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.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Mt. Washington Summit

Figgy and I do not look like typical thru-hikers, and quite often to our amusement, we are mistaken for day hikers.

We lack all of the "official" characteristics that people expect from "real" thru-hikers.

  • trekking poles

  • large pack

  • heavy boots

  • northbound beard

We do not carry trekking poles because our loads are so light we don't need them. Same goes for the leather boots, so we use running shoes. And we find gaiters to be unnecessary. (Many of the techniques we've employed this summer come from Ray Jardine's insightful and provocative book on the subject.)

And since we take care of ourselves at home, we figure it couldn't hurt on the trail. Even after one week without a town stop or real showers we still have people comment about how clean we look.

Just this weekend we met a friendly couple who in typical fashion mistook us for dayhikers. Andrew has recorded their impressions of us on their blog. On another occasion we arrived at a hostel where we even confused a bunch of thru-hikers who had not met us yet. They were wondering if dayhikers were allowed to stay there as well.

Anyway, fun times. I guess appearances can be deceiving.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Update - Gorham, N.H. (Mile 1876.1)

Sunset from Mt. Hight

We had fantastic weather through the White Mountains which is a rare gift. For much of our above-treeline walk we could see to the horizon, including 100 miles to the Atlantic Ocean.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

The hut system in the Whites was an interesting change of pace for us, although expensive for regular guests. As thru-hikers we were able to do work-for-stay and receive a meal and sleep on the floor in the dining area. We arrived at Lakes of the Clouds Hut about 20 minutes after our hail-storm episode and were grateful to dry out and relax for the night.

Cog Railway

In the morning we summitted Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast. It's reputation as the "worst weather in the world" did not disappoint, as we had visibility of about 25 feet. The much anticipated Cog Railway was an unsusual spectacle as well. Evidently they are now ticketing thru-hikers who try to participate in the long-standing tradition of mooning the passengers.

Climbing Very Slowly Down Madison

We were rewarded with some amazing trail through the Whites, although some was quite treacherous. Our pace averaged between 45 and 60 minutes per mile, which is nearly double what we have been used to hiking. Slippery rocks and steep elevation changes just require much more concentration, careful foot placement and strength.

This evening we are resting in Gorham,NH, only 8 miles from the Maine border. Our friend "Ping" who we haven't seen since NC has opened her house to us while we're here. As planned, we will be joining Sally and Tom in the morning to do some "sherpa-ing" for the border maintenence project in the Mahoosucs. We expect to be continuing on our journey on 9/4 or 9/5.

Big thanks to the people who truly enhanced our experience in this stretch: the Canadian cheese people, Clearwater, Tim and also Marie for the rides at Franconia Notch.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Pinkham Notch

(Phone Message Transcribed by Bethany)

Pinkham Notch Visitor Center

Today is September 1, 2007. It's 10:30 in the morning and Figgy and I just pulled into the Pinkham Notch visitor center which is an absolute zoo. I guess the Labor Day weekend day hikers are out in full force. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe we’ve covered about 1,850 miles now. We’ve had awesome weather through the Presidentials. We saw another 2 moose this morning on our hike into the visitor’s center!

We are headed over some very challenging terrain as we go over Wild Cat peaks A, B, C, D, and E. It looks like we’ll be headed into Gorham NH by tomorrow night. That’s where we plan to take a couple of days off to do some trail work with our friends Sally and Tom from the ATC. We are doing well. We’re just having a blast and are so thankful to be over the extreme peaks and the harsh weather of the high Presidentials. That’s about it for now. By tomorrow evening we will be so close to Maine it’s not even funny!

Over and Out.