Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Beginnings in an Old Life

I have been home for one week now and am still realizing things from the trail. Reading a journey north may be assisting my realizations. Many have posted comments asking about whether I kept a journal of my excursion with more personal thoughts and feelings. The answer to that is yes! There are many things that occur on the trail which one needs to work through either on their own or through the assistance of their fellow thru-hikers. Those are the things I keep with me and they help me to grow and become a better person. As I move through life from here, I will continue to learn from my journey and grow as well.
Speaking of moving through life, I have been working on that upon my return. During my wanderings through the woods, I was suppose to be thinking about/considering a job taking care of my nephews again. Since thoughts of them fueled my 31mile day into Pearisburg, VA, I had decided on the trail I was going to come back and work for my sister again. Upon my return, I was introduced to the new Daycare where all 3 of the boys are currently enrolled, and decided they were in a better place than with my selfish desire to spend my days with them. So, I arranged with my sister to take care of the boys as an aunt versus a nanny!
Luckily, I was only put on inactive status from REI and am able to return to them. So, this past Monday, I went in and talked to them about returning to work. They have lost many of my old co-workers and I will be trained to work the sales floor in camping rather than cashiering. I am also going to sit down with our in-store public relations guy and try to set up a presentation about long distance hiking or just the Appalachian Trail. Just being in the store gave me a sense of connectedness to what I had just accomplished; whereas, earlier in my return I had felt the journey was null and void upon entering my old life. I am excited to begin working at REI again and assisting people with their adventures.
Mike and I are learning how to adjust to each other being around as well as trying to conserve $$$ by using only one automobile. Yesterday, I decided to walk to Washington Park in Denver, which is about a 10-12mile trek. It is funny how that distance does not seem that far when I think about it these days. To some I told of my walk yesterday, they thought I was crazy! I guess I am a little crazy! Life on the trail was all about walking, so it does not seem weird to just walk where I need to go these days. Although, yesterday did give me a little wake up call in that regard.
As I walked from my home to near downtown Denver, I followed a bike path most of the way. When I was walking on sidewalks along roads, I often got cat-called and whistled at. That was a new experience. One certainly doesn't get that on the trail. Ok, I did get whistled at on the trail, but it was usually a shrill sort of sound from a bird I had rustled or a chipmunk chuttering away at me for walking too close to its home. Anyway, the bike path passes through some shakey areas that on a bike aren't so bad because you know you can get away quickly if need be. On foot it is a whole other story. Now, don't worry, nothing bad happened on my walk it just woke me up to my surroundings and the difference in the woods. As I walked, I passed strange looking people or the kids hanging out outside school (not sure if they were skipping school or what). The strangers were nice enough people and returned my greetings when I offerred one. However, as I moved along, I began to realize civilization is rougher than the outdoors.
At dinner last night with some of my friends from the Rocky Mountain Road Runners, I talked about my experience of walking to the park. In the woods, I never worried about strangers I passed on the trail. There is a sense of community among thru-hikers where I always felt I was protected. Besides, seeing a woman carrying a 40lb pack would certainly change some people's minds about messing with me let alone the trekking poles I was carrying. The story of the "Burning Man" is a prime example of the "trail family." We take care of each other in the woods. In civilization, if something bad happens we watch in amazement as a house burns up or someone gets beaten on the streets, and we do nothing. On the trail, there is people full of humanity and caring for their fellow man. If something had happened to me during my walk yesterday, I feel pretty sure nobody would have helped me out. That is kind of a scarey thought and thus my bike will be uncovered from the gear hanging on it to air out, and I will enjoy its transportation versus the legs, feet, and body that carried me 2200miles.

Welcome Home Celebration

Well, I am a little late in posting about the Welcome Home Party this past Saturday, but I'm still trying to adjust to being back in Denver.

