Archive for category Appalachian
So, I’m having a bit of writer’s block. This post probably won’t be the poetic, literary piece I want it to be; although I’m planning on telling you about a very interesting person named “Insane Duane”, pending photos. I think by this point my mind is no longer rambling to itself inside it’s dark cave, now it mostly just sings songs. I’ve gotten used to waking up with the sun and just walking until the sun nearly disappears. That’s my job right now: walking. I am a walker–Walker New Mexican Stranger, you might say. I thought this could be a clever trail name, but it is much too long.
People ask me my trail name before my real name. Of course, they are one and the same, but this is unusual and many people do not approve. I’ve met people self-named Doozy, Moonpie, Long-shanks, Ringleader, Big-Pace, Roadrunner and Google, just to name a few. I say, “Hello, magical rainbow poop-stain, I’m Hope.” And they say, “What a nice trail name.” Actually, I always have to explain that it’s my real name, but since it’s kind of “traily” I’m sticking with it. Then I say I am myself and feel very philosophical, but probably just come across as patronizing.
Anyway, so I’m not in Maine anymore. We crossed the state line about a week ago. Here is a (bad) pic:
Maine and New Hampshire are beautiful!!! I have to say, I’m going to miss the incredible views at the tops of some of these mountains. The White Mountains extend through Maine and New Hampshire. Mt. Washington is the tallest of the peaks at 6,288 ft. It is so popular that there is a road and even an old cog train that goes up to the top! It was strange to climb that big mountain and then see a bunch of overweight, pale tourists crowding around the summit sign only to drive back down an hour later. But that’s just me being arrogant.
Hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire has been a totally different experience, mainly because of the huts. There are a string of huts built by the Appalachian Mountain Club that cater to families and people visiting the White Mountains for a few days. They are small bunkhouses with a kitchen, dining room and bunk rooms. They range from $80–$120 per night, but us lowly thru-hikers aren’t expected to pay that kind of money–thank God! We can do work-for-stay! I worked in five huts along the way. Typically a hut won’t accept work-for-stay if you arrive before 4 and/or if there are more than 2 thru-hikers already accepted. If you are turned away you are sent to a different campsite a mile or more away at which you have to pay a fee. It’s difficult to “stealth camp” because most of the trail is above tree-line, which means it’s rocky and windy and without water; some people mangage to do it anyway though. Luckily, I timed my hikes so that I would arrive at the right hour and also practiced my desperate please-take-me-in-I’m-a-poor-girly-hiker look. It was a great experience, not only because I got to eat as much food as I wanted and sleep on the dining room table, but the kids who worked at the huts were really great too. Here are a few pictures of us at Carter Notch hut doing something called “shake-face”. As it implies, you shake your face so that it gets all loose and take a picture. Some of us are better at it than others. 🙂
Carter and Madison were my two favorite huts. I wonder if I will ever see any of these people again.
The Northbounders tell me that after the White Mountains the trail is a boring green tunnel. I wonder if it’s true. I think I will enjoy going into the towns. I just hope I have enough time! It’s already almost September and I’m still in New Hampshire. But the saying goes that I’ve done 20% of the trail and 80% of the work. So, naturally I’ll be able to go more miles each day and hopefully make it to Georgia by the early part of December. Oh no! I’m getting kicked off the library computer and I didn’t practice my please-let-me-stay-on-a-little-bit-longer face. Gotta run! A few more pics while I still can:
Things that excite me these days: The sound of highways, eating Pringles in a trailer, eating Snickers, eating ice-cream, hot-chocolate, summits, showers, and shaving my legs… oh! oh! and general stores! I never expected to take such pleasure in these things. Sometimes the best part of hiking the trail is “Going into Town”! It’s strange to see these reversals in myself. I left the city to get away from the sound of cars, constant noise and ringing bells; and yet, now I find these things bring a certain comfort. It’s not more than a couple days, however, when I realize that I’m going crazy and I need to get back to the woods.
This is the nature of our lives, isn’t it? We go up and down, up and down. I’ve decided to take a photo of when I finally get to the top. It makes all the dark valleys worth it.
