Sunday, April 11, 2021

Eating Humble Pie!

 Today, Day 3, my husband dropped me at the VT/NY border with Jasper, and we hiked across the bridge into Crown Point. It was a beautiful day, again, and my excitement was high to finally be in a spot where we had scoped out the trail markers. I was prepared for a lot of road walking, as that is what we found when driving around the previous day. My husband drove to Crown Point and walked to meet Jasper and me as we came across the bridge.

We then took the obligatory photos by the "eastern terminus" sign, and hiked through the park to the next blue blaze we found. It was odd that the route through Crown Point was not marked with blazes or markers, but we knew there was one after the park heading in the direction I needed to go. At this point, I had the National Geographic maps for Adirondack Park, which the NCTA website suggests using for this section of the NCT. So, I felt pretty confident in where I was headed. 

At this point, I was still not eating a lot due to the pain in the roof of my mouth as well as just feeling nauseous. I WAS drinking more water than I usually do, though. So, that was good. Also, I had been able to hold down the raisin bran breakfast I had consumed.

As I hiked along the highway, I enjoyed the views. One yard had a pen with chickens, but there were 2 ducks having sex in the pen. I chuckled to myself as I passed. Along the way, I passed a road sign that said, "Badger Way," and I thought of my nephew. Some road cyclists passed me and asked where I was headed. "To North Dakota," I screamed. They mumbled about that being a long distance by foot. I had to agree with them on some level. It made me smile to think that I was headed to North Dakota from Vermont. That was the first time I had really said it out loud to strangers. 

About 5 miles in, I came to where my map said I should go, but there were no blazes designating it as part of the NCT route. We had NOT driven this section the night before as we were happy with the number of blazes we had been seeing. I took a break on the side of the road to study my map further. Looking at the map, I could take the road I had turned onto and still basically make it to the same location as if I were to continue precariously following Hwy 9N to Hwy 2. So, I took off the way I had drawn on my map based on the interactive map on the NCTA website. The plan was to make it to Stony Lonesome B&B. 

Continuing to walk along the backroads, I made my way to Crown Point Center. I assumed there would be something like a gas station or even a small market, but there was nothing other than a flag post in the middle of an intersection of roads. I took another break to look at my map and make sure I was choosing the right road out of the 5 choices, and continued along Hwy 2. 

These highways are back mountain road highways, where there is no shoulder. So, at times, I feared for my life as trucks came screaming around curves. The nice thing along this route, though, was that it followed a river, and there were small turnouts occasionally. I used one of these turnouts to take another break, realizing that my break requirements were becoming closer and closer together. 

The sun was getting higher in the sky and it was getting hotter. I was drinking plenty of water and was working on the leftover lemonade that I had attempted to water down, but then added caffeinated Nuun to it later in the day. My legs and brain were tired and not having eaten much in the past 3 days was taking its toll. Reviewing my map again, I would attempt to determine how far I had to certain locations. Instead, I ended up frustrated because the mileage was NOT working out right. The distance I had already come looked like the distance I had left to go, and yet it took me less time and it was shorter. Between not having any blazes and feeling like my map was off, I was beginning to get frustrated on top of the exhaustion of not having any food.

Finally, I made it to the Penfield Museum, where I had decided I would stop for the day and wait for my husband. I had made it 13.5miles that day by about 1300. Not bad mileage considering I was feeling awful. It was not long after my arrival that my husband appeared, once again rescuing me from another failed attempt. 

When he found me, he mentioned he had been driving around trying to find the trail based on the maps on the NCTA website. He was not having any luck and getting frustrated himself. We drove the routes he had taken, veering off to drive the dirt road that based on my map I would have been hiking had I continued. There were residences scattered throughout the route, and still no NCT markers. We even stopped at the trailhead designated on the NCTA interactive map, and found no signs designating the NCT. Frustrated and defeated we headed to Ticonderoga, NY to stay for the night. 

Check-in time for the hotel was 1500, and it was only 1330. So, we had time to spare and decided to find a place to walk the dog. There is a beautiful park near downtown Ticonderoga where my husband had attempted to walk the dog earlier, but dogs were not allowed. Further up the river from that park was a nice paved path, which we ended up walking along for a bit. Every so often, I would stop to catch my breath and stop my head from swirling. Eventually, we got to a spot where I simply needed to sit down or I was going to pass out, and my husband was able to take Jasper into the river to cool off and do what he loves best...swim. :-) 

Once they had their fill of the river, we decided to head back to the car and look at maybe heading to the hotel to check in. As we walked back to the car, the city siren went off, and a couple of military helicopters circled the air. We joked about an air raid or something. Then the fire trucks started coming. 

