PENNSYL-TUCKY

Sometimes we like to call Pennsylvania “Pensyl-tucky.” Yes, the back woods of this fine state are filled with folks gearing up for huntin season. Powder picked me and the boys up from a spot near Port Clinton for our weekend off trail to go to the Watermelon Park Bluegrass Festival. He said, “We gotta take the guys to Cabela’s, they won’t believe it.” Yep, I was looking for a little square piece of blaze orange cloth. In their massive store, such a simple item cannot be found. But how bout a blaze orange ear flap hat. Or better yet, an entire suit in blaze orange camo. We had the bison bratwurst upstairs and spent most of our time looking at all the stuffed animals.  Bow hunting has begun in PA, but, fortunately rifle season doesn’t begin until I’m well out of the state.

Two Bobwhites in the display case at Cabella's

This store has a mountain. And lots and lots of dead animals.

It's quite over the top!

My entry into PA was a happy one. I was so glad to be out of NJ!!! There were beautiful wildflowers. The air was crisp. My buddies were there, and we camped together several nights. PA is known for its rocks. Every time we’d see a nobo in the North, they’d moan and tell us all about it. It really wasn’t that bad (silly nobos). But there was a memorable section of rocks right before Palmerton. We crawled along the boulder field and hitched into town. That night we stayed in the Palmerton municipal building basement. They call it the “jailhouse hostel.” It’s not the jailhouse, but you do have to sign in with the cops at their office before crashing there. Palmerton was the site of the largest zinc plant in the country during WWI. Sulfur dioxide, cadmium, zinc and lead bled out from the factory and destroyed the surrounding forest. It’s now a “superfund site” and the government is trying to put some money into it to bring it back to life. The trail goes through 4 miles of sahara-like grass fields (the grass was planted for erosion control, but nothing else will grow there). And from the top we looked down at the factory town: the ticky-tac houses and one existing factory. This is the spot where my buddy T-mello nearly quit the trail. When he went through, he was so struck by the effects of the pollution, he could not bare to go into that town to re-supply. So he kept going, without food (crazy!). But some section hikers ended up helping him out and gave him a loaf of bread and block of cheese. (T-mello and I both hit our low points in the same week, and had similar recovery stories)

The flowers express the joy in being in PA

Coach eating some SPAM left as trail magic.

AT shelter life

The zinc plant company town, Palmerton as seen from the stripped mountainside.

The Superfund site. The loss of vegetation allowed the rains to wash away all the soil, so only grass will grow now.

On the other hand, it is one of the best views in PA and provides a very rare above "tree line" experience for central PA

Another newt hamming it up for the camera! These guys love to pose. (photo credit: Marie)

I had a good stretch of amazing weekends in PA. When I reached Delaware Water Gap (the town after crossing the Delaware River), Powder came up and surprised me. We stayed at a hostel under the Presbyterian church with our friends. We ate some amazing food at the farmers market (Bmore folks, it’s worth the 2.5hr drive for a day trip: and check out the hiking on the NJ side of the river!!!). They’ve got a “true love special” on the menu: a hot dog and slice of homemade apple pie. AMAZING!

New pack at Delware Water Gap! This is pack number four so far

The following weekend was my birthday, and as per tradition, we went to Watermelon Park. All my best friends were there. The organizer of the event and family friend, Frazer, got me up on stage during one of my favorite bands and everyone sang happy birthday to me. (This is the crazy treatment we thru-hikers receive.) It was one incredible weekend of bluegrass, folk and cajun music on the Shenandoah River. Our favorite bands, the Woodshedders and Furnace Mountain were there, not to mention a new fav, the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys!

Marie on stage with the Woodshedders after being sung happy birthday by the entire festival. She was a celebrity there because the organizer of the festival featured Marie's hike on the web site and facebook page, complete with updates the last three months!

The girls are all together again!

More first-class glamping by the Cobbs and Walkers. These folks travel in style!

The guys got in for free!

