed behind.

Right off the bat, not 70 yards into the woods, a bridge had been swept away. It was a shallow stream but right off the bat we had to remove our shoes and get to the other side. Slippery rocks where the only concern there but we made it okay. We knew, according to the book and word of mouth, we had some river/stream fords coming up. But we had no idea the intensity that lye before us. The terrain was slick. There was far more slate than before which doesn't offer a lot of traction. Within the first 4.5 miles we came upon an epic waterfall. Always a nice sight and feeling. However, upon descending, we realized near the base was where we were to cross. Hmmm. White blaze, white blaze, white blaze, turn, white blaze on the other side of a rushing river. Whoa. It was getting late and Reverie was not feeling crossing it at that moment. Fortunately, there was an awesome campsite right next to the crossing. The only bad thing was the constant sound of rushing water throughout the night that worried Reverie. Like a pending doom. We realized we didn't know we had signed up for this. There was nothing like this 2000 miles prior. Suddenly it gets real.

That night we were ambushed by rodents. Holes in our tents and Chaser's trusty backpack and food bags. Arg.

A log. We heard about a log crossing. There it was stretched across. Wet, bowed, and knotted up. But it was obvious it was there for crossing. It was time. I hopped on immediately getting a wet butt first thing in the morning. I scooted slowly. The knots were obstacles trying to throw your balance off. As was my backpack. It didn't rest on the log for stability, rather weighed my top half adding to balancing act. Safely made it though. I put my backpack down and went back, retrieved Reverie's pack and scooted again. Then coached her across. She did it like a boss. Then once more time, I went back to clip Chaser to me and basically force him into the rushing, thigh high water. He made it safe. He's a swimming dog and we put him to the test. Good boy. First "ford" down.

An hour and a half later we arrived at a dead end of white blazes and a rope stretched across a much larger and quicker river. Well, alright. We were told that whatever we do, don't let go of the rope. They weren't kidding. Same thing except stripped down to my boxers. Crossed it carefully. Remove pack, come back to get Rev's pack and the camera, remove her pack on other side, then back again for Chaser and Rev. All on film, mind you. They pulled it off flawlessly. These fords, though a hassle and means for concern and a serious slow down, taking chunks of time out of our day, were fun and challenging. One of those, "If we can do that, we can do anything" moments. We were happy and safe.

Right behind was ole D. Flap. We watched him cross and hiked on together. The miles were going slow that day. We were definitely gonna miss our mark. Especially when, at the end of the day, it start drizzling and suddenly there's another rope across an even swifter river. Ugh, by this point. We just want to get to the shelter and rest. Fortunately, at this point the it wasn't freezing out. The water and outside were cold, yes, but not frigid. We were lucky there. We all made it across but not before losing one of Reverie's trekking poles. These fords were no joke. We moved on in the rain, me hiking in my boxers and arrived a shelter short of our goal around 5. It started getting dark so early by this point. We realized, the earlier, the better.

We stayed in the shelter that night and mice were everywhere. Including running right over our heads. We almost forgot why we hated shelters so much. But it was raining. We just dealt with it. Poor sleep so we got up early. A cold front pushed through and we had soaking wet freezing clothes and boots. Oy! But it was beginning to clear up. We had a couple climbs first thing to warm us up, good thing. That day we caught our first views of the beast, Mount Katahdin. Incredibly epic looking even from 70 miles away. It was encouraging. We spotted the next mountain we were to climb and just as it's name was, White Cap Mountain, had snow on top. Whaaa! Snow again!? October 8th it was. Crazy... to us, at least. It was sure was pretty.

That night we set up camp and laid out clothes to dry. We snuggled into our tent on one the coldest nights yet. We had every article of clothing on that wasn't wet. We were freezing. That turned out to be quite literal. Our socks left out to dry were ice cubes. So was Chaser's backpack. Worst of all, the tent fly and poles were frozen. They were still damp from nights before and decided to turn into a sheet of ice. Cold, indeed.

We were up early and cruising. From there it was supposed to be really easy, flat hiking. White Cap was the last big mountain before Katahdin. Smooth sailing now. Sure enough, it was. We were told by our sorely missed bud, Suds, via FB that once we hit Crawford Pond, 20 mile days were doable and were only miles away from there. Suddenly, things fell into place. Sure, flat hiking meant roots, rocks, crappy bog bridges, small fords, and mud. But it also meant seeing lakes and beaches and close to 3mph speed. Hell yeah. We stayed at yet another gorgeous spot on a massive lake that gave way to the prettiest morning yet. More and more epic every day.