About a block from our car, we found where the action was happening. There was a fire in a building near a gas station. As we watched the fire trucks arrive, we saw trucks from 3 different locations show up to help out, along with I think the entire population of the city on that day.  event was like the most exciting thing for many, it seemed. Admittedly, I have to say we stayed and watched for a quite a bit as well. I had a wild urge to get closer, but as I told my husband, I know how annoying it is when people crowd me at my job, so I stood back taking photos instead.

My husband noticed the smoke coming out of the window first, and pointed it out. This was NOT a fire drill or a practice exercise. We watched as the surrounding departments arrived, as community people attempted to park by a fire hydrant saved for the coming fire trucks. The ladder was secured to a window of the building, and the fire department appeared to be receiving stuff from inside and securing it away from the building. , we grew tired of watching, as it was moving slowly, and my energy level was quickly waning. Also, it was finally 1500 and we could check in to the hotel. 
We got to the hotel and got checked in. The room was nice enough, and I rested on the bed in the cool temperatures. My husband and I discussed what to do at that point, and decided I was returning to Colorado with him. The communities in upstate New York do not open until the 1st of May (most of them). The NCT route through there was not fully completed, let alone marked clearly. The parts that my husband and I walked/drove were populated enough that if I was having a bad day, it would NOT be easy to simply set up camp for the night and rest. I would be forced to do long miles and possibly risk camping on private property. 

So, we packed up the next morning, and headed back to Colorado, where I would make an appointment with my provider to see what might be causing the nausea and vomiting, and to decide what to do next. On the way to Vermont, I did the majority of the driving. On the way home to Colorado, my husband was forced to do a lot of the driving as I was still not taking in very many calories and felt dizzy and nauseous most of the way home. Also, every chance I got, I fell asleep, not a quality one is looking for in a driver. 

What took us 4 days to get there too us 2 days to return home. It was bitter sweet, but definitely the smart move. I thought I had conquered the vomit with exercise issue, but I realized I had not. It was not an altitude thing like I originally thought. It was not exhaustion from working long hours or overnight or multiple shifts. Who knows what the root cause is, but I plan to find out with the help of my provider. This will NOT keep me from getting back on the trail. It will only alter the way I look at the trail and my completion of the entire thing. 

As Chumbawamba says: "I get knocked down, but I get up again."

Saturday, April 10, 2021

A New Day, A New Decision

 Day 2, We woke up late, as I had decided the night before that I would give up on my idea of linking the Appalachian Trail (AT) to the North Country Trail (NCT) via the Long Trail (LT) due to the snow. My husband had scoped out the trail for Day 2 and said it was straight up and lots more of what we had conquered the night before. So, I decided to simply head into Middlebury, VT and start from what was supposed to be the new eastern terminus of the NCT at this point. 

When we got to Middlebury, we grabbed some brunch, which I had trouble eating due to extreme pain in the roof of my mouth when I tried to chew. So, I finished my chocolate milk, and wrapped up my sandwich for later. After that, we walked around the park a little before making a plan to go see if we could find the eastern terminus of the NCT. 

Based on the interactive map on the NCT association website, the eastern terminus at this point should be around Middlebury Snowbowl, so we headed up that way looking for blazes along the way. As we headed up Hwy 7, I saw what looked to be markers at a trail head on the side of the road. After making it to the Snowbowl and not finding anything that officially said, "Hey! Start here/Eastern terminus for the NCT," we decided to head back towards Middlebury until we found markers and then start from there. 

So, we made it back to where I had seen the markers, and I prepared myself to take off on a 15mile hike. These 15miles were basically what I had planned for Day 3 of the trip, so I was ok in shifting forward a little since I gave up on the connecting idea. Happily, I took off on the trail, excited to see actual NCT markers! 

The trail was extremely well marked through the area, and I knew from looking at the NCTA website that I followed what is called the TAM (Trail Around Middlebury) to get around Middlebury. It took me through a forested park, where I think there were people playing frisbee golf. Again, I was happy to be hiking on the trail. I was feeling some of the pains from the previous day, but knew those would work themselves out the more I moved and built muscle. 

