Thursday, September 13, 2001

day 124, Gorham, NH (The Barn)

Start:  Imp Campsite
End:  US 2 (The Barn)
Miles:  8 today, 1868.6 total

Post-hike note:  This page was unintentionally left blank.  I simply never got around to writing anything for this day.  From what I remember, I came down the mountain and stayed at The Barn in Gorham (the other hostel in town).  Being a few days after 9/11, just about all of the fast food -type restaurants and other establishments had "God Bless America" displayed on their signage (instead of the typical "$1 cheeseburgers!" -type advertising).

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

day 123, Imp Campsite, NH

Start:  Pinkham Notch VC (Hikers Paradise)
End:  Imp Campsite
Miles:  13.1 today, 1860.6 total

Had an extremely bad episode this morning involving the Hikers Paradise staff.  Bruce woke me up at 5am, like we had planned last night.  I started getting my stuff together by the light of my headlamp.  The plan was to depart for the trail at 5:30, but I figured it would be no big deal if we left at, say, 5:35.  I mean, we're on the trail and, in general, people are pretty easy going (and slow to get out of bed at 5am!).  So at 5:30 I'm brushing my teeth when I hear the car start.  I grab my stuff and get down to the planned meeting location at 5:33 or 34.  No car.  I set my stuff down, look around a bit, and then head to the front of the building to see if the car was up there.  Nope.  I look in through the window at the "bird clock" and it reads 5:35.  So Bruce had left without me (Logos was the only other guy going at that time) and didn't bother to check if I was almost ready.  So then I ring the bell at the front door.  The door's locked, but there's two signs saying the place is open (this is maybe 5:45).  The other male staff member (2 males, 1 female) comes out in his robe saying he doesn't know where Bruce is and that I shouldn't have woken (is that a word?) him up.  Anyway, some time goes by, I wait some more.  A little after 6am I go to the front.  The door's unlocked so I go in and sit to warm up while I wait.  The guy comes out again and asks me to go outside.  I start to say that the "Open" sign is up, and he starts screaming for me to leave.  I pack up, argue with Bruce, get half my money back, and hitch back to the trail.

Post-hike note:  I had to cram the last few sentences as I was running out of space on the journal page.  Obviously, this wasn't a fun way to start the day.  I'll certainly take the blame for being a few minutes late down to the meeting spot, and, yeah, I knew I was pushing some buttons by considering the "Open" signs as indicating the place was legitimately open that early in the morning... despite the likelier cause being that someone had just forgotten to flip them to "Closed" the night before.  But, I was nevertheless a paying customer, and a certain level of friendly or at least professional service... receive I did not (to say the least), from two different staff members.  I had initially paid them to stay two nights, and after the various arguments that we had, I was glad Bruce at least agreed to reimburse me for the 2nd night.  Regardless, there was no way I was going to stay there again.

To be fair, I have no doubt many other hikers have had better experiences at Hikers Paradise, and I certainly wish the hostel success going forward.  However, being that this is a journal of my personal experiences hiking the Trail, and that the events of the morning were, by far, the highlight of the day, it seems appropriate, at least to me, to include in the blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

day 122, Pinkham Notch VC, NH

Start:  Madison Springs Hut
End: Pinkham Notch Visitors Center (Hikers Paradise)
Miles:  7.8 today, 1847.5 total

Post-hike note: This page was semi-intentionally left blank in my journal due to the day's terrible events elsewhere in the nation.  I'll re-cap what I remember, despite it now being 12.5 years later:

The morning at Madison Springs Hut was somewhat uneventful.  I'm pretty sure I had hut-prepared breakfast, and then helped the staff with various cleanup duties for awhile.  I vaguely remember someone playing music from a radio, but at that time of morning, I don't think the news had broken yet.  I eventually got my stuff together and headed out.

Compared to the night before, the weather coming down the mountain was fantastic.  I remember it being fairly clear and I passed people lounging in various spots as I neared the base of the mountain.  At some point between, say, 10am and noon, I found myself at the bottom at Pinkham Notch Visitors Center.  I called the Hikers Paradise hostel in Gorham and asked for someone to come pick me up.  Sometime later, a guy pulls up in a pickup truck and I throw my stuff in and we head toward Gorham.  Along the way, he mentions that the World Trade Center towers had been attacked and F-15s were patrolling around New York City.  I thought he might've had a screw loose, but when we got to the hostel, everyone was glued to the TV.  I spent pretty much the rest of the day watching TV, though at some point I did laundry and called my parents.

Monday, September 10, 2001

day 121, Madison Springs Hut, NH

Start:  Mt. Jackson campsite
End:  Madison Springs Hut
Miles:  13.5 today, 1839.7 total

Wow.  Today was a day of extremes.  For one, I've found my new favorite part of the trail: the Whites.  The scenery, when visible, was amazing.  I spent all but 2 or 3 miles above treeline.  If the weather is decent, I could stay above treeline all day.  You can see forever.  Like, there will be people off in the distance that you won't pass for 10-15 minutes - but you can still see them!  And the mountains look so neat.  Orange and green and grey, rather than all green trees.  I took 3 or 4 pictures of just scenery.  Now that I think about it, I think I took (or had someone else take) 7 pictures today.

Stopped by Lakes of the Clouds Hut, nothing too special there.  Saw the "Dungeon" thru-hiker shelter in the basement.  Then I made my ascent of Mt. Washington.  The wind whipped by, clouds rocketed past.  I had a passer-by take my picture halfway up the mountain.  Some touristy museum and concession-stand stuff on top.

And then I hiked on... and proceeded to endure the worst weather I've had all trip.  Hard driving rain to a light misting mixed with heavy gusting winds to stillness.  And a cool temperature.  I was soaked and cold, but I just kept on walking.  Still above treeline the whole way to Madison Springs Hut, where I managed to snag my first (and last?) work-for-stay.

Post-hike note: That 5-ish-mile portion from the Mt. Washington summit to Madison Springs Hut was, in hindsight, probably the most dire moment I had on the trail.  Being above treeline with nowhere to hide from the rain and wind, and with the temperature being cool, my guess is that hypothermia would have readily set in were I forced to stop walking.  Numerous opportunities to slip on the wet rocks and break something, and being alone with no one else out walking in that weather and often zero visibility, it could have been a pretty bad situation.  Looking back, I feel pretty lucky that I made it to the hut that night relatively ok and that they had space for me to stay.  I would've done anything to avoid having to camp out in that weather.

Sunday, September 9, 2001

day 120, Mt. Jackson c, NH

Start:  Galehead Hut campsite
End:  Mt. Jackson campsite
Miles:  19.4 today, 1826.2 total

Almost a 20-miler in the Whites.  I was trying to do 21 from Galehead Hut to the Mizpah Spring Hut / Nauman Tentsite combo, but I couldn't make it (at least in the daylight).  The wacky thing is, I can see the Mizpah Spring Hut from here.  It's only 1.7 miles away.  I'm camped up on top of Mt. Jackson tonight.  The weather is supposed to be good for the next few days at least, so I feel relatively safe throwing down my bag right up on the summit (knock on wood).  The stars are out all over the place, and I can see the Milky Way.  I hope it doesn't get too cold tonight.  One other consideration is that the closest water source north of here is the hut.  I tried to push as far as I could late in the day so I wouldn't have far to go in the morning.  I've got about half a quart left for the 1.7 miles to the hut, so I think I'll be ok.

At some point tonight, the moon will come out and blind me.  It's been pretty bright the last few nights.  And I think I can see Mt. Washington from here.  One of the buildings up there has its lights on.  I'll be up there tomorrow!  I'm really liking the Whites so far.  It's fun clambering (is that a word?) around on the rocks, though it can get pretty dangerous, too.  Still obsessed over pack weight reduction.  Hasta maƱana.

Saturday, September 8, 2001

day 119, Galehead Hut c, NH

Start:  Liberty Springs Tentsite
End:  Galehead Hut campsite
Miles:  10.4 today, 1806.8 total

I may have hit on something profound.  You've got a food item, say a Snickers bar (regular size).  The total weight of the bar is 59 g.  Of that 59 g, 14 g are fat, 35 g are carbs, 4 g are proteins, and the remaining 6 g we'll lump together as "other".  I then look at the typical food I eat in a day and break each item down in a similar manner.  Then, I add up all the fats, all the carbs, and so forth.  Note that my daily diet is basically 2 Pop Tarts, a bagel & PB for breakfast, various snack items all day, and then a Lipton noodle packet with tuna and powdered milk for dinner.  I have not yet tallied the nutrition info for the Pop Tarts, lemonade mix, gorp, dried fruit, and powdered milk.  So... of the stuff I have tallied, I've found that my diet is basically 11% fats, 54% carbs, 13% proteins, and 22% "other".  Talking to Silver Wings again this evening, he was saying that he read at a nutrition website that endurance athletes typically eat 30%, sometimes 35%, fat, so I'm low in that category.  Carbs are ok.  Protein is also ok.  The glaring number, though, is that 22% in the "other" category.  Much of that comes from the tuna and bagels (both of which contain water as an ingredient... hmm... carrying extra weight perhaps?)  Peanut butter, as it turns out, has only 1 g of "other" and 16 g of fat - an awesome trail food.  I will pursue this further, as food is my burden and energy out here.

Post-hike note:  Silver Wings' "30% fat" number may have been referring to the portion of daily caloric intake which comes from fat... as opposed to the portion of daily intake in terms of weight (grams) which comes from fat.  Given that a gram of fat provides 9 calories, and a gram of carbs and protein each provide 4 calories, my diet's % breakdown in terms of caloric intake was probably closer to 20% fat, 44% carbs, 11% protein, and 25% "other".  The validity of having an "other" category might also be debatable... I'm not a nutritionist.