I was talking with my new Women Friends! about this today. It seems that many people yearn for a return to a more primitive lifestyle, yet most of us don’t want to be extreme isolationists. Alexander Supertramp, the boy Krakauer wrote about in “Into the Wild” comes to mind. We’ve all felt that something today is unnatural. We’ve all wondered what it would be like to totally escape civilization. Because the way we are living is missing something. We’re walled in. The ingredients in our foods aren’t found in nature. (And yet, why is it that I just looooove Kraft “Mac ‘n Cheese?) We’ve moved too far away. But when I truly reject it all, I crave society and everything that comes with it. I crave the mere company of other people. The sound of cars signals food, warmth and safety. I can only conclude that the things we are used to are a part of us no matter how much we would like to reject them. We can reform the way we are living, but going to the extreme is ignorant of the reason civilization exists in the first place. It’s what makes us human, whether we like it or not. The truth is: It’s f***ing scary out there is the dark, dark woods. I don’t know why, but Adam ate the apple and we are forever separated from total harmony with nature. Maybe we can acknowledge the parts of our minds that are human and the parts that are not us–like a total rejection of nature– so that we can be without them.
There is a lot to see out there, like lots and lots of mushrooms! And I saw my second moose yesterday. I didn’t get a picture of it though, cause we were bonding and I didn’t want to scare it. 🙂 But mushrooms are braver than moose.
Did I mention?
While we’re on the subject, there are also lots of these amazing tree fungi. I thought is was “street art” or “trail art” at first.
And if you feel like a challenge there are also crazy fun ways to try and not slide down mountains! 🙂
And, believe it or not, there are some really great people.
Had a delightful chat with these here Northbound boys by the stream. It was good times.
Would you pick up someone who looked like this?
Rejected! Or just suffering from a stomach ache after eating a giant pickle and a blue sky soda. Bad choice.
When we got to the hostel tonight there was a Native American man playing the flutes on the porch. I snapped this pic secretly so as not to kill the mood.
He had lots of turquoise jewelry on and long black and grey hair. This calmed my heart and we all sat and listened for a long time. He told us about how he moved from Montreal to the Yukon, where he acted as head chef for the hunters. He chopped up everything. I’m sure this was only one of his many roles in life. When he was going to bed he turned to me and said, “Remember, always trust the animal”. I’m not sure what to make of it yet. I think I’ll take it into the woods and think about it for the next three days, as I go up and down and up and down.
The Bear Minimum
There is a moment of panic that arises sometime after breakfast, caused by the ever-new realization that you get to do it all over again. No, you cannot go back to bed. You have to put your bed into one of many bags. By now you know where every bag goes and what it’s used for: A bag for the bag, a bag for the pad, a bag for food, stove-bag, pan-bag, trash-bag, water-bag, baggy-bag. You won’t be returning to this breakfast nook ever again. A new (temporary) nook awaits you ten to fifteen miles away! It feels nice to know that everything I need is on my back, many bags in one big bag. I wonder about human need. What determines our needs? What do we really need and what do we only think we need?
In Millinocket, the first trail town, I sent home twenty-three pounds of stuff I didn’t need: long underwear, hat, hoodie, shorts. I had another shakedown a few days ago at Pleasant Pond Lean-To. I shared a shelter with 2 bearded and beaming Northbounders (NOBOs); they are at the end of their journeys. The packs they carried weighed twenty-five pounds and they encouraged me to try and shed as much weight as possible (not counting the weight I’ve already lost from hiking: 10 lbs). So, much like I did at the AT Lodge with Ole Man Paul, we went through my pack.
NOBO #1: Get rid of those food bags.
NOBO #2: And that carabeaner
NOBO #1: You could detach the top part of your bag and send that home.
NOBO #2: Basically, you want to think radical
Ok, I can do that. So when I hit the next town (Caratunk, population 177) I sent home a whole 2 lbs! It actually does make a difference when you’re hiking fifteen miles and climbing thousands of feet a day. It’s funny, I spend all sorts of money to buy stuff it’s gonna take all sorts of money to send home. This reminds me of the time I tried to check a futon bed as baggage at the airport for a two-week trip to NYC when I was 15. Live and learn, right? My bag now weighs thirty-three pounds (that includes about 3 days of food and a litre of water), which is pretty good I think.
