Day 92 – 1st July (Posted Friday 4th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at camp spot just past Little Rock Pond Shelter – 1667.1

Finished at Governor Clement Shelter – mile 1686.4

19.3 miles covered.

Total days hiked 90

18.73 Av miles / days

 

Today was tough.

To start things off I had a narrow escape from a run in with the call of nature. When I wake I have to deflate my sleeping pad and roll it up and stuff anything I want to keep dry into stuff sacks. This is all done in the safety of my tent before applying bug spray and getting dressed. This generally involves a lot of kneeling and crouching in a sitting position. I then got the call and had to dash out of my tent in the nick of time. Note to self: I think the Rice side and chicken meal I cooked last night could have fed at least 2 people.

After that little drama I sat by the lake and ate my breakfast taking in the scenery and watching dragon flies chasing each other across the lake.

Straight from the start I was climbing. The first peak that I climbed was covered in Christmas trees of all sizes and the ground was a carpet of needles. It smelt great and I enjoyed being surrounded with the festive looking trees.


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At a blue blaze trail to White Rocks cliff view point there were loads of stone Jenga style stone statues that people had made. They were everywhere and it felt a little like Stonehenge. I added a pine cone to a stack and took some pics. I have noticed a lot of these stacks of rocks along the trail and have treated them like a game of Jenga where I try and add a stone to the collection.

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I then got frustrated with modern technology. I found that I had 9cents worth of credit on my phone. I had topped it up with 20 bucks the other day and have a deal where 5 bucks a month allows me to call landlines back home for up to 250 minutes. The 20 bucks was just intended to allow me to make calls over here. I tried to call the AT&T customer services and nearly smashed my phone up as there are so many options and all I wanted to do was I speak to somebody.

My Halifax clarity card had been frozen the other day as Halifax took it upon themselves to deem a purchase I made in a gas station as potentially fraudulent. I had told them I was going to the states and can’t understand why they took this action. Anyway I got the block lifted and maybe that stopped my AT&T direct debit going through.

It’s this kind of bullshit that I certainly haven’t missed!

In the end I topped up with 10 bucks which lasted all of 5 minutes whilst calling home and left it at that. I don’t need the stress of sorting out things like this at the moment. I have mountains climb.

From then onward in was up and down all day. Even the small elevation gains in the book were gruelling. I was in desperate need of some trail magic. I got my hopes up when I saw a sign saying trail magic half way through this afternoon. There was a sack tied to an object beside a stream and it said soda. I lifted the sack from the stream only to find that the only thing in it was a large rock. Gutted. There was one bit of candy left though in a jar close by, so not all was lost.

The hardest climb was from the VT103 (main road) which went straight up and was more of a rock scramble. Again the elevation heartbeat profile looked easy. But it sure wasn’t.

The humidity today was meant to be about 90% which I think could have accounted for my difficulties. In some places I had to hike through long overgrown vegetation and the trail between this tangled mess was like an oven.

I decided that it was necessary to pull in for a break at Clarendon Shelter. When I got arrived there was this really odd middle aged dude in the shelter. He had been sleeping and on my arrival he asked if there was anyone else planning on coming this way. I said that there were some people behind me as a safety precaution.

He was walking around the shelter with his fat pop belly hanging out and everything about him was weird. He started heating up some food and then put some washing up liquid in it by mistake. WHAT!

He said that he had hiked the 1 mile hike from the road and had been at the shelter for the last 7 days. Other hikers had been giving him food or something.

I was polite but tried to distance myself from this dude. All I wanted to do was to close my eyes for 30 minutes, but he kept speaking to me. After I had eaten a packet of Skittles I was out of there.

I had found that by swishing each mouthful of Skittles down with some water gives the effect of adding flavour to the water. It’s almost like… You guessed it. Soda. Obviously just without the carbonation.

I passed another hiker heading south to the shelter and warned him that there was some odd dude taking residence. He told me that there was another strange guy further along the trail who looked like he was living in the woods. After 3 miles I hiked past this guy. He had the strangest expression on his face and fitted the description. I didn’t stick around.

Later I hiked past a group of guys who were part of a trail crew. They were all staying in the woods in a large camp and were working on a section of trail. Sorting out drainage and making sure the trail was worthy. I must admit the trail looked like more of a building site in this stretch.

Then I came up against a diversion where a bridge was being repaired. Initially I ignored the warning as I wanted to stay in the trail. It was late and I figured any workmen would have finished for the day. I then found that the white blazes had been painted over. So in the end I turned round and followed the diversion. It was a good opportunity to use my pacing beads. Before coming out here I worked out that on flat ground for me exactly 90 paces is 0.1 mile. The diversion said ‘follow this road for 0.2 miles and then to turn right and follow that road for 0.5′ etc etc. By using my beads I was able to record each set of 90 paces and hence judge whether I was on the right track. It did vary a bit maybe because the roads were slightly uphill or maybe because the distances on the diversion notice were inaccurate. But it was close enough and is a good form of micro navigation. I would never consider using this technique for general hiking as it would drive you mad, but on short stretches like this it’s a good tool.

I arrived at Governor Clement Shelter at about 19:30. I found that an old guy called Trip I had met at Waynesboro PA was there. I asked him whether he was sending food care packages ahead and got some good advice. I have been looking through my AT guide and hatching a plan tonight. There is a Walmart in Rutland where I am heading tomorrow and it would be a good chance to sort this out then. Everything is in multipacks in Walmart and it’s cheap + I have to go to the post office to send some stuff back to England.  2 birds, 1 stone.

