Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stormy Weather

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

Today is Thursday August 30, 2007.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

I am calling from above 5,000 feet on the flanks of Mount Washington in the presidential range of the White Mountains. Today was an extremely exciting day for us! We got off to a great start and we saw our first moose of the trip near Ethan Pond. After that we hiked several miles and met up with our friends Josh and Sarah (aka He-man and She-ra). That was completely unplanned. We knew they were ahead of us, but it was great to see them again!


Together we climbed up the steep climb into the Presidentials and made it Mitzpah Hut. We made it there by lunch time and we knew that there were afternoon storms approaching but we decided to push on to Lakes of the Clouds Hut so that we could have an early start over Mount Washington tomorrow morning.

We made it most of the way to the hut before we were pelted by the brunt of the storm… including hail. We were pinned down for several minutes with no shelter in site, while we were being beaten by hail probably ½ inch to ¾ inch in diameter. We did make it to the lake of the clouds hut about 20 minutes later where we are staying now. We’re cozy warm, drinking coffee and out of the stormy weather now.

Dash to Lakes of the Clouds Hut

We are going to be doing a work for stay this evening and in the morning we will summit Mount Washington, which is well above tree line. It should be a gorgeous day tomorrow and we hope to be through the rest of the Whites in the next couple of days. Anyway it’s been a fantastic day and we’re having a great time out here.

That’s it for now. Over and out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Steep and Difficult Climbs

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

Today is Tuesday August 28, 2007.

Old D.O.C. Blaze on a Cairn

It’s 11 o’clock in the morning, and Lauren and I are calling from the town of North Woodstock, New Hampshire. We just picked up the next 5 or 6 days worth of food which we will be carrying out shortly. Our climb this afternoon is up a steep ascent to the Franconia Ridge which is reported to be the highlight of the entire trail. So far in the Whites, our mileage has dropped quite a bit.

Yesterday it took a good 12 hours to cover right around 14 miles. Lauren and I hike just about the same pace on typical trail, but we’ve been climbing up miles of vertical rock shoots and vertical rock walls for hours at a time and it really slows her down. So we’ve been really just trying to take our time and adjust accordingly.

Sunrise from Beaver Brook

It looks like we’re just about 6 days away from Gorham, NH. Between now and then we’ve got some amazing trail and amazing scenery. At least for the next few days it looks like the weather is going to be quite cooperative. We can look forward to sunny blue skies, and I think traveling way up above tree lines is going to be quite enjoyable. Our packs are loaded down quite heavy with 6 days of food and all of our colder weather gear.

Views of the Whites

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

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Approaching the Whites

Crossing on a Log

The miles out of Hanover have been interesting walking through pioneer homesteads, old sugaring farms and the great summits of Smarts Mountain and Mt. Cube. Heat and humidity are back up, but we don't care - we're having a great time!

Tom Brings Us Icewater

Last night we met up with Tom W., a trail maintainer with the DOC (Dartmouth Outing Club) and the ATC. Tom will be also be working on the trail boundary project in the Mahoosucs that we are volunteering for once we hit Gorham next week. Tom brought us back to his home near the trail where he prepared dinner for us, told us a bunch of fascinating tales and showed us a film about hiking in Scotland (wow!).

We begin the Whites today with our climb up Mt. Mousilauke, our first above treeline walk of the trip.

It is said that when you reach New Hampshire, you've done 80% of the A.T.'s miles, but only 20% of the work. We're approaching the section where there are 3,500 foot drops and then gains at each "notch" and 360 degree views for miles at a time.

It feels good to be dropping our miles so we can soak it all in.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Projected Finish Date

To this point we've been surprisingly on-track with the arbitrary schedule we created on the drive down to Georgia. Originally we thought we'd reach Katahdin somewhere in the neighborhood of Sept 17-20, but from here forward we are planning to push those dates back.

We are having such a great time out here we've decided to take our time through some of the most scenic miles of the trip. Thus far, on hiking days we walk about 18-22 miles, but from here forward we're planning to average 14-15 miles per day and push our expected finish back to September 26-28.

We are still planning to have some down time after our trip to just veg and reconnect with our families. Our projected return to Los Angeles looks like it might be in mid-November.

Update - Hanover, NH (Mile 1732.1)

Crossing into New Hampshire

On our road walk into town on Tuesday afternoon, we met Figgy's parents who drove up to see us and were walking southbound to meet us. Together we crossed the bridge over the Connecticut River, which is the VT/NH border, and made our way to the college town of Hanover, New Hampshire.

In preparation for the next stretch we are joining Figgy's parents and Nan back for a day off, where we'll be relaxing, regrouping and resupplying before heading out this weekend.

