March 27, Wednesday
Gutsy's 1996 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
I was so anxious to be on the trail that I decided at 3:00 a.m. to start today instead of leaving Sunday after the teen retreat where Dan and I would be counseling. That meant I had a lot to do. I called my uncle and talked him into taking me to Springer Mountain. He took me in his little car. If I had known the type of road I would be traveling on I would have taken my truck. We scraped bottom constantly. It was a very rainy day and that didn't help. I think my uncle was sorry he agreed to take me.
I was so excited I just started walking without checking the direction. After 20 minutes of not coming to Springer (I'd been there with another hike and knew it wasn't far from the parking lot.) I decided to check my book to see if I was going to right way. I wasn't. Well, I sort of was. I was going north, all right, but to get to Springer I needed to hike south. So I turned around and went back the way I came (in the rain, of course). I arrived at 4:30 p.m. at Springer, signed in, and headed north again. I made it to the Stover Creek shelter around 6:15. Only two thru hikers were there (the first I met on my trip), Micro and Bob. Micro and I shared the shelter, and Bob tented. I had my first experience with shelter mice--two ran over my head!
March 28, Thursday I hiked to Gooch Gap.
March 29, Friday
I hiked to Neel's Gap. I was there by 2:30 and waited for Dan to arrive. He was taking me to work at a teen camp for the weekend.
March 31, Sunday
Dan brought me back to Neel's Gap, but it was too late (5:30 p.m.) to start the trail. It was cold and rainy and the nearest shelter was seven miles away and over a mile off the trail. There was no way I could do it so I stayed for the night at Neel's Gap. It was full. I got the last available bunk which had no mattress. Bob made it there while I was off and Wild Hair (I don't remember the others). I hadn't been on the trail very long but I was embarrassed how big my appetite was at camp. But the weather is cold and that uses all my calories.
I bought new hiking boots to wear on the AT, but at the last minute I decided to wear my old ones. They had about 1000 hiking miles on them and were very comfortable. It turned out to be a good move because while many others were complaining about sore feet, I never had a blister! I will change boots later on when my feet become toughened.
April 1, Monday
I hiked from Neel's Gap to Blue Mountain Shelter. A father with two sons were there as well as a sort of trail bum Windwalker. In the night Windwalker was cold (he had very little gear and it was very cold that night) so he smoked in his sleeping bag throughout the night. The mice had found his pack and were literally fighting over something in it. Every once in awhile he would reach up with a stick and whack vigorously on his pack. They would be quiet for awhile and then they would start over again. It was windy and very cold up there.
April 2, Tuesday
I hiked to Plumorchard shelter. This was my first 20. Rainmaker, a former thru hiker was there and he was going to phone Dan to change our meeting place this weekend. The mice in the shelter were out of control and this one hiker stayed awake and tried swatting them with his Tevas. I laughed so much. The mice were terrible. They were crawling all over us.
April 3, Wednesday
I hiked to Standing Indian Shelter. Micro was there, and three couples: Honey and Baked Alaska, Jarhead and his wife, and another couple (I don't remember their names). Micro and I decided to camp under the stars to see the comet, but Jarhead's wife handed out earplugs to whoever wanted to shelter with them because he snores so loud.
April 4, Thursday
I hiked all the way to Silers Bald Shelter! (27.3) It was really sort of a mistake because I didn't read my miles right. Rainmaker had told me that from Standing Indian shelter there is a possibility of a 20 miler. Well, when I came to Wallace Gap I looked at my book and decided I cold easily go on to Silers Bald, but I thought Wallace Gap was Winding Stair. So when I came to Winding Stair, there was nothing I could do but go on to the next shelter which was Silers Bald! I paid for those long miles. I ached all night. The shelter was full (of women) but they moved over and made a place for me. Skye and Fancy Free with her dog Appalachia were there. One of the interesting young men I met was Greenleaf, who plays sitar and was trying to be a minimalist. He was trying to learn how to eat mice so he could live off the trail (the shelters are full of them). I am learning how to ignore the mice and not freak out when they crawl over my body.
April 5, Friday
Hiked to the A. Rufus Morgan Shelter
April 6, Saturday
I arrived at Wesser around 9 a.m. Dan was meeting me for the weekend. I saw his car go by (he didn't see me) and I was a bit sad, but I knew he would turn around and come back eventually.
We stopped at the Nantahala Outdoor Center and bought some different matches. The others I had were waterproof, but they wouldn't light. I was using about 5 matches each time I tried to light my stove. Someone in the store gave me some regular wooden matches and I bought some waterproof, but I found that the ordinary kitchen matches worked great. I just was careful to put them back in a zip lock bag after each use.
April 7, Sunday
Dan dropped me off at Wesser around 7:30. As I climbed up from Nantahala River, it kept getting colder and I had to put on my coat instead of removing a layer because of the exertion. It took me four hours to get up the mountain. Dan surprised me and drove to Stecoah Gap and hiked 7 miles to Sassafras Gap Shelter to meet me (he'd wanted to see Cheoah Bald). Dan carried my pack back to Stecoah Gap from there. We ate peanut butter sandwiches on Cheoah. Trail magic had left apples and cokes at Stecoah Gap and I took 2 apples. I spent the night at Brown Fork Gap Shelter. There were four in the shelter, including an older gentleman (Merlin) whose wife made him promise he'd hike the AT after she died of cancer. He had a wonderful voice (he was singing in the privy when I first arrived.)
April 8, Monday
My plan was to meet the AOL tag team at Fontana Dam at noon so I hit the trail at 6:15. It was still dark and I took the trail the wrong direction (!) and didn't realize it until I reached Stecoah Gap. What a disappointment! It was all I could do not to sit on the ground and cry. I turned around but it started snowing and soon the trail was very slippery. I reached Fontana Dam at 3 p.m. and Andy (one of the organizers of the tag team) gave me a ride to where Pete was still waiting for me. (He said I had that 1,000-yard stare of a battle-fatigued soldier.) I had eaten only a Snickers bar all day, so Pete drove me to the store for something to eat. I hadn't had a bath for awhile and was counting on the free showers at Fontana Dam, but time was against me so we both hiked on to Birch Gap shelter and found it was full (12 people), but we squeezed in. Smokin' Joe from the tag team had already arrived and was waiting for us. I hiked around 24 miles today with the back-tracking.
April 9, Tuesday
I stayed in my sleeping bag until 8 a.m. because I had had such a rough day yesterday. Then we (Pete, Joe and I) hiked through the 6 inches of snow and slush to Spence Field Shelter. Enjoyed hot chocolate and fresh vegetable stew. There were 12 people in this shelter, too, and there was mass confusion with food bags and packs hanging everywhere, stoves, pots, and other miscellaneous gear strewn about the floor, and wet clothing everywhere.
April 10, Wednesday
I forgot to mention the temperatures were quite cold--18 degrees at 8 a.m. today. My shoes were soaked starting Monday and never really dried. They froze at night, along with my socks. I decided I needed a break, so I reached Clingman's Dome at 5:45 p.m., then hitched a ride with a family, into Gatlinburg. There I stayed at Willow Motel.
April 11, Thursday
I am enjoying a day off at the Willow Motel. After the crowded shelter it is nice to have some solitude. It was almost impossible to move in the shelters without bumping into someone's food bag or backpack hanging up or kicking over someone's stove set up on the floor. I also have frost burn on my face from the cold wind.
I went to The Happy Hiker store and bought a new collapsible water carrier and had my picture taken (they display pictures of all thru hikers that stop in). They thought I looked too neat for a thru hiker and didn't believe I was really a thru hiker. I decided when I did this trip I would be as neat as I could. I didn't have any of the "usual" things a woman needs to fix up, but I tried to coordinate my clothes and wash a bit each day. (My hair dresser gave me this wonderful hair style I could just wash and shake out.)
April 12, Friday
I resumed my hike at Clingman's Dome at 10 a.m. and reached Icewater Shelter at 5 p.m. I decided to take the Maryland challenge and do the AT through MD in one day, but I'll have to get someone to slackpack me. Andy, a thru hiker who later was given the trail name "Blue Flame." was there and a boys' group arrived just before dark. They were getting off the next day and gave us some food.
April 13, Saturday
It poured buckets today, and I'm sitting by the fire trying to get dry and warm. Cosby Knob shelter was quite full. There were nine on the top berth (the same on the bottom, maybe 10). The guys insisted there was plenty of room for me up there, but I decided I would get a better sleep on the dirt floor. I have the very thick thermarest so I slept very comfortably on the floor--but narrowly missed being hit by a heavy "pillow" (stuff sack filled with clothes to be used as a pillow) that fell off the top bunk.
April 14, Sunday
Got up and out at 6:45. Made a side trip to Mountain Mama's Kuntry Store and Bunkhouse, and ate a cheeseburger and fries and two Snickers bars. I have lost weight. Phoned Dan and he came to visit me. We took three thru-hikers to a grocery store in Newton, TN and brought them back to Mountain Mama's where they were spending the night. I'm going to cross over I-40 but don't know if I'll make it to the next shelter tonight. Dan slackpacked me the first couple of miles.
April 15, Monday
The climb up Max Patch was horrendous today, but the view was absolutely beautiful. I hiked on and off with Langolier. We encouraged each other on the hills. It was so windy that I had difficulty staying on my feet. I brought all those candy bars and then gave one to each person in the shelter. I'm trying to lighten my pack a bit. I finally ate those carrots after carrying them for a week. Tonight it started raining, then it ended up as snow. I was near the door and it was raining in on my face (In the shelter were Charlie Brown, Pixie Moss, Blue Sky, Evergreen and a few others).
April 16, Tuesday
It was 30 degrees this morning--too cold to want to get up, but I made myself get up and get on the trail. There was snow and ice on all the trees, but the trail itself was not bad. I made pretty good time to Deer Park Shelter where I ate some soup and rested before hiking three more miles into Hot Springs.
I stayed at the Jesuit Hostel. I was going to camp but the weather was bad. There were four cards for me at the post office. For supper tonight I made black-eyed peas and corn bread here at the hostel, then washed out some clothes by hand (I only have one pair of long pants and I needed them).
April 17, Wednesday
Happy Birthday to Me! I got up at 3:30 this morning to call Dan because I always have a difficult time reaching him. I pretty much stayed around the hostel all day. In the morning I visited with Dan "Wingfoot" Bruce, author of The Thru-Hiker's Handbook. At the hostel I cooked oatmeal for breakfast and hamburger for lunch. Harry, from the Greenville hiking club, treated me to a birthday dinner.
April 18, Thursday
Harry slackpacked me from Hot Springs to Allen Gap, then I camped on the lawn of the Duckett Inn. The Jesuit Hostel was closed this weekend because the church was hosting a retreat.
April 19, Friday
Today I slackpacked from Allen Gap to Devil's Fork Gap. Today's mileage was rocky and hurt my knees--but the soak in the hot springs helped greatly. Had the "trail burger" at the Trail Cafe before Harry took me back to Devil's Fork Gap, where Dan will meet me tomorrow. I found a camping spot a few hundred yards in from the highway, and a stray hound is keeping me company.
April 20, Saturday
Dan met me at Devil's Fork Gap at 7 a.m. We had agreed on this spot earlier. After eating breakfast in the car, I put on my sneakers, left my backpack in the car, and started off on the trail again. Dan drove ahead to Sam's Gap (U.S. hwy 23), then hiked in to meet me. It started out sunny, but skies were dark by the time we met, and the storm started shortly after we reached the car. I had already decided to hike fewer miles today and enjoy a relaxing day with Dan because we might not meet next weekend. So we drove back to Hot Springs where we enjoyed the spa, ate at the Trail Cafe, met Wingfoot, and set up the tent in the campground across from the springs place. It rained on and off all day and into the night, but we were dry and warm and cozy.
April 22, Monday
My hike today took me up Beauty Spot. I was so draggy today, but I tried to keep going. Finally I couldn't go any further and I spread out my rain poncho on the ground and lay down on it. I was completely exhausted. I thought I might regain my strength but I didn't. Bloody Nose came by and talked me into moving a little farther ahead where he would be camping. I did, but I didn't even have enough energy to cook supper or get water. I was too close to a road, but I didn't care. In the night, though, I woke up with car lights shining in my face and I was afraid. After the car went on, I got up and moved my sleeping bag away from the road.