I quickly set my tent up away from the shelter. I found a nice sheltered spot down by the river. There’s meant to be thunder storms from 01:00 tonight so hopefully the tree cover will help keep the rain off.

As I write this my bug mesh is being attacked by moths from all angles, attracted by the light of my head torch. I can count about eight of them all fluttering about above my head and one is as big as the palm of my hand. All this activity has also attracted the attention of Mr toad who’s waiting for an opportunity to feast. He’s currently sitting in the vestibule of my tent. I have found that by taking off my head torch and putting it close to where he is sat the moths congregate here. I have watched him snap up at least 2 moths so far.

Day 91 – 30th June (Posted 4th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at Manchester – mile 1647.2

Finished at camp spot just past Little Rock Pond Shelter – 1667.1

19.9 miles covered.

Total days hiked 89

18.73 Av miles / days

 

After I finished my blog last night I still had a load of Tex mix chips and salsa to eat and a 1 litre bottle of cherry coke with literally my name written on it on some masking tape.

I decided to take a walk down memory lane and look through the pictures I have taken that Sarah has very nearly sorted in month order.

Looking through the pics gave me the same feeling of adrenaline as watching a Rocky film as a child. Where Rocky is training for his big fight and lifting tree trunks and doing 1 armed press ups. My enthusiasm was restored. It seems like such a long time ago that I started and I have done so much. So now it’s time to roll my sleeves up and get the remaining 500 miles smashed out of the park.

I think one of the reasons I have been becoming frustrated is that I am so close to the end. It’s a mixed blessing. Part of me misses home, but the other part wants the journey to start all over again.

I haven’t missed the shackles of society and have always felt that the conventional isn’t for me.

I think that it’s sad how we are pressured into sorting a career, a mortgage and the norm. From what I have seen by the time that most people have broken free of a shackles of society they are too old or don’t have the energy to go on adventures. Cruises and bus trips to the sea side aren’t really my bag. I would much rather squeeze every drop out of my life when I am young. Live fast die young any day! As quoted in a song called Sunscreen (see video below) – everyone should try and do something that scares them each day. Or at least something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. It’s too easy to define risk as trying a new pasta sauce or a bottle of wine.

I certainly don’t think I have all the answers, but this experience has made me think about things and I think I value life experience way above material gain.

Anyway back to business.

There were 6 of us all sleeping in one of the bedrooms last night and even with the fan running all night it was hot. Despite this I slept well and my Circadian rhythm kicked in at 06:00.

I took a shower and ate some Frosties for breakfast which was a treat. I also polished of a Greek yogurt, a banana and a blueberry pie. And not forgetting the essential hot chocolate and coffee combo along with a few more glasses of cherry Coke.

A hiker called Figgy was using his iPhone to record a short movie walking through the house doing a documentary. He took about 3 takes to nail it. This is something I should do more of.

As I was performing the sanity checks making sure I had got all my gear, non other than Socks walked through the door. Jerry had picked him up and he was planning to do a zero at the house. I should point out at this point that his trail name is really XC, but I’m sticking with Socks for now.

He said that he thought I might be in town and Topo had said he had seen me yesterday. Socks said that he was gonna try and make it last night but decide to stay a shelter. I got the impression that either Socks is feeling competitive or he was been looking to hike with me.

We agreed to meet up at a shelter in 7 days that is at the start of the White Mountains. The weather can get really bad up there at any time of the year. So it would be good to have some company for that stretch. Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Whites and holds the world record for the fastest recorded wind speed.

At 09:00 Jerry took Figgy, Fresh, Stretch and me back to the trail. He did point out during the journey that he had some important news for me. His name was in fact Jeff and I had been calling him Jerry since I arrived. Oops.

The four of us hiked up Bromley Mountain, approx 1300ft of elevation gain. At the top there was a chair lift and ski resort. The top of the mountain was covered in lush long grass with wild flowers and Fresh and I commented that we found it hard to believe that come winter this was a ski resort.

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A couple of guys were fixing a roof up there and said that there was meant to be some kind of toboggan slide. We dumped our packs and went to investigate. Although Fresh and I decided abort the mission as it involved walking a good way back down the mountain we had just climbed. Instead we ate a snack at the top. Me sitting on a seat of the chair lift.

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Fresh was from Maine and I got some good advice about what lies ahead. Apparently it is much harder to resupply and he advised sending ahead food packages.

The guys were only planning on doing 14 miles today and I had my eye on another 20 so I said my goodbyes and hit the trail again. I had been feeling guilty for taking a longer break than normal.

After Bromley there was another climb to Styles peak and then Peru peak. There was a breeze at the later, although I couldn’t stop for long as little black flies kept biting me. I had to move on.

I pulled into Peru peak shelter after 10 miles and found a nice couple having a snack. They had done a big section of the trail in 2005 and were picking up where they left off.

Today was there first day and they were planning on doing a 20. They set off pretty fast from the shelter and I met them again at Lost Pond shelter 4.7 miles away. I said that I was impressed with their speed. They said that they were seeing if the still had the old magic.

There were several other hikers there doing the Long trail. This is another trail that shares 105 miles with the AT. It is about 270 miles in duration.

After refuelling on a packet of Skittles I took off and overtook everyone that had been at the shelter including the couple I had met previously.

I pushed onto Little Rock Pond shelter as this was my intended destination. Before this there were a couple of other shelters that were right next to a beautiful river. It would have been a good spot, but it was too early in the day to stop.

Despite there being some noisy douche bag kids at Little Rock Pond shelter. I was glad I had pushed on. As the name suggests it was right beside a stunning lake. Although I was not willing to compromise my evening by sharing a shelter with some noisy kids!