So, for those who do not know. My sister and friend, Holly, along with Mike's help threw me a Welcome Home Party at Wynkoop on Saturday night. For most of the week leading up to the party I was apprehensive. I had jsut come from the woods where I was mostly alone but never truly alone, and here I was going to be swarmed by people wanting to know about my journey and also telling me how thin I am. The book, a journey north by adrienne hall, I am currently reading sums it up pretty well about my feelings as a thru-hiker. "Thru-hikers often feel more connected to the natural world and reflect the drive and purpose they see in nature. They often leave the woods with an enlightened, relaxed feeling, like they have a big secret which no one else would understand." I was worried about trying to convey this to people at the party.

Luckily, I did not hear too many times how thin I was and did not have to repeat too many stories. Everyone seemed to have different questions and enjoyed the slide show we were able to set up on Mike's laptop computer. We layed out the maps I had carried for a little while until the elevation profiles frustrated me to no end and I sent them all home. Many people browsed those as I talked to different people.

My sister got me a great cake with hikers on it, and unfortunately she did not get any until the following Monday due to having to pack up the kids and head home for bed! The party ended relatively early as people decided to leave and I was getting tired anyway. Hiker midnight (9pm est) had already come and gone and I was needing to lay down if nothing more!

It was a great evening and I enjoyed seeing friends, family, and those interested in the trip. Without their support, I would never have made it through this trip. Thank you everyone for the support and a great welcome home!

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Journey Home

Well, I am back in the bump and grind of the ordinary life. There are many things I have learned on the trail which I hope to apply to life in the fast lane...or the not so fast lane.
Mike and I caught an early flight (8:40am) out of Manchester, NH on August 23rd. We had a lay over in Chicago for about an hour or two. The first flight was with Southwest and they do not have assigned seating. I was anxious as we waited and watched the hordes of people come and line their baggage up in the lines to insure they got the "best" seat on the plane. Fighting with people for space on a plane was not my idea of fun on my first day back in the "real" world. Mike and I joked about stealing the unattended baggage or notifying officials of all the baggage left unattended in the line. I am sure the people were sitting near their luggage, but I thought it would be fun to throw people off kilter a little! We, of course, behaved ourselves and just walked around laughing at the cattle lining up for the slaughter at the gate. The plane wasn't even there yet and the lines were almost all the way over to the next gate! Mike and I wandered around making moo-ing sounds and laughing at the cattle. That made things a little less stressful for that flight. Amazingly enough, the unassigned seating actually made loading the plane much quicker. Both, Mike and I, were amazed. We were also able to sit next to each other which we figured was not going to happen as we had taken our time getting into line and such.
In Chicago/Medway airport, we looked for lunch. For about a week, I had been hankering for McDonalds and planned on that in the airport. As I ate my McDonalds, Mike tried to figure out his lunch location. By the time I had finished the McDonalds, I had come to the conclusion that McDonalds sucks and I was glad that was the first I had of it since I left...I do not plan on having it again! The airport was pretty relaxed and I did not feel too stressed out as we milled around looking at shops and buying carmel corn and cookies and cheesecake. Finally, it was time to load up the plane and head to Denver.
We were able to get exit row seating from Chicago to Denver. It was nice other than the seats did not recline. All the sitting really hurt the nice bruise on my bum I had received from my STOP DROP & ROLL episode. The flight was long and it always bothers me when they serve beverages in the first 15minutes of a 2+ hour flight. Anyway, it was smooth sailing all the way home to Denver.
At the Denver International Airport, we made our way to the train to baggage claim. As we stood infront of the doors waiting for the train, people swarmed around us. Once the train arrived into the terminal, people around us nearly knocked us over in a rush to get on the train. On the trail, I have acquired a relaxed feel to life. This was not relaxed at all. I commented to Mike about the stress and rush of people..."What's the rush? It will still be there tomorrow or even in 5 minutes." He had to play devil's advocate and say that it would not be and it was necessary to rush. As we exited the train, he began pushing me and trying to make me hurry...I sauntered to the escalators and rode my way up.
For the full 2 weeks Mike was with me, he was very allusive as to how we were getting home from the airport since our friend, Holly, had taken Mike to the airport. I had a feeling someone was going to be waiting for us. Boy, was I right! When we got to the top, I scanned the crowd and found my sister and nephews standing there to welcome me home! The boys were a little aloof, but Alex broke it by giggling incesantly at me. I ran over and gave them big hugs and kisses. It was good to see them.
At that moment, the trail was left behind and my trail family somewhat forgotten. We made our way to the baggage claim and Ryan & Alex assisted Mike and I in retrieving our backpacks. From there, we headed out. In the car, my sister asked me what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go! What? Home not 10minutes and already I need to make decisions!? All I knew was that I wanted fruit and vegetables, so we headed to Stevi's (my sister's) house for blueberry pancakes.
While Stevi made the pancakes, Mike and I played with the boys and made sure to rile them up as much as possible. I think we did a good job as we got Kyle (the newborn) crying, Alex (the middle child) burned his fingers on the griddle and cried, and Ryan (the oldest) jumping on the couch with a sucker in his mouth! Ah! It was good to be back to the old chaos of my life.
With kids calmed down and pancakes eaten, we headed towards my home to finally dump me into the chaos/mess there. Mike had warned me he had just piled the boxes I sent home on my side of the bed. So, in order to get into bed, I had to make a pathway. Also, on the trail, I learned to take care of wet things as soon as possible and to air things out! So, I set to my tasks of emptying things out and taking care of the piles of stuff. Around 10pm (Mtn time), I finally put my exhausted body to bed in my own bed with clean sheets on the bed! I was home!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Last Chance, Last Dance