April 23, Tuesday
I hiked to the Clyde Smith Shelter and was planning to stay the night there. Then I looked at the data book and decided it was early enough to make it to the next shelter. Gizzie tried to talk me out of going, but I would not listen. I never looked to see where exactly I was going. The next shelter was on top of Roan Mountain, and instead of a quick hike to the shelter, it was a long, hard climb. The wind picked up and it started sleeting. It was difficult to hike with my flapping rain poncho, but I finally made it to the shelter before it turned totally dark. It was cold and dark in the shelter, so I had to cook by flashlight. Wanger and another couple were there and they let me use some of their water since the spring was a long, slippery hike down the hill and by now it was totally dark outside. The temperature dipped down to 20 that night, brrr!
April 24, Wednesday
The views were beautiful on both balds today (breathtaking, in more ways than one). Hiked some today with Wanger, who was finishing up the last stretch he needed to complete his last year's through hike. I was looking forward to getting cleaned up in the town of Roan Mtn., but the hostel was closed and I was very disappointed. After doing laundry, and eating lunch and supper (hamburgers, bananas, candy bar, and apple juice), I headed back to Apple House Shelter for the night and was the only one there. The locals are not very friendly to hikers so I'll be glad to leave this area. On a fence by the trail was a sign: "Beware of shotgun," and I saw remains of old stills near streams.
April 25, Thursday
For breakfast I had oatmeal, banana, and brownies (from Wanger). At that stop I met Big Boy. Later I met B.J., Cruisin' Cajun, and Snowshoe along the trail.
Enjoyed the wonderful fragrance of thick pine needles on the ground. I almost stepped on a copperhead. Fortunately, it was too cold for it to move quickly. On top of one of the mountains was an old rickety fire tower.
At Laurel Falls Shelter tonight are Lazy, Top Hat(he did more eating than hiking), and Walking Man. The blue-blazed spur trail to the shelter is something else--very narrow, with a steep drop on the side. I showered under a small waterfall off a side trail not far from the shelter (brrr). For supper I enjoyed black-eyed peas, brown rice, cornbread, and brownies. I didn't sleep very well at the Apple House Shelter, so I conked out and never woke up until morning.
April 26, Friday
I hiked to Iron Mtn. Shelter.
April 27, Saturday
I hiked 26 miles into "The Place" Hostel in Damascus, VA. There were lots of hikers on this stretch and almost everyone was doing big miles into town (the women for a bath, the men for food). As I was hiking people would stop and say, "Are you Wrong Way Johnson?" I would tell them my name is Gutsy. Come to find out, my friend in St. Louis, Pete, e-mailed Download about my going the wrong way from Brown Forks Shelter back down to Stecoah Gap. Download and his wife Nexmo were hiking with Turtle and Godfather and told them. So, as Turtle and Godfather hiked, they told everyone just ahead that Wrong Way Johnson was coming. A group of boy scouts camped at a shelter asked me the same thing. (At this shelter I met Islander, who was slackpacking her husband Pins) I finally caught up with Turtle, who was slackpacking. She was going very slowly and I was tired so I decided to hike with her. Of course, at this point I found out who was spreading my false trail name. :-) I told Godfather he could speed into town and I would stay with Turtle (she is my age). We reached town at 6:30 p.m. The Place was loaded with thru hikers (Zamboni Two Step, Dancing Bear, Weightless, BJ, Chameleon and October Dawn, plus many others whose names I couldn't remember. I also met a section hiker who said he would be willing to slackpack me through Maryland (my 45 mile day). Oh, I finally met Download, who I'd heard so much about. They stayed at a hotel, so I didn't see them much.
April 28, Sunday
I went to church this morning. Harry, from the Greenville hiking club, stopped by briefly. Dan brought Josh, Paul, and Christy (our dog), and we went to Quincey's for pizza at lunch time. Dan brought some supplies from home, and I repacked my backpack. I switched to the 20-degree sleeping bag and sent the 5-degree bag and a pair of socks home. He brought grapefruit, bananas, yogurt, butter, sunflower seeds, powdered milk, cooked hamburger meat (which I'll use tonight), and other stuff from the food bag. I sorted through the food and kept some and sent some back. Uncle Frank sent some good dehydrated backpacking food. I'll leave Damascus tomorrow after checking the mail at the post office.
April 29, Monday
I'm really enjoying my town stays. The floors at the hostel were dirty, so I cleaned them today. Thru hikers Zamboni Two-Step, Dancing Bear, Screaming Knee, Swift Step, and Cajun C invited me to stay for a cookout. I don't have to hurry this week because of my scheduled meeting with Dan Saturday, 75 miles from here. We had the cookout in the local park, which has a real trail shelter which was moved there. Also attending were Pins and Islander, an older couple. The mayor came to check up on us, and we visited with her for quite awhile.
April 30, Tuesday
It has been cold in the mornings--below freezing. I left Damascus at 8 a.m. and stopped for breakfast at 10. After crossing Whitetop Mtn. I stopped at 2 p.m. for lunch and to dry my sleeping bag. I set the hourly chime on my watch to remind me to take a drink of water because I haven't been drinking enough. It's cold and windy, and I'm trying to write with gloves on. I'm camping at the pond (somewhere before Saunders Shelter). I'm now using my 20-degree sleeping bag, and bought a smaller compression bag for it in Damascus so it'll fit in my pack. The others hikers here tonight are Godfather, Turtle, Screaming Knee, Cajun C, Dancing Bear, Swift Step, Zamboni Two Step. Someone cooked mushrooms (morels) but I was afraid of getting poisoned so I didn't eat any.
May 1, Wednesday
I'm a bonafide thru hiker now--I saw a whole almond on the trail and couldn't resist picking it up and eating it. There are jokes about hikers picking up M&M's. Three guys found an M&M and they split it three ways! :-) Some section hiking girls at Lost Mtn. Shelter gave me tabouli and tahini on pita bread. I arrived at Thomas Knob Shelter at 7 p.m. and thought I would be the only thru hiker there for the night, but sometime just before dark Zamboni Two Step made it in. Made macaroni and cheese (first on my hike) for supper and added dehydrated peas that someone gave me. Very tasty! I realized how much processed sugar I'm consuming and am trying to eliminate it from my diet. I also find that I'm retaining fluid while in towns, so I'm going to eat better in town. Now I'll have to see if I can keep my resolutions. There are wild ponies in the area, and the register had entries of people who saw them. They beg for food according to the register.
May 2, Thursday
I left Thomas Knob Shelter at 7:30 a.m. A group of wild ponies were resting and didn't bother moving when I came by. The Grayson Highlands area was absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed that area so much. I ate lunch at noon at Old Orchard Shelter. At Raccoon Branch Shelter with my tonight are 3 girls--Einstein, Fish, and Catapult. They're into fancy cooking and shared some pizza with me. I didn't mind. Fish is section hiking and is having trouble with blisters. I loaned her my sneakers and she'll mail them to my house when she's done with them.
May 3, Friday
Left Raccoon Branch Shelter at 7 a.m. and reached Trimpi Shelter, 2 1/2 miles away, at 8 a.m. The terrain most of the day was relatively easy--level and not too rocky, up to Mt. Rogers visitor center. I called Dan from the visitor's center and told him to bring almonds, dental floss, and the smallest radio he can find. At night it's good company, but the signal fades in and out while hiking. He brought me a radio last week but it's having problems.
I'm happy with my solo status--I like the independence and don't plan to find anyone to hike with. Sometimes, though I do get lonely. I sing while hiking, but once in awhile it's nice to hear another voice.
No one was around when I reached this shelter, so I propped up a water carrier on a fallen tree and took a shower--cold, but refreshing. It's nice to have warm weather.
May 4, Saturday
I'm at the truck stop near Atkins and I-81 right now waiting for Dan. He should be here soon. The 4 1/2 miles from Chatfield Shelter was fairly easy and mostly downhill. Dan arrived at 12:30 with Brad and Jack, who will be hiking with me next week. They parked their cars in Pearisburg this morning and Dan brought them back here. We put our backpacks in the car and started hiking north on the AT, while Dan drove to where the AT crosses hwy 42, 11 miles north. He parked there and hiked in and met us on Walker Mtn. On top of the Mtn. we found a ziplock bag full of hair. I picked it up and almost carried it out to find who it belonged to. An hour later we found three hikers taking a break under a tree and one said he had just cut his hair. He didn't even realize he had lost the ziplock bag until we mentioned it.
After reaching the car we drove in to Wytheville for supper at Pizza Hut and I got ribbed by the guys hiking with me for wanting to get a real meal in a real town. When we got back to the trail it was dark, and we hiked by flashlight to Knot Maul Branch Shelter, 2 miles in. There were 6 of us in all at the shelter. It was so warm that Dan and I did not use the tent. We put the sleeping pads on a ground cloth, and spread one sleeping bag over us. The moon came up big and bright around 11 p.m.
May 5, Sunday
This week I'm hiking with Brad and Jack. Dan helped them with the car shuttle yesterday, leaving their cars in Pearisburg. That means this week will be almost a vacation, with only 73 miles to cover this week. Today we actually took breaks--my feet will be happy campers this week. Yesterday I did 18 miles and I won't get my usual weekly day off so I'm glad for the easy miles. We just arrived here at Chestnut Knob Shelter, and it looks like a thunderstorm will be here soon. Before I got all the way up to the shelter, I saw someone getting water, so I stopped at the water source, and saved myself a second climb--what a climb, too! This is a nice shelter--bunks, windows, door and inside table...worth that climb (I guess).
May 6, Monday
There was a thunderstorm last night and we were on the top of the mountain with a metal roof over us--but with the bunks, door and windows I still felt snug and safe. My new radio worked great--listened to a beautiful violin concerto. We left Chestnut Knob Shelter at 9 a.m. and stopped at Jenkins Shelter for the night.
May 7, Tuesday
It rained through the night, and in the morning it was foggy but not raining. We left the shelter before eating breakfast, and decided to take the high water route instead of doing the 12 fordings. It started raining almost as soon as we left the shelter and soon our feet and pant legs were soaked. The high water route meant a lot of climbing. We regretted not eating breakfast at the shelter, because it was impossible to eat in the rain. We were close to the road leading to Bland so I suggested we spend the night in town to dry off. All agreed, so that's what we did. I called Dan and others from the Big Walker Motel. It was nice to bathe and wash my very dirty trail clothes. I had not had a bath since Damascus (8 days) and really needed it. There were several other thru hikers that took refuge at the same motel.
May 8, Wednesday
We left the motel at Bland in a drizzle after a nice breakfast at the Log Cabin Restaurant. Soon after starting out, Download and Nexmo offered us a ride to the trail with their slackpacking shuttle--very timely. It was good to see them again. It sprinkled on and off all morning but we made good time because it was almost all ridge walking. So we reached the shelter in time for lunch. Brad was bored and decided to do some soloing and went on ahead. He borrowed my radio--I don't need it at present because I'm immersed in reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. A thru-hiker (Philly Bull Dog)loaned it to me. He's behind me, but I'll drop it off at a shelter for him.
Here at Jenny Knob Shelter tonight are Chameleon, October Dawn, Lobo's Pet (and his dog, Lobo), Philly Bulldog (who loaned me the book), and amazingly, the same Lutheran ministers I met on the AT in VA last year.
May 9, Thursday
We left early this morning without eating breakfast. There was a store six miles away, so we headed there for "brunch." I called home from there and left a message about when I would be arriving in Pearisburg. My breakfast was a banana, an apple, juice, ham/cheese sandwich, and 2 Hershey bars with almonds. Of course the trail went up after the road and I was uncomfortably full.
At a small lake I couldn't resist going in for a swim. A game warden was planting water plants all along edge of the water. The lake is spring fed and was so cold it took my breath away but I felt so refreshed afterward. While I was letting my feet dry before putting my boots on, Philly Bulldog came along and stopped for a swim. He is finishing a rather mixed up thru hike from last year. He hiked GA-VA, then ME-PA, and is now finishing the middle part, going north. Something like that.
We're spending the night at Wapiti Shelter. For supper three of us put together our food and came up with a Mexican feast--chicken Santa Fe with extra beans and rice, tortillas and fritos--it was great. Jack built a fire so we're having a good end to the week.
May 10, Friday
Jack and I hiked into town and made it to town in time for a late lunch. Dan came about 2:30 and joined us. Dan and I stayed at the Rendezvous Motel, near the AT. We were going to have supper in town with Jack, but decided just to stay at the motel and enjoy the liverwurst and home made rolls from my uncle. Later we went to a laundromat and to the grocery store. We never saw Brad again, he was gone from town by the time we got there. I think Jack really enjoyed his week with the thru hikers.
