Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Minor Loss

Last night I said goodbye to an old friend, sooner than I would have liked. My faithful Fuji bicycle, my partner in commuting for the last three years, was stolen while I was at the library. She was locked up securely, but not securely enough I guess.

Together we'd criss-crossed over 13,000 miles of Los Angeles pavement on my route from Hollywood to Santa Monica.

I hadn't put any money into maintaining it recently, so most of the components were worn to the ground. By the time I walked home from the library, I was already at peace about the loss. Nevertheless, I was also hoping that whoever yanked it would land on their head when they changed my worn out gears.

This morning I picked out another bike online, since it's the main way I get around. This time I wanted a no-frills, ultra minimal bike to beat up that won't be as enticing to thieves. I settled on this generic fixie that flips to be a freewheel, and includes two brakes.

I like the orange I ordered. But if I have two weeks that I don't need to ride it, I found a nice forum that describes in step-by step detail how to repaint a bike with a custom color.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Story of Stuff

Have you ever wondered where all the stuff we buy comes from and where it goes when we throw it out?

Annie Leonard presents a well organized, and thought provoking presentation of this system in crisis. Visit The Story of Stuff where you can watch the movie in 4 minute chunks, or all 20 minutes at once.

My favorite part is in her conclusion, proposing another way.

"Some say its unrealistic. Too idealistic - that it can't happen. I say the ones who are unrealistic are the ones that think we can continue with the old way. They're dreaming.

Remember, the old way didn't just happen. It wasn't like gravity that we just have to live with. People created it, and we're people too. So let's create something new."

If you can't stand listening to some 'tree-hugger' talk about 'the environment' then this video is definitely not for you... Oh wait, yes it is. You live on this planet too.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Captain Morgan

One day we were hiking and met two hikers heading south. We said hello and began to pass, when I noticed a purple goatee and handlebar mustache scribbled on the face of the second hiker.

I said to him, "Hey, I like that look," to which the first hiker replied, "Yeah, he's trying something new," referring to his 3-day stubble, after which he kept on moving in a determined manner.

A minute later, we met two more hikers who looked like they might be a part of the same group, so we asked if they knew the story with the ones we'd just met. We learned that the first hiker had scribbled on the second guy's face several days earlier, and no one had told him yet. They had been calling him Captain Morgan, and he said he liked that as a nickname.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Adjustment - Part 5 - Los Angeles

Last night Lauren and I were reviewing our trip photos and each of us got choked up in our own way. I was transported back to the excitement I felt in Georgia as a novice thru-hiker, and the thrill of hiking through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Lauren was missing friends from the trail who we share deep connections, and the simplicity of life out of a backpack.

So many memories packed into this summer.

And who could forget Maine? We both agree we'd like to be there right now and see what goes on in those small towns and outposts during the deep winter.

Instead we're getting back into inevitable responsibilities of town life, but approaching them with renewed appreciation and focus.

Lauren has been looking to get back into her educational background in food science, which she's been out of for five years. She got a break this week when a food processing plant near downtown called on her to test samples in their microbiology lab. After two days, so far, so good!

I have been looking for design opportunities, while continuing to pursue entrepreneurial projects through my graphic design company, Studiofluid. One highlight has been doing identity and design work for our friend, Matt, who we met on the trail. His seasonings company is top-notch, and I'll be highlighting it when our work is complete.

Apartment Views

Today we awoke to a fantastic gift on the horizon, the snow covered peaks of the San Gabriels. The following photos are taken from the living room window of our new apartment.

Snow Capped San Bernardinos

Although our apartment isn't furnished yet (we sold most of our extraneous belongings on ebay and most of our furniture on Craigslist) the stunning views from our windows make up for the pile of cardboard inside. For the moment anyway...

Griffith Observatory

We've been settling into a pretty nice routine back here in Los Angeles. Each morning Lauren and I have been waking up together and going for a 5 mile walk. We head out our door and into the hills, past the Observatory, where we take in views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding peaks.

Downtown Los Angeles

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Meandering to the Middle East

A Seafaring Gentile is a blog about a young man's adventures, discoveries and observations while traveling abroad in Spain, Morocco, Egypt and beyond. He also happens to be my younger brother.

When you get used to his writing style, his vibrant depiction of humanity is quite engrossing. I'm not sure how often he plans to update, but when he does the stories and photos are quite inspiring.

Be well, man. I'm proud of you. I hope you find what you're looking for and much more.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Some Call it Winter

The rains are officially upon us. We woke up and looked out the window, excited by the promise of thick gray clouds and the cool dreary mood. I don't think it has rained in Los Angeles since we left seven months ago.