Eventually, I came to a sign directing me onto what I thought was maybe a new section of the NCT being built, and followed signs for the NCT. Come to find out, this was the wrong decision as it looped me back to Hwy7 about a half mile up from where I had been dropped off. Frustrated, exhausted, and overheating, I texted my husband to come get me. 

When he picked me up, he mentioned having gone back into Middlebury, and finding that the College campus is closed to outside people due to COVID. So, even if I had followed the right path, which was the TAM vs the new trail, I would have needed him to pick me up and move me past the college campus. My husband also mentioned he did not see any trail markings for the NCT. This got us wondering and looking more at maps. 

Since it was past 3pm, we checked into the Middlebury Sweets motel, and accessed their WiFi to look at maps. Having found one that could be overlayed onto Google maps, we took off looking for NCT markers. There is something called the Blue Trail. According to the MALT/TAM website, this trail was created in 2012 with the plan to eventually be part of the NCT. It joins the TAM to get around Middlebury, but then breaks away on the northwest side to head for the VT/NY border and the next section of the NCT. We found this break and then decided to follow the trail to see if and how well it was marked for the NCT. 

Eventually, the trail came out and started to follow backroads to the NY/VT border and we found blue blazes at road junctures but nowhere else along the route. We found our way to Crown Point, the old eastern terminus of the NCT in NY. From there, we followed blue blazes into NY a bit before deciding to head back to the motel for the night. All this driving had formulated a plan for the next day to start at the VT/NY border, cross the bridge, and head into Adirondack Park. 

We returned to the motel, relaxed for the night, and I finished the half of my sandwich that I had started in the morning, despite the pain coming back on the roof of my mouth. I reviewed maps and websites until I could no longer keep my eyes open. I knew this trail was going to be challenging due to it still being under construction, but I guess I didn't realize just how challenging. 

Friday, April 09, 2021

Starting the Link


Day 1:

As with any new start, there is trepidation, excitement, and so many other emotions rambling around in the head. On this day, I was aware of all of them, but most of all excitement. I woke up to my alarm at 0600, and the room was dark. It made me wonder whether I was up too early, and whether I should maybe sleep another hour. After looking out the window, I realized it was just because the mountains behind us were blocking the actual sun, thus making it seem darker than reality. So, I hugged the dog and tried to convince him to come with me, but he wanted nothing to do with being awake at that hour. Once dressed and everything in my pack, I headed out the door, leaving the sleeping boys behind. 

Crossing the parking lot of the Inn, I started hacking coughing, and thought to myself, "just need to clear the city air out of my lungs." I was fine by the time I hit the trail on the other side of the Inn. As I climbed the trail that I had explored the day before, I found I was a little less stable and agile than the day before. Taking this hint, I slowed my pace a little and just enjoyed being out there.

After traversing the 1.5miles of trail that I had travelled the previous day, I reached Maine Junction, the eventual connector point of the North Country Trail (NCT) to the Appalachian Trail (AT) via the Long Trail (LT). My husband had run the first 3-4miles of this next section and told me I was going to have a great time. With that in mind, I happily moved along the trail looking at everything and breathing in the fresh air. It was a gorgeous day and I was feeling good. 

About 3miles in from Maine Junction, I came across a shelter, where I decided to stop and take a break.

In training, I was horrible at taking breaks, and realized I need to focus on making sure I take breaks, if I am to make it 4600miles. So, I stopped, filled my bottle with water and caffeinated Nuun, and took off my sweatshirt to replace it with my long sleeve sun shirt. As I mentioned it was a beautiful day, and already warming up at 0800. With everything packed back in my pack, I got moving again. The LT was reminding me what I disliked most about the AT...PUDs (pointless ups and downs), but it also made me giggle a little, and I kept repeating, "When in Doubt go uphill." 

About 7miles in to my day, I came across an amazing viewpoint and took another break. For about a mile or so I had been traversing a ridge above a big gorgeous lake, and I wanted to take a photo but the trees were in the way. Instead, I decided it would just be one of those images that I spoke of versus sharing with people. Then came this beautiful overlook, and I could not refuse.