May 11, Saturday
I left Rendezvous Motel in Pearisburg at 5:50 a.m. and headed north on the AT without my pack. I left early because Dan was going to slackpack me 20 miles and he didn't want to get home too late. The trail through Pearisburg was hard to find, and at one point I ended up in an abandoned cemetery. After the New River bridge the trail was a slow uphill. I was a bit worried that I was going too slowly, but when I met Dan he said I was right on schedule. Dan picked up my mail at the post office before driving ahead on VA hwy 635 to where it crosses the AT. He hiked in about 5 miles and met me near the junction of the Allegheny Trail with the AT, on Pine Swamp Ridge. I had some steep climbs, and had been hiking fast without any stops, so I was ready for a break. We took a break for a snack before heading down to the car. At Pine Branch Swamp Shelter were three thru hikers who had stopped for lunch. About 2 miles from the car, the rain started. We stopped under some hemlocks and huddled under Dan's poncho for about 30 minutes during the worst of the rain and thunder. When we got to the car I was soaked--Dan used the poncho because he was wearing cotton, and I was wearing fast-drying synthetics. At the car we used the car heater to help dry out, and had lunch (liverwurst from Uncle Frank and baked goodies from Janette Jackson). Then I repacked my backpack and headed to Bailey Gap Shelter. At the shelter were The Apostles (Matthew, Mark, and John), Shaggy, and Six Pack, all under 21.
May 12, Sunday
I hiked to the Laurel Creek Shelter.
May 13, Monday
Imagine green alpine pastures dotted with cows, blue skies and Joy, by Beethoven playing on the radio. It was a wonderful combination as I started out this morning. Granted, it was hard to get out of bed because it was 29 degrees and I'm such a baby about cold weather. But I knew I had over 20 miles to do so I hit the trail by 7 a.m. Since it was cold I skipped breakfast, planning to eat later when it warmed up. As it turned out, I didn't eat until lunch at Niday Shelter because I wasn't able to find water until then. I was going to heat the water (I drink hot water when it's cold) when I discovered that my stove has a leak in the gas line. So now I'm on the trail with no stove...great. Two young section hikers said I could use their stove at the shelter. I arrived there (Pickle Branch Shelter) first and Chicken John let me use his stove, so I was able to get supper before dark.
Today for the first time I saw Wild Columbine with its very pretty flowers. I also saw Indian Pinks and Lady Slippers. The trail was moderate today except for the last little bit before the shelter...and that was a killer. I came through an area that I had seen burned out last year and was happy to see all the green life that had come out since then. How quickly it has turned green from the black of last year.
May 14, Tuesday
I stayed at Campbell Shelter. I slept cold again last night (32 degrees). It's supposed to warm up again...I hope. I'll be glad when it does warm up because I'm having to wear my sweater to sleep in and it's usually my pillow. Pickle Branch Shelter is 3/4 mile straight, so in the morning I had to do that in reverse. Chicken John and Fred, both in their 60's, and one of the Apostles, were there in the shelter.
The rhododendrons were in bloom today, I also saw Lady Slippers and I loved passing beds of Lilies of the Valley--they are so fragrant.
The climb over Dragon's Tooth was horrendous, and then I also climbed McAfee Knob, so I put in a full day even though my mileage wasn't high. The view from the knob was breathtaking.
I was able to contact an outfitter in Roanoke which will help me replace the stove when I get to Cloverdale.
May 15, Wednesday
I hiked into Troutville which isn't difficult as far as terrain goes, but it's been a very wet day and I'm soaked through. I ate at Western Sizzler and now I'm waiting for someone to bring me my new stove. I'm a bit down, with my stove problems and the wet, cold weather. I hate to spend money on a motel because I'm spending money on a stove--but I can't go on yet because I still have to go to the post office. But the sun will shine again and all of this will be forgotten.
It was a treat to meet 4 lady hikers. I stayed at Best Western with one of them, M&M, and her dog. It had been several days since I'd seen another female. I phoned Dan, and several people called me after he gave out my phone number.
A young man from the Roanoke outfitters brought my new stove about 6 p.m. and showed me how to work it. It looks easy enough. He also brought me a box to mail the old one back to Dan. I'm certain Dan can fix it. I hiked the last part of the day with Bird, a young biology grad. I enjoyed talking wildflowers with him, but he got his name because he's a birder.
Stayed at the hotel until the absolute limit. I bought some fuel before I left (the hotel sells it by the pint). I'm now trying to get some calories at Pizza Hut. Next stop is the post office in Troutville.
May 16, Thursday
I stayed at the motel to the absolute time limit, and bought fuel for the stove before leaving the motel. At Pizza Hut the waitress said a small pizza would be enough. I wanted to tell her but didn't tell her I wasn't even close to full. At the post office I received many letters--the postmaster said I cleaned out the J's. Before leaving Troutville I wrote some postcards, and bought raisins and orange juice (I resisted getting a candy bar).
I stopped at Fulhardt Shelter and Bud Blister and two section hikers arrived later. I finished reading Anna Karenina and will leave it at the next shelter for Andy (Philly Bull Dog).
May 17, Friday
I slept like a log last night (I hope I didn't snore like sawing logs). Left at 6:30. I left Philly Bulldog's book at Wilson Creek Shelter since it was close to the trail.
Ate lunch at Bobbets Gap Shelter. I found a beans and rice dinner (in bag) someone left so I took it to cook for my supper.
Arrived at Cove Mtn. Shelter about 4:25. There were two section hikers, Crazy Horse and Crazy Wolf. They gave me a granola bar. Buffalo came in after I ate. He started on April 7 and is trying to get to Katahdin before the end of July because he has tickets to the Olympics.
May 18, Saturday
Ate breakfast, then left the shelter around 7 a.m. The two sections hikers said they'd give some of us thru hikers a ride back to the trail from Jellystone Park (we wanted to phone home). Before I got to the park I went under a bridge and cleaned up. It has been so hot and sticky, and that cold water made me feel much better.
The weather was unseasonably cold and now it's unseasonably hot. I bought a 1/2 gallon of orange juice and took it on the trail. It really helped. We had a 2000-ft. elevation gain today--in the heat.
May 19, Sunday
Everyone (Bud Blister, Lum, and I) got up early and I hit the trail at 6 a.m. Today Bud Blister and I are meeting the "Feet" on the relo near James River. We didn't need to be there until 4--but we arrived at the Matt's Creek Shelter at noon. We met Bill Foot and we followed him to the trail relocation where we did some work on trail maintenance. I had bathed in the creek and put on clean (yes--clean) clothes, but by the time I finished I was very dirty. I hauled rocks for the guys to build up the trail in one area. That night "the Feet" treated us to all the pizza we could eat.
Monday, May 20
It was very hot so it was nice to slackpack. Went online back at Bill and Laurie Foot's house. It was good to chat with old friends.
May 21, Tuesday
Barbara, a friend of the Feet took me out to breakfast. She slackpacked her husband on the trail in '90. She was a little surprised I didn't order a hiker's breakfast. Instead I had tea, a large blueberry muffin and fresh strawberries--yum!
I made it to Priest Shelter. I carried a pair of hiking boots to Bud Blister whose boots had given out. Barbara sent them for him. He was very happy to get them.
May 22, Wednesday
What a day! Everyone talked about going over the Priest (Mtn.) and no one said anything about "The Three Ridges."
Spent last night in the bathroom at the visitor's center near Humpback Mtn. I was trying to reach the Wolfe Shelter but because of the rugged terrain over the "three ridges," plus my stop in Tyro for mail (and there wasn't any mail for me there!) I didn't get to the shelter before dark. I had not eaten well that day so I was exhausted. I was going to camp outside the center but I got to thinking about how unusually clean the bathroom was so I moved inside. I had light, running water, and toilet--what more could a girl want? I even cooked supper (I was going to eat cold cereal.)
May 23, Thursday
I left the center before six. I didn't sleep very well, partly because I was so exhausted and partly because I was worried I might be arrested for vagrancy. :-)
I stopped at HoJo's to see what hikers were there--Islander, Guinness, Cookie Monster, and Indoorsman were eating. I decided to spend my money on liquids so I bought 1 quart of milk, 1 of orange juice and 1 of apple juice. In this hot weather I need lots of fluid.
I signed in to hike through the Shenandoahs. It looks like it will be similar to going through the Smokies. We have to hang our food bags on the bear poles or get fined. Fanny Pack hung mine because I couldn't get it up. I'm glad Dan's slackpacking me through the Shanandoahs. Fanny Pack, Wanderlust, and Indiana Bob were here tonight.
May 24, Friday
I had hiked 9 miles when Dan met me at Blackrock Gap at 2:30 p.m. I put the backpack in the car, and continued hiking to Pinefield Gap while he checked mail in Tyro and Waynesboro. We pitched the tent in the grassy area behind the Waynesboro fire station and showered in the fire station. I didn't sleep very well because of the town noise. It rained in the night.
May 25, Saturday
I saw Pins, BJ, Cloudwalker, and Snow White today. It was cloudy all day, with some light rain. Dan slackpacked me, and hiked in to meet me at various points on the trail. Lewis Campground and Bearfence Mtn Hut were both full, so we drove in to a motel in Elkton for the night.
May 26, Sunday
I started hiking just before 9 a.m., and the rain started about three hours later. Dan drove ahead, then hiked in to meet me several times. At Big Meadows he met me with hot chocolate and a hamburger and which I ate in the car to warm up. Highs today were barely in the high 50's or low 60's. Didn't see many other thru hikers today. They started out before me and stayed ahead. We did see Lazy Boy and Camel Back, northbound thru hikers who are hiking south through the Shenandoahs to meet some of the other hikers (Rusty gave them a ride to the northern end of the Park). We saw Lazy Boy on Tray Mtn, GA in March, a few days before I started from Springer Mtn.
May 27, Monday
Dan and I stayed at the Hillside Motel in Luray, VA last night, then he took me back to the trail after I got my things together. It's nice seeing him and it was especially nice this time since the weather turned cold and wet. I talked Dan into staying at a motel the last two nights (with a tub).
It was around 42 degrees all day and I was soaked to my knees. I got in my sleeping bag as soon as possible. It took until early morning to get really warm. A woman and her nephew (both from Quebec) and two section hikers were at the shelter with me.
May 28, Tuesday
Didn't leave the hut until 7 a.m. It was cold and an obvious all-day drizzle--yuck! I put my walking sticks on my pack and kept my arms inside my rain poncho. I had to be careful not to slip and there were several rocky spots.
When I reached the Tom Floyd Wayside (Shelter) I decided I needed a hot lunch to boost my morale. The spring was quite a hike from the shelter. I had hot herbal tea and mac & cheese.
The Jim & Molly Denton Shelter is beautiful. Easy One is here (a 73-year-old man). He has a cold so he's snoring. It's good to be in my sleeping bag snug and warm.
May 29, Wednesday
Left the shelter at 6:30 a.m. and hiked again without my stick so I can stay dry. I've had soaked socks for five days. This is getting old. The trail is sloppy and very slippery. I made it to the Manassas Gap Shelter. Moose was there and some others. Q-tip and Scout were thru hikers who were previously just names in the register.
My shin started hurting after this. There is a bump on it. I wanted to make it to the hostel but it was still 24 miles away, and the trail is in terrible shape. I finally had to take off my poncho and pack so I could get my sticks. I tried to make it to Rod Hollow Shelter but when I got to Hwy 50 (Ashby Gap) I decided to go to a motel to rest my leg and to be near a phone in case help was needed. It's supposed to be cold tonight so I'm sure my leg will do better if it's warm. The hotel I called was four miles away. I couldn't reach anyone at the hotel when I called, but did get a recording so I decided to hitchhike to the hotel (my leg was hurting). Dan instructed me not to hitchhike, but I decided this was an exception. I put my thumb out for quite awhile and no one even looked my way. Finally, a man coming from a side road (before he turned on the main highway) stopped and asked if I needed a ride.) He worked on a government installation nearby. The first thing he did was give me a lecture on the dangers of hitchhiking, but at least he took me to the motel. At first the man there told me the motel was full and he didn't have room. Then it turns out it is shut down pending its sale. He was just watching over it for a woman who was in the hospital. He had some men staying there and he was going to give me a room, but he wouldn't take my credit card and I had no cash. The man that gave me a ride there was a bit upset with the manager and in the end the man let me stay at the motel free. He didn't fix up the room and I used my sleeping bag to sleep in. There were many single guys living there, and the motel had really become a boarding house for construction workers. I was uncomfortable about being there and at night I pushed the reclining chair up against the door. But I had a TV to watch, and hot water to bathe. I washed my hiking clothes and dried them by pinning them to the window curtains, over the electric heater. I called Pete and described my injury and he made me feel better by telling me it sounded like tendonitis and not a stress fracture. I was worried, thinking I'd have to get off the trail.