After stopping in Caratunk (population 177) for some jalapeno poppers and a beer (and a soak in the hot-tub and a game of pool), we went on toward Stratton. The people I’ve been hiking with are good people. All guys so far, I’m praying some women will come along soon! 🙂
We had to take a little canoe across the Kennebec River. It is the only part of the entire AT with a moving white blaze.
The Pierce Pond Lean-To was amazing. It is a little three-sided shelter on the lake. We went swimming and I thought this might be the best summer ever. There is a man down the path who runs a sporting camp named Tim Harrison. He will make you 12 pancakes, eggs, sausage, coffee and juice for 10 bucks. We did that in the morning and headed south.
After this it was over the Bigelow range. These are the second highest peaks in Maine–the first being Katahdin, which ahem!, I climbed on the first day. 🙂
The Bigelows were amazing. Starting off at 1,760 ft they rise to 4,090 feet after seven miles, then dip down to 3, 850 feet and back up to 4,145 feet then back down to 1,350 feet–all within twelve miles. My knees were KILLING me. When I got to the top of the first peak, there was a girl-scout troop at the top. One of them took this picture.
When I passed the 2,000 mile mark (meaning I only had 2,000 more miles to go) I met “Pete from Maine”. This is how he introduced himself: “Let’s shake hands, we just passed the 2,000 mile mark. My name is Pete from Maine”. So, in the middle of the Bigelow mountain range we had ourselves a little celebration.
I should have taken a picture of him. He is about 5′ 6″, white hair and beard and bright, shocking blue eyes. I need to make it a point to take more pictures of the people I meet up here. There are so many good people. One lady, she called herself Playboy, left us some “Trail Magic”. Trail magic is an amazing thing. People who support hikers or have hiked themselves will leave treats for hikers. Playboy left us a cooler full of sodas and a box of Snickers and hot-chocolate mix. They were inside of little bags with hearts drawn on them. So many people, including myself, were concerned about my safety out here, but honestly, I’ve never felt safer anywhere in the world. Everyone I’ve met just wants to help me out in any way they can. Don’t worry, I’ll still be cautious and wary of people, but so far those I’ve come across have proven themselves to be extraordinary. It gives me faith in human nature. This is what I need. I think this is what we all need.
As I get rid of the things I can do without I come to know more and more what I am capable of. And as I get rid of the extra weight I become capable of more and more. I’ve come to need less as I realize I have to carry, or commit, to what I’m holding onto every moment. And what I really need, which is to know (not just believe) people are good, doesn’t weigh a thing. I found out today that my good friend, Ajeet Matharu, died yesterday in a car accident while in India. Sitting at a picnic table in Stratton, ME, I cried without reservation. A woman pulled up in her car and asked me if I was OK. When I told her why I was crying she got out of the car and hugged me. She held my hands and prayed with me. And just magically, she had a white candle and a Native American sage smudge with her. She gave these to me and told me to light the candle and sage and think about all the good qualities of my friend. She told me that the love I learned with him will never die. Then she got in her car and drove away. I needed that more than anything.
So onward I go, back into the woods tomorrow morning. I’ll be thinking about all of you, and about Ajeet. Life is so precious. We are so lucky to have today.
It’s a fact that fewer than 500 people have reported completing a southbound trip on the Appalachian Trail. This is since 1936 when people first started walking from Maine to Georgia, or from Georgia to Maine, since that’s the way most people go. I knew this statistic before I decided to try to e one of those rare southbounders–or SOBOs–but for some reason the fact did not apply to me: Wonderful Me, Great Me, Above-average Me. I conceived of myself as a superhero. Wonderwoman! Everyone else was just a pussy. Ten days, 114.5 miles and 3 million trees later I don’t know: Am I a superhero, or just another pussy?