The couple I had met earlier did indeed manage a 20, but when they arrived they looked like they were on their last legs. 20 miles for your first day out is way too much. I suspect they will feel it tomorrow.

I decided to move on at least until I couldn’t hear the screams and shouts from the noisy resident children. Luckily this only involved a future 10 minutes worth of hiking and I found a little clearing right in the corner of the lake. There was even a wooden log seat right by the water and I used it as a table to cook on.

Whilst I ate my dinner I watched salamanders and fish swimming around breaking the surface of the water every now and again. It was bliss. I was able to stand in the lake and wash off and the water was pretty warm. At the other end of the lake people were swimming and jumping off of rocks. Maybe I’ll go for a dip tomorrow morning to wake me up.

 

Day 90 – 29th June (posted Tues 1st July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at Story Spring shelter – mile 1626.1

Finished in Manchester – mile 1647.2

21.1 miles covered.

Total days hiked 88

18.72 Av miles / days

 

I forced myself out of my comfy sleeping bag at 06:00. Whilst I was drinking a hot chocolate and coffee combination another thru hiker called Fresh came over to say hello. He had left his spoon and cooking stuff out on the table in front of the shelter and it had gone missing. I suspected that a racoon had taken it and was using it to eat its breakfast.

There were more thru hikers at this shelter than most I have stayed at. Fresh was hiking with a guy called Stretch and there was another old guy called Topo. Short for ‘top of the morning to you’ Everyone seemed friendly and Topo gave me some sound advice about a yellow bus service that runs from the trail to Rutland. This was a great piece of news as otherwise I would have to wing it on an 8.5 mile hitch.

It was great to be on the trail early. There was a lot of thick black mud that had formed in the low lying areas or where water had collected. Yesterday I had started the day in similar conditions and my trainers were thick with mud. Fortunately most of this extra weight had been shed by all the stomping, but boy do they stink.

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About 3 miles into the day I met a guy walking his dog who had hiked the trail 5 years ago. I asked him about the White mountains and it was interesting to hear that he thought Georgia was harder. Due time fact that your body isn’t conditioned at that stage. He said that by the time he got the whites he was ready for them.

It’s amazing how just a few minutes worth of chat is enough to help refresh and restore motivation. Although I like company I don’t need it all of the time. I’m the same at home as well. I think that when I am around people I soak it up like a sponge and can use this to keep me going for the times when I am hiking alone.

Today’s big climb was Stratton Mountain at 3936 ft. The elevation gain was about 1600 ft. The climb was reasonable although there were steep bits and a lot of rock hopping to get to the top.

At the summit there was a lookout tower. The views weren’t quite as good as from Glastonbury. The top part of the Stratton tower had glass windows and flies buzzed around me for the brief moments I stayed up there.

Yesterday I found that the flies would swarm me anytime that I stopped for a break. The same way that they would swarm a dead body. Imagine wearing the same clothes to the gym for a week where you are working out for 8-13 hours a day and that’s about how bad my clothes stink. After 2-3 days worth of wear my socks can almost do a hand stand on their own.

As I was starting out on the accent up Stratton a middle aged couple were in front of me. I could smell their shower soap and deodorant a mile off. As I passed them I said I could smell their clean and apologised for my down wind stench as I hiked on in front of them.

The same couple passed me whilst I was calling home at the summit. The guy laughed that I was using a phone, as he thought that I was a mountain man and had no need for modern tech.

On the decent from Stratton Mtn to Stratton pond I caught them back up and we hiked together until the pond. The guy asked if I ever got lonely hiking on my own. I told him that you are never really alone as I constantly keep meeting new people along the way or people keep leap frigging each other. Companionship is great, but I prefer to go it alone as this way I can do my own thing and it is a true test. Plus I found it sometimes frustrating hiking with others when they would complain about being hungry and / or being in pain. This is to be expected I suppose but hiking my own hike generally means that there is less of this.

Stratton pond reminded me of home and was a large deep lake with an island.

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I noticed more silver birch along the trail today as they seem to grow above 1000ft. The bark on a lot of them was peeling away in ribbons. In some cases great A4 sized strips. This is great fire making material.

2014-06-29 18.11.43After 15 miles I stopped at William B Douglas shelter. Perhaps someone named it after my neighbour I thought.

I was doing ok up to that point physically although I have been frustrated and hiking angry today. Not sure what the trigger was, but I found myself getting pissed off at times.

Wearing a bug net over your face generally acts as a furnace which was most likely the cause. Hike with it and I cook. Without it Mosquitos buzz around my face and ears and dive bomb my eyes. You just can’t win.

During my break I reviewed my reserves and also considered what Fresh and Stretch had said about a hostel in Manchester (said in my best Ian Brown voice).

The hostel was meant to be one of the best on the AT. I figured if I called and there were rooms I would go into Manchester. Otherwise I would push on, existing on tortillas and fresh air.

 

 

I met another couple just before Prospect rock and asked if they would take a picture if me as I have few snaps of me against the scenery, I also returned the favour.

I always find it frustrating how when you ask someone to take a picture they just point and click. The pictures are always generally poor. On this occasion I politely asked if the guy would mind taking another.

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The last 6 miles seems to take forever and I was flagging. The closer I got to the town the more my mind was made up. One phone call later and I was going in. I spoke to a cheesy sounding guy called Jerry and he said there was space in the bunk house. Result.

Just before hitting the trail head at road VT11 I came across a bag with some writing on it. It had been left for another thru hiker. I looked inside but considered it tight to take anything.