Rain is a rare blessing here in Southern California. I think we typically have only 10-14 rainy days all year, all within the months of November to April. Aside from the renewing and life-giving properties, when it rains, life is different. The pace of life slows down. People don't leave the house. Traffic comes to a grinding halt. It's literally headline news. People here react to a rainy day as a hardy new-englander might react to a severe ice storm.

I was a wimp this morning and decided to do some yoga stretching instead of venture out into the downpour. Quite a contrast to life on the trail, where we would venture forth regardless of the conditions. Lauren joined me, and then went out for a walk anyway.

As I look out our windows, I delight in the anticipation of what is to come. The scorched earth of the San Gabriel Mountains will be quenched and the threat of fire will fade away. The vegetation will once again begin to grow, and stabilize potential mudslides. Everything will turn lush and green. Soon we'll look out and see the snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains towering above 10,000' in the distance.

As a native of the east coast, it's a stretch for me to call it winter, but I love this time of year.

- - - -

UPDATE: This evening I happened to turn on the evening news to see a "special live report" from a news correspondent. He was showing viewers how to use their windshield wipers and check their wiper fluid. Surreal to say the least.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Appalachian Trail Journeys

Last week we finished writing a short article describing our volunteer experience on the boundary in the Mahoosucs. The article will probably run in Jan/Feb issue of the A.T.C. publication Appalachian Trail Journeys with accompanying photos, so be on the lookout for it.

Why Does A Salad Cost More Than A Big Mac?

Cheap and filling food is far more prevalent these days rather than nutritious options. On the trail, it was disturbing to see the limited options for the locals, especially in the south.

Jason Kottke pointed out a thought provoking article about the new "Farm Bill" and how Government spending does not match-up with its own Nutrition Recommendations.

The bill provides billions of dollars in subsidies, much of which goes to huge agribusinesses producing feed crops, such as corn and soy, which are then fed to animals. By funding these crops, the government supports the production of meat and dairy products -- the same products that contribute to our growing rates of obesity and chronic disease. Fruit and vegetable farmers, on the other hand, receive less than 1 percent of government subsidies.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Them Damn Kids

We just found out that one of our friends from the trail, "Lifesaver" has released an album with his band "Them Damn Kids," under Chestnut Tree Records. They have a fragile, melodic sound, that Lifesaver shared with us at various points along the trail on an acoustic guitar.

They will be touring the west coast next month, actually playing down the street from us in Hollywood on December 2, 2007. See you then, Lifesaver!

- - - -

UPDATE: Nice job at the show, Lifesaver. It was good to see you and catch up. Sorry we couldn't stay until the end. We're enjoying your CD.

Adjustment - Part 4 - Los Angeles

We're back on the west coast and doing quite well.

We ended up switching our plane tickets and returning two weeks earlier than anticipated, which has turned out to be an incredibly refreshing decision. After being nomadic since April, it feels good to have a stable place to call our own, and to make headway with all of the adjustments of health care, jobs, and other loose ends.

Our new place is approximately one mile from where we used to live, and we couldn't be happier. It's quiet, with nice breezes and on the fifth floor of a seven story building; we rarely take the elevator just to prolong our trail legs a bit longer. From our living room we look out to the mountains, Griffith Observatory & Hollywood Sign, Downtown, and two Frank Lloyd Wright houses.

Our friend was moving out as we were returning, so we were able to take over the lease and slip in at a way-below-market rent. Half the price of our old apartment, or 1/3 the price that our old landlord is charging since we've left!

You can reach us at our new address:
Ben and Lauren Thompson
5217 Hollywood Blvd #508, Los Angeles CA 90027

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

15 Minutes

Yesterday Lauren and I appeared in her hometown newspaper, The Gloucester County Times. The columnist, Bob Shyrock, heard about our trip from friends (Jack and Jean) who have been faithful followers of our trip blog.

Bob regularly highlights local people and places and gave us a call last week. Our phone interview lasted about 45 minutes and we thought he did a nice job composing the article.

Our only footnotes would be that we slept mostly under our tarp on the trail, not in shelters - and that my sister Hannah is actually 9-years-old. But overall... very accurate!

You can find the article here, if you want to take a look.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Shenandoah Ranger Photo

Shenandoah Ranger

We have a Google alert that automatically notifies us any time someone posts the phrases "Stitch and Figgy" or "Figgy and Stitch" to the web.

This one was kind of interesting: I guess the guy in the green shirt in our photo posted this image to his web album here.

Be careful about what you write about “Stitch and Figgy!”

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I am writing this post as we traverse Pennsylvania by train, en route to my parent's house in Pittsburgh. Lauren and I have been reading our trail journals to each other, sharing with each other our notes and perspectives from the trail for the first time. So far we're two weeks in, just reliving some of the emotional and physical highs and lows of the Smokies.

