AT

Throwback Thursday #5 – Hiking southbound on the AT over Chairback and down Third Mountain Trail, forming a loop with the logging roads in the 100 Mile Wilderness.  

We did this hike in June 2013.  The Gulf Hagas area of the 100 Mile Wilderness takes nearly 2 hours to drive to from Millinocket, but the drive is definitely worth it.  We decided to hike a “loop” that we formed by hiking southbound up and over Chairback, down Third Mountain, Trail, and finally hiking 2 miles on the logging roads back to our car at the Gulf Hagas Trailhead.  The weather was beautiful and starting to warm up, but the warm weather and sunshine after weeks of rain and cold in Central Maine means one thing – BLACK FLIES.  They were absolutely brutal on this hike, nailing us in the face and back of the neck (they left scabs on my neck for weeks after this hike!) 

The hiking southbound over this mountain, which is a boulder-scramble for the SoBo’s, was a lot tougher than it seemed the first time we hiked it (northbound, of course) during our thru hike in early September 2012. A 16-mile day in the 100 Mile Wilderness was ambitious and it was a full day of hiking, but the views were stunning and the hike left us both blissfully exhausted.  Above, you’ll see 1) the view from Monument Cliff, 2) a bog on the logging roads on the way back to the car, 3) the typical trail scenery in this part of Maine, 4) the view looking at the back of Chairback (aptly named, now you can see), and 5) NoKey on top of Chairback. 

Today NoKey and I went hiking in Baxter State Park after more than a week of rain and being stuck indoors.  This was our first official hike together since we finished the AT more than 7 months ago.  We hiked north from the AT from the Abol Bridge after taking in the morning view.  There was a ton of snow as it had snowed up there Friday and Saturday nights.  We were able to keep dry feet for about 4.5 miles when we ran into a SoBo, our first official trail SoBo, who let us know that Neswadonahunk Stream was running high and we’d definitely have to take the high water trail.  Even this trail had high water!  We got our feet pretty wet before coming back to the AT and passing both Big and Little Niagra Falls.  We walked around Daicey Pond and were less than a mile from Katahdin Stream Campground when we thought we heard someone in the woods.  We kept going, but heard a voice behind us… it was Erick, a hiker who stayed with us for a few days waiting for the high water to receed before starting his section hike.  He made the statement “Only you two could make a SoBo hike north on the AT to catch you!”  We gave him half of a giant sub and some Little Debbie cakes for trail magic before we ran into another one of our hikers from the weekend, Stinky Jesus! (We named him SJ because a hiker came in hypothermic and he helped him take off his boots to help him into the shower.)  We gave SJ some trail magic too and wished him well for his hike.  

After getting to Katahdin Stream we decided to take a break, but the black flies and mosquitos were out in full force, so we kept moving on to the Blueberry Ledges Trail.  We had no idea what to expect on this trail, as we’d not ever really seen pictures.  Much of the trail was flooded for the first two miles and had been washed out quite a bit from all the rain last week, but we kept on until coming to the ledges, which were all granite rock with alpine plants.  The ledges go downhill to meet Katahdin Stream, which was running swift and high.  (Pictured above).  From here, we had a short 1.4-mile walk back to the AT near Abol Bridge and it couldn’t have been more pleasant, an old roadbed where we followed moose prints nearly the entire way down.  At the bottom of the trail we had another wonderful view of Katahdin and much of the snow melted in the direct sunlight and 70+ degree temperatures of the afternoon.  

It felt great to be hiking again back into Maine.  I can’t wait to get back into the 100 Mile Wilderness next time!

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Suess

This was me one year ago today, 11:00 a.m. at Springer Mountain in Georgia.  I had walked the 0.9 miles up to this plaque from the parking lot on the forest service road in about 15 minutes.  My head and my stomach were filled with butterflies as I took those steps, saying only “excuse me, excuse me” as I was passing the crowds of people going up to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  When I finally got there, I took a look at the view, got my photo taken (above) with the first white blaze of the AT, and then wrote a rambling, nonsensical, excited first journal entry in the log book.  This is it, 5 million steps until I quit.  

It was such a beautiful, warm, sunny day on March 27, 2012. My plan for the day was to walk until I felt like I didn’t want to do it anymore.  Even so early in the day, I was passing people setting up their tents for the day on the side of the trail and meeting lots of hikers.  The thing that really stuck out in my mind was how excited we all seemed, greeting everyone walking by with a smile and awkwardly listening to people trying to decide if they had a trail name or if they should use their real names.  I immediately began with using my trail name, feeling like it was a totally different persona.  People almost looked relieved when you gave them a trail name, as if to say “well, you’re doing it, so I can too!”  But enough with my first day memories!

