August 16, 1998

8/16/98 Mount Katahdin

7.6 miles (2160.7 total)

Hard to get much sleep with the rain and the anticipation of Katahdin. About 4am, both Groovin’Moose and Kid packed up for an early summit climb. After that it was hard to go back to sleep. Most of us packed in the dark. We left the shelter about 6am in the rain. It just didn’t look like a good day.

It only took an hour to hike the several miles to the Katahdin Stream campground. Because of the rain, Groovin’ and Kid were still waiting at the ranger station when we got there. They classified today as class 2 - not recommended for hiking due to the weather. Our disappointment was high.

After an hour waiting for the weather to break, Bulldog, KFT, Groovin’Moose and Bubbles decided to try for the summit anyway. They had no choice but to try today or never finish. The rest of us milled around trying to decide if we should go into town and try tomorrow.

By 8:30, it really did look like the weather might break. Or maybe it was wishful thinking on our part. Finally, we decided to go for it. At 8:40, the rest of us, Lief, Tortoise and Hare, Kid and myself literally ran the first mile up the mountain. The sun would come out for a few minutes, then it would get cloudy again. The rain had stopped. The first several miles were like most of our ascents. But we finally reached a boulder field that stretched at least 1/4 mile "up". The wind was really starting to pick up. After putting on my jacket and putting away my poles, it was time to climb up, over and around the boulders. Some places were so difficult, rebar handles had been imbedded into the rock. Didn’t make it any easier, just less dangerous.

After climbing, the trail became an exposed ridge with more climbing. Still, the wind made staying upright difficult. Thank God, the rock was relatively dry. It would have been deadly wet.

Leif and KFT walking the 2-mile plateau in cloud-cover

Up over the top of the ridge, the trail flattened out into a plateau for the next 2 miles. Still, clouds blocked most of the views of where we were headed. I hiked with Leif, KFT, and Bulldog, with Skippy close behind. About ½ mile from the peak, the clouds started breaking up and the peak stayed visible ahead of us. You could almost make out the others already there. As I got near the Katahdin sign, I slowed down letting the others have their moment of triumph.

I'm so excited to finally get here
But I have a tear in my eye

As I reached out slowly to touch the sign at the end of my 2000+ journey. my thoughts were of my cousin Nancy, who I knew was there with me. I probably would have broken down and cried if there hadn’t been such a crowd.

Bubbles, Bulldog, Skippy, Groovin'Moose, KFT, Leif,
Tortoise & Hare, Kid, and Dragon's Breath

We all took time for congratulations and pictures. We all huddled in amongst the rocks trying to shield ourselves from the wind. The clouds would come in but would dissipate in minutes. After a couple of hours, we all started back down. As I looked behind, the clouds were completely gone.

The climb down proved much more difficult than the climb up, especially down the exposed ridge and the boulder field. I have to say, that mile was like a vertical Mahoosuc Notch. My vote for the most difficult mile on the AT. Just a beautiful day coming down the mountain. Stopped for a few minutes at Katahdin Stream Falls.

Today is Hare's birthday and that's her sister, Tortoise

Reached the campground to find it over-run with everyone’s parents, many making a surprise appearance. Besides Tortoise and Hare’s mother, Groovin’ Moose, Kid, KFT, Leif, and Bubbles and even Ghandi’s parents were there.

A little champagne with Mt Katahdin

As each hiker emerged from the trail, they got a clamor of applause and congratulations. Our journey ended and now ready to go home.

August 15, 1998

8/15/98 Daicey Pond Campground

11.1 miles (2153.1 total)

What can I say. I’m sitting here tonight, amongst my friends, on the eve of finishing our thru-hike - while the torrential rains continue this evening. Yes, started raining this afternoon and has only gotten worse. A fitting end to this "el niño"-extreme thru-hike.

Skippy, Leif, KFT & Bulldog
take a break at the Abol Bridge

This morning, was up early and had only thoughts of coke and ice cream at the Abol campground store. Overcast but it felt nice. Spent most of the morning eating at various times, all the while checking for a view of Katahdin from the Abol Bridge. By noon, I gave up. While it was bright, the mountain was completely overcast.

The seven miles to Daicey Pond campground followed streams the whole way. Had several fords and good waterfalls along the route. The shelters are packed here tonight. There are 10 thru-hikers, plus at least 6 other people tenting. A new arrival is Bubbles, who yellow blazed here because she needs to finish now because of a Peace Corps deadline. Hare’s mom brought fresh fixin’s for fajetas plus cheesecake for desert.

KFT checking out Big Niagara Falls

Poor KFT, he’s found his tent in several inches of water. It’s so sad it’s almost funny. Our secret dread is that the weather will keep us from summiting tomorrow. I can’t think of anything worse, I just want to finish. Probably looking at a poor night of sleep. Going to get up early for the dash for the summit.

August 14, 1998

8/14/98 Hurd Brook Lean-to

19.5 miles (2142.0 total)

Yesterday I saw Katahdin for the first time. Just looked like one more mountain to climb to me. As I thought about it, Katahdin isn’t as important as the people it allowed me to meet along the way. I’ll climb it, hopefully with some of my thru-hiker friends. I think it will be a sad ending because of all of us going our separate ways and entering the regular world. But also joy at completing such a grueling journey in an el niño year.

Almost there and we're full of smile

The walk up along Rainbow Stream had to be some of the best views of the water. Lots of falls, chutes, and flumes. But the trail itself was treacherous, much like those in the south. Part of it would have been impassable in the rain. Walked alongside Rainbow Lake for over 5 miles. Large rocks in the water near shore reminded me of whales. Just missed a float plane take off. A nice day, weather wise, not too hot with some breezes.

Cutting across the beautiful Rainbow Ledges

Was surprised to meet Eric and Tortoise & Hare’s mom on top of Rainbow Ledges. Eric did some crazy cross-country car trip to surprise Hare. They ended up walking south to camp at the lake with the girls.

At the Hand Brook lean-to, met Leif’s mom, Mountain Mama. They make a pair. We all sit around and compare plans, both for the next few days and beyond. Got a 10+ day tomorrow, then 7+ to the Summit on Sunday. Hope it doesn’t rain like forecasted.