It took me a while to hitch a ride. Then I saw an old pick up approaching from over the hill. He indicated into the pull in and I knew I was in business. The guy was in his twenties and was a farmer that lived in Manchester. I asked him what the town was like and he said that it was affluent. It was a million miles away from Moss side or anywhere else I have been to in Manchester back home.

I headed to Price chopper and then to a Chinese restaurant. The menu was very different to the typical Chinese food you get back home. I had a disappointing Scheswan Chicken and Prawn Egg Roles (similar to spring rolls).

As I left an old guy in his 70′s decided to tell me how he thought the US was going to the dogs and was dominated by money and greed. Like some of the other Americans I have meet, he stood way within the comfort zone distance that we generally are comfortable with. I took a step back and heard him out before making excuses to go to the gas station to get some more snacks.

Once I was all sorted I called Jerry and after 15 minutes he picked me up. He was cheesy and had some weird nervous affliction where he would close he eyes and pull a funny face when you gave him any eye contact when talking to him. Apart from that he seemed ok.

In credit to Jerry the hostel is as described. Very homely and well run. Jerry gave me the grand tour. Insisting that I took my shoes off and left them outside with my trekking poles. After a quick run through he asked me to take a shower before we all had a ’round the table discussion’ about leaving times tomorrow. I opted for a 07:30 ride back to the trail.

2014-06-29 20.38.37It’s another 50 miles to Rutland and even if I smash out two 25 mile days I won’t get there until late. Chances are the bus service won’t be running then. Instead if I do two 20 mile days and then a 10 I’ll arrive by lunchtime on the 3rd day. That means that I will not want to have to stay at the hostel in Rutland that I sent my winter gear and boots to, as it will be too short of a day. So with that in mind I think pulling in early today after doing my quota of miles was sensible.

The only problem with this place is that it’s hot. Despite fans being in every room. This my new insect bites are raging.

I found out today that it’s the female Mosquitos that are the ones that inflict the nasty bite. Apparently they need the blood to produce eggs. Somebody tell me what purpose Mosquitos have other than to annoy the hell out of you. And who wrote that song with the lyric ‘the female of the species, is more deadly than the male’ Thank you and goodnight.

Update…

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

I have just had a call from Rich. He was sat at the top of Stratton Mountain taking a break to call me. He’s hiked 1633.5 miles and he hopes to complete the trail by August. He’s extremely grateful for everyone’s donations. Thank you.

Sarah x

Day 89 – 28th June (posted Tues 1st July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at Congdon shelter – mile 1602.8

Finished at Story Spring shelter – mile 1626.1

23.3 miles covered.

Total days hiked 87

18.69 Av miles / days

 

The day started well as not long after leaving the shelter I passed some hikers heading south. They informed me that there was trail magic a couple of miles away at VT 9. This was a huge result as it was at the foot of the first big climb of the day. When I got there I found a cooler with cans of Coke and oranges. As I was tucking in a guy appeared with more supplies. His brother was hiking the trail so he had a vested interest and hoped other people were doing the same for his bro who’s trail name was Gandalf.

After 2 cans of Coke I was ready for the climb. In the space of 2 miles I climbed about 1300 feet.

Then it was all uphill until Glastonbury Mountain. I hiked past a father and his 2 daughters just before Little pond Mountain 4 miles shy of Glasto. He said they had packed in too much ‘grub’ and would I like to join them. I ate 1/2 a roast beef sandwich and some potato chips and hummus in exchange for some stories about the trail. They even gave me the chips and hummus to take away which worked out nicely as I am on rations. I want to see if I can bypass Manchester and make it all the way until Rutland. Resupply takes time and effort and I need to put all my effort into hiking.

Saying that I did feel weaker today as a result of not eating quite as much.

Vermont is as expected. The uphills are more strenuous and the elevation is rising with longer climbs. At the higher elevations the trail is lush with a mixture of different sized spruce trees and a carpet of green moss covering the rocks. There have also been stretches were beech trees with huge palm sized leaves dominate the sides of the trail. I almost feel like a machete would be useful as branches lean out into the trail and make it impossible to pass without being engulfed.

At the top of Glastonbury Mountain there was a lookout tower and it was great to take in the panoramic views above tree line.

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I pushed onto Kid Gore shelter and on the way I started noticing scat (poop) on the trail that I hadn’t seen before. Instantly I thought there’s a moose loose about this hoose! Although I wasn’t sure whether I was in moose territory yet. I checked with some other section hikers and they confirmed my suspicions. Saying to watch out for them in September as it’s the rutting season. I replied that I should be done and dusted by August.

I stopped at Kid Gore shelter to refuel. As I approached the shelter I noticed a guy sitting outside with a bug mesh head net on, gloves and a water proof jacket. He had also erected the mesh of his tent in the shelter in the fight against the Mosquitos. As I was snacking 2 ladies arrived. They were middle aged and used to be room mates at college. The conversation got onto snoring and the guy said he had carried in his 8lb piece of night time breathing apparatus. He suffered from sleep apnea. One of the ladies said her husband snores like a pig without his face mask and night time oxygen supply. I told them that maybe I should get a sleep test as Sarah has always said that sometimes I wake up gasping for air. Perhaps it might also sort out my snoring?

I had a further 4.6 miles to cover to ensure that I did a 20 and also made up the remaining 2.9 from yesterday. As I took off I felt a hot spot on my right heel. I stripped off a section of duck tape from my trekking pole and slapped it on my ankle as a temporary measure. Although I had put fresh socks on this morning my trainers were covered in mud and soaked through. They had dried out pretty well over the course of the day, but wet socks = blisters and I knew sooner or later I would have to employ a bit of blister management.