I'm not real sure how to start this one. The trip is over and I have to some how tell of its finish. I guess I could tell of the last day, then write later about the after life. So, here is my climb of Katahdin!

The day started with a beautiful blue sky and an hour drive from Millinocket, ME to Baxter State Park. We were suppose to get started around 6am, but woke up late and were kind of rushed to get going. Breakfast, I have learned is the most important part of the day and thus I made sure to grab what I could from the continental breakfast at the hotel. So, what if I started later than planned, I knew I would be alright.
We got to the park and asked what I needed to do in regards to my thru-hiker status and finishing up my journey. The ranger instructed us to go to the ranger station and sign in. We (MZP, Mike, Jim, and I) headed there and I filled out all the necessary papers and such for my completion. I was listed as #138 to finish this year. From there, I put my last entry into the register at the ranger's station and headed towards the mountain which was looming over me.
By 7am, we started our climb after everyone had visited with the privy and packed their necessities for a 5.2mile hike up 4000ft of elevation. Once again, my sherpa (Mike) was carrying our gear up the mountain. It felt good to be free of weight on my back. The first mile of the trail was pretty nice, gradual, and easy. We then had to cross a log bridge and visit the toilet there before continuing to ascend the mountain. The terrain began to get a little more technical but still manageable. There were a few places where my mother had to use her bottom or knees to climb up a section, but she was quite the trooper. I think she had my determination to make it to the top and take my picture by the end of the trail. Unfortunately, the trail did not agree with her and once above treeline, she was forced to concede to the trail. Mike, Jim, and I left her at the first place the mountain began to throw metal rungs at us and promised to return to her on the way back down the mountain. We continued up the rocky terrain. From where we left MZP to a mile from the summit, the terrain consisted mostly of rock climbing and bouldering. It was adventurous and I was impressed with Jim's ability to hang in there. Of course, this also made me nervous about the trip down.
Once on the flatland section of the trail, it was easy sailing to the summit. Upon reaching the flatlands, I kind of broke away from Mike and Jim as I was needing to collect myself for the end of an amazing journey. At one point, I broke down sobbing to myself because I was not with trail friends for this journey. I was basically the only northbounder finishing my journey on the 22nd. It was kind of a lonely feeling and I hoped to find Croc Walker & Britanica at the bottom when I finished. When I had come to terms with my lonely trip to the end, I continued ahead of Mike and Jim towards the summit.
As I was heading up from the flatlands, a person heading back down the mountain pointed out the end of my journey. I grew depressed and disappointed as it looked like the summit sign was located in the middle of a ridge and wasn't even the highest point. "Oh well," I thought to myself. I came here to get her done and that is what I will do today. So onward I went up the mountain. About 200yds from the summit, a loud clap of thunder rang out through the sky. I trudged on. Around 100yds from the sign, the cloud I am walking in opens up and dumbs an icy rain upon my head. People are coming down from the summit and I can see the sign. One of them comments to me about my still heading up to the top. I told her I had to I was too close not to go up now! So, I trudged onward. When I reached the sign and the terminus of my journey, I stood and stared at the sign almost in shock. Then the tears began to fall...I was done! Now what?
As I waited for Mike and Jim, I took a photo looking over the sign at the back side of the mountain as it was an amazing view. The last one of my journey, I figured! When Mike and Jim arrived to the summit, we quickly took photos and I opened the miniature bottle of Tequilla I brought to the summit to celebrate. Mike and Jim did not join me in the consumption of Tequilla and I did not drink much as I figured I could share with my mother upon my descent!
With photos taken of my completion, we headed back out to the sound of rumbling in the sky. I commented to Mike and Jim, "I began my trip this way, so it is no wonder I finish in this weather." We moved quickly over the ground due to my fear of getting struck by lightening (which we never did see any) or my mother freezing while she sat on the ledge waiting for us to return (luckily my mom is smart and had already began her descent). On the way up, many people passed us, but on the way down we flew by people. It was a great relief to use my hands rather than my legs for the first part of the descent. There was a lot of boot scoot boogying down the mountain, but that made it easier to go quicker. We made it to where we left my mother and had been told she had already made her way down the mountain. I was thankful she was hopefully safe! Mike, Jim, and I made our way slowly down the rest of the trail as it was not as easy to use our hands on the stuff below treeline and thus it took a toll on our knees, feet, and legs in general.
By 3:30pm, we had made it back to the car where my mother was sitting at a covered picnic table chatting with Croc Walker & Britanica. I was excited to see them all. There was a past thru-hiker there as well joining in the celebration of the day. We broke out the champagne and finished off the tequilla. I counciled Croc Walker & Britanica on what to plan for the next day. Mike and I also had to inform them we were not burned badly from the previous day's fire incident as they had heard from the southbound couple we had been burned as well. Three Feathers came by and we exchanged information and I wished him luck on his completion of the trail tomorrow. After hanging out a bit longer with Croc Walker & Britanica, we decided we needed to head out and meet up with Marty and the Awesome MIL who had decided to golf instead of climb Mountain Katahdin that day. With hugs & promises to keep in touch to Croc Walker & Britanica, the four of us headed to Millinocket. The journey was complete!
Thank you everyone for your support and love throughout my travels. It was an amazing journey and I hope to keep a grasp of all I learned while hiking the trail. The trip could not have happened without the support from all of you! My mother once dedicated the song, 'I Hope you Dance," to me. I have danced throughout this trail and hope to continue dancing as often as life allows me to dance and experience everything life has to offer me. Thank you!

Burning Man

Some of you may be familiar with the Event of "Burning Man" in Nevada. This blog has nothing to do with that event. It is my own experience with Burning Man!
It was my second to last day on the trail and I was presented with a new adventure. The day started the same as every other day on the trail...

I woke at 5:30am tired but knowing I had a long day ahead of me. Mike woke up along with me and we began to pack ourselves up. Once packed, we got ourselves some breakfast and kind of hung around chatting with a 2day old southbounder and a couple headed south on a section hike. Little did we know we would end up on fire and hiking out an injured man. Here is what went down according to those of us involved:

The southbounder, Eric, was getting his stove going for his breakfast, but was worried about running out of denatured alcohol while in the 100mile wilderness. So, he filled the inner chamber of his stove with fuel and then put just a little ontop of the canister. He lit it and it began to burn. Hooray he thought he had beaten his stove. Then, the flame went out or so he thought.-with alcohol stoves, it is difficult to see the blue flame it produces, so one is never sure if the stove is out unless feeling first with their hand.-He decided to pour more fuel into the outer chamber of the stove only to find his fuel bottle had caught on fire. His thought was, "contained fuel in the bottle would lead to explosion," thus he tried to shake the fuel out of the bottle. He was in the shelter and thus had a nice line of fuel and flames going up the side of the shelter. I was thankful I was outside of the shelter with my gear as the flames were thrown right where my stuff had been the previous evening. The next thing I remember was something being thrown out of the shelter towards Mike and me.
From here it all went really fast. I vaguely remember turning away from whatever was being thrown from the shelter (which was on fire). Then, I heard someone say, "You're on fire!" I looked down at my leg to find I was on fire. It only took a split second to notice the flame on my lower right leg and think, "fire...STOP DROP ROLL!" I'm not sure if someone said it or if I just thought it to myself, but I automatically dropped and tried putting out my leg. As I was sitting on the ground putting out my leg, I see a man on the ground rolling and flopping trying to put out the flames that engulfed his upper body. At first, I thought it was Mike and freaked out! When I realized it was Eric (the southbounder), I was relieved at first it was not Mike, but then freaked out about this guy being on fire and heading towards the creek as he flailed on the ground. I was waiting for him to end up in the creek head first and knock himself unconscious. As I got up to help him put out the fire, he got up and ripped his shirt off which was still burning. By the time I reached him, the flames were out. While I was still stunned, I did notice Mike on the ground sitting there stunned himself. I went to him and made sure he was alright. The other couple at the shelter checked on Eric.
As the other couple poured cold creek water on Eric, I inventoried his gear to see what was going to be the next move. His backpack was still smoldering and we made sure to put it out. When looking at it, I realized there was no way we could carry anything in it. So, I pulled out the garbage bag Mike and I had picked up off the trail the day before and began putting all the extinguished and ruined gear inside of it. Anything salvageable, I loaded into either my pack or Mike's pack. Mike and I were only 15miles from the end of the 100mile wilderness and that was going to be the nearest access point for getting this guy out of the woods. The other couple continued to pour cold creek water on Eric and he spent some time lying down in the creek as well. They gave him some ibuprofen and we finally got him to stop smoking from his wounds. After he had cooled down a bit, we got him warm clothes for his bottom half so not to send him into hypothermic shock or anything. He was feeling a little better and we decided to get moving towards the exit road. At that point, another northbound thru-hiker, 3 Feathers from Rangeley, ME, and we asked him to let the rangers know at the road we were bringing in a 23 year old male with severe burns. Being from Maine, he had a friend in the right place to call her from his cell phone and she arranged for transportation upon our arrival at the road. As a matter of fact, we had a Fish and Wildlife Management Ranger meet us on the trail and let us know there was an ambulance not far away. The ranger also asked us if we had family meeting us at the road. I told him we were not suppose to, but it was a possibility. He stated there was a red subaru with Michigan plates and a couple worried about their kids. Right then, Mike and I realized his parents had decided to meet us at our half way point for the day. We told the ranger it was our parents and he told the crew at the road to let Jim and Millie know their kids were fine.
