AT Gorham, NH to Rangeley, ME

7/13-24 including 4 zeroes, 77.9 miles

Wow, I’m never going to get there. Shit keeps happening. I got a ride out of Gorham with Ziggy. It was not a hard day but took me some time anyway. I camped on my own platform at the shelter near Slingshot and B. Good to catch up with them. I gave them each a Covid test kit since I’d been given 4. They kind of kept mum at Paul’s hostel about knowing Crossword and me because there definitely is a stigma attached to catching Covid. B needs to do bigger miles so I didn’t expect to see him today, glad I got to!

Made it to Full Goose Shelter the next day, shared a tent platform with Slingshot. We’re both dreading “the Notch” tomorrow, it’s apparently a ravine with giant rocks that you have to leap across, tunnel under and otherwise boulder your way through followed by a steep uphill on slab rock.

Yup, it was exhausting! Fun through the Notch mostly though, but the uphill was awful. We both took a short day.

I need to pick up a prescription refill mailed to me a couple towns ahead and now I’m behind schedule. As is my norm I concocted several solutions to the problem. Plan A came off without a hitch! The Bethel Village Inn had a room. Ziggy could get me from the trailhead in 5 miles, take me to Andover to get my package, then back to Bethel. It was 3 hours of his life, since he had to drive to snd from Gorham, but only 1 hour of mine, great driver and only cost $50 to simplify everything for me. I’m wearing a mask whenever I’m not on trail now in case I’m carrying Covid, and actually, so I don’t possibly get it from someone else. After all the time I’ve been on the AT, this is the first time Covid has become real. Very few wear masks in towns, but nobody remarks on me wearing one, no stigma I guess. Good.

When I got back on trail, I had a pretty good day, there were some stretches of cruiser tread, amazingly, and I camped by a stream as it was sprinkling just enough to help all us hikers cool off—no rain gear in the heat. I pitched my tent where water would drain and it started pouring.

The next day I was drying out my tent at a shelter while eating lunch and Tyvek and a couple others caught up. I’m enjoying being solo, especially since I’m not fit to be around, still angry over the Covid situation, misplaced anger. It’ll fade, I’m going to avoid hostel bunkhouses or sharing a room as much as possible from now on. Lots of ups and downs but a lovely campsite at the end of the day where most other hikers were planning on going into the Human Nature hostel in Andover. My last day before Rangeley was lovely and the water sources were running better since the rain. The trail still sucks, creek beds and roots, so slow of course. I arranged a ride to town with a plan to slackpack the following day 13 miles between 2 highways with the shuttle support.

Trail
Also trail

Not only did the slackpack day make me happy thinking about it, but when I checked in to a motel by the lake just before noon, my next door neighbors struck up a conversation on the back deck while we were watching ducks and floatplanes, and whisked me off to lunch at Saddleback Ski Resort. Mainers are friendly!

The slackpack day felt great and there were 2 groups working on the trail so I got to thank them for their work on the hot, hot day. I checked out of the motel in the morning but 2 miles in I rolled my ankle, it’s happened many times before. After yelling bad words and waiting for the pain to ease up, I hobbled back to the road and got back to town, because I could. It will probably not hurt in the morning but will just be all kinds of ugly and swollen, but stable. I’m never going to get there.

Trail cankles
Had to order one

AT Mt Mousilauke to Gorham, NH

6/30-7/12 85.9 slow miles

“Platinum blazing” is when you use your credit card to stay comfortable. It’s rare to find younger hikers platinum blazing, they are generally on very tight budgets. The older crowd has more resources. I pretty much platinum blazed my way through the beautiful yet difficult White Mountains.

Trail
Trail
Trail
Trail
Grouse!
Cat in a new hiking hat, with M&Ms from Sliderule
Mt Washington in the back
Trail
Trail
Cairn to show where the trail is

Since the caretakers at Hikers Welcome Hostel discouraged us from slackpacking to Lincoln, NH, the next town, we did 2 low mile days. I got to see Uber, Patience and the best dog, Skeeter, both days!

Crossword and I got a shuttle into Lincoln 7/2, walked to a brewery and then to another for another beer and second dinner. Kevin and Leigh drove by as we were walking back to the motel and gave us a ride. 7/3, a zero day, they drove us to lunch and stores. Kevin will hike out with us to an Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) campsite that has a caretaker and a fee.

It was weird to pitch my tent on a platform, tight to other tents on the 4th of July. I love the people though, hikers on long or short hikes this busy weekend. It was a brutal 10.8 miles in 10 hours, hard!

Since the great tip from the old guy at Hikers Welcome made it seem possible to book huts last minute, I booked my first at Zealand Falls Hut. There were too many kids but also Slingshot, B, Crossword and Scott from yesterday, a nice guy out for the weekend. The Croo (not Crew) that works at the hut does a bunch of skits to explain Leave No Trace (LNT) procedures like packing out trash. 4 of us had a bunk room to ourselves, away from kids. Nah, the kids were fine. I saw Little Cave from the CDT last year!! He’s SOBO (southbound), wow! All in all it was a better day than yesterday, I don’t have to carry much food since the huts give us dinner and breakfast. Plus Crossword yogi-ed an IPA for me, glad he doesn’t like them!