Anticipating cooler temperatures, we now have our cold weather gear back with us including: insulated jackets, heavier sleeping quilt, insulated hats, gloves, rain mitts - all of which I made. We will also be carrying our alcohol stove with us again since Figgy's favorite comfort food on the trail is a hot cup of coffee.

We are glad to have new shoes (our 4th pair) that should take us to the end of our journey. Thanks again to Clyde and Lynda for coordinating our wardrobe change and helping us in this final resupply.

In Hanover we connected with our friends He-Man and She-Ra who joined us all for excellent Indian food, exchanged lively trail stories and crashed on the floor at our place. Although we've known He-Man and She-Ra since Pennsylvania, we've only actually hiked with them a few times. In Maine we're planning to align our schedules and will probably summit Katahdin on the same day.

Roots on the Trail

Today we hiked another 14 miles north of town and were joined at the end by Figgy's parents, since they love hiking and so we don't lose our forward momentum. We continue to hike past sugaring lines (for maple syrup), enjoy the cooler temperatures and lack of bugs, and love the scenery that we pass through.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Update - Rutland, VT (Mile 1686)

Morning on the Trail

With our harrowing Thursday night on top of Killington, we were happy to have some time in town to dry out and warm up.

On 8/17 we stayed at the Inn at the Long Trail which is also home to the McGrath's Irish Pub. After completing some afternoon errands in town we spent the evening in the cozy pub listening to live Irish music.

Long Trail Festival

Saturday we made our way down the road into Rutland for the first annual Long Trail Festival. Although only its first year, we were impressed with the 50 or so A.T. and L.T. hikers who showed up and with the local turnout. Lauren and I watched a presentation on the Continental Divide Trail (C.D.T.) and another on the Long Trail and enjoyed live music, great food and a warm fire late into the chilly evening. For us, the highlight was meeting up with fellow thru-hikers that we have not seen for hundreds of miles who had hitched up to the festival.

That night we stayed at the hostel in Rutland operated by a messianic community called the Twelve Tribes. We had met community members Ranan and Keshir back at Trail Days in Damascus when they had first told us about the Rutland festival, so we were delighted to see them again. I do not know the finer points of their theological beliefs, but I was impressed by their warmth and generosity and their thriving businesses including the Back Home Again cafe that is as busy as any I've seen in Los Angeles.

Work for Stay

Work-for-stay at the hostel is encouraged, so Lauren and I spent two enjoyable hours on Sunday morning washing festival dishes at the cafe. By the afternoon, it was tough to get back in gear and get back on the trail - a refreshing town stop typically is - but we set a manageable goal of 6 miles for the evening and were proud of ourselves to be moving again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Yeah, we've been spoiled for the last 100 miles. Southern Vermont is our hands-down favorite stretch so far, with mountaintop lookouts, surreal trail scenery and amazing weather. Even hiking on some famous ski resorts has been interesting.

Hiking on a Ski Trail

Besides the mostly ideal sunny weather, even the stormy moments haven been remarkable. We were huddled down in a shelter near the top of Mt. Killington when a severe thunderstorm hit and the rain was coming down horizontally. The luminance of fog and light afterwards were beyond words.

Twilight Fog

On another evening, our backdrop was a moody sunset while we enjoyed dinner on a massive rock outcropping.

Twilight view of White Mountain

Another morning we hiked across a suspension bridge spanning a scenic gorge with swift water and smoothly polished rock.

Clarendon Gorge

With 488 miles to go, we already feel like we're approaching the grand finale!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Update - Manchester Center, VT (Mile1636.2)

Stratton Mountain Lookout

We've crossed 1600 miles this week and the 75% mark! Vermont is treating us well with spectacular views, lush green trail and some fantastic weather. We think the bugs are behind us and the best part of the trail is still in store.

Beaver Dam and Lodge

We continue to see amazing beaver dams - one 100 yards long and 5 feet high. They are truly impressive engineering spectacles. This week we've also seen our first signs of moose - droppings and tracks - and can't wait to see them in person.

Passing Storm

Lauren has been having some emotional ups and downs on the trail, but her friend She-Ra (Sara) has been a great support lately. Lauren's parents are visiting with us in Hanover, NH when we arrive there next week.

We're feeling great and feel so fortunate we've made the decision to be out here this summer. Thanks to everyone for the emails and comments:

Big Jim Hays, Tim, Kimiko, Erin D, Amy & Ray, G, Cousin Carrie, Staaaats, Adrian, Rob, Matt, Dan & Tracy, Fatherof2, PassionPhish, Clearwater, Koza...

We read all of them, but can't get back to everyone personally right yet.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Good Life!