That was probably my quickest 15miles of the trail. Eric and I conversed the whole way. It was my way of making sure he was still coherent. We stopped briefly for lunch along the way. Luckily, the majority of the hike into the road was raining so it kept him cool but not too cool. During lunch at the last shelter before the end of the 100mile wilderness, a woman and her 2 daughters (whom we had met the day before) arrived and the woman was a physical therapist for burn victims. She assessed Eric's burns and told him he had first thru third degree burns and pointed them out to me and Eric. This helped convince Eric he needed to go to the hospital despite not having insurance and get the burns taken care of right away. This woman also was able to give Eric an idea of length of time for healing so he could make plans for returning to the trail.
Eric felt horrible for the events of the morning and apologized often. The previous night we were talking about trail names and how one receives their name. Well, Mike and I have decided to either name Eric "Burning Man" or "Flame Thrower." Eric wanted to name himself "Dumbass," but I told him he needed to take a lighter spin on what happened and not dwell on it. He has learned from his experience and he needs to move on from there. The other couple at the shelter had one of their sleeping bags burned on the end, but they seemed to think it was salvageable. Eric felt bad about this as well as lighting Mike on fire. I am not sure if he knew I had been on fire as well. Luckily my leg flame was only surface and burned off the leg hairs I was planning on shaving off that night anyway. Saved me some work. Mike had received what looks like a cigarette burn on his left upper arm. At first I thought I had gotten away unscathed, but found I had dropped on a rock by the firepit when I STOP DROPPED & ROLLED and have thus sustained a very nice scratch with bruise on my rear. The wound looks like I tried to give myself an enema with a rock and was a little off target. It hurts like a bun of a stitch, but I am coping while Mike is laughing.
All that day the only song lyrics running through my head were..."oh oh oh I'm on fire!" It was an adventure, but it made me glad to help someone else on the trail and to show him and remind myself the extreme joy of the trail family. I wish Eric the best of luck on his travels over his life and hope to hear from him when he is better and moving along the trail again. Mike and I are fine. We joked about having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the event, but have not seemed to have any troubles from it, yet. There were points over the rest of the day where we thought we saw smoke infront of our eyes and I felt warm most of the evening, but on the whole we were and are doing well. Just one more adventure for the trail. Thank goodness Eric happened to do this at the time he did as well as around a Wilderness First Responder. Everything worked out for the better and nobody died!
Thank you to the woman and her daughters who helped out as well as the couple who poured the water on Eric's burns. Three Feathers deserves a large hug and reward for his help as well. Those in the Maine area, I recommend donating money to your Wildlife Fish and Game Wardens whenever you can because they do not receive money for search and rescue but are required to come out and help in situations such as what has been told above. They did an amazing job and I was extremely thankful my husband was with me and that we had not left yet from the shelter. Thank you everyone for your support and assistance in the events that day!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Friends & Trail Family