Today's train route was something I hadn't given any thought to, and was overjoyed when I looked out the window to see the Susquehanna River and the familiar views of Duncannon, PA. I couldn't contain my exclamations and pointing when I saw the Doyle Hotel, the old sled factory, and the exact underpass where our footsteps crossed these tracks just three months earlier.

Each time we encounter the trail I am overcome with a flood of emotions, and a sense of nostalgia one might expect from an old-timer telling stories of "back in my day..."

So far we've intersected the A.T. four times since completing our thru-hike. First in Killington near the Inn at the Long Trail, and again near the Clarendon Gorge in Vermont. A few weeks ago we crossed at the southern end of Harriman State Park near Tuxedo, New York, and now again today on our Amtrak rails.

Appalachian Trail Drive PA-76

Before hiking the trail I would drive the PA-76 turnpike and daydream about the A.T. passing by on the concrete bridge above. Now I know.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Remembering the Hikers of 2007

Smoky Mountain Diner

One of the main attractors (or detractors) of hiking the Appalachian Trail is the number of other long distance hikers out there. Even if you start out late, as we did, you're bound to run into the 'herd' of hikers at some point. For us, that began around the halfway point, when we reached Boiling Springs, PA.

If you prefer solitude, the A.T. is probably not the trail for you. But if you can drop some of those expectations and embrace the unique traits that distinguish A.T. from other trails, interacting with the hiking community can be enjoyable.

As a fun challenge, last week Lauren and I began compiling a list of every long distance hiker that we personally met on the A.T. this summer. Our list of trail names can be found here.

Some of these were section hikers and some were aspiring thru-hikers. Some we met for 5 seconds, a few became recurring parts of our journey, and with some we shared a deeper connection.

We were actually surprised by how many hikers we met over the summer, probably because we were covering slightly more mileage than most. In total we were able to remember over 225 people that we met on our journey, simply because they adopted a unique trail name.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Adjustment - Part 3

Lauren and I are down visiting her sister and husband in Virginia, where I spent the better part of the day helping to install new windows into their townhouse. Being engaged in something constructive felt decisively good.

We've been in contact with trail friends and we're certainly not the only ones facing transitions, sometimes awkward ones. I've compiled a short list of some recurring themes that I've experienced or heard:

Jumping back into an old routine, where everyone is doing the exact same thing they were doing before. Unspoken expectations resulting in tension or disagreement. Well-meaning people concerned about thru-hiking as an irresponsible lifestyle pattern. Automobile traffic. Finding people generally can only relate on the topics of buying things and what job is next. Superficial conversations.

The post-trip adjustment period is one that faces all thru-hikers, yet resources and information regarding the subject are few compared to the abundance of pre-trail and on-trail material.

My friend, Crow, was on the PCT this year and I appreciated her brief reflection on reentry from the trail.

Personally, I think the important thing is to not get hung up on the "trail life vs. the real world" mindset, and to embrace each day we're given.

On the trail I improved my ability to live in the present moment, which is a mindset I'll continue developing. The so-called "real world" is whatever we make of it, each and every day.

Books About the Trail

For better or worse, Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods is the highest selling book about the Appalachian Trail. Many thru-hikers come out to the A.T. because of that book, and for many other non-hikers, it is the only source of information that they have about the trail.

While a humorous and often interesting read, Bryson's aim was to sell books, not necessarily present an accurate picture of the trail or thru-hiking. If the cover is any indication, it features a sensationalized man-eating Grizzly bear, which aren't found anywhere east of the Mississippi let alone on the Appalachian Trail.

Although I am not as critical of the book as some, I am unimpressed with some of Bryson's decisions in presenting the trail. Here are a few of my objections:

  • Bryson hiked less than 800 miles of the trail, mostly as day hikes, yet postures himself a thru-hiker.

  • Bryson perpetuates cheap-shot negative stereotypes of southerners that are unnecessary.

  • Bryson purportedly admits that bumbling sidekick, Katz, is made up - created from pieces of his own personality - and included for comic relief.

  • Their actions on the trail are frequently disrespectful to the landscape and to other hikers - setting a poor precedent for those unfamiliar with proper backcountry practices.

  • Bryson profits immensely from the book, but has not donated any proceeds back to the trail unless done anonymously.

The exposure his book brought to the A.T. has been dubbed as the "Bryson Effect." In the years following publication in 1999, more people attempted thru-hikes than ever before, leadng to overcrowding and poor trail conditions.

Since 2005 I have been following the buzz about the book being adapted into a movie with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Last I heard there is still no script, but hikers on the A.T. this year met crews who were filming establishing shots and landmarks. I can only imagine the mixed blessing that such a movie would bring to the Appalachian Trail. I am just glad to have hiked it before the circus, if it ever does become a movie.

If you're curious about the book, I'd advise checking it out from the library and saving your money for a donation to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy - just be aware that his story is a humorous embellishment, with loose creative license, and is not representative of a real thru-hike experience.