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

Today is Saturday, August 11, 2007. Lauren and I are standing in North Adams, Massachusetts. I’m looking at East Mountain ahead of us, which is the border of Massachusetts and Vermont which we will hit in just a few minutes when we leave town here. It’s also the southern terminus of Vermont’s Long Trail which the AT coincides with for the next 100 miles.

Mt. Greylock

Yesterday, it poured on us all day long. It was cold and rainy, but things cleared up in the evening and we were greeted with an amazing view and sunrise on top of Mount Greylock, which is the highest point in Massachusetts. Since then, temperatures have been amazingly comfortable; we’re looking at low 50’s at night and high 70’s during the day, without a cloud in the sky. It’s been quite ideal hiking conditions.

He-Man and She-Ra

We’ve met up with our friends He-Man and She-ra, and we’ve been enjoying the morning walking with them. Life is good, and we’re happy to be out here. I guess you wait all summer for days like this! It’s hard to describe but everything is clicking and we’re feeling good.

Over and Out.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Bird Cage in Dalton, Massachusetts

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

Hello. Today is Thursday, August 9, 2007.

Flowers in Massachusetts

It’s about 8:30 in the evening here as Lauren and I are calling from mile 1,554.4, Dalton Massachusetts, We entered Massachusetts a few days ago after leaving Salisbury. We’ve been taken aback by some beautiful sights the past couple of days.


We were first greeted by Sage’s Ravine, which is a clear brook that cuts through some deep canyons. We’ve hiked past some amazing beaver dams and beaver lodges, and have endured some of the buggiest conditions of the trip. Two days ago we scampered as quickly as we could through the mosquito valley near Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

That same night we camped at an old Shaker settlement, another example of how the human history has been quite an integral experience to our trip! Yesterday we made a short day to Upper Goose Pond Cabin and after a ten mile walk we were overjoyed to have swimming and canoeing available to us.

Ben Canoeing on Upper Goose Pond

We canoed into the evening. This particular cabin is run by the Appalachian Mountain Club of Massachusetts. There were a total of 15 other hikers there, half of which were south bound. In the morning the tradition is to have a big pancake breakfast which I partook of. The south bounders were kind enough to bring along some blueberries for our pancakes.

Today we stopped by the cookie lady’s house. Her house is 1/10 of a mile from the trail and she brings out 3 freshly baked cookies to any hiker who stops by.

Tonight we’re staying in the town of Dalton with Rob Bird and his house known as “The Bird cage”. He’s a manager at the Shell station in town and extends an invitation to any hiker who stops by the station. Rob will be here shortly to pick us up and we will proceed from here. It looks like we will be closing out Massachusetts in the next few days and will hit the Vermont state line shortly.

That’s it for now. Over and Out.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Emotionally Loaded Words

White Blaze in the Rain

One of the things I've been working on this summer is removing the emotion from the words I use. Why? With Ben's help, I've discovered that once I verbalize thoughts/feelings, they become TRUTH to me. Words are powerful. I have the choice of which ones I allow to linger in my head, which ones come out of my mouth - and they both have direct effect on my attitude.

Examples from the trail...Wet and cold are conditions or states of being and not feelings. I CAN put wet socks on the next morning after a rainstorm without calling it miserable. Climbs up mountains are steep, not brutal.

A practical exercise that's helped me in changing my thought process has been to replace my feeling with a fact. Replace "This unbearable humidity and awful climb..." with "This high humidity and steep climb...". I've experienced great freedom by taking an extra 2 seconds to choose my words, and not allow them to control me and my attitude.

I'm hoping this lesson sinks in deeply as it can apply to the the rest of my life too.

The Trail Legend of 2007

Sled Dog Warning Photos

At about 6'5" and 275 pounds, "Sled Dog" made an immediate impression on us when we returned to Hot Springs, NC after our weekend at Trail Days. Before we'd even known him for two minutes, he informed in his southern drawl that he's from Alaska, his wife died in a terrible auto accident, he spent the last 12 years with the Special Forces in Iraq and that he rode his dog sled from Alaska to Montana to get to the trail.

When you're out on the trail your radar for people is pretty sharp, but it didn't take much to realize that "Sled Dog" was someone who didn't quite add up. He carried a small day pack full of Moon Pies, wore combat boots up to his knees, and had two memorable tattoos on his left shoulder - "Sexy" and "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy."

At this point "J.D." (as he introduced himself to us) had only been out on the trail for a few days, claiming he began his journey south at "Newfound'ers Gap" in the Smokies.

We ended up having several interactions with him on the trail north of Hot Springs. After a few times of him asking "How far we goin' today?" and "Where's the next water source?" I asked him why he chose not to carry a map or data book. After several sketchy interactions we sped up and finally lost him in Erwin, TN where he passed us and has been north of us ever since.