The last stretch of the day flew by and I hiked fast. I covered the 4.6 miles in 1 hour 45 minutes. I even arrived at Story Spring Shelter without needing to put on my head torch by the skin if my teeth.

I passed South Alder Brook on the way to the shelter and spotted a beaver dam. I can still hear the bull frogs barking at each other from where my tent is pitched and the Brook is about a mile away.

Tonight I decided to have tortillas with cheese and pepperoni and the potato chips and hummus. It was a quick and tasty meal as I only had to hear water for the obligatory hot chocolate and Orios. Gordon Ramsey done.

 

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Day 88 – 27th June (posted Tues 1st July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at Wilbur clearing shelter – mile 1585.7 Finished at Congdon shelter – mile 1602.8

17.1 miles covered.

Total days hiked 86

18.64 Av miles / days

 

I had company in the shelter in the form of a family of birds this morning. There was a nest in the rafters and a little bird kept me company whilst I had breakfast hoping from perch to perch with its beak loaded with bugs.

The decent down to North Adams was severe and within the first hour I had slipped 3 times.

You kinda get a feeling for what to avoid stepping on, but sometimes you get caught out. Favourite things to avoid are tree roots that run in line with the trail. When you step on one you perform a rail slide just without the skateboard.

I also avoid large rocks which have a sloping surface. These are lethal. Even worse when covered in moss.

So why did I slip? Surprisingly it only takes a split second of loss in concentration and you are in trouble. I was tired and groggy this morning which didn’t help.

I was glad to reach North Adams without any serious injury. Although I did have a nasty graze on my wrist. I was just thinking that I should really get an antiseptic wipe out and clean the wound, when I found a box of trail magic. In it were ziplock bags containing wet wipes which was most timely. Also GaitorAid and Cokes and a load of Snickers bars. What a treat and I was due a break.

2014-06-27 14.41.09I headed to Price Chopper were I shopped very sparingly. I wanted to save money and thought that maybe I’ll start eating tortilla with cheese and pepperoni for dinner. I always end up with some left over when it comes to resupply and this option is better than eating Ramen any day!

 

I didn’t leave town until about 13:30 and once again my hiking hours had been cut short. From North Adams the climb was brutal. But not long after the summit levelled off, I had crossed the MA-VT border. I was officially in Vermont. Whilst I stopped for a break I thought it amusing to keep hopping from one state to the other.

 

For my lunch time snack I had the following: 1x Parmesan cheese and pepperoni tortilla. Potato chips. 2 handfuls of chocolate coated raisins. A packet of hot peanuts. 1 granola bar with Nutella smeared on it. 1 apple.

Although I only saw one snake today. I find it funny how they struggle to get purchase against the trail when trying to slither away. They almost perform a wheel spin or do what shaggy doo impersonation by running on the spot without actually going anywhere.

I have become aware that England have been knocked out of the World Cup and that America went through on goal difference after losing against Germany. I shall continue to support the US whilst I’m over here. Although I’m yet to see a game. Gameshow and the others had stayed back in Dalton yesterday to catch the game.

After I had taken a break everything started to go wrong and I became frustrated. I even launched my trekking poles at one point. I decided to pop on some Old Crow Medicine Show and it helped chill me out. If you haven’t already checked out there first album please do as it’s brilliant and the kind of music I hoped to find out here. Wagon wheel and Big Time In the Jungle are my favourite tunes.

I have found myself talking to myself more frequently whilst on the trail. It’s a habit I have always had. I even find myself talking to the wildlife. This morning I bid good morning to a frog as he hopped past me. Man, I must be lonely out here.

Whilst I was taking a break a guy called Ben who I had overtaken on the climb past Seth Warner shelter caught up. He stopped and we had a chat. He started today and hopes to complete the last 3 states in the same time frame as me. We hiked together on and off throughout the afternoon. I don’t know if I wasn’t paying attention or I had inadvertently followed Ben’s lead, but we ended up both off trail. Annoyingly we had both followed what we thought was the trail down a nasty steep water logged slope. After 5-10 minutes of no blazes we about turned. I was pissed off with myself as it was a difficult climb back to the point the mistake was made. In total perhaps 1.5 miles worth of cock up! The trail was completely water logged and I had no option but to just walk through it.

We arrived at Congdon shelter at about 20:00. I was first on the scene and got a decent pitch. Ben was absolutely knackered after doing an impressive 14 miles on his first day. I left him to cook, but after I had set up I went to see if everything was ok. I thought I would have appreciated it if it was my first night out.

There is a stream right next to my tent. 2 clear benefits here. Firstly I am clean for the first time in days. And secondly the sound of the water is drowning out the sound of some guy snoring in the shelter behind me. Sweet! Although not so sweet for poor old Ben I dare say. As he is sleeping in the shelter. He’ll soon learn!

Improvements to blog…

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Check out the new galleries.  If you click on ‘Gallery’  a drop down should appear, then select a month. OR click on the ‘Gallery’ page and click on a month from there.  There are lots more pictures for each month. Check out the bears that Rich snapped in May (a bit to close for comfort if you ask me!)

Sarah x

Day 87 – 26th June (posted Tues 1st July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at Kay Wood shelter – mile 1562.2

Finished at Wilbur clearing shelter – mile 1585.7

23.5 miles covered.

Total days hiked 85

18.66 Av miles / days

 

It rained cats and dogs and porcupines last night. The thunder shook the shelter and the lightening lit up the woods like a fireworks display. I was glad I had opted for the shelter.