I am surely going to miss this trail and this life! There are so many friends that have been made over the course of 2000miles. Yup! Crossed the 2000mile marker today! Hooray! That means only 170miles left.
There was a crowd of us headed out on the trail today...Croc Walker & Britanica, GG & Slip-n-Slide, Mountain Dancer, Mike, & I all slack packed today. It was great fun and a good re-energizing moment. Then when we returned, more friends (Bluey & Tri-Guy) had arrived at the Stratton Motel. They told me Spice Rack is only about a day behind them. Bluey tried to make it sound like Spice Rack was having a rough time without his awesome hiking partner, but I knew that was not true! Spice Rack is a strong hiker and person in general. I am sure he is doign well especially knowing he will catch the family planning on finishing on the 28th. To some degree I am jealous of his finish because of the people, but at the same time I am ready to be done!
Today was the Bigelow Mountains and thus the end of anything difficult according to trail rumor. We were a little baffled by the semi-easy trail we found ourselves on for a bit. Do not worry, the trail did make up for that short section of pleasure by throwing in roots and rocks before we finished for the day! Mother Nature also helped with trail conditions by throwing some rain on the rocks and roots to make them extra treacherous! Gotta love the AT, eh?
Tomorrow, we have a fun canoe ride across the Kennebec River into Caratunk! I look forward to checking out my packages and hoping to see my in-laws. Mike keeps promising messages from his mom! I hope she can do something for these malfunctioning knees and ankles! The day looks like a small hill (small in comparison to what we have been doing recently) in the morning followed by flat flat and more flat! Hooray! Mountains seem to be mostly shrunken by now! I like flat terrain! Looking forward to the 100mile wilderness where I may just give my gear to my in-laws and walk continuously until I reach Baxter State Park! That thought has crossed my mind multiple times in the past few days. I'm not sure my body woudl like me too much!
Oh yeah! I thought I should give a little humor to my blogspot since I have been such a downer lately. The reunion of Mike and I was a late night in North Conway. I had gotten us a sweet hotel room with a jacuzzi tub. The staff must have given me a discounted rate due to my talking to them about my AT experiences and how I was meeting my husband after being away from him for 4.5months. It was sweet and I made sure to have a nice soak in the tub while I waited for Mike to show up! The town was overwhelmed with tourists and felt kind of weird, but I enjoyed walking around watching the people! Mike arrived with Eben and Sunny around 10pm while I was finishing a large pizza on my own and drinking beer. We hung for a bit and then Eben and Sunny took off for Eben's aunt's house nearby. As Mike and I prepared for bed, I removed my top to head to bed and he began laughing. When I asked why he was laughing, he stated he recognized me until I took off my top! See,...What has happened over the course of the trail is that I left my boobs at Springer Mountain! Mike says our friend Holly and I need to compare and see who is smaller now! For once, my sister can feel great in regards to having a much larger chest size than I! Granted she is lactating. Anyway, Mike thought it funny my loss! I of course have been bothered by the loss of 2 of my favorite friends (my breasts) since the beginning of the trail. As my mother had to remind me, I will gain those back last of everything. So, I guess I will have to just be happy with how I look now, which I am!
Ok, I am not sure what the days ahead will hold for me. It looks like easy cruising, but depends on what The Awesome MIL and Father-in-law (FIL) are able to help us out with over the next few days! Mike is a little aprehensive of the 100mile wilderness as he has confessed that he cannot keep up with me on the flat portions of the trail. I have talked with him about doing 30mile days in the wilderness and the next few days. He does not sound too sure of it. We will see what happens! The GA-ME is almost over. I am sad and yet excited at the same time!
Thank you all for your support. I am celebrating my 2000mile marker with good beer and wonderful trail friends and family. It makes me ready to continue the trail with or without pack! Mike has confessed he does not like the weight of his pack and thus is working overtime to get us transportation and support. Wahoo! He has support for us! The awesome MIL and FIL are helping us out! I love it! The trail has gotten easy and my spirits have been raised tremendously! I am going to make it by the 22nd! See everyone on the flip side of the trail! Thank you for your support and love!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