August 13, 1998

8/13/98 Wadleigh Stream Lean-to

29.1 miles (2122.5 total)

Awesome day! Beautiful weather, good breezes, some nice sections of trail, only occasional mosquitoes. Went so fast, I just kept adding the miles. But it could have started bad.

Last night I froze. Had to get up in the middle of the night and put more clothes on. Still could see my breath. Got up early (which surprised me) anyway. Had to ford the East Branch of the Pleasant River. Just didn’t want to wade through. Ended up just getting one shoe wet. Had a few small mountains, then it was smooth sailing with a downhill grade.

Stopped at Antlers Campsite for lunch. They had my vote for best privy on the trail. Called "Fort Relief", a log-cabin privy complete with wash basin and curtains. Real homey.

A lot of the day followed many streams and rivers. The trail was pine needle with roots for the morning. Some rock hopping, occasional swampy areas. The most bog I’ve crossed in one day.

My first view of Mount Katahdin

Ran into Leif and KFT at the Nahmakanta Stream campground. That was 24 miles for me but after seeing them, I decided to do 6 more to the shelter. Lots of PUD’s (pointless ups and downs). Now I’m part of the entourage for summiting Katahdin on the 16th. Even Skippy is here. I’m sore from doing 30 miles (in less than 12 hours) but glad I’m here. 20 miles tomorrow, then we summit.

August 12, 1998

8/12/98 East Branch Lean-to

20.6 miles (2093.4 total)

The rain yesterday showed me how little I have in reserve mentally. At one point the tears just came down. I think it was because even with a full shelter, none were thru-hiker friends.

More rain last night. Got an early start because Ultralite is an early riser. The day didn’t start out so good. Fell twice walking back from the privy. Plus leaving the shelter, took 10 minutes to find the trail. Mostly overcast skies with some drizzle.

Ultralite and I kept comparing falls (and cuts and bruises) all day. Had to ford the west branch of the Pleasant River, knee deep and cold because of the rain. The trail up to the next shelter never really felt up. Passed lots of southbounders, including SAM and his parents from Texas. Met them way back in Virginia.

A cold crossing

We did 10 miles by noon, but White Cap was still ahead. We made steady progress over the four progressively higher peaks. On the way down, fell and broke another pole. The sun kept peaking out from time to time. Nice to see a shadow. Weather reports for the rain to move quickly out.

Did the math again. If I do 23+ tomorrow and 25+ the next day, I can catch Tort and Hare before the 16th. Seems doable since I just did 20+ over White Cap. Left Ultralite at the last shelter while I headed to the next one.

August 11, 1998

8/11/98 Chairback Gap Lean-to

6.8 miles (2072.8 total)

Rain, fucking rain! Just a light rain last night but as the day went, it increased, and increased. Falling was normal. All the climbs both up and down were vertical. Made my way to the first shelter by noon. As I took a lunch break, the rain started to pour (have I used the word ‘torrential’ too much?).

I hated to do it but I decided to stop early. That means that my schedule for the 16th is near to impossible. I can sympathize with Billy Goat. I’m tired of hiking. I just want it to end. If I wasn’t in the middle of no-where, I might have quit today. Tomorrow looks like more rain and some cold. Slept a lot today - maybe my body needs the rest.

August 10, 1998

8/10/98 Cloud Pond Lean-to

16.1 miles (2066.0 total)

Mrs. Pratt (The Pie Lady) dropped me off on the trail by 6:30am. Wanted to get an early start to beat the heat. Didn’t but I tried. My plan was to do 19+ so I’d be in a better position for White Cap. But that meant first slogging away the miles.

Finally had to ford a stream in my sandals. A few streams looked real inviting if only I’d been doing a slow day. One section after Hudson Valley lean-to has so many blowdowns, I thought it was the wrong trail. Lots of waterfalls.

The climb up Barren Mountain was pain incarnate. It was a steep climb after doing all those other miles in the heat. Then near the top you could hear thunder. That motivated me. Arrived at Cloud Pond lean-to via a real shitty approach trail. With the shelter full of a family and a few other hikers, it was put up the tent fast in case the showers started.

Looks like I’ll have Ultralite as a shadow until I catch Tort and Hare. Planning on doing 17 tomorrow.

August 9, 1998

8/9/98 Monson, ME

3.0 miles (2049.9 total)

Another scorcher today. Up late last night drinking beer and discussing the difference between east coast and midwest work ethics. Had breakfast with Skippy, who’s really Irish. And Gilligan stopped by to wish us luck.

"The Pie Lady" boarding house

Had a real conscience nightmare today. Didn’t leave till 3pm this afternoon but the Pie Lady took me to the AT access on ME15 but that’s cutting 3 miles off my walk. I hiked about a mile but those 3 I missed kept nagging me. Finally, I couldn’t stand it. I walked back to the road and hitched back to town. The Pie Lady took me to where I got off yesterday. I hiked the 3 miles and hitched back to Monson. The Pie Lady wants to change my trail name to "Goofy".

Talked to the Purests (Ghandi, Billy Goat, Obi-Wan). They want me to finish with them on the 17th but I still think I’ll try and catch the Tort and Hare by the 16th. Just about a week left in the trail, excited, scared, tired, and I want the big K bad.

August 8, 1998

8/8/98 Monson, ME

21.4 miles (2046.9 total)

Matt and I got up early! Packed and on the move by 6:15am. The climb up Maxie Bald Mountain was easy compared to the profile and the guidebook. If we had known this, we would have pressed on yesterday. Made it to the next shelter by 8am.

All morning, despite the increasing temperature and annoying mosquitoes, we couldn’t believe our speed. We just kept pushing fast and hard. Next shelter by 11:35am, but exhausted. Instead of trying for town by 2:30, we took a long lunch break. The crossing of the Piscataquis River was disappointing, barely ankle deep.

Hot and tired, we finally made the road to town. Ended up walking a couple of miles before someone picked us up. Headed straight for the Pie Lady’s. Tort and Hare and Groovin’Moose had already arrived. Word on the trail is that Ghandi, Billy Goat and Obi-Wan quit the trail 6 days ago to go canoeing. They’re supposed to hit Monson tomorrow to finish the hike to Katahdin. I don’t understand why they continue.