Slingshot is having some injury issues and B is sticking close. He doesn’t have to, he’s just a good guy, a professor, former gymnast, skate shop owner and more. They’re going to stay at an AMC lodge in 7 miles. I’ve corrupted Crossword with my “lessons learned on the CDT” philosophy, which involves taking alternate (blue blazed) routes off the white blazed AT if they are better tread or a better route, so we are heading to Mispah Hut via another trail to link with the AT, cutting 7 miles.

Mispah was lovely, another great Croo and excellent food. The weather came in and it’s still raining with more to come so we’re changing our plan and going another short day to Lake of the Clouds Hut just 1.5 miles south of Mt Washington. That way we can get to the summit on a good, clear day!

Dinner in a hut
Trail

It was a super short day with plenty of time to chat with other hikers, long haulers going SOBO or NOBO, casual short haulers enjoying the views, wind protection and food. Kevin, Crossword, B, Slingshot, Poncho and Pep, along with others whose names I didn’t get or forgot. I had a great little nook in the 10-12 person bunk room. The whole hut held 60 I think?

View from my bunk at Lake of the Clouds Hut

I went up Mt Washington the next day, fantastic views, food and a museum. A road and a cog railway also go up here. Why did I walk? The observatory dates back to the 1930’s and claims to have the worst weather in the world with wind speed of 241 recorded back then. The best part about this place is that there has been a series of cats living in the observatory since then too. I talked to the museum volunteers who said the current cat had caught a flying squirrel the day before. His words, flying squirrel.

Slingshot, Catwater, Crossword, B
Lake of the Clouds Hut view
B and Slingshot heading down to Madison Spring Hut

The naturalist program at Madison Spring Hut by Andrew was fascinating! He described the history of the AMC trail building program since the 1880’s—it was broken into 3 distinct phases, starting with trails straight up to the peaks and building huts for people to stay in.

I’m in the bunk 3 up at the top of the ladder

The 4 of us dropped down (literally in Slingshot’s case as he took a header about 1/2 mile from the end) to the road and Joe Dodge Lodge. The shower was heavenly, the bed as hard as a rock. Crossword says he’s coming down with a cold.

Mt Washington in the background

Slingshot and B stayed a second night at the lodge but CW and I continued to Carter Notch Hut after a straight up through rocks that briefly plateaued at Top Cat gondola from the Wildcat Ski Resort. Another great Croo and food. I think this is the last AMC hut and we’re near the end of the Whites. CW snored all night in the bunk room, his cold isn’t any better. Had to use a buff to hold my bundled up puffy over my earplugs to down out the symphony of my hiker roomies. The huts have been great but the group sleeping arrangements are getting to me. I’d like some solitude.

On the last night before Gorham, my own sweet tent on my own platform at the far end of the campsite. Bliss!

Mt Washington even further in the past

Got the Barn Hostel shuttle into Gorham. On the front door was a list of reasons why you would not be allowed in—Covid protocols for the first time since I started the AT April 24. And they worked. Crossword was honest and said that yes he had symptoms, cough, congestion, etc and was told he had to stay outside. He could pitch a tent. He should go to the fire station a mile away and get Covid tested.

I figured if he had Covid, I’d either have it asymptomatically or the other hikers at the hostel would be paranoid that I did since we came in together and they heard the discussion. I picked up my pack, didn’t ask for my money back and went to the Quality Inn while poor Crossword went and got tested. Positive. He’ll isolate in a different motel for 5 days.

Got my solitude. Not the way I’d imagined.

Any readers that know me will get my anxiety about this situation. I spent the first night in Gorham at the Quality Inn, rather than stay at the hostel I paid for. I struggled with a moral dilemma. I had no Covid symptoms. If I tested positive and was asymptomatic I’m supposed to isolate 5 days and test negative. I just don’t want to hang around a motel for 5 days when I have no symptoms. I knew I should cross my fingers, get the test and go from there. That’s the right thing to do. The wrong thing is to pretend I wasn’t exposed and so can’t possibly have Covid and spread it to the immunocompromised humans in my vicinity.

I went to the fire station and got tested. Negative. I went to the hostel to tell the owner that and see about shuttles I’d paid for as part of the 2 nights I was supposed to stay there. He said that since I’d left he sold my bed to another hiker. He handed me my money back and said that “the county” said I had to get out since I wasn’t a paid guest. How rude. I slammed the door on my way out without saying another word. So much for doing the right thing. Virtue is its own reward.

I walked back to the Quality Inn, contacted Ziggy who does shuttles and got a round trip to Walmart for resupply—the last Walmart for 300 miles. In the car when I got back was Tyvek Shaman who I hadn’t seen since a great talk at Greylock Lodge in Mass ages ago. Cool! I walked back into my room and heard a knock. SOBO Frosty and I had waved across the street earlier in the day, hikers recognizing hikers. He invited me to a chat and a beer and to dinner with some other SOBOs who I’ll never see again. His act of comradeship came at the exact time I needed it. Slam the door closed on one person and open it to a kind face. Thank you Frosty from Florida!

AT Killington, VT to Mt Mousilauke, NH

6/22-29 97.7 miles

The Inn at Long Trail was fun, and so cool to zero and not have to go anywhere— laundry, meals, beer, and good company, both locals and hikers.

