Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Appalachian Trail Symphony: Days 54-60 (Mozart in the Woods)

Wind Turbines in Maine
Day 54 - (8/3/16) 3.5 miles (Rattle River Shelter to near Brook 1 mile past Gorham)

Today was a short one mostly spent in Gorham, NH.  It was an easy 2 mile hike down to the road and I walked about 1 mile towards town before being offered a ride.  He drove me to the only grocery store in town, Wal-Mart, on the outskirts of the other side of town.  I must have been thinking about how I had to ration my food a bit near the end of the Whites because I spent twice as much as usual and bought too much food.  At first it didn't all fit in my pack!  The rest of the day I've been trying to eat as much as possible to lighten the load.  I took a bus from the Wal-Mart to the library and spent some good time blogging and emailing.  Still no phone reception, even in this town!  And I doubt the wilderness of Maine will be any better phone-wise.  I got back to the trail around 5pm and tried to hike up about halfway on Mt Hayes (2555ft) to what should be a brook, or so my guide says, .9 miles up the trail.  Hiking was tough because of my big pack, but 6:30pm arrived and still no brook.  I decided to camp, but have to really limit my water because perhaps the brook was dry and the next water is probably 4 miles away.  I end the day stuffed with food but mildly thirsty, with the heaviest pack yet.  I'm not sure if tonight or last night was worse.  Tomorrow may be a very slow day.  NH has certainly been much, much more filled with rocks than any of the other states.

Day 55 - (8/4/16) 10.2 miles (Near Brook 1 mile past Gorham to Gentian Pond Shelter)

This morning was tough trying to conserve water, I didn't even brush my teeth.  After a couple miles I made it to a "stream" that wasn't even moving, but at least had some standing water and I filled up a bit on that.  I did a light day today because my pack is still very heavy, but at least I am being well fed!  Just 5 miles to Maine now, my final frontier!  I'm also planning to tackle Mahoosuc Notch tomorrow, of which I've heard so much about.  The guidebook says it's the "Most difficult or most fun mile of the AT.  Make way through jumbled pit of boulders."  Using another hiker's phone, I was finally able to call Diane, and she and Mom are going to drive up to see me on Sunday near Andover, ME, although it's a 3-hour drive for them.  I started the day off not seeing anyone, feeling like the trail was practically abandoned, such a contrast from the Whites where there were lots of people and tourists around.  But here at the shelter there are quite a few and I've re-met some that I met in the Whites.  After Gorham, it's amazing how suddenly the trail is different.  Not 100 yards back on the trail after town, the bugs and flies are back.  The trail is less rocky and it is like I'm back in MA or VT again.  I'm definitely feeling a bit tired after the Whites and partly feel like I want this hike to end now, but I may never get another opportunity to do something like this again, so I need to live it up and enjoy it.
Made it to Maine!
Day 56 - (8/5/16) 12.3 miles (Gentian Pond Shelter to Mahoosuc Notch, North End (ME))
Snow in Mahoosuc Notch
Going under boulders in Mahoosuc Notch
Made it to Maine!  But it's been tough so far.  The last 5 miles of NH were fine, but after crossing into Maine the day got tough.  It was probably about 90 degrees and even though I was trying to go faster than yesterday and my pack weight was much more manageable, it was slow going.  Maine so far has been very light brown in color: the dirt, rocks, and trees, different than the other states.  It also felt like tangled messes of roots were everywhere which also slowed me down.  I got to the Full Goose Shelter, so named, I assume, because it's between Goose Eye Mtn and Fulling Mill Mtn, and I had a strange 5-minute stay there.  There was a large group of girls, maybe 10-12, most probably early teens but some looked pre-teen, and every single one had very short athletic shorts and a sports bra on.  And there didn't seem to be any adults around, it almost seemed like some girls version of "Lord of the Flies" was going on.  I filled up on water at the shelter, which I nearly ran out of twice today (It has definitely been a dry summer up here in Maine) and then I was determined to go through Mahoosuc Notch today.  Entering the notch was great, which I did around 5pm, because the sun was out of the sky and the notch was amazingly cool.  Just a drop of maybe 10ft at one point felt like a temperature drop of 20 degrees.  I felt more temperature shifts throughout the notch.  I'm no geologist, but I figure that because this notch is smaller than those in the Whites, the glacier that was in this notch during the last ice age left all these huge boulders with no extra room around them.  It's appropriate that the Olympics begin today, because going through the notch was quite an athletic feat (I actually was in Maine for the beginning of the last Summer games in 2012 while a fellow at the Bowdoin Festival in Brunswick.)  It took me about 1.5 hours to do the whole mile in the notch.  It was pretty enjoyable and fun, climbing over boulders, figuring out how to get down them, taking of my pack and figuring out how to get it and me through a tight squeeze or under some boulders.  I was exhausted though, and my knees were killing me.  It seemed like it went on forever!  It was so cool in places that down below in the cave areas there were some snow and ice patches, and this on a 90 degree day in August!  Luckily, there was a campsite right at the end of the notch, where I am camping tonight.  I think I saw a small pheasant today.  I was thinking back to when I was on Mt. Washington near the summit but taking a break on the way up.  I was sitting and just listening and looking out and thinking about John Foulds' "Mantra of Bliss".  Both grandeur, majesty, and tranquility up there.