Havin' a beer with Matt at the Pie Lady's

August 7, 1998

8/7/98 Bald Mountain Brook

19.2 miles (2025.5 total)

Matt and I tried to kill ourselves today - breakfast at Harrison’s, crossing the Kennebec, attempting 2 mountains and 22 miles. Didn’t quite make it. This morning we had breakfast at Harrison’s Pierce Pond Cabins. Blueberry pancakes, eggs, sausage, milk and juice for $6. I’m sorry to say I couldn’t finish it all. Very good food but the Harrison’s were a little stand-offish.

Skippy gets a ferry ride across the Kennebec River

Ended up getting to the Kennebec in just over an hour. Steve, the ferryman, was a good-natured talker. Then headed for Caratunk. After a coke and a root beer, headed out to the trail. Steady, long up-hill to Pleasant Pond lean-to. From there it was a steep but short climb up to Pleasant Pond Mountain. The ridge walk down seemed to go all over so the trail crossed every exposed rock outcropping. After awhile, you got very hot exposed like that.

Always have to stop in the local stores to get ice cream

Made it to Bald Mountain Brook lean-to with 2 guys out section hiking and a family tenting, out for a week. Gilligan showed up, so Matt and I decided to hike on. Just before we left, Skippy showed up very tired. Skippy retires next year from a company that assembles huge electric diesel shovels, the kind that could scoop up a whole house. He started April 15 and is wearing down.

Just another hot, sunny day. Lately I’ve seen lots of frogs on the trail. But yesterday, almost all the frogs were tiny, about ½ inch long. Strange! We just walked about ¾ of a mile away from the shelter to look for a campsite. Kind of lumpy and uneven but it will do. The last couple of nights I’ve had cold/flu symptoms but not during the day. I just don’t want to get sick this close to the end.

August 6, 1998

8/6/98 Pierce Pond Lean-to

17.3 miles (2006.3 total)

Another wonderful day! The only climbs were small "hills" compared with what we’ve been going over. Most of the hiking was fast because the terrain was relatively flat. Matt and I took a lunch break at East Carry pond, near still another group of Canadian campers, this time young girls.

The lake behind me is called East Carry Pond

Kind of giddy again today. Fell on my face and started laughing at myself. Just love to open up the speed on this easy terrain. Happy to break 2000 miles today.

Did the 17 miles to Pierce Pond Lean-to by 3pm. A bunch of scouts were camped nearby. Gilligan moved on, thank God! Beautiful sunset with the shelter right on the water’s edge. Got a big day planned for tomorrow.

August 5, 1998

8/5/98 Little Bigelow Lean-to

15.4 miles (1989.0 total)

The only was to describe my morning attitude was "giddy" with excitement. The weather was perfect, again! Even the long climb up South Horn couldn’t dampen my spirits.

Almost convinced Hare to take a dip in Horns Pond

Up Bigelow Mountain, met a lot of day-hikers. Crossed Bigelow and discovered Matt taking a lunch break at Avery Peak. What great views of the lake from here. The trail was pretty, nearly all the way to Little Bigelow Mountain. Must have been another relocation. Probably added a few more miles, kept running into "Gilligan" whom I then tried to avoid all day.

Horns Pond as seen farther "up" the trail

Met another camp group at Little Bigelow Mountain (east end). Megan and Craig, the leaders, were pretty cool. Megan is good friends with Hellfire, whom she said is off the trail. They were in charge of a wide assortment of kids - a German, a French boy, two from Russia and two beautiful girls from Turkey and several kids from Maine. All with lots of questions about my thru-hike.

A very nice trail

At the shelter, I discover a loud French-speaking group from Canada already there. The other group decided to move on. Other hikers in the shelter were Tennessee Tom and Jukebox, both flip-flopping from Virginia. Skippy, an Australian thru-hiker, came later. One thing of note, the privy had curtains and was a two holer.

August 4, 1998

8/4/98 Stratton, ME

7.1 miles (1973.6 total)

Another clear sunny day! The girls and Groovin’Moose left while I was still packing. Probably will see Matt again. The climb up the Crocker went smoothly, not too much steep climbs. Caught up to and passed Tort & Hare. Lots of weekenders, several large groups. Passed a few girls headed to Hanover from Katahdin. By the time I reached the road, Groovin’ was still hitchhiking after 30 minutes. We teamed up and about 15-20 minutes later a couple picked us up. He had a sick sense of humor and she kept apologizing.

Stopped off at the post office and then headed for the White Wolf Inn. Just my luck, closed on Tuesday. Matt showed up, so the three of us ate lunch at the diner.

I went across the street to the Stratton Motel & Hostel. Who should be in the office but the woman from the post office, on her lunch hour. Her family owns the motel. Met a couple of young guys, section-hiking - one south, one north. The guy headed north is staying in the motel. The southbounder is the only other one in the hostel besides me. Charlie is taking him to the doctor because of continued giardia symptoms. Later that night after dinner at "Mainely Yours", we watched a video. Ended staying up past midnight talking about the attitudes of thru-hikers.

August 3, 1998

8/3/98 Crocker Cirque campsite

14.3 miles (1966.5 total)

Today is my 5th month anniversary on the trail. I’ve done so much, met so many people and only 2 weeks to go.

My thoughts have strayed a lot to "after" Katahdin. Being in the "real" world is going to be rough. I hope I can keep in touch with those like Tortoise & Hare to keep this trip alive in memory.

Today was a lot like yesterday but the ups were less severe. Passed by some great looking streams. My water filter didn’t work this morning unless I primed it. Took lots of breaks with Tort & Hare.

At the Spaulding Mountain lean-to, the register was full of southbounder hate for northbounders. As we are completing our incredible journey, beating the odds, we might seem arrogant and overconfident. We’re not, just psyched to be near the end. Personally, the few who wrote the worst comments probably don’t have the "adaptability" to make it the whole way south.

Near the top of Spaulding Mountain, met Mooseless, a vegan. Even his boots were synthetic. I wished him luck in staying vegan on the trail. The climb down Sugarloaf was another shear drop boulder hop. I just hate going downhill. but by this time of the day, all four of us are hiking together. Had to rock-hop across the Carrabassett River because the bridge is washed away. Headed up Crocker Mountain about a mile to the campsite.

The bridge had been washed out

Matt from the shelter last night showed up at this camp too. He’s really a funny guy. We made a lot of fun of his pack, what with his 13 pound tent and all. I’m rooting for him to make it to Katahdin. Tomorrow I say goodbye to the girls as I have a mail drop in Stratton. Maybe if Ghandi and Billy Goat catch up, we can motor ahead to join Tortoise and Hare. Plus I’m a little worried about my mail drop in Monson.