The hike out had too many hills and too many expectations. I warned Crossword and T that I might camp out before “The Lookout” which only had indoor space, not tent sites, anyway. I prefer my tent. I camped, stealth camped, all by myself, in the quiet, by water.

Podunk really is a place!

That left me with more miles the next day, 17.6, to get to a shelter/campsite, so that I could make it to my first town in New Hampshire on day 3 from The Inn at Long Trail with the food I packed. I look at the trail profile each night to rally my energy for the climbs the following day. There were 10 separate climbs, which I counted down as the day wore on. Good thing it was pretty mostly, lush, green, quiet, although that means no views. Because it was tiring. I have to say it’s pretty nice to roll into a shelter/campsite and get to visit with other hikers while cooking dinner and setting up my tent.

Seven of us wound up at the hostel the next night. Crossword and I walked into Hanover, NH, where Dartmouth College is, did some grocery shopping and ate a meal. I’ve been absolutely raging over the Supreme Court overturning a woman’s right to choose, and was happy to see the protesters in the park. Really happy.

T
Float

The shuttle picked us up for a quiet night with T, Straps and Chatterbox (from Ontario, Canada), Boston, Float and Crossword.

Just a tree in filtered sun

An uneventful day followed by a tough day in heat climbing up Smart Mountain. I fell and bruised the heel of my left hand catching myself. Then I passed Crossword flaked out on his pad in the sun, with heat illness. He’s sensitive to heat he’d said before, so when he turned up at camp on the top of the mountain I paid attention. I did not know heat exhaustion could manifest as bitchiness though, ha ha!

The next day he was low energy although he started hiking way early as usual. It started to sprinkle then poured. I got my rain gear on and went off trail to the Hexacube Shelter to wait it out a couple of hours. Crossword was there, then Uber, Patience and Skeeter arrived. Skeeter is service dog Mary’s trail name! She’s a Cairn Terrier and Bichon mix and is the smartest and cutest dog I’ve ever met on trail. She came into the shelter drenched and scooted along the log walls first rubbing the rain off her left side, then her right. Then she rolled on the floor trying off her tummy.

Then 2 SOBOs (southbound hikers) came in, older guys, 1 with a swollen, split elbow, that the other patched up with a butterfly bandage, before they continued on to the cabin at Smart Mountain, near where I’d pitched my tent last night

Skeeter and her human patient Uber

The rain stopped and we all continued on, leaving less than 10 miles to the Hikers Welcome Hostel at Glencliff, NH where I have a box waiting with a replacement shirt, socks and some dinners.

Hikers Welcome Hostel is a great place with 2 caretakers/shuttle drivers currently—Acadicus and (can’t remember his name!). Stayed 2 nights with a slackpack shuttle to the far side of Mt Mousilauke on the day between. They gave us hikers great advice and information about “The Whites” or I should say the dreaded, challenging, beautiful, White Mountain Range in New Hampshire. These AT hostels are a huge mood lifter for me since they are gathering spots—the fast NOBOs will blast by on the trail, never to be seen again, the SOBOs the same. But at the hostels people will sit and stay for a few hours and I can learn more from and about them. 

North side of Mt Mousilauke
Mt Mousilauke

We hiked Mt Mousilauke on a perfect day. The slackpack crew from the day before had been in a cloud or cloudburst at the top and missed this first big treat of a view in NH. We hit it just right and going south back to the hostel it was only 4 miles straight up and a long 6 mile run out down. Lovely day with food and a bunk at the end of the day. Every day is hard out here but some have bigger rewards than others. Plus I wore my new shirt!

AT Mt Greylock, MA to Killington, VT

6/13-6/21 113.7 miles

Took a side trail to see this chimney and hearth in the middle of the trail surrounded by overgrowth

A couple days into this stretch, I kind of wandered off trail—no ubiquitous white blazes to be seen showing me the AT—following footprints in the mud. I looked at my maps and sure enough this abandoned forest road connected to others and reconnected back to the trail in about the same mileage. So I didn’t sweat it. The roads were massively potholed, filled with water, mud, 4WD and ATV gouges and decorated with fenders and other car parts. Actually, it was a rather fun adventure. I saw nobody else, even when I went by a couple of cabins. After awhile I got back to the official AT and made it to the shelter camp for the night. I knew a couple hikers were shuttling into and back from a brewery but I was never going to make the pickup time so I hung out at the shelter. All kinds of hikers rolled in and Crossword brought me a beer and Bug Net brought Sofia a beer. Score!

Once there was a town, long, long ago
Moose in Vermont!

A few days later, Paul Kelly, another USASA colleague picked me up and hosted me at his house a mile from the AT. His family has been in the Manchester Center, Vermont for a long time and he knows everybody. I got a tour and learned some history. Walking through endless trees and stone wall remnants, I had no inkling that Vermont was clear cut and the stone walls were sheep fences. And there’s marble mining, every single headstone at Arlington National Cemetery is from a still operating marble quarry near here, Danby Quarry, currently excavated 3 miles into a mountain. I met wife, Lisa, 2 (of 3) kids—Katie and Connor, and Baxter the silly, sweet doodle dog who licked the salt off me before settling in for a cuddle. Paul and I talked about our snowboarding world, catching up a bit since USASA Nationals in April at Copper Mountain. Colorado.

