Monday, August 25, 2008

New Hampshire Baby!

All right, so we're in our next-to-last state! Can you believe it?? We look back now at the drizzly day we straggled into Hiawasse, GA, or the rainy day we stumbled like zombies down the hill into Franklin, NC, the snow that tucked in around us as we plodded through the Smokies, the the farewell to Trail back in Fontana Dam... it all just seems so far away.

We now have only 398.5 miles to Katahdin and we've hiked 1,777.7 miles (but who's counting?). Today we arrived here in Glencliff, NH to the Hikers Welcome Hostel. Hot outdoor shower, fridge full of honor-system Mountains Dews (.75 a can) and my fave: high speed internet. Tomorrow we begin the White Mountains with the first big climb, Mount Moosilauke (moose-uh-lock) at 3,500 feet. Dang! That's a LOT of hard climbing. The White Mountain range stretches through New Hampshire and a bit into Maine. The Whites mark the hardest (debatable) section of the trail because of all of the peaks in elevation and the summits get above treeline. In fact, the highest wind speed on Planet Earth was measured at the top of Mt. Washington at 231 miles per hour!

I wish I had time to upload pictures but it takes awhile and many people are in line behind me for the computer. For now just wanted to give a quick update on where we are. Just an idea of the rest of the trail - we have a little over 100 miles left in New Hampshire and then 280 miles once we cross into Maine. Our finish date will probably be anywhere from September 24th to October 1st. Ok, peacing out because we are hitching 5 miles to The Green House for a buffalo chicken sandwich.

More to come!
~Sweet Potato

Friday, August 22, 2008

Can't get out of town....

We are in West Harfort, VT - just 9 miles or so from the VT-NH border. We rolled in to town last night and ended up camping in this guy Steve's yard who takes in hikers. He, his wife and his cat Bob are all super cool. To say thanks a bunch of us just pitched in at the local library and helped scrape paint, prime and shop-vac before they paint it fresh. It's after 1pm and we still have
Miles to go before we sleep.
Miles to go before we sleep.

We've had ups and downs on this trail and it feels like the muddy doldrums of Vermont have dissolved in the sunshine and many hiker reunions on the trail. We stopped in Rutland and saw Blaze again, who is doing well and back on the trail (he should pass us running any day now). Lots of other folks around us: Becca, Jogle, Spidey, NoAmp, Chuck, Naked Time, Burrass, Keychain, Zen, Hoot and Sundance, Rainman and Opop, Pixie and Holler, Chainsaw, Achilles, Swami and Darcy, Thinker (who had to scoot to Hanover for a dentist appointment today after partaking in Jogle's chewy licorice yesterday and pulling out a crown) and many more.

We have 400-something miles left to go. Dang. And Eli, to answer your question 'what's the first thing we're going to do when we get back?'
Brahma: shave.
Potato: sit and stare.

Thank you everyone for the goodies you sent to West Hartford!!! We loved going to the Post Office and getting letters and care packages. You know you are - you're awesome!

Friday, August 15, 2008

1600 something down, 500 something to go

Whew! So I just spent about an hour on Facebook. Bad idea - I will try to stick to just my blog from now on.

As you can see, our miles are clicking away. We're in Manchester Center, VT at the Green Mountain House, a wonderful hostel run by a guy named Jeff. He retired awhile back and his wife finally told him to "get a hobby." Soooo he refurbed a house next door and started a hostel. It's insanely new, clean, comfy and I can see how hikers totally vortex (i.e. end up spending way more time than they'd planned) here. It's nice because he has HD cable and all of us hikers are addicted to the Olympics. People scrawl cryptic stats in trail registers counting down Phelps' medals and the USA's domination over China (or vice versa). We watched that one US gymnast (I call her Big Neck) fall apart and it was the juicest trail news for days. "Did you see her waver off the beam?" and "Could you believe the butt plant on that floor routine??"

(btw: Pictured above is Holler and Brahma and Brahma's Beard here at Green Mountain Heaven).

Vermont is rainy. The trail is muddy. This is not a stream, it's the trail.

The days are harder and harder because we've been at this a long time and the need to drive a car and make a spreadsheet and wear mascara is increasing. I just started a load of laundry, and you know what? It was elating. I can only imagine the joy Dustan is going to get from changing the oil. When they say the AT changes your life, I think this is what it means: Starbucks! Google! Scope! Yipppeeee! Here are some more culprits of the Vermont mud.

We found the same shoe Dust wears today at an outfitter. Niiiice.

Yup, this is my foot. Note that the second toenail is indeed ready to fall off any moment, though totally unrelated to hiking. I janked my foot in a river and the toenail split from the toe. This was back in....Port Clinton, PA.

This is me on a chilly wet morning holding up my Montrails for you to see that they are soaked, muddy and I am already cold. The only reason they are not completely mud-covered is because I waded in the last stream and washed the main chunks off. You're probably sipping your first cup of coffee as you read this....

Holler fell one day as we were hiking together. He thought he would "let it dry and brush the dirt off" but we realized that was kinda funny. See, nothing dries when it's not only rainy but also humid.