August 2, 1998

8/2/98 Poplar Ridge Lean-to

10.7 miles (1952.2 total)

What a beautiful Sunday! After packing up and leaving mom a message on her answering machine, Wayfarer came by to take us to breakfast with his wife, Zelda. At first, I thought she wasn’t going to like us. But by the time they dropped us off at the trailhead, she was treating us like family. Also at the trailhead, ran into Honey and Bear who run the "Cabin" in Andover. We’d heard a lot of good things about it this last week but never thought of staying there. Bear turns out to be the guy EWOS and I met on the road to Salisbury, back in CT. He remembered my name and wants me to drop by after Katahdin.

Hitchin' a ride in the back of a truck

I love the sun because it makes shadows. We stopped at every peak today to take long breaks, feeling the wind and the sun. Last night I spent way too much energy worrying about work. Looking at the mountains all around me, I don’t even think of work. Our peaks for the day were Saddleback, Horn, and Saddleback Junior.

Appalachian Trail

A reunion of sorts - met Groovin’Moose on Saddleback. He’d taken several days off due to an ankle injury. Plus we saw a lot of Hoofer and Wanderer. Also, at the shelter is Matt, a chef, and Phil, a weekender.

Hoofer said he could stay up here all day

August 1, 1998

8/1/98 Rangeley, ME

13.8 miles (1941.5 total)

Hard to wake up this morning because it was chilly last night. But the girls had us on the trail before 8am. No mountains today, just hills. Mostly a sunny day with an occasional cloud. We took breaks often and talked a lot while hiking. Almost got a glimpse of a moose and her calf but they moved too deep into the forest for us to get a good look. Ran into Hoofer and Wanderer today while they were slackpacking. Both seemed like nice guys.

When we finally made it to the trailhead near Rangely, who should we spot but Bruce from Hiker’s Paradise and Ultralite. Bruce gave us a ride into town after handing each of us a cold coke. Did our grocery shopping and headed to the Red Onion for pizza. I went to the Alpine Garden outfitter but we had no luck with the water filter.

Unfortunately for us, the Horsefeather Bed & Breakfast, which had great reviews, was booked for the weekend. So we ended up at the Farmhouse Inn. Wayfarer, who attempted a southbound hike this year but had to get off because of knee trouble, saw us getting ice cream and offered to give us a ride. The inn is a nice place but the owners seem a little scarce. Hope I can find a phone to call home.

July 31, 1998

7/31/98 Bemis Stream campsite

16.6 miles (1927.7 total)

What a night! Sounded like torrential rains on the shelter’s tin roof. But this morning we awoke to mostly blue skies.

The climb down from the shelter was made even more difficult because of last night’s rain. Down at Sawyer Brook, I discovered my water filter won’t work. Tortoise and Hare let me use theirs for now. The climb up Moody Mountain was long and steep. I figure if this keeps up, I won’t have enough energy to keep up with the girls. We hiked most of the morning with Yamazella in front.

The girls climbin' on down

We had a quick lunch break on top of Old Blue Mountain. A little breezy, kind of cold if you’d been sweating up there. Not really a bad day weatherwise. The rest of the Bemis Range was quick. Made it to the lean-to by 5pm with less than 4 miles to go. But we hated to leave an empty new shelter.

The last few climbs were mazes, that had a lot of twists and turns, but not much up and down. The only thing hard about our climb down was the dirt trail was slippery. Fell a couple of times but caught myself. We camped near Bemis Stream. The girls found a "Katahdin Pale Ale" that some trail angel left by the trail. We sat around cooking dinner and discussing our options for town tomorrow. My first priority is to call home, something I forgot in Andover. I’ve enjoyed Tortoise and Hare’s company, so will travel with them, maybe to Katahdin.

July 30, 1998

7/30/98 Hall Mountain Lean-to

13.8 miles (1897.3 total)

Woke up way too early! Was packed and on the trail by 7am. Tortoise and Hare were still asleep when I left. Ended up passing Michigan Plowboy going up Baldpate. He’d missed the turn for the shelter and camped near the summit.

Baldpate Mountain was beautiful on this foggy morning. The sun tried to poke through occasionally. The summit climb was up large slabs of inclined rock. I was very happy it wasn’t wet. But I think the climb down was slower for me. Once off the top, I did manage to fall-slide down one slick slab. Landed on my elbow but the pack took most of the impact.

Baldpate Mountain in the early morning fog

Once off the mountain, the trail, terrain and vegetation reminded me more of Virginia. Now we were hiking on dirt, duff and roots, instead of rocks. Made it to the next shelter by 9am.

Pretty slow, but the profile for the next section looked easier. Which turned out to be the case. I made excellent time to Dunn Notch Falls, almost 2 mph. I just wish I could have enjoyed the falls more. They were beautiful.

Made East B Hill Road by 11am which was great considering it was a hard hitch into Andover. It took over an hour and a half before someone stopped. In that time, only 4 cars passed me. Earl is a school teacher, who moonlights in summer helping a friend with a canoe business. Born and married in Maine, he teaches physics and math at a technical college. He dropped me off in "downtown" Andover.

Picked up my mail and sent home my winter gear (hope I don’t need it!). Stopped by the All Seasons Cafe for cheeseburgers and fries while talking to some southbounders. Met the guy who runs the Andover Guest House. Very pushy, thought I’d change my mind about moving on once I had a chance to look his place over. The "long-term" grocery store had very limited supplies but I did get some Ben and Jerry’s.

Headed down the road a few blocks to the Pine Ellis Bed & Breakfast. Paul, who runs it with his wife, Ilene, gave me fuel for free and agreed to take me back to the trail. Very nice guy. Paul was able to give Hoofer a ride back into town after dropping me off.

Wonderful people at the Pine Ellis B&B

Word was Ghandi and Tortoise and Hare had just passed through. So I put on the afterburners. When I passed Surplus Pond, I thought Ghandi would have stopped for a swim. About 5pm, I passed Yamazella. He told me Ghandi and Billy Goat were slacking a 21 mile day. That means I won’t see them! Met Tortoise and Hare at the water source for the shelter. There are 4 northbounders, 2 southbounders and 2 more section hikers here.