All the important flags were flying high here on the Shenandoah River

I wish I could remember what band this was

Tag

T-Mellow

Happy Camper

The camp scene. Thru hikers aren't used to all this luxury!

My bday present from my folks was 2 tickets to the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival for the following weekend. I’ve gone to this event since I was 7, and only missed one year. We initiated Jeff to the world of small boat sailing. The weather was perfect for initiation. It was blowing! During the race, he and I raced my 10’ boat and had buckets of water splashing over the bow into our faces. And we won for our class! That same weekend, my buddies were running the Freedom Marathon in Harper’s Ferry, WV and one of the boys won third place! Whoohoo!

First Mate Joe

So, I’m still excited to cross the Mason-Dixon line sometime next week, and can’t wait for the fall leaves in Virginia!!

The iconic Doyle Hotel in Duncannon PA. The owners Pat and Vicki are some of the best trail people on the trail. The whole downtown area flooded after Tropical Storm Lee, and many business are still closed. They braced for water as high as 6 feet above the sidewalk, but only got a few inches instead. It was still enough to come inside the Doyle. Business down the street were not so lucky.

Duncannon is one of the most hiker friendly towns on the trail. They give great tribute to AT hikers in their incredible town mural.

There really is a miniature Statue of Liberty on an old piling in the middle of the Susquehanna River

PA ROCKS!

Hawk Rock

 

The view back into Duncannon from Hawk Rock.

 

 

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The Low Lands

Before I started the hike, I heard from many different people that the hardest thing about hiking the AT in one continuous shot is mental stamina. At some point the mind overtakes the body. It doesn’t really matter what you put your body through/what kind of uncomfortable situations you find yourself in: at some point if you can’t convince yourself it’s worth it, then you’ll have a hard time carrying on. Well, I listened but had a hard time believing I would go through something like that. I grew up camping with my parents. We went to some magical places: Monhegan Island in Maine, the Smoky Mountains in NC, the Blue Ridge Mountains of VA. Growing up, my passion for living outside was so great that I would long and dream of the 2 weeks I’d be at summer camp on the James River in VA, or on “out trips” caving and hiking while attending Camp Chanco. I would have my bag packed at least two weeks before camp started! Since being a working lady, I’ve cherished the three-day weekend trips to the Three Ridges and the Priest Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just two nights out in the woods were something to savoir. My best friends and I would split up who was in charge of what meal. We’d drive some crazy miles just to get to the really good stuff, far away from the city. Yeah, I’d surely have no problem loving everything about a long distance hike.

Look at this tree! The Dover Oak is supposedly the largest oak on the east coast.

And then I hit the Low Lands! The topographical lowest point on the AT is in NY. There is a “Trailside Museum” that Southbounders walk through after crossing the Hudson on the Bear Mountain vehicle/pedestrian bridge. The lowest point is in the “museum,” which is actually a zoo, by the bear cage. The place is a true physical low point, and a figurative one as well: It’s a bit sad to see a bear in a cage after seeing them roam around wild in the woods! But, as it turns out, I got to the zoo one hour too late and had to walk around it’s perimeter to meet back up with the AT on the other side, in Bear Mountain Park. The park was very nice. Lots of people were everywhere, playing soccer, picnicking, hanging out by the pond. I marched right through. I was on a mission to climb the mountain before dark. This spot has received lots of special attention. I’m not sure I’ll see trail work like that anywhere else on the AT. People have labored there for 11 years, perfecting the trail with massive hand-cut stone steps. I had a nice summit. The sun was sinking and lit up the sky with pink.

Looking up the Hudson River from the Bear Mountain Bridge. West Point Military Academy is visible on the point on the left, and Forts Montgomery and Clinton are just out of view on the left, which together were constructed to prevent the British from advancing ships up the Hudson River.

The Bear Mountain bridge. The Hudson River is a significant milestone!

Check out the trail work. T-Mellow does trail work in regular life and helped with this project.