Trail Angel Paul Kelly, USASA Southern Vermont Series Director

Walking up Bromley wasn’t horrible when he dropped me off at the trailhead st 6:30 am, except for the cold, relentless wind that nearly froze me to death. For the second time only, I set up my sleeping bag inside a regular, 3-sided shelter. I needed to get warm and avoid soaking my tent with the all night rain event.

I think because I’d used up so much energy being cold the day before, I had my first truly crabby day afterwords. I barely remember what I saw. It was still windy but not quite as cold. I’ll say it again—I hate wind! But Crossword had walked from a road crossing to a deli and brought me back a turkey dinner sandwich, chips and Vitaminwater. That made the last 1.6 miles to the shelter/campsite not too bad.

And then the last day of this stretch was, of course, perfect! A lot of up to a lot of down. There’s a new piece of AT supposedly, but the old AT is just fine, there was some kind of property lease issue, not the trail itself, that caused the reroute. So I took the old route right down to the Inn at Long Trail at Route 4, which also incorporates McGrath’s Irish Pub, which has some historic snowboards. Sounds like a zero to me, with more rain in the forecast for today.

55 gallon drum, feels like home
Artifacts
Flip Flopping hiker trash Slingshot, Skywalker, All Good, Catwater, Crossword, Glider at McGrath’s Irish Pub near Killington, VT

This almost instant blog post is thanks to a text I got from my hiking pal Papa Raven. “The last blog you posted ended 16 days ago, so I’m not sure where you are.” My bad. Here ya go, Ravens! Thanks to the spreadsheet from your 2019 thru hike (and Triple Crown finish for Mama, Papa, Bling and Whisper) notes and conversation about the AT, it’s not that bad.

AT Great Barrington, MA to Mt Greylock, MA

6/5-12 68.8 miles

Sometimes zero days are just boring, probably when you don’t need them but have to wait for your box with replacement shoes. I walked around town, went to an outdoor store that sold fashion wear and lucked out getting a pair of lightweight plastic Birkenstock Arizonas for camp shoes. Deluxe. Walked the other way and got groceries. Walked back downtown for dinner.

I got my box when the post office opened Monday, went back to the motel, packed up and got a ride by Joe so was hiking by 10:30. I pitched my tent at the furthest spot from the Tom Leonard shelter with a beautiful view. Unfortunately a loud NOBO hiker “Tramily” of 9 trickled in, the Peacocks they call themselves. I only met 3 who were nice but man they sat up late yell talking at each other like they had to be heard over music and noise at a bar.

Just for the quiet I stealth camped (a no-no) after seeing a turkey and a porcupine. No cell service and my camp site was quiet in a gentle rain. Ahh.

Crossword turned up after being off trail and behind for a few weeks. Because it was going to rain again, all night, we stayed at the Berkshire Lake Lodge motel and got pizza delivered. While hanging around outside watching my tent dry on the picnic table, I met a hiker whose blog I followed in 2014 in anticipation of doing the PCT the next year. SloBro!! One of the other bloggers I followed that year, I met on the PNT—Not A Chance. So cool these encounters.

I lucked into a family reunion of sorts. Crossword’s 2 sisters, Patty and Jean, are spending a few nights with him. I got transported up to Greylock Lodge, along with Slingshot who is a bit further along the trail. We had a wonderful dinner and I managed to get a room in this beautiful historic building.

The next day I walked the wrong way, south, to cover the miles I’d missed. USASA friend Noah Cermak picked me up from Dalton, MA and I got to spend 2 nights with his family—Lindsay, Ella (7), Otis (3), and cuddly dog Tucker. It made me so happy to spend time with his family and get treated like royalty.

Then back to the trail at the top of Mt. Greylock and good weather.

First porcupine I’ve ever seen on a trail, ever. Adorable little guy!
Okay…
Noah knows his beer
Trail Angels Ella, Otis, Tucker the dog, Catwater, Lindsay and Noah

AT Fort Montgomery to Great Barrington

5/26-6/4 101.5 miles

Think I’ll try a new format for these updates. I actually keep a paper journal, Moleskine notebook, a habit dating back forever in my travels. I have a stack of them in a box somewhere, with all kinds of perplexing problems and dilemmas, observations, diatribes, and unscientific, unscrupulous and unspoken observations about characters I’ve met. Stuff written for myself and not for publication.

Anyway, I write at the end of every day in the notebook, then decide later what to put out here. I know other hikers who draft their blogs directly on their phones, then upload an uncensored account of their hike. So readers get a nitty gritty account of what this life is really like. I’ve read lots of those and appreciate the information and details but the repetitiveness, while an authentic account of what hiking is like, tends to bore the snot out of me.

So a couple of highlights I omitted from my last update. The first night out of DWG, I asked if Slingshot and Crossword, 2 calm and friendly OGs, minded if I camped next to them. Nobody ever says no, but I usually ask anyway. Of course they said sure, then I joined them as we cooked our dinners and chatted about the usual hiker topics—weather, the last food opportunity on trail, the next food opportunity up trail, mileage plan for the next day. Anubis came by, hesitated and decided to hike on. We all smiled and chatted but nobody invited him to stay.