May 30, Thursday
I had to walk 4 miles along the highway back to the trail, (having been instructed by Pete to listen to Dan and not hitchhike). I stopped at the Indian Trading Post for a quart of milk and a pint of Ben & Jerry's, then hiked the trail to the hostel. My leg hurt every step and I was so slow. My pack is light (low food) right now and I should have sailed over the easy trail. Instead I crawled. I heard on the radio it was supposed to frost and I wanted to make it to the Bear's Den hostel where I would be warm. I reached it around 8:30.
This hostel is nicer than any other I've seen. It's a wonderful place. It was a summer residence at one time and it is beautiful. I soaked in the tub and then went to bed. That really helped my leg. I'm low on food but I was able to get some out of the free box to eat.
May 31, Friday
Just lying around today. I rested, soaked in the tub to rest my foot, and worked on keeping still (truly a job for me). During the day the hostel was closed but they let the thru hikers lounge in the downstairs. Plodder, another hiker, was there with a bad cold so I had company. We both spent the day reading and relaxing.
June 1, Saturday
Today was the day I would have slackpacked Maryland in a day. Instead I hobbled 8 miles to the next hostel(Blackburn Center). It is run by former thru hikers--a lovely couple (my age). The hospitality was wonderful. It was "Trail Days" and the caretakers gave a cookout for the trail maintenance people and we were invited. I stuffed myself until I wouldn't eat any more--and then later they called us back for ice cream. They had a "true" solar shower. It was great. I could get accustomed to these daily baths.
June 2, Sunday
There are no grocery stores in Harper's Ferry, but Lee, a section hiker took Plodder and me to Charles Town and I resupplied. I stayed at the hostel in H.F. We stopped at the ATC headquarters and had our pictures taken to add to the "rogues' gallery."
I just want to add here how nice everyone has been to me on the trail since I've been injured. They all seem genuinely concerned.
June 3, Monday
I hadn't intended to come back to Harper's Ferry but Lee gave Plodder and me a ride, so I checked my mail. I had two letters and a "care package."
My leg hurt, but I managed to do 16 miles. The shelter was crowded at first but some of the younger set moved outside because of Plodder's snoring(on a scale of 1-10...an easy 10!).
June 4, Tuesday
Leg still hurting, but not much, if I keep my walk to a crawl. Called Dan from the Washington Monument State Park. I didn't climb the monument to save my leg.
I hiked a great deal with Guinness (from Ireland). Plodder went on and was sound asleep (taking a nap)when we got to the Hemlock Hill Shelter. They talked me into going into town to eat. We tried to get a ride into town with no luck, so we walked--2.5 miles. My leg was not happy about that. We had pizza, though, and that helped my mood. We gave up on a ride back to the trail and ordered a taxi. Lum, Guiness, Plodder, and I were at the Shelter. Again...Plodder snored.
June 5, Wednesday
I shared this shelter with four young thru hikers--Scout, E-bear, Q-tip, and Mucho Gusto. They were very nice. This shelter is regularly maintained by someone who enjoys his job--even the privy was clean and sweet smelling. He stopped by the next morning to pick up trash. Heard about the murders in the Shenandoahs.
June 6, Thursday
My leg is feeling great today--and the trail was easy. This was my first long day in quite awhile, so I was tired. At Caledonia State Park around 10 a.m. I phoned Dan. I'm trying to call Dan every chance I get. I know he worries about me. I debated about coming off the trail. The hikers are not afraid and Dan seems to be holding in there. I'm doing only 15 miles today--but that will take me beyond the halfway point. The group I was with last night were feeling tired. I wondered if it was because they felt they were hiking imaginary miles between Harper's Ferry (the "psychological halfway point") and Tagg Run Shelter (the real halfway point).
June 8, Saturday
Most of the hike today was easy, but the first part was a "thread-the-needle" up and around boulders. At one spot I had to take my pack off and throw it up and then climb up without it.
Stopped in Boiling Springs and I bought a tomato and some milk and orange juice.
In the afternoon I was going to head for the next shelter (15 miles). I went into my 3 mph walk but after an hour my leg began hurting, so I'm camping tonight five miles short of the shelter with some other hikers. I met Little John around 7:00 and we hiked to the Conodoguinet Creek. We were trying to get with the others so we could all camp together for the night, but we never saw them. We bought juice, bread, and bologna at the small store nearby and then went back to this National Park Service area where our book said we could get some water. There were four large teepees set up, each complete with beds inside so we helped ourselves to the accommodations for the night. I don't know what happened to the others (Scout, Q-Tip, Mucho Gusto, and E Bear).
It is reported that Ward Leonard is in the area. I wonder if I will see him.
June 9, Sunday
It was a slow 15 miles today. The air is hot and humid and the Pennsylvania rocks we've been promised have begun.
Getting to Duncannon was depressing. The Doyle Hotel is a crumbling building with a reputation as a flophouse (and it's closed on Sundays). I called Dan and he'd heard about the hotel and asked me not to stay there. That was "great" because my plan was to go to the hotel, bathe, wash my clothes, and find a place to go to church. So I went to plan B--find a church and see if I could sleep on someone's porch. I called a church and while I was on the phone I met a thru hiker--I was waiting to talk so I asked him if he was a thru hiker--and he said something about being the only person who has thru hiked the AT! It had to have been Ward Leonard! I couldn't talk further because I had to get back to the person on the phone. In spite of the heat he was covered from head to foot. A couple came and picked me up and even brought me a dress and heels. What I really wanted most at the moment was a bath, but instead I cleaned up the best I could in the church restroom. After church I was invited to sleep at the assistant pastor's house.
June 10, Monday
Didn't get back to Duncannon until 12:30. I didn't want to hurry the couple I stayed with, and I did enjoy watching their children play. I stopped at the Three B's and had an ice cream cone on the way out of town. It was huge! No mail at the post office.
It rained before I could make it to the shelter. There was lots of thunder, but no lightning, thankfully.
June 11, Tuesday
Before I arrived at the hostel, I had to sit out a thunder/hail storm under a tree. Thunderstorms terrify me and I was wishing for a hiking partner. I finally saw someone's picnic shelter which had a "No Trespassing" sign on it, but I went under it anyway. I expected the people to come chase me out, but I guess the weather was too bad for them to venture out of the house. I wasn't planning on staying at the Blue Blaze Hostel but the weather sort of decided for me. It is someone's garage and the people provide an ice cream sandwich and a pop for each hiker. That was a most welcome treat. I was planning on a 30-mile day but the weather made me change my mind.
Some of the area I hiked through seemed to be an old mining area reseeded. It was fairly easy hiking. I still haven't seen all the rocks everyone talks about.
June 12, Wednesday
I just finished eating four Klondike bars I bought from the caretaker of the 501 Shelter. It's storming now and I'm thrilled to be inside out of the weather.
Good hike today. Only 15 miles so it was over before I realized it. Tomorrow I will do 23 miles into Port Clinton--but the caretaker will slack pack us. Life is great.
My stove was acting up, so at lunch I got a lesson in cleaning the jet on my stove (I don't usually cook lunch).
A little bit ago Zoo and Wookie came in--two who were just names prior to this. Yesterday I met Jamie Bacile, president of Alpha West. He knows my friend, Sarah, who is hiking the PCT right now. His trail name is Letitbe.
I'm getting lonely now, so I'm looking forward to Dan's coming--only 550 more miles by myself!
June 13, Thursday
Slackpacked from the 501 Shelter to Port Clinton. I was going to settle there for the night (I had my mattress all picked out). But Lum suggested(actually, it was more of a dare) I go on to the next shelter to make the most of the slackpack and I decided I was feeling good enough to do 6 more miles to the Windsor Furnace Shelter. I didn't leave town until 6:30 p.m. and then I had trouble finding the trail out of town (when I've had trouble finding the trail it's been in a town). I didn't get to the shelter until almost 10. I also had trouble finding the trail to the shelter. It was dark and my only glasses are my sunglasses which I had to remove. The water was too far to get any, so I went to bed rather hot and sticky. (Water has not been plentiful in PA.) Crazy Toes and Geo were also at the shelter. This was the first time I had met Geo. Geo signs the register with these little hiking boot print stamps.
June 14, Friday
The first part of the hike today was good. I made great time to the Eckville Shelter (more like a hostel), had 5 Klondike bars, and took a shower (it was supposed to be a solar shower, but the hose came unhooked from the warm water tank--so, surprise, a refreshing shower! Phoned home from here at 11 a.m. and also from Tri-County Corner at 1:30 p.m.
The next 9 miles were more of a challenge. I finally got the rocks I'd been promised. I'd been cheated up until now.
Last night Geo and Crazy Toes were at the shelter. Today they decided since we would all be at the same shelter tonight that they would break down and shower. That was nice of them.
June 15, Saturday
My uncle met me and I went to their house. They did their best to feed me well.
June 16, Sunday
Went to church with my uncle and aunt. Ate supper with Jane, who works with Backpacker Magazine and also worked with last year's tag team. She cooked me a wonderful meal and we had a good visit.
June 17, Monday
Went to the post office in Slatington. I forwarded mail here, but none of it had arrived yet, so I filled out another form sending it all home. I'm not having any more mail drops--it's too much trouble. If you get to town on Saturday afternoon, the mail can't be picked up until Monday. I've been able to get what I need at the stores along the way, even though the stores are usually small.
The climb out of town (Lehigh Gap)was great. The hill was one big jumble of boulders. It was neat looking back into the gap as I was climbing. Dan got after me for spending so much time describing the shelters and not the scenery. O.K.--PA has trees, lots of them, and also (especially in the northern part) lots of rocks. I had to keep my eyes glued to the rocks in the trail so I didn't trip and damage myself. After Slatington the rocks became relentless. Before, there were breaks between the stretches of rocky trails.
Hiked 15 miles to the shelter only to find it full. It was almost 7 p.m., and the radio was forecasting major thunderstorms in the night. I must confess I'm terrified of storms, so I hiked 5 more miles of rocks down to Gateway Motel in Wind Gap--arriving about 10 p.m.--and no storms came! At least I had a bath and a pillow to sleep on!
June 18, Tuesday
Hiked into Delaware Water Gap, PA. As I came down the ridge, there was a rock with a view of the gap--very impressive! I could see the other side and could very well imagine the climb out again--the trail was very rocky--I won't cry when that is over. I stayed at the Church of the Mountain. So many thru hikers were there that I slept on the porch of the church office. Some slept in the gazebo, and one hiker slept on the round table just outside the hostel itself. (How did he do it? He must have slept curled up, I guess.) It rained all night. The forecast is for four days of rain.
June 19, Wednesday
One of those all day drizzles, so I changed my goal for the day from 24 miles to 10. The Mohican Lodge sounded good with a hot shower to end the day. The first part of the hike was not bad--only a few rocks--no views, of course, on a day like today. Some of the ridge was very rocky again, and promised gorgeous views if the weather had cooperated. I hiked without my rain poncho and got very wet, so the awaited hot shower was wonderful.
June 20, Thursday
I managed to get a ride back to the church in Delaware Water Gap for the Thursday night church potluck. (Cookie Monster and Indoorsman gave us a ride back to the trail in the morning.) I ate as many veggie dishes as I could. It was light and noisy on the church office porch so I didn't sleep well and I was too fatigued to hike but, of course, I had to. Yaeger, Crooked Toe's dog, slept with me part of the night (when he wasn't harassing Algood's dog).
June 21, Friday
At least we had clear weather, with a gorgeous view on top of Sunrise Mountain. There was picnic shelter on top but no camping allowed. I wanted to go to the monument on High Point, but only had enough energy to get to the shelter.