Recommended Reading

For something more substantial, I heartily recommend Earl Schaffer's beautifully written Walking With Spring - a reflection of his 1948 hike as the first person to walk the A.T. from end to end.

As Far as the Eye Can See by David Brill, is another good choice for a trail memoir about his 1979 hike. I enjoyed how it was organized in topical chunks, rather than the default (often dry) chronological account.

Blind Courage by Bill Irwin, a legally-blind man who walked the entire trail with his guide dog. I can't remember how many times he said he fell down, but the trail is difficult enough to complete for sighted people...

and one bonus:

A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela and Duffy Ballard. This well written account of their thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Lauren and I enjoyed reading about another couples' experience on a long distance hike.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Photographic Prints

AT in the Moss

Several readers have contacted me about the possibility of purchasing enlarged prints from our A.T. trip photography archives.

Now that I am back from the trail, I am in a position to explore the quality and cost of enlargements, as well as framing options.

I will post in the future confirming details of pricing and availablity. Please contact me if you already know you are interested:

thompson {dot} ben {at} gmail {dot} com

Let me know:

  • the title and description of photo(s)
  • framed or unframed
  • desired size: 4x7 , 5x9, 8x14

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Adjustment - Part 2

Our current state of not being "productive" or actively doing something is a strange adjustment. On our adventure we were without many responsibilities, but we were still walking 20 miles per day. Sitting around reading or watching a movie just feels foreign.

Last night I tossed and turned all night, awake for most of it. I discovered that since I did not walk yesterday, although I was sleepy when I went to bed, my body was too restless to get much sleep. Good to know. Today we went for a hike with Lauren's parents and sister.

Several toes on my left foot continue to be numb, a condition caused by pounding that is not uncommon among long-distance hikers. I understand it is usually temporary. It doesn't hurt, but just feels weird. It is also still uncomfortable for me to walk around barefoot, since the bottoms of my feet are a bit tender. I heard from another hiker that this might last about a month.

Unfortunately Lauren's blood sugars are still running high. A transition period can be expected, but she caught a cold that was going around and that certainly did not help because it only elevates them.

Final Night at Gorbo's

I have heard from our friends He-Man & She-Ra, Gorbo and Turbo Turtle. It seems that they each are experiencing similar transition hurdles. And a big congrats to He-Man and She-Ra who got married a couple days ago - something that didn't pan out for them at the base of Katahdin - but must make for another layer of post-trail transition!

This week I mustered up the courage to sort trip boxes, re-connect our cell phones and tackle the pile of bills and correspondence that need attention. I feel back in the swing of things a bit.

My friend Will, who has thru-hiked the PCT encouraged me in an email saying, "I hope your reentry will forever be superficial." After the thrill and clarity that comes with an epic adventure, that's what I'm hoping for too.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Adjustment - Part 1

We successfully caught a ride from our friend Tom down to PA where Lauren's dad picked us up and brought us to their home in New Jersey. During the 8 hour ride we discovered that if we banged on our knees with empty glass bottles it relieved the aching, and provided amusement for Tom.

Somehow summer still lingers here in NJ. Seems like the same story everywhere... what's going on? The late finishing thru-hikers must be enjoying some favorable October conditions.

I feel exhausted. Each morning I want to sleep in, by the afternoon I want to take a nap, and at 9pm each night I'm ready to turn in for bed. Walking and being active seems to help, though.

We've been taking daily walks through the farm country of southern NJ and even took an afternoon hike on Saturday with Lauren's parents. Four to eight miles per day is what we've been averaging. This morning I did some yoga stretching and took a nap in the sun.

Lauren's blood sugar levels have been far too high, waking up each morning above 400 and rarely coming down below 200 (normal levels are 70-120). We changed out her insulin yesterday, hoping to see improvement, but sometimes her body takes over a full week to adjust to new diet and activity levels. Her birthday is tomorrow and we have not figured out how we will celebrate.

Our boxes are piled in the spare bedroom. Backpacking gear, unused trail food, stacks of letters and bills, town clothes and other miscellaneous items need our attention for sorting. I feel a bit overwhelmed by the task, but expect to start tomorrow.

Right now I'm uploading photos from the final leg of our trip and hope to comment about them on the blog this week, as I have internet access.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Maine in the Fall

Two words sum up our experience of Maine in the Fall: Leaves and Moose. During our hike we had the good fortune to enjoy both.

Looking up from the Trail

Although September has been unusually dry, and the leaves did not change as vibrantly as they sometimes do, it made up for some of the falls we've missed on the west coast.

Patches of Color

We were not hiking during the peak color - which surprisingly still has not arrived - but that also meant we never had a below-freezing night on the trail.