The next day we 3 stopped at Mountain House tavern, mid day, for food and a beverage, just off trail at Culver’s Gap. Fun! Later I saw deer, a turkey and a dead coyote(?). We all camped at a shelter. Other hikers were there and more came in, all normal.

Anubis turned up later. He’d got a meal and beer out of some hikers new to me by claiming it was his birthday. Hmm. I’m sick of this guy’s lies. (I announced the next day my new trail name for him, Birthday Boy.) I kind of went off on him about some ignorant crap he was talking about a bear situation. The next morning, a hiker friend mentioned within Anubis’s hearing that he planned on going to a hostel in about 12 miles. When Anubis said that sounded like a good idea, my friend changed his mind. Later he canceled his reservation and mentioned to the hostel owner that Anubis made other hikers uncomfortable. She in turn contacted the pastor nearby who also hosted hikers at his church. When Anubis turned up, we heard through the hiker grapevine that this amazing man, the pastor, convinced Anubis to go home to Georgia. I haven’t seen or heard about him since. Good job!

5/26 I got an Uber back to trail, hiked out and stealth camped totally alone for the first time on the AT. Of course, Fort Montgomery being next to West Point, I listened to practice gunfire in the distance till just before 5pm.

Stealth camp with stonewall
Woke up to this staring at my tent

5/27 Made it to RBH shelter, supposed to rain like crazy. I pitched my tent while all 6 bunks and all the floor space filled up with hikers including Slingshot, Butt Shot, Dash, Wayne, Halfmile and Keystone. I felt low energy all day. Kinda rainy but not cold, just humid and energy draining.

5/28 I slept great in my Nemo as the rain pounded down all night and hiked with good energy. Camping is restricted to official places so I’m at a shelter again with plans to get into Pawling tomorrow to dry out and resupply. It’s supposed to be sunny. Slingshot has other plans but I’ll probably catch up day after tomorrow.

5/29 Easy day, beautiful, lots of day trippers enjoying a walk on a boardwalk through a beautiful marsh. I couldn’t check in to my room till 3 pm after walking the 2.5 off trail to Pawling, so I dumped my pack on the porch and got fish and chips at a local bar. It’s Memorial Day weekend so businesses are mostly closed. I checked in, hauled my stuff to the laundromat, and hung all my wet gear—sleeping bag, tent, rain gear, in the room to dry.

5/30 Got an Uber back to trail. It was hot and humid but good trail and I felt great. Slingshot and I are the only ones at an official campsite with a bear box. And I passed from NY to Connecticut!

5/31 The AT is so different than the PCT and CDT. There are so many towns with real beds and food! I told Slingshot my plan to get a room at the Hitching Post motel in Cornwall Bridge, with a pickup included and he decided to do the same. It was a hard day for few miles. I climbed Caleb Peak for a lovely territorial view and a steep rockfall/stream bed butt scooting down to a flat, easy walk along a river. Then we spent a frustrating hour waiting for the motel to come get us, they had never picked up from our spot where the trail crossed a paved road? But I eventually got to wash off 2 days of heat rash and Gypsy moth yellow goo. I walked to the beer store (a free beer for a hiker!) and Sam Waterston just happened in to buy beer. He was a totally normal nice guy, no celebrity edge at all. After he left, the beer store guy told me dozens of celebrities had second homes nearby, just a couple hours from NYC.

6/1 A slow day again, lots of ups. I found a shelter with a couple other hikers as a thunderstorm broke and pelted rain for awhile. When it let up, a couple of us hiked another 3.5 easy miles to a designated campsite with a bear box. Slingshot was already camped there, yay! Rained gently most of the night. I looked ahead and saw some, to me, horrendous climbs before my next goal and resupply box (new shoes!) at Great Barrington. Think it will take 1 more night than I planned on.

First bear butt on the AT

6/2 I called Vanessa in Salisbury who rents bunks and has dogs! and a cat! She had room so I did a short 12 mile day plus the mile into town. What a great person she is, enjoyed our conversation and interaction! I got an early dinner at nearby Neo (Mahi Mahi!) then drank a little white wine with Vanessa and hikers new to me—Boogie On, All Good, Pop Tart. Great dogs and a sweet kitty, Squeaky who purred up a storm for my head scritches. It’s supposed to rain through 9 am.

Pile of rocks with a view

6/3 The morning was not raining but I didn’t know what to do. Talking my uncertainty out loud, Vanessa said she could slackpack me up the trail a bit and I could stay another night. Done! Boogie On was thinking about doing the same but decided to hike out. On my hike back in to Salisbury I saw her and she was doing good. It was still raining caterpillars all day although there was no other rain. New hikers at Vanessa’s!

Trail
Dead thing

6/4 I made it to Great Barrington Saturday afternoon. I misread the post office hours and Ubered in to get my box Saturday afternoon before 4:30 only to discover they closed at 12:30. Bummer, I’ll have to zero in a comfy motel with restaurants nearby, till Monday.

AT Palmerton to Delaware Water Gap, PA (DWG)

5/13 13ish miles

Blue Mountain Dome House

So there was going to be a long water haul because mining in the next stretch poisoned the ground water and from what I read it could be more extensive than officially acknowledged. The rocks and uphill are slowing me down. Pozzi and Palladin planned on making it to the next shelter. I saw a place closer in that had tap water, and camping on the property or in the garage. New experience opportunity!