Even though I passed through some areas in NY where there were lots of people everywhere, my loneliness for the first time really struck me. It was my low lands and only got worse when I entered NJ. NJ was mostly swamps. An incredible amount of rain dumped over this region and caused a tremendous spike in the mosquito population. A local woman told me the mosquito plague was in their news, they talked about it on TV!

Timber Rattlesnakes are one of two poisonous snakes on the AT. Rattlesnakes are by far preferable to Copperheads, which are very aggressive and give no warning.

I was wearing 100% deet, applied twice a day, and those evil suckers still drove me mad. They would go for my eyelids and behind my ears. It would get so bad that I would start running, but the cloud would follow right behind!!! Wow! It was so miserable. I hadn’t seen my friends in many days. My phone rang and it was Coach. Turns out Tag got dehydrated and was very sick. They were taking some days off and I was able to catch up with them. Things got much better. (And Tag got better too.) Coach and I decided to hitch out of mosquito swamp hell and go to High Point State Park, the last leg of NJ. The bugs were still really bad up there but the following night was our first cold snap: it got down in the 40s and most of the demons died!

The "Lemon Squeezer" is another place where the trail checks to see if you're skinny enough to continue. Of course, there is an alternate route around.

Poison Ivy hell!

Even in all of that, I wasn’t ready to give up. I was feeling really sorry for myself during the week I was alone. My biggest mental hang up was feeling like I just couldn’t do the miles and keep up with the guys. Also, I started stressing over the rest of the hike: can I finish before Christmas? What does my daily average have to be then? It’s amazing how these thoughts so engrossed my mind, I couldn’t even see the beautiful woods of Harriman State Park. Powder told me it was one of his favorite spots when he hiked, but I couldn’t appreciate it. In my misery, he sent me a text that he was praying for me and he knew God would lift my spirits and the “trail would provide.”

It was so cold. The tent helps with the warmth, and the shelter keeps everything dry.

I know God uses this depression stuff for His glory. Over the next several days, many people were sending me texts of encouragement. I kept thinking my emotions were somewhere posted on the internet and people were reading my heart and wanted to help. But that wasn’t so: folks sent those nice words without even knowing anything of the low lands. And then I met Slowtar and Baby Steps. Baby Steps was hiking North from PA and wanted to finish the thru-hike she began the previous year from GA. She was having a heck of a time.  She could barely do 10mi a day and kept being down on herself and saying she was the “last Northbounder.” She and I were sitting there on a rock, and her friend Slowtar started encouraging us. He spoke words from Heaven. I’ll recount it for you:

“You are hiking your own hike. Who cares if you only hike 5 miles a day? Whoever you have in your mind that you are comparing yourself to, get them out! They do not belong in your house. These guys who hike 25mi a day come in rock-headed and leave the trail that way. They don’t learn anything. It was just a goal to accomplish, a race to run, and then they’re asking themselves: what is the next thing? The biggest thing the trail offers is to humble you and teach you about your own shortcomings and what you can handle. This trail reveals what kind of person you are: are you a person who is always down on herself, or are you a person who celebrates herself? Do you finish your day and smile, glad for what you accomplished, or do you sit in a funk, thinking of what more you could have done? Hike your own hike and who cares what other people think!”

Yep, words from Heaven. One of the best sermons I’ve ever received. I am happily still Georgia-bound and looking forward to hiking in the Fall through the South!

Amazing rock formations at Sunfish Pond

Massachusetts

Note:  Marie was in Massachusetts nearly a month ago!  It’s amazing how far that girl has walked.  Right now she’s in Pennsylvania, and her birthday is coming up soon!     -Jeff 