June 22, Saturday
Left High Point Shelter at 6:30. I slept very well last night so I was gung ho to do 20 miles today. The trail wasn't bad and I did 12 miles (to Pochuck Mtn. Shelter) by noon. I met a lady my age, with her daughter, who was just starting out on a trek to Maine. She was carrying a 50-pound pack and was wearing soaking wet cotton clothes, and no walking sticks. It was a rough beginning with a steep, rocky uphill, and thunderstorms.
A thunderstorm began just as I was headed up to the shelter. The trail followed high power lines up the ridge so I decided to stay at the fire dept pavilion in Vernon, NJ only to find out it had been torn down. The people at the Heaven Hill Farm let me sleep in one of their empty greenhouses (am I insured, Pete?), which is a first for me on this trip. The trail was easy going today with few rocks.
June 25, Tuesday
Today was a low point in my hike. I have been totally exhausted. I wanted to call home and tell Dan I hate this stinking trail. I told someone that I haven't seen any trail magic since we crossed the Mason-Dixon line (I'm really feeling sorry for myself)...when--guess what happened! Trail magic! Mary, who met Geo earlier, insisted he stop by when he got into Bear Mountain, NY. He invited some others to go with him and I was the only one who could go. It worked out well since her husband had to be out of town. We were able to resupply, get baths and wash clothes. (She washed Geo's two times!)
New Jersey was almost as rocky as PA and New York combined rocks and hills. Fifteen miles is all I can do these days. Part of my exhaustion is mental, but part is due to not drinking enough. My filter is slow so I don't take the time to filter two quarts like I should.
The views today from Black and Bear Mtn. were gorgeous.
June 26, Wednesday
It was a great hiking day today. I felt like a new person. It's amazing what a little bit of trail magic can do for one's spirit. There was a long space between shelters and the weather was great so a bunch of us are camping (Geo, Crazy Toes, Apollo 13, Pilgrim, and section hikers--Juniper, Samantha, and Eric)at the Dennytown campsite. The trail was about the same as yesterday--I just felt so much better.
June 27, Thursday
A great day! I was very sleepy when I started hiking this morning, but I revived and had a strong hiking day. I only hiked eleven miles today. I'm still hiking low miles to get rested up, but also my beret I left in Delaware Water Gap is still working its way forward with Cookie Monster and Indoorsman, and I'm hoping it catches up with me.
Juniper, a section hiker, had his van waiting here at RPH Shelter, a converted garage with relatively luxurious accommodations, and took eleven of us to Pizza Hut in nearby Fishkill, NY for a hikers' feast. We were a sorry sight, all hobbling into the restaurant. (Juniper, Samantha, Eric, Mimosa, Shazam, Camo, Skywalkers I & II, Geo, Crazy Toes, Col. Sideshow, and me.) That was really fun.
Last night camping I was eaten by mosquitoes all night. If I camp much more I will need to get my tent. The bugs are terrible.
June 28, Friday
Another wonderful hiking day. I felt great today. I could really get hooked on this lower mileage. I'm at the Telephone Pioneers Shelter tonight. I stopped at a deli (1/2 mile off the trail) and picked up some good rolls and cheese to go with my supper.
The terrain has been easy, although there are more ups and downs. I was saved from going too far south on the trail yesterday by Crazy Toes. I decided that if I can hike the trail anyone can. If I added up all the times I went south instead of north, I would probably be almost to Maine!
June 29, Saturday
Last night I used my rain poncho for a lightweight blanket. It worked well against the mosquitoes. (I'm too hot in my sleeping bag.) But the no-see-ums found places to get in. Camouflage was very upset with them. He ruined the zipper in his sleeping bag he was so angry. I stayed at the 10 mile shelter. There were quite a few thru hikers, but most everyone tented (Pins and Islander, Crazy Toes, Geo, Camo, and Col. Sideshow).
June 30, Sunday
It's one of those all-day rains today. Since I'm only going to Kent to await the arrival of my beret) I'm staying dry in the shelter. The rain may let up after awhile. Most of the thru hikers tented so there will be a lot of wet tents to carry. We all waded in the river yesterday. It was pretty (and flat!) walking along the river.
I'm going somewhere to call Dan today. There's a store a mile from here (only .1 mile off the trail). Phoning Dan from the trail is frustrating. He can't hear well when I use the pay phone. We haven't had a good conversation in weeks. In three weeks I will see him. I'm looking forward to that.
Later: I was able to reach Dan and I enjoyed a nice long chat with him. I did the seven miles into Kent but couldn't get any supplies because everything was closed. I'm staying at the Mt. Algo Lean-to ("lean-to" is a Yankee term for "shelter.") :-)
Mango and Troubadour are here tonight. They hiked 18 miles today and didn't see Cookie Monster and Indoorsman who have my beret, so I'm going to leave them a message to mail it to my house, and Dan will reimburse them. I'm going to hit the trail again. I miss my hat (it kept my hair in check) but I'll survive.
We went briefly into NY state again today, and some of it had nice views (if it had not been so foggy). I guess in a couple of days I'll be in Massachusetts. I do need to pick up a few supplies in town tomorrow but I want to keep my pack light so I can get miles in again.
July 1, Monday
I decided not to wait at Kent, CT for my beret. I left a note in the register for Cookie Monster to mail it to my home. I did go into Kent to take care of some things. I made a radical decision during the night. I decided to send my stove home and eat cold for three weeks. I also sent my filter home and I'm using iodine pills. I've been eating quite a bit of food in the many stores along the way and I've been able to get good water (that doesn't have to be filtered) quite frequently also. I spent the night at the Pine Swamp Lean-to.
July 2, Tuesday
I was going on to the Brassie Brook Shelter but when I saw the gorgeous view from the Riga lean-to I decided to call it a day. I only remember one other shelter that had a view and that was Blue Mtn in GA--and it was foggy and very cold the night I stayed there. I'm trying to make it to Dalton Friday afternoon to get my mail. I had to leave the group I'd been hiking with in order to make it.
I forgot to mention the Appalachian Trail station near Pawling, NY. It had a wooden platform with a bench and a board for the train schedules. The train stops twice daily on the weekends and it was on the AT.
I also want to say that I feel sorry for some of the young men thru hikers. The FBI is so desperate to solve the Shenandoah murders and they are sure it's one of the thru hikers. The ones they've questioned are nice--they need to look elsewhere.
July 3, Wednesday
Well, I made it to the Tom Leonard Shelter but not without a prayer and lots of tears. A thunder and lightning storm broke out on my way up East Mtn., but there was nothing I could do but keep going or be caught out in the dark. I had to do almost 25 miles today in order to make it to the P.O. in Dalton on Friday. At 4:30 p.m. I phoned home from hwy 7.
I found out one of my friends mailed a letter to Cheshire so I will check mail in Dalton on Friday and in Cheshire on Saturday a.m. I will spend the night there, Then I will be off again Sun. a.m.--but not to do a 20. Four 20's in a row are enough.
I'm thirsty but I will have to make it until morning. I dumped out my water to lighten my load and it's still storming. It looks like there will be an absence of bugs tonight. With all the mosquitoes and no-see-ums, I've only gotten a couple of hours of sleep each night. A full night would be most welcome. When Dan comes we'll have a tent but I didn't want to risk it going astray in the mail. Skywalker I is here plus 3 sleeping overnighters (I haven't seen them yet).
July 4, Thursday
I'm at the Goose Pond Cabin. They're even going to cook breakfast for us! I don't know if I feel up to another 20 but I'm going to make it into Dalton (I hope).
July 5, Friday
I stopped at Finerty Pond to air a few things in the sunshine. Even I feel moldy after all the rain! I slept well last night. I did get up at 2:30 to make some hot tea as I definitely did not have enough to drink yesterday. Joan, the volunteer caretaker, was a gem and kept offering food to the thru hikers. She brought fresh fruit and made us a fruit salad to go with our pancakes--talk about royal treatment. Skywalker, Jeremiah and I were the only thru hikers, but there were many others. I had 4 huge pancakes for breakfast.
My boots must weigh five pounds at the moment. They are as wet as boots can get.
Walkie Talkie was at the cabin, too. He started this year but became ill and was airlifted off Roan Mtn. He is still having tests run as the sickness is still lingering on. He says he's now become a trail "groupie."
Made it into Dalton around 6 p.m. Tom, whose house is now on the AT, lets thru hikers sleep in his yard. Because it was the holidays (and because there were only 2 of us--Skywalker and myself, although Jeremiah would later join us) he let us sleep inside and served us a delicious supper--a wonderful treat. I was able to get a phone call from Dan--also a treat. Phone calls are a rarity these days as I spend so little time out of the woods. Dan said the Trail Magic in Bear Mtn., NY sent him a picture of me and he said I looked thin. I still weigh the same, but I can tell my body fat is diminishing. I'm hungry all the time and my appetite is anything but ladylike.
My plans are to make it to Mt. Greylock tomorrow and possibly stay the night (or at least eat and take a shower).
July 6, Saturday
My starting plans of the day were to hike from Dalton, MA to Mt. Greylock but as I was tired the plan turned into making it to Cheshire.
It took me awhile to leave Dalton. We all went out to eat (Dutch) with Tom, who opens his home to thru hikers. Then I went to the post office where I received about 20 letters! Thank you to those who took the time to write to me. (Some I knew; many I did not.) It was a big encouragement. I enjoyed reading about everyday home activities, which I now miss so much. I read them and sent them home to enjoy later. At the post office I was found by Geo's hiking club, who were trying to find him to spend the night with him. I left him 4 days ago to hurry in to get my mail before the weekend. But I guessed where he would be and I think they will find him.
About 5 miles after Dalton I came to Gore Pond. The sun was shining, the day was warm and the water inviting--and I hadn't had a bath for 180 miles! No one was around (I'm in an "empty" space right now as far as thru hikers go), so I had a wonderful bath. The only problem was I washed my curly tresses with body soap and now I have a rather unruly mop! Going without a bath puts me in a sour mood.
Jeremiah, Camouflage, and Col. Sideshow were at the hostel in Cheshire. Two Cents (finishing last year's hike) came in rather later. Jeremiah and I split a half gallon of ice cream (chocolate chip cookie dough).
July 7, Sunday
I stopped to make some phone calls before I left town then at 9:20 I decided that since it was almost church time I would go to the Baptist church nearby and then hike to the shelter just past Mt. Greylock. Well, I got to Bascom Lodge and decided to spend the night. I worked as a waitress and also helped in the kitchen. It was fun. Annie (Raggedy Ann), a former thru hiker I met in VA, is a cook there and told me to look her up when I got there.
Monday, July 8
Hiked to the Seth Warner Shelter. I did only 13 miles, but I was ready to call it a day. The trail was still wet and slippery of course the thunderstorm that was expected last night came this morning after I got on the trail. Baltimore Jack, a former thru hiker, loaned me his Wingfoot book and will mail it back after Dan joins me and brings the pages I need. Golden Waldo, a retired section hiker is here for the night, also.
Tuesday, July 9
Hiked to Goddard Shelter. The last 1/2 hour was in a thunderstorm (why me?). Now I have soaked boots and socks to hike in tomorrow. I just checked by food and the distance to the next food stop and I'm a little worried my food won't last. I might have to tighten my pack belt and hike long days. I'm a little lonely right now--the thru hikers I know are either ahead or (mostly) behind. There are some Long Trail hikers (An older gentleman and his son who are raising funds for the Long Trail) here so at least I'm not alone at the shelter.
Wednesday, July 10
Tonight I'm up on Stratton Mtn in the ski patrol lodge. It's cold and windy up here but we have heaters in the lodge. I decided I have to go into Manchester Center to resupply. I'm changing my meeting place with Dan to Hanover, and I'm going to cut my miles so I'll need extra food. I may spend the night at the hostel there. I need strength for the Whites. (Is that a good enough reason to slow down?)
The terrain is getting more difficult to hike but definitely more beautiful. The overlooks are worth the climbs.
Thursday, July 11
Hiked into Manchester Center, VT. I didn't know how I was going to get into town--Dan forbade me hitching rides--and I found out the town is over five miles off the trail. Well, as I was hiking, who should pass me but Letitbe, a fellow thru hiker, the only one I've seen in a week! He was slackpacking and a van was waiting for him at the road--voila, my ride! So, I rode in with Pittsburgh, Letitbe, and Mango. We stopped at a Ben & Jerry's before we went to the hostel. Yum!
I washed my clothes--they hadn't been washed since Bear Mtn, NY (247 miles!).