Our Own Red Carpet

While hiking the Appalachian Trail through New Hampshire and Maine, we saw a trip total of 5 moose. But when we hit Abol Bridge, the northern border of the "100 mile wilderness," we saw at least that many, this time lifeless with tongues hanging out.

Moose Check Station Ahead

In late September and early October Maine has a 2 week lottery-system moose hunting season. We arrived at Abol Bridge on the second day of the season and watched a half dozen proud hunters bring their moose in for registration.

Moose Season in Maine

The clerk at the country store walks out to each truck and takes a few measurements to document the moose for state records. The climax is when they tear out a tooth with pliers or screwdriver so it can be analyzed by a biologist for research purposes. We watched this procession repeatedly through the afternoon, from our front row seats at the picnic table.

Interesting, but we certainly preferred our previous moose encounters.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Back in the Land of Cotton

Hitching to Millinocket

After our five month excursion, our bodies tell us they want to be in motion. It is very difficult to sit still for more than an hour. I find myself wanting to stretch, walk, do push ups, or calf raises on a step. This condition is exaggerated when travelling in a confined space, which we've been doing lately.

After a shuttle from Millinocket to Medford and then a bus on to Bangor, ME - we split a rental car with some fellow hikers who drove to New Hampton, NH where we stayed with our friend "Gorbo" (his winter hiking website). In the morning we rode on with "Safari-26" and "Turbo Turtle" to a quick stop by the Inn at the Long Trail to see what hikers had signed in after us. Shortly after they dropped us off in Rutland Vermont, as they continued on to the mid-west.

We've been spending a few days in Rutland, VT with friends from the Twelve Tribes who we originally met at Trail Days and then stayed at their hostel when hiking. Lauren and I have been learning how to make Spelt bread in their bakery and are decompressing from our summer at the café. It is enjoyable to work together learning something completely new. We look forward to continuing the momentum and unity we've experienced and discover how that develops in the chapter of our lives.

Later this week we're planning to reconnect with Sally and Ellen from the Mahoosucs Boundary Project and see our friend, Tom, who is also in the general area. If he is still headed down to the ALDHA (American Long Distance Hiking Association) convention, we're thinking we may be able to share a ride with him - although we won't be attending.

Many people have written us with congratulations and asked about how we're feeling. So far, we are feeling relaxed, satisfied and proud of completing such a rewarding undertaking.

What a treat to be clean and wearing cotton again, which we picked up at the thrift store in Rutland. Now I just need to find some comfortable shoes so I can destroy my wretched hiking shoes and also get out these $2 flip-flops.

Thanks Again For the Generosity

We are grateful to the companies that helped propel us along the way and wanted to say thanks again for the generosity and nutrition. Lauren and I are both deeply appreciative.

In particular, the folks at Valley Fig Growers have been amazing, mailing to us in whatever town and in whatever quantity that Lauren needed them. Unbelievable, really. Linda, Julie and everyone else back in California - Thank You!

Friday, September 28, 2007

We've Run Out of Trail


We summited Katahdin just before 8am on September 27, 2007. The northern terminus of our 2,174 mile journey on the Appalachian Trail. (Yesterday I left a message with my sister, Bethany, who will post when she finds time between college classes. Thanks for your huge commitment this summer, Bethany!)

We are elated, satisfied and happy not to be walking in the rain this morning. We're in Millinocket Maine this morning, enjoying coffee and breakfast at a diner. I will be posting more stories and photos as I have available internet access. We are taking it slow and lying low for the time being, just adjusting back to town life.

Katahdin at Sunset

Our view of Katahdin from Abol Bridge, just 10 miles to the north. What an amazing mountain and conclusion to our adventure.

Breaking Fog

We began our summit attempt at 4am. The fog lifted just after 5am giving us sweeping views of the surrounding peaks.

We were joined by "Turbo Turtle" and "Safari-26" on our steep boulder scramble up Katahdin. Our friends "He-Man" and "She-Ra" summited with us as well, barely visible in the background of the photo above.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

We Did It!

Yee Haw!

(Phone message transcribed)

I am standing at a payphone in Millinocket, ME. We summited Katahdin this morning. We have completed all 2,174.8 miles of the Appalachian Trail and feeling great.

Last night we went to bed at 7:30pm and awoke this morning at 3am. We were on the trail by 4am with our friends He-Man, She-Ra, Turbo Turtle and Safari-26. The five of us made our way to the summit by around 8am. We broke through the low-hanging fog while we were partway up and were able to have clear views of the mountains and Tablelands.

Climbing Katahdin

Just as we approached the very top, at the sign is where we became completely socked in by the clouds. We took some photos and made our way back down, and were completely off the mountain by the time it truly started to rain.