Friday, September 7, 2001

day 118, Liberty Springs c, NH

Start:  Franconia Notch, NH (Cascade Lodge)
End:  Liberty Springs Tentsite
Miles:  2.6 today, 1796.4 total

A short day for miles, but a progressive one, nonetheless.  I managed to drop another 1.5 - 2 pounds off my pack weight, so that makes 3 - 3.5 pounds lost since Operation Go-Lite began in Glencliff.  And I spent a good while talking to Silver Wings about his pack, which weighs 16 pounds without food and water (I think).  So, in total, I've gotten rid of my ground cover, rope, poncho container, Pur filter, and sleeping pad.  My poncho should adequately replace the ground cover.  I bought Polar Pure today to replace the filter, and I'm using my spare clothes right now as a fake sleeping pad.  Honestly, the pad was more comfortable, and I'd prefer the quality of water that the filter gives me, as opposed to the iodine-tasting Polar Pure -treated water.  However, the lost weight is more important I think.  And there's more to be lost!  I still haven't found an outfitters that carries a 6' x 10' Equinox tarp, but once I do, I can drop about 3 pounds by replacing my tent with a tarp.  And Silver Wings said that the Nalgene bottles I'm carrying weigh 5.5 ounces each.  If I replace those with 1-liter soda bottles, I'd probably drop a good 0.5 pound.  He also said that stainless steel is one of the heavier metals for cookware.  I think he mentioned that titanium was one of the best.  And my pot is, you guessed it, stainless steel.

Thursday, September 6, 2001

day 117, Franconia Notch, NH

Start:  Kinsman Notch, NH (Al's house)
End:  Franconia Notch, NH (Cascade Lodge)
Miles:  16.3 today, 1793.8 total

Heading back to Al's post-dinner, September 5.  Laura took the photo.

So we all show up uninvited at this guy's house.  His name is Al.  Apparently he's a friend of Snack Attack.  And Laura is buddy-buddy with Snack Attack, and I'm friends with Laura... and on down the line.  Yesterday we hitched in to North Woodstock from Kinsman Notch, showed up at Al's door, and invited ourselves in.  Two SOBOs had already stayed a night and were going to stay at least another couple nights.  Later Snack Attack, Orkin Man, and Wise Owl (Jake) showed up.  So this one guy, Al, has 7 hikers staying at his place taking advantage of him.  While it was great taking a shower, using his cookware, etc, I really did feel bad for the guy.  I'm thinking of sending him some brownies or something to make up for it.

This morning Al drove Jake and me to the trailhead.  We did the 16-17 miles to Franconia Notch and then hitched back into North Woodstock, but stayed at the Cascade Lodge rather than Al's place.  The hiking wasn't too bad.  Saw 3 glider planes up on South Kinsman (they were off in the distance, not ON the mountain).

A lot of familiar people here at the lodge.  Silver Wings, Numbfoot, the Deputies, possibly more.  Jake and I had an awesome dinner at the restaurant across the street from Truant's Tavern (don't remember the name).  This lodge is old and run-down.

Wednesday, September 5, 2001

day 116, Kinsman Notch, NH

Start:  Glencliff, NH (Hikers Welcome hostel)
End:  Kinsman Notch, NH (Al's house)
Miles:  9.5 today, 1777.5 total

Moosilauke summit.  Left to right:  Six String, Laura (Skipper), me

First day in the Whites and, man, was it amazing.  I'd probably have to say that this has been the best day, in terms of scenery, so far.  It beats Grayson Highlands.  And this was some tough terrain, too, especially coming down Moosilauke into Kinsman Notch.  Moosilauke was the theme of the day.  Skipper and I left Glencliff around 11am.  I managed to drop 1.5 lbs by sending home my ground sheet and some other items.  But then we were hiking... It took a few miles to get to the base of the mountain and then we started going up.  But no need to dramatize that, because the ascent really wasn't too bad.  It was long, but not terribly steep.  Then, up on the ridge, you walk half a mile to 1 mile just below treeline until it finally breaks and you walk up a bald, grassy mountain-top with cairns(?) as the trail markers.  The coolest part was when I was along the ridge and I could look ahead and see a tiny Six String climbing up the bald part.  He was like a monk.  Six String, Laura (when she finally made it), and I hung out on top for a good 1-1.5 hours before coming down.  And that's the hard part.  Very steep, a long way down.  Parts where you could fall and break your face.  The trail paralleled a waterfall / creek most of the way down.  Got to the bottom around 5pm and waited on Laura for quite awhile.  From there we hitched into North Woodstock.  I'll explain...

Tuesday, September 4, 2001

day 115, Glencliff, NH

Start:  Hexacuba Shelter
End:  Glencliff, NH (Hikers Welcome hostel)
Miles:  14.7 today, 1768.0 total

Well guess who yellow blazed to Glencliff.  "I'll take 'Skipper' for $500, Alex."  And she does it again.  Oh well.  The hostel here is pretty cool.  It's called "Hikers Welcome", which is kind of like naming your dog "Dog".  But they've got a great selection of CDs that we played.  Stevie Ray, Hendrix, Allman Brothers.  And they've got a fridge stocked with candy bars, granola bars, crackers, sodas, V8, Ben & Jerry's.  They also have a backpack making and repairing company called Moonbow.  Some really wacky stuff.  They make a lot of all-in-one packs.  Like packs that open up / unfold into tents with sleeping bags inside.  From looking at their catalog, their lightest pack / tent / sleeping bag combo weighs 5 lbs.  The thing is, with the right gear, you could go even lighter than that.  A Go-Lite pack at 1 lb, my Western Mountaineering 20-degree bag at 2 lbs, and a tarp (setup explained yesterday) at 1 lb - that's 4 lbs for the big three.

Met Sodapop.  He's been doing some slacking out of here.  Tonight we've got Laura, Sodapop, Ross (Phaedrus), Sojourner, and Six String.  There are some others, too, but I don't think they're in for the long haul.  Packrat, one of the owners, has some photo albums of his hikes.  He's done the AT, the LT, PCT, Colorado Trail, and maybe more.  Pretty cool stuff.

Monday, September 3, 2001

day 114, Hexacuba S, NH

Start:  Moose Mountain Shelter
End:  Hexacuba Shelter
Miles:  17.9 today, 1753.3 total

Little bit of climbing today.  My legs feel worked, like I just did the leg press.  First there was Holt's Ledges, a fairly short (< 2 miles) climb with some decent views at the top.  But then the majority of the day was spent either climbing or descending Smarts Mountain.  That was a pretty substantial climb (though I know in 2 days this climb will seem easy).  Had a fire tower on top and the weather was clear.  Numbfoot and I guesstimated that we could see at least 80 miles, since we could see Killington behind us.

Spent a good portion of the day thinking about how to be like Ray Jardine.  I really want to get my pack weight down, and I'm thinking a lot now about hiking the PCT.  Oh man.  The two biggies left on my back are my tent and the pack itself.  If I switched to a tarp, I could replace the tent and take off at least 3 pounds.  Sojourner talked to me about how she did that and is glad she did.  She says she's using an Equinox 6' x 10' tarp and an emergency blanket as a ground cover.  She says the tarp weighs 9 ounces and the blanket is next to nothing.  I want to do more research on Go-Lite and any other ultra-light packs.  I could knock off a good 5 or even 6 pounds with one of those.  So that's 8 or 9 pounds I could drop with those two items.  Makes my mouth water...

Sunday, September 2, 2001

day 113, Moose Mtn S, NH

Start:  Hanover, NH
End:  Moose Mountain Shelter
Miles:  10.8 today, 1735.4 total

Man, it is cold!  I'm wearing my New Balance fleece -type of thing on top of my long underwear shirt AND a Duofold t-shirt.  Lucky orange pants are on, too.  I mean, I'm doing ok in these clothes, it's just the fact that I have to use them at all is what's amazing.

Wanted to get to the Trapper John Shelter tonight, but there's no water there.  I pulled in here at like 4:15 to cook an early dinner (the big water-user in camp) with the hopes that I could eat and clean up leaving enough time to hike the remaining 6 miles comfortably.  No such luck.  So I'm stuck here tonight.  I should easily be able to make up the mileage tomorrow, though, so no big problem.

We've got a full house tonight.  When I got here, there was a 40-ish man already here.  He had a short day from the Velvet Rocks Shelter.  He's doing a section from Hanover to Pinkham Notch.  Then Ross (from Burke) showed up.  He also had a short day from Velvet Rocks.  He says his legs were unusually tired.  Says he's going to give big bucks to The Hiker's Paradise in Gorham so he can slack all the way through the Whites.  Sojourner (not sure how to spell that) came soon after that (a woman).  Then Numbfoot and Six String showed up.  Then a couple SOBOs trickled in.  So there's 8 of us altogether; 4 in the shelter, 4 tenting / tarping.  It's cold.

Saturday, September 1, 2001

day 112, Hanover, NH

Start:  Hanover, NH
End:  Hanover, NH
Miles:  0 today, 1724.6 total

Front porch of the Panarchy House.
Left to right: Jake (Wise Owl), me, Laura (Skipper)

The amazingly wacky thing that I didn't get to write yesterday was that Laura's here!  And she hiked SOUTH to get here.  I knew that she had been taking it slow, but c'mon!  Apparently she hiked north out of Hanover Thursday.  At some point she realized she left her Polar Pure here, so she hiked back yesterday.  Later she admitted that she was also thinking about hiking south with a SOBO named Riff Raff.  But then she decided to stay in town (probably to be with me cause I'm so cool).  So we hung out the latter half of yesterday and most of today.

We're all staying at the "Panarchy House", a coed fraternity house.  Hikers get the basement.  Not many Dartmouth students around because Dartmouth is on the trimester system.  Got a "White Blaze" at Ben & Jerry's.  Ate dinner last night with Panda at Everything But Anchovies and there again tonight with Laura.  A lot of hikers coming and going these couple days:  Ross (Phaedrus), Andrew (Endeavor), BO (SOBO), Snack Attack, Orkin Man, Six String, Leatherfeet, the Deputies, Numbfoot, Wise Owl (Jake)... probably more... Silver Wings, Ronny... ok, enuff for now.  Spent a lot of time at various computer terminals on campus.  Also read some of Ray Jardine's PCT book at the Co-op Outfitters.  It got me all excited about dropping pack weight and buying corn pasta.  Had a really long, good shoot-the-breeze session with Laura tonight.  Sounds like she's going to try to hike with me some.

Friday, August 31, 2001

day 111, Hanover, NH

Start:  Happy Hill Shelter
End:  Hanover, NH
Miles:  5.3 today, 1724.6 total

East-bound on West Wheelock Street, crossing Ledyard Bridge.