I bought some chicken and vegetables to cook for supper. I nearly starved myself the last few days so I'm trying to eat well (I came into town with an eighth of a cup of oatmeal, powdered milk, sugar, and some almonds! I would have eaten the oatmeal for lunch, but Letitbe shared his bagels with me. Tomorrow I will resupply with plenty of food.
Friday, July 12th
I truly enjoyed my stay in town. I would have stayed another night, but I decided to attend a party, (pot-luck, really), for Geo at the Spruce Peak Shelter this evening. Shazam! will be there, along with other thru hikers I know. MacGuyver, (the young girl from Germany) came in this morning & said Geo is getting off the trail tonight & will meet her in Hanover next week to slackpack them thru the Whites. I think Shazam! gets off soon too. He is section hiking the AT in four parts.
I treated myself today to new socks. My old ones had lost all their bounce (or am I the one that has lost her bounce!). I also spent over $40 on food. I'm trying to gain back some of my lost energy. I can hardly carry my pack now; it's so heavy with food. I don't plan on starving again.
I planned my mileage to Hanover & I'm doing 15 miles (or less) a day. The terrain is more taxing now and my months of mediocre nutrition are telling. I missed the stove more than I thought. It's difficult to plan filling meals without it. In a week I'll have it back along with my Sherpa, Dan.
I hiked south two miles from Manchester to attend Geo's party that his hiking friends threw for him at the Spruce Peak Shelter. They built this shelter in cooperation with the Forest Service and maintain it, which includes the composting privy--truly a labor of love! They all had to hike two miles in and they carried food besides. There was so much food I think I committed the sin of gluttony; steak, chicken, hot dogs, baked potatoes, salad, desserts... and more. I didn't sleep too well after all that food.
Saturday, July 13th
Some of the party group remained and worked until about noon on projects around the shelter (replaced rotted boards, etc.) After that everyone left and a group of campers that tented below the shelter have moved in. Their counselors thought they might bother us, but I enjoy the diversion. They're nice kids from NYC! Oh, we had two babies at the party last night. That was neat. I went to bed early, but some stayed up until 2 A.M. Around midnight, Baltimore Jack and Raggedy Ann (former thru-hikers who work at Mt. Greylock), and a friend, showed up at the shelter and spent the night here. Someone even brought Ben & Jerry's on dry ice. I had a pint of mint-chocolate-chip-cookie ice cream for breakfast! Since the hurricane brought in major rain, I decided to stay put at the cabin. I would have hiked in wet boots and socks today and then two more days while they dried. I also have a vicious-looking sore on my leg that everyone was making speculations as to what it might be. Raggedy Ann said she saw something similar on another hiker and they decided it was an allergic reaction to a plant. The group wanted me to go to the doctor but I decided to wait a bit. I'm treating it with antibiotic cream. I'm close enough to Manchester that I could go into town if needed.
Sunday, July 14th
I left the Spruce Peak Shelter and headed for Peru Peak. My ultimate plan was to do a 20 miler, since I was meeting a family at the Inn at the Long Trail in a week.
I guess it was not meant to be because my ankle was very sore and at Peru Peak Shelter I was feeling very achy. I decided I didn't want to be sick in a shelter all by myself, so I made it down to Griffith Lake where there was a caretaker. I met another man on the way down and told him my plight and disgraced myself by crying. I was feeling quite lousy at that point. The caretaker, David, was at his tent. He bandaged my leg and he and the man I met (can't remember his name), helped me out via the Old Job Trail, (3.5 miles). I asked that man if he would take me to Manchester, to the hostel and he did. He wouldn't let me pay him! I thought I would stay there but found out I had a two-night stay limit. Geo, another, thru-hiker, who was home for a week, offered to let me stay there. Lady MacGyver said she would go with me. (A German girl doing sections on the AT---but mostly yellow blazing)
The hostel was fairly full but most were on the Long Trail. Sideshow and Scat (a south bounder)were two AT hikers there. Scat was very nice and wanted to help me. He made me herbal tea.
Monday, July 15th
Geo came at noon for Lady MacGyver and I. I still held off going to the doctor, but later that night I felt absolutely lousy. My leg hurt and I was nauseated. I decided to go to the doctor.
Tuesday, July 16th
Good idea to go to the doctor. I can't walk anymore. I'm scooting on my behind to go to the bathroom. The doctor and a dermatologist say I have a severe allergic reaction to "something". I was given a cream to put on my ankle. When I got back to the house I began running a fever.
Side note from Gutsy: I didn't keep my journal when I was off the trail.
Saturday, July 20th
Dan came to join me. I've been sick in bed all week, but at least my leg is healing where I can walk on it now. I hiked from Griffith, ( I had to hike the 3.5 miles on the Old Job Trail back in!) to USFS 10, 10 miles. I took a nap between the ten so I could do it. My head hurts so badly, I don't know why I'm even out here!
Dan's Journal for July 20th
I met Gutsy before noon at Geo's house, then put her on the trail. She hiked an access trail to the Griffith Lake Campsite, where she got on the AT and did 7 miles to USFS 10. I got a campsite at Emerald Lake Campground below Danby, but we didn't use it. Set up the tent in a parking lot on USFS 10. Rain.
Sunday, July 21st
Hiked 14 miles, again with that lousy headache. Why am I doing this, anyway? I rested halfway. Saw Gizzie, (Moose was at the shelter with him but now is off the trail, sick, for a couple of days). Gizzie thinks I'm crazy to be on the trail, sick. I feel so lousy.
Dan's Journal for July 21st
Slackpacked Gail from USFS 10 to Hwy 130 and met for lunch at Hwy 140. At lunch, we saw Micro, Grasshopper, Old Swamper, Gizzie, and two others. I phoned home from the Rutland airport. We camped near Mill River suspension bridge at Hwy 130.
Monday, July 22nd
Did 17 today. The miles seemed to be so long.
Dan's journal for July 22nd
Hwy 130 to Sherburne Pass (U.S. 4) I met her at Cold River Road for a snack. Saw Phoenix there. Then I parked at U.S. 4 and hiked south and met Gutsy just south of Pico camp. Beautiful views. Spent the night in abandoned cabins with Phoenix, Grasshopper, and Old Swamper. Put up tents because of mosquitoes.
Tuesday, July 23rd
I have to do 21 today and 21 tomorrow for Dan and I to meet up with Geo. We will slackpack with him which suits my weary body. I did the 21, well-fortified with ibuprofen. However, I didn't notice my left foot had swollen and my sneaker ( I still can't wear my hiking boots) did a number on my toes. I'm going to lose the big toenail and my ankle is grossly swollen. The scratch behind my knee is now a huge, red circle. I decided to go to another doctor the next day.
Dan's Journal for July 23rd
Sherburne Pass to VT. Hwy 12. I met her at Gifford Woods State Park, then drove to Hwy 12 and hiked south to meet her. 2 hours in. Before hiking, I got permission to set up in someone's yard. Also went to Woodstock and did laundry in Bridgewater.
Wednesday, July 24th
I went to the big hospital in Dartmouth. The initial diagnosis was cellulitis and they started me on IV antibiotics. They debated on keeping me, but decided to let me go. I would come back at 6:00 p.m. for another IV. Meanwhile, we decided to use that day (since I couldn't hike) to check on the German girl, who is hiking the Whites. We never got to Franconia Notch, as our car blew a head gasket and we sat on the side of the road all day.
Dan's Journal for July 24th
No hiking. Low point. Took Gail to the hospital in Dartmouth and then headed north to try to meet a friend of Gail's. Car blew a head gasket and burst a radiator hose. Hitchhiked back to Hanover, then back to the car. Gail got a ride to the hospital. I got a ride back to Hanover after the car wouldn't start again, after replacing the radiator hose. Had the car towed to a car dealer and I pitched our tent next to it.
Thursday, July 25th
No journal entry for Gail today.
Dan's Journal for July 25th
Geo met us to begin slackpacking. Gail did not hike today. She's on Lyme Disease medication. Put up tents at Mt. Cube Sugar House, Hwy 25C, 1st of two nights there.
Friday, July 26th
Well, I'm back on the trail. I hiked 16 miles today and went over Mt. Cube and Mt. Smarts. The medicine is working and I'm feeling good for the first time in two weeks. The only thing that was hurting were my toes, of which, I'll probably lose at least two toenails.
I met Double Eagle and Crazy Toes. Double Eagle told me that Foghorn was in the hospital, possibly with Lyme Disease. I slipped and fell on a log over a swampy area and fell in---Great Move. At least Dan didn't laugh.
It has been raining a lot and had to cross one stream. I had to take off my shoes and socks.
Tonight, we stayed in the barn of one of the former Governors of New Hampshire. His wife serves breakfast on weekends and is very generous in her portions to thru-hikers. Their family processes and sells maple syrup, so of course we had that on our pancakes.
Saturday, July 27th
Four months on the trail and for the first time in days, I feel great. The swelling in my leg has gone down enough so I can wear my boots. The running shoes caused me to lose two big toenails and much pain, especially on the downhills. I made good miles and even kept up with the others.
We're staying at the Atwell Hilton tonight. Dan, I, E-Bear, Geo, Baltimore Jack, Swamp Fox, Dizzy Bee, and a couple of others are here. I was hoping for a shower tonight but that was not meant to be.
Sunday, July 28th
A nice, easy day as far as miles go, but Dan and I went south up over Moosilauke, a very challenging climb. Geo and E-Bear went to north. I met Phyllis (Mimosa), whom I met at the RPH Shelter earlier. She was trying to catch her daughter, Gretchen, who is a south-bounder. (I think she did find her). I had a bad headache today, so hiking didn't seem as easy as yesterday. I met Crazy Toes near Beaver Brook Shelter and he gave me 2 aspirin.
Played chess with Dr. Slow Jive, (yes, a real M.D.) and he slaughtered me, but I still had fun! We backtracked and hiked into the Jeffers Brook Shelter after our hike. That's where Dr. Jive is too. Opie, a young boy (southbounder), is also here. Opie, Dan, and I are tenting because of the bugs.
Monday, July 29th
Went over Kinsman---16 miles in all. It took me all day to do it, too. I hiked north and Dan drove to the other end and hiked in to meet me. We stayed at a hostel in North Woodstock which was wonderful. They had a bathtub, so I enjoyed a long soak.(I think I died and went to heaven!) I hadn't had a bath in 9 days. It was so embarrassing to go to the hospital with dirty toes, but I had cleaned up the best I could and my toenails were too sore to scrub on.
Tuesday, July 30th
Dan and I started at Franconia notch and hiked up to the ridge. It was a horrendous climb which involved a lot of hand scrambling. It looked like rain when we started, but cleared when we reached the ridge, so we had beautiful views. This was an overnighter, so we spent the night at the Garfield Campground. The weather was cool (45), but nice. It was a hard climb and I believe I ran a fever again. We didn't make good time, about 1 mile an hour, so I agonized over the scheduled 18 miles we were to do Wednesday. I think I psyched myself out before the day had even begun. Geo and E-Bear were going south. Geo was going to camp and E-Bear was trying to find work at a hut. (he did at Galehead). We met Geo at the south end of Twin Peak.
Wednesday, July 31st
The difficult climbs began first thing in the morning. We left the camp at 6 am because we had 18 miles to do. We planned on hiking to the car and picking up E-Bear and Geo. I was worried that they would have to wait a long time on us. I was tired because the climbs over the rocks were forcing me to use all my reserves and when Dan tried to show me where the Galehead hut was, (on a mountain in the far distance, still), I lost it and just began crying. I knew I could never make 18 miles on that terrain. I wasn't in very good condition mentally, and we almost decided that I should bail out and go down another trail. I hadn't eaten breakfast because I was sick to my stomach. That definitely wasn't in my favor.
We kept hiking and at the Zealand Hut, we got some leftovers to eat and took an hour lunch break. The terrain improved 100% as it followed an old railroad bed for 3 miles! The trail evened out after that and we made almost 3 mph on it! Physically and mentally, this was reviving. We made it out by 4:15 p.m. and Dan waited on Geo and E-Bear instead of them waiting on us. I did feel sorry for them because the rain held off for us until we got out, but poured on them all afternoon while they were going over the rocks.
Thursday, August 1st
Another good climb today. We are doing a three day pack which includes Mt. Washington. We stayed at the AMC hostel in Crawford Notch and I slept well. I woke up feeling fresh and ready to hike. At the trail head was a poster with two ladies' pictures advertising for "two good men" One of the ladies was Crazy Toes' wife! I wish I could see his face when he sees it.