On my first day in Mass, the Trail took me through a 1950’s suburb. It was surreal. All the houses and yards were the same. And it was very quiet. No one was walking around. No one seemed to notice that people were walking 2,000 mi, some of which through their town. After the trail passes those rows of houses, it ducks up this hill next to a chain link fence edging someone’s yard. The trailhead is virtually unmarked. Do the people of North Adams ever go hiking? The trail starts climbing immediately after passing the water treatment plant. There were signs everywhere: no camping, town watershed. Do the people of North Adams know they drink water that runs off one giant mountain, Mt. Greylock? (In some of the camping areas along the Trail, there will be similar signs to protect a spring/small stream: no camping or brushing of teeth in proximity to the camp watershed.) There is a reason the trailhead is unmarked. The people of Massachusetts don’t hike up Greylock, they drive their cars! All the better for us, I guess, there trail was pretty quiet and there was ice cream up there at the Bascom Lodge. The Greylock Ridge was very nice. That night I wasn’t without company, however. I thought I’d walk into an empty shelter. I was walking down the side trail and came up on the side of the shelter. I turned to look in and there were not just a couple of people, but probably 20! It was an orientation group of Yale freshmen. Ha ha! They are a very inquisitive bunch and had a bunch of questions for me. They were very polite and made sure to say me a spot of my own in the shelter. I noticed none of them had tried to start a fire and it was a bit chilly, so I made one. But they didn’t gather around. They were in the shelter. Funny, with any group of hikers the place to hang is around the fire. They just didn’t know. It was fun to hear their excitement for starting college and changing the world.

magical ferns

A good look at Mt. Greylock in the distance

You wouldn't believe how flat the trail is in parts of Massachusetts

The other highlight of Mass was a trailtown called Dalton. There isn’t a hostel in town. But word spreads quickly on the Trail amongst the thru-hikers about the “Birdcage.” Rob Byrd is a trail angel who takes in many hikers, washes their clothes, gives a clean towel for a shower, and a mattress to sleep on. He has beds in his basement and garage loft. It was regular Sobo gathering at his house. We met Sobos we’d heard about but hadn’t met yet. Some came back up to Rob’s after passing Dalton by many miles b/c they needed a place to stay to rest an injury. All my Sobo buddies were there and many of them camped out at Rob’s for several days during Hurricane Irene. (By the way, the Nobos are all gone now. It’s a Southbounders’ Trail now!)

Hurricane party at Bigglesworth's house with T-Mellow

Bigglesworth hooked us up with some Maryland hospitality! Old Bay liberally applied!

Bigglesworth had that grill out before it was even done raining. It was amazing.

Powder took me and T-mello from Dalton to a friend’s house near Albany for our Hurricane party. Bigglesworth is a good friend of ours. Powder met her during his thru-hike. Wow! She pulled out all the stops for us. I’lI leave it to the pics to tell the story of the food she made for us. The funny part about staying with her during the storm is that she’s off the grid. No power or running water normally! And the day after the storm when we set out to leave, we realized we were in a valley surrounded by some rivers that flooded the worst in the area! So many roads were closed down. New England was hit really bad with the rain. The people there hadn’t seen their rivers flood like that in a really long time. We saw the water line marked in the reeds and by eroded land for many days forward. The Housatonic was one of the worst.  But we made it back to the Trail eventually that day and were relieved to find that not many trees had blown down on the path. We always seem to be in the right place at the right time. We had already finished VT, and it was the one section we heard they closed the AT! They closed the whole state for many days after the storm!!!! The storm did slow me down though. I’ve done a few zeros and low-mileage days the past week or so. When my folks met us in CT, Powder and I took a day off to raft down some of the Housatonic with T-mello. He had shin-splints and decided to aqua blaze. Being the purists that we (Powder and I) are, we didn’t skip any trail, but it was sure worth the zero! Probably the best zero!

Replicating the pose of the smallest hiker sign ever

Marie saw her first wild beavers in Massachusetts. Four in one day! And one of them was mad

Coach is looking mean with the new mohawk and some war paint.

Tag, Coach and Effect. Rob at the Birdcage was handing out free mohawks, of which these were just three. One guy we talked to who was hiking north told us that he ran into six guys, five of whom had mohawks.