Well that was a quick hike.  I noticed that I really do hike faster the less my pack weighs.  It's like I exert the same amount of effort, so with less drag I go further.  Something to look into.  I'll see what I can get rid of here in town.

So I'm "chillin'" at the hostel, talking to Silver Wings and Ronny whom (is that "who" or "whom"?) I met back at the Winturri Shelter.  Silver Wings was complementing me on how precise and well-done my bees nest signs were yesterday.  Lately the bees have been really bad, but because hikers are so friendly, you're often warned in advance by small signs left on the trail... by hikers.  So I discovered a nest yesterday in a log laying across the trail.  Like any other log, I stepped over it, thinking about something or daydreaming or whatever, and I got stung in the back of my leg.  I dropped my poles without thinking and ran (for some reason, when I get stung or I'm about to take a spill, I always drop my poles).  So then, after darting in to grab my poles, I left notes on the north and south sides of the nest warning my hiking brethren.  I put the notes on sticks which I stuck in the ground, so they were like mini-billboards.  Anyway, New Hampshire baby, yeah!

Thursday, August 30, 2001

day 110, Happy Hill S, VT

Start:  Winturri Shelter
End:  Happy Hill Shelter
Miles:  20.5 today, 1719.3 total

I have now hiked over 1700 miles.  A moment of silence, please...

There were at least 5 people (including myself) who were trying to get here by tonight.  Panda made it here, but then hauled it to Hanover (that's a 26-ish mile day).  I'm here.  The rest... somewhere behind, guessing Thistle Hill Shelter.  So yeah, I'm alone here, but no big deal.  I mean, c'mon, Hanover tomorrow!  I'm considering taking a zero Saturday, as in stay two nights in town.  That would put me just a tad behind schedule, but with 440-ish miles left, I can afford to slide a little bit.

Rachel started classes on Monday.  It's pretty crazy how people grow up and do grown-up things.  She said that things were a little awkward when she first moved in last week, but once she met some people living near her, peace returned.  I remember that the first week or so was a pretty volatile experience, being surrounded by totally new people and adapting to an entirely different way of living.  You could kind of compare that to leaving work / school to come out and hike the trail, but the awkward adjustment period isn't as bad nor as long.  (That whole paragraph dealt with the subject of moving into college, by the way.  Just wanted to ensure proper communication.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

day 109, Winturri S, VT

Start:  US 4 (Inn at Long Trail)
Stop:  Winturri Shelter
Miles:  18.5 today, 1698.8 total

Looking at my handwriting last night, that's hilarious.  I fell asleep while trying to think of stuff to write, so when I woke up, I just bull-charged through it.

Well, said goodbye to Freeman this morning.  Turns out he's decided to continue north on the Long Trail, rather than turn east toward Katahdin.  He said he'd been thinking it over for awhile, but the ridgerunner at Cooper Lodge talked him into it.  He was a cool guy (Freeman I mean).

Ok, some cool definitions:

Blue blaze:  verb, when you "blue blaze", you get off the AT and follow a side trail until it comes back to the AT.  Often, side trails are marked with blue blazes, and often you take a blue blaze as a shortcut.

Yellow blaze:  verb, when you "yellow blaze", you get off the AT and get into a motor vehicle, entirely skipping a section of trail.  Supposedly, it's called yellow blazing because you're following the double yellow lines.

Aqua blaze:  verb, when you "aqua blaze", you get off the AT and get into a boat of some type (usually a canoe or kayak) and skip a section of trail by water.  Some people (Ganj & Robin, for example) aqua blazed via canoe on the Shenandoah River.  Evil devils.

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

day 108, Inn at Long Trail, VT

Start:  Minerva Hinchey Shelter
End:  US 4 (Inn at Long Trail)
Miles:  20.2 today, 1680.3 total

I am officially blue blazin' hiker trash.  I wasn't planning on blue blazing, but I took too long on top of Killington and I also underestimated the mileage to the Tucker-Johnson Shelter.  So when I found out how far I REALLY had to go, I couldn't decide what to do.  Trying to explain the whole thing would be too boring and complicated, so I'll just say that after intense internal deliberation, I decided to rebel.  The blue blaze I took was in fact the AT back in like 1998 or '99.  You could see the white underneath, creeping outside the blue blaze on top.  The AT was relocated apparently because of some land deal with a local ski resort (I'm guessing Killington).  When I went to sign the guestbook, I saw a lot of thru-hikers who had stayed here.  Skipper (Laura) stayed here 6 days ago, so I gained another day on her.  Man, I'm getting tired.

So I'm here at the Inn.  Freeman got a room for two nights, and he's letting me sleep in his own room on the floor for a mere $12.  Got a shower and a Reuben.  Hope I can make my goal for tomorrow.  Goodnight.

Monday, August 27, 2001

day 107, Minerva Hinchey S, VT

Start:  Peru Peak Shelter
End:  Minerva Hinchey Shelter
Miles:  19.4 today, 1660.1 total

I was really worried that the muscle in my leg would get worse today, so I took it slow at first.  Now that I'm here at the shelter, it feels pretty good.  Hopefully sleep will heal it some more for tomorrow's 21 miles.  And so far the raw heels haven't been a problem.  I think the extra liners are the answer.  It's basically like having a layer of moleskin (that doesn't slip!) covering your whole foot.  I may have discovered something profound: buy your boots half a size too big and layer up the socks, and that may just eliminate blistering.  Then again, I might just be a fool.

Saw a couple of Laura's register entries.  Looks like I'm about 7.5 days behind her.  I hope I don't catch her too soon, I'd like to do the Wilderness with her, but our schedules might not work out.

Caught back up with Freeman tonight.  He took it pretty easy today.  He's going to have some breakfast at the Whistle-stop Cafe tomorrow, a really tempting idea.  But a 21-mile day can't afford a stop like that.  I considered slowing down, cutting back the mileage for all the days between here and Hanover.  I'll have to see what I feel like tomorrow.  I like making decent mileage, but I also like food.

Sunday, August 26, 2001

day 106, Peru Peak S, VT

Start:  VT 11 & 30 (Manchester Center)
End:  Peru Peak Shelter
Miles:  9.7 today, 1640.7 total

Again, slow getting out of town.  But really, it's no big deal.  The plan I made to Hanover puts me almost exactly where I was yesterday in terms of average miles per day.  And that's with a zero included.  Anyway, I'm not too worried about the schedule, bottom line.  My heels seemed to do ok, though it was like a half day today.  However, I think I've pulled a muscle or something on the front, bottom of my left shin.  This didn't actually occur today, it happened a few days ago.  It's painful enough to slow down my pace quite a bit.  I'll have to see how tomorrow goes... I might want to avoid rushing to catch up to my plan if it means getting the leg to heal faster.  Anyway, time will tell.

It's great being caught-up with my journal entries.  It's like I have to find something else to worry about... like reducing pack weight.  Thought about that a lot today.  The Kelty Flight pack is like $600, but it weighs less than 2 pounds apparently.  Man, I'd really like to try going ultra light, but it would require some big purchases along with possibly big changes in my hiking/camping style.

Oh, hey, I'm in my brand-spankin' new sleeping bag right now!  I can tell already that it's going to be REALLY warm.  Oh boy!  Mom made this liner for it out of a sheet for easier washing.  I'm excited about going to bed.  Nighty-night.

Saturday, August 25, 2001

day 105, Manchester Center, VT

Start:  Spruce Peak Shelter
End:  VT 11 & 30 (Manchester Center)
Miles:  1.6 today, 1631.0 total

And it all works out.  Got a hitch into town with Freeman.  He's a pretty cool guy.  He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, he's a software guy - does lots of Windows apps with Visual Basic.  Apparently he made a lot of money off the dot com boom, but didn't lose it all when the whole thing fell apart, so he's been living it up since January.  He took a trip to Costa Rica with his girlfriend, took a trip to British Columbia with his family (parents, siblings, etc), and now he's hiking the AT from Harpers Ferry to Katahdin.  We're splitting a double room at Sutton's Place, my second motel of the trip.  It's $27 each, which is much better than the $40+ I spent on a room back in Helen, GA.

So I got into town ok and with plenty of time to do the P.O. stuff.  The sleeping bag is amazing.  It's really puffy and fluffy, but you can compress it down to the size of my rolled-up fleece blanket.  Took a shower, did laundry.  Had a pretty good chat with a retired guy while our clothes were in the wash.  I spent a good while at Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) trying to figure out what to do about my boots.  The guys there were REALLY going out on a limb for me, offering to take my boots back and exchange them for something else, coming up with some pretty crazy ideas just to help me out.  It's like I heard Freeman say (I think): those who know the Trail treat you like a god, those who don't treat you like a bum.  Had a Denny's-style breakfast, a spaghetti dinner, and a Ben & Jerry's "Blue Blaze" for dessert.

Friday, August 24, 2001

day 104, Spruce Peak S, VT

Start:  Kid Gore Shelter
End:  Spruce Peak Shelter
Miles:  23.0 today, 1629.4 total

Did some unwanted leap-frogging with the weird guy this morning, but after he got ahead of me this one time, I didn't see him the rest of the day, and he's not here at the shelter.  Anyway, good riddance...

Yesterday, while hiking with weird guy, the Orkin Man came by, headed south.  Turns out he and Snack Attack had gotten so far behind that they started yellow blazing hardcore, about 580 miles-worth.  Well, for some reason, Orkin Man managed to rack up some serious debt, about 5000 pounds-worth, and is finally leaving the trail to handle reality.  So he was headed south to Bennington.  I caught up with Snack Attack later and we both stayed at Kid Gore.  Today she did some serious miles (26) to get into Manchester Center tonight.  She and the Orkin Man are getting a room tomorrow night for one last fling before he goes back to England or some other pound-using country in Europe.  I guess Snack Attack just needed to get off the trail a day early to recover.

Well, it's great that I was able to pull off a big 23-mile day, especially in VT, to help ensure that I get to the P.O. in time.  Just have to wake up and hike 2.7 miles to the road and then pray for a quick hitch.  I hope it all works out.