Only six miles to do today. I thought I had it made (Crawford Notch to Nauman Campsite), but much of the hand-over-hand climbing made me feel like a professional rock climber. There were no views, either. Everything was shrouded in fog. The camp was nice, but it rained, so we were cooped up in our anything but generous two-man (more like 1 1/2) tent. This was a good test of a marriage!
Dan's backpacking with me in the Whites, made him realize my commitment to the trail. I think he would have appreciated an easier trail to start his hike with me. E-Bear and Micro stayed at the Mizpah Hut, to work. Haven't seen any other northbounders lately.
Friday, August 2nd
Today was our climb over Mt. Washington. I was pretty excited, but a little nervous about the terrain. I was a bit tired and not certain I was even up to a major climb.
The climb from Mizpah to Mt. Washington was difficult, but not beyond my strength. The trail was not that steep, and there was no hand-over-hand climbing. The sun came out a little, but not enough to burn off the clouds on Washington. (We did see Washington later from another mountain, Clay). The cog railroad was great. I didn't "moon" it however, as tradition demanded. I called several friends from the top of Mt. Washington.
Dan, Geo, and I stopped by the Madison Hut to see if we could work for our stay, but no luck. We hiked .6 of a mile down to a free campsite, which turned out to be quite nice. The black flies were bad, so we ate and then retreated to our tents. I didn't wear a hat like the doctor ordered, but did put sunscreen on. As a result, I have a very blistered nose, due to my photosensitivity from the Lyme Disease drugs. Ouch!
Saturday, August 3rd
The hikes these days are so taxing. (mostly hopping from rock to rock) Our campsite was .6 of a mile below Madison. We went over Madison to Pinkham Notch. I finally met Polly and Esther who were flip flopping. I also met Princess Leah who was finishing her AT hike. Her father and brother were with her.
We had nice views of Mt. Washington from Madison. We were also able to see two huts get their supplies by helicopter.
Geo and I tried to work our stay at Madison Hut, but they didn't need us. Geo was upset about not getting work. I don't feel badly however, as I was worried I wouldn't have enough energy to hike if I worked.
Right now, Dan and I are at the Hiker's Paradise in Gorham. Feels good to be clean. It looks like Dan and I might even have a room to ourselves! Tonight, Dan, me, E-Bear, Geo, Crash, Just Harry, Wild Hair, Double Eagle and a woman section hiker (Wolf)will go out for pizza.
Sunday, August 4th
Out again for another overnighter. This time, Dan and I are going south from Gorham to Pinkham Notch. We're at Imp campsite right now. When I am done with this section, I will have less than 300 miles to go to Maine. We ate lunch on Mt. Moriah with 360 degree views.
Monday, August 5
DAN: Southbound, from Imp Campsite to Pinkham Notch. Great views of the Presidentials from Mt. Hight, and Gutsy stopped for a photo of Mt. Washington without clouds. We met Phoenix, a northbound thru hiker, near Carter Dome. Awesome views down to Carter Notch hut and lakes, both arriving and leaving the notch! I hurried ahead of Gutsy and started the Lipton noodles and tuna lunch was nearly ready when she arrived. While at the hut, we met Crazy Toes and Pilgrim, 2 more N.B. thru hikers. We filled one Nalgene bottle with lemonade from the hut. Later we met Sioyona "the hugger," a section hiker, and his friend. At the Wildcat skilift area we met Guinness, and Fancy Free was not far behind. So by going south we met seven northbounders today. The view from Wildcat down to Pinkham notch was breathtakingly but the climb was horrendous, but I hurried down to make a phone call about the car before 5 p.m. Gutsy talked a few minutes with Guiness and Fancy Free, and reached the visitor's center as I was driving Geo's pickup toward the road.
Tuesday, August 6
DAN: Gorham, NH (Hwy 2) to Gentian Pond shelter/campsite. The mosquitoes attacked us fiercely, in droves, as we entered the woods after crossing the Androscoggin River. My first slap killed four skeeters. Fortunately, they were not as bad once we started climbing. I thought there would be less climbing now that we were out of the Whites--but it wasn't much easier, if any. Today we found moose prints in the mud. Lunch was at Trident Col tentsite. Gutsy was very tired, and we spread a poncho on the ground and rested for more than an hour. Pilgrim was cooking supper when we arrived at the shelter at 5:30. We used a tentpad instead of the shelter, and didn't waste any time cooking supper. The skeeters were bad again, so we retreated into the tent to eat. We read for awhile, and before we slept Gutsy enjoyed hearing me moan and groan about my sore ankles and muscles.
Wednesday, August 7th
We started at Gentian Pond Shelter and were going to stop at Full Goose, but when we met Geo, he suggested we do the notch and then camp between the notch and the arm. That was good advice, because the notch was one of the last lions I was dreading (see "Pilgrim's Progress"). At Full Goose, I ate all the remaining M&M's out of anxiety. Instead of being dreadful, it was really fun. It reminded me of playing chess; trying to figure out where to go next. The campsite was nice and it was free! We didn't finish until after 7 p.m., but that saved us 3 hours the next day. It was very cool in the notch. My thermometer dropped from 80 to 55 and there was thick ice in the crevices. My favorite phrase for those deep holes was "in the bowels of the earth". Dan almost lost his water bottle in one.
Wednesday, August 7
DAN: Gentian Pond to east end of Mahoosuc Notch. I was awakened by Gutsy, whispering something urgent to me. She was upset about dropping a ziplock bag of toilet paper in the privy; and now she was mad that I couldn't hear her (I'm very hard of hearing). We did not fish it out, but got more t.p. from Geo, whom we met later that day. After breakfast, we started hiking at 7 a.m., reached Mt. Success at 9 a.m., and at 10 a.m. we were at the NH/ME state line. Here we stopped and took pictures. I told Gutsy that she has now hiked from Georgia to Maine! and she said, "Does that mean I can go home now?" Water was not easy to find today. I could see by the map that we stayed on a ridge, so I took a 10-minute side trip to Carlo Col campsite for water. Back on the AT, I met Geo, who was also in need of water. More steep climbing, great views, and blueberries on Goose Eye. Beyond Goose Eye, volunteers were installing new bog bridges, using lumber dropped by helicopter. Gutsy walked with Carla and another woman from Goose Eye Mt. to Full Goose Shelter. They were about our age, hiking for a few days, and called themselves "The Old Ones."
We stayed at the shelter from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m., eating a late lunch. Pilgrim was settling in for the night. This was supposed to be our destination for the day, but Geo had suggested that we do Mahoosuc Notch today, and camp near the east end of the notch. There was some very light rain as we crossed Fulling Mill Mtn. As we descended toward the notch, a hiker we met commented on the humid weather. He was feeling the heat because he had just left the cool "air-conditioning" of the notch. It took us two hours to get through the notch (I removed my pack three times to squeeze through little holes), and darkness was approaching when we found the campsite, after 7 p.m. It was a great spot, with no mosquitoes.
Thursday, August 8th
Only seven miles to do today, but what a seven miles! The Mahoosuc Arm was one, difficult climb. I was very glad we had done the notch the evening before. I'm getting my strength back, but long climbs totally do me in. I keep telling the other hikers I'm not doing any more 20's, but they laugh and don't believe me. The truth is, I'm truly NOT doing anymore 20's!
The weather has been good, no rain. We had fog on Mt. Washington, that's all. Some of the southbounders were talking about how wet it was farther north. Hope it dries up before I get there. I met a former southbounder, Zeke (94) with a group of kids, today, on Old Spec. The views on top were hazy, but beautiful. I couldn't stay long because my medication makes me sunburn in open areas. Bummer!
Polly and Ester bought some kid's funny face stickers and they are putting them in shelter registers to match various northbounders.
Friday, August 9
DAN: This was a much needed day off the trail. Yesterday afternoon we met Geo in Gorham, then drove with him to N. Woodstock, NH where we spent the night at Loon Mt. Hostel. This morning we drove to Hanover, NH where we picked up some mail. I got rid of the dead Rabbit, then rented a car at the airport and headed home.
Friday, August 9
Geo and I took Dan to Hanover, NH. It was supposed to be a day off, but the trip to town (nearly 300 miles) took all day, so I guess at least it was rest for our feet.
I want to say here how much I appreciated Dan's visit. Anything that could go wrong did--I was sick and a grump (he spent time waiting for me at the hospital), his car died (may it rest in peace), and we didn't get the miles done that we needed. He cooked and cleaned and set up the tent and carried most of the weight and also got "in shape" by hiking in the Whites.
Saturday, August 10
Hiked 10 miles up over Baldpate Mountain. Geo got us some trail magic at an older couple's home. We had a wonderful supper and tented in their yard. Then we had pancakes for breakfast with freshly picked raspberries in them!
Sunday, August 11
10 miles. Hiked over Moody Mountain. That was some trail up. Wingnut's book says it's an improved reroute. That has to be a joke. At first I waited at the wrong trailhead for Geo and then checked the map and saw my mistake (it didn't look like the correct trailhead). Geo waited 20 minutes for me. Oh, I saw a moose feeding in a pond near where I came out.
Monday, August 12
Went over Old Blue Mt. first thing in the morning. I ate lunch on Bemis Mt. The sky was cloudy but with my sun sensitivity I managed to get burned (despite sunscreen and being mostly under the trees). I have two more days of medication. I'll be glad when I'm back to normal (although my family and friends will say I never was).
It was cold last night (38 degrees), and I got cold in the night. I left my jacket in the truck, and if I put my sweater on I wouldn't have a pillow. I usually put my jacket on a keep my sweater for my pillow. Anyway, I lost my sweater off my fanny pack (on Bemis) which was depressing--that was my only insulating layer. I couldn't go back and look for it because Geo was waiting at the other trailhead (where I started), an hour's drive away. That shuttle was long on a badly graded dirt road (lots of rocks). To complete our day we had a flat tire.
I am feeling much stronger and I can hike faster now. But still, the thought of a day over 15 miles causes me to panic.
Tuesday, August 13
Easy hiking today. Went by Moxie and Sabbath Day ponds. Lots of roots but few ups and downs. Met a couple, Dos Dilberts, finishing up last year's thru hike. They gave me a tube of 50 SPF sunscreen. My 30 wasn't doing much. Micro's MSR stove needs a new pump so we're in Rangely looking for that, plus getting Geo's tire fixed.
Wednesday, August 14
Something funny happened this morning. I heard Geo unzipper his tent and I assumed he was going to the bathroom. He stomped around in back of my tent and then he went stomping through the creek (I thought he was in rare form this morning!). He snorted like he usually does in the morning (his sinuses bother him here in Maine). Then he said, "Did you hear that? It was a Moose!" He was still in his tent and that noise had been a moose.
I went over Saddleback Mtn. and Saddleback Junior today. I saw a bear just past Eddy Pond. It was coming up to the trail. It stopped at the trail and then it saw me and ran back down. I had wondered if I would be scared if I saw a bear but I wasn't--I was fascinated.
I camped at the Spaulding Mtn. Lean-to. I didn't arrive until 8 p.m. What a day. Most of it was slowed down by the Saddlebacks. The wind was so strong I was nearly upset with each step.
Thursday, August 15
The hike wasn't as long or as difficult as the day before. I needed to get to Rangely before 5 p.m. to get Geo's tire that he had ordered (the other had gotten a huge tear which couldn't be repaired), so I left before 6 a.m. because I didn't know the terrain. I hadn't slept very well the night before. I had went to bed without washing and my black fly bites itched something fierce. I was in a down mood anyway and after I had met "Sue the day hiker" I sat down on my pack and cried. What helped the most (I had skipped breakfast and had only a snack for supper) was finding a stream (in the sun) and fixing lunch and "pampering" myself by bathing and shaving my legs. I don't think I make a very good woodswoman. I miss my baths too much. I also miss perfume and regular facials (I've done nothing but soap and water to my face out here), and a choice of clothes. So you can see it was a pity party that day.
Friday, August 16
Went over the South Horn and west peak of Bigelow. Whoever said it was flat after Stratton lied. I had about 8 miles to do so I enjoyed a leisurely hike. I stopped at the Horns Pond lean-to and ate lunch and took a 2-hour nap (ah...). I ended up at the Avery Col Shelter with an older couple, "The Mad Hatters." It's quite cool, but fortunately the mail came through and I got my sweater so I'm set. (I was so sure it wouldn't come.) I heard there is a beautiful sunrise here. This shelter is scheduled to be torn down next year so I wanted to stay here.