This is a nice dirt road that was washed out in the hurricane. There were lots and lots of places with damage, and being on the trail we didn't see the half of it. Vermont was hit really hard, as was upstate New York where Bigglesworth lives. They ended up closing the trail in all of Vermont for some time

A beaver eating lunch! We got a really good look at him, and then when he saw us he let us know he was upset by slapping his tail on the water

 

 

 

 

A serendipitous meet up at the road side on a very hot day. Apparently the mohawks didn't scare the locals too much!

 

The aquablaze!

 

The Land of Cabot Cheese and Ben and Jerry’s: VERMUD!

Note:  This update was written by Marie about a week ago and reflects back to Vermont, which was the third state she was in.  She’s now in New Jersey which is state #7!  There will be several posts coming that will look back, as there is a backlog of posts both of us want to do.  The photos are pictures that she took.  -Jeff

 

My first official day of rain was in Vermont. It was the day I hiked Killington. I think I did about 15mi that day. The rain was relentless. We’re not talking a sprinkle. It was a steady rain.  I got to the top of Killington after a couple of hours. I was dreaming of my instant Lipton chicken noodle soup the whole way. The shelter at the top is a really old one made out of stone. The locals go there in the winter and trash it, so the Green Mountain Club is thinking of tearing it down. The roof has a few leaks and it’s a lot of trouble for them to maintain. There was a really nice ridge-runner camped out up there. A girl! It was really nice to spend that hour and a half talking with her. She was trying to get motivated to get out of her sleeping bag and do some trail work. Meanwhile I changed into dry clothes and got in my sleeping bag to eat my soup. Some section hikers came in and said their thermometer read 45°. Off the mountain I think it was in the 60’s. The one driving force that day was my plan to go into Rutland that night and stay at the 12 Tribes Hostel. I had my first real river ford that day too. The Gould River. Normally it is easy to cross by jumping on the stepping stones. But b/c of the rain (it had been about 20 hrs of rain), the river was swollen well beyond what most people see. It was up to my mid-drift. Luckily, after that ford I only had another couple hours before I got to the road crossing. There’s a really great trail angel in that area who’d left his phone number in one of the shelters. I called him and he picked my sorry butt up and all my soaking wet stuff off the side of Rt 103. When we got to the hostel he actually walked me in to make sure there was space for me before he took off! All the girl’s beds were taken but I was able to sleep on the futon in the girl’s room.

The Southbound Crew at the Long Trail Inn, courtesy of Marie's old boss. From left to right: Tag, Effect, Bobwhite, Denim Chicken, ShugKnight, Coach and T-Mellow

Valerie

Some of the guys under their tarps after the rain. Not too many of them are carrying tents.

Ahhh! The 12 Tribes. Good people. I stayed there this past winter with some friends when we skied Killington. So it was only befitting that I stayed there again after hiking that “Beast of the East.” I met some really great girls who were hiking North. We hung out that night and the next day. It was amazing to have some girls to hang out with! One of them, Sweet Tea is doing a flip-flop. So I will hopefully see her again when she comes down to Front Royal, VA after summiting Katahdin. She’s the first Christian I’ve met out here, too! Did I mention the 12 Tribes make amazing food??? Wow, I was so glad to be there.

Ver-mud.

The beaver had enough!

The hikers have dubbed Vermont, “Vermud.” The whole trail becomes a river in that kind of rain and the earth stays soggy for days. It’s the kind of mud that sucks your shoes a bit off your foot when you step out of it. Vermont is also the land of delicious farm stands. One in particular was so worth the .4 off trail. The lady is known for her homemade pies. I downed a small berry pie with some local yogurt on one fine sunny day. I think it was the same day I had a breakfast sandwhich and ice cream at a general store that morning. On one of the first glorious field walks in VT, I came across a burnt-out Nobo. “Beautiful field, isn’t it?” says I.  “Oh, there are tons of them, you’ll get sick of them” says disgruntled Nobo. Well, I never got sick of seeing those rolling Green Mountains from the clearing of those farmlands. It was beautiful every time.

Two Months Down, 1/3 of the Trail Complete: BYE NEW ENGLAND!