Thursday, August 23, 2001

day 103, Kid Gore S, VT

Start:  Congdon Shelter
End:  Kid Gore Shelter
Miles:  18.7 today, 1606.4 total

Broke 1600 miles... look, no blisters... yeah, right.  For some unknown reason, the backs of my feet, about an inch above the heel, are getting rubbed raw.  I experimented with tight / loose lacing and adding extra sock liners.  The extra liners combined with tight lacing seemed to lessen the pain, but not remove it completely.  That's a massive amount of sock liners, by the way:  3 on my left foot and two on my right, and then an actual sock on each.  Most people only wear 2 socks.  I wear 7.

Had another weird-guy experience (the first being the Neil Young look-alike in PA).  Some guy, who I think I've seen once recently before today, came through our camp this morning (the shelter is practically ON the trail), talked for a bit, and kept on walking.  Eventually I leave camp.  I get to the Melville Nauheim Shelter and decide to pull in to grab some water.  Well, the guy is there.  I say I'm going to get water and he comes with me.  No big deal.  We're talking some, can't find the water, and then he asks if I'd mind if he hike with me.  In my gut I'm screaming "NO!", but I don't want to be rude, so I say "sure".  So we hike together for about a mile, he's behind me.  I'm afraid he'll knife me from behind.  I lose him for a bit when I say I've got to make a pit-stop in the woods.  He's over at Caughnawaga Shelter now, which is about 0.1 miles from here.  Hope to lose him for good tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

day 102, Congdon S, VT

Start:  Wilbur Clearing Lean-to
End:  Congdon Shelter
Miles:  17.1 today, 1587.7 total

Vermont!  Hello Green Mountains!  Hello Long Trail!  It's the final 3 states and the action is heating up.  The scenery is beautiful, like the Smokies, only better.  And it's REALLY green, like solid green everywhere.  There's lots of underbrush, too.

Met a couple just starting their thru-hike of the Long Trail.  They were approaching it via the AT through North Adams.  Also met a couple more NOBOs (along with quite a few SOBOs): Touch of Time, and some other guy.  Touch of Time (which is a weird name, even for a trailname) is a GA>MEr, I think, and today he was slacking south.  The other guy just started today in Cheshire (he did 25 miles his first day!) and is headed to Katahdin.

A SOBO here at the shelter said a good thing to do would be to call The Barn in Gorham when I get to Pinkham Notch in the Whites.  Apparently they shuttle for free, so I'd leave the trail, stay the night in Gorham, then slack the 20ish miles from Pinkham Notch to Gorham and stay another night (possibly slack ahead in Maine?).  I'll think that one over.

Clear, cool night tonight, doesn't look like it'll rain.  Sleeping in the shelter with 5 other people.  I was alone last night, so I was hoping for some company tonight.  That new sleeping bag Mom & Dad bought sounds awesome.  Looks like I'll get it just when I'm starting to need it, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

day 101, Wilbur Clearing Lt, MA

Start:  Cheshire, MA (campsite)
End:  Wilbur Clearing Lean-to
Miles:  11.0 today, 1570.6 total

Picked up my maildrop without any trouble around 7:30am, ate breakfast, packed up, did laundry, took a picture of the nice people who let me take a shower in their place, had someone take a picture of me in front of the Cheese Monument.  As I write this page, it's getting harder to remain awake.  Anyway, the climb up Greylock was really amazing.  Steepness wasn't too bad, and the scenery / vegetation is getting awesome around here.

Oh, as I was leaving Cheshire, I came across Bad Ass Turtle.  She just recently decided to quit the trail.  She may do some more this season, we'll see what happens I guess.  When I saw her today, she was doing Trail Magic out of the back of her rental SUV.  I asked her if there was a convenience store nearby because I had to pick up some batteries and dental floss.  So she drove me about 100 yards to a Shell station just out of sight around the bend.  I told her I was going to call my parents and that it might take awhile, but she said she'd wait since there wasn't much else she could do back at the trail.  Apparently, I was the first NOBO to come through that day, and it was like 1pm.  Called home, picked up batteries, no floss for sale.  Bad Ass Turtle asked me if I'd mind doing an interview for her PhD thesis.  So that was fun.  She tape-recorded it.

Monday, August 20, 2001

day 100, Cheshire, MA (c)

Start:  Pittsfield Road (Cookie Lady)
End:  Cheshire, MA (campsite)
Miles:  18.9 today, 1559.6 total

What a day, what a day.  Take a look at that number... 100 days.  Well, it's just a number now that I'm looking at it.  Big deal.  Ok, moving on...

Lots of Trail Magic -type stuff today.  First, there was the Cookie Lady's place this morning.  Nothing really new there except that I got a late start (what else is new?).  Then, after about 3 miles of hiking, I come across a whole bunch of Poland Spring water left by Winthrop & Mortimer, two SOBO section hikers back in NJ/NY.  Though I never met them, I gladly partook of a liter of agua.  Then, when I got to Dalton, I was walking down the street, following the white blazes, when I happen to glance at this one house and notice that it's got a "Katahdin: 600 miles, Springer: more than that" -type of sign, and also a little sign pointing around the side of the house reading "Water".  Turns out this guy Tom lets people tent in his backyard, he does slackpacking occasionally, and makes ice cream sundaes for all the hikers that go by his place!  I was hanging around on his front porch, and then he pulls up in his car getting home from work.  So we talk and he makes me a sundae.  Good timing!  And finally, here in Cheshire, I'm tenting behind the Bait, Bike, and Blade Shop, but the older couple across the street just let me take a shower in their place!  I had some spaghetti delivered here for din-din.  Feelin' good.

Sunday, August 19, 2001

day 99, Pittsfield Rd c, MA

Start:  Webster Road (campsite)
End:  Pittsfield Road (Cookie Lady)
Miles:  16.1 today, 1540.7 total

Yes friends, I'm staying at the Cookie Lady's blueberry farm.  Got my tent up in her front yard.  It's really a husband and wife living in a house with a black guy (who I'm guessing is either hired staff for the farm or maybe an adopted son?  I don't know).  Anyway, they're really nice folks.  She brought out a little basket with 3 cookies and 2 small packages of pitted prunes - gotta stay regular.  Their dog, Rufus, barked at me when I first walked up, but later was really friendly.  And they let me use their phone after I tried calling home twice only to have the connection get screwed up both times.  So a little bit of Trail Magic, you might say.

Well, because the miles were on the easy side, and the terrain wasn't so bad, I took advantage of the extra time and really wailed on those backed-up journal entries that I've been meaning to get to.  It's a new trip record: including this one, I wrote 5 journal entries today, as well as setup the little table of contents -type thing in the front.  (post-hike note:  All of my journal entries were hand-written with a black pen in 4 5/8" x 7" 48-page "Rite in the Rain" yellow notebooks.  I ended up filling 3 of those notebooks by the end of the trip.  I kept a "table of contents" in the front of each book, though in hindsight, not sure how much value it added.)  Really made some progress there.  So now I've only got 3 outstanding entries left to take care of.

Man, I can hear those mosquitos outside waiting to tear into my flesh.  They're insanely bad here in the Tea Party State.  Hope I don't have to pee tonight, they might bite my willy!

Saturday, August 18, 2001

day 98, Webster Rd c, MA

Start:  East Mountain (campsite)
End:  Webster Road (campsite)
Miles:  18.1 today, 1524.6 total

The past couple of weeks I've been thinking a lot about the different gear that I'd use if I were to do this (or the PCT?) again.  The three big gear items are:  the pack itself, tent / tarp, sleeping bag.  And I'd probably change all 3.  As much as I've been against Go-Lite packs, I've gotta say, they're REALLY light.  Back at the Vernon hostel, one guy with the same pack as me said that it weighs 6-7 pounds on its own.  The Go-Lite weighs 11oz!  That's completely nuts.  For the tent, I might shrink down a size and go with the Sierra Designs Light Year CD.  I think it's about a pound less than the 2-man Clip Flashlight.  And for sleeping bags, the 20-degree 5-pound bag that I used until Harpers Ferry is just too darn heavy; a new bag, same degree rating, but in the 2-3 -pound range would be great.  And, as an afterthought, I'd also buy a pair of Leki trekking poles, and put rubber tips on them and remove the "mud catcher" basket.  Oh, and maybe wear some sunglasses, too, the keep the bugs out of my eyes.

Good hike today.  Good mileage, got into camp just before 7pm.  I'm "stealthing" with a 3-man group of section hikers tonight.  Cookie Lady tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2001

day 97, East Mountain c, MA

Start:  Sages Ravine Campsite
End:  East Mountain (campsite)
Miles:  18.8 today, 1506.5 total

This must've been just after I left camp that morning (vs. previous evening).

One interesting side-story throughout this hike involves the environmentalist fanatics Treebeard and Amaranth.  I have never actually met either of them, though I saw their pictures back at the Eckville Shelter in PA.  Treebeard is a bearded white male - the typical thru-hiker.  Amaranth is a white woman (not bearded, possibly from England).  Both look to be in their 30s or 40s.  They are known among, and often scorned by, various thru-hiker cliques because of their frequently inflammatory register entries.  Yahtzee first brought the two of them to my attention back in VA after he read one of their writings and proceeded to chew them out vocally and write a retaliatory response (though it's doubtful that Treebeard or Amaranth will ever read what he wrote).  Sometime in the past couple days I read an entry by Amaranth about how she wants to "avoid the insane, consumer-driven, car-needing, Type-A American lifestyle".  Both proclaim loudly that they are "vegan car-haters" and they have openly insulted those who aren't.  For the most part, I've sat on the sidelines watching, formulating opinions, questioning my reasonings, etc.  I've concluded that if I were to write any sort of response, it would probably be negative.  Anyway, a little bit of trail entertainment at the very least!

Thursday, August 16, 2001

day 96, Sages Ravine C, CT

Start:  US 7 (Belter's Campsite)
End:  Sages Ravine Campsite
Miles:  17.7 today, 1487.7 total

The Kuhns were some really great people.  I got a picture of the 3 of them with their dog on their front lawn.  I had Jackie (Sassafras) write down address info so I can send them something after the hike.

Jackie and I did a 3-mile slack from where we got picked up last night to where the trail comes closest to her house.  That went pretty quickly.  Then I grabbed my pack and headed out for the day.