The Six Summiteers

It is difficult to process what is going on. I don't exactly know how I feel. I definitely know that we are glad to be done, and to have completed sun an amazing undertaking. I'm sure in the next few days and weeks we'll experience some of the mixed emotions that are inevitable, but it feels great to be where we are right now.

I think I'm going to head across the street and meet up with Lauren at the Appalachian Trail Cafe, grab a coffee and hopefully head out to the Blue Ox Saloon tonight and celebrate with some of our fellow thru-hikers who have also compteted the trail.

I plan to continue posting regularly with photos and commentary on the last stretch of our journey.

For now, signing off for the last time during our hike. We did it!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

One Week and Counting!!!!!!!

100 Mile Wilderness

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

Good morning! Today is Thursday, September 20, 2007. We’re calling from the Monson General Store at a pay phone outside. We’re moments away from getting a hitch back to the trail. We’ve got probably seven or eight days of food as we are carrying all the food that we need to reach Katahdin and summit, as well as the night afterwards. We plan to climb Katahdin and Baxter Peak, one week from today, September 27, 2007. We’ve got one extra buffer day thrown in there in case of weather or anything else.

Lake Hebron

Lauren has a wrap on her ankle. A friend gave her some extra pain killers in case that she needs them (they would normally be behind lock and key, haha!) Our friends Josh and Sarah (aka He-Man and She-Ra) surprised us by catching up with us yesterday. We all stayed at the same lodging in town called Shaws.

Anyway, our packs are pretty much maxed out as far as capacity and weight. They have no frame in them so they feel quite heavy on our shoulders. I’m probably carrying about 35 pounds and Lauren is probably carrying 25 pounds. We’re hoping for a really great stretch here to finish out the trip strong! That’s the news from town, and we will probably not be in contact with anyone for the next week. Thanks to everyone for keeping up with us and for all the encouragement!!!

Over and Out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Update - Monson, Maine (Mile 2059.5)

Today we hiked to ME15 after six miles, and hitched into the friendly town of Monson, Maine. With mixed emotions we're enjoying our LAST trail town before Baxter Park and our climb up Katahdin. This afternoon we're relaxing, preparing for our final stretch, and spending the night at Shaw's Lodging. We'll be loading up with 7 days of food, so we can take it nice and easy in the 100 mile "wilderness."

Descending from Avery Peak

Our traverse of the Bigelow Range was one of our more dramatic moments on the trip. Avery Peak - named for 1930's A.T. visionary and builder, Myron Avery - was stormy and covered in clouds all day except for the hour that we passed over. The clouds swirling along the ridge line and Little Bigelow peaking through made our day!

Floating Bog Bridges

On Monday (9/17) we hiked to the Kennebec River, where we were safely escorted across by M.A.T.C. ferryman Steve Longley. The river was about 6 feet deep where the trail crosses, and has a dam upstream that automatically releases more water during increased power demand. The Maine Appalachian Trail Club has paddled over 9,000 hikers across this river in the last 30 years.

The Moss is Crimson Now

We're delighted by all kinds of colorful surprises as September comes to a close. This week we discovered that the bright green moss we've been seeing all summer is now turning to an intense crimson.

Pleasant Pond Foot Soak

So far we've seen three moose and heard another running away. This one was just north of Andover. We watched each other for several minutes before parting ways.

Our Best Moose Sighting

Cousin Amy, we received the congratulations card at the Post Office today. Thank you so much! There is no town of Katahdin, Maine - so they figured out where to send it to us anyway.

Also Known As...

When on the trail, Lauren and I go by our trail names "Stitch" and "Figgy" for reasons I describe in this post.

Over the course of the trail we've had a few people either mis-hear our names, or forget them and make some improvements. We thought we'd share some of our favorites below:


  • Fitch
  • Hitch
  • Stitches
  • Stench

  • Twiggy
  • Piggy
  • Ziggy
  • Fergie
  • Dates

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nothing Like A Lumber Jack Breakfast

Lumberjack Breakfast

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

It is Monday, September 17, 2007. It’s a little before 9:00 in the morning. Lauren and I are calling from the Harrison Camp. We just stopped by the Ken Harrison Cabin for a lumberjack breakfast of 12 pancakes, coffee (Lauren's Favorite!), and eggs. We’re sitting now, by the Pierce Pond Stream, looking out of the living room at the waterfall and early morning sunlight.

Bridge to Harrison Camp

This morning we are at mile 2,019.2. We have about an hour long walk continuing northward to the Kennebec River. That river has the reputation for being the most formidable crossing on the trail where a canoe takes you across, leaving from two different schedules during the day. We hope to catch the ferry that leaves between 9:00am and 11:00am.

Steve Longley on the Kennebec

Lauren’s ankle is still painful but holding up okay. The terrain has leveled out quite a bit though. Yesterday, we came down from the Bigelow Range, which is the last significant mountain range until we reach Kathadin! It looks like we’re going to have another 150 miles of smooth cruising. And the weather seems as if it is going to hold out giving us sunshine and crisp temperatures for the rest of the week. We’re still doing well!!