There was a good vibe in the shelter and a section hiker called J-bird had bought a bottle of whiskey. He offered me some, but I left him and Wetdog to it. The others had all passed out early.

I decided to take extra precautions against the Mosquitos after I had been badly bitten the last time I stayed in a shelter. My defence of using my bug mesh head net and pulling my liner up to meet it just hadn’t worked. This time I unclipped the mesh from my tent and then used my trekking pole (no pun intended) to prop up the net between my bunk and the bunk above me. It worked a treat and was more like a bivvy bag. Poor Tristan who is new to this game woke up with itchy bites all over his face. I just had to deal with the bites I had incurred throughout the last couple of days. The 100% deet does seem to work, it’s just you sweat so much that it needs to be reapplied.

 

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This morning my legs burnt as I applied the deet. I think I have a lot of cuts and nicks on my legs from were I must have been scratching my bites in my sleep. Either that or my skin is slowly melting!

On the 3 mike hike into Dalton I saw my first porcupine.

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The lighting in the woods was poor so the pictures aren’t great. I got pretty close and kept following it trying to take a better shot. In the end mr porcupine started making a clicking noise at me. I think he was getting pissed off.

In fact I also saw another porcupine in the final stretch of the day. The rain must have flushed them out.

Once in Dalton I headed for store called Cumberlnd Farms. It was more like a gas station so I only picked up a few bits. In some shops it’s difficult to get single packets of certain items like Orios and cinnamon rolls so I stocked up. I also purchased a yogurt with granola and blueberries as it good to get a calcium fix when in town.

Tristan was sitting outside drinking a coffee and checking out the girls filling up with gas (not literally – I’m referring to their cars) I left him to it and headed to Juice and Lava to get a breakfast burrito and a coffee. Smudge was there reading a book as he had left really early this morning.

On leaving Dalton, Gameshow and Baywatch shouted hey. They had camped out in the rain last night and looked a little worse for wear.

I have noticed that there are a few common mannerisms developing amongst the Americans. They all say ‘Yup’ a lot. Particularly Wet dog.  I like the way Wet dog says his name as Wet dorg and the way he says corfee.

The trail was more like a river in places today. In some cases it came up to my sock line. I initially started to try and avoid it walking a little like a duck straddling the trail. In the end I just waded through it as it was the safer option. Where water had run off the higher parts of the trail it had almost cleaned the trail and cleared out any leaf litter. The rocks and roots were dangerously polished.

After Dalton there was a significant climb to Crystal mountain. Approx 700 feet.

Just on from this I bumped into couple of hikers at Gore Brook. The guy asked if he could do an interview and film it. He asked if I had any funny stories so I dropped in the story about yo-hoo. It went down really well and he said that he will most definitely include it in this years film. A beaver kept appearing in the brook behind us during the interview. Just as the dude tried to finish the interview with the gratuitous beaver shot it buggered off.

9 miles after Dalton was another town called Cheshire. As I entered the town I stopped for an ice cream and a can of Mountain Dew. There was an oldish guy outside who had started the trail yesterday. He was not doing so good.

I used the opportunity to plan my next resupply whilst eating my ice cream. Although both the owner of the shop and the guy who was struggling kept interrupting me with small talk. I really didn’t want to carry 3-4 days of food over the next stretch of terrain as I was approaching Mt Greylock. The highest peak in MA at 3491 feet. Instead I decided to get minimal supplies and resupply tomorrow.

However I really needed to get some gas. There was a general store but they only sold alcohol fuel. There was also some poor excuse for an outfitters. The guy ran the place from his home and it said in the book that he had no regular hours. I was screwed.

I sat outside the general store and performed my best bit of yogi-ing to date. Some guy called Mark had asked me how I had coped in the rain last night. He said that roads had been closed due to flood damage and there was up to 5 inches of rain in the neighbouring town. I filled him in about the thunder storm and told him my story about the gas shortage. Followed by ‘I don’t suppose you are heading in the direction of the outfitters in the next town’ My luck was in and he said that he’d give me a ride once he had cleared it with his wife Cathy. I offered to ride in the trailer, but he said it was illegal in this state and I was to ride up front with him and Cathy.

They told me that they were bargain hunters and had spent the day bidding on sealed container units with no idea if what’s inside. There’s a show on tv back home that sounds similar to what they do. I think it’s called storage hunters.

I wished them luck in the future as a way of resetting the karma and bid them farewell. I had made it to the outfitters in the next town. Now how the hell was I gonna get back. I should have known that the trail provides.

2014-06-26 14.41.18

 

Once inside the shop I purchased a couple of dehydrated meals and energy gels as well as a gas can. The guy even gave me discount. Then another guy working there offered to take me back to the trail. Result.

On dropping me off the guy even gave me a can if beer. I shook his hand and said that he had saved my bacon.

The only problem was that he had dropped me slightly further along the trail. So I had to backtrack a little to the exact point I got off trail, being the purist that I am.

I was then at the foot of Mt. Greylock and what should I find but a cooler with a load of trail magic. I ate cookies and ice cold Doctor Pepper.

I decided not to drink the beer until at least I had climbed Greylock. My original plan was to leave the beer for some other hiker to repay the karma in a random act of heroism. When I got to the top despite the view being spectacular it was overrun with tourists. So in the end I just drank it myself. Hick.

I have taken a picture of the elevation profile of Greylock and think I will do so for each challenging day so you can see what’s it like. The initial climb had some steep sections but on the whole it wasn’t too bad. I had spoken to some hikers in Cheshire and they thought the trail would be ‘soupy’. There was a lot of water on the trail but due to the great work the trail crews (trail maintenance) perform, a lot of the water is directed off of the trail by purpose made gullies.