In that short time we gathered far too many funny things that he said to post here, but I've included some highlights.

  • He'd lost 180 pounds since he started (Meaning he weighed around 450 pounds when he started approx. 80 miles back!)
  • They were out of whale blubber in Alaska to feed his 11 dog team, so he had to go out of his way to Washington to buy 2 tons of blubber.
  • Ten years prior he hiked the whole trail with his now deceased wife. They averaged 30 miles per day and finished in "only 8 months... pretty good, huh?"
  • He had a "Christian" wedding ring and a "Satanic" wedding ring that he carried in memory of his deceased wife. A few days later he left the cubic zirconium ring as payment for staying at Uncle Johnny's hostel.
  • He hopes it's snowing when he reaches Maine so he can ride his sled home to Alaska.

When we knew Sled Dog, he was just someone we knew to steer clear of, but we lost him before he caused any serious trouble. Since then he has allegedly taken money from several hostels, outfitted himself with possibly stolen gear and has taking advantage of people's good will.

In Boiling Springs, PA Todd Ramaley with the A.T.C. informed us that he was looking for Sled Dog and to call him if we saw him. Apparently Sled Dog has a criminal record in Tennessee. By the time we reached Duncannon, PA Sled Dog / Iditerod's picture was hanging in the Doyle Hotel with a warning to hikers.

It looks like the overwhelmingly popular and immensely speculative Sled Dog discussion at was removed from their forums. Here's another thread where other hikers were discussing him.

It is a shame when one hiker creates such a negative stir, but overwhelmingly the people we meet on and around the trail are some of the finest folks imaginable.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Happy Six Years

Free Shower at the Powerplant

This morning we grabbed a quick shower at a powerplant along the trail here in Connecticut, and then walked a few more miles into town.

Salisbury, CT (Mile 1484.2)

Today is out 6th year anniversary and we spent the morning walking along the Housatonic River making our way to Salisbury, CT. We'll be taking the rest of Saturday off along with Sunday and enjoy the charm of this quintessential New England town.

Tonight we'll enjoy a dinner at the White Hart Inn. Tomorrow we'll no doubt be spending some time at The Roast Coffee House. When we head out on Monday morning we're 7.3 miles from the Massachusetts line and the Birkshire Mountains.

We haven't seen a tick for days and couldn't be happier.

- - - -

Celebrating 6 Years with Maria

UPDATE: We ended up staying with a fiesty 78 year old German woman with a sharp tongue and a great sense of humor. Maria takes hikers into her home and treats them like family. We shared our anniversary picnic dinner in her yard and had a wonderfully memorable stay.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Update - Kent, CT (Mile 1451.2)

Connecticut Border

Last night we crossed the Connecticut border and into New England. We hiked into the town of Kent, CT by 11am where we met up with our reappearing friend "Clearwater" and our new friends "He-Man" and "She-Ra".

Up and Over

Today we're taking care of the usuals like laundry, post office, coffee and email. Tonight we're hoping to head out and see the new Simpson's movie with Clearwater.

Doing well and hoping to take a full zero on Saturday in Salisbury, CT to celebrate our 6th anniversary.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Staying on Track Through New York

Palettes make the Path

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

It’s Wednesday August 1, 2007. Lauren and I are at US 22 in New York, which is where the Metro North tracks cross the trail and lead to NYC. It’s about a 1 hour train ride and originally we were planning on visiting my brother Jonathan, but plans have changed and we feel like we need to stay on the course and stick to the trail.

A couple of days ago we woke up, and we apparently had slept in a deer lay, and due to that mistake we had pin size deer ticks everywhere (shown in the picture above). It took us one full hour to remove 70 embedded ticks, and by the end of the day we had pulled over 100 our of her. I pulled about 50 from me. We were completely grossed out.

Deer Ticks

I’m okay because I’m already taking the prescribed medication, but we are going to get some Lyme Disease Medication for Lauren in Kent, Connecticut.

As far as the trail in New York goes, I told Lauren that since we hadn’t heard anything about this section of trail going into it, I thought it would be a gentleman’s walk, but that was not the case. We’ve gone through sections called "Agony Grind" and the "Lemon Squeezer." The section south of the Hudson River has been quite grueling.

The Lemon Squeezer

If you are a fan of Walker Texas Ranger you would be able to relate to my excitement... Yesterday I had the good fortune to hike with Chuck Norris! As I was hiking with him following me all I could think was, "when you’re [on the trail], look behind you because that’s where the Ranger's gonna to be." Anyway, he’s a guy who’s trail name is Chuck Norris, and he looks like him too. That was kind of fun.

We’ll be in Connecticut tonight, and probably hit Kent, Connecticut tomorrow at noon.

That’s it for now. Over and Out.