I had no idea how much this day would completely change my entire life. You hike the AT and you know something is going to change. In fact, Warren Doyle (a 17-time thru hiker who holds seminars a few times a year) has been known to tell everyone he meets who intends to hike that if you don’t want your life to change you shouldn’t go.  I feel like one year ago today isn’t an anniversary of a journey beginning, I feel like it’s more of a birthday.  I discovered so many things about myself on this trip, even if it wasn’t apparent to me at the time.  I made life-long friends with people who I only knew for only a few days, which is mind-blowing to me.  We all supported each other and, in a way, became a family in a short period of time.  For all of those who were with me on the AT in 2012, be it as a thru hiker, a section hiker, or a trail angel, you helped me become the person I am today and sharing that portion of my life with you means a lot to me. 

In less than one month, I’ll be leaving my home in Knoxville behind to continue on my journey.  I’ll be moving to Millinocket, Maine to work at the Appalachian Trail Lodge for the hiking season.  If the job works out for the summer, it’s possible I’ll stay on year-round.  One year ago today I would’ve never guessed this would be my life.  I’m excited for all the changes and I can’t wait to share all my new travels and experiences with you.  

After nearly a month of not getting to do any hiking, I decided to head up to the AT today to go up to Rocky Top. Since I was going to be doing a loop hike, I had decided to take the longer, less steep route up to the AT, but at the very last second I decided to change my route and take the steeper, yet shorter, option to the top.

I did my first hike ever on the Anthony Creek Trail, passing a troop of boy scouts carrying entirely too much gear for only hiking 3 miles in. The trail was wet, muddy, and eroded much like all the horse trails in this area of the park, but I was pleasantly surprised when I turned to climb up Bote Mountain Trail and found ice and snow on the ground. Some of the drifts in the shade were more than a foot deep still, despite the warm temperatures in the valley!

When I got to the AT in the sunshine I felt great. I quickly began to see beautiful views and got to take my lunch break with the view above. From where I was sitting, you can see Fontana Lake and even the Shuckstack fire tower off in the distance. The sunshine was warm and there was a very minimal breeze making it a beautiful place to sit. The silence was near-deafening and it was definitely what I needed to recharge my batteries.

I continued my hike along the AT going south to the Russell Field Shelter. I wrote a log book entry about my reflections on being a thru hiker and wished all the 2013ers reading a good trip. I was really sad I didn’t run into any thru hikers because, even though it is still quite early, NoBo’s are already coming through. I only passed one other hiker on the way down, which was quick and very scenic with the snow melt making for pretty cascades the entire way down.

It’s amazing to me how a quick 15-mile day can make all the difference you need. Being outside and being unplugged for the day sure helped clear my head. As many of you know, I’ve been in quite the rut lately and pretty down so being out in the sunshine on the trail that changed my life in so many ways was all the therapy I needed.

Other than the day I summited Katahdin, this was my absolute favorite day on the trail.  We woke up at the Horn Pond Shelter and leapfrogged with Chucky the Fish all day long.  The entire day was incredibly scenic and ended with us camping on a beautiful lake. Great trail memories. 

I spent last weekend at the Northern Ruck in Bluemont, VA.  The snow was beautiful, the trail running was fun, and the company of former thru hikers and hikers-to-be was the greatest I’ve had in a long time. 

The food at The Ruck couldn’t be beat!  There was a wide array of dishes, from Indian to vegetarian to BBQ pork.  I can’t even get into how many delicious desserts there were!  If there’s one thing hikers like more than anything else, it’s food, and former hikers sure know how to throw a feast.

A good time was had by all and I’m looking forward to the next gathering ALDHA throws. The photos above are of Bears Den Trail Center, in the middle of the infamous VA Roller Coaster section of trail, and a photo on Sunday morning of NoKey, Rocket, Testament, and me having some coffee and saying our goodbyes.  

A pretty gift from a woman who will be hiking SoBo this year. She followed my blog and made this for me after I completed the trail. Ive been told it has glow-in-the dark components, but I think it needs some sunlight first 🙂

Reunited and it feels so good!  My 32-mile round-trip weekend hike to TriCorner Knob, 1-12 and 1-13-13. 

Even though I’m not feeling very Christmas-y, I wanted to wish all of you a happy holiday season and a Happy and joyous New Year.  I learned this year what it’s like to have true friends and what it’s like to truly need people in your life.  I’m so glad to call all of you my friends.