2014-06-26 23.21.14

 

The temperature was also perfect as by the time I had finished in Cheshire it was late afternoon. It was cool and when I sweated it was actually refreshing when the cool air hit my body.

The trees at the higher elevation were mainly spruce and the fallen needles helped make the mud less slippy.

It was interesting to see new growth on the spruces. The tips of the branches were fringed with bright tips that split into new branches.

Towards the top of Greylock things got a little more interesting. I passed some day hikers and they had said that it was meant to be challenging. When I originally hit the final climb I scoffed thinking that it was a breeze. I was mistaken.

My left ankle had been playing up all day. I think it’s as a result of me rolling it the other day several times. It’s always the day after it plays up.

I have tried experimenting with different rhythms with my trekking poles. I find it best to place the right pole down against the ground as my left foot contacts. And vice versa. The problem with this is if you roll your left ankle you have to be quick to catch the slip. Where you need to quickly use your left pole to offer support as well as the right one. I have tried timing it so my left foot and left pole contact in unison, but it just doesn’t feel right. Answers on a postcard please.

Whenever I have a problem or ailment I always try and do something about it there and then. My solution today was an old bit of tubi grip and some Icey hot. The Icey hot made my foot feel like it was 100 degrees which took my mind off of things and I think the tubi grip offered a little support / compression. Let’s hope it helped.

The soles of my feet feel like they belong to someone else by the end of the night and my feet always twitch uncontrollably when I am trying to sleep.

I made it to the Wilbur Clearing shelter by 22:30 under the cover of my head torch. The beer I had at the top of Greylock did nothing for my focus and enthusiasm in the last push to the finish line.

There were quite a few tents doted around the shelter and campsite, but fortunately no one else is using the shelter. I have the place to myself. Now I really must go to sleep as it’s 00:42 and I have to hike tomorrow.

Note to self. Never never never use an iPhone to manually and painfully type a blog again. Get a frigging keyboard or do a video diary dumb arse!

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Day 86 – 25th June (posted Tues 1st July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started just after Tyringham – approx mile 1538

Finished at Kay Wood shelter – mile 1562.2

24.2 miles covered.

Total days hiked 84

18.6 Av miles / days

 

I slept pretty well and woke up fresh. It seemed to take no time at all the pack up and the climb up Baldy mountain wasn’t too shabby.

There were lots of frogs and toads hopping all over the trail today. They ranged in size and colour and seemed to be quite happy away from a water source. God knows there are enough bugs out there for them to feed on.

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After being harassed by the squitos for the first couple of hours it was time for the bug net. I passed some day hikers by Goose pond and they commented on my head net. I responded by saying that the bugs were hungry today.

I smashed out the first 3 hours without even taking a break. I had covered 8 miles and wanted to push so that the next leg of my day was on the easier section of the trail. I stopped by Greenwater Brook which was right next to a lake with little fishing boats moored up. It felt like home. Although there was a busy interstate running close by so it wasn’t the most peaceful of breaks.

 

I experimented with covering my granola bars with a load of Nutella. You have to keep it fresh otherwise food groups become mundane. It was really good.

My teeth have been really sensitive today. I think it’s all the jolly ranchers and skittles I have been eating. When I eat something tough like beef jerky they hurt. Wet dog gave me the name of a dental product that you can get out here that numbs the pain if you get teeth probs. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

After 6 hours I pulled into October Mountain shelter. I found none other than Wet dog taking refuge. There were 2 other guys who were brothers called Smudge and Tristan. I was really surprised to see Wet dog again as he had said he was really slow and struggled to do over 15 mile days. The last couple of days I had done over 20 mile days so I was puzzled. Vanessa had dropped Wet dog off at a different point along the trail which he admitted cut off a ‘few’ miles. Either way it was good to catch up. Smudge and his brother seemed pretty friendly as well.

They pointed out that just over 2 miles away was a place that was home of the ‘Cookie Lady’ Here you could get cookies and sodas. A plan had been hatched.

Just as I was getting water before leaving another guy called Boomer turned up. Instantly I knew why he was called Boomer. His voice was really loud. He was shirtless and wearing headphones and I thought that maybe because he was listening to music it might account for the volume. He was very enthusiastic and kept saying things like ‘right on’ and ‘righteous’. It was very Bill and Ted. I told him that his buddies were still at the shelter and that I was heading to the Cookie ladies.

When I got to the Cookie ladies Wet dog and the brothers were already there. They had said that there was nobody home. I said ‘hope for the best and plan for the worse’ I then started to make a drink with my electrolyte tablets. Man I was really counting on that soda. Then an old guy shuffled out of the farm house and we were back in business. I grabbed 3 cans. I drank 2 there and then and put the other in my pack for the road.

I still had 9 miles to go before I reached Dalton. I had read that a guy called Thomas Levardi would let hikers pitch up in his garden or sleep on the porch. So that was my plan.

My food rations had worked out well. I had just one evening meal and some oatmeal and a packet of skittles left.

I spent the next 2 hours listening to AWOL’s Appalachian Trail audiobook. I had been listening to the chapters after I had left the area he had covered, but I was way behind. I decided to finish off the book as I thought I might gain an insight into what lay ahead. I am glad I did as he describes the Whites and New Hampshire as well as Maine as being challenging. Perhaps my initial plan to do the Whites and the 100 mile wilderness in Maine in 14 days was optimistic. Leaving an average of 20 mile days for the rest of NH and Mainne. Hmmm.