Wow! I’m glad to be out of New England. It was beautiful, and I have many highlights, but it so nice to now be in New York! I’m getting so much closer to the South and my favorite stopping ground, the Blue Ridge Mountains! New York promises to have many short, steep climbs and rougher terrain than what I’ve hiked in Vermont, Mass, and Connecticut. All the Northbounders warned us for weeks about the PA rocks. Supposedly, Pennsylvania is very rocky: not steep at all, but basically a lot of boulder hopping. Hopefully that will be a good break for my knees, but a work out for my ankles: might have to switch from my light-weight trail runners to my ol’ concrete shop work boots.

 

Atop the White Mountain's Presidential Range


As you can see, I’m already looking into the future. I’d say the new stage of thru-hikerdom has kicked in. The first couple of weeks I was just getting used to the idea of committing months to this trail. I refined my pack contents a bit and got used to telling people my name is Bobwhite and I plan to hike to Georgia. That first month and a half, I was focused on trying to get through those killer mountains: long days of brutal up and down. Now I’m two months in. I know fully I’m a thru-hiker. I could care less how dirty I get while on the trail. I can break down camp with my eyes closed. I stuff my face with four solid meals a day. When I go to a grocery store for re-supply, I know exactly what I’m after. Everything is very streamlined and many of the details are now a non-issue or trivial. In some ways, sadly, I’m coming to terms with one of the most important aspects of this hike: it is a LONG-distance hike. I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go.  To be precise, from this point, I still have 1437mi to go. Whew! Yeah buddy. I’m still determined to do it in one shot, this year. So, now I’m running numbers to get my daily mileage average to finish mid-Dec. It’s kinda disgusting, except for the fact that the trail is easier than the Northern section!

Powder River continues to be my greatest support. He has hiked probably half of all this with me, over 3 visits. He is a constant encouragement and reminds me that the hike is fluid, and it doesn’t do me a lot of good to stress over mileage. We’ve realized that pretty much everyone doing the Trail Southbound this year is male, 25, with long legs, a running or wilderness background, and few distractions. These boys are FAST. The few women I’ve met Sobo are also really fast, or ok with yellow-blazing (skipping trail via hitches).  So, Powder keeps telling me not to compare myself too much to these guys, b/c compared to the average thru-hiker (me) they are way above average: they are crazy and hiking crazy miles every day. 25mi a day is standard for them. I’m at about a 15-17mi avg. Some of them have paced a bit with me. Hiking near me has meant guaranteed trail magic for them in the way of food. The latest from my folks and family best friends the Walkers. They came up to CT and put on a massive hiker feed. It was two nights of awesome homemade food and slack-packing one of those days.  My best buddies, Coach, Tag, Effect and T-mello are still somewhere in the vicinity so I’m sure I’ll run into them again. And so the harder work begins of staying positive and motivated.  Cold weather is looming in my mind. But thoughts of the glories of VA in the Fall keep me going for now!

Come One, Come All, to the most marvelous mountains on the East Coast

Yes, come one, come all to the great White Mountains of NH! I think this should be the AMC’s motto.

The AMC stands for Appalachian Mountain Club, or as thru-hikers call it: the Appalachian Money Club. The AMC has a hold on most of the Trail in New Hampshire and some of Maine. It’s a challenging section for thru-hikers. The AMC has made these mountains, especially the Whites, out to be a major attraction. They have built “huts” 8-10 mi. apart through NH and have built campsites/shelters that are $8 a person per night. The huts are really mountain chateaus. They house 35-90 people a night, depending on the size,  have a full kitchen staff and composting toilets. It’s a great idea, but don’t be deceived, regardless of their efforts to “be green;” preservation of these mountains is hardly their goal. It’s a wonderful thing that they’ve made a way for inexperienced hikers to come to one of the most difficult places to hike on the East Coast, but they’ve also done just that: brought the masses to this area.