New Hampshire/Maine

Well, the pain and agony is almost over! For the past month, I have cried at least once a day. It is beginning to get old. With the rugged schedule set for the 2week race to the finish, I am getting more worn down than I already was from this trail.
As Mike mentioned, he has joined me from Gorham, NH to the finish line. Every day he has been with me, he has seen me break down in tears at least once as well as throw one temper tantrum. I think the end is near!
So, anyway, here is what has been going on with the trail since last I wrote.
I have made my way, slowly but sure-ly, through the White Mountains. It was slow mostly for the views and the terrain. We were above treeline most of the time. The hut system through the Whites is only conducive to certain mileage.
Our first introduction to the Whites was over Mt Moosilauke. It was beautiful and a relatively easy climb. Spice Rack and I then made it down to the shelter for the evening and I was exhausted. The next day was an 8mile push into North Woodstock to meet his mom and step-dad for the afternoon. We went to the Woodstock Inn and Brewery for an early dinner. Then, Spice Rack convinced his mom and stepdad to take us to White River Jct., VT for a party being thrown by friends (Croc Walker & Britanica)we had recently made on the trail. So, we slept in White River Jct that night and received limosine service back to the trail the next morning. Spice Rack and I were wishing for hikers in the parking lot as we got out of the limo, but no such luck! I do have photos for proof.
From that point on, Spice Rack and I only had 2 days left of hiking together. We hiked separately but together. The first Hut I visited in the Whites was the Galehead Hut. These huts are like chalets in the mountains for vacationers. They allow thru-hikers to do work for stay. I was the first hiker to arrive and ask the fill-in croo (crew) about the work for stay so I was granted work. As soon as they brought me on as staff, they treated me as staff as well and I worked right along side of them. They gave me a bunk since the hut was not full for the evening and I received both all I could eat dinner as well as breakfast. We had to eat after the guests were finished, but that was fine. The fill-in croo was awesome. Because they treated me like a staff member, I worked my buns off for them. Each of them had brought their own liquor to the hut and thus I had red wine with my pasta shell dinner that night as well as Baileys for dessert. Spice Rack and I hung out with the croo and laughed and joked the night away. It was great fun. Two of the guys are headed to Colorado in September and I gave them my information to look me up while out there! I hope they do.
From there, the experiences were a little different in the huts. I only did work for stay in one more hut and that was the busiest one in the Whites...Lakes of the Clouds Hut. They had me only clean a freezer and I got to sleep on the table that evening. I did not feel I earned everything I received and felt kind of like a dirty beggar, so I left early the next morning without breakfast. From there to Gorham, NH, I was by myself as Spice Rack had left the trail to spend time with friends and family.
The Whites were overwhelming due to the crowds of people, but at the same time the people are what helped me stay on the trail when I so badly wanted to quit! At this time, I need to send out a HUGE THANK YOU to the women I had dinner with at Pinkham Notch after my miserable descent from the Presidential Range. If it were not for these ladies asking me about the trail and encouraging me to continue, I would not have gone back out on the trail. It is funny how the right people come along at the right time.
As I hiked out of Pinkham Notch that day, I silently thanked the ladies. Coming up the Wildcat Peaks, I met another couple ladies who were also impressed with my journey. They said I must feel so fit, to which I laughed and told them I was currently feeling like a crotchity old lady. When we reached the top, they wished me luck and I had enough energy to keep myself going along the trail. Thank you strangers for the words of encouragement and support when I needed it most. People like you 5 ladies are what I am talking about when I speak of the wonderful people I have met along the trail. In my world, you are the truly amazing people! Thank you again!