Although the sun came out on occasion, enough to cast shadows, and it is raining tonight while I write. Tomorrow we might get to see Katahdin.

July 29, 1998

7/29/98 Baldpate Lean-to

12.1 miles (1897.3 total)

Guess what? Yes, woke up to rain. Just my luck for the "toughest mile" on the AT. Rained hard till about 9am. We set off with overcast skies and a light drizzle.

The Mahoosuc Notch is a mile-long stretch of large boulders that the trail snakes through. Not hard physically, but more a mental puzzle to figure out how to go; up, over, around, or under. The wet rocks just made it a little harder. We took our time, about 2 hours and had a good time. I only got stuck once out on a ledge with a seemingly impossible jump to make. Kind of scary but I made it.

The Mahoosuc Arm was a very long steep climb out of the notch. Glad I put the poles away because I used my hands a lot. By the time we reached the top, we had sunny skies - go figure.

Reached Speck Pond Campsite by 3pm. Took a long break to talk with the caretaker. Some weekenders heading south didn’t believe us when we told them it had taken us 5 hours to do 5 miles. Still had 7 miles to go so we headed out again.

At one point, I started to pull away from the girls. They take a lot of snack breaks because Tortoise is diabetic. They said the trip has been pretty easy because of snacks and the exercise.

Crossed paths with Adriene, of Lake of the Clouds Hut, and Ned, the AMC trail maintainer who’d told us about the campsite above Liberty. They had a few days off and were hiking up to Speck Pond. Also saw a trail maintenance crew. They were completely covered in dirt from moving large rocks for water breaks.

Practically ran from Grafton Notch to the Baldpate Lean-to, almost a 2mph pace. Something we haven’t been able to do for a while. Seems Tortoise, Hare and I have the shelter all to ourselves. After dinner, the girls made cheesecake while it rained some more. Need my sleep tonight because I’m hoping to do a 14 mile day, and get groceries in Andover. Just depends on the hitch.

July 28, 1998

7/28/98 Full Goose Shelter

9.6 miles (1885.2 total)

Four southbounders showed up late. Turns out they’re just out of high school and Christian too. So when it sounded like the girls might stop singing, the guys encouraged more. That brought comments from Michigan Plowboy who was trying to sleep. The boys took offense and rude, unchristian comments sounded out in the shelter. Finally everyone quieted down.

Gentian Pond

Ol’ Michigan Plowboy looked like he hadn’t slept all night. Said my good-byes to all the girls and hit the trail by 7am with overcast skies.

The trail was a lot of ups and downs but it went quickly. When you looked up, the next peak looked so high but next thing you know, you’re on top. Made it to the next shelter by 10am. Just hated the 0.3 mile walk down for water. The afternoon was extremely windy, probably in the 50 mph range again. And the trail was pretty exposed on the ridge. The highlight of the day was crossing the NH/ME border - just 280.4 miles to go.

Ended up at Full Goose Shelter around 1pm. Probably should have gone on but I thought I needed to be fresh for the "notch". Lots of people here tonight, both in the shelter and on the tent platforms. There are 2 section hikers, 3 guys out for a couple of days, a couple hiking for several weeks, 2 separate summer camp groups and 2 southbounders.

When Ghandi showed up going south, it didn’t surprise me at all. Said he did the notch in 45 minutes. It was 6pm but he hoped to do 10-12 more miles tonight. Hopefully I’ll see him again. About 8pm, Tortoise and Hare arrived, tired but happy. We talked outside while they ate dinner because several people were already sleeping. I’m glad I get to hike with them for a while.

July 27, 1998

7/27/98 Gentian Pond Campsite

11.9 miles (1875.6 total)

Left town after a post office stop, getting to the trail around 10am. Soon was hiking with Kid, Strider and No Trail Name. The climbs were pretty easy compared to the Whites but it was still hot.

Got to the shelter about 4pm to find the place crowded with a girls’ Christian camp group. They were good kids - lots of questions - and even shared food (guess I looked hungry). The other guys kept going while a bunch of southbounders showed up later.

Headed for Maine

Right now, they’re all singing Christian songs. Kind of corny but OK. Another short day planned for tomorrow so I can tackle the "notch" early in the day.

A shelter full of girls

July 26, 1998

7/26/98 Gorham, NH

0 miles (1863.7 total)

Said goodbye to Billy Goat this morning. Who knows when I’ll see him again. Seems I change hiking partners every week. Cloudy-windy day while I do my errands. Hung out at the "Barn" for awhile today. Nice place but too many rumors fly between here and Hiker’s Paradise . The owners of both are probably friends but the hikers have made it out to be a feud. Was really hoping a few northbounders would catch up but I didn’t know anyone there.

Talked with Amy again. Seems she was making this big trip because they were worried about me. Guess my last postcard did it. She was going to spend 2 days and a lot of money just to see me for less than 24 hours. I told her that was silly. Assured her I was doing fine.

Late yesterday, Tortoise and Hare, and Lief show up. Maybe I’ll have them as hiking partners. They plan on finishing the 16th, Hare’s birthday.

July 25, 1998

7/25/98 Gorham, NH

13.2 miles (1863.7 total)

Last night was the coldest I’ve been in a while. Billy Goat crashed early while Obi-Wan spent the evening teaching his sister the basics of setting up camp and cooking.

Got up several times in the night and found nothing in the sky but stars. The cold made it very hard to get out of bed. The funniest thing to happen at this campsite was our comical attempts to hang our food bags. At least 4 times, we got the rope caught in the tree, needing someone to climb the tree twice.

Left Obi-Wan and Spinner about 8am and headed out on the windy trail. Once I worked up a sweat, the wind really got me cold. Our climbs weren’t hard but it still seemed to wear us out. The climb down North Carter was extremely steep. At times, I threw my poles down as I needed both hands to climb down. Saw a few weekenders but this section is a lot less crowded.

The views of Mount Washington were great again. The wind kept blowing clouds across the peaks. Another beautiful day.

Another stream crossing

Up over Mount Mariah and did the long downhill to Rattle River Shelter. The stream was very nice, lots of rapids. Didn’t see the trail that went behind the shelter, so had to ask a weekender camped out by the stream. He pointed out a 10 foot deep swimming hole but we decided to keep heading for town. The last 2 miles were on a flat downhill path. Good thing too, because we almost had to run because of the mosquitoes.