The thru-hikers of course are not the clientel of the AMC. Never would we be caught dead paying $110 to sleep in one of their hut bunk beds. Instead, we slink around these parts, either “stealth camping,” doing work-for-stay, or last resort: shelling out for the pay campsites that are no different from any other on the trail, except that the wood chips for the composting privys are flown in via helicopter.

New Hampshire was beautiful, none the less — a wonderful way to end some very difficult terrain. My knees are thanking me that we Sobos are out of the madness of drastic up and down climbing. Franconia Ridge will undoubtly be one of my favorite spots on the trail. I hope to post some of my own pics (all that you see on the blog are from Powder: the sections he’s hiked with me.)

AT NH whites-1

AT NH whites-3

AT NH whites-5

AT NH whites-2

Quail Speed

I had a sad day or so solo after Powder left. There was one morning I was feeling especially bummed, because I knew most of my Sobo friends were a day or several days ahead. I crossed past this nice nobo couple and they were asking me about Maine. They asked the right question to make me smile: “What does a moose sound like?” Now, Powder and I spent much time perfecting our wild moose calls and I gave them my best. I was laughing up that mountain after that. Then low and behold, I was eating Snack at a beautiful pond and three people came past, packing out from the near-by shelter/campsite. One of them was a friend I made back in the 100 mile, Jasper, and 2 girls with him, who I knew about through logs, but hadn’t met yet: Walkabout from Canada and Milk Carton. I was over-joyed to see 3 sobos!!! I tracked with them for a couple days then ran into some more sobo friends in the next town. And then, then yesterday, I ran into my best buddies: Coach, Tag and Effect!!!! I thought for sure that they were still a day ahead of me. So, it wasn’t quail speed that helped me catch up with them. And, turns out, in my absence, they adopted the bobwhite whistle as their own.

In all three situations, the various crews had gotten held-up or holed-up somewhere for a couple days. Wow, great provision once again! I’m so glad to be out here surrounded by such amazing friends.

Yesterday I was going for a marathon quail day: 16mi. I heard the clack of trekking poles ahead and wondered who that could be: I knew no one right ahead of me. It was the strangest encounter. I came up on a man wearing a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads and leather gloves. I said “HELLO!” and no response. Oh great, there’s a crazy out here, what am I going to do? The man sat (or sort of fell down) eventually and looked at me. Through hand gestures I realized he’s deaf and can see out of only one eye! Later I came up on a lady who was hiking with him, also deaf. We communicated through typing on my cell phone. I learned they were slack-packing that day and trying to head to the hostel in town. I was so inspired by them, I tried to also get to the hostel but didn’t quite make it last night. Here I am now, and I had a great conversation via writing notes with the man. His trail name is Ad-Cane. He is thru-hiking the Trail! He did about half of it last year and is finishing this year with his helper, Ramsham. Wow!!!! Talk about inspiring!

It was late in the day and Ad-Cane was getting tired. I was wondering if they’d get down before dark. Around midnite, some of by buddies came back to the shelter: “You’ll never believe what we did tonight!!!!” “We saved a blind-deaf man off the mountain!” Ad-cane was too tired to finish, his assistant went down to the hostel and let everyone know he needed help. And my friends, the Army Guys (they call themselves The Men of Action Team), went up there and carried him down!!! They were so excited for such an adventure. Great guys!

The last hostel we stayed at is run by a man named Chet. He was an avid hiker but got into a bad accident with a mis-functioning camp stove. The settlement with MSR enabled him to buy a house and now he has it open to hikers. They told him he was never walk or see again. He’s already taken 20 steps. He has the most incredible attitude. He is so welcoming to everyone. He’s one of those sweet hippy hiker guys. The Dead were always on, and he rolls around in his wheelchair singing and drumming on surfaces. He was another incredible inspiration.

Quail speed is not super fast but proves to be the right speed. I am doing great physically, all things considered. This is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But my goodness! What an inspiration to meet these folks who are pushing along too! And my speed is always improved by knowing I’ve got good people all around me!

On to Vermont!