Nothing too crazy the rest of the day.  Pulled into Sages Ravine Campsite around 7:45pm, talked to the caretaker some.  Apparently, I'm not in Massachusetts just yet.  He said the signs marking the state line are just ahead.  The thing is, both my map and the Data Book say I've already crossed the line.  Oh well, either way I'm still on schedule and a few miles plus or minus doesn't mean squat, yo.

The caretakers around here get really big tents.  I'm talking 8-10 person capacity.  And they're setup permanently on wooden platforms.  The guy here is college-aged.  He goes to Columbia and studies history (I think).  Then, after he graduates, he's going straight into a Masters - PhD program.  He says it's all paid for through an insane amount of student loans.  He's actually a ridgerunner, says it's a lonely job.  I'll be in Mass. tomorrow, one way or another!

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

day 95, US 7 (Belter's c), CT

Start:  Mt. Algo lean-to
End:  US 7 (Belter's campsite)
Miles:  22.9 today, 1470 total

Long day with some tough terrain.  Pulling 26 miles was a tough job.  I left camp a little after 7:30am, Sassafras left at around 6:45.  I caught up to her at the Silver Hill Campsite around 1pm.  She had been chatting with a "family" that I met my first night at Mt. Algo.  I say "family" because it was a piece-meal assortment:  aunt and uncle from one branch, nephew from another, niece from another.  As in, 3 branches.  The uncle is in the PATC, and we talked about that a bit back at Mt. Algo.

So then I passed Sassafras there.  Got to Belter's Campsite just before 7pm, stopped and waited on her.  I didn't want to get to her house before she did, thought that would be a little awkward.  "Hi, you don't know me, but let me stay here anyway.  Got any ice cream?"  While I waited I got water and had a good chat with Tenderheart, who took a 3-mile yellow blaze earlier today.  We talked about the various pressures of finishing a thru-hike, but also how the end was in sight.

Sassafras got to Belter's around 8pm, we decided to get a ride, rather than walk the rest of the way in the dark.  Used my cell phone to call her parents.  They're in their 80s, really nice.  Got a shower, dinner, called home, and sleeping on a pull-out couch!

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

day 94, Mt. Algo Lt, CT

Start:  Mt. Algo Lean-to
End:  Mt. Algo Lean-to
Miles:  0 today, 1447.1 total

A big fat zero!  Wasn't planning on it, but the time keeps on ticking and you've got business to do, so no big deal.  And I'm still on schedule with the plan I made to Manchester Center.

It sounds like I might do 26 miles tomorrow to stay at Sassafras' house.  She's a 40-year-old woman (though she looks like she's 28), meeting her parents tomorrow night.  She said a bunch of her hiker friends are going to stay, though I'm not sure if that'll be tomorrow or not.  Anyway, I figure it'll be well worth the extra effort to get a free place to stay, shower, etc.

Two northbounders just caught up with me tonight.  Panda and Maverick started May 20-something and June 3 respectively, I think.  So they're really moving.  I mean, really, there's very few people who have passed me.  I'm sure these two will.  Gravytrain, Commodore, that guy John who I met back in the Smokies... can't think of anyone else.  So that means I'm moving pretty fast myself, which might be a bad thing.  As I said before, I wish I had at least 2 more weeks to work with, just to make the trip more relaxing.

Ok, time for bed.  Big day tomorrow, waking up at 5:30am.  Peace out.

Monday, August 13, 2001

day 93, Mt. Algo Lt, CT

Start:  Telephone Pioneers Shelter
End:  Mt. Algo Lean-to
Miles:  21.4 today, 1447.1 total

An extremely frustrating day, especially right now.  I hike 21 miles, my feet are falling apart because my socks and boots are wet and they're rubbing the tops of my toes raw.  I've got some pretty bad chafing / crotch rot down there because I'm never dry because the humidity is like 300% and my sweat never evaporates, thus creating a big salty mess between my legs.  I pull into camp at dark (which is around 8:30pm now, not 9pm anymore) a little after 8:15pm, the shelter's full and there's half a dozen people tenting, as well.  So I setup my wet tent (it poured last night, that was AFTER I wrote my journal entry, thus no ranting yesterday) on my wet ground cover, on the wet ground.  The night wouldn't have been NEARLY as bad if the floor of my tent wasn't wet.  The mosquitos are bad, as usual, so I'm eating my dinner of peanut butter crackers, dried fruit, and gorp inside my tent.  No way I'm going to cook out there.

Anyway, I'll hope for better times tomorrow.  Hey, at least I'm in Connecticut!  One more state conquered.  And I found out that there IS still an outfitters in Kent.  The ME>GAs from RPH Shelter said it closed, but now I hear it's just moved.  And the shower is still at the old location.  That'll be a lifesaver!

Sunday, August 12, 2001

day 92, Telephone Pioneers S, NY

Start:  RPH Shelter
End:  Telephone Pioneers Shelter
Miles:  16.6 today, 1425.7 total

Despite a slow start out of camp (9:30am), I managed to swing by the Mountain Top Deli for an hour or so, and pull into the shelter before 7pm.  Man, I am REALLY liking this tent!  A little interjection there.  It just keeps the bugs out so well.  I love that.  Anyway... 3 section / weekender types here.  They're hiking from Kent to Bear Mountain.  They all appear to be in their late twenties / early thirties.  Asked me a lot of questions about gear and thru-hiking in general; Tenderheart said she'd come at least this far, so she must've gone further ahead.  No water at this shelter, the stream is dry.  The Cooke's offer tap water about 0.7 miles north of here, so I'll take advantage of that tomorrow morning.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I'm going to do when I get off the trail, as far as work, exercise, socialization, goals, etc.  A couple ideas are:  train for and compete in a marathon; bike across the USA on the American Discovery Trail; play hockey again; start/join a band, record my own music; start a lifelong effort to read all the Classics (Odyssey, Wuthering Heights, etc); build a computer, circuits and all; pursue my cause & effect, teleportation ideas.  A lot of "extracurriculars" there to choose from.

Saturday, August 11, 2001

day 91, RPH S, NY

Start:  Graymoor Friary
End:  RPH Shelter
Miles:  18.8 today, 1409.1 total

Good hike today.  Got off to a reasonable 8:20am start time.  Hiked a good full-day's hike, pulled into the shelter before 6pm!  That's what I'm talking about!  I've been getting so tired of ending my hikes near, or in, darkness.  Doing the camp business by the light of your headlamp every night gets old.  And you're always trying to keep quiet because everyone else is asleep.  So hopefully I've broken that slacker slump I was in.

Leap-frogged with Tenderheart some today.  She reminds me a lot of Michelle, the Garden Dept. Supervisor at Hechingers (the other one aside from me!) (post-hike note: I worked at a Hechingers hardware store back home during summer and winter breaks senior year in high school / freshman year in college.)  In the Graymoor register, she wrote about how the hiking's been so hard lately and how she got stung in the butt by a bee, and so she's thinking of quitting.  We never talked about it today.  At this point in a thru-hike, it's all mental.  You've passed the physical part of the test, just gotta keep your head in the GA>ME... heheh.

Tonight we've got Tenderheart and myself representing the GA>ME crew, Moonshine & Daydreamer (yeah, found out his name), Paul (a trail runner, not a ridge runner, the guy literally runs sections of the trail for fun), and the ME>GAs:  Strider (girl), and two other guys whose names I may never know.

Friday, August 10, 2001

day 90, Graymoor Friary, NY

Start:  Bear Mountain (campsite)
End:  Graymoor Friary
Miles:  9 today, 1390.3 total

Took it nice 'n easy today.  Broke my awesome campsite around 9am, got up to the top and had a bagel & gatorade.  Moonshine and his buddy (whose name I forgot) caught up with me there.  And they had already hiked 8-9 miles!  Alone, that sort of time is impressive, but compared to the 0.1 miles I had walked it's downright illegal.  I left the summit around 10am.  Took about an hour break, 30-45 minutes of which involved a phone call home.  So that was 11-12.  Then I actually hiked some.  Went through a zoo.  Nothing really special there, except for the title of "Lowest Elevation on the AT".  Somewhere around 124' above sea level.  Crossed the Hudson on the Bear Mountain Bridge, a long highway suspension bridge.

I made it to the Friary a little after 4pm.  Took a refreshing cold shower.  The highlight of the evening was the pork, potatoes, peas, and yellow watermelon dinner the Friars gave us.  It was me and 3 women:  Tenderheart (a NOBO thru hiker), Midnight, and Swiss Dish (2 SOBO section-hiking hotties, college-age!).  After dinner, around 7:30, a male SOBO thru-hiker rolls in... and I forget his name.  Oh well, not like I'll see him again anyway.  Real miles tomorrow!

Thursday, August 9, 2001

day 89, Bear Mtn c, NY

Start:  Green Pond Mountain base (campsite)
End:  Bear Mountain (campsite)
Miles:  15.7 today, 1381.3 total

Change of plans.  Actually, I'm still sticking with the rest of my schedule to Kent, just pushing it back a day.  And here's some reasons why:  trying to stick to the old schedule might burn me out; I'd like to experience the Friary - dinner and all; the trail goes through a zoo, which closes at 5pm everyday - the old plan wouldn't get me there in time, and I'd have to skip a section of the trail and miss out on the fun animals; I'm hiking slower now.  Ok, and the reasons why I'm hiking slower:  heat, lack of water, heavy pack (recent maildrop), harder terrain, mentally discouraged.  The "mentally discouraged" part is really a combination of getting behind my schedule, fear that the terrain will only get harder and I'll only get slower, and then the heat, lack of water... etc.  So, a little bit of a negative trend there.  And now that I've spotted it, I'll seek ways in which to eliminate it.  Honestly, I'm not too worried, I've just got to reassess and adapt.

Awesome campsite tonight.  I really pushed to get up here, and I'm glad I did.  I've got my tent on some grass next to a big rock ledge.  It looks like the moon and Mars and a scaled-down replica of New Mexico all in one.  Really windy, I hope I don't fly away in my tent (ie: large kite).  Supposedly, I can see the NYC skyline.  The Palisades Parkway is below to the west.