Got to the road at 2:30, just as I predicted. Had a little trouble hitching even though I flashed some leg from time-to-time. A guy out for some weekend canoeing gave us a lift into town.

After getting cleaned up, Billy Goat and I decided to tackle the "super-stomper" at Mr. Pizza. A few southbounders, three in fact, said they couldn’t finish the whole thing. We felt it was a challenge we northbounders were up to. The waitress brought out a huge pan, almost covered the whole table. She didn’t think we could finish it. The last few pieces were tough to get down but we ate the whole 384 square inches of that pepperoni and sausage pizza.

Headed back to the Hiker’s Paraidse with a six pack and ended up getting to bed late, watching TV. That’s OK, because I’m taking tomorrow off. Mom informed me that my cousin Nancy had died this week and the funeral was today. I feel this hike is now for her. I was so looking forward to seeing her and showing pictures and telling stories. Goddess bless her in the next life.

July 24, 1998

7/24/98 Zeta Pass campsite

7.4 miles (1850.5 total)

After eating a big breakfast, Bruce took us back to the trail. The sun was shining but it was a lot cooler. Upper 40’s on Mount Washington, they said. After walking a mile along its base, we started the long climb up Wildcat Mountain. Lots of real climbing. The poles really got in the way. Although my legs didn’t hurt, they sure got tired.

Stopped at the gondola for a break, near the Wildcat Ski area. Only saw one family out on the trail today. Cold, windy and always threatening rain. Made it to Carter Notch Hut around 1:30pm. Finally met Obi-Wan, who was slowing down to hike with his older sister, Spinner. We all decided to do a little stealth camping near Zeta Pass. The climb up Carter Dome was relatively easy for a 1800’ ascent. The trail also took us over Mount Height where we got a good view of Washington, Madison and Adams. Found a very nice campsite far from the trail with water nearby.

Hikers prepared for the windy conditions

Billy Goat will probably leave me after tomorrow. He’s decided to slackpack for a lot of the beginning of Maine so he can finish earlier, to be with his family a little bit before he heads off to school in Arkansas.

Billy Goat looks down the steep descent

July 23, 1998

7/23/98 Pinkham Notch

14.6 miles (1843.1 total)

Pandemonium seemed to fill every corner of the hut yesterday. Trying to find a quiet spot to write or read was impossible. Just too many kids. Last night after dinner, Adriene offered us AYCE ravioli, salad, soup, corn and bread for $5 each. We hesitated, so she made it $5 for both of us. We gladly took it. Even though we both had eaten dinner, we ate more than anyone else of the crew on the work-for-stay hikers.

Lake of the Clouds Hut, which holds over 100 paying guests

Later in the evening, the crew invited us to join them for chai (hot sweet tea with milk). Talked with Alison and Karen for awhile about the hike. After watching the sunset, the clouds came in extremely fast. It even started to sprinkle as we got ready for bed. At first, I thought the dungeon would be cold and drafty. But once we shut the door and got in our sleeping bags, I actually got warm enough to unzip the bag a little bit.

Woke up to overcast skies and cooler temperatures. Left the hut about 8am, hoping to get to Mount Washington when the snack bar opened at 9am. A pretty easy, steady climb. It was very hard to take a picture of the peak without a building in the background. While eating a sandwich, we watched the cog railway train arrive. Yesterday the wind had been so fierce but this morning was relatively calm. As we left the summit, the temperature was dropping, the wind picking up speed and the rain started.

The explorer atop Mount Washington

The trail was pretty nice in places, almost like a sidewalk. At one point, we had sleet and snow flurries. About a mile from Madison Hut, the rain really started to come down, along with some strong winds. Billy Goat and I decided to get the AYCE soup to help warm us up. We stayed over an hour till the rain stopped but we really didn’t get warm. The climb up Mount Madison was very difficult because there really wasn’t a trail, just a lot of boulder hopping. Our problems started soon after the summit. Seems the soup gave us incredible gas. It hurt so bad I thought I was giving birth. All afternoon, we farted.

More rain making the trail even that more treacherous

Our plan was to pass Osgood tentsite and head directly for Pinkham Notch. But our going over the rocks was very slow, sometimes only a mile per hour. When we reached the campsite, we found it full anyway. The register was in the privy but it didn’t look like northbounders had signed in.

The last 5 miles were down and flat. Ended up getting to the Visitor Center by 6:30pm. A long time AT hiker, Lone Wolf, was there waiting for a southbounder. While "the barn" was our first choice, "Hikers’ Paradise" would come and get us.

Bruce drove us into Gorham, all the while giving us a running commentary on the towns’ businesses like restaurants. The hostel is really two upstairs apartments at the Colonial Comfort Inn. Mostly southbounders in residence. The surprise came when I found out the Dutch couples I’d met outside of Hanover were sharing the apartment they had assigned to us.

Billy Goat and I showered and headed out for food and beer. But not several blocks from the hostel we got caught in a downpour. We sat it out on a bench of another motel. Had a "stomper", 192 square inches of pizza, and desert at Mr. Pizza. Billy Goat later had a pint of Ben and Jerry’s but could still eat more. Talked to the Dutch about another walk in Europe that leads to the church at Santiago de Compostello in Spain. Sounds like another adventure to add to my list. I went to bed late while Billy Goat fell asleep on the couch watching TV.

July 22, 1998

7/22/98 Lakes of the Clouds Hut

11.1 miles (1828.5 total)

Got a good early start this morning. Took a Clariton last night and it seemed to help reduce the snoring because Billy Goat said he didn’t hear me once. One of the other guests ended up giving us a ride back to the trailhead.

We expected a long climb up Mount Webster and we got one. The higher we went, the stronger the wind became. Walking along the cliff edges wasn’t dangerous because the wind kept pushing us into the mountain. Lots of clumbing that required hands. The climb over Mount Jackson (4052’) was easier. We could even see Mizpah Hut from the summit. Got to the hut by noon but absolutely no leftovers. We were bummin’. Met a few more southbounders before heading on. We still thought it might rain late this afternoon.