Starting from the North and heading south is a terrible idea. I meet people coming north, some of whom started in Georgia. It’s a brief interaction:
(full stride, hiking poles clicking)
H: Ha! Good luck. (eyes roll)
One guy I met after learning I am a sobo replied, “You’re crazy.” Well, I’ve heard that before, mainly from the men in my life. Three days into the 100-mile wilderness I woke up in my tent and said the same thing to myself; “I must be crazy to do this”.
The first day I climbed Katahdin (elevation 5,672 ft). There were handlebars bolted into some of the rocks to help us up difficult parts. It was certainly challenging. But I was well-nourished at the time: not yet made feeble by the 100-mile wilderness that followed. I felt like a real champion after that. “Psh, I just climbed Katahdin, bitches! Day 1! Uh! I got this. Yeah!”
The people I traveled with the first few days made it all the more exciting. First, Mr. Brit Sullivan, who first presents himself as an attractive, 41 year-old hick from Alabama. I had to share a shelter in the state park with him the first night. In front of everyone at the hostel he says to me, “I’m not a threat. I’ve got 3 ex-wives and I ain’t tryin’ to impregnate anyone.” Uh, oooookkkkk. Well, shucks, I just came out here to get impregnated. Damn, guess I’ll have to find another shelter. But as I learned, this is just the way of Brit Sullivan, or Jack Brit Sullivan as it appears on his 8 published works of fiction, 3 of which are in the Library of Congress.
He is lude, witty and endearing. At the shelter after the hike he said in his thick Alabama accent, “Darlin’, I’m gonna go change over here because I have a small penis and I don’t want you to think less of me.” What is a girl supposed to say to this? As a single girl traveling alone in the wilderness I asked another guy I had befriended if he wanted to move his stuff over to our shelter. Precautions had to be taken. Around the fire late that night with a totally straight face he related a story of how he had toyed with a sales clerk at REI on the subject of the platypus, a water system similar to a Camelback.
B: So, I’ve heard a lot about this Vagipus system. Does it really work?
Clerk: Oh ya, it’s very convenient.
B: Does the Vagipus ever leak?
C: No, never.
B: Does the Vagipus keep you satisfied
C: (refusing to correct him or say the word Vagipus) Oh, yes it can hold up
B: I’ve always been fond of Vagipusses.
I learned a lot about men the following 3 days: 1) They talk about sex constantly, 2) They hike too fast, 3) Their balls chafe and it’s painful. Two of the guys couldn’t walk on the second day because of the chafing. I picked up some Bag Balm for them at the general store. After that I was called “Mama Balm”.
Not knowing whether or not I am single, one of the guys asked, “So, Hope, what’s your boyfriend like?”
“He’s great. He’s really good to me.”
“Well he better be, cause if he’s not he’s got 4 rednecks comin’ fer him.”
How nice to feel so embraced, so protected. That didn’t last long. The next morning they were gone. The other thing I learned about men is: most of them aren’t interested in women without the possibility of sex. They hiked too fast for me anyway. I felt like I was back in ‘Nam, racing head down through the jungle. The only problem was, Brit told me not to buy too much food before we went into the 100-mile wilderness cause he had packed too much. Now, I’m in the 100-mile wilderness six days without an opportunity to resupply. Thank goodness for the charity of others.
Jo-Mary made me eggs and hash on her Whisperlite stove. And Patty gave me a bag of freeze dried lasagna and some Powerbars. Other than that it was lentils and quinoa. I never want to see those two things again.
The Appalachian Trail in Maine is not a trail at all: It’s a fucking obstacle course. There are no straight lines. There is no flat land. It’s all roots and rocks, lots of roots and rocks and seventy degree angles. It’s impossible to look up for even a moment, lest you trip and break your face open. Climbing White Cap Mountain was the most intense. We ascended and descended 1100-feet in 1.5 miles. It was hands and feet the whole way, like a gecko or like Spiderman.