Pierce Pond

That’s about it for now. Over and Out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another Day in Stratton, Maine

Stratton, Maine

We decided to stick around Stratton for an extra day today, giving Lauren's shin splint some extra time to recover. She is feeling somewhat better, but is definitely walking gingerly. We are going to walk a few miles north of Stratton tonight and be ready for a full day tomorrow.

We are about 2 days from Caratunk, and then 3 days from Monson - our final town stop, where the final “100 mile wilderness” begins.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Update - Stratton, Maine (Mile 1986.2)

Maine's Boggy Beauty

After drying out in Rangely on Monday, the following two days en-route to Stratton have been the most challenging conditions we've faced on the trip.

Our 9am climb over the Saddleback Mountains on Tuesday (9/11) was above treeline and consisted of several hours of slippery steep rock slabs in howling wind. We hiked through rain-laden clouds that deposited their moisture as they whipped past. In such conditions we struggled to make more than one miler per hour. Although the temperatures were probably in the high 40s, the wind chill numbed our hands and reminded us to keep moving to retain our body heat.

Perham Stream

I did not bother with a photo during that stretch, in the interest of the camera's and our own well-being. All told, we did hike a surprising 15 miles that day and saved our insulating clothing for camp, where we were cozy through the night.

We heard later from our friends Josh and Sara (aka He-Man and She-ra), that by time they arrived at the same summit 4 hours later, the gusts were strong enough to move a 175lb person (maybe 70mph). They retreated to treeline where they huddled in their tent for 18 hours, before heading 6 miles back into Rangely to regroup.

A Quiet Morning Moment

The following morning was difficult mentally to put our toasty feet into cold, wet socks & shoes and then head out into the same blustery and soaking conditions. Fortunately our day was entirely below treeline and we were pleasantly surprised when the sun pierced the clouds by 10am. By the afternoon, the winds were strong and the clouds had broken up allowing views from the Crocker Mountains. With that encouragement we continued on all the way into Stratton by 5pm where we found a comfy hotel room at the White Wolf Inn.

View from Crocker Mountain

It's been almost three weeks since we took a complete day of rest (our "days off" doing trail work didn't count...) and we've been feeling the effects. Lauren's right ankle has been increasingly bothering her with an overuse injury that is probably a shin splint.

Yesterday it took her an above-the-doctor-recommended dose of Advil to make it into town. Today she is completely off of her feet resting in our hotel room. We may take another day off tomorrow for good measure, but will make that call in the morning.

Colors are Beginning

Now that the rain has passed through, our skies are clear blue and the temperatures distinctly crisp. Fall is upon us in the northeast, and the first changing colored leaves are beginning to poke through.

It is difficult to believe that we are now 187.8 miles from the northern terminus of the trail, Katahdin.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Katahdin Is the New Maine

Bog Logs

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

Today is Monday, September 10, 2007. It’s the afternoon and I’m calling from Rangeley, Maine, mile 1,954. Yesterday, Lauren and I hiked through a lingering rain storm. It was a pretty chilly night and we were damp when we arrived into camp and we worked together to set up our tarp in the rain, climb inside, change into warm clothes and have dinner.

The terrain in this part of Maine is pretty unique to our trip. It seems that most areas have about 6 inches or less of soil and then beneath that it is solid rock. As it rains, there’s not much soil to absorb it and it all runs either into the trail or into a low lying boggy area. We were walking through quite a lot of slippery mud, exposed roots and “bog-logs.” After walking in the rain yesterday, it gave us quite a new appreciation for the geography that makes Maine so unique.

Drying out On Rangeley Lake

Today we are taking half a day off in Rangeley, Maine. It’s somewhat of a touristy town, vacation spot on a lake, quite scenic. We spent the morning sipping on coffee and catching up in our journals. This afternoon we are going to do some laundry and then we will be heading out of town, trying to make two more miles tonight before it gets dark. We’re having a great time. As of this moment we have 220 miles left to Katahdin and it’s pretty hard to believe! We’re coming up on two weeks left on our journey and I can’t quite fathom it.

Rangeley, Maine

One interesting thing that we’ve been noticing is that we can’t tell people that, “Oh, we’re walking to Maine,” which is what we’ve been doing. Lauren said that to someone already and they said, “Well, you’re in Maine!" Lauren commented in her journal that Katahdin is the new Maine. So that’s where we’re telling people that we’re headed now! We’re doing great.

That’s it for now. Over and Out.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Update - Andover Maine

As one might guess, Maine has been incredibly beautiful so far, although unseasonably warm. We were in the 80s today!

