Saturday, August 11, 2012

Here I Am- Rock You Like Southern Maine

So I have to say that it has been a slow moving week. All of the southbounders I have run into always said the Whites and southern Maine were hard. I always thought they thought Maine was hard because it was their first encounter with mountains, plus they don't have their trail legs yet. Well, it turns out southern Maine is hard and it doesn't matter if you do have your trail legs or not. I feel like I have just started hiking for the first time.

I guess most of the frustration has come from trying to finish the trail by August 25. This was a deadline I gave myself around 5 weeks ago. I thought I could safely hike 100 miles a week, allowing me to finish by this date. I was able to stick to this plan up to last week. Oddly enough though, even finishing this week around 45 miles shy of my goal, I could still potentially finish by the 25th or 26th.

I have been encouraged in a big way this week by getting a few more donations for the wells. It is a nice reminder of why I am hiking and that makes every step, as slow and tough as it might be, a good step. I am now around $1300 away from completing a second well, so if you have been waiting to see if I will finish before you give, I am less than 250 miles away, so I am pretty sure it's gonna happen. ;)

Here is what this week long butt kicking looked like:

Day 148 (8/6) - Zero Day
Today I caught up on some calories and relaxing. It was a good day!

Day 149 (8/7) - Gorham, NH to Carlo Col Shelter (16.9 mi)
Forget the ladder to success. I climbed the mountain of success- literally. The last mountain of New Hampshire was called Mount Success. But along with that came the fruits of success- hitting the 1900 mile mark and entering Maine. I would love to say it was an easy and relaxing day, but it wasn't. I wasn't motivated to hike, even knowing I was entering Maine. I was also very tired all day. I stayed up a little too late last night. The miles seemed to drag on. I almost called it a day about 5 miles before my goal, but decide to press on because I know the miles would pile on an already challenging week. As soon as I got into Maine, I had to slide and crawl down some big boulders. What made it even more challenging was that it was almost dark. I made it into camp right at dark to find that it was completely overrun by Outward Bounds groups. I had to find any piece of ground large enough to fit my tent so I am laying at a downward slope. By tomorrow morning my feet will be pushing out of the bottom of the tent I bet. As excited as I am to finally be in Maine, the reality hasn't sunk in yet. Maybe tomorrow it will. And maybe I will finally see a moose.

Day 150 (8/8) - Carlo Col Shelter to Mahoosuc Notch (7.2 mi)
What a hard day! That mileage absolutely sucks. It started with a terrible night of sleep. What I predicted came true. And not only that, there was so much pressure on the foot of my tent that the stake holding in the head of my tent popped out and my tent collapsed on me. I got going this morning and had to tackle several steep climbs and steeper descents. I did get some good views. After lunch, we had a quick mile before tackling Mahoosuc Notch. This notch is unlike anything I have seen on the trail. It is a mile long valley with a bunch of giant boulders all through it that you have to crawl over and under. I saw a lady looking exhausted and frustrated and I asked her how long it took her to get through and she said 5 hours. 5 hours to get a mile! I didn't do much better- it took me 2.5 hours. It was tough. I used every muscle I had and some that I didn't know I had. There were times I would have to take off my backpack and push it through a small opening just to get through some rocks. It was the longest mile. The AWOL guide said it was the most difficult or most fun mile on the trail. Difficult rating was definitely a 10, fun rating though I would give a 6. It was way more fun at the beginning and then it just got frustrating. I got to a campsite and decided since it was already 5 to call it a night. My knees were killing me and I knew that there was a very difficult climb up ahead that I didn't want to risk doing in the dark. I had a nice long conversation with a south bounder and then hit the hay early. I now have some big miles to make up after this disappointing day.

Day 151 (8/9) - Mahoosuc Notch to Grafton Notch (6.9 mi)
Wow, the disappointment continues. I made it up Mahoosuc Arm like it was nothing and even didn't have much problem climbing up Speck Mountain. But for some reason the trail continued to kick my butt. My knees were killing me too and that didn't help. Yosemite and I discussed trying to set up some slack packing to attempt to get in more than 7 miles. Once we got down to the notch we had to hitch a ride to a hostel. Finally after about 20 minutes, a van pulled over. As we were driving down the highway, a black bear came running across the road. It was awesome. I haven't seen a bear since Shenandoah. I spent the remainder of the night icing my knees. Hopefully, the slack packing will help me get some miles without the added weight of my pack. I am nervous because it has been storming all night too, so that means it will be a slick mess tomorrow and that's not good going up some of these 30 foot rock faces. Oh Maine, why do you hate me so? On a somewhat positive note, the trail is kicking everyone else's butt too so it's not just me.

Day 152 (8/10) - Grafton Notch to East B Hill Rd (10.3 mi)
So every once in a while you have to make a tough decision that could be the difference in life and death. Today I had to make one of those. I slack packed today, which was perfect since it stormed pretty much up to leaving. The trail was very wet, which made Baldpate Mountain even more difficult, since it was slick rock. I took my time going up and it rained more once on top. I had to go even slower going down. I only fell once. Other than that it was smooth sailing. About a mile before the road, there was a creek and a waterfall. Since it rained all night, the creek was completely swollen and flowing at a very fast rate. I walked up stream a little to try to find a safe place to cross- Maine apparently doesn't believe in bridges. There just wasn't anyplace to cross. The current was really pulling towards the falls. I had a choice- I could try to ford the creek or I could take a blue blaze trail not knowing exactly where it was going (it didn't show up on my gps). If I did try to ford and I slipped, I would have pretty much either hit my head on rocks on the way down the falls or drown (or both). The reason this was even up for debate was because I have stayed on trail for the entire trail- no shortcuts, no bypasses. So today, for my safety, I took the blue blaze trail, which led me down and around the heavier current. I still had to cross in knee deep water, but it was in a safer cross zone. The side trail met back up with the AT and I wrapped up the hike for the day. This tells you how hard the terrain has been- I was averaging 2 mph with my full pack before the Whites- I didn't even do that pace without a pack. We got some trail magic on the road and then hitched a ride back to the hostel, which happened to fill up while I was hiking. I ended up having to call The Cabin, another hostel in town and make arrangements to stay there. Glad I did because it was way nicer.

Day 153 (8/11) - East B Hill Rd to South Arm Road (10.1 mi)
It rained all night long again and was supposed to all day today. Instead of taking a zero, which was tempting, I decided to slack pack again. I did the next 10 mile stretch. It was nothing special, but the trail was completely flooded. My feet were soaked within the first mile and that wasn't even due to creek crossings. The trail had only one small section of rock slab climbing, so I am hoping that is a sign of things to come. There were 2 creek crossings that were unavoidable. My feet were already wet, so it was easy to just jump in to water up to my knees to get across. Again, I didn't have a 2 mph pace. Tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day, so hopefully I can get an early start and get some bigger miles in tomorrow and the rest of the week. Today is my 5 month trail anniversary too. 5 months of living the dream, even though the dream has been a nightmare this last week.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian,
    So proud of your accomplishment! You don't have far to go even though it may be slow. I hiked in Acadia one summer and hated all the rocks! It was the hardest hiking I had done and it sounds like you have experienced the same. Yours was just a lot more intense! I am cheering you on these last few days.
    Sherry Rhodes Bynum