After a longish day, I got to the trailhead, texted, and John the hostel owner got me in minutes. He whisked me to his place, picked up a hiker new to me, Big Zoo, and dropped us at a delightful local pub for a burger and free Yuengling Lager. A guy played acoustic guitar and since he heard I was from Alaska, played a song that mentioned Inuit. John picked us up again and I pitched my tent on his garage floor and arranged all my stuff as usual around me. I slept great between creeping up the stairs to use the house bathroom. He does talk a lot but is so kind.

5/14 12.9 miles

Big Zoo and I got dropped off back at the trailhead a little later than we wanted but oh well. It wasn’t a bad day. Crossed some highways. Saw Eco Warrior again. His friend picked him up after 8 miles, due to the imminent, predicted storm. I debated with myself about getting an Uber to a motel, but kept going. Big Zoo and I picked up water and pitched our tents just as it started to rain, about 5 pm, for hours. We were kind of exultant that we managed to avoid walking in it.

5/15 10.3 miles

Big Zoo calling ahead for a room at the Clarion

Big Zoo and I hiked into town and ran into hikers of course on the way to the hotel. The weird guy from before, whose name I edited out of the original post, trail name Anubis, was walking up the street with Ness. There is no way he hiked past me out of Palmerton, especially since he was the last one at the hostel and claimed to have an appointment with the VA later that day. He is “yellow blazing,” getting rides on roads (get it? Roads have yellow stripes) which is fine but lying about it irks me. It was nice I wasn’t solo this time but he did try the mom thing, saying it was his birthday and l should buy him beer later. Big Zoo said 3 of us already planned dinner together, so no.

I met Sprouts, we 3 did eat together. They’d hiked together quite a bit before foot infection made him stay in town to heal. Not many women on trail, so it’s really great to meet another. She’s from AZ, retired ER PA, and is super likeable. She’s nursing foot sores so is doing less miles than I want to do however. So I have to enjoy her while we’re in this town right now.

5/16 zero

Sprouts and Big Zoo

Big Zoo and I Ubered to Stroudsburg and each scored new shoes at the running store. Mine are shredded way ahead of schedule because of the f*ing rocks. We got our ride back to the Clarion just before a heavy, pounding rain mid afternoon. I’m not hiking in it, woohoo!

I waited for the rain to break and got some resupply, did some regular world paperwork and then had dinner with Big Zoo and Sprouts. Nobody celebrated Anubis’ birthday with him, poor guy.

AT DWG to Fort Montgomery

I’m just going to let the pictures tell the story this stretch, pretty much.

5/17 16.7 miles

So long Rocksylvania

5/18 15 miles

5/19 18.2 miles

Slingshot
Crossword and Jake at the Secret Shelter

5/20 13.6 miles

5/21 5.1 miles 90+F

5/22 10 miles

Spider web
Black rat snake

5/23 16.6 miles

Stone shelter

5/24 11.7 miles

Brandon and Jovan from the Bronx

Besides my EAR foundation (Eradicate All Roosters, we can fertilize hens with modern scientific methods), from too much experience in tropical locales where the stupid things crow obnoxiously early, I’m starting a new effort, Whippoorwills Must Die (WMD). Yeah, I know that acronym is taken, so suggestions for this initiative will be welcomed.

Last night I settled into my side of a stone shelter, head out so mice wouldn’t run over my face, as per Crossword’s suggestion. It wasn’t dark yet so I accepted the extremely loud and obnoxious call of this bird, unknown in the West and Alaska. But it kept yelling every hour, hour and a half all night long. Crossword’s breathing pattern across the shelter from me never lost a beat. I’d just fall asleep, and then the stupid bird would wake me up again. At 4:30, still dark, I contemplated the arsenal of shot guns my husband Sliderule has locked up at home, thinking, why not? People ask me if I’m packing, why not? Instead I cursed under my breath.

I stayed awake since Crossword is a very early riser (also go-to-sleeper) and listened to him pack up and exit the shelter. Arrggh, I got up, retrieved my food bag from the bear cable and began the routine. So sleep deprived.

Down the trail, I saw a bunch of feathers. Not knowing what a Whippoorwill looks like, I wondered. First, was this the mate? Was the bird distressed and calling all night for their mate? Sad. Better yet, was this the bird itself, so noisy that some raptor, my proxy perhaps, initiated WMD?

Death zone

I will make Fort Montgomery, NY today one way or another. Have a motel reservation so I can use their computer and do a little work.

Stone work holding up a rock
Bear Mountain stone steps up
Bear Mountain

5/25 zero!

AT Duncannon to Palmerton, PA

5/4 18.3 miles

Porcupine hustling away

I got a ride 18.3 miles north of Duncannon, and slack packed back to the Doyle Hotel. Slack packing is day hiking. It was quite weird hiking against traffic. I counted 23 hikers and a dog in the first wave, then after an hour 3 guys I knew, including Silva and Splash, yay! I did see wildlife, including my first tortoise, ever, on a trail. It was so nice to carry no weight through the stinking rocks. I made it back to the Doyle in time for another delicious meal, breakfast was great this morning too. The renovations are going great, but I like the creaky wooden floors and transoms over the room doors.