Wednesday, August 8, 2001

day 88, Green Pond Mtn c, NY

Start:  NY 17A (campsite)
End:  Green Pond Mountain base (campsite)
Miles:  12.4 today, 1365.6 total

A lot of ups and downs today with both hiking the trail and my emotions.  The trail is starting to get vertical again.  For a long time, since maybe central VA, the trail has been pretty level, and when climbs came, they were gradual, not too hard.  Today was different.  Steep, rocky climbs and descents, the kind where you sometimes have to set your poles aside so you can grab on to the nearest rock or tree to advance up (or down) the trail.  And my pack is heavy after picking up my maildrop in Bellvale.  So, all in all, it was a slow day, which explains the measly 12 miles.  I didn't get started hiking until 11am, and I set my goal to be at the Fingerboard Shelter, about 16-ish miles away from NY 17A.  Anyway, I got really frustrated as I saw the time ticking, but the miles going slower than I liked.  I've been arriving into camp after 8pm way too much lately, and I'd like to put a stop to that.  Well, I don't think I'll make it to the Graymoor Friary tomorrow because I cut it so short today.  Really, the best thing there is the AYCE dinner at 5:30pm, which I may have been able to make with my original plan.  Anyway, I've got plenty of my own food.  I'll make a small feast tomorrow night as a substitute!  hee hee!  Goodnight.

Tuesday, August 7, 2001

day 87, NY 17A c, NY

Start:  Vernon, NJ (hostel)
End:  NY 17A (campsite)
Miles:  15.3 today, 1353.2 total

Oh man, talk about screwing things up.  I was making some great time today, better than usual.  I had crossed into New York, started going over these large rock outcroppings.  After awhile, I stopped and took a break.  Eventually, Eggman catches up to me, we start talking.  He said he was headed to the Wildcat Shelter.  I told him that's where I was going, too, but I had to pick up a mail drop in Bellvale first.  He looks at his watch and says, "Hey man, it's 5:30.  The post office is closed."  I immediately let out a few expletives, not believing (did I spell that right?) how I could've forgotten such an obvious fact.  I mean, for some reason, I NEVER thought about it.  So then I had to sit and think some more.

So here's the new plan.  I hiked on, ran into a couple ME>GA maniacs who said there was NO water until the Wildcat Shelter.  I got to NY 17A, hitched a ride from a really nice guy into Bellvale, got a gallon of water, and got a ride back to the trail from the same guy.  That was pretty lucky.  Now I'm tenting close to the road.  I'll hitch in tomorrow morning to the P.O.  Saw another bear today.  Woohoo!

Monday, August 6, 2001

day 86, Vernon, NJ (hostel)

Start:  High Point Shelter
End:  Vernon, NJ (hostel)
Miles:  19.7 today, 1337.9 total

For the first time in a long time I hiked pretty fast today.  Left the shelter at like 9:20am, so I figured I'd get to NJ 94 about 10 hours later, assuming a pace of 2 mph.  Well, I jacked up the pace a bit and got there between 6 and 7.  Unfortunately, New Jersey drivers don't stop for dirty hikers, so I ended up walking the 2 miles into town.  Put out the thumb many a time, but no such luck.  I'm thinking my beard and dirty clothes make me look like a bum.  I've been seriously considering shaving for awhile.  Eating wouldn't be as messy, I'd be cooler, I'd look cleaner, and thus get less stares.  But, I wouldn't look like a Mountain Man when I finish the trail.  And that's really the reason why I'm out here: to be the Mountain Man.  So, that settles it, the beard stays for now.

Oh, big news:  met my first thru-hiking southbounders today.  There was Dude, Add Miles, and Sweat Bucket.  They all started from Katahdin, though at different times.  It's cool seeing SOBOs, they're like long-lost hiking brothers and sisters.

Sunday, August 5, 2001

day 85, High Point S, NJ

Start:  Brink Road Shelter
End:  High Point Shelter
Miles:  19.7 today, 1318.2 total

No bears today, oh well.  7 bears is more than enough to last me the rest of the trip.  I hiked all day again, though it was only 19.7 miles.  One day I WILL pull into camp before 8pm.  I've been slacking in that department lately.

A lot of time to think today.  I remember thinking a lot about the Flytrap album (post-hike note: "Flytrap" was a band I had senior year in high school).  I played a few of the songs, start to finish, in my head.  That passed the time really well.  I also thought about the rest of the trip.  When I get to Kent, I will have hiked about 2/3 of the trail.  It's crazy.  Then, the next jump after Kent will probably be to Manchester Center, VT.  That's completely nuts.  Vermont.  I'm practically done already.  Anyway, don't want to talk too much about finishing because I don't want to jinx myself.

Tonight at the shelter there's 3 guys, early 20s, late teens - college age - leading a group of inner city kids on a 3-day trip on the AT.  They're from England (the 3 guys), and asked me a lot of questions about my quest.  They seemed pretty interested in doing it themselves.  One of the kids keeps on singing in his tent.  Everyone is telling him to shut up.  Kids can do REALLY strange things.  A volatile stage in life.

Saturday, August 4, 2001

day 84, Brink Road S, NJ

Start:  Delaware Water Gap (hostel)
End:  Brink Road Shelter
Miles:  24.8 today, 1298.5 total

This is hilarious.  I leave the hostel pretty early, like 8ish, to do my insane 24.8-mile day.  I cross the Delaware River on the highway bridge.  Eventually, the trail leaves the highway and follows a less busy side road.  In the distance, I see some guy sitting next to the road leaning against the guard rail.  The guy's got his feet sprawled out about a foot into the road.  It's Peter, and he's extremely stoned.  I say "Hi.", and he slowly lifts his head up to look at me, his eyes all droopy, and then he realizes it's me and starts to smile and says "Hey man...".  I set down my pack and go pee in the woods.  I come back and he's playing with one of my poles.  I'm like, "Well, I'm gonna go about 25 miles up to the first shelter."  And he's like, "Yeah, me too.  I'll catch you in about 4 hours."  He'll be lucky if he can get up in 4 hours.  So I left him there and didn't see him the rest of the day.  I hope he didn't get arrested or run over or something.  Peter was a cool guy.  For the couple days that I've known him, we had some great times and good conversations.  I hope I see him further down the trail.

Saw 4 bears today!  One by himself, and then a mom and two cubs.  That's completely nuts!  Well, I'm in NJ, but the scenery isn't all that bad, actually.  Fell down right before the shelter.  That's the third time this trip.  Always happens when I slip going downhill.

Friday, August 3, 2001

day 83, DWG, PA (hostel)

Start:  Delaware Water Gap (hostel)
End:  Delaware Water Gap (hostel)
Miles:  0 today, 1273.7 total

Well, I wasn't planning on taking a zero today, but because I'm so slow and lazy, I did.  I originally wanted to do about 10 miles to the Mohican Outdoor Center, a place where I could take a shower and get a bunk for a pretty cheap price.  So now my plan is to do some horrendous (Is that how you spell that?  I don't think I've ever used "horrendous" in my writing before.  I get it from Dad, because that's a word he says a lot.) miles to the first shelter.  It's like 24.8 miles, so I'll have fun tomorrow.

The two major accomplishments for today, aside from getting fat on all the leftover desserts from that pot-luck dinner, were:  making my plan to Kent, and finishing that Chekov book that I've neglected since well before Damascus.  According to my plan, I'll be in Kent in 10 days!  That's gonna be amazing.  Kent is like a golden city of hope when you're walking through the PA pits of lava.  I imagined Connecticut as being a happy, cheery land of joy.  I mean, after all, David Letterman lives there (I think).  And now that I read "Peasants", I've finished the two short stories in the book ("The Black Monk" is the other one), so it's time for a new book.  I'm thinking I'll try to tackle "Lord Jim".  It's one of those classic books on that AP English list, and it's relatively small in physical size.  Talked with Peter a lot the past couple days.  He's a pretty cool guy.  He's also a grandfather at 40! (I think)

Thursday, August 2, 2001

day 82, DWG, PA (hostel)

Start:  Delaware Water Gap (hostel)
End:  Delaware Water Gap (hostel)
Miles:  0 today, 1273.7 total

Busy like a bee.  First things first, I had to get some real food in my belly, so I ate breakfast at the DWG Diner.  I get there and look around for a seat, when... who do I see?  Why, it's the Virginia G-man!  So I sit with him for a bit, order my meal, he finishes and heads out.  Turns out he came down the hill later than I did last night, but he didn't stay at the hostel, got a hotel room instead.  So that was a surprise.  Ate my meal, which was your average Denny's -style breakfast, paid, bought a bunch of post cards, and left.  At 10am, Peter and I went down to the Pack Shack to get a shuttle into Stroudsburg.  Now this shuttle driver is a lazy, poor excuse for a human.  It took forever for him to get ready to take us into town, and then, later I called for him to pick us up at the Stroudsburg library at 4pm, but we didn't get back to the hostel until 6pm.  And it's only 5 miles!  We could've walked faster.  But anyway, did laundry, wrote my post cards, ate at Subway, did the internet thing at the library.  When Peter and I finally got back, the church congregation was having a big pot-luck dinner, which they apparently have every Thursday for hikers!  So we got a big free dinner, and they left all the extra desserts for us to finish off!  Gnome and the crazy Neil Young guy were there, too.  All in all, good day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2001

day 81, DWG, PA (hostel)

Start:  Leroy A. Smith Shelter
End:  Delaware Water Gap (hostel)
Miles:  20.2 today, 1273.7 total

PA rocks!  hmm... Double meaning?  After today's battle with the terrain, I've decided that I'll never... well, no, I'll say that I don't want to ever hike PA again.  (I might thru-hike later, thus forcing a re-hike of PA, so never hiking it again is uncertain.)  Anyway, it was bad out there.  I took some more pictures.  There were times that I laughed out loud because it was so ridiculous how bad it was.  But I made it to the Delaware Water Gap!  And on schedule, too!  I came down the hill with the headlamp burning bright at around 9:15pm or so, pulled into the hostel, took a GREAT and much needed shower, called home, cooked dinner, and went to bed before 1am (hehe... I'm writing this the next day, Aug. 2nd).

