The road less traveled…

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Goodbye Kat, hello to the Whites.

Kat decided that the Whites were something she didn’t really care to hike at this point, especially after the last 911 situation. So while I geared up for a fast hike through one of the most difficult parts of the A.T., Kat headed off to Dover, NH to stay with a friend and do some other hiking/rock-climbing activities that were better suited to her liking.

 
The reason I had to get through the Whites fairly quickly was because I needed to get as close to Maine as possible for the Parker Pond Pig Roast that is held every summer at my home in Maine. It was simply an event that I refused to miss.

 
The first major climb of the Whites is Mt. Moosilauke, 4,802 ft in elevation. It was a gorgeous day with amazing views and a great jump-start in the Whites. The descent on the other side was a little more challenging then usual and was indeed a good glimpse at what I would be seeing the rest of the week. Steep rock with steps built into the sides or ladders to negotiate my way through the trail…it’s going to be interesting.

The first hint that the Whites might me a little bit challenging…

The “trail”

More of the “trail”

Blue Fox and Sketch, on top of some mountain…

Sketch – Somewhere on top of Mt Moosilauke

More Mt Moosilauke

Sketch, Inchworm, Scout, and another stranger taking a break on top of Mt Mousilauke

Summit of Mt. Moosilauke

One day I realized that I actually didn’t have enough food to get through the Whites and I needed to head into Lincoln, NH to get some supplies before I headed on. Blue Fox asked to be my “town buddy”. Basically he was using me to get a hitch to town since its easier getting a hitch since I’m a girl. But I was okay being used. He did help me search for Kat. Sadly, hitching with Blue Fox was the one and only time that I failed to get a hitch. It was extremely disappointing. We actually had to go to the nearby visitors center and call a shuttle. It was only $5/person for the shuttle, but still, it broke my perfect record. And to this day I will always blame Blue Fox. 😉

 

 
We did the basic re-supply and were just chilling at an ice cream shop relaxing in town and I was chatting to a bunch of people in the little shop while Blue Fox was on the phone with his mom. There was a family sitting next to us who were fascinated with us hiking the whole A.T. and were asking me the usual million and two questions, but I was okay with it, I was in a great mood and had just devoured a huge brownie sundea, so bring on the questions. The family eventually left and we were getting ready to leave as well when the 2 girls in the family came over to our table and said they wanted to help us with the rest of our trip and handed me a $100 bill. Blue Fox and I were both visibly shocked with our mouths hanging open. We walked outside and thanked the rest of the family profusely! Precious trail magic that was so unexpected and wonderful. People are awesome. We were especially thankful for the extra cash because in the Whites the shelters/campsites cost money for thru-hikers to stay in. The only way we could stay somewhere without paying is by stealth-camping somewhere or getting a work-for-stay in one of the AMC lodges along the way, which is sometimes difficult. So it is a little stressful trying to plan your trip through the Whites, especially on a tight budget.

The great ice cream stop in Lincoln, NH

Blue Fox and I finally got back out on the trail and hiked up to the Franconia Ridge. We found an amazing stealth site that was just barely below treeline and were able to watch an amazing sunrise the next morning. Being so close to the treeline, our morning begin with hiking along the Ridge with amazing views all around. It was truly one of my favorite mornings and we took our time hiking, soaking it all in.

View from the ridge where Blue Fox and I stealth camped

Our stealth Site

Blue Fox, moving a sign that said we couldn’t camp there, we had no other options. Don’t tell on us.

Sunrise from the ridge where we camped

Morning hike on Franconia Ridge

Blue Fox, Franconia Ridge

View of Franconia Ridgeline

 

 

 

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

911. To call or not to call… – July 10ish

This story is one best told by Kat, as she is the one that truly experienced the difficulties of the day. However I will share with you my side of the story so you can have a small insight into my emotional roller-coaster of the day.

The day began simple enough, even had some trail magic ice cream in the morning. Our plan was to make it as far as we could that day, and Kat was going to Blue-blaze up the big mountain, meaning she was going to take the shorter easier trail instead of the A.T. I told her that I would wait for her on top of the mountain, which had a fire wardens cabin and fire tower. When I got to the top of the mountain, I knew that I would probably be waiting for Kat for at least an hour or two because I am faster than her at climbing. So I had some lunch with other hikers who were there and once they left I decided I was going to lay out my sleeping mat and take a little siesta.

When I woke, Kat had still not arrived. I was not yet worried at this point because I figured she stopped somewhere and had lunch halfway up the mountain. So I finally motivated myself to filter some water, which was a really long walk away and required scooping little by little out of tiny puddles. Lets just say it wasn’t the best water source on the trail, but I figured Kat would need some by the time she got there. Another hour passed, and then another. I kept asking all the NOBO hikers if they had seen her, and they hadn’t, so I figured she was still on the blue-blazed trail. And then I started thinking that maybe she completely passed by the cabin while I was sleeping. But when I asked the SOBOs (southbounders) if they had seen her, they hadn’t. It got to the point that every time I heard someone walking up the trail I jumped up to see if it was Kat. This is how I met Blue Fox.