5/5 14.9 miles

A beautiful day, I got another shuttle ride from Marlene back out the 18 trail miles I’d slack packed the day before and headed NOBO. I only saw 2 hikers, including the guy with the dog I’d seen yesterday who was camped early near the Raush Shelter. There were 2 ear splitting hours of flight training overhead, separated by an hour of no flying. Around and around and around, intensely loud, while I’m walking through green forest. I found a lovely tent site about 5 pm and nobody passed me. I could hear the usual target shooting practice within a mile and the hum of not so distant highway noise. Ah, the AT. It’s going to starting raining in early morning and continue for 2 solid days, at least it’s warm.

5/6 11.8 miles

Started out in my rain gear over shorts, not cold. Then I climbed up to the ridge after a bunch of road crossings, an historic bridge and non-stop road noise where a breeze, cool, chilled me. My rain gear soaked through and I could feel imminent hypothermia. Finally made it to the William Penn Shelter, about 10 miles in, at noon. It was empty so I crawled upstairs out of the rain, stripped down, blew up my Thermarest and crawled into my sleeping bag to get warm. 2 hours later I could think. I checked my Far Out app (formerly GutHook App), found a shuttle driver, Dave. I texted and asked if he could get me from the next road access in 2 miles, either in the morning or this afternoon. Yup. So I reserved a motel room in Pine Grove for 2 nights, which is how long the relentless rain is supposed to last. I quickly walked the 2 miles to the road where Dave got me! It feels so good to be out of the rain, warm. I ate my Packit Gourmet Texas State Fair Chili dinner in my room!

Historic bridge
Not going in that tunnel
More lovely trail scenery

5/7 Zero

I ventured out in full rain gear to go to the Dollar Store and later to the Diner. That’s it. Rain.

5/8 Mother’s Day 16.9 miles

Got a shuttle back out to the trail. It was a hard day, rocks, but gloriously sunny.

You guessed it—the Trail

5/9 13.2 miles

More trail

F*ing rocks. But because of the unscheduled zero, I had to make a new plan. I have a box in Hamburg at the motel and they couldn’t change my reservation to Monday from Sunday so I can’t get there till Tuesday. So why did it take me 8 hours to go just 13.2 miles? Steep, slippery downs, brutal piles of rocks, constant pointy rocks killing my feet, is why. I camped just a mile from the road to Hamburg.

5/10 1.2 miles Hamburg, PA

World’s largest Cabela’s

I got my ride, thanks Barb! I dropped my pack at the motel, too early for check in with the surly crew. Then Barb took me to Cabelas —wow! Dead animals from all over the world—lions, elephants, polar bears—as well as the local dead animals. And live fish in fake streams and an aquarium. I wandered for quite awhile, picking up some dehydrated dinners to add to the boxes I’m going to ship ahead. I walked to Walmart, bought more resupply, then back to the Microtel, and checked in. I Ubered to the post office a couple miles away and packed a couple large flat rate boxes and sent them up the trail. Then walked back to the motel for a delicious burger and local brew, 1787, APA. So I guess I actually walked quite a few more miles than noted, but they don’t count because they’re not trail miles.

5/11

High school group—great kids!
But I camped here, lovely, quiet

Back to the trail and not a terrible day. Many more rock challenges but along the way I met a truly nice high school group from Philly out for an overnight. I talked with the teacher a bit, he’s been taking a group of students out this same stretch for 11 years. of course that made me think back to Anne, teacher at my kids amazing Polaris K-12 public school in Anchorage, AK and the backpack trips I got to help chaperone with her middle and high school students. Thanks Anne!

Nonetheless, after I got water at the shelter they were going to camp at, I pushed on less than a mile and found a quiet, long unused but established campsite all to myself.

5/12 20+miles to Palmerton, PA

Well I wasn’t planning on even going into Palmerton, but when I got to my destination water source at the last shelter before a road, it kinda sucked. Yes I found a tent site by myself after picking up water, but it was extremely road noisy and only 2.4 easy miles from a hostel. I called, they had several bunks available so I got there by 6:30. I talked 3 hikers there into going to dinner with me. Fun! With Ness (aka Necessary Evil), 64, Dead Eye, 18, and Anubis, 32. Then we walked back, I showered and shared a garage with beds in it and fellow hikers Palladin, retired orthopedic surgeon (and who Hot Rod and I camped next to Day 1) and Pozzi (solar energy guy).

AT Harper’s Ferry, WV north into PA

Recap 4/21-4/24

Arrived DCA via Alaska Air 10 pm ET. Airline shuttle to hotel, next day Uber to Union Station for the 4:05 pm Amtrak to Harper’s Ferry, which was delayed to 6 pm. But the backpack with hiking sticks is a dead giveaway to other hikers and soon enough there were 4 women, then a middle aged couple, then a fortyish guy, so military, gathered. Just what I wanted—hikers! After an hour train ride, Patrick’s friend Shane gave 3 of us women a ride to the Quality Inn in Harper’s, less than a mile away. So it begins!