Crossed that road at the bottom of Crawfard Notch this morning
It was a long windy climb

Had another one of those large boulder steep stair-climbs up Mount Clinton (4310’) but it was worth it. We could see the path above treeline as it wound up-over Mount Eisenhower (4761’) and Mount Franklin. The wind now was incredible. Most of our energy was used to stay upright. Later we found out the winds were 50-70 mph with even higher gusts. You could just make out the towers on top of Mount Washington. One guy said it reminded him of the "Land of Oz".

Billy Goat negotiates the steep climbing

Even with the wind and terrain, we made it to Lake of the "Crowds" by 2:30pm. Met Adreane of the crew, who hopefully will fix us up with AYCE dinner leftovers. The dungeon is just that, a damp dark basement room with a broken door, drafty window and six grungy bunks. But, hey, we’re thru-hikers, we can sleep anywhere.

The trail meanders along the ridgeline crossing
Mt Webster, Mt Jackson, Mt Pierce and Mt Eisenhower

July 21, 1998

7/21/98 Crawford Hostel

14.7 miles (1817.4 total)

In the morning, we ate breakfast with the crew, while waiting for our "work" assignments. We got very lucky. They had us sweep the entire hut, then carry the "shitter" barrels out to the helicopter loading area. That’s it, about 30 minutes of work instead of 2 hours. Maria was great. So we got on the trail before 9am. The sun was out as we left the hut and started our steep ascent of South Twin Mountain. Took a break on top because you could get a great view of where we’d been and where we’re going.

Mount Guyot had a ground-hugging evergreen covering the entire summit and approach. The rest of the way to Zealand Falls Hut was generally downhill. Passed loads of hut-to-hut hikers.

Zealand Falls was great. Billy Goat decided to model his manly thru-hiker body in the frigid falls, screaming the whole time. Good pictures though. Talked with Caitlan on the crew for awhile, even talked her into selling me a spinach calzone for ½ price. Decided we needed to hurry if we were going to make Crawford Notch by 6pm.

Only Billy Goat was crazy enough to take a dip in the Falls
You can almost hear his screaming over the roar of the waterfall

The trail between Zealand Falls and Ethan Pond must have been an old railroad bed because it was so straight. The only problem areas were landslides with very large boulders. By the time we reached the campsite, I was hungry and exhausted.

The last 3 miles to Crawford Notch was tough for me. Ghandi and Billy Goat passed the time with riddles, but my mind was a blank. Finally reached the bottom precisely at 6pm and Ghandi’s mother was there to meet us. Ghandi’s getting off the trail for a couple of days to register at school. Billy Goat and I decided to pay the $12 for a hostel bunk at Crawford Notch. That allowed us both to make a few phone calls.

Called Claire several times and finally got hold of her late. We talked about my trip and Kansas City stuff. Turns out her trip to New Hampshire is in August and sounds packed with wedding meet-the-family stuff. So the only one coming out to meet me now is Amy.

Two hungry hikers eating dinner

The hostel was pretty good. The kitchen and phone were available all night. Plus someone had left a ½ gallon of ice cream which Billy Goat and I gladly sampled. The only problem was we stayed up way too late. The walk from the main house to our bunk cabin at 11pm was spectacular. The stars were so bright and so many. The Milky Way was easily visible. I wish I could just lay down in the grass and look up in the sky all night.

July 20, 1998

7/20/98 Galehead Hut

10.2 miles (1802.7 total)

Woke up this morning to rain. The guys decided that we’d wait and see if it would pass. By 9am, the rain had stopped at least for a while. We packed up and headed for the treeline.

Above treeline, the trail was a rock-lined path and a lot of rock steps. Even though it wasn’t raining, the wind was gusting. Cold enough, we all put on jackets. Little Haystack (4760’), Lincoln (5089’), and Lafayette (5249’) were all covered in mist. The trail really seemed to kick out butt. Seemed to take us forever to cover just a mile.

After waking up in the rain, we can see down to
Liberty Mountain as it pokes through the clouds

Stopped by the Garfield Ridge Campsite to check the register and use the privy. Talked to the caretaker for a few minutes. But no sooner had we left the campsite and it began to rain, rain real hard. The terrain was steep and rocky, hard enough during good weather, treacherous when wet. Fell once but the pack broke my fall. Passed a bunch of people on the way to Galehead Hut.

Tons of people already at the hut but we were able to get work-for-stay. I felt guilty because so many people were turned away because the hut was full, and we get to sleep on the floor. Funny thing though, about 5pm, the clouds completely disappeared and the sun came out. We passed the time outside waiting for the "paying" guests to finish dinner so we could eat with the crew. A few people asked questions about my hike. I really don’t mind repeating the story ( over and over) to people that genuinely are interested.

Dinner was a vegetable calzone and pasta with red sauce. I ate till I couldn’t hold any more. Maria has been the friendliest of the crew, but Shawn, Lairs and Amy were busy with other stuff. Tomorrow, its breakfast and then we work for 2 hours to pay for our stay. Maybe Zealand Hut tomorrow if the weather is bad or Crawford Notch if good. Sleeping tonight under the dinning room tables.

July 19, 1998

7/19/98 Liberty Spring

11.7 miles (1792.5 total)

Most of the weekenders that tented nearby had left by the time we got up. Didn’t leave the shelter till almost 9am. We’d gone less than a quarter of a mile when Ghandi stopped to take a dip in an inviting pool. Billy Goat and I tackled Kinsman by ourselves. We had to use our hands so much to climb - the poles really got in the way.

That's me on top of Kinsman Mountain

Ghandi caught up to us while we took a break on the north peak of Kinsman. They went way too fast for me on the screamer of a downhill, so I met them at the Lonesome Lake Hut. We bought breakfast leftovers but the hut crew was not very friendly. A trail maintainer told us about an unofficial campsite to try for tonight. Ghandi took off trying to make it into North Woodstock for groceries, while Billy Goat and I took a leisurely hike down to Franconia Notch.

Billy Goat takes a much needed rest

The day continued to be a nice sunny one with occasional breeze. In fact, this is one of the longest stretches of good weather I’ve had in a long time. We thought the climb up to Liberty tentsite was a lot easier than we thought, at least the first half. Passed a lot of weekenders. Reached the tentsite just in time for dinner. The caretaker tried to talk us into staying instead of camping off trail. We said thanks but no thanks.