That day we reunited with the Sunshine Gang. We had gone 4 days with only seeing about 3 hikers. D. Flap was one of them. Suddenly we had about 8 more. We were all determined to summit Katahdin the 13th as that was supposed to the prettiest day for a while. Before and after that day were looking bad. After cranking out a 20+ we settled at Rainbow Lean-to to get another early start and exit the 100 Mile Wilderness. It was a cold day and by this point, we were really low on food. We did well rationing it all out. But we didn't leave much for the hike out. Though the sleet, we finally made it out and had the most intense view of Katahdin yet at Abol Bridge. Breathtaking. Suddenly, Caveman appeared. He finished the 100 Mile in 3 and a half days. He did a 43 miler one of those days. I'm still not sure what he was trying to prove but he was happy. He had already summited with Bumble Bee, Croc, and other on the 9th. But he was gonna summit again with us. Yay!! It was the 11th and we wanted to summit the 13th so we, Rev, Chaser, Flap, Caveman, and I hitched to Millinocket, ME and got a much-deserved hotel room where we enjoyed the hell out of a bed and ate some McD's.

Chaser's adventure was over that day. He's not allowed in Baxter State Park. I think he was fine with that. He got to stay at the hotel with Jerry's mom. We were very, very proud of him. It was time for him to rest. Oh yeah, Tom and Jerry were summiting the next day too! We were accumulating a great crew to end with.

We caught a ride to Baxter State Park the next day where it was snowing. Whoa again. We were at the base of the Katahdin. 5 miles away from the end. We set up camp and suddenly here comes Slash, Saturday, Hopper, Bismark, Gluten Puff, Frosty, and No Doubt. Freaking awesome! We built a fire as the snow flurried down and enjoyed our last night on the Trail and looked forward to the next day.

We awoke at 6 and got broke down camp for the last time. It was cold and slowly clearing up. It wasn't long before we began the last day of our journey. We took day packs that the park had to offer because the it was ill-advised to bring a loaded pack up there. The first 2 miles were a joke. We were kinda confused actually. But by the third mile Katahdin was taking shape. The climb to Katahdin finally and truly started. It was all iced over and snowy. Quite dangerous in some places. Slick slippery rocks where the Trail was supposed to be a stream. We pushed on; Reverie, Caveman, and myself. We saw some day hikers beginning to turn around at above tree line level because it was so cold. The wind was unstoppable up there. We were not to be deterred. We kept climbing.

We got above tree line and the boulders began. Between pulling ourselves up by rebar and scooting down in tight spots like a vertical Mahoosic Notch, we were still steady moving. The view was already ravishing. We couldn't believe what we were looking at. Keep. Climbing. Suddenly, it mellowed out and we saw the true battle we had ahead of ourselves. It was a spine of ginormous rocks thrown about that lead to our destination. Keep. Climbing.

It was tricky, slow-going, and freezing. But we forced ourselves to the top as icicles formed in our beards and water supply slowly solidified. I was genuinely worried my camera, attached to my chest, would freeze up. I know it's not good for it. But it was holding up. Thanks to Caveman as a crucial camera man that climb.

We made it to the "summit" that we knew was false. It was really just a table top plateau. We looked back down on what we just hiked up and didn't wanna think about the climb back. Forward progression. The top was covered in feet of snow. It was difficult to follow the Trail at times. You just had to decipher where others had been walking. We could see from a distance little black dots a mile away on top of the highest point. It was the summit. There it is. Here we are. So close. It lit a fire under us and we got ta steppin'. Closer and closer. While Reverie wasn't looking, Caveman, the ring bearer, slipped me the ring I had gotten for her to propose at the post epic spot imaginable, Mt Katahdin.

We were steps away when we started cheering. There were about 10-15 thruhikers there finishing their journey and about 15 day hikers. They were waiting for us. D. Flap was up there already and snapping off pictures like crazy. We were blessed and thankful to hang with the phenomenal photographer D. Flap is throughout the Trail much less here at the summit.