Flip Flop Festival classes 4/23, more connections made. Emmalee “Hot Rod” for the 2 rods in her scoliosis spine, is also doing the flip flop, heading home to her military family current post in Georgia after doing the north bound AT (NOBO) to Maine. Later I went to the Barn to hear Bangles (Seattle) talk about her Flip Flop in 2017. As I was leaving, Crocs recognized me—took awhile but he was PCT 2015 and knew Fish Out of Water and Apache (stinky guy) who I knew for a few days in Washington!

Flip Flop Festival in Harper’s Ferry, WV
Registered my hike with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), West Virginia north to Maine then start at West Virginia again and head south to Georgia

4/24 11.4 miles

Hot Rod, Dewayne and I hit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) hiker send off breakfast and headed out together. We camped in the Crampton Shelter area with a bunch of other people. So far, so good.

Hot Rod

4/25 14.2 miles

This ain’t easy. I need to plan my food better. Harper’s was short on grocery stores and I’m in shitty shape, an overuse injury kept me from my usual winter running miles. Rerun (Paul) and Irish (Bridget) from Pinedale, WY, went on 2 more miles—they’ve already hiked the Shenandoahs so are in better shape. I camped at Annapolis Rocks, a campground under restoration mostly. It was just odd—windy with road noise, then clouds came in when the wind died late. The Washington Monument was kinda cool.

4/26 16.4 miles

As usual, started out good. I woke to a wet tent but hiked in shorts cause it was warm. “F*ng rocks” as Tinman would say, to OK trail to more FR. Then rain. I made it to Pen Mar shelter where Roger, the shuttle driver, picked up me, Irish and Rerun, to go into Waynesboro. I needed food, stayed at the Cobblestone conveniently located next to Applebees and Walmart. I was freezing from the rain, cold and wait, so I hopped into the shower then went to eat. Ah, laundry and a comfy bed.

4/27 8.2 miles

So I made a deal with myself. Short miles instead of another night in a motel. Easy trail, now camped next to a shelter (at 1:30!!). Cold all day, now some sun. Sightseer is here too, another OG, just back on trail after a few days off for a pulled groin muscle. I now have ample food—bagels, cheese, peach rings, chocolate, instant coffee and breakfast bars.

4/28 15.5 miles

Cold AF last night (not spelling out what AF stands for. Don’t say it out loud kids) and morning. I wore my puffy in my sleeping bag and still woke from the cold at 5 am. Cold wind, hiked in my wool longies, trek tights and rain pants, fleece, puffy and rain jacket. Finally warm at noon. I kept going. Heard from Hot Rod, she’s off trail in Waynesboro for a couple days, not Covid, a cold, but her mom got her. Bummer, I really connected with her. Hope, hope, hope, we connect further north. It was better tread yesterday and today north of the Mason-Dixon line.

4/29 13.9 miles

Met a few “true NOBOs” as they call themselves, compared to us lowly Flip Floppers. Camped last night with (loud, of course) Aussie hiker Pioneer and buddy Poppins. Met a weird, not true thru hiker PTSD motormouth, seems harmless, I hope. Cold again last night. Is it my bag wearing out? My wonderful Western Mountaineering? Or me? Not cold enough to freeze my water bottle, but cold in my bag by 4 am. Tonight I’m in Ironmasters Hostel, a private room in a building built in 1839 by slave owners when making iron was the local industry. A few years later, and a change of ownership, it became a stop on the Underground Railroad. I love this place! Right next to a general store where the Half Gallon challenge is famous—eat a 1/2 gallon of ice cream at once at the 1/2 way point on the AT and get it for free. Remember the hiker on the PNT in 2020, One Gallon? Yup, he did that. But the store was closed today.

4/30 15.3 miles

I was so comfortable last night! Creaky floors, high ceilings, caretaker Missy, heat, awesome. I decided not to try for 20 to get to Boiling Springs. Slower, lower miles, why not?

5/1 4.1 miles

Lisa’s hostel in Boiling Springs, was cold. It’s a storage shed, unheated, with their stuff stored in it, and 4 bunks. But it was out of the rain, yay! Met Silva and Splash, OGs, then Rain Catcher came in a bit later. I bought dinners and snacks on the way in so I’m OK for the 1 trail night to Doyle’s Inn in Duncannon. And it’s supposed to stop raining. Late in the afternoon Lisa upgraded me to a room in a heated single wide, so comfy!

5/2 14.2 miles

A beautiful flat 12 miles through lush, green farmland followed by a mere 2 miles uphill to a shelter. I tried to sleep in a bunk in the shelter with just 3 other hikers but got up and pitched my tent at 12:45 am due to someone snoring. Then I slept. PacMan, a short hiker dude from Jersey I think, gave me a supplementary trail name when we were hanging food bags in the shelter out of reach of rodents. “Hey, Too Tall, can you hang my bag too?”

Splash, Silva, Dana
PacMan
More dead things
Sweet cows

5/3 10.4 miles

Hard, but short day—rocks! I’m going to slack pack 18 miles back tomorrow and spend a second night here in the Doyle Inn, an historic, under renovation hotel. A family has bought it, a son is a fabulous cook, another is a fabulous server, Dad is sincere, and I feel welcome in this creaky, noisy, shared bathroom building. Marlene will shuttle me out 18 miles tomorrow so I can walk back to town and dinner, then out the next day.

Rocks = the trail