At this point, my legs were feeling a little like jello from the PUDs, but I knew that was going to be part of the deal. The break was extremely welcomed and I felt refreshed after resting for a bit. During this break, I took time to move some snacks to the pockets of my pack instead of stuffed in my food bag in hopes of actually eating them. By this point, I had only had the 1 bottle of Nuun and a couple liters of water. At this stop, I made mulberry lemonade, a purchase I had made in Jackson Hole this past September with the intent of using it on my trip. Wow! That was sugary and not as tart as I was wanting, thus I would take a sip of that and follow it with 2-3 sips of water. 

Moving on, I continued to take the PUDs as they came and laughed to myself along the way. Occasionally, I would run into spots where snow covered the trail, but it was so well blazed that I simply had to look for the blazes to get across the snowfield. THEN, it hit. I was about 6miles from the end of a 20mile day when I hit a snowfield that had me postholing with every other step. This definitely slowed me down, as my watch was certain to notify me. :-/ I expected some snow, but was note prepared for what was to come.

Figuring this to be just a small snowfield, I moved across it with determination, constantly looking up to the ridge I was certain had to be my last climb before the decent into my finish line for the day. The sun was beginning to disappear behind the ridge, and I was beginning to worry about my husband thinking I was lost. As I got further into the endless snowfield, I started wishing for my husband to come find me and rescue me. I was tired, and the constant postholing was wearing on me heavily. My pace had slowed to less than 1mph, and the sun kept sinking lower. By this point, I was certain my husband had to be worried, despite being able to see my location on the Garmin InReach mini, or maybe because he could see my location was not changing much?

It was heavily dusk, when I heard the jingle of Jasper's collar and my husband's voice, and I sighed a huge sigh of relief. When he reached me, he asked if he could take my pack, and easily I said, "Yes!" He took my pack, I puked, and then put on his running vest that he had been wearing on the way up to find me. Having puked, my stomach/mind was now on alert to not feeling well. Together, we trekked across more snowfields trying to follow his footprints back to the car as the sun went to bed for the night. As we moved along, I required "sitting breaks" every few minutes as my stomach was lurching with every time my foot sank in the snow and jarred against the solid earth. 

Eventually, we made it to the last mile or so of the trail down, and there was less snow. We were able to move a little faster, but I was still weak from not having eaten too much and my episodes of vomiting. It was nice not to have to deal with the snow anymore. My feet were wet and cold, but my heart was beginning to grow lighter as we made better time. The worst was over, or was it? I started thinking about the next day and having to do it all over again. What was I thinking? I'm 16 years older and a lot more out of shape than I was when I started the AT in 2005. Do I really think I can do this full trail? 

When we got to the car, we threw everything in, and I commented about possibly not being able to do this. My husband closed all the doors to the car, told me to turn off my light (which at that point was the flashlight on my phone), and had me look up into the unadulterated star filled sky. Above me was Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Orion, and even a partial milky way. As my husband put his arm around my shoulder, I cried and said, "THIS! THIS is why I am out here." He nodded and we got in the car.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Getting There is Half the Battle

We departed from Colorado 3 April 2021, Saturday. I had just finished a week of work and celebrating my departure with friends and family. First stop in the long drive was Davenport, IA for the night. We tried for a Motel 6 that online said pet friendly, but got redirected to a Quality Inn. Accomodations were nice and we slept well, although anxiety and excitement woke me up early, and we got on the road, headed for stop #2.
It was Easter Sunday as we headed to the in-laws' house. I highly recommend traveling past or around Chicago on Easter Sunday. There were no backups. It was clear sailing through to the in-laws', allowing us to arrive by about noon. We unloaded our stuff, got hugs, had lunch, and settled in. I took the free time to play with the hammock sleep system I had bought a couple weeks prior. It works a lot better on trees than on the 4x4 boards at my house. 
We had the pleasure of seeing the niece and nephew that we don't get to see very often. Wow! How they have grown and matured. Such amazing young adults. Even Grandma and an aunt were able to stop by, and we celebrated birthdays. 
Despite being on a pull out, I slept well. The in-law's house is very conducive to sleeping, especially the basement. We woke up to our alarm, since we had crossed 2 time zones and needed to meet up with my father on the way to my mother's house. A quick breakfast was enjoyed and we said our goodbyes as we headed for lunch with my father.
At my father's, we enjoyed a bowl of chili and some conversation about his recent visit to Florida. He returned early basically because he was bored, people were not practicing social distancing, and for him it was too hot. It was a good visit, and I look forward to seeing him when I come through on foot in July. He lives only 5 miles off the trail, and it looks like I should be around his place for the 4th of July. Hopefully I won't be encroaching on his holiday plans. 
From my father's house, we grabbed the highway and headed for my mother's place, the place we would rest our heads for the evening. We got to her place about 1400 and unloaded. I plan to rely on my mother heavily for this adventure as she is retired and was a big supporter during my Appalachian Trail adventure. As I went through my stuff and explained what I had and hoped for to my mom, my husband went for a run after taking the dog for a quick jog around the property. My mom has 10 acres out in the boondocks. We got things figured out and then had pizza for dinner with a couple of members from my stepdad's family. It was an early evening, but enjoyable. My stepdad loves to feed my dog table scraps, and my dog doesn't mind in the least. 
The next morning, we woke up somewhat early as we wanted to get on the road by 0900 to make it to New York for the night. Due to COVID restrictions, we were not able to take the short route through Canada, so we had to go south to go straight across, thus adding 2 hours or better on to our travels. We made pretty good time, and so decided to go a little further than Buffalo, NY to Rochester, NY.