I averaged just under 3mph for the next 2 hours and I could hear a thunder storm brewing as I approached Kay Wood shelter. Just as I got to the point where the trail split leading to the shelter there was an almighty crack of lightening and about a second later a loud rumble of thunder. The air was charged and the bolt of lightning was a little too close for comfort.

I concluded that a night in a tent or sleeping on a porch was a bad move and peeled off towards the shelter. I made it just in time as the moment I arrived at the shelter it really started.

There was a section hiker called J-bird there and not long after Wet dog, Smudge and his brother arrived. Not long after that Boomer turned up. All of them were soaked to the skin.

Boomer kindly offered to go get water as he was already wet. What a top guy.

I had a pasta Mountain House meal which had real chunks of courgette and veg in it. It was 100 miles better than the meal I had last night.

I initially said that I would see if the weather improved and then maybe move on. But soon realised that the rain was in for the evening. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be in a shelter as this is all kicking off. The rain is beating hard down on the tin roof of the shelter and every now and then the thunder rumbles loud enough so that it echoes through the shelter above the noise of the other guys chatting.

The shelter has a porch and I stood on a picnic table cleaning my teeth looking out into the abyss. For once the gods have been kind and I made it without a soaking.

 

 

Day 85 – 24th June (posted Tues 1st July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at camp spot approx mile – 1516

Finished just after Tyringham – approx mile 1538

22 miles covered.

Total days hiked 83

18.53 Av miles / days

 

Not a huge amount to report today.

My cold oatmeal and coffee went down alright and as it was much cooler last night the bugs left me alone whilst I packed up. As planned I got up reasonably early about 0630 and it made a big difference to my day.

Gameshow and Baywatch passed me as I was packing up. I thought I had seen their tents last night as I hiked by. They camped in the boggy area and said the bugs could have carried them away.

We leap frogged each other throughout the day and each time stopped to have a chat. They are heading to Dalton for Thursday and asked if I wanted to join them for lunch.

The weather was a little cooler throughout the day and the climbs although challenging weren’t as bad as what it would have been if it was scorchio.

I had a limited supply of water to start the day and my hopes were dashed. A soda vending machine was promised in the AT guide and didn’t materialise. It was meant to be at a repair shop right by US 7. I stopped in a builders merchants to ask and the guy said to head for the main road and turn right.

The guide also confirmed this and said to go west for 0.2 miles. I walked up there and it was an antiques / bric a brac type store and closed. I used the zoom on my camera to scope out the signs outside the shops in the other direction and they were also antiques shops.

The next stream was almost dry and involved a steep decline down the bank. I carried on and in the end I came across a large river. I filled up as a backup as normally I wouldn’t touch water from a river like this. I like to take it from the source or at least a river / stream that is way up in the mountains as these are way less likely to contain pollutants and shit.

Luckily I was able to get some fresh H20 a couple of miles up trail, but it’s always best to play it safe as that source could have run dry.

Refreshed and after a hearty snack I continued. I stopped again at Tom Lenard shelter to get some water and after following a blue blaze for a while to a water source I abandoned ship. I hate having to walk off of trail to get water.

There was a weird section hiker at the shelter. I am sure he was harmless, but he was trying to plan out his day and where he would resupply. He was yellow blazing (using a car) and seemed to be getting real stressed about the logistical side of the trail. I said that he should ditch the car and start at Georgia. He will then have plenty of practice and that’s all it is. What I do is try and plan for no more than 3 days’ worth of food as that’s a comfortable weight to carry. That dictates where I stop. Sometimes it works other times it doesn’t. But this guy was using far too much energy and ink scribbling down notes. I left him to it.

I broke the rest of the day into 1.5-2 hour chunks. Passing Gameshow and Baywatch several times. I asked them to help identify the snake I had seen yesterday and they reckon it’s a Milk snake. Gutted! If anyone wants to confirm this take a look at the snake pic taken most recently.

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I hiked past some dude that was fast asleep propped up against a post at the side of a field. By then the sun was strong. He had his cap pulled down over his face and a camo pack. He was also wearing jeans and non-hiker attire. I informed Gameshow and Baywatch and told them to be vigilant.

I was planning on smashing out a 25 today, but after Tyringham I faced a steep climb to Baldy Mountain. My knee was talking to me and I figured that 22 was enough. It was also still light and I figured that I could set up and cook in the light and not be so pestered by the bugs. I had my stove boiling water as I hung my bear line and put up my tent. I only had 1 litre if water so opted for Ramen noodles and salmon as the noodles only require a cup of water. I ate from the comfort of my tent with the bug mesh safely zipped up. However the noodles were disgusting. It was hard work eating hot noodles as by this time it was warm + I was still roasting from hiking. I opted for a cold chocolate drink for desert as my gas had run out.

To be honest I much preferred having a cold dinner last night. Spot had said that he’d stop using his stove when the weather warms up and maybe he was right.

Either way I still have a small amount of gas left in another can so I might break open a mountain house tomorrow night if things get desperate.

Because I have just pitched up lastminute.com I am not close to a water source. Which means I can’t wash and after dinner I am down to 1/3rd litre of water. Looks like it’s gonna be like this morning all over again.

I did pass a couple of streams with footbridges over them which would have made a good spots to camp. However it wasn’t far enough and they were close to a field with cows. It is advised not to take water from sources close to farms and agriculture and cow shit!

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There is a good 10 mile stretch tomorrow that looks pretty flat. Hopefully the elusive 25 will be possible. It was not so long ago that 25′s would be a walk in the park, but my legs don’t seem as fresh at this stage of the trail.

 

 

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