Standing on top of Liberty Mountain

Our campsite was another 0.3 of a mile up the trail. After setting up the tents, we headed up to Liberty Peak to watch the sunset. You could really see the mountains. While up there, Ghandi showed up. He’d gotten a great hitch from two women coming home from a powwow. The sunset was beautiful. Spent the rest of the night trying to catch up writing in the journal.

Spectacular sunset from Liberty Mountain

July 18, 1998

7/18/98 Eliza Brook Shelter

16.9 miles (1780.8 total)

After a quick breakfast we were on the road back to the trail by 7:30am. Back at the post office, I tried to call home one more time. The morning plan was to climb Mount Moosilauke (4802’). I’d been dreading it all week. But as I climbed, I felt pretty good. As I got near the summit, I could see it was covered with dark clouds with lots of wind and moisture in the air. But when I got to the top, the skies cleared and I had great views.

Sometimes you would cross sections of forest destroyed
by the severe winter storms of this past year

Headed down to Beaver Brook Shelter for a break and saw Charley again. The climb down to Kinsman Notch followed Beaver Brook almost straight down for several miles. The trail was so difficult, several places had steps bolted to the rock and used a couple of rebar handrails. But the entire way down followed cascading waterfalls. Because it was Saturday, I must have passed 20 or 30 day hikers headed up that trail. My knees were relieved when I reached the bottom.

The trail followed this waterfall straight down
almost 2 miles as we entered the White Mountains

Did some more climbing and crossed paths with Michigan Plowboy who mentioned Ghandi was just ahead. Found him taking a break on a big rock. He’d wanted to get a good view on Moosilauke so he’d camped only part way up last night. We walked together the rest of the way to Eliza Brook Shelter. Met a few more southbounders there. Wanderlust and Bugbite, who remembered me from the AT98. Who should walk into camp after dinner but Billy Goat. Always good to see him. We all compared trail stories till long after dark.

Hike UP!

July 17, 1998

7/17/98 Haverhill, NH

8.0 miles (1763.9 total)

Even drinking all that beer, I was up and out on the trail by 7:30am. But there was no way I was going to make the post office in Glencliff by 10am. The weather was overcast, so it was hard just to slow down and relax.

The post office was ½ mile from the trail and Warren was another 4 miles. Martin and Melanie, the Quebec tourists I met in Hanover, had been hitch-hiking for over an hour. Melanie was complaining that she had drunk bad water and had gotten sick. I ended up walking to the post office.

Michigan Plowboy and the Quebec tourists talked a man in his yard into giving them a lift into town. He pulled over and I joined them. Martin and Melanie went to a campground while Michigan and I stopped at the deli for lunch. Michigan ended up talking another guy who wasn’t even going our way, into taking us back to the post office.

Met Rainman, a southbounder. Because he beat his mail drop to Glencliff, he decided to call and stay at Roger’s "House of Weather". Because I was only planning on going to the shelter a mile away, I decided to join him.

John picked us up at Glencliff and drove us the 11 miles to Haverhill, "the most sophisticated hamlet in the Northeast!" according to Roger. He has been taking in thru-hikers for 25 years, all at no cost. Our beds were mattresses up in the attic, above the AT Hikers Pub (with a 36 foot mural of the trail). We had an elegant dinner with real china and crystal. Then went for a swim in the pool. Plus Roger had a fridge by the pool stocked with liquor, wine, beer and pop. Later, while Rainman and I tried to write in our journals, John kept bringing in more beer. He asked a lot of questions "why" we hike. Didn’t get to write much and finally went to bed.

Roger gave us a tour of his "Museum of Weather", a collection of weather exhibits about some of the USA’s worst storms and disasters. One very neat thing he had was the hand-drawn German weather map of Europe for D-day. Right now, he’s thinking of moving it to New York so more people can see it.

July 16, 1998

7/16/98 "Atwell Hilton"

19.7 miles (1755.9 total)

Those Europeans sure get up early. They were up and cooking breakfast by 6am. But it was OK, they offered me tea, crackers, and preserves. Last night, Lea said she would rather use the woods than the privy. So this morning I told her I’d judge the privy. Well, it tilted left and backward (a lot, I guess) but it had a captains chair with a hole in the seat which was a nice touch. I didn’t see any reason not to use it.

Kind of an overcast morning. Hard to tell what kind of day it was going to be. I already knew I was going to do the 19.7 miles to Dizzy B’s and the Atwell Hilton but I was in denial. Within an hour, I came to Ghandi’s campsite. He wanted to do the same as I but he wasn’t sure he’d do it by himself. So we teamed up for the day.

The overcast skys kept the temperatures cool which helped in the climb up Smarts Mountain. I really didn’t look forward to the 2000’ climb, especially the steep summit section. Met Fuzzy, Wuzzy, and Medusa at the fire tower on top. These 3 very young girls had hiked all the way from Katahdin. It gave me a little more confidence in my ability to do it. The shelter was a disaster and the water such a scummy puddle, we opted to wait till later for water. The descent was long, over 4 miles.

Stopped at South Jacobs Brook for a refreshing lunch break. Ghandi and I soaked our feet while I ate way too much GORP. Cool bridge but you have to be real skinny to fit through the uprights.

Soaked our feet and just relaxed

By now, the sun is beaming down on us. With all the winter storm damage, shade is sometimes hard to find. I knew we had another climb but after an hour thought we were close to the top when I saw the peak a lot higher than expected. "Fuck" I said. Ghandi’s reply "It’s great to be walking with you again. I miss your comments". The sun just kept getting hotter. At one point, I drank so much, Ghandi tried to remind me to breathe.

Hexacuba has to be one of the biggest one-story shelters on the trail. Really a unique design. The Penta-Privy might have been good too but it was such a "shit-hole".

Hexacuba shelter is one of the more unique shelters

Ended up, finally, after a long day, at Atwell Hill Road. Just as advertised, Dizzy B left jugs of water by the trail. The Atwell Hilton is a house, once used by the DOC as a maintenance headquarters, now condemned by the NFS, so everyone tents in the yard. After dinner, right on queue, Dizzy B pulls up in her pickup truck, drops the tailgate and starts handing out beers.

Most of the other hikers had one beer and then went to bed. But Dizzy B kept Ghandi and I with a beer in our hands at all times. We ended up moving into the house and talked and drank till 10:30pm. Because we could hear thunder we decided to take down the tents and sleep in the house. Had carpeting, window screens and a 2nd floor fire place.