From the White Mountains, I have moved into Maine and it has kicked my rear worse than the Whites could have. The Mahoosuc Notch was a wonderful jungle gym of fun and not nearly as difficult as the rest of Maine has proven to be at this time. At the top of Moody Mountain, I found myself wanting to throw my pack off the mountain. Mike and I began brainstorming how to make this easier for me and get the GA-ME done. We have visited every town near the trail in Maine and it is helping a little. Currently, I am sitting in Stratton, ME with friends I have made along the way...GG&Slip-n-slide, Croc Walker & Britanica, AJ, & Iron Foot. I look forward to celebrating with them tonight and moving on up the trail. Tomorrow looks rough, but hoping for family support from Mike's parents as they are headed out this way in the next few days. From Stratton, we find ourselves in Caratunk Monday then Monson on Wednesday. Monson, ME starts the 100mile wilderness and thus my final stretch into the finish line! We are still looking to slackpack a couple more times before the 100mile wilderness, but we will see what is available. Mike needs to remember his parents' cell phone numbers so he might actually arrange something with them! We will see what happens!
Not long now and I will be done and on a plane for Colorado. I look forward to finishing and then sitting around doing nothing for a week. Mike and I are having fun but it is rough going some days. The Bigelows are tomorrow and the rumor is after that things are easy. We will see how the knees and ankles hold up for the finish. I atleast need to make it to the top of Katahdin. If they have to rescue me from the top, that is fine, but I need to make it up on my own (with Mike's support).
As always, thank you everyone for your love and support. It has been a great journey and the next posting should be of my completion. For those in the Colorado area, there is a welcome home party and hopefully everyone has gotten the evite on that one. I look forward to catching up with everyone, but most of all I look forward to holding my new nephew, Kyle in my arms and teaching him how to torture his mommy! Thank you everyone!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The last state

Well, we've made it to Maine, the last state. I say we because I have joined Peeps for the final 2 weeks of her journey. I came out last weekend and we got on the trail Monday morning in NH, but after 16.5 miles we came across the state border in the middle of nowhere. We finished off with about 5 more miles for a huge 21.5 mile day. 20+ mile days have been hard to come by since she has hit the White Mountains. They are tougher than she imagined and she is getting pretty worn down. It was tough for me as well since my body isn't used to being on my feet that long and I'm not used to carrying 30+ pounds on my back. The hills are insane out here too. They don't believe in switchbacks so 1000 vertical feet in a mile is a common occurance. Following the path of least resistance is pretty rare too so any mountain between here and there and we'll climb it. There are been some great views when you're not surrounded by miles of trees in every direction.
Unfortunately due to my poor planning we've had to set an unreasonable schedule in order to catch our flight back to Colorado and after 3 days of this torture we couldn't take it any longer. We hitched a ride into Andover, ME (Good luck finding it on a map) and spent the night at the Andover Guest House. Kasey has left with no pack and minimal supplies and I have stayed back to try and find transportation. I may rent a car or I'll get the innkeeper to drive me half way to the next town then call a place in the next town to pick up our gear so that I can finish the day with Kasey. I'm off to get some breakfast then start making some calls. Wish us luck because we'll need it.