Crawling in the Notch

Lauren and I hiked through the rugged Mahoosucs over the last couple days. The Notch and Arm were quite challenging stretches and slowed us down quite a bit. At certain points you need to take off your pack and crawl under house-sized boulders.

Moose In the Notch

It took us about 2.5 hours to come through the nothch, mostly because Lauren's sugars were not all that strong and she was also spooked by the grusome moose carcass that is literally on the trail. (He fell down the cliffs over a month ago and we've been hearing about it since Massachusetts. He was "mercy-killed" after 5 days and now has prayer flags over him.)

Stealth Site in Maine

Our stealth camp sites at night have been some of our most favorite of the trip. The weather has permitted us to sleep out under the stars or under a canopy of trees, without using our tarp.

Our Trailer

Our friends at the A.T.C. made arrangements for us to stay with "Bear" and "Honey" at "The Cabin" in East Andover. The cabin is actually fairly full so they put us up in the pop-up outside. When hikers wash clothes we usually wear our raingear, so complimentary wash duds are always a treat.

Thank you for the notes and encouragement... Lourdes, Adrian, Matt...
We're having so much fun.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Welcome to Maine: The Way Life Should Be"

Welcome to Maine

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

Today is September 5, 2007. I’m calling from the Carlow Col Shelter in Maine, on Sally's cell phone. We are at mile 1,893.1 and Lauren and I officially crossed into our final state: Maine. We were greeted by a sign that said, “Welcome to Maine, the way life should be.” So far, I can’t disagree with that.

We had a nice day of boundary trail work with Sally and Ellen. Lauren and I were responsible for what’s called swamping, where we pick up pine bowels and trees that were cleared and then Lauren followed up with nailing some boundary signs up along with some yellow paint. Anyway, we’re excited to be where we are! The temperatures are definitely beginning to be crisp, cool, and fall like. We’re looking forward to all of the great color and scenery that we have ahead.

Lauren’s ribs are still quite a bit tender, so she’s been hiking quite a bit slower because of that. Tomorrow we are headed through what’s known as the slowest mile of AT known as the Mahoosuc Notch. It’s about a mile of boulders and it’s kind of like a rubble field that we’re going to go through in the middle of the box canyon. I guess that’s the news from the trail. We’re excited to have less than 300 miles.

That’s it for now. Over and Out.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Almost to Maine...CRAZY

Twilight on Mount Hight

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

Good morning! It’s about 10 am on Tuesday, September 4, 2007. Lauren and I spent the last couple of nights at our friend Ping’s "hut" in Gorham, NH. She and her husband, Barry, treated us like royalty, so it was fun to be there for a couple of days!

As I had mentioned before, we did trail work yesterday in the Mahoosucs. Today we are going to be headed out of town and we hope to cover about 10-12 miles. Tomorrow, Wednesday, we plan to meet up with another trail crew and do another day of work on the trail. Probably by Wednesday evening, we will cross the state line into Maine and camp just east of the border.

Lauren and I are feeling strong. We’ve got just about 300 miles left to go! The only thing that I can think to mention related to physical condition is that Lauren took a hard fall a couple of days ago and has some tender ribs, so we’re just keeping an eye on that and I’m trying to carry a little extra weight.

Other than that, it’s a gorgeous day here. We woke up with cloudy skies and everything blew off to the east so it’s nice and clear. I expect that we’re going to have quite a good stretch of sunny weather, crisp and cool, but gorgeous.

When I hit the top of Gorham Route 2, I got goose bumps thinking about how we’re almost finished, and I got a foreshadowing of what it might feel like to summit Khatadin, Maine. We understand that we have a very rugged and scenic stretch ahead of us, but we’re having an awesome time.

That’s it for now. Over and Out.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Mahoosucs Boundary Work

Sally and Ellen

Today Lauren and I worked with a crew of two A.T.C. employees (Sally and Ellen) and 5 volunteers, including ourselves. We hauled supplies of paint, fuel and tools to a staging area where their team will be working from this month. I hauled a pack primarily of yellow paint that I estimate was around 60 pounds.

Hauling Up Supplies

Later we learned the basics of boundary maintaining from Sally, who loves working with volunteers. Since the A.T. boundaries in this area have not been checked or marked in over 20 years, the neighboring logging operation might inadvertently clearcut right up to the trail.

Painting a Boundary Blaze

The boundary must be located, the brush cut, and then trees painted with a system of yellow blazes that indicate where the line is.

Swamping Trees

We had a great day on the boundary and will stop to help them again for another afternoon when we reach their location in the Mahoosucs - a few days north of Gorham. Pictured left to right: Ben, Tom, Lauren, Emily, Ellen, Sally and Clearwater.

A.T.C. Boundary Crew

Sally and Ellen are keeping a blog about this trip called No Limits, Just Boundaries.