Saturday, August 17
I hiked from Avery Col Lean-to to West Carry Pond Lean-to. Just Rook (GA>ME '95) and Digga were there in the shelter. Guiness came in at 8 p.m. It was good to see him. The pond was beautiful. I was able to clean up. So I was clean and my stomach full, and I slept like a baby.
Sunday, August 18
Finished up a 3-day segment to the Kennebec River. It was so exciting crossing that river (the ferry is really a canoe and I paddled in the front). Guiness hiked with me all day, so I had someone to talk to (he's Irish...need I say more). At a bog we met nearly face to face with a moose. I wasn't certain what to do. He was on the trail. We walked slowly toward him and he headed north on the trail in front of us--and then disappeared in the woods. I was a bit relieved to see him go.
The ponds here are beautiful. Why aren't they called lakes? We couldn't figure out how to cross the outlet of Pierce Pond so we followed the blue blaze and ended up at Harrisons. Their little girls weren't selling lemonade but we got some anyway because Digga had paid the day before for the next two thru hikers.
Monday, August 19
Slackpacked from Caratunk, ME to Moxie Pond (w/Guiness). The pull over Pleasant Pond Mountain was exerting but the views were rewarding. An older gentleman pointed out Katahdin but I couldn't recognize it as such, so it wasn't very exciting. We picked blueberries on the way up which we gave to Geo (two days before he picked a pint and graciously gave them to a group of women hikers). Guinness has been enjoying riding in the car to see a different side of Maine. He says he's coming back to Maine but next time in a Winnebago!
We stayed at the Pie Lady's in Monson. Monson Express (GA>ME '95) told me to stay with his grandparents but they weren't home. Camo, Col. Sideshow, Letitbe, Two Cents, Jeremiah, Hightower (a.k.a. Crooked Toe), Phoenix, Geo, and I are here. Yesterday at Caratunk I met Tony who said he met me at the beginning. He seemed nice.
Tuesday, August 20
Hiked south from Blanchard Road to Moxie Pond. Met Moss for the first time. A small area after Moxie Bald Mt. was flooded by beavers so Guinness and I bushwhacked around. Oh, we saw a moose with huge antlers! The views from Moxie Bald were beautiful. We ate lunch by Pleasant Pond and basked in the beauty of it.
Tomorrow I head into the wilderness for the final leg of my journey. I am excited. (Need I say more?)
Dan called Dartmouth and the tests did confirm I had Lyme Disease. I'm finished with my medication now and I'm feeling completely well.
Wednesday, August 21
Hiked six miles (3 beyond Monson). Taking the remainder of the day off to mail things home and shop, etc., for the wilderness. My pack will be quite full for the 7 days I'm planning through the wilderness. I could do like Winnie-the-Pooh and eat "all my provisions so we shan't have to carry them."
Thursday, August 22nd
Two big happenings: 1) I'm in the 100 mile wilderness and 2) I have less than 100 miles to go! We, Geo, Guiness, and I, were planning on camping at the Long Pond Stream Lean-To but 20 girls are there, so we're camping near the water. It's beautiful here. There have been several beautiful waterfalls and cascades along the way.
So much for the term "wilderness"! We met a family coming out of the wilderness and they indicated that during their 3 day stay, they counted 90 people! Someone said we would even see day hikers in a couple of places in the wilderness.
My pack is the heaviest it's ever been. I'm carrying lot's of food plus a tent. Pack weighs almost 40 lbs. I hope I can get the weight down soon.
Friday, August 23rd
Hiked to East Chairback Pond and camped. Moss and Matt have joined us and in fact camped with us last night. A day ahead, about 10 younger thru hikers have banded together for the finale. Guiness thinks he may be the 1st man from Ireland to thru hike the AT. He keeps us laughing all the time. He even makes the mostly solemn Geo smile!
The climbs today were hard but I did them and still had some energy left. It rained today so there weren't many views. I hope the sun comes out tomorrow so we can dry things out.
Saturday, August 24th
Hiked over Gulf Hagas Mtn., Hay Mtn., and White Cap. White Cap had the best views. I think the next mountain we climb will be Katahdin. We lunched at the Carl A. Newhall Lean-To where we tried drying some of our wet stuff. It had rained before we got settled last night and things got wet.
Heard the group ahead of us,(I think they were slackpacking), had an accident with their rental car, so maybe we'll see them again.
We're at Logan Brook tonight. We're calling ourselves the "G-Force" for Gutsy, Guiness, and Geo. I think it may also stand for "geriatric". The days seem so long because I am ready for this hike to be over.
Sunday, August 25th
Last night I dreamed I was shopping ( I usually despise the activity), but I was having a wonderful time! I woke up at 6 and told Guiness my dream and he told me to go back to sleep so I wouldn't wake Geo. Before I did, I asked Guiness if I could use his credit card. :-)
It was a beautiful day today. The sun was shining and a cool, dry wind was blowing. We, Guiness, Geo, Matt, Moss, and I, stopped at Crawford Pond, which has a sand beach, and ate lunch. All of us went into the water, and some more than others. It was a good opportunity to wash my dirty clothes. The water wasn't exactly warm! Letitbe wrote in a shelter register that Katherine broke her arm on the rockpile right after Chairback Mountain. Geo thinks that was the "Esther" of the "Polly and Esther" thru hiking duo. She already had a sprained foot. Geo noticed that they hadn't been writing in recent registers, so he assumed it was she. They had always signed the register with something witty all the way from Springer. It's so important to be careful, especially with the end so close. Today I slipped at a water crossing, but was fortunate that I only got a little wet.
People kept telling me that the terrain would get easier, but I don't listen because even now, the terrain requires work. It may look flat on the profiles, but what one doesn't see is all the roots and rocks. I said after being sick that I wouldn't do anymore 20's and I haven't--and won't. The desire to do big miles is gone.
Monday, August 26th
I saw Katahdin today from the Jo Mary Lake! It was big and very much like the pictures. Tonight, we're camping on a sandy beach by the Nahmakanta Lake. Unfortunately, it's raining at the moment. On 39 miles to go!
Hiking today was fairly easy--nice and level. One section did have a lot of roots to climb over...plus lots of mud. Found out that Esther did indeed break her arm---in fact, a very bad break that required surgery. They couldn't do the surgery here so her parents were coming to get her and take her home. The story is that she came upon Letitbe skinny dipping and tripped up and fell on her arm. Polly had been carrying a very strong painkiller so they were able to hike her out to where they could get help. Polly (and the spirit of Esther) probably finished up today.
It's midnight and it's still raining. I got up to go to the bathroom and now all my bug bites are itching, so I can't go back to sleep. Guinness arrived at 8 p.m., after doing 15 miles after 11 am.(He had Keith Shaw bring him a 1/2 way food drop). He was in good spirits and cheered us all up.
I forgot to mention that Michael Lanza, an outdoor columnist in the New England area, is camping here with 2 friends.
The spring here is an interesting one. The water runs through the sand into the lake(this body of water is actually called a lake and not a pond!). You dig a hole, and the water fills it and then you scoop it out and it's cold, clean water too. (We treat it anyway)
We met Stampy and Flatliner and their son, who were hiking southbound in the wilderness today. We haven't seen any of our other friends today. We may catch them coming down Katahdin. Saw Bob, the River Bum (Pa-->Me). He was also getting a food drop with Guiness.
Swan, who calls herself the Oreo Slut is hiking naked (or so she write in the registers), so has made herself the talk of the trail. No one seems impressed, though. She just turned 18 and is very immature.
Later still (2:31 am)...
Got up to go to the bathroom (again!) and let in another batch of no-see-ums. I spent 15 minutes earlier trying to chase them down and kill them and now I'm repeating the process. It's difficult to believe that such a tiny creature can have such a ferocious bite. How do they do it? Some of the beauty here in Maine is dimmed by the many varieties of blood-thirsty pests. I don't remember this many bugs when I used to live in the Amazon jungle!!! Just about everyone, but me, bathes themselves in 100% DEET. I wear long pants and try to bear it.
Tuesday, August 27th
Last night, I didn't sleep well, so I was pretty tired all day. Around lunch, I decided to stop for a nap because my thoughts were such that I would rather die than hike. I rested at the Wadleigh Stream Lean-To. Lord Bacon, who left the same day as I at Springer, was there. He had flip-flopped and still had 600 miles to go. The poor guy had had his tent and thermarest stolen at Baxter State Park. The ranger said that was the first time that has ever happened to a hiker there. I slept and then hiked to Rainbow Pond, arriving after dark. Geo and Guiness forgot to put a note on the trail for me (they said they would), so I hiked too far, ending up in a bog. I decided that I couldn't navigate the bog in the dark, and it would be best to just camp by myself at the lake where I could at least get a bath. When I went back, I called out a bit, and found them.(I can't wear my prescription sunglasses after dark, so I really can't see after dark.) That's why I missed them.
Wednesday, August 28th
Here we are at Baxter State Park, specifically Dicey Pond. The mountain is beautiful over the lake. I went out in a canoe after dark ( the moon is full). That was fun. Tomorrow is our big day of hiking. Polly is here , as is Sundog, Skye, and two Australians. I think Geo and Guiness and I are the only ones of this group doing Katahdin. (Skye and Sundog did K. and then went south into the wilderness)
The cascades and the waterfalls were beautiful on our walk from Abol Bridge to here. It was an exciting moment when we saw the sign announcing we were in Baxter State Park.
August 29, Thursday
Well, it's over. Five months of following the white blazes is done.
We (Guinness, Geo and I) had wonderful weather for our final day of hiking. Rain had been expected, but never came and clouds did settle in, but only after we were descending.
I wanted to start the hike early, but Guinness had made arrangements with Channel 13 (Portland) to meet them at 9. When they didn't come by 9, Guinness didn't wait around for them. He knew we wanted to go, so we were on the way by 9:15 (they never did come at all). The trail started easy enough, but about 2 miles up the fun started. Actually, it was fun. Most thru hikers hiked alone during the day, but this day we agreed to hike together so that made the rough spots easier. I wouldn't let the guys help me at all because I'd done it all by myself so far and I wanted to finish that way. We'd left our heavy packs down at the Ranger station, and we just had daypacks (except for Geo, who had his regular pack --- but it was almost empty).
About 2 miles up the wind started and cooled the air so hiking was a pleasure (At the end of the day we noticed that we'd only drunk a fraction of our water). A couple of times I took off my fanny pack and threw it up ahead to make climbing easier. About two miles from the top we met Skye and Sundog who had flip-flopped in Gorham because of the hailstorms there. They were coming down because they'd gone up about 5:30 a.m. They would now be heading into the 100 mile wilderness. We also met another couple who later gave us a ride into Millinocket.
I could hardly believe that we were finally at the top when I saw the sign. It seemed like, surely, we would have farther to go. Of course we took lots of pictures (the only pictures I took on the trail). I didn't cry like Geo thought I would, but I did yell, "OK, helicopter, come get me!" I was done, but unfortunately I still had to hike down.
Geo and Guinness didn't want to go down the same way we came up so the consensus was to hike down another trail. We went down the Saddle and then down to Chimney Pond. The views going down that trail were also fantastic. It was nice to go down another trail just for the change, but with the hitchhiking we had to get back to our packs, and it turned out to be a long day. We also stopped to help a girl dayhiker who was having a terrible time with bad knees. I lent her my Lekis and then we all had to wait until she got down to retrieve them. Geo gave her some Ibuprofen, but she still was hurting. Geo finally found a ride to the Ranger station to get our packs. Guinness and I waited over an hour at the gate for Geo to get back with our ride (the couple we met) and our packs. Guinness was getting very cold (he really had lost about as much weight as anyone ought to lose on the trail), and the bugs were eating me. It was wonderful to finally see Geo and get a ride to a hotel (and get my very last "trail bath.") We were tired but we were all very upbeat because it was "the end".
I know many people thought I hiked too fast and I know I was "down" many times, but I honestly hiked my own hike. I think if I hadn't been so driven at first I may not have been able to finish the trail when I was sick. After I became sick I couldn't think of the end, but I just took each day's miles as a single goal. I may not have had as much "fun" as others, but I accomplished what I wanted, and no one can ever take that away from me.
Note: Geo helped me slackpack the miles I missed while I was sick.
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