I explained to Blue Fox what was going on and told him I was at the point of worrying. He offered to hike back to the blue trail with me and see if we could find her, thinking that maybe she fell and hurt herself on this random trail that not many people use daily. We ran into another hiker on the way down and he joined us on our search and rescue mission as well. We walked all the way back down the mountain on this blue-blazed trail and found nothing. Blue Fox and I turned around and took the blue trail back up while the other hiker, Inchworm, circled back and took the A.T. back up, just to make sure we didn’t miss her.

At this point of the day I am completely freaked out and seconds away from tears. I have lost my friend. And it made no sense as to where she could be. When we got back to the top of the mountain, walking an additional 9 miles in less then 3 hours, Blue Fox and I grabbed our cell phones and climbed the fire tower, hoping to get some sort of signal from up there. If we weren’t able to reach her by phone, then ultimately we would need to report her missing. And if we weren’t able to get any signal we were going to grab our gear and hike down the mountain in the dark to get help. Signal was going in and out on our phones and we were not able to get a call to go thru. There was another hiker up there and he started trying with his phone as well. So three of us have our cell phones and are continuously hitting redial for about 20-30 minutes when finally one of them got the beautiful sounds of a phone dialing, and Kat answered!!

She’s ALIVE! Those were my first thoughts. The first words out of my mouth however were “WHERE ARE YOU”?!! She had just reached a campsite area farther north on the trail and was safe and sound, so before I lost cell signal I told her not to move a muscle and I would get to her the following day. The relief I felt was overpowering. I was so emotionally/physically drained from the events of the day that I was hardly able to eat before I fell into an exhausted sleep.

The next day I quickly hiked the 12 miles north on the A.T. to get to Kat, and this is when I heard her side of the story, which is so crazy, long and complicated that I will try to simplify it the best I can. If Kat wants to add any comments, she can.

KAT’s STORY:
So apparently Kat did take the blue-blaze trail, but it was poorly marked so she did a lot of backtracking to make sure that she was indeed on the right trail still. She made it at least halfway on the trail when the blazes completely stopped and she was not feeling comfortable. So she turned around and went back to the road where the A.T. and this blue-blazed trail started to climb the mountain. At this point she was most likely a couple of hours behind me and did not count on me waiting for her at the top of the mountain, (even though I told her I would) so she decided to just meet me at the campsite that we were planning on staying at that evening. I had given her my map so she used that to figure out how to yellow-blaze around the mountain. Yellow-blazing is taking the roads.
So she had this map and followed this road, pretty sure it was called Dorchester road. 😉 Basically she was going to keep walking this road, maybe hitch a little, and get to a spot where she could just hike a couple miles south to meet up with me. This whole plan was based on getting a message to me, which she did manage to finally send from her phone at one point, but my phone was getting a typical ‘fire tower’ signal, meaning it wasn’t getting anything at all.
Some people in a truck said she was going the right way, and then she came to a dead end. So she started walking up to all these houses, with really long driveways, to ask for directions. Most of these houses were empty summer houses, until she finally found one with vehicles parked outside. She knocked on the door and dealt with, hmm, I don’t really know the right adjectives to describe the people she spoke with. But one of them was making a bacon sandwich, and one of them was practically passed out on the couch, but apparently looked like Zac Effron, so that was a bonus. It was obvious that they were recuperating from a rough evening of drinking and were not going to offer Kat a ride anywhere.

One of them took a look at her map and talked her through where she needed to go, which involved taking the road that was “closed” and walking on that for a while, and going over a fence, and through the woods to Grandmothers house…. So she left and followed his directions. At this point in her journey she still had not had signal on her phone to send a message to me, so she kept checking her phone for signal and kept walking. Miraculously hours later she found signal and was able to send a message, which turned out being useless to me as I didn’t receive it for another 3-4 days.
Now remember that during all of this I am on a search and rescue mission on a mountain that Kat isn’t remotely close to anymore, completely freaking out and thinking that my friend is dead.

So Kat is standing there, with signal on her phone, realizing that she is never going to make it to the campsite she needs to be at, not even sure where she is, so she calls 911. Eventually after patching her through to Forest Parks & Service she is able to describe how she got to where she was standing and the Park Ranger said he would be there in an hour to get her. Turns out she was on a HUGE chunk of private property that is completely void of any houses or people and she would have been walking for a VERY long time to get to the road she needed to get to.

So this Park Ranger guy took her to a convenience store so she could get some water and then dropped her off at the A.T. trailhead that was farthur north. All she had to do was hike 2 miles to the campsite and this is when I called her from the fire tower and she told me where she was. Alive and well, and no longer walking on this so-called Dorchester rd. THE END.