I caught the last bit of sunsine before the storm gobbled up the day.

Some happy parting notes. One - even when the trail is tough, it is still a fairyland.

And two - Thinker's brother is on the trail! Welcome Tom, the geneticist.

And last, we had a party at the Goddard Shelter. Cookie Monster, NoAmp, Spidey, Thinker, Tom, Tailgate, Becca, Jogle, and a few Long Trail thru-hikers. The Long Trail is actually the oldest trail in the US, and it joins up with the AT in this portion of Vermont, but they split somewhere north of here. The AT goes into New Hampshire and then Maine, but the Long Trail keeps going north. Simply put, at this point we could walk to Canada faster than we can get to Katahdin.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Next Mail Drop Locale

Hold for AT thru hikers:
B&D Balkcom
West Hartford, VT 05084

Saturday, August 9, 2008

1,500 miles and counting...

We're in Dalton, Massachusetts! I keep waiting for all of the hiker-friendly trail towns to disappear but they just keep getting better and better! We are staying at Tom Levardi's house here on Depot Street. It goes something like this: hiker walks up off the street smelling like sour socks and butt funk. Tom offers hot shower. We leave our packs on the porch, get all clean, and Tom drives us to the all-you-can-eat Old Country Buffet and then to the movies (my turn to see The Dark Knight). We come home, crash out all over his house. Wake up and ride bikes to the laundrymat, Duff's Deli for breakfast and then here, the library. Tom has been hosting hikers like this for over 30 years. You can't even imagine what a round-the-clock committment this is, because hikers straggle up to the porch at every hour. Tom is constantly doing loads of towels and sheets, giving rides to dinner, shuttling for slackpacks - it's really really really incredible. He's basically at our beck and call and I'm always amazed at how selfless these full-time trail angels are. What would all us hiker trash do without them!?
The hiking has gotten progressively harder the past weeks because 1) we're done with rocky flatness and back to straight up and down 2) it rains a lot more causing rocks to be slippery and 3) MUD. Mass is all mud (and we hear Vermont is even muddier) which translates to lots of gingerly placing one's shoe from rock to root, trying not to get totally slogged. Sometimes you're successful but most times you roll up to camp with 8 extra pounds of mud on the bottom of each shoe. We were excited to pass the 1,500 mile mark and as you can see in the photo, I got another cut on my face just above my eyebrow. Slipped on a wet rock (rolling eyes) and hit my head on my trekking pole which had sunk into the ground. Dustan is an official pro at butterflying head wounds, and it is healing up nicely. No worries!
We've seen some beautiful sights lately - Sages Ravine was a gorgeous babbling brook slicing through old forest right on the Connecticut-Massachusetts state line. Also Bear Mountain in CT, Race Mountain in MA, and two really nice beaver dams on serene swampy ponds (doesn't sound serene, but with the rushes and the stark trees jutting up and the reflection of the sky, they are).
Our hiking routine has been pretty solid. We wake up and get going around 7:00-8:30, take a lunch break long enough to peel off our socks n' shoes and dry out the feet (sun willing) and arrive at camp anywhere between 6:30 and 8:00. Breakfast is a no-brainer now: Pop tarts. Coffee and oatmeal take too long, but we may go back to cooking in the morning as the cool weather returns (notice I refuse to use the word 'cold'). Lunches are our best meal. Brahma eats brie or Swiss with apple on a bagel and I have cheddar and tomato on bread. My lunch staple is anything Cheetos. Cheetos Puffs, Paws, All-Natural white puffs, or just the regular misshapen crunchies. And for dinner we eat the same mac n' cheese, mashed potatoes and brown gravy, occasional spaghetti, etc. Snack favorites are yogurt-covered pretzels, Little Debbie cakes, Mounds, Snickers, Kit Kats... and yup, still losing weight! :) Don't worry Dawn, we take a big handful of all those vitamins you loaded us down with every day so we're not getting scurvy or osteoporosis.
We were ecstatic to arrive in Salisbury, CT and find lots of love waiting for us at the post office. Thank you so much for the letters everyone - we feel so blessed to have good friends. Right up there with JJ's sweet care packages came one from Carl and Scottie, our Waynesboro hookup. I must say the best treat was the mini bottle of Coconut Lime Verbena body lotion. I almost started doing a jig right in front of the posh little Eliza Peet Gallery! Someone asked this lady on the street "Is there a pharmacy in this town?" and she says "Our village has an apothecary." Give me a breeeeeaaak. Although I did love LaBonne's Epicure (translation: the grocery store) because they had a mean deli/bakery and I packed out fried chicken, canolis, bananas and GrapeAde for dinner.
We expect to be in Vermont within the week. (Whoohoo!!) Our friend Blaze is there and you can read all about his trail drama here, we're excited to see him even under the crappy circumstances. Lately we've been hiking on and off with Holler, Keychain (his blog here) and Vachon.
Here's a parting shot of Dustan on Bear Mountain.