Me: I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I wanna soy latte. I want peanut butter crackers from a vending machine. I wanna go to a movie theater. I wanna lay in the grass. I want a soda. I hate this. Where is the next shelter? Any minute now. Any minute. Is that is? No. Damn! It must have been 3 miles now. I think that last sign said 3 miles. I must have hiked 3 miles by now. I want to take a shower. I want to watch The Office, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report.
This is mostly what has gone through my mind the last 10 days.
I thought of quitting a lot. I thought of how nice it would be to work in a coffee shop in New York City again, how nice it would be to be clean and safe a fed, listening to Rock & Roll and feeling cool.
But I’m not gonna quit, at least not right now. I don’t believe in torturing myself for my pride or ego or the way I appear to others. So if I really must quit I will.
But I made it through the hardest part of the A.T. There are 166 miles left of Maine and 161 miles in New Hampshire. That’s 327 miles more of roots and rocks and hard climbs. After that its 1,848 miles of smooth cruising. I want to see America. I want my feet to inch their way across what we’ve fought so long and so hard for. I want to see the small towns and big people who I’m part of. I want to know exactly what is it I am.
Gee, I thought I might spend the rest of my life in Millenocket, ME, mulling about in the attic of the old lodge. It is all things beautiful and quaint and ghostly.
There are all of these little rooms and lots of crawl space! The spaces are opened and closed by little doors! This is the creepiest thing for me. I come from a place where “crawl space” doesn’t exist within the house. I didn’t have an attic or a basement, so I’m fascinated by them. Most of the rooms are unoccupied, but kept perfectly clean and orderly. There were a few old beer bottles left in the creepy, dark crawl space though. Hmm…I wonder how many rooms there are in this lodge. …There must be at least twenty. (See the pic of the red house in yesterday’s post).
And people have been comin through! First there was Atom and Magic Stick, two older guys whom I thought were gay, but talked about their wives and kids. Guess that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not gay though. Whatever. They were really nice and offered me lots of tips. Rosemary was in the lodge for a day. Last night spent watching the world cup (NED/URU) with Nolan and Skippy. Today I watched the game (ESP/GER) with a girl called Schlep. The trail names are a funny thing. It’s said that you either pick one or the people you travel with for a time will give you one. I came here already telling everyone my name is Andrea, but only because Hope Kitts didn’t show up for the reservations she made a few days earlier. So irresponsible. (haha). But I’m not going to stick with “Andrea”. It feels weird for people to call me by it and they don’t seem to remember my name the first time, like usual. I feel unusually normal. But my pseudonomyous existance is understood by many on this path.
I’ve been in this town for five days now and my view of it has changed at least that many times. The best part so far has been meeting different people for short periods of time and connecting over various things: Soccer, hiking stories and trivial pursuit. But I’m glad to be moving on. Wait, let me put that in caps. BUT I’M GLAD TO BE MOVING ON!
To my readers: I vow that more spectacular photographs are to follow. But we must appreciate a good boot, right? The journey begins one step at a time. Also to my readers: I vow that I will keep all cliches to a minimum, except when they are really, really true.
Okay, so now to get the darn heck outta Millinocket. Tomorrow starts at 6:30 a.m. when I get a ride–with about five other people–to the start of the trail and hike Mt. Katahdin. It is about ten miles with a 5,000 ft incline packed into four miles. Other hikers’ pictures show steep, rocky ascents. The 50 (or so) pound pack gets left at the ranger’s station at the bottom because the trail itself actually continues south. I hope it is not too hot and humid out. It should be true camping from there until who-knows-when. More stories to come. Stay tuned (subscribe!).
Ok, one more boot pic.
SOCK IT TO MILLINOCKET! or, How to lose 23 lbs in one day or your money back!!! or, How to follow a heart that is breaking, or Baby Boot-ist.
Fourth of JU-LY! 2010!
Fireworks in the high-school parking lot.
Uh. Ta na na na.
Bitch, I will drive 18 miles per hour in front of your ass
This ain’t Mass–
achusettes. … It’s Maine!!
Insane. Insane in the Mainebrain!