We kissed the sign. We climbed behind it and opened the champagne we carried throughout the whole Wilderness. Then I insisted we go to the front of the sign where I caught Reverie off guard and got on one knee. The crowd knew, she had no idea. "Will you marry me?". Immediately she was as happy and excited to say yes as I was to ask the question. Engaged!!!!! We did it and we are meant to be together. She is the strongest, prettiest, most perfect girl out there and I'll be dammed if we date for 3 and half years, and spend 6 months in the woods and let her get away. She is now my fiance and it feels amazing. We hugged, kissed, celebrated. Utmost joy and jubilation. We took a couple more pictures with everyone and stuck out the cold as long as we could before turning back to the descend the mountain with a ring on her finger.

Cut to. Jump.

We went back to Millinocket and stayed one last night and celebrated with everyone before the drive back the next day. Special thanks to Slash and his mother for getting us to Portland, ME. I don't know what we have done otherwise. From there we rented a car, drove to NYC to see Chesley and collect the footage of the trip, drove to West Virgina and hang out at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, then moved on to Johnson City to see our old friends, Patch and Sully. Then to Chattanooga to see Belch's parents(He summited the 16th. Go Belch!). His mother, Nancy, made us awesome beef stew, the best cake ever, and knitted us an AMAZING quilt!! Whaaaa! Thank you so so much, Mrs. Nancy!! It'll be with us the rest of our days! From there we drive home. Which is where we are now. Hot Louisiana. Happy to see family and friends but sorely missing the Trail. It'll take a while to adapt to normal life. So it goes. We did immediately hit up Nagoya and then amazing southern BBQ and boiled crabs with Lindsay's awesome family! Good way to return!

I'd go into more detail but this has already taken me 3 and half hours. The footage is looking really really good. I'm so glad the camera came with us. I'm fully confident in the success and entertainment of this film. I can't wait to start editing. We had an interview with The Advocate, Baton Rouge's newspaper yesterday. They want to cover the story. Sweet!!! With pictures and everything! I'll keep y'all posted on that. And on the film.

I'm sure there is more to say but I'm sure you're ready to stop reading. But what must be said is another thanks.

Seriously. We've never been more humble in our lives. The things people did for us and the way people treated us were unbelievable. The places we went and the people we met are unforgettable and we'll hold it forever. We could only be so lucky to have another adventure like this again. YOU could only be so smart to begin planning your trip on the AT. The support and help we've received restores my belief of the true good in the world. I'm still shocked the AT and everything surrounding it exists. It's such a good, wholesome, true way of living. Like the way things should be. Here in a house full of nice things is not a bad thing. But to get down to the basics and living life day to day with minimal obligations or plans is so pure. The goal of Katahdin is complete. The goal to happy, simple living will be ongoing. We'll hold the AT forever in our hearts and sing it's praises and tell it's stories for forever.

It was time to do something with our lives and we did.

Now go hike.

 Rangeley. A dream.
 Lindsay's Chaser
Flap's Jacket

 Some awesome carvings. Accurate too.
 Pond on the Mountain

 Sunset lighting up the mountain

 To Avery

 2000 Miles!!!



 Flagstaff Lake

 At Pete's
 Map of photos

 Working for Staying

 Chaser Flap
 At Bruce's

 The beaver dam IS the Trail!

 Water falling

 Log Crossing
 Chaser Crossing via water
 Success and survived
 Morning fog. Where the moose at?
 We get it. The Trail goes that way.
 Waiting for Rev to ford a brook

 Flap knocking it out.

 A train in the 100 Mile Wilderness
 Chaser crossing and Flap's soft touch

 Brand new, well built bog bridges. Thank god.
 Descending into heaven
 Snow capped!?

 Faerie tale land

 Colors be popping

 Our baby
 My baby
 Crawford Pond... Finally! Easy on out.

 Suds for cancer
 Eva and Short Term missed

 Moose rub on the Trail. Whoa

 Antler Campsite. The best.
 Friends getting home at the same time.
 Where's the unicorn?


The Camel helping Rev ford

 Slatey river
 Last morning in the Wilderness with the Sunshine Gang in the back.
 Closing in.

 Delicious pond
 Rough waters

 D. Flappin'
 Chaser's journey is over. Can you tell?

 Cavemen can film

 Above tree line headed up Katahdin

 what wha!?

 On up

 Table Top finally!

 She said yes!

 The Family
 Knife's Edge. Caveman went down that way on his first summit.

 Smoke Hawk, 4'10, and BackTrack
 The Gang

 You will all be missed!! Frosty, Me, Rev Gluten Puff, Caveman, Belch, Slash, D. Flap
 Belch summited days later. Congrats, bro.
 Like father like son.

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