New faces at the hostel.  I left Gnome, Puck, Sherpa, and Khaos back at the Kirkridge Shelter.  Tonight there's Peter (the first black thru-hiker I've seen, in fact, maybe the first non-white thru-hiker I've seen), Fossil (a guy visiting, thru-hiking, from Belgium I think), Peewee (a woman), Peewee's male partner (forgot his trail name), and others whose names I forgot.  Leap-frogged with Gnome some today.  He's older, maybe 50s, a horticulturalist, single, talkative.  Saw 3 bears!  One about 100 feet away, didn't notice me for awhile.  Then later, a cub and parent (mom?) about 30-50 feet away.  First definite sightings this trip!

Tuesday, July 31, 2001

day 80, Leroy A. Smith S, PA

Start:  Bake Oven Knob Shelter
End:  Leroy A. Smith Shelter
Miles:  23.5 today, 1253.5 total

Coming up out of Lehigh Gap.

No lunatics showed up at the last shelter, though we've got someone supposedly tripping on acid in the shelter tonight.  So we're all camped up the path from the shelter.  Oh the stories I'll have to tell.

Left Bake Oven Knob Shelter at 9am, pulled in here at 9pm.  It's almost impossible, it seems, for me to go any faster than 2 mph (including breaks) with these rocks.  And, yes, the rocks are bad.  That catch phrase, "Betcha bite a chip!" came to mind as I walked for about half an hour straight unable to have one rockless step.  The constantly uneven terrain really screws up your feet.  I've got 20 miles left to do tomorrow and I know my feet are going to be bloody stumps when I pull into the hostel.  I put moleskin on the left side of my left heel, by the end of the day, it had moved ALL the way around behind my heel to the right side, just under the arch.  At least SOMETHING was protected I guess.  That's never happened before, until the past 2 days.

Had a great rock climb coming up Lehigh Gap, took some pictures.  Tonight I'm with a foursome: Khaos (girl), Sherpa (male), Puck (girl), and Gnome (male).  Khaos & Sherpa are a couple.

Monday, July 30, 2001

day 79, Bake Oven Knob S, PA

Start:  Eckville Shelter
End:  Bake Oven Knob Shelter
Miles:  17.4 today, 1230 total

Took some time leaving the shelter this morning.  At first I didn't know exactly where I was going to stay tonight.  Roland (not Rollin', I discovered) said that the town of Palmerton was a great place.  You can stay in a jail(!) there for free and there's some great restaurants, even a library, laundromat, etc.  So, really, aside from the location, Palmerton sounds better than the Delaware Water Gap.  So that was Option #1, hike 25ish miles and then possibly 2 more along the road to Palmerton (depending on how easy a hitch would be).  Option #2 was to stick with my original plan and hike 24ish miles to the Outerbridge Shelter.  I was kind of skeptical of that because I read that large amounts of metal contamination polluted the area around the Palmerton area, where the Outerbridge Shelter is.  (For a long time, a big industry in Palmerton was zinc smelting.  The EPA put a stop to that in the early '80s, but much environmental damage still remains.)  So I was afraid of using the spring at that shelter.  And finally, Option #3 was to do 17.5 miles to Bake Oven Knob Shelter.  The only drawback there was the crazy guy who sometimes comes up to the shelter and harasses hikers (according to Roland).  Virginia G-Man said he was headed to Bake Oven, so I figured the two of us could take the guy if he tried anything.  So now I'm at Bake Oven, no sign of any lunatics yet.

Sunday, July 29, 2001

day 78, Eckville S, PA

Start:  Auburn Overlook (campsite)
End:  Eckville Shelter
Miles:  17.7 today, 1212.6 total

Well, I'm still alive, no sign of any black market surgery, so I guess all is well.  Packed up the tent and headed down to Port Clinton.  I attempted hitching into Hamburg for about 10 minutes with no success.  I think as my beard gets scragglier, people will be less likely to pick me up.  Nevertheless, I did get resupplied and that's what counts.  I set down my pack in front of one of the hotels in PC just to take a rest for a bit, buy a drink from the vending machine.  Then this guy and his wife walk out and he starts talking to me about army boots and having to change your socks twice a day or something.  I played dumb and asked him if there were any grocery stores in town.  "No, but Hamburg has some."  hehe... "Hamburg?  How far is that?"  I'm so evil.  So I ended up getting a ride with these folks, not to Hamburg, but to some Egyptian bazaar / farmers market type of place.  Basically a poor-man's Price Club.  I was able to piece together enough of what I needed to get to the DWG.  They gave me a ride back to PC (they were headed to the farmers market anyway, so I'm not that evil).  Packed up my food and got back on the trail at 1:40pm.  Did a pretty fast 15 miles to the Eckville Shelter by 8pm.  Cool place.  Like 501, there's a house next door where the caretaker lives.  Rollin' (SOBO) and VA G-man are here.

Saturday, July 28, 2001

day 77, Auburn Overlook c, PA

Start:  501 Shelter
End:  Auburn Overlook (campsite)
Miles:  21.2 today, 1194.9 total

Well, today's a rarity.  One of the few times, if not the first time, that I couldn't reach my goal for the day.  Actually, now that I mention it, I wasn't able to get to Peters Mountain Shelter the other day, and had to stop short at Clarks Ferry Shelter.  But anyway... so today I stopped about 2.5 miles shy of my goal.  I blame this on starting too late (9ish am) and the insane rockiness of the trail.  There were spots where it looked like the maintenance crew took rocks from the woods and put them on the trail itself.  So it was pretty slow going, somewhere around 2 mph.  The next few days will be interesting - the Thru-Hiker's Companion book says the real rocks, the ones where Bill Bryson's boots go to die, are found between Eckville and the Delaware Water Gap.  Oh joy.

There's someone else tenting nearby.  When I got here, I couldn't see any people, so I assumed he/she/they were in the tent.  I hope I don't get knifed in the middle of the night.  This is one of the few times when I think I'd feel better if I camped alone.  Too late to move now, I'm already in my bag.  An army of elephants couldn't move me now.

Friday, July 27, 2001

day 76, 501 S, PA

Start:  Rausch Gap Shelter
End:  501 Shelter
Miles:  17.4 today, 1173.7 total

A nice lazy morning.  After everyone else had left, I was still slowly breaking camp, and the shelter overseer comes up from behind the shelter huffing and puffing.  He had just carried a crate of building materials about a quarter of a mile.  See, the floor of the Rausch Gap Shelter was in the process of being renovated.  No actual work had been done yet, but there were some boards and plywood stacked up in the shelter.  In fact, yesterday during my hike I came across a sign saying the floor was being renovated between mid-July and mid-August, thus making it unusable.  So last night I thought I'd have to camp, but when I got to the shelter, no work had been done, and everyone else had already setup their sleeping bags inside.  So I slept in the shelter, too.

Anyway, since I knew it was going to be an easy day and I could afford to kill some time, I offered to help out however possible.  He took me up on it.  He made it sound like he'd need me for about an hour, which was fine with me, but I really only worked for maybe 10 minutes.  All I did was carry a shovel, mattock, level, and crowbar about a quarter of a mile.  Woohoo!  He thanked me for my services and I went on my way.  His name was Dave Crosby of the BMECC.

Thursday, July 26, 2001

day 75, Rausch Gap S, PA

Start:  Clarks Ferry Shelter
End:  Rausch Gap Shelter
Miles:  24.3 today, 1156.3 total

It's been a long while since the weather's been like this: foggy, misty, rainy.  It was a welcome change.  The temperature dropped to a really comfortable level and the ground was softer.  It was a really relaxed hike for at least the first 12 miles or so, because of the different weather.  It felt like the world was taking a day off.  No pressure to do the big miles, though I ended up doing 24 to get back on schedule after yesterdays' comatose 4.5 miles.

Yahtzee, Beerstyck, and Yahtzee's mom left some Trail Magic at the intersection with Route 225.  I grabbed an apple and moved on.  I tried to write a thank you note on the cooler, but it was wet from the rain and my pen wasn't working.  I thanked them in the register at the Peters Mountain Shelter.

Some new thru-hiker faces tonight.  Camping a few tenths back are Indian Summer (woman) and The Amazing Dolphin Boy.  I think they're a couple.  Here at the shelter we've got Freebird (male, seems pretty nice), Virginia G-man (older guy), and Bob (not sure if he's a thru-hiker).  Spongebob made it here from Clarks Ferry Shelter about half an hour before I did.  I was the last one here.  Gonna be an easy 17.4 miles tomorrow.  No need to set the alarm.

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

day 74, Clarks Ferry S, PA

Start:  Duncannon, PA (The Doyle)
End:  Clarks Ferry Shelter
Miles:  4.5 today, 1132 total

I spent most of this morning figuring out what to do about the Port Clinton mail drop I've got coming.  I didn't realize during my planning that I'd arrive at Port Clinton on a Saturday, and we're talking Saturday evening.  Some of the options I had in my head were to hike fast and get to Port Clinton before the P.O. closed at 11am Saturday, or hike my planned schedule and get a shuttle from the 501 Shelter at Pine Grove to Port Clinton, pick up my package, then shuttle back to Pine Grove to hike (possibly slack), OR have Port Clinton forward the package to, say, the Delaware Water Gap.  I tried calling around to see about shuttles but people were either not at home or... not at home (at work).  So I did Option #3: mail forwarding.  I had the Duncannon P.O. mail a forwarding slip to Port Clinton.  That should get there probably tomorrow.  Then, when the package gets to Port Clinton, it should take about 2 days to get to the Delaware Water Gap, so right on schedule.  I plan on getting some hiker food in Port Clinton from a supermarket or something.

Also got some laundry done, checked email (7 messages, all junk mail, ads, etc), and ate breakfast and lunch at restaurants.  I finally got out of town at like 4:15pm.  I planned on doing 11 to Peters Mtn. Shelter, but when I got water here, it started to rain.  It was also around 6:30pm and I still had 6.8 miles.  So I sleep here!

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

day 73, Duncannon, PA (Doyle)

Start:  Yellow Breeches Creek (campsite)
End:  Duncannon, PA (The Doyle)
Miles:  26.0 today, 1127.5 total

Continuing yesterday's discussion:  I often feel pressure to keep on schedule, get to the shelter before it's too late, etc.  I'd imagine that's standard fare for many thru-hikers.  It's just more intense with me since I started so late.  Man, if I had another half month to play with, that would be so great.  Imagine, 15 zero days to allocate.  Or I could take that time to make the days shorter, less miles.  Or a combination of both.  So I've decided that when I get to, say, Bennington, VT, I'll reset my completion goal from Sept 30 to Oct 7 or so.  Then I can spread that time out however I desire.  But that's if I'm on schedule.  So, in summary, I'm thinking of slowing down near the end to increase the enjoyment / peace-of-mind factor.