New Hampshire words: Big, loud, difficult, rocky, awe-inspiring, exhausting, crowded, majestic, White, stillness in the midst of activity

Day 57 - (8/6/16) 12.8 miles (Mahoosuc Notch, North End to Frye Notch Lean-to)

Wild Blueberries
Maine has been tough so far.  For some reason, I just felt super tired during some of the climbs today, where I'd climb 10ft and feel like taking a rest.  It was that kind of day, 2 big ascents, nearly 2000ft Mahoosuc Arm, which felt like it went on forever, to Old Speck Mtn, and then climbing Baldpate, about 2300ft up.  I was dreading going up the final ascent to Baldpate.  Getting up to the west peak wasn't fun, but the climb over to the east peak was great.  The sun was going down, the wind was blowing and cool, probably 35mph but somewhat helping me up as I walked above the treeline on the bald rock.  Then coming down I picked delicious blueberries with an amazing view ahead of me, which made the tough day all worth it.  I forgot to say that the last mountain in NH was Mt Success, which of course I successfully climbed.  There was supposed to be rain and thunderstorms today, but we never got more than some light drizzle.  I feel like I keep getting lucky weather-wise.

View from Baldpate East Peak
Day 58 - (8/7/16) 10.5 miles (Frye Notch Lean-to to Hall Mountain Lean-to)

The view from Wyman Mtn
The 4.5 miles hike to the road this morning was wonderful.  It was cool and sunny and nearly felt like a fall day, and the trail was easy and nice.  I got to the road at 10:30am and Mom and Diane arrived a little after 11am.  It was very nice to see them and to get a bite to eat in Andover, a tiny town 8 miles from the trail.  They dropped me off at the trail a little after 3pm and I had a fairly easy hike 6 miles to the shelter.  There were dark clouds that rolled in during the afternoon hike and did drizzle a little but nothing else.  The last mountain of the day was Wyman Mtn, and there was an incredible view out over the mountains, a lake, and wind turbines.  The view had a real unique quality to it, perhaps because of the dark clouds, that I wanted to just sit there and look out for a long time.  There was also a part of a rainbow, and something inside me felt that this view was something I would never grow tired of and wished I could live right there at that spot to see it everyday.  I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.  Maine is quite something so far, and I hope to keep enjoying it.
Day 59 - (8/8/16) 12.8 miles (Hall Mountain Lean-to to Bemis Mountain Lean-to)

View on the way up Old Blue Mtn
Tough day today with some tough climbs.  The morning was very chilly, my clock/thermometer read 55 degrees this morning, the lowest I've seen it out here (and tonight may be even colder).  But I definitely prefer it to 90 degrees and sun beating down on me.  It was a steep descent and ascent in and out of Sawyer Notch and then down to South Arm Rd and up Old Blue Mtn.  It was chilly and drizzled a bit too, and wore me out.  The elevation profile tomorrow looks very mild and I'm going to try to get as close to the road to Rangeley, the next town, as I can.  I'm shooting to finish the trail on Friday, August 26th so Diane can came out to pick me up.  It might be tough to make it be then, but we'll see.  I do get the sense when I go into town that I am itching to get back out on the trail.  I've just embraced the smelliness and dirtiness and maybe I feel like I don't quite fit when I'm town.  I've heard stories about some hikers getting post-trail depression, but I doubt that'll happen with me, as I never got reverse-culture shock when coming back from living abroad. 

Day 60 - (8/9/16) 15.6 miles (Bemis Mountian Lean-to to South Pond)

Easier terrain today, and it looks like water sources will be more frequent from here on out.  I went by some beautiful ponds today, and it looks like there will be more of the same ahead.  I saw moos footprints in the mud and also a lot of droppings I assume are from moose, but no actual moose sightings yet here in Maine.  I've set up camp just 2 miles from the road to Rangeley, so I can head into town early tomorrow, on a nice little pond called "South Pond".  Unfortunately, a half-hour later, a group of probably 6 loud people decided that they were going to camp right next to me.  Not only are they loud and vulgar, but they are talking about starting a fire, right beneath the sign that says not to.  I was looking forward to listening and watching the pond tonight, but that's all ruined now.  It may be a long night.  I've realized that balance is so important on the trail.  Not just physical, which is very important too, but balancing the weight of food and weather, where you want to take as much as you need but not too much because it is then extra weight and makes the hiking harder, balancing saving money with wanting to stay in town, do laundry, and take a hot shower, balancing wanting to do a lot of miles in a day in order to end the hike on time and wanting to take time to enjoy everything you are passing and seeing.  I'm definitely dealing with a little bit of burnout and mental fatigue right now in wanting to be finished soon but still having 200+ miles and at least 2 weeks left.  I did pass 500 miles hiked today (cue the song)  but I'm finding it hard to get the motivation to hike sometimes, especially up hills even when they aren't very big.  I just need to keep reminding myself to enjoy it out here and I'll finish when I finish.  I don't understand these people that come out to camp here and just are loud and bug other people.  It's happened many times out here on this hike, and leaving trash and other things is another big problem.  Leave No Trace is so important, and plenty of people do not follow it.  I don't understand people's obsession with campfires either, and I really don't see the point when you have a camping stove instead.  

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