It only took 9 hours to drive up here. I mean, to drive up hee-yah. It only took my half a second to know without a doubt that I left my boots back at the ranch. Left em back about 400 miles. So, how does one hike the Appalachian Trail in flip-flops? Hey, I could be the first one! I could be famous! One man did it blind. His name was Bill Irwin. I may not have shoes, but I have eyes. But can I see?
“…Be ye lamps unto yourselves. Hold fast to the Dharma as a lamp. Hold fast to the Dharma as a refuge. Look not for refuge to any one beside yourselves” (Mahaparanirvana Sutra).
I did not see that we drove away wearing only flip-flops. I thought everything was in that one special 75 lb. bag full of everything I really, really need. Nope. Haha! (More later on that 75 lb. bag)
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts” (Dharmapada).
Okay, so no big deal. Sage Rara brought me to realize that everything is integrated. It will all work out. No biggie. 🙂
So I’m sitting here in Ye Olde Appalachian Trail Cafe in Millinocket, ME population 5,203, a bootless buddhist. A boot-ist, waiting for my man to fly my feet to me.
This is all pretty romantic. It was really hard to say good-bye. I felt shock and loss after he drove away. But we both know this needs to happen. It’s bigger than us; and it makes us bigger to listen to the little knocking inside that calls us away from the things we know, or think we know.
I thought I knew how to put everything I needed into a bag. But I didn’t and probably still don’t. I’m a little wiser, however, thanks to Ole Man Paul. He helped me lose 23 pounds of weight from my pack.
“Nope you don’t need that. Or that”. Ok, Ole Man, whatever you say. 🙂
And so I’ll send it home to the Polly.
Now I may actually be able to do this. Thank you Ole Man!
I’ll start on Thursday (Insha Allah) by climbing Katahdin, leaving my big pack at the Ranger station. Then proceed south. More to come! Please wish me luck!
Oh, also here is my first real insect bite. (In a dramatic tone) It was a large insect. I felt his stinger right away and grabbed him/her between my two fingers and squeezed him/her dead. It still mananged to leave this itchy bump though. Scintillating, no?
[Since I started writing, I find myself wanting to write about things unrelated to the topic of this blog. And yet it is. The pre-whatever is always and equally imperative to the project or intention. The Appalachian Trail (or AT, if you will:) is right now in Brooklyn, NY a part of the great trail of living. We are born and move to walk until we die, because we can’t do anything else but feel propelled by some intention, some animation. My journey today concluded with a lot of chocolate on my shoes].
I was fortunate enough to spend time with some very special people today. She found a clear plastic garbage-sized bag of dove chocolate on the street. Score. It was heavy.
The three-legged pit-bull, Gladyce, an uncertain element to our stroll to the park. A bad decision by its resentful, and newly appointed owner to allow the dog off the leash, without the muzzle he came with. Needless to say I guess, the three-legged pit-bull from New Orleans almost/nearly/may have killed a small, innocent dog in the most violent and extreme way. It was scary. Gladyce ran to it from across the park. Teeth were sunk. Small dogs were swinging off leashes with pit-bulls attached to them. Women were screaming. People were yelling. Everyone in the park was …
I felt awful for the dog and the woman to whom he belonged. I was horrified to be with the group that let an angry pit-bull of its leash in the park during a beautiful, peaceful sunset by the water?!?! I could have stopped it if I had been brave enough to kick the pit-bull off of the dog he was trying to disembowel. I could have been a hero. Could have.
Instead I consoled and defended and sympathized with. I truly did; it’s a long story about the dog and its real owner that brings up a lot of questions about responsibility and judgement. But we don’t want to get too into that, now do we? I’m part of the reason the attack happened in the way that it did. But that is just my situation, my circumstance. As I told the angry bystander, “You are right. We are wrong.”
As we “fled the scene”, I grabbed all the shit left behind: a skateboard as well as the bag of found-chocolate. (The “owner”,my new friend, stayed behind to assume responsibility.) I found myself carrying chocolate over my shoulder on a hot day, traumatized, consoling, talking.
–“Why are people pointing at me and talking? Oh, well.”
–“What is that on your legs?”
I do feel a little sticky, come to think of it. No, I’m not letting the dog lick it off of me.