As noted above, it was a long day.  The first half was quite different, though.  Pretty flat, a lot of fields and road crossings.  We were basically heading from one ridge, across a wide valley to another ridge, then over the other side to Duncannon.  Spent the day leap-frogging with Groovy.

Pulled into the Doyle Hotel after 8pm.  Restless and Nathan were there.  The front door opens to a bar with lots of locals singing along to Frank Sinatra, among other music.  No A/C in my room, no screen on the window, single bare light bulb w/ cobwebs as decoration.

Monday, July 23, 2001

day 72, Yellow Breeches Creek c, PA

Start:  Pine Grove Furnace State Park (campsite)
End:  Yellow Breeches Creek (campsite)
Miles:  19.1 today, 1101.5 total

Ready to take the first bite!

Done!  Alleged half gallon record breaker, Grasshopper, on the left.

hehehe... I am now a member of the Half Gallon Club!  I downed a carton of cookie dough in 40 minutes, 37 seconds.  I kind of surprised myself, actually.  I mean, a half gallon is A LOT of ice cream!  Grasshopper, Mike, Dusty, and Skipper witnessed the event.  I had them take pictures of me at successive levels of consumption.  There's the "before" shot, the "halfway done, starting to get full" shot, and then the "last bite, look ok but feel like crap" shot.  After a couple hours of digestion I began hobbling down the trail.

I think we go right.

About a mile into the hike, still inside the park, I came across the "official" halfway point marker.  It's really not the halfway point because it reads "1069 miles to GA, 1069 miles to ME".  Halfway now is more like 1083.5 or so (though Dusty said the trail is actually 20 miles longer this year because of so many relocations, which messes all of my calculations up, so we'll just forget about that).

Near the end of the day's hike.  Lovin' it.

While getting water at a creek, I was sitting on a rock drinking a quart and I had a revelation.  Perhaps the reason I feel unhappy at times is because I'm going too fast.  I mean, I'm doing this thing in 4.5 months!  I've decided to slow down near the end if I can afford to.  I'll discuss more later.

Sunday, July 22, 2001

day 71, PGF State Park c, PA

Start:  US 30 (Jim & Julie's)
End:  Pine Grove Furnace State Park (campsite)
Miles:  20 today, 1082.4 total

Big news for the day.  First of all, I'm halfway to Katahdin!  This here park marks the true halfway point.  I pulled in here too late to eat the half gallon today.  Arrived at like 7:30pm and the store closed at 7.  So guess what that means... a half gallon of cookie dough for breakfast tomorrow!  And then a 19-mile hike!  Vomit city!  Just as long as I get my spoon.  Speaking of which, I saw the spoons and they're those little tongue depressor things you use with Dixie Cups.  Grasshopper showed me his... which he got when he BROKE THE ALL-TIME RECORD!  He did it earlier today (when I was still hiking):  nine minutes and eighteen seconds.  His flavor: cherry jubilee.  Pretty amazing, eh?  All I'm looking to do is finish, like a fat man in a marathon.

The other big news is that Skipper, of Skipper and Dusty, isn't Laura.  It's a man!  And Dusty's not a guy, she's Skipper's wife!  So there's two Skippers (that I know of) on the trail.  I'll have to let Laura know.  So I guess that means she's either behind me, or up in Connecticut.  In addition to Skipper & Dusty, I met Jordan, Tekman, Mike, Groovy, and some other guy (forgot his name).  Groovy is a woman.  Time for bed, there's ice cream to be had tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

day 70, US 30, PA (J & J's)

Start:  Devils Racecourse Shelter
End:  US 30 (Jim & Julie's)
Miles:  22.8 today, 1062.4 total

Welcome to PA!  Woohoo!  But first...

Headin' into Yankee territory...

I got to Pen-Mar Park (get it?  PENnsylvania-MARyland!) around 10am, called home, left a message, ate a cheeseburger, took advantage of the flushable toilets and free TP, and got out of there after 11.  Not too long after that I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.  Took a picture of the sign.  heheh... that rhymes.  So then I hiked a long time until about 7:15pm, when I crossed US 30 and waited for the Pennington-mobile to show up.

Within 10 minutes I was whisked away to Grandma True's favorite ice cream hangout.  We ate our cones and sundaes and went back to Laurel Run to drop her off.  Unfortunately, her mental health has generally been deteriorating over the past few years (I believe she has Alzheimer's).  It seemed like 5 years ago she was fine, then she started to slip.  But despite all of this, I think she recognized me.  She had my Fontana Dam post-card on the wall.  Her heart is still doing fine.

My uncle Jim and aunt Julie were gracious enough to offer my family a night at their house in nearby Thurmont, MD.  This will be the last time I'll see the fam for awhile... likely until Katahdin.

Friday, July 20, 2001

day 69, Devils Racecourse S, MD

Start:  Rocky Run Shelter
End:  Devils Racecourse Shelter
Miles:  20.1 today, 1039.6 total

Talk about frustrating.  You walk 20 miles only to find that the shelter is full and you've got to setup camp in the dark.  Actually, that sounds bad, but the reality wasn't too terrible.  (My mind has truly gone to mush out in these woods.  Is that how you spell "terrible"?)  I'm starting to like sleeping in a tent.  It gets me away from the bugs.  That, in itself, is an amazingly comfortable feeling.  So I'm really just whining.

After a couple days of being in limbo, I've finally located some people.  Raver and Skipper are about 4 days ahead of me.  Ganj is a couple days ahead, but he was talking about quitting early, as in before the Delaware Water Gap.  Grasshopper and Numbfoot are also ahead of me.  I'm confident that I could catch pretty much any of them but Raver.  He and I are almost the same speed, but he's just a tad faster I think.  And, as far as I know, Big Toe and Q-tip are behind me, probably a day or two behind.

Had a whole bunch of trouble trying to call home with the cell phone tonight.  I was able to get through a couple times, but the connection was so bad that we got cut off.  I'll try again tomorrow morning.

Thursday, July 19, 2001

day 68, Rocky Run S, MD

Start:  Harpers Ferry, WV (home)
End:  Rocky Run Shelter
Miles:  16.1 today, 1019.5 total

The standard Polaroid that hikers get at the ATC headquarters.

During my two-day break, I checked my email and saw that Laura had sent me a message.  I haven't seen her since Damascus.  It would be nice to see her again.  However, she's saying that she wants to skip ahead to Connecticut and see some of New England before her money totally runs out.  And, by the way, she says that's her new name:  Skipper.  Can we guess why?  hehehe...  She said she wants to live in New York (presumably the city) after the trail.  I wrote her back asking when she'd make the move to the Big Apple.  Maybe I could swing by on my way back home.

It took me forever to get out of the house this morning.  We had planned to leave at like 7:30am, but thanks to me, we didn't leave until after 10am.  I tried setting up a computer for Rachel to take to college, but that fell through when I wanted to reinstall the OS, but didn't have a Windows 98 CD.  Anyway, we got to the ATC Headquarters, got my picture taken and archived, signed the register, etc.  Apparently, that rumor about Baxter State Park closing October 1st was just a rumor.  The ATC people kept with the usual October 15 deadline.  So that's good news.  Gives me a little more breathing room.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

days 65 - 67, H. Ferry, WV (home)

Day 65, Monday, July 16
Start:  Bears Den Hostel
End:  Harpers Ferry, WV (home)
Miles:  19.7, 1003.4 total

Day 66, Tuesday, July 17:  ZERO DAY
Day 67, Wednesday, July 18:  ZERO DAY

Home sweet home.  It was a great feeling being back, feeling safe, free from responsibility for a couple days.  And then there was the concert!  G3 baby!  Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and, the god of guitar, John Petrucci from Dream Theater.  And Mike Portnoy backed him up on drums.  So it was like getting to watch a Dream Theater concert and, oh, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.  Arguably the best concert I will ever have the privilege of attending.  So yeah, it was awesome, and I bought a shirt.  I almost wanted to quit the trail and start a band again.  I know I want to do that when I get back, but I almost couldn't wait.

I blew over $200 buying supplies for the trial.  I went to Appalachian Outfitters and got another pair of boots, some spare laces, an Esbit stove and extra bricks, a polyester shirt to replace the heavy Nike basketball reversible one I use as a backup, a fleece bag liner (to use as a bag itself, weighs 1 lb, 14 oz, over 3 lbs lighter than my sleeping bag), some bigger gloves, etc.  I bought a whole bunch of trail food at Costco and Safeway.  A shopping bonanza!

Sunday, July 15, 2001

day 64, Bears Den Hostel, VA

Start:  Dicks Dome Shelter
End:  Bears Den Hostel
Miles:  18.9 today, 983.7 total

Trail Magic near the Route 50 crossing.
Notice the thank-you notes left on the styrofoam cooler tops.

Trail Magic!  It's been really great since we left the SNP.  Back at the 522 crossing there were the Goldfish, and then a double dose today.  The first was at Ashby Gap, the Route 50 crossing.  I took some pictures of this one.  Two coolers filled with sodas and then sitting on top was a small bag of bananas.  The coolers must've just been filled, too, because the ice was nice 'n fresh, really cold sodas.  So I stopped for a good 20 minutes.  Had 2 bananas and 2 sodas.  It was a blast.  Then, later today, crossing Va. 605 there was a cooler with some banana bread or some similar baked good in it.  At the time I was pretty full, as I had just recently taken a food break.  But oh boy!

This hostel tonight is fabulous.  It's an old stone house with a big stone wall around the property.  I'm saving $6 tenting outside.  Had some Phish Food Ben & Jerry's after setting up the tent.  Called home to check in and arrange tomorrow's meeting.  Took a shower (yeah!) and my clothes are in the dryer now.  I'll grab 'em when I get up.

Along with some unknown people, Ganj and Grasshopper are here.  Haven't seen Ganj since Erwin, so we had some catching up to do.  I hope to see him before he's off in NJ, after my break.