We stopped at a Super 8 hotel that was pretty busy, but were able to secure a room. It was NOT the best of accommodations. The bed cover was stained with what looked like blood, but my friend convinced me it was maybe red wine. The shear curtains on the window were shredded, and the property was lined with trash around the parking lot. We made the best of it, got some sleep, and were up early and on the road for the last portion of our drive. 
The last portion of driving was to the Inn at Long Trail, a place I had stayed at during my journey along the A.T. I had such fond memories with my aunts, who had picked Spice Rack and I up and taken us to get our packages from Killington, VT and then celebrated with us that evening in the pub. When we got to the Inn, there was a sign on the door that the place was closed for spring cleaning. I instantly scanned my emails to see whether I missed something, and I had. They had given me the offer to cancel my reservation, but that they would also still honor my reservation. The choice was up to me. So, we decided to keep our reservation even though the pub would not be open, and unpacked for the next 2 nights. Once unpacked, we decided to go explore. My husband went for a run to "do recon of the trail I would be hiking the next day," while Jasper and I hiked to Maine Junction, the point at which the NCT will join the A.T., and then up to the overlook and back to the hotel. It was beautiful and took me back 16 years to when I did the A.T. 
We reconvened at the hotel room after exploring and headed into Killington for dinner. After dinner of sandwiches made in our hotel room, I did my usual prep of shaving my legs and showering prior to my major adventure. With that completed, and my backpack ready to go for the next, I laid out my clothes, and headed to bed. Mentally, I was ready for this adventure to get started. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

10-14 Business Days

The start is growing ever closer. Anxiety and nerves are reminding me of my upcoming adventure with every day I tick off my calendar. Other than food, I think I have my pack figured out, although hiking in mud and slush this weekend has me wondering about a hammock concept. So, maybe things will change with my pack!? 

One thing that has helped me realize how close I am to starting is making sure all my I's are crossed and my It's dotted. We were wrapping up taxes, and my husband reminded me that my driver's license expires on my birthday this year. So, I got online and renewed. After paying, the receipt notified me to expect my license in 10-14 business days, but possibly up to 30 days. I looked at the calendar, and realized at that point that I only had 10-14 business days until I head for the start. So, I may at some point be walking with an expired driver's license while my updated one is safe here at home. That's ok with me. I don't plan on driving. If I get carded in a town trying to buy alcohol, and they deny my purchase, then it will be for the better. 

Besides making sure licenses are up to date, this past week at work was the first time I had to actually tell some of my patients I'm leaving soon. Other patients have known for a year or more, and I feel like that came out in casual conversation. The conversations this past week brought the reality of my departure closer to home. Basically, you're telling your family that you're leaving them. They are all so supportive, excited, worried, and probably so many more emotions, while also wondering whether I will return afterwards. At certain points, I feel like I'm abandoning them. Luckily, my fellow nurses are amazing, so I know everyone will be well taken care of. 

With my current anxiety, I decided to go back and read my blog posts from the start of the Appalachian Trail. It appears I was probably equally nervous for the start of that trail. So, all I need is to get out there and start walking. Everything will fall into place at that point. Luckily, my husband has informed his job that he might be out an extra week around the start of this adventure, as he may need to provide extra support. It is really going to be tough leaving him for such a long period of time. Thank goodness he is looking to join me more on this trail than on the A.T.