This is a VERY simplified version of the story, trust me, the full version could possibly be made into a novel. But truthfully it was my WORST day on the trail because I was completely sick with worry. Thankfully everything worked out and I’m so happy Kat would never hesitate to call 911, (not her first time needing to do so, but thats another story). Our reunion was bittersweet and I refused to let her out of my sight again while we were hiking. I’m so thankful for Blue Fox and Inchworm for helping me on Smarts Mountain. Not only with the searching and hiking an additional 9 miles that day, but also for the emotional support and helping me to stay calm when on the inside I was a basket case. So on a good note, I gained some great friends through the experience.

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unexpected Zeros and a plethora of Pianos – July 7ish

My stay in Hanover NH was a little bit longer then I first planned it to be. I arrived to town many hours earlier then Kat because I was expecting multiple mail drops that I wanted time to sort through and get organized. Once I arrived at the so-called “Hanover Outdoors” where my packages were sent, I realized I was in trouble. The store no longer existed. It was an empty building. Then I noticed a little sign on the door saying that any hiker packages were now being held at the post office. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but I arrived to the “store” on a Saturday afternoon, so I would not be able to retrieve my packages until Monday morning. Looks like Kat and I are going to be spending a little time in Hanover, NH.

Hanover does not have any Hiker Hostels which is unfortunate since the trail literally goes right through downtown Hanover. Luckily enough another hiker buddy gave me a list of phone numbers of people who let hikers stay in their homes, and also suggested that I call the same family that he stayed at, so I did. Karen and John were happy to have us stay, even for more then one night when I explained the post office issue. Once Kat arrived to town they came and picked us up and we were completely flabbergasted when we saw where we were staying. They have an entire room in their basement with a bathroom, kitchenette, TV, and 3 beds. It pretty much felt like we were staying at a Bed and Breakfast. The kitchenette had a pretty well stocked fridge and there was enough food to probably last us a week or two.

It felt amazing to get cleaned up and do our laundry, as always, and then Karen and John took us out for some famous Gelato! Apparently this Gelato place was voted #1 in Forbes magazine and it was obvious that it was the place to be on a Saturday night. The line was spilling out the door and they were quickly running out of flavors. After the lovely treat Kat and I were completely content watching “The Princess Bride” and dozing off in the fantastic beds.

Waking up on a “Zero” day is one of the best feelings in the world for a thru-hiker. Knowing that I didn’t have to get out of bed if I didn’t want to, and knowing that I didn’t have to put on my hiking clothes that still emitted strange odors even after being washed, and knowing that I didn’t have to worry about my milage for the day…all good feelings. Our day began by grazing on all the delightful food that was stocked in the kitchen. I had a couple of bagels with cream cheese, numerous cups of coffee, and eventually Kat got motivated enough to make egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches for both of us.

After a couple of hours of being completely lazy bums, including watching “Goonies”, Karen came downstairs and invited us up for coffee and tea. When we got up there she also started throwing pancakes and muffins in our direction and we thoroughly enjoyed our 2nd breakfast. Turns out she is a gluten-free vegetarian, and so is Kat, so they had a bazillion things to talk about. Karen offered to bring us into town for the afternoon and so Kat and I ended up wandering around and spending some quality hours in the local library.

The reason I enjoy Hanover so much is because of the pianos. You know how some towns have random sculptures of an animal or something sporadically placed around the town, well Hanover has refurbished pianos. When I first walked into town someone was playing the theme from Lord of the Rings. Each of the pianos were decorated/painted by a different club or group and had different themes. I ended up sitting at the library playing for a little bit. They even had some sheet music provided for “twinkle, twinkle little star.” And as I got up I was not aware that the bench was chained to the piano so I did a bit of an interpretive dance/stumbling. Hanover is also really welcoming to hikers, even if there are no hostels. There are a bunch of businesses downtown that offer free things to hikers. Once place a free slice of cheese pizza, another a free snickers bar, and another gives a free bagel. Its like they know all we care about when we get to town is food. And its true.

That evening back at the house, Karen and John invited us to join them for dinner. We had an amazing evening full of great conversation. One thing I enjoyed discussing most was Kilimanjaro. John had actually climbed it before so Kat and I were both picking his brain about the trip. Kilimanjaro is something that both Kat and I are interested in doing one day in the future and it was truly fascinating hearing all about it. We even watched a little bit of the video from his trip.

It was truly sad to pack up and go the next morning as it was a delightfully relaxing weekend. But we headed to the Post office, got all of our errands done, and started back on the trail. Kat and I were both thankful to meet Karen and John and experience their hospitality. Once again I was blessed with a place to stay on the trail when I needed it most. People like them who offer up their homes to complete strangers in time of need show how much love there is in the world, and I’m happy to be reminded of that.

Me, Logan, John, Karen and Kat at the Gelato Shop

Playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

Crossing State Line into New Hampshire

Enjoying some more ice cream!

Kat and I in the awesome room provided to us by John and Karen

 

 

 

 

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment